TODAY   |  April 02, 2013

Working through a strained sibling relationship

Siblings are supposed to be among your closest friends, but what happens when such relationships fall apart? Two sisters speak out about how years of strain led them to a breaking point, and psychiatrist Gail Saltz gives advice on how to mend broken sibling bonds.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> i'm in maui, she's in virginia. so communication between us has always been a little bit more distant. we're at my brother's wedding and she came over and she was very aggressive and telling me that what my kids should and shouldn't do and it was a first time that i had stood up to her and said look, brooke, you're not going to talk to me that way. i was really tired of putting forth the effort to defend myself and losing every single time and that was really the point in the relationship where i knew that it was over. i was tired of being brooke's sister.

>> i can't even tell you why we started arguing, but once again, it never fails, her and i always get into a wonderful argument, and the next thing you know we're screaming at each other in front of probably close to 50 people.

>> i didn't speak to her for two months after that. we are now writing letters back and forth to each other and each letter has a different subject, a tattooed memory of her doing something to me that really has hurt me and she responds back to me and we mail them back and forth and it's really helping heal the relationship. i am her best friend . i want her to be my best friend . i want to be the way sisters should be.

>> i only have one sister, and i always want to know that i have one sister and that i can count on her for anything. and i hope she feels the same way.

>> gail saltz is a psychiatrist and "today" contributor. good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> a lot of sisters can relate to what they're going through. is this the strain we see in the relationship?

>> siblings are rivalrous. we are in childhood and stays into it into adulthood.

>> you see that as rivalry?

>> yes, underneath the breach is a rivalry, an envy. things go different in childhood, different personalities, different temper temperaments, the hurt stays and something happens later that causes an eruption.

>> let's set expectations. isn't there a certain amount of conflict that is inherent in a relationship?

>> yes t is. you're my sibling so i should be able to say anything and be myself with you but sibling relationships take maintenance because there is an inherent stress and strain, differences between you and underneath the hurts of childhood that leave you ready for this kind of breach.

>> a lot of us love the idea my sibling as my best friend . is that realistic?

>> not necessarily and if you put that expectation on it it's where you may fall. there may be topics to stay away . what these two have done the writing of the journal is a great way to start connecting.

>> i was going to ask you for tips. when you have an issue with your sibling it could be issues going back 15, 20 years.

>> it often is.

>> what is the best advice if you want to repair strains?

>> make the first move, be the one to swallow your pride and reach out. you have to let go of the old stuff. that's the hard thing to do. you can't keep going back to the old stuff. you'll never resolve that. you have to say i'm going to forgive that and try to deal in the here and now. you can say this was difficult but let's move on from today, use family holidays to do that and you can really make progress.

>> dr. gail saltz good advice,