Family Drama Filter: How do I connect with my disconnected brother?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to have to keep the details of this a little thin, but:
1) My family is my brother (early 40s), me (mid 30s), my mother and father (mid 60s). My brother married a woman who has been, at times, really terrible to my family, particularly my mother. Take my word for it. My mom can be kind of eccentric and the whole thing took a huge toll on her. The relationship between my SIL and my family has improved tremendously in the intervening 10 years but is still sort of tenuous and my parents generally walk around on eggshells around her. My brother and SIL have one daughter, who my parents see once a month or so. My mom loves the girl a ton.
2) My brother is really different from me and my dad in that he never talks about his feelings, asks for advice, or tells anyone of his plans. He just does stuff and you find out about it at the moment, or often times, long after the fact. He's been fairly successful in his (well-paying) line of work, but doesn't find any satisfaction there and has been dealing with depression off and on for a long time. Currently he's on a leave-of-absence for this depression. He's done this once before and had a really good result, but it's sort of frightening for us because he's supporting a lot of people (no details but not just his wife and daughter, nothing too weird but just that there are a lot of people depending on him).
3) It scares me that my brother is totally incapable of leaning on anyone or ever talking about his feelings. I know that people have different ways of dealing with stress, but I feel scared about the way my brother holds stuff in. He won't tell my parents anything about what's going on, which causes my father, in particular, tremendous worry. My father is a very kind man, and would like nothing more than to be supportive of my brother, but my brother doesn't seem to want any support.
4) Personally, I would like a closer relationship with my brother. But it's very frustrating for me to talk to him, because he never shares anything that's significant. If things are going well, he'll talk about that, but he'll never confide in me anything, and if you ask him how he's doing, he'll just say "fine" or "a little stressed". But then I know that he's dealing with fairly severe depression (at his low points, he'll admit that), so it's obvious everything isn't fine. We don't have much of a relationship, partially due to his wife making me generally feel unwelcome or just weird when visiting, and partially due to some physical distance between where we live (but not really enough). I see him once a year or so and talk on the phone maybe 2x a year. Which seems bizarre. I don't hate him at all, but I'm just perplexed by him because none of this seems like a big deal to him.
5) My father has encouraged me to not get particularly involved because my brother is "proud". And I sort of agree with that advice, because it's true. I just worry that my brother will spiral downwards (there are some small signs that things are not going that well at home) and I won't have even made an effort to engage with him. That said, he makes it pretty impossible to engage with him, and acts like he really doesn't want any engagement. I do love him though, and really would like our relationship to be better. But I don't know how to make someone want support or connection.
6) It sort of comes down to me wanting to write my brother an email saying something like "brother x, I know you are having a hard time right now, and I just wanted to offer that if you wanted to talk about anything, I'm always around". But the thing is, I'm not supposed to know that anything is wrong due to all kinds of weird dysfunctional communications via my SIL, various members of my family who are not me, conveyed to me by my parents. So it's like, if I engage with my brother about knowing about this stuff, then my brother knows that my parents are telling me what's going on, which pisses him off further. This is not over-reaction, that's a fairly possible consequence.
If you have any questions I'll try to pass them through the mods.