How to save my brother from himself
July 29, 2013 1:36 AM   Subscribe

My 33 year old older brother is sponging off my parents and isn't getting a job, I'm worried that he's going to get kicked out of my parents' house. He got fired a while ago and I'm pretty sure his main problem is depression/having given up; I'm pretty sure he's better than this though.

Help guys. Armchair psychologists, giddy-up! He's rather socially awkward, and more or less functions without any kind of internal filter; when I was 13 I realized that not every single thing that runs through my brain needs to pass through my lips, and he apparently never reached that stage of development. As a result, he was recently (7 months ago) fired from a more or less decent job because of shit like making cancer jokes and belching in the break room. Not really fireable offenses in my book, but pretty goddamn daft. He has a BA in physics from a 2nd rate college, he did 4 years in the military, knows how to program, is about a third of the way through a novel, and has given up, to the point of somehow acquiring a PS3 and playing it all day every day, not even giving lip service to his aspirations of novelist or app dev. At least when he was playing Dark Souls he was playing it with me. Now he's on to Dragon's Dogma, which in addition to being a terrible game, is a terrible game I don't even own. He can't even claim socialization or bonding as an excuse.
I live in Japan, and I'm getting married in March and having a wedding in Switzerland. I'm closer to him than my other sibling, and would like him to be there, but I feel like I'd just be enabling his downward spiral if my fiancée and I ponied up the cash for his plane ticket (dad's said NO to spending any more money on him than is required to keep him alive).
I've been talking with my lady, and I feel like we should tell him that if he doesn't have a job (even burger flipping, ffs) in a month, we're not going to help him out or welcome him to our ceremony. Has anyone ever been in this situation before? I feel like he can do better than he thinks he can, and want help with how to frame the "intervention" I'm planning.
We're from an upper-middle-class family from MI, and he's had more than his fair share of opportunities. There's never been a huge mountain of pressure to succeed, and he's had plenty of anti-role models to look at in other branches of the family tree. I still see potential and want to know how best to maybe help him see that too.
posted by GoingToShopping to Human Relations (61 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: No, you absolutely cannot politely tell another adult that he is only invited to your wedding if he gets a job. What you can (and should) do is invite him and expect him to get there under his own steam.

Maybe if everyone stops bailing him out financially, he'll feel the full consequences of his choices and get serious about work. I think your dad has the right idea here.
posted by Salamander at 1:47 AM on July 29, 2013 [29 favorites]

No, you absolutely cannot politely tell another adult that he is only invited to your wedding if he gets a job.


Also, having a wedding for family in Switzerland far from where they live (in Michigan?) where everyone but your brother can afford to attend is the same as not inviting your brother. Either pony up for your brother or have a wedding (or a second ceremony) closer to home.

You don't have to do what your dad wants, you don't have to (and shouldn't) put this decision on your spouse. You have to ask yourself – do I want my brother at this wedding?

If so, forget all the rest. Invite your brother and, if attending is a hardship (it is), pay for it. This isn't enabling your brother, this is accomplishing something you want, which is your brother at your wedding.
posted by zippy at 2:12 AM on July 29, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'm making the assumption that you're having the wedding in Switzerland for some logical reason. (Note: I feel "destination weddings" are a cruel joke on the bank accounts of the guests unless, of course, you run in a crowd of very wealthy individuals).

I'm also assuming that, when making that decision, you considered the fact that some individuals would not be able to attend due to the huge financial hit, and, you knew your brother was one of those individuals.

My opinion.... Given that assumption, you have no responsibility to pay your brother's cost to attend and, doing so would, in fact, be enabling your brothers behavior, not attending because he can't afford it is his choice, why should you fix that? I agree with your father and would actually take it one step further and insist that your brother contribute to the cost of the household or move out of the house, anything short of that is also enabling his behavior.

Finally... "intervention"???? Typically home-grown "interventions" cause more difficulties than they cure.

Have the wedding, tell your brother you're sorry he made choices that made it impossible for him to attend, and stay out of it if your father takes the next step to insisting that your brother become a contributing member of society in order to stay in the house.
posted by HuronBob at 2:24 AM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, I forgot to mention, I've previously told him that I'd help him come, when I was under the mistaken impression that he had some sort of job but was underemployed. I think I mis-spoke when I said we wouldn't welcome him: he's still welcome, but I want to explain that we're rescinding the offer to help him get there.

Explanation RE: Switzerland: My wife is Japanese, and her mother (not subtly) expressed a desire for a foreign wedding. I have no desire to go to the middle of MI where nobody except my family continues to live, and so between the lady and I, we decided a nice castle on Lake Geneva was the best choice.
posted by GoingToShopping at 2:24 AM on July 29, 2013

Why are you making such a complicated day even more complicated than it needs to be?

Do you want him at your wedding - pay for him.

Do you not want him at your wedding - don't pay for him.

Who knows, he might go to Switzerland, have an epiphany, and change his life. Or he won't. But, none of this is your problem. It's his. Your problem is whether you want him at your wedding.
posted by heyjude at 2:31 AM on July 29, 2013 [10 favorites]

Even if your brother is a mess, are you willing to sacrifice having him at your wedding just to make a point? I think that's petty, if you can indeed afford to make good on your initial offer. It's not like your wedding (or anyone's wedding) is really a motivation to change his life. It's a party. What happens when you make good on the threat and he still doesn't change? Then you only hurt yourself. Don't needlessly make your wedding a battleground.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:33 AM on July 29, 2013 [19 favorites]

Best answer: Considering your update, if you previously told him you would "help", I think you owe it to him to "help", but not necessarily pay the full amount of the trip. Offer 25% - 50% maybe? And THEN back out of enabling his behavior.
posted by HuronBob at 2:33 AM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Also, having a wedding for family in Switzerland far from where they live (in Michigan?) where everyone but your brother can afford to attend is the same as not inviting your brother. Either pony up for your brother or have a wedding (or a second ceremony) closer to home.

Uh, no. Have the wedding wherever the fuck you want. This is a day for you and your wife. Congratulations on marrying her in such a wonderful place.

As for your brother, rescind your offer. Or offer to pay for part of the trip. You're allowed to change your mind. You can do whatever the hell you want with your money. Hell, you're allowed to make a huge mistake by either inviting him or not inviting him. Who knows, maybe he'll bring his PS3 along with him and play in his room the entire trip. It's pretty ridiculous that this is your problem to begin with.

Flaring temper aside, this is a horrible situation to be in. To have the money, to want your brother to be there, to want a brother to be something he isn't, and to feel like it's a mistake inviting him, but not being sure. What an imposition. If you do end up paying his way, for your own sake, listen to me, don't ever hold this against him. Hold everything else against him but this. Expect nothing in return all the way deep down in your heart, and it will be an extremely noble gesture. Don't tinge this day with resentment. And go have yourself a lovely wedding. Congratulations!
posted by phaedon at 2:45 AM on July 29, 2013 [9 favorites]

You set a destination wedding, which is expensive to get to. I say, if you can afford to help him get there, decide whether you want him at your wedding and act accordingly.

