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Thread: Help with perspective on a sibling relationship

  1. #1

    Help with perspective on a sibling relationship

    I didnít realize how long this was before typing this, so sorry about that. But if youíre willing to take the time to read it and lend your thoughts I would appreciate it.

    My older brother and I donít have any actual relationship. He is about a year and a half older than me, and when we were kids he was always great in school academically, which did mean I was overshadowed but it didnít really bother me. Our relationship deteriorated when we both got into the teenage years; he developed some real problems with anger and was going to therapy about it and taking some anti-depressants. During this time he would (in my view) abuse me, verbally and physically. He would normally disregard things I said, tell me I had to listen to him no matter what, poke fun at me about a wide variety of things mostly regarding my appearance, not allow me to speak against him if it made him look bad in front of our parents (cutting me off, telling me to shut up), but he would also come into my room, push me around, throw me against walls, choke me, stuff like that (not much I could do since he was much taller and stronger than me). My self-esteem and self-image was very low at this point in my life (not just for this reason) so I accepted it as normal, but as time went on I realized I resented him for the way he treated me.

    This sort of behavior continued more or less until he went off to college (he was a year ahead of me in school). After that point I no longer had to see him every day, so thatís probably where he began to realize that I didnít want anything to do with him; I basically just starting ignoring him and stayed out of his way as much as I could, even though he was trying to now be friendly with me. I left school the following year, then left the state and eventually the country, and I am still overseas to this day over a decade later. Every time I visit home from my perspective he tries to pretend weíre best friends and tries to be nice in what always seems like a very insincere, disingenuous way. He often has a deer-in-the-headlights look about himself like heís nervous and is rather awkward, but then heís always been like that around people in general. I understand heís a pretty cheerful guy these days, though, and still going to therapy and on medication. Anyway, during my visits he comes over to our momís place unannounced (not-so-coincidentally on the day I arrive each time) but does not engage with me, just talks to our mom about himself the whole time. Thatís not to say that he has to and I donít particularly want to engage with him, but itís always been rather puzzling.

    Over the years I can only think of two instances where we talked about the way he treated me in the past, both over Facebook which isnít great but thatís how it is when Iím not there. Both times I was the one to bring it up, and both times by my reckoning he didnít show any real willingness to accept responsibility for what he did; he would say itís the past, it was a long time ago, that I did bad things tooÖ.he said I would make fun of him for being fat which, while true and I did do that, seems to gloss over that he made fun of me a lot more than I made fun of him, and also seemed to me to imply I deserved what I got as a result. I did then apologize to him for doing that because the important thing is that it hurt him and was wrong, an apology he accepted and said he had forgiven me for it already, and he did in fact then say ďI apologize for all the sh*t that I didĒ but then he immediately equivocated and said things like it takes two actors, itís pointless to keep score, and that it almost seems like Iím holding onto my anger. To me it really undercut the apology and felt like him saying that I was an ďactorĒ in getting thrown around my own room all of the time, and so it was also difficult for me to shake the feeling that an apology like that didnít seem very genuine, since the one who didnít have to endure most of the aforementioned mistreatment is the one saying that everything should be swept under the rug. That seemed rather convenient to me.

    Another issue to mention is when he was getting married several years ago he had asked me when I was home if I was interested in being his best man; this is where I made a mistake and without looking at him just said ďsureĒ. I guess in retrospect I assumed this would be ironed out at a later date (and that my reluctance would be noted by him) and didnít think too much about itÖwell, turns out he took that to be a definite yes, and was very excited about it and told his wife. Months later when he asked me again on Facebook I told him I didnít remember him asking (because I really didnít in that moment, but I think I came across as too blunt in how I said it). Anyway, I heard nothing more about it from him, but his then-fiancťe sent me a very long message explaining how upset I made him and that he just wants a relationship with me and doesnít know how to do it, and that itís a two-way street. I explained how I would prefer him telling me this himself, and that I was sorry for her getting involved in it. Apparently before this she had to really coax out of him his point of view on what happened when we were kids and that he doesnít know how to talk to me, and she encouraged him to just stop trying to. In the end things seemed smoothed over, she said they were happy for me to be there as a groomsman. After that the wedding happened and it went fine.

    From my point of view, I think it was unfair to put me in the position of having to turn down being best man in the first place knowing in advance the drama it would probably cause to do so, since at the very least he clearly knew how I felt about him at the time and that we werenít friends; I would have felt incredibly uncomfortable, say, giving a speech about how much I adored their relationship or cracked some cheesy jokes about our childhood. Though I do admit I was responsible for a miscommunication about it as well, but I would say thatís something that couldíve been handled by a frank conversation, which he has always seemed very, very reluctant and anxious to have, and even when having them I get the same feeling from him I got as kids that he is quick to presume his point of view as correct and to condescendingly dismiss mine. It seems to me that any attempt to start that conversation would just lead to more confirmation that he will not provide what I consider a genuine apology, and I would only come away from it looking to him and his wife as trying to provoke him.

