Is Sibling Rivalry Good Preparation for Marriage?

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Last weekend my family drove 12 hours to spend 3 hours celebrating the great-grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. Glasses were raised. Cheeks were kissed. Memories were shared and memories were made.

But then, in the backseat of my SUV, hair was pulled. Names were called. More accusations were made than during the Gosselin separation.

In other words, the siblings... oh how they rivaled.

Growing up, my two younger brothers and I had what I’d consider a normal amount of sibling rivalry. I can remember lots of minor annoyances, the spiteful breaking of a favorite toy or two, and maybe a few headlocks and noogies. As we got older these incidents tapered off completely.

This is my version of the story.

According to my mother, our sibling rivalry was more in the moderate to severe range. Acute at times. She had a tension headache that lasted from approximately 1986 to 1994. She recalls one incident in our wood-paneled stay-wag in which I staged a backseat uprising resulting from accusations that my brother Tyson was looking out of my window.

The nerve of him.

You know what they say: Paybacks are hell. Who knew hell looks a lot like the interior of a Honda Pilot driving down Interstate 77 South on Sunday afternoon?

I’ll be honest. Most of the time I don’t even care if they get along. I just want them to leave each other alone.

But they seem hard-wired to pick at each other. They know every soft spot and can't help but to hit below the belt.

Does it drive my brother crazy when I call him a wiener butt baby? Why yes, yes it does.

Does my baby sister squeal in despair when I threaten to throw her blankie out of a moving vehicle? Absolutely.

And I wonder what'll happen when I lick my finger then stick it in my older brother's ear?

It's innate, this Cain-and-Abel struggle.

The poking. The pinching. The torment of a wet-willy.

And as we drove across the state of Ohio yesterday, I entered a new state of understanding as I tuned out the shrill screams coming from my backseat. It was this -- Sibling rivalry actually prepares us for the most important power struggle in our lives: Marriage.

In what other situation do we know so much about another person? The strengths and weaknesses. The middle of the night fears. The worries and wants and the Achilles heels.

And in what other situation do we have to balance our annoyances with our love?

This was a big realization for me.

So the next time my kids are name-calling and hair-pulling and tattle tale-ing in the back seat, I'll sigh contentedly knowing that they're giving each other the skills to negotiate and communicate and compromise.

But first I'll roll my eyes.

Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned blogger. She's pursuing a career as a freelance writer, and her work has been published in Sleet Magazine and featured on many popular websites. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, focuses on the small reflections - MOMents - in each day that make life beautiful.


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