Our First Marriage Partners

It should come as no surprise (though siblings are surprised) that our brothers and sisters influence how we relate to the opposite sex. Siblings are our first marriage partners.  They teach us about what guys want and what women want.  They teach us how to (or how not to) act with folks of the opposite gender.  Just ask a female friend what she learned from her brother. And ask a male friend what he learned from his sister. You might find the answers surprising, even funny. (“I learned all about hair stuff and girls with their periods.” Or, “I learned that guys don’t talk about their feelings as easily as girls. And I learned that guys are often much more competitive.”)


A Short Quiz with No Right or Wrong Answers:

  • What did you learn growing up about the opposite sex?
  • What do you think your sibling of the opposite sex learned from you?
  • What are three words that describe the person you think your sibling should/should have married?


When Siblings Marry

In one of the few studies of young-and middle-adult siblings, two-thirds of the siblings said that the marriages of their brothers and sisters detracted from their relationship. They felt their sibling had “married down.” Or they simply didn’t like a sibling’s spouse or were not liked by him/her.

It is not uncommon for a brother’s or sister’s marriage to significantly alter the dynamics between siblings. Early adulthood, the time in which many marriages occur, represents a rite of passage from the inner turmoil of late adolescence to the tasks of preparing for a lifework and forming intimate relationships outside of the family. Doing what we “should”—largely defined by family models, culture, and the prejudices of our peers—often instructs us to get married and settle down, to start our own family. For some siblings, these moves toward independence dictate a move away from the close connections with brothers and sisters. For others, the insecurity and/or jealously of a sibling’s spouse forces a wedge between them.

Alas, neither my sister nor my brother married.  So, I’m left to depend on other sibling stories about how marriage has affected their connection.  I heard from one “friend” on Facebook today who said that she loves her sister-in-law and is closer now to her brother than ever before.



Someone on Twitter tweeted that, while she liked her sister-in-law, she wished her good luck when it came to being married to her brother.  Oh, dear . . .





A director of a national not-for-profit organization whom I interviewed for The Sibling Connection: How Siblings Shape Our Lives described a family “truth” that dictated how she and her two sisters and two brothers were to react when one of their siblings married.

The rest of us were not allowed to have any judgmental thoughts or feelings.  I don’t know where that came from.  It was just something that had to be.  And, by and large, that has been the case.  We have welcomed the new spouses into the family, although they have never been equal to the brothers and sisters.  They’ve always been brothers-or sisters-in-laws.


And then there are the stories of siblings who have been estranged since one or the other’s marriage.  They complain of sister or brother-in-laws who have driven a wedge between the siblings or don’t allow much contact with them or do everything in their power to make life miserable for everyone except their spouse.  (Hmm . . . I’m thinking they probably make life miserable for their spouse as well.)

On a happier note, frayed connections between siblings because of one or the other’s spouse tend to mellow with age.  Siblings are anxious to reconnect and to have their brothers and sisters back in their lives.  They may have finally found their voice and bust out of the confines their spouses have erected.  Or their spouse may have passed away.  (That’s one sure way to solve the problem.)

The prevailing theory has been that we often marry someone just like (or the polar opposite) of the parent of the opposite sex.


But more recent emphasis has been placed on the important role our siblings play as our first marriage partners.


Lately, I’ve Been Thinking About . . . Yoga





Every Friday morning, my yoga teacher sits cross legged on her perch in front of her students and says, “Lately, I’ve been thinking about . . .”

Usually, her thoughts run to life’s stresses and how yoga can help alleviate them or, at least, tamp them down.

But she’s a woman in her 30s, the mother of a two-year-old son, co-owner with her husband of said yoga studio. While I’m sure she wishes yoga could be the cure all for all of her daily challenges, her practice is clearly not one of those magic wands.

Don’t get me wrong: I like yoga and do think those downward dogs, pigeons, cobras and various and sundry other animal poses help calm the nerves.  But not all of us are limber babes who can stand on one leg like a tree with the other leg bent 90 degrees and stuck up to our pubes.  Just thinking of that pose and Warrior 3 raises my heart rate to dangerous levels.

So much for decreasing stress.

Years ago, I went into therapy to help save my first marriage.  Instead, all that talking and digging and remembering made me realize that I didn’t love the guy and wanted out.  I asked for and was granted a divorce.

Would yoga have brought me to the same outcome while saving me thousands of bucks?  Hard to say.

“Close your eyes.  Inhale through your nose.  Exhale through your nose.”  How many of you have tried that?  The inhale part is easy enough.  But that exhale . . . I always want to blow it out my mouth.  (I mean, that’s what I did when I was giving birth, squatting on the delivery room floor, staring at my focal point on the wall.  I think I told the aforementioned husband to “Shut up!” several times, but the exhaling through the mouth made the whole birthing thing somewhat bearable.)

And maybe yoga would have helped tamp down my hysteria when, just months after getting his driver’s license, my son drove the aforementioned ex husband’s new car off of Lake Shore Drive, smashed into a tree and ended up upside down.  He broke his back and just missed severing his spinal cord.  His friend in the passenger seat walked away with nary a scratch.  (He now lives in Texas, has been through a couple of wives, and has a bunch of kids spread out around the state.  Maybe he could have benefited from a few yoga classes.)

And maybe yoga would have helped after I had a grand mal seizure.  But I was convinced yoga was for old folks who couldn’t do much else.  Instead of inhaling and exhaling, I wobbled off to a transcendental meditation workshop and spent several weeks trying to get the hang of it before I was given my “only-for-you” mantra that I’ve bastardized multiple times since then.  I guess that doesn’t really matter, as long as I repeat something that takes me away from those intrusive thoughts and brings my mind back to the empty space in between.

So, yes, lately I’ve been thinking . . . about all those bumps (often pot holes) along life’s journey and whether or not yoga could have pulled me through.  Maybe this Friday I will sit cross legged in front of my yoga class and muse about my life, pretending that I have found the answer to my stress and can, by the way, do a noteworthy downward dog.