15. Boundaries and Siblings

Boundaries and Siblings

Do relationships with siblings seem to get more complicated as you get older? Do you get pulled into their drama with each other and are sick of being the negotiator or mediator? Are you ready to decide what you want your role to be with your siblings? If so, this episode is for you!

On today’s episode Mary talks with Anne, a fellow Coach, about her relationship with her two siblings. Recently Anne has been put in the middle of their arguments and Anne is ready to set some boundaries around how much she wants to be involved and help in these disagreements. Tune in to hear how Anne decides what she is ok with, and what she is not ok with.

Main Episode Takeaways

  • It’s not our job to make everyone happy
  • Deciding your role with siblings
  • How to be in a mediator role and keep your boundaries
  • Your measurement of success can’t be someone else’s feelings

Want to learn more about boundaries?

– Boundaries quiz HERE
Take my Boundaries 101 Course
– Do you want to overcome your hurdles of people pleasing? Book a free call with Mary!


Mary: I’m here with Anne today and we are talking about boundaries. Hi Anne. Thanks for being here. 

Ann: Hi. Thanks. So excited. 

Mary: Tell us a little bit about you. Introduce yourself please. 

Ann: So I am Anne. I live in Colorado which is a beautiful sunny state. I’m originally from Chicago. My husband is a Colorado native, so we moved here because apparently they have umbilical cords to the mountains and they don’t like to be far away. 

Mary: It’s true. It’s like we’re drawn in our veins. 

Ann: We have a daughter who’s away at college and I have been an entrepreneur for many, many years, had a pet sitting business and then had a little bit of a life change and went into coaching and got certified as a Life Coach. And I love my life now because I get to talk to humans all day. Instead of little furry creatures that don’t always talk back. 

Mary: Awesome. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for being here. Let’s talk about boundaries. 

Ann: Absolutely. 

Mary: Awesome. So tell me, when you think about boundaries, what’s the hardest part for you?

Ann: I’ve done a lot of work on boundaries, so to me it was very eye-opening that boundaries are not about the other person, it’s about me. And originally the hardest part was the people pleasing. Like, I can make a boundary that will make both of us happy and to get to the point where I realized it’s not my job to make everybody happy, and it’s okay if they’re unhappy. And to move from there. My biggest challenge right now is siblings and boundaries. 

Mary: Ooh let’s talk about that. Dive into some siblings. Did you know I have eight of them? Eight siblings. 

Ann: No, that’s a lot. You’ve got more than me. 

Mary: That is a lot. How many do you have? 

Ann: I have three. So my mom had four kids in five years, so we’re very close in age.

Mary: Close in age, for sure. And do you have brothers or sisters? 

Ann: Two sisters, one brother.

Mary: Okay. Okay. And when it comes to siblings, tell me what’s going on with them?

Ann: I think the interesting part, is with siblings, you kind of get locked into, well, this is how they operate and then you take data from when they were like five years old.

Mary: Yes! It’s so true. 

Ann: Or you get together with them and you revert to how when you were five years old and you’re like, I’m a grown woman. Why when I get around my siblings do I revert to; this is how I behave based on expectations. 

Mary: You know, that is so true. wanna just share how I can relate to this. So I have eight siblings, right? My youngest sister is amazing. And she and I have been really great like collaborators for each other. She’s also a coach. She’s got a degree in marketing, which I don’t have. And so she’s been a great support for me and I love her. I refer my clients to her for marketing. She actually created my website. Like she’s amazing, right? She’s got degrees she has children. She has a husband. She is like, she’s fully qualified, a full adult by all like normal measures. And sometimes when I see her, you know, I still call her like my little sister or my baby sister. 

Ann: I could totally relate. And I think as in like in families, you get labeled certain ways. Like, okay, this is the smart one, this is the baby, you know, this is the athlete. And I don’t know why we can’t get out of the label.