Your wedding isn't the time to make a point about his financial irresponsibility -/ nor is it an incentive likely to be effective.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:57 AM on July 29, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I can understand your father's frustration but it sounds like he is expecting you to "punish" your brother in a way he in unwilling to do and set uo the dicotomy of him being the "black sheep" of the family while you are the golden child with a successful career, exotic destination wedding and all-around the complete opposite of your brother. This could destroy your relationship with your brother in the long term. You offered to help, I would not rescind that offer but also not be overly generous (like give him spending money). The problem your parents have with his failure to launch is their problem to solve and may involve them asking him to move out, charging him rent and/or getting all of them professional help. If it were me, making my wedding be the battleground would tinge memories of my wedding with regret in the future.
posted by saucysault at 3:00 AM on July 29, 2013 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Not having your brother at your wedding is permanent. In ten or twenty years, when hopefully his life will be on track and he has a wife and kids and a steady job, the stain of his absence from one of the most important days of your life will still be there. Please don't use your wedding as leverage to make him change or teach him a lesson. Weddings are about love.

In fact, it sounds like a trip to a castle on the shores of Lake Geneva is exactly what your brother needs: an escape from his twilight world of computer games and fighting with Mom and Dad to somewhere beautiful where he will be surrounded by people who love him. As heyjude said, the trip may just provide him with an epiphany. (As an aside, what if you asked him to write something about the trip as a keepsake for you? Some kind of weird sci-fi Swiss wedding short story could be a great way to remember your special day. Writers need inspiration, perhaps the stimulation of a foreign country will get his creative juices flowing again?)

If he is the only member of your family to miss your wedding I cannot imagine he will feel anything other than an increase in his sense of worthlessness; it will compound the message that he is a failure and that he is unlovable. These are dangerous messages to give to somebody who is already going through a very dark time.

My dad's a psychologist, and one of the best pieces of advice he ever gave me was when my younger brother was in a similar situation (living at my place rent free, no job, no prospects, no girlfriend, sleeping all day) - "If you want somebody to change, you must first accept them the way that they are." It's a tough piece of advice, and one I still struggle with, but it is true. It is only when people feel strong, unconditional love that they can get enough self-esteem to go out into the world and take on challenges like a new job, because they know they have the safety net of love beneath them.

So I focused on not judging my brother. Now, three or four years after that tough situation, I know that I don't love my brother because he has a great job (which he does now) or a beautiful girlfriend (which he has now) or a bright future and lots of awesome friends (tick and tick) but because he's my brother. He's my flesh and blood, and if I had to cut off my arm to have him at my wedding, the hardest decision would be which arm to choose.

Good luck, I hope you find a solution that you feel comfortable with. You obviously love your brother a great deal, and whatever ups and downs come along, you're both very lucky to have each other.
posted by matthew.alexander at 3:04 AM on July 29, 2013 [104 favorites]

If you're asking, "will forcing him out of the wedding/to pay his own way cause him to have a grand epiphany and get a job forthwith?" The answer is no, no it won't.

It might shake him out of his stupor, but, it probably won't. If he really is depressed and has given up, he needs help, but he kind of needs to want it, and... well, I doubt the exclusion at your wedding will help kick start his motivation.

Including him or not depends on whether you want him there or not. Do you want him there? Will you be sad if everyone but him is there? Will you regret it? When you get your photos and such, will there be a pang when he's not in them? It seems a petty stance to take (even if well intentioned) at your wedding, which is about, well... love and family. But yes, it could be that while everyone is in Switzerland, and he's not, it will finally sink in for him, too. But it might also make things worse, and make him feel even more isolated in general.

I'd say to him that he'll have to help himself or make up most of the way to see if it has an effect on his motivation (I doubt it) -- but, I'd be ready to bail him out if necessary. I wouldn't mention that last part to him.

Then I'd ask him what's keeping him from applying for a job and try and help.
posted by Dimes at 3:09 AM on July 29, 2013

Seconding everyone who says not to use your wedding as an opportunity for emotional blackmail. If you promised to help him, do so. Don't go back on your word -- that's a black mark on you, not him.

If you don't want to enable him going forward, don't. Paying to help him attend your wedding is a favor to YOU, not him. You are requesting his presence; he can't pay and you can. It's part of being family that you help him out.
posted by 3491again at 3:24 AM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

On preview, I feel matthew.alexander makes some great points too. People see someone in the deep throes of depression, and think; 'slobby, lazy, can't help themselves,' etc. They think that the person has fun doing nothing all day, and is riding comfortably.

I'm not saying this is what is happening here, but, it could be. And it's easy to look at your brother playing video games and think that.

But the reality is that it isn't fun to be that depressed and unmotivated. It's pretty dark, and pretty isolating. When people compound that worthlessness, it has every way of making things worse. Much worse. It can make him perpetually stuck; because if even people who are supposed to love you unconditionally love you with conditions, how are you supposed to peek your head out from under that rock and face the big bad world? If everyone thinks you're useless, then, you probably are, right? And the pressure. Oh man, it can be crippling.

IANAT but, I've always felt encouragement worked better than punishment. Echoing the above, the trip may actually help him get out of his head. Not being pressured to talk about his future may actually help him think of it with less stress being attached to it.

Either way, best of luck.
posted by Dimes at 3:25 AM on July 29, 2013 [9 favorites]

You promised to help with his ticket, so keep your promise. You promised to HELP, though: not purchase the entire ticket.... so 50% sounds reasonable.

Oh, and as for his firing: he may be telling you that he was fired for cancer jokes and belching, but is he telling the complete truth? Probably not; he might have been fired for something like persistant lateness or poor performance, or merely laid off because business is slow, but that's his business. And its not going to help him break out of his depression if you are telling him things like he attended a "2nd rate college".
posted by easily confused at 4:06 AM on July 29, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: If you we're my younger brother, and said to me that you wouldn't welcome me at your wedding if I didn't have a job then I wouldn't go to your wedding whether I had a job or not. And I probably wouldn't forgive you for a long time. This is the sort of thing that long-running family grudges are made of.

Don't try to parent your brother. Either buy the plane ticket, or accept that he won't come. I'm gainfully employed in a well-paid job, and I would struggle to find the money for a transatlantic plane ticket even with several months notice.
posted by plonkee at 4:37 AM on July 29, 2013 [9 favorites]

I feel like I'd just be enabling his downward spiral

It's not like he wants to be in a downward spiral. I don't know what's stopping him from getting his stuff together, but people are not just "lazy" if it's making them miserable.

If he was having a great time sponging off your parents, then I could see how you might think that he is just irresponsible, but there seems to be something else going on.

I don't think he needs more people wagging their finger at him and telling him he is screwing up, and that, moreover, they will punish him for it. He needs someone to extend a hand to him, it seems to me, and you are just the person in the position to do it.