    So now recently after being convinced to go through some psychiatric tests, he tells me over Facebook that it turns out he has Aspergerís Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. Meaning that his academic intelligence is really high but his emotional intelligence is really low, and other symptoms can include difficulty in understanding social cues and a lack of empathy. I replied that it isnít ďwrongĒ to have and itís just a difference, and he agreed and said he doesnít intend to use it as an excuse to a crutch.

    This does go a certain way towards explaining his behavior over his life, and Iíve been thinking about it recently for what it means in the context of our ďrelationshipĒ, which is now pretty strictly polite and rather frosty on my end. Although I can sympathize to some degree with how difficult this must have made things for him over the years, frankly I donít think that excuses what Iíve typed above. The way I see it he is essentially acting the same way now that he was before (minus the abuse, of course), and that any relationship with him would NOT be equal, because by all signs he would continue to expect me to tow his line so to speak, much like when we were kidsÖand even if I wanted to talk about it with him, I am confident it would just be a rehash of the times before: either more wishy-washy dismissal of my view on it, or a long and angry text from his wife.

    Iím not even angry at him about the past anymore. But his refusal to accept my point of view as valid does irk me, which is part of the reason why I donít feel I have a stake in whether or not we have a relationship. To me, looking at his behavior itís simple enough to conclude that this is not a person I want to have in my life, but there are some things Iím not sure about. As much as I donít want a relationship, is it wrong for me to keep him at armís length like I do? I donít think so, I generally think itís my decision who I want to have in my life. But going back to the best man issue, what happens if I get married, for example? If I donít ask him to be best man and/or donít invite him to the wedding, am I being a crappy person? Maybe in the latter case (I donít see any harm in inviting him), but even in the former case I can see him being really hurt by this and I can see how this would anger his wife too.

    In the end I just donít feel he is relevant to my life anymore (and really Iím glad about that, my life improved in every way without him in it, though this could just be a correlation I guess). I donít hate him, Iím just mostly indifferent to him, though at the same time I dislike being in the same room with him because of both his seeming refusal to accept my view and his very obvious and artificial behavior towards me. I look at it the same way as a bully from your childhood trying to convince you to be friends but only on their (unfavorable) terms. But I am wondering how to handle certain situations going forward, especially in light of the latest developments. Please let me know your thoughts on the subject.

    TL;DR: My brother and i donít have a relationship, and Iím not sure if I have any obligations toward him and his feelings since he wants one and I donít, especially in light of his recent diagnosis with Aspergerís

  2. #2
    Platinum Member Andrina's Avatar
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    I know many people who have distanced themselves from family members, or severed their ties altogether because it's healthier to do so. It's good that you live far apart so his presence isn't regular.

    Don't worry about things like your future wedding at the moment. You don't know how things will be. As for me, in my 2nd marriage, my husband and I had our ceremony in a national park with only the pastor and a photographer. My cousin's daughter got married without guests in another country and they only had a reception locally when they got back. When the time comes, you can discuss the nuptials with your fiancť and come up with a pros and cons list of having the brother present or not.

    Until then, your brother is minimally in your life. Just as there will always be co-workers you don't like and have to tolerate in the workplace, you will have to deal with seeing him at your mother's home when he shows up, so just be pleasant as you would to anyone you're forced to temporarily be around.

  3. #3
    Forum Supporter ~Seraphim ~'s Avatar
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    Being Autistic doesnít mean you have low emotional intelligence that is an ableist stereotype. Donít fall into ableist ideas and stereotypes. Talk to actual Autistics about what it means to be autistic . High and low functioning labels are also ableist.

    My son is Autistic by the way and one of the most feeling people I know .

    If you canít forgive then donít have a relationship but realize forgiveness is for YOURSELF.

    No one deserves to be abused so I understand. Donít hang onto resentment forever it is hurting you more.

  4. #4
    Forum Supporter ~Seraphim ~'s Avatar
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    Also there is no longer an Aspergerís Diagnosis it is all Autism. It is also a pre 1990ís myth that Autistics donít have empathy. That is a really outdated myth . Autistics have plenty of empathy it is just expressed differently than a neurotypical.

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  6. #5
    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Keep it polite, cordial and kind, but keep your boundaries and minimize interactions.

  7. #6
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    Another issue to mention is when he was getting married several years ago he had asked me when I was home if I was interested in being his best man; this is where I made a mistake and without looking at him just said ďsureĒ. I guess in retrospect I assumed this would be ironed out at a later date (and that my reluctance would be noted by him) and didnít think too much about itÖwell, turns out he took that to be a definite yes, and was very excited about it and told his wife. Months later when he asked me again on Facebook I told him I didnít remember him asking (because I really didnít in that moment, but I think I came across as too blunt in how I said it). Anyway, I heard nothing more about it from him, but his then-fiancťe sent me a very long message explaining how upset I made him and that he just wants a relationship with me and doesnít know how to do it, and that itís a two-way street. I explained how I would prefer him telling me this himself, and that I was sorry for her getting involved in it. Apparently before this she had to really coax out of him his point of view on what happened when we were kids and that he doesnít know how to talk to me, and she encouraged him to just stop trying to. In the end things seemed smoothed over, she said they were happy for me to be there as a groomsman. After that the wedding happened and it went fine.


    honestly, think that its not just him. There is a dyamic here and it does take two to tango. it would be one thing if he asked you "someday when i get married would you be my best man" when you guys were 10 years old, but he got engaged and asked you to be his best man (after making sure you would be in town to not inconvenience you) and then you "forgot?" To me, that would be akin to saying you don't care or were waiting for him to ask in a more meaningful and dramatic way and the way he asked didn't "count". This is the most important day of his life - he didn't ask you whether you wanted a Pepsi or ot. Maybe when you were younger he was a bit of a bully -- and he DID apologize but with most siblings, there is usually a dynamic that goes on. And that is what i suspect - you won't let him evolve from being the bully or mean brother -- when he actually apologize, you came up with a reason why it wasn't a good apology.

