Prince Harry, Prince William and Sibling Rivalry: When Brothers Fight
Nobody grinds your gears like a sibling. But when you’re a member of the royal family – and light tabloid fodder – the pressure never lets up and tensions are bound to erupt.
Look no further than Prince Harry’s press tour surrounding his new memoir, Spare, out Tuesday, which details life after the death of his mother Princess Diana, his time in the military, his marriage to Meghan and his departure as a senior member of the House from Windsor.
But details of Harry and Prince William’s broken relationship have turned many heads. A couple thought to be inseparable was anything but, says Harry
Healthy sibling relationships are built on mutual respect, and research shows that they are an indicator of overall emotional well-being. That’s because sibling relationships often outlast any other relationship in your life: romantic partners come into your life at a later age, and parents often die before their children. Siblings are together for life.
So what happens when those relationships break down?
In case you missed it:Prince Harry says he never “intended to hurt my family” with Spare memoir in 60 Minutes interview
Prince Harry, Prince William feud explained
Prince Harry has detailed how his relationship with Prince William has become strained over time. Among the recent revelations:
- Harry told Anderson Cooper in a 60 Minutes interview that William didn’t want to be seen at school with him after their mother died. “No, no, no, we don’t know each other when we’re at school,” William said to Harry, he claims.
- William wasn’t happy with Harry and Meghan’s relationship from the start. Tensions between the couple and William and his wife Duchess (now Princess) Kate grew, leading to a physical altercation in 2019: “His frustrations grew and grew and grew. He yelled at me. I yelled at him . It was not nice. It wasn’t pleasant at all. And he snapped. And he pushed me to the ground,” says Harry.
- The couple have not spoken for a long time, although they walked together behind the coffin of their grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, as they did for their mother more than 25 years ago.
The sibling relationship:Why your relationship with your brother or sister is more important than you think
Why sibling relationships are complicated
The reason behind a sibling feud is hardly the most important thing.
Research shows that the sibling relationship is critical to emotional well-being. The Harvard Adult Development Study shows that a close relationship with a sibling during college years is the most reliable predictor of emotional health at age 65 — more influential than childhood closeness to parents, parental divorce, marriages, and careers.
However, sibling rivalry is not uncommon.
“It’s natural for siblings to have some level of rivalry and it should be expected. After all, children compete for resources within the family in terms of parental attention and other needs and desires,” says Laura Petiford, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
But that doesn’t mean that relationships always go smoothly. Several factors can cause a sibling relationship to deteriorate, although “if the conflict is pervasive, occurring more days than not, and interfering with the functioning of the family, it’s time to seek help,” Petiford adds.
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Family trauma, differing political views, addictions, and mental health issues can challenge sibling relationships. Fractures can also occur when a sibling deviates from the family identity, such as marrying someone the family does not approve of.
In the case of William and Harry, “both brothers experienced the death of their mother, which is a deeply traumatizing event,” said Fern Schumer Chapman, author of “Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation,” previously told USA TODAY . “A second risk factor is parental preference and monarchy represents the ultimate preference as William will become king and Harry will always be relegated to a supporting role. The monarchy is also notoriously bad at solving personal problems. … And Harry married well outside of the family identity.”
Important:Prince Harry has been criticized for telltale TV interviews. The power to take back your narrative.
How to repair sibling relationships
- Remember that relationships go up and down. “Like any strong friendship, a healthy sibling relationship is characterized by love, respect, caring, consistency, and reciprocity,” says Chapman. “Siblings should expect conflict, but in a healthy relationship they have confidence that there will be repair and forgiveness.” Additionally, “like any relationship, there can be periods of closeness and distance. As an adult, you’re probably better able to argue and work through disagreements, but a lot of things can actually get in the way,” adds Petiford.
- Accept that not all relationships can be repaired. Some sibling relationships are too toxic to fix, and others must remain limited. Dealing with a difficult sibling can mean setting firm boundaries. In the case of separated siblings, reconciliation is only possible if all family members feel safe and there is no risk of further abuse or re-traumatization.
- Therapy, therapy, therapy. Chapman says early conversations during reconciliation are best supported by a therapist. Siblings need to listen without interrupting or challenging each other’s stories, acknowledge the other person’s hurt or alienation with empathy, and release anger. “Resolving a conflict requires work on both sides,” adds Petiford. “Deciding that the relationship is a priority and communicating your desire to work things out can be a good start to healing cracks.”