Rhode Island Wedding Guide

Wedding Planning

Brothers & Sisters: How Your Marriage Affects Your Relationship

by Allison Moir-Smith, MA, of Emotionally Engaged

Brides who attend The Emotions of Being Engaged workshop often lament that their close relationships with their siblings suddenly, upon their engagements, change.

  • A loving brother becomes cynical, slinging hurtful, sarcastic comments at the bride, in ways he had never done before.
  • A close, single sister suddenly stops her daily calls. She's completely uninterested in the wedding details and is reluctant to get involved.
  • A sweet 10-year-old brother tells his bride-sister, "I like your old boyfriend more than your fiance."

Photo by
Wayne E. Chinnock Photography Co.

Brides report feeling a complex combination of anger, sadness, hurt, confusion, and guilt around their siblings during their engagements and weddings. What, they wonder, is going on between my brothers and sisters and me? Where did our close relationships go? Why are they being so mean? Why are they distancing from me, especially now, during my engagement, when I need their support?

Dr. Jane Greer in her book Adult Sibling Rivalry: Understanding the Legacy of Childhood, offers some perspective, albeit from your siblings' seat:

"When your brother or sister marries, you experience an abrupt and often substantial change in the nature of your relationship. You may even experience the loss of companionship. Your brother's availability will be more limited and less spontaneous than it ever was. When your sibling marries, you may lose the sort of interaction you had before. You will almost certainly lose the degree of interaction."

"If your brother has married, his primary relationship will be with his wife," Greer continues. "He'll be spending most of his time with her, and rightly so. But where does that leave you? Or perhaps your sister marries. You may remain emotionally close, but the days are over when you can just call her up and talk without time limits, or spontaneously suggest, "How about I come over right now?" Your support system has changed, and these changes can't help but affect you." (1992. Crown Publishers, New York, p. 151)

With your upcoming marriage, changes in your relationships with your siblings are inevitable.

What can you do to ease this?

Acknowledge to yourself that your relationships with your brothers and sisters are undergoing a profound change during your engagement, wedding, and first year of marriage. With your focus turning toward your husband-to-be, it's less on them. Your brothers' and sisters' access to you, both physically and emotionally as Greer describes, is changing. As a result, your siblings are feeling the loss of you in their lives.

The problem is, most brides and most siblings aren't aware of these deeper feelings of loss around the changes. Loss isn't usually associated with weddings, and there's no place for sadness in the wedding celebration. So instead, people act out unconsciously, as the 3 siblings described above have - making jabs, cutting-off, or being downright mean about the future husband.

So it's up to you to open up the communication lines. Tell your siblings you've missed the closeness since you got engaged. Tell them that your wedding may stir up feelings of sadness, fear, or anger - that's normal. Talk about how you're feeling. Admit that you're uncertain of what the future brings and that yes, things will change between you, but also that you what to stay as close as possible.

If you honestly share where you are, and can honestly listen to where they are - and let them be

  • angry that they're losing you to your fiance, or
  • sad that everything seems to be changing in your family, or
  • afraid of what the future holds vis a vis your relationship -

and don't try to change what they're feeling, then the channels of communication will open again. You will have a closer relationship with your sibling again.

A changed relationship, for sure, and one that will continue to undergo changes through your engagement, wedding, and marriage, but you will have your sibling closer by your side again.

About the Author Allison Moir-Smith, MA is a psychotherapist, bridal counselor and author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the "Happiest" Time of Her Life. She's been featured on Today and Good Morning America and in Cosmopolitan and Elle. She offers individual bridal counseling and supportive group workshops. For more info: www.emotionallyengaged.com