And if you can afford it, I would pay for his trip to attend your wedding.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 4:42 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm really appreciating these responses, everyone, thanks for your input. Marking all the "best answers" is looking to be a rather daunting task.

For the record, money is not a non-issue for me. I'm only 31, and while I make pretty decent money, as does my fiancée, we also both live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and are planning on going from wedding ceremony to Northern Europe Honeymoon (more Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway). So yeah, it's not that I'm pettily withholding money that means nothing to me, it means that I'm trying to decide if it isn't a disservice to my future wife to be skimping on our honeymoon just so my brother, who refuses to apply for jobs, can be there and make awkward conversation at the dinner table.

It sounds like I'm being harsh on him, but he failed out of his university after two years, which forced him into the military, then spent over a year without a job in the parent's house, worked at a MLM cult (YAY CUTCO), went BACK to university, graduated, moved back home, spent maybe another half year unemployed, then had a job for about 11 months, and then lost it, and all of this took a bit over a decade to accomplish. I'm worried that he's approaching a point of no return. My greatest fear is that he's going to turn into my less-fortunate uncle: 60 years old, cancer from tobacco, reoccurring drug addictions, three illegitimate children, an inability to stay off the bottle, and a constant begging of his siblings for cash. I'm probably the least frustrated person in the immediate family with him, and that's because I still believe that he could accomplish something if he actually tried to accomplish something.

I saw him online playing his games the other day and sent him a text message, "Yo. Get a job or finish your book." His response was "you're assuming someone would hire me," to which I replied "you're assuming nobody would." He had no reply to that, which makes me think he realizes his failure is a lack of effort, not some innate aspect of his core being that he can't get over or mend. I have more faith in him that my dad does, and definitely more faith in him that he himself does.

I want him at my wedding, but paying for his plane ticket, his hotel, his food, and his seat at the ceremony dinner table feels grossly selfish, unjust to my fiancée, and ultimately detrimental to his progress as a human being and useful member of society.
posted by GoingToShopping at 4:46 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seems to me a nice way to split the difference is to offer to pay some of his way there. That way you aren't reneging on what you said earlier, you aren't being selfish or unjust to your fiancee, and you're probably still making it so that he does have to find a job in order to pay for the rest of it.

If I were him that would feel much less exclusionary and hurtful than just saying "Sorry, I changed my mind" or -- much worse -- "I won't pay your way unless you get a job." I think people are right about how hearing the latter while being depressed or feeling worthless would make things even worse. But imagine you say something like, "Bro, I'd love to have you here at my wedding! Looking at my finances I realised we can only really afford to help you out by $foo, but I'm really hoping that you can manage to come up with the other $bar yourself." Then he'll still feel loved and wanted, but it will still be (at least partially) on him to get himself there.
posted by forza at 4:56 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

You'd probably be out a lot for the ticket et al. Would it be possible for you to say to him that you don't think that this is what he needs right at the moment, but that you're willing to take some of the money you would have spent on bringing him to it and pay for a therapist/life coach/whatever person he might listen to and who might help him out of this rut? It seems like a more sensible use of your money and one that might have some payoff more than just flying him out. And at least you'd feel that it went some way to helping him even if it didn't work out being some sort of miracle cure.

And it's your wedding: whatever you and your bride-to-be decide you want to live with is fine. No one else gets to judge you in these situations.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:57 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well don't pay for him then. Then he won't be there.

But your idea of what progress as a human being is and what a useful member of society is are opinions, not absolutes.
posted by glasseyes at 4:59 AM on July 29, 2013 [22 favorites]

Pay for your wedding and honeymoon in full --- don't skimp on your bride, skimp on your brother!

You don't owe Brother a free ride; depression or not, he must have *some* money, or how is he paying for his videogame habit? Sure, the job market is tight, but there ARE jobs out there: he sounds like he just doesn't WANT to work, particularly if it's something "menial" like fast food. Offer to pay no more than half of Brother's expenses --- his bills are nothing, because he's living rent-free with meals tossed in; if he doesn't make it to the wedding because he won't pay the other half, then that's on him, not you.
posted by easily confused at 5:02 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

You did say you would help, didn't you? That does mean "help", not "bankroll."

Here's something I've thought of doing with my own brother if I find myself in your position-- buy the plane ticket, or whatever, but have your parents travel separately, preferably beforehand. The onus goes on your brother to get to the airport and make it out to Switzerland himself. That way there's no room for him to do some kind of last minute "it's all about me!" stalling or whatever with your parents that will cause them to miss their flight. He will have a ticket, he knows where and when the wedding is. Part of being an adult is figuring out how to get to the wedding on his own steam (if not his own bank account). He has plenty of time to get a job and cover the other expenses. But keep in mind you risk paying for a plane ticket that he won't use.

And, also, it sounds like your brother is going through some tough times and these are difficult economic times, and a bit of humility on your part seems warranted. I mean, things aren't great for him, but he did get a degree in physics and serve in the army for a while. You teach ESL in Japan, which is decent, steady work but not exactly the mark of a "professional go-getter."
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 5:03 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your most recent follow up makes me think, even more strongly, that you're being hard on him. As the armchair psychologist you asked for, I think he is depressed, and I think you don't understand his depression. At all.

Pay for your honeymoon. Pay for your brother, or not, as you see fit. But don't convince yourself that the right course there has anything to do with making your brother get better and improve his life. It doesn't.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:11 AM on July 29, 2013 [21 favorites]

I want him at my wedding, but paying for his plane ticket, his hotel, his food, and his seat at the ceremony dinner table feels grossly selfish, unjust to my fiancée, and ultimately detrimental to his progress as a human being and useful member of society.

In what universe is him going to your wedding going to spur him to be a better or worse person? It will have no effect either way. You'd be doing this for you, not him.

Stop trying to teach him a lesson and pay his way to come. Life is short. He's the closest person in your family to you. You'll regret it if he's not there. It's not his fault you put your wedding on the high shelf that he couldn't even begin to afford even if he got a job today.
posted by inturnaround at 5:20 AM on July 29, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I saw him online playing his games the other day and sent him a text message, "Yo. Get a job or finish your book." His response was "you're assuming someone would hire me," to which I replied "you're assuming nobody would." He had no reply to that, which makes me think he realizes his failure is a lack of effort, not some innate aspect of his core being that he can't get over or mend. I have more faith in him that my dad does, and definitely more faith in him that he himself does.

Ouch. "Yo, get a job" is not how you talk to someone with depression, and it's not particularly helpful for a non-depressed person without a job, either. I've been unemployed and severely depressed, and I would have stopped the conversation too. Not because you were right, but because you were dismissive and unempathetic.

You say you believe in him, but you keep painting him with these broad brushstrokes as a pathologically immature slacker who doesn't even play good video games all day! I know how frustrating it is when the solution to someone else's problems seems totally straightforward and yet they just don't do it. But they deserve kindness and respect nonetheless.

