Lacking relationship with older brothers

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-29-2003
Lacking relationship with older brothers
3
Sun, 08-31-2003 - 9:53am
Hi everybody,

I was hoping to hear from people who may be able to provide me with some insight. I am in my late 20s and I am just coming into my own and becoming comfortable with myself. My brothers, 3 of them, are atleast 10 years older than myself and are all within 4 years of each other. I have never really been part of their conversation growing up, unless they needed me to go to the other room and get something. They went on their own for a few years, to college, another state, etc. When they came back, I was in college and they would treat me the same. They would initiate little contact with me and ask me to get them something when they needed it. I eventually said "no", very frustrated with our relationships. This caused them to react, wondering what happened to me that I was so defiant now. I have had other times where I needed to stand my ground because they do not treat me as an adult, such as expecting me to babysit their children, which I would love to do if I were asked and not told. Needless to say, our relationships are not perfect still. I guess I would like for us to be best friends or something. The best I can say is that we are civil with each other. They, to some point, just see me as a disagreeable person. Also, their wives add fuel to the fire by pointing out my flaws, even in front of me and they tease me, I guess this makes them feel more comfortable. I guess I need to realized that my relationship with them may never change, but I don't know what to think. The guilt that they lay on me makes me feel like I should just do what they ask me to do to keep peace, but that is not what I want to do. DOES ANYONE HAVE ADVISE FOR SOMEONE WHO IS TRYING TO BE A GOOD PERSON WITHOUT BEING HURTFUL OR MEAN? Thank you very much!
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-02-2003
Sun, 08-31-2003 - 7:54pm
I hate to say this but I wouldnt babysit their kids or do ANYTHING for them if I was being told instead of nicely asked. To me it kind of sounds like ur brothers still think of u as their kid sister w/ no life her own and as u said ur becoming more comfortable w/ yourself and happier as an adult. Time to let them know that u wont take that anymore. I think its sad they dont initiate contact w/ u more but hey, thats life I guess...sometimes in cases like that I think its almost like ur friends are more like ur family than ur blood family. I think if I were in your shoes the next time one of them treated u that way I'd be like "look bro, I am a grown woman...I'm not that little sister u could push around" maybe even laugh them off so they see how ridiculous they are being trying to treat u like a 2nd class citizen. As for their wives, tell them that u perceive their behavior as RUDE. Say it very calm and walk away. I think that is the best way. Ppl are shocked cuz they are expecting u to be all nice to their face or else blow up angrily. It might seem "mean" to u but it's not at all its called being ASSERTIVE and getting what u deserve. Unless u want them to keep treating u like that u have to be clear w/ them I think. Just saying "no" or getting attitude doesn't really show them why ur doing it, but if u come right out and point out how they mistreat u then they can't really argue, only disagree. If I were u and they dont change (the wives and the brothers both) then I would just NOT go around them at all. You're a grown woman and I assume live on your own not w/ ur brothers (?) so u don't HAVE to put up with them! Hugs, Rhiannon

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Mon, 09-01-2003 - 2:59pm
Your brothers and their wives have you in a nice neat little box and are trying to keep you there because it is easier than actually getting to know who you really are and to treat you like an equal. I'm afraid that the only thing you can do is stick to your guns. Only time and experience may change their perception of you, but don't count on it. What you need to be concerned with is doing what you think is right for yourself, first, and then for your family. Don't let them take advantage of you or disrespect you, but always be polite and rational. What you are getting from your brothers is probably all that they are capable of giving at this point.

I am the middle child, but have always been treated like the youngest. Some members of my family, too, have me in a box, the same one I actually fit in when I was 18. I have had to take a long-term break from some of them, and others I seldom have contact with. It is easier for them to try and force me back into the box rather than take the time and effort to deal with who I am now because to do so would necessitate re-evaluting themselves and their place in the family and the world at large. Some of them are coming around, but I don't expect the others to ever come around. It is the way it is. I am also considered to be difficult because I refuse to be a doormat anymore. Doormats aren't supposed to fight back. As you can see, you are in good company here.

I don't take teasing very well because of how cruel my family was when I was a kid. They would cut everyone down by "teasing" them and if anyone took offense, they just revealed which buttons were most effective to push. They were down right mean most of the time. My three girl cousins finally took a long break from their brothers and the rest of the family becaus they finally had enough. I have learned to turn it right around on them. They have felt the sting of my tongue too often to even try it with me, and they have mellowed with age. Even so, I avoid them as much as I can, but when other people tease me, it is hard for me to know if I am actually being teased or if they are serious. What I tend to do is to smile without letting the smile reach my eyes and then to walk away. When people point out my flaws in front of me, depending on the situation, and who it is, I use several different strategies. If I don't care, or if I care too much to react rationally, I smile and walk away. Otherwise, I might make a joke of it, or I might start asking invasive questions of the person reveling in my flaws in a nonthreatening, information gathering sort of way. "Really, I had not realized that this was a problem for you." "Why does my tendency to wiggle my foot bother you so much?" "When did you begin to obsess over this particular flaw of mine?" "Were you wiggled too much as a child" "Is it the back and forth motion, or the way I shake the chair that bothers you most" "Why do you consider it a flaw? I would be worshipped as a Godess in SOandso Country based on this flaw?" "Thank you for pointing this out, in the future I will try harder to be flawless like you" Of course, you have to be careful with this strategy because it could turn into a slam jfulgi fest. It is very important to turn their comments right back onto them so that they have to take responsibility for how they feel about it, make them explain and own their feelings, and be responsible for any mean comments they make. I have found that when I don't let these kinds of comments go, if I don't allow them to sit on the periphery, the person who made the comment doesn't really care to claim responsibility. They would just rather be able to continue pinching the back of your arm while everyone ignores your discomfort. Once you call them on it, they will think twice before doing it again.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-29-2003
Tue, 09-02-2003 - 9:56pm
Hi Pamme,

I really appreciate the response. What I have done lately is keep in touch with family members who like and respect the person I have become, my boyfriends family, cousins, aunts and uncles. This seems to work and I appreciate keeping in touch with them. As for the tounge lashing, I would not rule that out because that might actually work for me. I am just debating on how aggressive to be. I do believe that I will wait to hear something and evaluate my patience and the atmosphere, but I will work it if it seems doable. THanks again and you have given me a lot to ponder!!! I have nothing to lose.

Thanks!!!!