Step Back, Brother!



Dear Dharma,

I come from a fairly large family of 6 and we all are very close….well, almost all.

I have a brother, who of course I love because he is my brother, but I don’t really like him.  We used to be very close – until puberty… but now, he has caused my parents heartache and taken advantage of my sister’s generous nature.  He always has a mean or hurtful comment to make when I see him and overall is a huge pain in the ass.  I honestly really don’t like him and dread family get togethers because of him.

Please help me!! What can I do to help me like my brother again?

Not My Brother’s Keeper

Dear Keeper,

Awww… that’s actually kind of sweet.  That you want to like your brother again in light of the fact that he kind of sounds… well, he doesn’t sound entirely likeable, which might be why you’re having trouble…

Making this an awesome time to evaluate certain facets of your belief system.

Let’s start with this… why do you want to like someone who can always be counted on for a mean and hurtful comment, someone who routinely takes advantage of family members and who over all is a huge pain in the ass…

It’s because he’s your brother, right?  I mean, you wouldn’t choose to be friends with someone like that, would you…  You feel you need to suck all that up because of societal expectations to be one big happy family.

No matter what.

Often when people pull back from family members, or cut them all together, they receive that horrified/disappointed/incredulous reaction of, “But that’s your brother!”

Like it’s sacred territory, no matter what… like unlimited amounts of abusive behaviour must be tolerated, no matter what – otherwise you’re the heathen for pulling the plug.  Because he’s your brother…

Not to say that family isn’t important – it is.  And not to say it’s always going to be perfect – it isn’t.  But maintaining these relationships should not come at the cost of self-preservation, and that’s what you’re attempting.

But back to you now…

So to answer your question, I don’t know that there’s anything you can do to help like your brother again, or even that you should do.

I would more focus on ways to not let him get under your skin and to start enjoying family get togethers again, regardless of his attendance.  I mean, it would be great if your whole family were on the same page, but I can’t tell by your letter if that’s the case.  And it’s hard to address the way he treats your sister and parents, since they’re not the one’s I’m talking to… so we’ll work just with you.

Similar to Step Back, Sister, Dharma says standing up to bullies is the sure way to make them sit down.  So the next time Brother Dear throws a cutting comment your way, calmly ask him, “Why do you feel the need to say such terrible things to me?  I’m your sister and I love you.”

You know better than I how he will respond that.  If he’s argumentative, don’t bite.  Just remove yourself from the conversation by quietly walking away.  If he continues with his hurtful zingers, let him know you would prefer he didn’t speak to you at all until he can be civil towards you.

I’m hoping you have some support from your family on this, and that they back the way you choose to handle this.  Dharma’s hoping this is just a phase he’s going through and that one day he’ll give you something to like again.



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