I don't know. I think you've got it in your mind that you're better than him, and that he's not doing as well because he just chooses not to, when the reality is more subtle. If I've interpreted this all wrong and it's not how you think, then it's at least how you come across to one person, and it may be how you come across to others, including your brother. You could be creating a rift even without the wedding issue.

If it were my brother, and he couldn't attend my wedding without my financial help, this wouldn't even be a question. I'd want him there. I love my brother and I want him to be part of my life, and it's absolutely not my place to punish him. If you offered to help and you now withdraw your offer, you're not saying "you need to be more responsible," you're only saying "I don't want you at my wedding."
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:23 AM on July 29, 2013 [40 favorites]

If you in Japan and he is in Michigan, you see him online at 3 am his time, right? Maybe he spends all day doing stuff and games at night to combat insomnia. Also, putting an ultimatum on a job search sucks; i am 32, from mid michigan originally, and every. Person. I. Know. Our. Age. Needs. A. Job. Seriously, people with honors engineering degrees from top rate colleges are out of work foryears, even burger flipping jobs, unless they leave the state. The michigan economy sucks as does the US for our age range- why did you leave the US originally and when? Do you really know what its like out here now?

If you are well off enough that sharing your day with your brother means giving up a spa day or skipping Norway or skipping breakfast in bed one day of yr honeymoon, you are more well off than 80% of people in our age bracket in our state. You already got out and got lucky. Why not be nice and generous towards someone who was not?
posted by holyrood at 5:26 AM on July 29, 2013 [19 favorites]

The only way your brother will be at your wedding is if you pay for it. I don't understand the difference between paying for it if he's underemployed and rescinding the offer if he's unemployed. Paying to get him to your wedding isn't enabling him to remain unemployed, it has no bearing on his life whatsoever. He will be in exactly the same position on Monday as he was on Thursday, only having gone to his brother's wedding over the weekend.

It's your wedding. If you want him there, it's on you to get him there. That's the fact regardless of his past failures or current depression or judgment by you or frustration on the part of your parents or any other baggage that comes up when jobs and weddings are in the mix. Your brother will not be at your wedding unless you pay for him to get there.

So it's your choice.
posted by headnsouth at 5:49 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: "Yo. Get a job or finish your book." His response was "you're assuming someone would hire me," to which I replied "you're assuming nobody would." He had no reply to that, which makes me think he realizes his failure is a lack of effort, not some innate aspect of his core being that he can't get over or mend.

You do realize it is 2013 and he is applying for jobs in Michigan? Do you still have any connections in the state that you could use to help set him on on interviews, etc? Also, how would you respond to a text message like that? It certainly wouldn't motivate me to do anything other than sink deeper into a video-game-shame-pit.

Contrary to your instinct, I think that you could use your wedding to get him out of his spiral. This could be an opportunity for him to network with family and friends to see if there are positions he would qualify for. You could help facilitate this and prep your brother to have his game face on.

In 10 years, you will remember having, or excluding your brother from your wedding much more than you would remember an extra night in Norway. You hosted an entire wedding in a different country (I'm presuming at increased expense to all involved) to appease your future MIL, yet your family is not worth as much to your wife.
posted by fermezporte at 5:51 AM on July 29, 2013 [19 favorites]

Yes to everyone who says your attitude is not helping your brother. I'm employed, but I hate my job. I've been searching for a new job for a full year and haven't even gotten an interview. I've had many friends and recruiters assure me that my résumé and cover letter are great and not part of the problem. I have two degrees from great schools and a solid background in what I do, but I've also widened the field enough that I'm willing to accept anything that would get me out of this job and have even tried to get waitressing jobs. Nothing. Sometimes a friend will try to give me a motivational speech and tell me I'm not looking hard enough or don't "believe in myself" and am somehow "self-sabotaging." Those friends are the ones I don't call anymore. Don't assume someone will hire him if he just "believes" in himself. It's tough out there.
posted by pineappleheart at 5:51 AM on July 29, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: F'ing hell man. You're just one more thing in your brother's life that's reinforcing the fact that he's a failure.

You describe him as having no redeeming features at all and as having failed to mature past the age of 13.

Of course you don't want someone you hate and have contempt for at your wedding, but he's your brother, and weddings are supposed to be about family, and part of what families are supposed to be about is shielding people from the stark and unforgiving reality of the world, so perhaps you could make good on your promise to get him there and then have a slightly less expensive honeymoon after the wedding you are holding far, far away from home.

I'm just looking back at what condition my life was in, in my own late thirties. If my own family had split me black in contrast to a perfect sibling, I don't think things would have turned out anywhere near as well as they did for me.
posted by tel3path at 5:51 AM on July 29, 2013 [13 favorites]

When most people talk about "drawing boundaries" with their siblings about weddings, it's about wanting to ensure that the sibling doesn't interfere with the progress and happiness of the wedding-- no causing a scene, not making it more difficult for everyone to organize the wedding, etc. But outside of that, it is expected that the siblings will attend the wedding. Part of the onus should also be on your parents to pick up part of your brother's expenses if he can't cover them. It's a family event. He's family, he should be there, somehow.

Though I still stand by my earlier assertion that he needs to make the trip under his own power (though not necessarily on his own dime)... he needs to make a conscious choice to come, so give him money, but let him figure out how to get to the airport and the Geneva hotel on his own, so the rest of your family doesn't have to spend the entire event babysitting and taking care of him for your event.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 6:03 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What your brother does and what your parents do is their intricate dance of dysfunction, not yours. You can voice your concerns to him, but don't make any judgments.

"I'm worried about you. I think you may have some issues like depression or emotional filtering that are causing you problems finding and keeping a job. I encourage you to be evaluated and to progress on a treatment plan."

Then, in a completely separate thought, "Dude, I know that having our wedding in Switzerland is going to be a stretch for you. While I'd love to have you there, it turns out that Fiance and I just won't be able to kick in for your ticket. I might be able to help you off-set some of the expenses, but we never envisioned having to pay your entire way. I'm sorry, but we'll come visit, or you can come visit us when you start working again."

That's it. Sometimes actions (or inaction) has consequences, and this is one of them. But it's not a punishment and it's not your place to fix your brother. Love him, encourage him to grow and improve, but it's for him to do.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:06 AM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

I want him at my wedding, but paying for his plane ticket, his hotel, his food, and his seat at the ceremony dinner table feels grossly selfish, unjust to my fiancée, and ultimately detrimental to his progress as a human being and useful member of society.

Oh, come on, man. FFS. Paying for your brother to travel to your wedding is not "detrimental to his progress as a human being." You're waaaay over the line here.

Nor is it going to cause you to "skimp on your honeymoon" or be a "disservice to your wife". If you and your spouse both make enough money to be having a wedding in a castle and a multinational honeymoon, the cost of one extra plane ticket and a hotel room is not going to break the bank.

I think you need to separate your (perfectly reasonable) frustration with his lack of career progress from your (totally irrelevant to your brother's career or lack thereof) wedding plans. And you're conflating all sorts of other random shit in there -- "awkward conversation at the dinner table"? Really? -- all to try to justify to yourself what you've clearly already decided you want to do.