Mary: I know she’s actually a very successful woman. She’s got her own family, she’s got her own business. I go to her when I need help in my business, and then we show up at a family function and I’m like, what’s up, sis? Like, I literally thought like one time that, oh gosh, this is embarrassing that I had this thought. We were traveling somewhere, there’s a lot of us, and so we were traveling and we were talking about if we needed to take multiple cars or if we could all fit in one car. And my other sibling had a car with three rows and I thought maybe we could all fit, you know, like the minivan had captain’s chairs. And I literally thought, well, I don’t even wanna say her name… well, she could just sit on the floor in between the two chairs. She’s 35 years old. Isn’t that funny, So that’s me and my little sister. Tell me about your siblings. 

Ann: So I watch the dynamics and I think there’s part of me that would love us all to be really close and we’re not. Like, my brother will not talk to my sister. And then right now my other sister will not talk to my sister, and I find myself being like Switzerland, like I have to be the neutral country that goes out and talks to everybody and tries to get peace. And it just gets really tiring. And I find that I’ve become like the negotiator, that’s my title. 

Mary: Mm-hmm, yes, the negotiator. 

Ann: But when you’re the negotiator, you’re not allowed to have your own opinion. 

Mary: Ooh, because you’re mediating? 

Ann: Like you have to represent the other two who are not showing up at the table.

Mary: Hmm. And so that’s true, I mean, I used to be a trained mediator, right? I have a certificate in mediation. And that’s true. You have to be willing to have any kind of outcome and not have your opinion be part of the decision making when you’re in that mediation role. So do you wanna be a mediator for your siblings?

Ann: I want there to be peace and I want there to be resolution. Well, I don’t know if I even want peace. I want resolution. So right now there’s an issue that’s related to all four of us. And I feel like I’m the only one who’s actually gonna talk and get it resolved. Everybody else is just going to yell or not have the conversation. 

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. Because that’s what works for them, right? 

Ann: Yes. 

Mary: So why do you think they would do that? Either yell or not talk at all?

Ann: Past evidence. And there’s a lot of resentment built in, based on past behaviors of the youngest. And part as the coach in me, I know better, like I watched them all arrive with their luggage of, this is what you’ve done in the past and I’m holding it against you. So part of me goes, okay, I’m really, the best qualified, like I can show up and try to hear her and try to have a resolution.

Mary: Yes. So just because you can doesn’t mean you want to or you have to. 

Ann: Or I should. 

Mary: Or it… well, I don’t use the word should. 

Ann: Oh yes. Okay. 

Mary: That’s the s word in my book. 

Ann: I should not should all over myself. 

Mary: No, you should not should all over yourself. Yeah. So just because you can doesn’t mean you have to. Do you want to?

Ann: I feel like if I don’t, everything will run amuck. 

Mary: Well, it sounds like it already is running amuck.

Ann: It totally is running amuck. But I can fix it, Mary!

Mary: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to, but you can if you want to. Do you want to?

Ann: Yes, because I really do enjoy that I have a relationship with all three of them. And I think I’m realistic enough to know that we will never be the Brady Bunch happy fam… I guess even the Brady Bunch wasn’t happy. Right?

Mary: Right. Marsha. Marsha. Marsha. 

Ann: Marsha. Marsha. Marsha . Yep. 

Mary: Okay. So you do want to? 

Ann: I do want to, yes. 

Mary: Okay. Do you wanna be a negotiator? Do you wanna be a mediator? Do you wanna be a peacemaker? Do you wanna be…

Ann: I think I wanna redefine it because I would like to have my own opinion, not just have everyone else’s opinion heard. So to be able to have the conversations and, okay, I hear you, and here’s my viewpoint too, and here’s my sister’s viewpoint and here’s my brother’s viewpoint. 

Mary: Mm-hmm. Okay. So how would you like to define your role? 

Ann: I think my role is the sibling who’s willing to listen. 

Mary: Okay. But if you were just willing to listen, then…

Ann: Oh, then I’m not saying my peace, am I? 

