Brother Acts Like I don't exist

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-14-2008
Brother Acts Like I don't exist
Sun, 08-11-2013 - 3:10am

I am 28.  My brother is 26 and 1/2.  In chinese cultures parents value the boys more. 

I was dianosed and treated for bipolar at age 14 and took meds since.  I am on disability income and I am weening myself off of it by starting my own tutoring business to teach kids.  My brother and I never spoke to each other for a few years.  He lives on the east coast and I live on the west.  He moved out there.  I live alone and in the same city as my parents.  I earned my Bachelor's Degree at age 27.  My brother got a masters at age 26 at an ivy league school. 

At age 18 to age 21, I lived with my parents and they took 75% of my disability check away from me and gave it to my brother for school.  I moved out at age 22 and had 100% control of my income.  I asked my mom to borrow 30 dollars for food, and she didn't lend it to me.  I was stuck with the worst boyfriend in the world in 2009.  He had a porn addiction, and ignored me when I visited him and just watched TV.  I was stuck with him because his roommates let me eat their food if I cleaned their home. 

My mom justifies giving 75% of my disability income to my brother and told me that I have no right to sue him or my mom.  To this day, she still tells me don't complain about that money given away when I never did. 

I am a very nurturing girl.  I have an amazing boyfriend now 2010-2013 (and going).  He does everything to put me first and makes me feel very special.  He has little neices and nephews and they love me to death.  They draw me pictures that say "You're the best"  "I love you."  But part of me feels horrible and unworthy inside. 

I work very hard in therapy.  I put myself in therapy since age 14.  My brother once told  my mom 2009, to tell get a job when I was on disability income and struggling in college.  He was ashamed that I was on disability.  I tried very hard to earn my BA.  I read the textbook 4 times because my disability caused learning difficulities. 

My brother is getting married far accross the world.  My parents can't afford to go. So when I get married in the same city that they live in, they won't they won't anger my brother by going to my wedding and not his. 

I've looked into the future.  When I get married...I might have my best friend walk me down the isle, while my boyfriend has his mom and dad there. 

Family is in the heart not by blood.

I've sent my brother short messages, long messages....left voicemails....and got nothing! 

What if one day, he dies or I die? 

And we are family but acted like we never were?  Is that okay?  Is it okay that I live my own life, and let him be?  (I have no reason to feel ashamed for being on disability.  The government wouldn't grant me it if medically I don't qualify.  I didn't live a day in my life that I didn't try my best.  Even when I cried too much and couldn't complete class, I went to therapy with a list of things to work on, so I can succeed in school again.) 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Sun, 08-11-2013 - 11:21am

My first thought is, have you discussed this with your therapist?

Back to the Chinese culture part.  My best friend is ethnic Chinese and I think I understand some of your hurt and frustration.  While her parents are very fair and treat her and her brother the same way, some of the relatives and family friends continue to favor her brother.  Never mind that she has a couple graduate degrees from the best schools in her field, is accomplished in many ways, makes a six-figure salary, and is warm and caring - she is just a worthless girl. 

It is unlikely your parents and brother will change.  (Rather sad for your brother, being so young and yet stuck in the archaic ways).  Since you have no control over what other people think and do, you can only control your own thoughts and action.  I would cherish the relationship you have with your boyfriend and his family, and try not to worry about getting a response from your brother or whether your parents will be present in your wedding or not.  Why would you want people who have basiclaly written you off present on the day when you are embarking a new life with someone you love?  Forget about them.

It will be hard to sue your parents taking your disability check seven years ago.  Not sure which state in the west coast you live in, but most states have a statue of limitation over these things.  In addition, since you lived with them, she could easily call it "rent" or what you pay for "room and board".  And really, it is not worth it.

As much as your family disappoints you, I know it is hard to cut all ties.  To protect yourself and your new (and still quite fragile) self-esteem, it is best to leave them alone.  Focus on taking care of yourself.  Also, try not to think of either you or your brother dying.  Think of the life ahead of you, with a supportive BF and loving nieces and nephews.

Lastly, do not accept this out-dated part of Chinese "culture".  In some 5000 years of history, women were not always second-class citizens.  There were periods they were treated as equals and had the freedom to come and go.  You can maintain your Chinese heritage without a wholesale acceptance of every nasty stupid cultural relic.  After all, your parents did not bind your feet.  Don't let them bind your spirits.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Sun, 08-11-2013 - 11:35am

I just think you have to concentrate on yourself and what you have accomplished--basically on your own with no family support.  You managed to graduate from college, support yourself in very difficult circumstances and have a good relationship.  Those are all things to be proud of.  I think you have to emotionally detach from your family--probably easier said than done.  I wouldn't say you have to cut off all contact but just make it very superficial.  You will probably never get back the disability income and you realize that your brother is emotionally unsupportive.  Maybe the way he is today is a reflection of the importance that your parents put on him.  After all, he must be pretty self centered if he would choose to get married in a city where his parents couldn't even go to the wedding--and if he has a masters degree and presumably a good job, why wouldn't he pay for them to attend his wedding?  

By the way, practically everybody I work with is Chinese--I'm almost the only non-Asian person there.  These are people in their 30's-50's who were all born in China and really none of them favor their sons over their DDs--even their parents don't act that way.  So I think your parents' attitude is very old fashioned.  It might have been understandable in China what with the one child policy and the idea that the son would take care of the parents in old age, etc. but they choose to move to America--how much is their favoring their son doing for them now when he seems to have written them off?

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2013
Thu, 08-29-2013 - 2:52pm

I can completely relate to the OP, having been through similar (though not identical) life cirsumstances. I agree with Musiclover. The only thing I would add is that that advice is much easier said than done.

Obviously, it can be very hard to cut out family, because instinctively you still love them and the bond is strong.

But also, it sounds like you have been abused emotionally and mentally by being made to feel worthless, or at best, neglected. People that have been treated badly by people they love tend to have low self esteem. The insecurity can actually make you feel more attached and more pre-occupied about what they think.

I think that typically, by the time you reach your late 20s it is normal to start breaking away from family, really come into your own and not be so pre-occupied with what your family think.

However, I think people who have had good upbringings and felt loved find it easier to 'fly the nest' in that psycholical sense because they already know they are loved and are secure in that knowledge. They have the emotional independence ad security to find their parents 'annoying' when they call!

When you are truly on your own and don't have that support network, it's harder to do this as you're always looking to your family for that security, the love, they didn't really give you.

It's hard being on your own!! But you have acheived so much - and you did it by yourself, without that support that other people have. As hard as it is going to be, you do most definitely need to shift your focus away from your biolgical family, start building your self esteem from the knowledge that everything you have - including the succesful relationships in your life - has been earned and worked for, not handed to you on a silver platter.



iVillage Member
Registered: 12-14-2008
Wed, 01-22-2014 - 2:22pm
Thank you persephone2828 for the kind and sincere words