Ugh! Here's how to live with a sibling and actually get along

Family ain't easy bby

Two white beds with pink pillows
(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

Growing up with siblings can teach you valuable life lessons including how to share. Maybe it's been years since your sis stole your clothes (still thinking about my 2015 Zara jeans, RIP) but other issues may still come up. Although the experience can be rewarding, learning how to resolve roommate conflict and define your boundaries can set you up for success in your relationship. 

Whether you are both living under your parents’ roof or you’ve made the decision to become roommates with your sibling as an adult, here are a few tips to avoid conflict and hopefully, have the experience of living together strengthen your relationship. 

1) Establish boundaries

First and foremost, adult siblings must establish boundaries in order to create a space that is harmonious for everyone. For instance, if your closet is off-limits and they tend to borrow your sweaters without your permission, lay down the law early on or come to a compromise that’s comfortable for both of you. By establishing and respecting each other’s boundaries, you are less likely to come into conflict as often. 

2) Figure out your communication styles

Handwritten passive-aggressive notes can be a nightmare to deal with. Instead of continuing a cycle of miscommunication and avoiding confrontation, face problems head-on to alleviate any tension or anger. Communicating clearly by confronting problems can help you strengthen your emotional relationship with your sibling. That means no more Post-It note complaints or sarcastic remarks about chores. 

3) Show appreciation 

It might be easier to focus on the negative aspects of living with your sibling, especially if they know how to get under your skin, but you also need to look at the positive side. In order to foster a relationship built on appreciation for one another, put yourself in their shoes to understand the best way to show your love and gratitude for them. 

In order to best show your appreciation, consider their favorite ways of expressing and receiving love. For instance, if you know that they prefer acts of service over gifts, consider washing the dishes more often to show gratitude. Showing appreciation for one another can foster a healthier, more tight-knit relationship over time. 

4) Bring attention to any deal breakers 

“Deal breakers” are those actions that push you to your limit, trigger arguments, or get under your skin. From forgetting to restock the toilet paper to leaving the fridge door open, establish your absolute “deal breakers” immediately and discuss their “deal breakers” as well. 

By changing behaviors that are detrimental to the relationship and trigger arguments, you can avoid more conflict with your sibling.  

5) Consider making a chore wheel 

Chores aren’t usually fun but equally dividing up the chores in a colorful, sticker-filled chore wheel can be. By taking some time out of both of your schedules, sit down at a table and establish what chores can be done by who. By setting these rules, you can create a harmonious share of responsibilities that can continue on. 

6) Let them grow as people 

Putting your sibling in a box because that’s who they were when they were a kid will leave them resentful. For example, if your sibling hated mashed potatoes as a kid, don’t assume they still do. 

Instead of assuming they haven’t grown since your childhood, let them change their styles and opinions without running into conflict or ridicule from you. This also allows you to avoid sloping back into any bad habits you established as a kid when you’re around your sibling. 

If you’re able to establish a relationship built on growth and change, you can evolve your relationship with your sibling to be close in the present day. 

7) Maintain your autonomy 

With any roommate, you want to maintain your independence from their lives in order to avoid a codependent relationship. While you and your sibling may share friends, hobbies, or even careers, try to create a sense of self outside of who you are with them. 

This could be establishing relationships with people who aren’t already friends with your sibling, or finding a new hobby outside of the one you share with your siblings. 

Especially important for those siblings close in age (including twins), creating an independent life for yourself is an important part of being an adult. On the plus side, you’ll have more to talk about when you are hanging out with your sibling. 

Kate Santos

Hello! I’m Kate Santos, a writer and photographer based in Los Angeles. In the design world, I got my start working as an Editorial Intern for Dwell magazine in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve written about design and architecture in many national magazines and online publications, including Playboy, Hunker, and The Culture Trip.

I grew up in a very old house in North Carolina and am still influenced by the rustic, charming, antique and aged elements of a home. Sustainability and longevity is extremely important to me and I believe learning to reuse materials or purchasing items you’ll love forever goes a long way. I also lean towards the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi when designing my own home, embracing the perfectly imperfect items I can find.