Blood Is Thicker Than Water: The Ups And Downs To Living With A Sibling In Your 20s

by Gigi Engle

You’re cut from the same cloth, but you’re two different people. You may be undeniably close, and you may even consider your beloved brother or sister to be your best friend.

I know I certainly do; my siblings and I are like a covert crime network, always in constant contact and always up to cheeky no good. That’s how we’ve always been: incredibly close and 100 percent there for each other.

We know each other’s darkest secrets, our greatest desires and our far-reaching dreams. We’ve laughed together, cried together and we’ve seen each other change dramatically over the years.

We aren’t the little children we once were. My little sister isn’t the same tiny tomboy who insisted on wearing boys’ bathing suit bottoms with no top, and I’m certainly not the 8-year-old demon who pushed a classmate into paint for no reason.

We’re adults now; we’ve been molded by the experiences of life, and changed and shaped like rocks close to shore. We went to different colleges: two to Boston, another in Ireland. I chased my intense itch to be a writer all the way to the Big Apple.

I’ve been separated from the people who have been an intrinsic part of my life for the last 18 years. When you’re far away from the familiar, you’re forced to be on your own, make your own life, meet new friends and develop your sense of independence. As a result, we’ve all unquestionably changed in our respective ways.

It’s not like I’m a completely different person now; only so much alteration can occur from across a coastline. I still laugh every time my brother does his impression of Stephen Colbert; I still like to drink Diet Coke at 9 am and read old Russian novels. But still, things are different.

I’ve been on my own for over five years. I’ve developed a new life for myself, and I’m following my dreams and discovering new ones.

Having my brother move in with me seemed like the only logical thing to do. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Frankly, we did have a great summer; though, I rarely saw him, save for weekends due to his intense internship.

But there were also challenges: the kinds of challenges that can only arise when you’re living with someone who knows you so well inside of your newly constructed world.

It’s not the same as when you’re home with your family; that setting has already been established. It’s the comfortable world the child-version of you understands.

Living with your brother or sister as an adult is an entirely different experience. Though I wouldn’t trade having these past few months with my brother for the whole world, we definitely had our ugly moments.

With that being said, here are the ups and downs of living with a sibling:

You have a constant companion

The Upside:

You always have someone to hang out with. My brother and I have been taking these really amazing creative walks where we brainstorm different artistic projects that we’re working on. This article, for instance, was a product of a long, invigorating conversation.

Having your sibling live with you means you're never alone. You always have someone to binge-watch "Breaking Bad," to tag along with you to CVS and you always have someone to talk to.

The Downside:

You always feel like you’re obligated to invite him or her to everything and to make sure he or she is having the most fun possible. It can be a lot of fun having someone around all the time, but sometimes you just want to chill with your own friends.

Living on your own means being independent and doing things on your own. Having a sibling living with you means you never get to just do your own thing.

You have someone there who provides unconditional love

The Upside:

Your brother or sister is always going to love you, so you can basically be as ridiculous as you want and he or she is going to be forced to stay by your side. It’s great to have someone around who’s always going to have your back in everything you do. Blood is thicker than water, after all.

The Downside:

Things can get out of control when you’re with someone who will love you no matter what you do. This can result in constant fighting about the most petty of things. You also might even be comfortable enough to get harmlessly physical with a sibling, which can result in slapping, smacking, kicking, etc.

We also like to make unintentional comparisons to other family members to piss each other off: “I’m smarter than you!” “You’re exactly like Mom!” “F*ck you!”

You can share everything

The Upside:

With siblings, “what’s mine is yours” definitely applies. When my brother got pudding cups, I could have a pudding cup. When I got shampoo, my brother used the shampoo. With a sibling, you share everything. You have the same mentality as when you were kids: Sharing is caring.

The Downside:

Sometimes when you’re sharing everything, it can be really annoying. I mean, I’m fine with my sibling eating some of my cereal, but using my towel? That is not something I want happening. I mean, you wipe your butt with that.

Not to mention how many times my socks got wet in the morning because SOMEONE doesn’t know how to use a shower mat. I love that I can share everything with my siblings, but sometimes sharing goes a little overboard.

With roommates, you know that what you buy belongs to you (unless you have really terrible roommates), so when you cross that sibling/roommate binary, it’s difficult to tell where the line is.

You can talk to each other about anything

The Upside:

When you’re sharing your apartment with your sibling, you know that you always have someone there who isn’t going to beat around the bush and tell you like it is. You can count on complete honesty because your siblings have known you for your whole life.

The Downside:

Sometimes things get a little too real. Since your siblings love you and care about you, they think they have free reign to constantly comment on your behavior.

Anyone who has ever read anything I’ve written knows that Mama loves her wine. I do drink a lot -- I’ll admit that. Once the day is over and I’m exhausted, I just want to take some wine to the face and unwind.

My brother thinks I have a drinking problem, and that’s totally okay. He’s entitled to his opinion and obviously it’s coming out of a place of love. What I do have a problem with, however, is being constantly harassed over it.

Every time I have a drink in front of my brother, he feels the need to tell me what an alcoholic I am. It’s exhausting; I’m an adult, and I can make my own decisions. When you’re used to being independent and doing anything you feel like doing, having someone constantly bring up your supposed flaws can be extremely frustrating.

Photo Courtesy: Columbia Pictures/Step Brothers