Don't try to use your wedding as leverage to change your brother's life. A) it won't work, and B) it's a dick move.

You're having an expensive wedding, and you chose to have it in a location that will be expensive for your family to travel, and you promised to help pay your brother's way there. Keep your promise. If he's a fuckup who never gets a good job and dies of cancer or whatever other dire future you're projecting onto him, so be it; that's got nothing to do with your wedding (and not a heck of a lot to do with you, period.)
posted by ook at 6:08 AM on July 29, 2013 [34 favorites]

Best answer: There's a pretty good consensus here, so I thought I'd just give an example as someone who's been in this situation.

My brother got married several years ago, and I was invited. I had just been hired as an IT consultant in a French multinational. Family were in our home state, Oregon, and I was the only one travelling to it from out-of-state, much less internationally. No one paid for my ticket, in any way or amount whatsoever; I did have free accommodations with family, but paid a high emotional price for those. I knew I would, though; I never would have been able to afford a hotel. Seeing my brother married was worth the emotional crap. Still, it took me two years to recover from that financial hit, in large part because when you're trying to get on your own two feet (as I was in the midst of depression and never having had any financial or emotional support from family, plus in a foreign country that's only recently become my dual citizenship home), it's not the only financial difficulty you're dealing with. You can't actually pull yourself up by your bootstraps. It's more like, finding the cheapest boots that fit, knowing they'll wear out faster, trying to keep a roof over your head, it leaks, your boots wonk out, you need new ones ASAP because your roof's leaking, and in the meantime you can't figure out how to pay for materials to fix the leak, and your WiFi's been cut off so you can't look up how-tos on YouTube... and God forbid you take five minutes to play FarmVille or listen to your favorite album, there will be someone on your case telling you you're not trying hard enough, look how lazy you are, you don't even have decent boots and your roof is leaking. You get the picture. And I HAD a job (still have the same one). A good job, with a very decent salary. Now. How many people do you know who are living single, with a decent salary, and without any help from anyone else to speak of? Not just financial help... any help to speak of, at all. Because that's basically what you're trying to tell your brother to do. It won't work. As bad as it got for me, I still had a support network; a very fragile one, but it was made up of people who reached out when I needed it. Without them I would not be here. A lot of the MeFites asking that you accept your brother as he is, are people who have also been through that. They know of what they speak, from the other side. Listen to them.

You won't be teaching your brother anything other than he's not wanted if you renege on your promise. My family did this to me several times before I cut them off; I nearly couldn't finish university because they paid zero of the federally-calculated minimum for a child claimed as a deduction on their taxes. I wonder what the stories about your brother are overlooking as regards his efforts, in part because of my own past, so here's a list, maybe it will remind you of things he did, or things he tried and couldn't achieve for reasons not his fault: I finished thanks to scholarships, loans, work-study, summer jobs with overtime, Christmas jobs with overtime, living at home (save my very last year in subsidized housing), AP tests, maxing out course credits per semester so I could finish a year early. The scholarship I had was only given to one person the year I earned it (me). The work-study position left me at zero after expenses, and I was working more than the maximum hours allowed, also the sole exception to it, due to the good graces of the people running the program. I'm pointing this out because "success" can be razor-thin when you have no support from those closest to you: if I had had a 3.7 GPA instead of 3.85, I would have failed university. Because I would not have qualified for the scholarship or the work-study, and parents were using the tax money they saved by claiming me as a dependent, to buy themselves a new red BMW convertible in addition to the one they already had (not even joking). All while family told anyone and everyone I was "lazy" and "counting on their financial generosity" while "playing computer games." (Actually, I was fiddling with HTML, designing websites, and teaching myself Perl and Unix shell scripts... I mentioned I'm now an IT consultant. Those "useless pasttimes" and my current livelihood are directly related.) The only thing their claims of "buck up and learn to live your own life" taught me was that they did not give a shit about my life. I live on the other side of the planet now, on my own, and never visit them nor even speak to them. Abuse was involved, so it's more serious, but still. When you tell someone "sorry, ain't helping you like I said I would because your life does not meet the standards I imagine it should, given all the past standards I also judge you have failed to achieve, so you're on your own," they will remember it for a very long time. They will take you at your word. And you risk actually being left on your own, just like you told them to do. You didn't listen to them or value their life as it was then, why would that change when they made it better on their own?

More compassionately, what matthew alexander said.
posted by fraula at 6:52 AM on July 29, 2013 [23 favorites]

Best answer: I think it's clear from much of what you've written that your brother is not well. It is important to remember that depression is an illness - often with chemically-measurable manifestations, the potential to limit a person's life and their development, with a range of potential effective treatments, with a chance of recovery or, in extreme cases, a chance of death.

Consider this story for a moment:

My brother has suffered from a rare form of cancer for most of his life. It sounds like I'm being harsh on him, but when he first became ill it caused him to fail out of his university after two years, which forced him into the military, then spent over a year without a job in the parent's house when the cancer was particularly bad. He went into remission for a while and decided to make up for lost time, worked at a MLM cult (YAY CUTCO), went BACK to university, graduated, moved back home, but when the cancer returned he spent maybe another half year unemployed, then had a job for about 11 months, and then lost it because he was sometimes too sick to face going to work, and all of this took a bit over a decade to accomplish. I'm worried that he's approaching a point of no return because he is choosing to let the cancer control his life.

Nobody would choose to live with their parents at the age of 33, to play computer games day and night, while watching their sibling travel around the world, get married and build a life for themselves. It must be extremely painful to be your brother. How would you feel differently if you viewed your brother's situation as the result of an illness? Would you compel him to ignore the effects of cancer and drag his lazy ass to a job interview in the middle of a chemo cycle, or would you be spending your time looking for the best doctors and drugs to get him back on track?

What if your brother never works again? What if he does turn out like your uncle, gets cancer, develops a drinking problem, drives your parents mad in their autumn years - would you still love him? I think you would. I think you posted this question because you love your brother enormously, because his illness has caused huge pain in your own life (how awful for you to be going through this exciting period of getting married and travelling the world, while knowing that your brother may never have these opportunities! It must have tainted some of the joy that you should be feeling).

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be this: your brother is not his illness, and your relationship with him is not his illness.
posted by matthew.alexander at 6:53 AM on July 29, 2013 [16 favorites]

....I'm pretty sure his main problem is depression/having given up... ...I feel like he can do better than he thinks he can, and want help with how to frame the "intervention" I'm planning....

I'm not quite sure how these 2 things connect. If you thought that your brother had an open, bleeding wound on his knee,why is denying him a piece of cake that you promised going to help with the gashing untreated wound on his knee.

I have a sibling that has challenges and mental health issues. I've paid for that sibling to go on trips with me in the past and I will again.Sometimes it was at a great cost to me.But those trips and experiences opened the doors to communication; the memories are also far more important than whatever other trinket that a person can buy with the money. So in your shoes, I would keep the offer to pay for the plane ticket, for the many reasons that others have already articulated.