Mary: You wouldn’t get to share your opinion. Yeah. 

Ann: Interesting. I guess then it’s a boundary. Isn’t it? Because I can say, this is how I feel, and you get to decide how you feel. So moving out of the negotiator? 

Mary: No, the boundary for you is what are you willing to do in your family and what are you not willing to do in your family? That’s your boundary. What role do you want to have with your siblings? Like, are you willing to just listen and not share your opinion? Are you willing to share your opinion? Are you willing to move forward and make the decision?

Ann: I am willing to share my opinion. I am willing to work towards action and resolution, and I just realized as we were talking about this, I’m no longer willing to hear the complaining. 

Mary: Yes!

Ann: Yes. I seem to be a sounding board and it’s the same conversation over and over again, so I think I’m just like done with that.

Mary: Yes. Yeah. I think like you’re willing to be the role of a problem solver, maybe? 

Ann: Mm-hmm, yes. That feels good.

Mary: Problem solving, but not complaining. So what’s okay for Anne is problem solving, right? Listening, sharing opinions, right? What’s not okay for you is complaining or listening to complaining.

Ann: Yes. 

Mary: That’s your boundary. 

Ann: Mm-hmm. Thank you Mary. Yeah, that feels really good. 

Mary: Okay, so let’s talk about what that might sound like. How do we implement this, no listening to complaining boundary? 

Ann: You started with the hard one first.

Mary: What do you mean?

Ann: I’m like, wait, let’s just talk about the problem solving cause that nice and warm and fuzzy. 

Mary: Tell me what, what does complaining sound like? 

Ann: Well, complaining usually sounds like one sibling will say well, didn’t they do this? This is what they always do. And here’s the alphabet list of everything they’ve done in the past, and you agree with me, right?

Mary: Mm-hmm. And I say, whoa, whoa, whoa. I love that person that you’re talking about. Please don’t talk about people I love like that. I wanna talk about how things are now and how we can move forward towards a solution. 

Ann: Okay.

Mary: What do you think about that?

Ann: I think I would also add, I love that person and I love you. 

Mary: Mm-hmm. I love that person. I love you.

Ann: And let’s work for problem solving. 

Mary: Yeah. Like, I’m willing to engage in a conversation in solution focused ways. I’m not willing to listen to complaining.

Ann: Sounds good. 

Mary: Yeah. And I actually have had that conversation with people in my family, right? Like I have had the conversation of, Hey, hey, hey, when you say these words, and I say it specifically in their words, when you say, He is this, right? I think you’re talking trash about somebody in my family. That’s not okay for me. It wouldn’t be okay for me if someone talked about you that way. And so it’s not okay for me that you’re talking about somebody else I love that way, and I’m asking that you make sure that we’re being solution focused when we talk about this issue that we’re working on together and that you don’t use name calling or shaming language, or hurtful language or hateful language about people that I love.

Ann: And how did that land? 

Mary: It landed like, oh, I was just mad. I was just you know, I didn’t really mean it. I said, great. We all get mad sometimes. Just wanna make sure you understand that like, it’s not okay for me to participate in a conversation that’s talking trash about my family members. So I’m not gonna do that. 

Ann: I love that idea. Yeah. There’s part of me that also thinks, well, what are they saying about me? 

Mary: I dunno.

Ann: Right? I’m sure, Anne’s amazing. 

Mary: Maybe they’re not saying anything about you because they’re not talking to each other.

Ann: That could be true too.

Mary: I don’t know. But that’s not your boundary. That’s not your business. Right? What other people think about you, say about you is not your business. Your boundary is what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do. So what you’re willing to do is listen, share, problem solve, engage in solution focused conversations. Right? Not complain about your siblings, listen to complaining about your siblings, or engage in conversations that aren’t going anywhere. Yeah?

Ann: Very helpful. Yes. I’ll put that into practice. 

