You Actually Owe All Your Relationship Success to Your Siblings
Remember the person who stole the remote from you, kicked the back of your chair and blamed you when that pint of ice cream went suspiciously empty? It turns out, struggling through those years of tattle-tales and hand-me-downs might have seriously improved your dating game.
Estimates say that up to 80% of Americans have at least one sibling, and those siblings play an extremely important role in how we build relationships through our lives. In fact, as a 2014 survey found, all those years of sibling conflict serve as training wheels for all our other relationships.
National Sibling Day is April 10, and there's no better time to celebrate the people who gifted you with superhuman patience, negotiation skills and empathy. In fact, you may owe every step of your best relationships to your siblings. Here's how.
They helped you land your high school sweetheart.
Was your high school boyfriend or girlfriend the kind to stuff your locker full of love notes, or were they more the dump-you-the-week-of-homecoming type? It turns out, our relationships with siblings can influence our late adolescent romances.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Family Issues interviewed 125 teens about their relationship with their siblings, and two years later went back to ask about their love lives. The teens who had the best relationships with their brothers and sisters reported having more intimate relationships later on. Siblings who constantly fought? They didn't have such a tight relationship with their S.O.s down the line, especially the girls. You might have to thank your bro or sis for prom night.
They're to thank for your smooth Tinder game.
Go thank your older siblings of the opposite sex for your confident Tinder game. According to an oft-cited study by psychology professor William Ickles, if you have an older sib of the opposite sex, you're more likely to "have rewarding interactions with strangers of the opposite sex."
Little brothers are more likely to ask questions, be talkative, make eye contact and feel well-liked when interacting with women compared to firstborn brothers. Little sisters are also more likely to initiate conversations and smile at men in an early conversation. "Children who grow up with an opposite-sex sibling can be incredibly advantaged ... because they have more direct access to the world of the other sex," Susan McHale, a professor of human development at Penn State University, told U.S. News & World Report.
So that guy who's always claiming he "understands women" so well because he has sisters? What sounds like a line is actually backed by science.
They helped you survive those first few weeks apart from your S.O.
There's bound to be a point in every relationship when a couple's trust and confidence in one another is put to the test, whether from physical distance or jealousy. As it turns out, children who feel like they and their siblings were treated equally by their parents feel the most secure in their romantic relationships.
A 2007 study published in Personal Relationships surveyed 200 young adults and found that siblings who felt like they were on the same footing had higher self-esteem and less romantic distress in the future. Why? Growing up with a sibling prepares us for sharing our loved ones with others. When we learn not to buy into the idea of "playing favorites" from an early age, we build the maturity and understanding necessary for feeling secure in love. Within long distance relationships or even a minor break between dates, that kind of cool can pay off.
They prepped you for that first big relationship fight.
A childhood of bickering over clearing the table and sharing toys actually prepared us for the tougher fights later on with our partners: mortgages, career goals, whether to have kids.
Laurie Kramer, a professor of applied family studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told U.S. News & World Report that the key to youthful sibling fights is that they're fairly meaningless and they rarely have the power to end the entire relationship. "Sibling spats help kids learn what they think is right, to negotiate and compromise, and to tolerate the negative emotions that crop up in life," Kramer says.
Plus, one 2014 study found that having great relationships with our siblings can make us more sympathetic and social in the long run. This means that when your significant other arrives home after a horrific day at work and picks a fight over the overflowing kitchen sink, you're more likely to calmly say, "It's all right, honey, I got it."
They equipped you to take the commitment plunge.
The researchers found that for each sibling a person has (up to seven), his or her likelihood of divorce decreased by 2%. The more siblings we have, the more experience we get with dealing with others' needs.
"Growing up in a family with siblings, you develop a set of skills for negotiating both negative and positive interactions," study author Doug Downey said in the American Sociological Association press release. "You have to consider other people's points of view, learn how to talk through problems. The more siblings you have, the more opportunities you have to practice those skills."
Thinking of taking the plunge? Your siblings might have prepped you with enough conflict resolution maneuvers to get you through the tough stuff. Now go hug your bro or sis.