However, if I truly felt this: his main problem is depression/having given up and/or any other underlying psychiatric disorder, then I would also work on making a step to helping the person go towards a solution with that, too. Perhaps a discussion (i.e. do you feel that this interferes with your life, socially/workwise/etc.? and what do you think would help you?). I would also make an offer for (not the entire treatment) but an evaluation by a psychiatrist and/or a therapist, whatever the person felt comfortable with.I would make it clear that there was a limit to what I could afford. But if a person were truly in this state, sometimes making the step towards treatment (the question:Do I need it) and making an appointment, paying for it can impede the person who needs it.

So if this were my sibling, I would keep the promise towards the plane ticket, but also work on treating the knee if I truly thought that was the problem.

Sock puppet because I actually have paid for a sibling to go on trips, and made the offer for psychiatric help at cost to me if needed. Don't want my loved one's life tagged to my main account.
posted by Dances with sock puppets at 6:56 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nobody would choose to live with their parents at the age of 33, to play computer games day and night, while watching their sibling travel around the world, get married and build a life for themselves. It must be extremely painful to be your brother.

For the record, this is not true. Some people feel entitled to this kind of support from their parents. He may want to play computer games and live at home, and in the same way his parents supported his other sibling through college, he may feel his parents should support him while he lives at home and ponders the futility of finding a job.

I don't want to go too off topic, here, but your thoughts are a common fallacy of do-gooders helping the disadvantaged all over the world: the idea that the beneficiary of help has an ambition to be "just like" the person providing the aid, and giving that help and aid will help get him there.

All that aside, family weddings are not an opportunity to "Teach an Important Lesson." You don't want to have the sibling disrupt the wedding or force the family to make their plans revolve around him, but you don't want to put a sign outside the door that says, "You must have attained this level of professional accomplishment to go on the ride" in the hopes this will provide the proper incentive.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 7:19 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

So, he's in Michigan? Like, the giant economic swamp that is Michigan? In the general black hole that is the midwest United States?

Yeah, right now? Getting that fast food job, when you're a properly qualified person in your 30s, is a lot harder than it looks. Getting retail jobs, ditto. Getting any jobs, ditto. I'm in Ohio and I know a lot of people with graduate degrees doing clerical work--you pretty much have to know somebody just to get into that kind of thing because there are plenty of clerical workers out of jobs already.

Offer help finding work. Offer him a copy of Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, if you want. But if you tell him that he has to not only find a job but then dedicate a bunch of money from his new job *if* he finds one to flying overseas for your wedding? You are basically telling him that you don't want him at your wedding. This is not going to have a positive result in the short term and it is going to be something that has an impact on your relationship with him when you guys are in your sixties. Is that what you want?
posted by Sequence at 7:25 AM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

My answer got deleted, so I'll say again... I think your post and tags are somewhat dismissive of your brother, I think you should pay for him, and there may be a time when you need him too.
posted by inkypinky at 7:36 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I will note one thing you said:

I'm worried that he's approaching a point of no return. My greatest fear is that he's going to turn into my less-fortunate uncle: 60 years old, cancer from tobacco, reoccurring drug addictions, three illegitimate children, an inability to stay off the bottle, and a constant begging of his siblings for cash.

because I want to appreciate that part of this issue is that you're asking what is the right thing to do based on the fact I think I'm hearing that you love your brother and are afraid for him. You sound afraid for him - that he will never be your (and many people's) definition of ok, or an adult: independent, responsible, able to take care of himself, now or after your parents pass on. Perhaps also able to experience all the joys of family/community, autonomy, and more. Perhaps you're also wondering if you're the brother who engages him the most, that you'll be on the hook financially if/when he does do all those things you are afraid he might do, and in the middle of your family/siblings, who might have washed their hands of him.

So I'm going to note that even this question 'pay for wedding or not?' and your earlier statement 'yo, get a job', comes from a good place, and part of what I'm hearing is that you're asking how to respond skillfully and compassionately, realizing that you are coming from a place that is muddled by love and fear, frustration and confusion about how to frame this and how to engage your brother.

The things is: you can't save your brother from himself (or from his actions, behaviors, thoughts and whatever you fear is going to happen to him). You can't save him, period. And it may be killing you to realize this and to want it to be different, the way you want him to be different - to be ok, and to know you can't make that happen. You can't bribe or cajole, threaten or withhold, beg him to be different.

I wonder if part of what might help is if you got a chance to talk through your relationship with your brother with someone knowledgeable, who can help you frame and explore the situation, and perhaps identify healthier ways for you to engage someone in your life who is unwillingly unwell, or willfully destroying their lives. As human beings, we really aren't innately skilled at managing long term family dynamics when someone in the family is unhealthy or suffering. It's learned. The fact that you're 31 and asking this question, this way, suggests that you aren't yet skilled or clear on how to engage your brother and family, not just on this question (your wedding), but on any of the upcoming experiences that may face you in relation to your brother for the rest of your life.

So I'm thinking about this if you were my brother, and I truly loved and was worried about you. I'd tell you that perhaps one way to reframe this is about what would 'ultimately (be) positive to your progress as a human being and useful member of society', because that's all any of us - your included - can really take care of. I'd tell you that what might help is to reframe this is as a sign that you need some help in getting clear about how to engage your brother for the rest of your life - and that this is part of your growth, your development. I'd tell you that there are individuals handle relationships like this skillfully, and that even something like a a gift to yourself of some short term conversations with a talented psychologist helping you hash out a way to view and respond skillfully and compassionately to both your brother and your family now might totally help you in the long tern - for the rest of your life, because you'd have a way to conceptualize and approach this 'caught in the middle of the family, feeling frustrated, have fears for my brother, wish things were different' scenarios that have probably been playing out for you in relation to your brother for most of the first 30 years of your life. But there is no reason not to spend 3 month or 6 months exploring how you'd like to engage him for the next 70 (that's twice the amount of time you've been on the planet).

So I'd tell you that you might start this exploration after your lovely wedding, and incredible time that you have with your love on honeymoon. For now, eat the cost as an extra special gift to yourself - your brother's presence, and if anyone in the family says anything about it, thank them for their concern, and tell them that it is a gift to yourself. Focus on having the life that you want - and if it's your brother at your wedding, do it. Enjoy your day knowing you've done what you can to make it what you want, and accept the rest of the drama. That's because of this: Because you don't need to figure out how to relate to your brother at the same time you plan/have your wedding. I know it might feel pressing, but suspect you'll have more experiences like this and opportunities to figure out how to relate to him over the rest of your life, many of which will hopefully be less stressful. So, have your amazing wedding, your adventurous honeymoon, and enjoy yourself. And when you get back, perhaps in a few months, consider investing in yourself again, to find a psychologist to flesh out how to navigate your relationship with your brother in the future, when situations like this arise and and you're once again torn.