    Originally Posted by ~Seraphim ~
    Being Autistic doesnít mean you have low emotional intelligence that is an ableist stereotype. Donít fall into ableist ideas and stereotypes. Talk to actual Autistics about what it means to be autistic . High and low functioning labels are also ableist.

    My son is Autistic by the way and one of the most feeling people I know .

    If you canít forgive then donít have a relationship but realize forgiveness is for YOURSELF.

    No one deserves to be abused so I understand. Donít hang onto resentment forever it is hurting you more.
    I know you mean well, because you have an autistic child, but there is a difference between having deep feelings and feeling emotions vs having emotional intelligence -- emotional intelligence is not about feeling, but about interpreting the emotions of others and having empathy - when they are sad, when they need space, when they could use a hug or an encouraging word or when they don't want you around, when they are angry or elated through facial expressions, verbal cues, etc, and meaningful elective relationships.

  8. #7
    Thanks for the replies everyone!

    @abitbroken: Yeah, indeed I didn't handle the best man thing very well, I own that. It wasn't because I thought it didn't "count" or wanted him to ask in a more meaningful way - I was puzzled that he'd ask me at all and I was short-sightedly thinking about the drama it would cause to say no. I passively assumed it would get sorted out some other time, which was a mistake. It definitely came off as insensitive, and perhaps it was.

    Of course there is always a sibling dynamic and I'm not saying that I'm perfect and never did anything against him, just that I have found his way of talking about our past to be disingenuous. I feel that for his apology to be sandwiched by a lot of hand-waving and "what-aboutism" really undermines the apology in the first place, marginalizing my perspective and effectively saying "I'm sorry but you know it actually wasn't a big deal anyway", and I don't feel like that's me just trying to move the goalposts on him no matter what. Does that make sense?

  9. #8
    Forum Supporter ~Seraphim ~'s Avatar
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    Originally Posted by abitbroken
    Another issue to mention is when he was getting married several years ago he had asked me when I was home if I was interested in being his best man; this is where I made a mistake and without looking at him just said ďsureĒ. I guess in retrospect I assumed this would be ironed out at a later date (and that my reluctance would be noted by him) and didnít think too much about itÖwell, turns out he took that to be a definite yes, and was very excited about it and told his wife. Months later when he asked me again on Facebook I told him I didnít remember him asking (because I really didnít in that moment, but I think I came across as too blunt in how I said it). Anyway, I heard nothing more about it from him, but his then-fiancťe sent me a very long message explaining how upset I made him and that he just wants a relationship with me and doesnít know how to do it, and that itís a two-way street. I explained how I would prefer him telling me this himself, and that I was sorry for her getting involved in it. Apparently before this she had to really coax out of him his point of view on what happened when we were kids and that he doesnít know how to talk to me, and she encouraged him to just stop trying to. In the end things seemed smoothed over, she said they were happy for me to be there as a groomsman. After that the wedding happened and it went fine.


    honestly, think that its not just him. There is a dyamic here and it does take two to tango. it would be one thing if he asked you "someday when i get married would you be my best man" when you guys were 10 years old, but he got engaged and asked you to be his best man (after making sure you would be in town to not inconvenience you) and then you "forgot?" To me, that would be akin to saying you don't care or were waiting for him to ask in a more meaningful and dramatic way and the way he asked didn't "count". This is the most important day of his life - he didn't ask you whether you wanted a Pepsi or ot. Maybe when you were younger he was a bit of a bully -- and he DID apologize but with most siblings, there is usually a dynamic that goes on. And that is what i suspect - you won't let him evolve from being the bully or mean brother -- when he actually apologize, you came up with a reason why it wasn't a good apology.



    I know you mean well, because you have an autistic child, but there is a difference between having deep feelings and feeling emotions vs having emotional intelligence -- emotional intelligence is not about feeling, but about interpreting the emotions of others and having empathy - when they are sad, when they need space, when they could use a hug or an encouraging word or when they don't want you around, when they are angry or elated through facial expressions, verbal cues, etc, and meaningful elective relationships.
    My son is no longer a child but a man. You know yourself each Autistic person is different like every neurotypical. I just donít read into societyís mainstream crap about Autistics. Many Autistics have very meaningful relationships.

    If we want to be serious reading this site for one hour you see a lot emotionally stunted and messed up ď averageĒ people in a way that would make oneís head spin.

  10. 04-17-2019, 05:52 AM


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