Mary: How about the follow through piece? Tell me a little more about the follow through piece. How are you gonna do that?

Ann: Well, I think this, it’s very appropriate timing because I need to have a conversation with one of them. And just being able to stay in the space of forward thinking and we have to solve this problem, not rehash the past of how we got here. 

Mary: Yes. So what’s that gonna sound like? What are you gonna say?

Ann: I think it’s gonna sound like, I would like to be clear about what the current situation is and who have you talked to, and so I understand, this is my understanding of what the issue is, do you agree? The interesting part will be when I get to report to the other two siblings about the conversation. And that would be really when I get to exercise, your talking about person I love, I love you. We’re gonna leave the past in the past. And let’s, we have to solve this now before it gets worse. 

Mary: Yes, yes. Or maybe a question you could say to them, since they’re not communicating with each other, might be like, Hey, when I go talk to them, what would you like me to share about what your perspective is and what are you requesting or what solutions might you suggest? So you’re kind of encouraging them to also be solution focused. Because it’s not actually your responsibility to figure out the best solution for everybody. Right?

Ann: I’m like, wait, I’m the oldest. Yes it is. 

Mary: Oh, you’re the oldest. Now I understand, you left out that important part. The old is just responsible for everyone. Everyone’s decisions, everyone’s happiness, everyone’s getting along. 

Ann: Yep. 

Mary: Yeah. Well, you can continue to be if…

Ann: No, I don’t like that one. I don’t like that story at all.

Mary: You don’t wanna do that anymore? 

Ann: No, I’m done with that one. 

Mary: You don’t wanna do that anymore. 

Ann: They’re all grown adults.

Mary: That’s right. So what’s your job here? What’s your responsibility? 

Ann: What is my job here? To reach a resolution that I am happy with. 

Mary: Well, I don’t know that it’s just that you’re happy with, maybe it’s come up with the best solution for the situation. Right? 

Ann: Solution I can live with? 

Mary: A solution you could live with. A solution that feels like it’s in alignment with your values. A solution that feels like it’s serving the family or whatever the issue is that you’re trying to resolve. 

Ann: Mm-hmm. I feel like right now it’s an open-ended one, and so I would like closure. Like, closure feels good. 

Mary: Okay. Awesome. So instead of it being the resolution that everyone’s happy with, what if it’s the resolution that is in alignment with values? 

Ann: Okay. 

Mary: We’re gonna think about like what our measurement of success is. So your measurement of success can’t be somebody else’s feelings, that’s setting you up for people pleasing. One of your measurement of success is the solution that’s aligned with you. 

Ann: So aligned with my values, you’re saying?

Mary: Yeah. Or your family’s values. If it’s a decision that you all need to make together. I want you to have a solution that is like for reasons that you like, for the reasons that resonate with you?

Ann: Mm-hmm. Right. No, I love that because I think my alignment was that like I cannot control them, but I like the fact that I can talk to all three of them. So if we got to a solution where that was still the alignment…that’s victory.

Mary: Yes. And at the end of the day, when you move towards this solution, I want you to be able to say like, I chose this because of this reason, that’s in alignment with me. Does that make sense? 

Ann: Makes sense. 

Mary: All right. You got this girl. 

Ann: Well, thank you Mary. I’ll keep you posted . 

Mary: I would love to hear how it goes. Tell me what’s your, the one thing you took away from our conversation today?

Ann: I think when you asked about what do I wanna be in this situation? I love that. The intention of who do I wanna be and who do I want to show up as? Even with all this baggage, like, no, I don’t want to be the negotiator. I do wanna have a voice. 

Mary: So who do you wanna be in this situation? 

Ann: I wanna be the calm person who reaches a solution that aligns with my values, that I have a relationship with all of them.

Mary: Awesome. And you can.

Ann: Absolutely . 

Mary: All right. Thanks so much, Ann. 

Ann: Thanks Mary. 

Mary: Have a good one.