By taking care of yourself, developing yourself, you help yourself, your relationship with your new wife (who probably doesn't know how to help you manage this any better than you do right now), your other family and your brother. It's not intuitive, but the way you help your brother is by helping yourself - something you can control - and learning how to relate to him consistently (so no, I'm paying for your trip. Wait, no, not all if it, I used the word 'help', so part of it. Wait, no - am I doing more harm than good? Should I pay for any of it? Argh, this is just like last time! Head-spinning dizziness you're facing right now.)

Maybe the whole situation with your brother and your wedding isn't the universe trying to get your attention about the fact that your older brother is struggling, but that you are (about how to relate to him and engage him when you see him suffering - or online playing games in the morning, at family events, etc.)? And the way out is to not focus on your brother, but to continue to develop yourself. That seems to me to be the height of developing yourself as a person, an adult, a brother, a son and a husband. By taking care of yourself - developing yourself - you help others, by knowing how and when to set boundaries, to manage other people's anxieties and frustrations, and your own, and to know how to intelligently relate to anyone in your family. Taking these steps is something you can tangibly do might be meaningful - particularly if you plan to have kids one day. This way you'll know how to teach them how to manage your greatest fear: how to handle you less-fortunate uncle: 60 years old, cancer from tobacco, reoccurring drug addictions, three illegitimate children, an inability to stay off the bottle, and a constant begging of his siblings for cash. (I'm assuming that you're talking about a real person, so perhaps some of this stuff is intergenerational, but it can stop with you).

Just some thoughts. Good luck to you, and congratulations on your upcoming nuptials.
posted by anitanita at 7:44 AM on July 29, 2013 [14 favorites]

Mod note: If you want to talk about moderation, don't do it in the middle of threads; please reach us at the contact form or bring it to Metatalk.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:44 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I forgot to mention, I've previously told him that I'd help him come, when I was under the mistaken impression that he had some sort of job but was underemployed.

Don't rescind your offer. Your mistaken impression is your problem, not his.
posted by BibiRose at 7:54 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

You're having an expensive foreign wedding, so you have two options:

1) accept that only people who can pony up the (SIGNIFICANT) amount of cash to attend will attend, regardless of how much they want to be there or you want them to be there.

2) you help those you want there with the costs associated with coming to your expensive foreign wedding, regardless of their employment level/contribution to society (which is pretty damn irrelevant).

If costs are a concern, maybe Switzerland was the worst possible choice in Europe or close enough to it, for you and especially your guests.
posted by lydhre at 8:20 AM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you rescind your offer at this point, what's your relationship going to look like after the wedding? I think this is something worth thinking about if, as you say, you care about your brother. Any advice you try to give after this will be coming from someone who breaks his word and does it in a self-serving way. (Self-serving because you chose the wedding venue and your US family is having to make a big effort to come as it is. It's awfully convenient for you, financially, to cut down on the amount you have to spend to make that happen, and here you are describing it as "selfish." Down the road, when the wedding fever is past, I think you're going to see this and feel bad about it.)
posted by BibiRose at 8:36 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I saw him online playing his games the other day and sent him a text message, "Yo. Get a job or finish your book." His response was "you're assuming someone would hire me," to which I replied "you're assuming nobody would." He had no reply to that, which makes me think he realizes his failure is a lack of effort, not some innate aspect of his core being that he can't get over or mend. I have more faith in him that my dad does, and definitely more faith in him that he himself does.

I have no idea if that was supposed to have been "tough love" or something else, but if this was your idea of being helpful or clever, then you should leave brother-related helpfulness and/or cleverness to appropriately trained professionals. Why did you pass that anecdote along to us? I don't know what kind of "intervention" you had been planning later for your brother, but it sounds like it would be a disaster.

You clearly resent the idea of paying your brother's way, for understandable reasons. However, you did offer to help get him out there. It would be graceless , tacky, and beneath you to rescind this offer, or to attach new conditions to this help.

Your wedding should be a happy and carefree occasion with your family. You should not let this wedding be about your brother and how you feel about him. Quietly give him the help you had offered, and then just have your wedding.


At a later point, if you do want to do something about your brother, please consider directly prodding him to go see a life coach, therapist, etc. Let him know that you are only prodding him to do this because you realized that he's facing issues bigger than the two of you. If your goal really is to help him, then you will find a way to communicate this. There is no need whatsoever to remind him that he is not professionally successful - he knows this.

It cannot be stated too often that depression is a real illness. In civilized circles, pretending that depression is not a real illness comes off as craven and ghoulish. While it is more than understandable that you don't want your brother living off of your parents' resources for the rest of his life, you need to understand the extent to which you are inappropriately judging him. You also need to realize that there is a difference between how you feel (frustrated, angry), what the situation is in reality (difficult), and what is actually useful to say to your brother. Huggermugger about him not applying himself may make you feel better, but it does absolutely nothing for anyone else. Not only is it not that simple, but he already knows that he is a "loser" - there is no need whatsoever for you to underline this for him. What's more challenging would be to convince him that he's a potential "winner."

If you really are interested in helping your brother, then you will see that he actually needs help - not so much with the money itself, but with actual familial support such that he can scramble out of his emotional, chemical, and professional hole.

I'm talking about support in the more limited sense of helping him secure a therapist, or giving him an appropriate amount of help with his resume or with recommendations, things like that. Not knowing your brother, I couldn't say what he specifically needs or doesn't need, but listening is always good, too. He might really, really need a judgment-free conversation in which he can honestly talk about what he's going through. Otherwise, the air will never be cleared, and he'll always walk into the room feeling as if he's interrupting everyone else's good day, or that every conversation about his future is a new way to discuss what a fuck-up he is.

You say that you'd feel more comfortable paying for his ticket if he had a job, any job, even flipping burgers. Well, do you know anyone who needs "burgers flipped", literally or figuratively speaking? Would you feel comfortable helping your brother secure an interview? If not, then why not? It is much harder than you think for people to find steady work nowadays, especially if their resume is patchy. Many people nowadays get their "real" jobs through a social or familial connection - there is no reason to think that your brother would be an exception to this trend.

I know that giving your brother more of your time does not sound appealing right now, but it is the only real solution. You do not need to hold his hand or pay his way beyond what you have offered. However, if you are serious about your concern for him, then you will find the time and energy to be a good sibling yourself - not through acute, dramatic incidents in which you get to vent your frustration with him, but through a consistent stream of helpful assists.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:13 AM on July 29, 2013 [12 favorites]

Money is no object? Then SHELL OUT. Pay for his trip and hotel stay. You would not be shorting your future bride or honeymoon in any way, since money is no object. He needs a glimmer of warmth from someone; most of all you. There is no "enabling" in fully paying his way to Switzerland.
Once you're married, that's that; you'll have your own family to make your number 1 priority. But until then, please throw this brother a bone and show some kindness, for pete's sake.
posted by BostonTerrier at 9:15 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the significant challenges of being a veteran (or the resources available to veterans, or the fact that having served in the military for four years is a significant achievement in and of itself).

