Lately, during my morning tea sessions, I’ve been pondering precisely what it is that makes for good sibling relationships or to take it a step further, soulmate relationships (not exclusively romantic ones). I said this out loud to the husband while at our local cafe hang out. My husband, insightful muffin that he is, took a sip of his green tea and it must have sparked something inside him because he then pointed at me in the way one does when one has stumbled upon a truth and must impart it to another. His pearl of wisdom: what makes for stable, loving, make-you-feel-good-just-by-being-in each-other’s-presence, soulmate-level relationships, be they sibling, friend or otherwise, is truly knowing and accepting one another with no expectations that one will change or seek to change the other. He’s deep, right?!
Not all siblings have great relationships. I know plenty of people that don’t like their siblings and have no real relationships them but I think my sibling relationships are the first opportunity I had to experience old cotton t-shirt level relationships. When you put on an old cotton t-shirt, it feels light and hardly like you have anything on and simultaneously cozy and snuggly like a blanket. That’s how I feel with my siblings and good friends.
What gives siblings a jump start on solid, ride or die relationships is that, if they are able to grow up together in the same household, they get to know one another while in the midst of the joys and horrors that is the crucible of childhood. You know the good, the bad, and the ugly of each other and also know, through experience, that your siblings are who they are, nothing will change that and you love them anyway. My sister still loves me even though I cut her Malibu Barbie’s, I think it was down to her ankles, hair to a more sensible shoulder-length. I think I thought it would grow back but that may just be adult me trying to make me look better in retrospect.
Once I knew that old cotton t-shirt feeling I didn’t really look for it elsewhere but have occasionally met people with whom I feel totally at ease. I am who I am and they are who they are and everyone is OK with that. When I don’t pursue friendships it’s usually because 1. I don’t have the energy to maintain more than a few friendships at a time. 2. There is something about them that just doesn’t jive with my me-ness. I can’t always put my finger on it but when I can it’s usually something about them that I cannot fully accept—their myopic views on feminism or their undying love of James Taylor’s music. Yeah, I know people LOVE his music but, sorry, while he seems like a lovely human being, his music puts me to sleep. I could be casual friends with a James Taylor fan but we’d never be soulmates, he would always come between us.
When I first met my husband I had a similar feeling—not an “Oh no, he loves James Taylor!” feeling but an immediate feeling of comfort. In the romantic relationships I had before we met, I almost always felt as if I had to subtly shift some aspect of my personality to align with the person I was dating—I was less/more cerebral with some or less/more talkative with others, for example. There were times when I felt like the other person was relating to me as if I were the idea of me he had in his head instead of the person I actually was. But when I met my husband, I was me, he was he (all muffinly and stuff) and we were both blissfully content with that.
All relationships have something to teach us about ourselves, from acquaintances to closest friends. The ones that make you stretch and feel a little uncomfortable and awkward can be world-expanding and great but may not evolve into old cotton t-shirt level friendships. What I think is so special about old cotton t-shirt friendships is that feeling of being allowed to be as you are. It just feels good to be seen, warts and all, and be completely accepted.