Having trouble with a visiting relative, do I confront or just avoid?
posted by readygo to Human Relations (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have a sibling who is visiting (lives outside the country) and is leaving in a few days. He was physically abusive to my sister and I (more so to my sister physically, I would be a witness to violence he directed towards her, and almost constant verbal abuse/put downs from him directed towards me). It was not fun to grow up in and quite a dysfunctional family situation to say the least.
Since then he's gotten married and has children which has (from what I thought) actually turned him into more of a human and decent guy. I make quite an effort with his kids (send them little gifts all the time, thoughtful packages to show them I'm thinking of them. He sees this and is quite aware of my actions to be a good relative to them, and I know he appreciates this and notices).
I've been around him and my parents for the last week or so, and he's been making biting and insulting comments about me when I'm around him (this has been happening the last few days). They have mostly been about my appearance- when someone gives me a compliment he makes a backhanded comment that is directly spoken to "they must be blind" or "no wonder they don't recognize you after so long, you were so ugly then". If one of my parents makes a comment that I'm a good relative to his kids, he'll mention that his kids only have 2 chances at getting something good (I have a sister who is completely estranged from the family and from myself, which is the healthier choice for me because she is quite toxic). His comments are always backhanded and he can't say anything nice when it comes to me, I get the "pretend like you like her" and "put your arm around her" stuff from my parent for pictures, which I don't want him to do anyway because I am tired of him trying to insult me.
He had become nice to me for quite a while after being married, but has since gone back to the same bullying I experienced when I was a kid. It's bringing up visceral emotions in me and making me experience the same pain in my gut that I used to feel as a kid. I have tried to be nice to him (currently/in the past have bought him some thoughtful gifts in addition to the rest of his family, I don't leave anybody out. I get the most lukewarm response or a one word response back from him, so I've decided not to do it anymore).
I have to see him for the next few days, and I can't stand being in his presence anymore, because I see he hasn't changed at all and is still abusive (he smiles and seems to take pleasure in attempting to make me feel bad about myself, which I do my best not to show that it bothers me because I feel he wants a reaction in some way).
I am in confusion as to whether to confront him about this or not. I can of course leave the situation and don't have to be around him, but will be seeing him for a couple more days. My parents are mildly supportive (my mother is close to me emotionally and usually quite supportive to me now and loving, but when he comes around, she tends to fade from me emotionally, leaving me to decide if I want to deal with it directly and say something to him or not).
When he says these things they take me off guard because I'm not expecting them. I've been nice to him and tried to be friendly, so it takes me aback when it happens because I don't talk to people that way and I don't expect it or tolerate it from other people. I've come along way for standing up for myself because I never used to be able to do it. I don't let people talk to me that way anymore, and the healthy part of me wants to have a talk with him about this. In the least, I feel like he's going to say something instigating again, and I am going to blow up at him. Not in an emotional way, but firmly establishing my boundaries and that he doesn't get to talk to me like that anymore, it wasn't okay back then, and it isn't now.
I don't like having conflict with people and it affects me deeply if I have bad blood with anyone, I do my best to get along with people and I don't want to be the focus of any drama with anyone. It seriously affects me. I also have deep issues of depression which I know have stemmed from my upbringing, so I'm conflicted as to if I should respond to this drama or not. I just want to be left alone and not poked at, but also have my constitution of not letting people treat me poorly. I've never fully stood up to him though. If I do, I know it will create a "situation" with him, where the relationship I have had with him has been cordial for the last several years, which has been the best relationship I've ever had with him. Even still, the thought of giving into conflict makes me feel physically and emotional upset.
Long story short (sorry!) do I say something more than "that was insulting you don't get to talk to me that way anymore" or I just leave it at that, or a even still just leave the situation completely and not accept the invitations I will be getting to come back and have dinner with the family? Not maintaining the status quo will make me into the "problem", which I absolutely don't want to be the focus of. It's already starting to, which I've done nothing to create, and I don't know if I can continue to try to be friendly to him. I've already gotten comments like "don't you want to be with the family?" from one of my parents, which is infuriating because I have spoken to this parent at length about this and is fully aware and admits he was a horrible brother growing up, and agrees that the comments he's currently making are completely uncalled for.
I also fear that my depression will never go away, and maybe part if the key is standing up in person to him. I have been in therapy with many different therapists for extended periods of time, though I'm not seeing one currently. I have done EMDR therapy, which I did not find to help me really that much at all.
My core wants to be left alone and avoid further pain, I also want to heal. I also know if you don't hold people accountable for their actions you are pretty much condoning it. I don't want to give him the appearance that I'm afraid to confront him, because I'm not. Other than this visit, I have minimal interaction with him other than it being channelled through interaction with his children.
Thanks for reading.