What branch of service was he in? Did he deploy? Even if he didn't, he could still be dealing with residual trauma or other issues connected to his service.

Has he in-processed in to the VA? He may be eligible for services and benefits, potentially including healthcare, counseling, disability pension, job training, and/or housing assistance. Michigan resources here.

Regardless of his present circumstances, and separate from his achievements, your brother deserves more than what your portrayal of him suggests you and your family have given him, starting with respect. He might be better able to access that outside of you or your family.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:53 AM on July 29, 2013 [10 favorites]

For middle-aged guys not in relationships and struggling at life, weddings suck anyway. You'd be doing him a favour by letting him know that you realize a trip to a castle in Switzerland is probably extravagant for him and there isn't an expectation that he attend. March is a fair bit of lead time from now, but people working bottom-level jobs often don't have the freedom to take a week off to travel to Switzerland without losing the position. Then would you and your father scorn him for "giving up an okay job to go to a wedding"?

I'm a goofball at life, like your brother never knowing how to grab hold, while my slightly younger brother is now doing well for himself and sometimes seems quite chuffed about it. Big house, always seems to have a new vehicle provided by his employer, travelling for work, like that. Anymore, I give him a wide berth, not because he directly gives me any attitude, but he's my brother and I have some idea how he thinks, and the gap between how the world and its opportunities might look to us has become wide.
posted by TimTypeZed at 10:08 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I don't want to pile on, but I would like to provide some insight from your brother's perspective.

My sister invited me to her wedding in the spring of this year, and much like in your situation, everything proceeded as planned with no indication that anything was amiss. Five days before the ceremony, she sent me an email informing me that I would not be allowed to come to the wedding unless I immediately reestablished a relationship with my mother, from whom I have been estranged for over half a decade (abusive childhood blah blah blah). She openly acknowledged the fact that doing so would be immensely unhealthy and extremely difficult for me, but equally open about the fact that if I did not agree, I would be disinvited from her wedding.
The "carrot" of being 'allowed' to attend was not nearly as enticing to me as she seemed to believe, so I declined; I had no idea my invitation was going to hinge on any condition at all, let alone one that is basically impossible. She did not seem bothered in the slightest, and closed out her subsequent official disinvitation with "Have a great day!" This has permanently severed our relationship, which I would be much more upset about if my sister hadn't made it so painfully clear that her desire was so much more important than my health and well-being ever could be. If this sort of estrangement is an acceptable outcome to you, by all means, tell him that he needs to acquiesce to your demand by any means necessary or else he will not be welcome at your celebration.

Etiquette aside, shelling out thousands of dollars to attend a lavish wedding at a castle in Switzerland is not going to be very high on the agenda for someone who has been unemployed for the past seven months, nor (IMO) should it be. But for the sake of argument, let's say you give him your ultimatum, and since attending your wedding is so important to him, he runs out and gets the very first job he can find (since you only require that he becomes employed, not necessarily in a lucrative job or one that is related to his degree/areas of expertise). Let's say he gets really lucky and winds up in a position where he starts around $10 an hour, which will net him around $1,200 per month. Even if he doesn't pay rent or utilities, even if he doesn't spend a single dime on anything else, it's going to take him at least two months of work just to save up enough to spend on a single plane ticket from Michigan to Switzerland, and probably another month or two to afford accommodations, food, etc. I can't imagine having to do this would make him anything but completely miserable.

Rescinding an already-extended wedding invitation because the recipient doesn't drop everything and ask "how high?" after you tell them to jump is extremely disrespectful. It's even more disrespectful to wave your expensive destination wedding in front of him like a prize he's supposed to be willing to do absolutely anything to get. It's clear that you don't respect him at all, so why is he supposed to prize your comfort over his? You've already acknowledged that he could be clinically depressed, and you're probably at least marginally aware of what the job market is like these days in America (particularly in Michigan), but you're acting like all he needs to do to rid himself of depression and find himself a job is stop being lazy and change his mind. This is oversimplifying to the extreme, and belies a total unfamiliarity with what it is like to be an out-of-work veteran in the current economic climate.

Since the beginning of AskMe, there have been innumerable variations on "How can I make someone do something they can't and/or don't want to do just because I want them to do it?" The answer is always the same: You can't.
posted by divined by radio at 10:09 AM on July 29, 2013 [29 favorites]

he failed out of his university after two years, which forced him into the military, then spent over a year without a job in the parent's house, worked at a MLM cult (YAY CUTCO), went BACK to university, graduated, moved back home

This is a heck of a bigger achievement than you think it is. Going back and actually finishing college as a mature student? With the military and other stuff intervening? Respect.
posted by glasseyes at 10:27 AM on July 29, 2013 [23 favorites]

Best answer: I haven't commented since because people have been saying it better than me, and there's been a bit of a pile on-- but he actually says, "money is NOT no object."

The thing is this, you're asking us if emotionally blackmailing your brother and using the wedding as leverage will "fix" him and make him a productive member of society again.

No it will not. That's it. He's not going to have a revelation sitting there alone while the rest of the family is in Switzerland-- and suddenly pull his finger out. He will probably not 'learn his lesson.' He will probably only learn that he isn't very valuable to his family.

But lets say he does. Even so, that revelation will come at great cost -- a greater cost than the cost of a plane ticket. The cost of a family member you love being absent on one of the most important days of your life. A day you'd offered to help him get to.

Nothing you could say or do will fix his absence, if you go through with that eventuality. If that's worth it to you, then fair enough. But it may also go the other way-- make things worse; and make your fears come true all the faster. It may seriously damage your relationship with your brother forever.

So all you have to decide is this. Do you want your brother at your wedding or not? If you do, you'll probably have to pony up. If not, then don't. If you resent his current life situation (of which you kind of have no right to judge, really-- you appear to be getting all your information second hand from your parents-- given you were not fully aware of his unemployment) then just say you can't afford it, rescind your offer to help, and leave it at that.

Also, in what reality is 'yo get a job,' going to elicit a positive reaction? Is he going to say 'sure, I'll get on it, thanks for telling me that, I wasn't aware!' And do you know how socially stigmatized it is to have a degree and have to go get some job flipping burgers? It's really not as simple as that, either.

If you and your family want to cut him off after this, and give him 'tough love' because you all secretly think he's slacking instead of depressed then do so, but don't use your wedding as your leverage. It's pretty unfair.

Also, I had a friend who was unemployed for two years. His girlfriend left him for it, in the end. He's not a lazy guy at all, but he often appeared as if he was up all night playing games and such, even though he was applying fairly regularly during the day and he really really wanted a job. We connected over these games, became friends, and I gave him a lot of support and encouragement. I never made him feel guilty for being unemployed. This was a year ago, and he's been employed for eight months now, with career advancements left and right. Afterwards, he told me that the shame he felt under the judgement of others almost made him take his own life, and that if he hadn't of met me, he would have gone through with it.

Sometimes, instead of shame, people just need to know someone believes in them and has their back, and that even if they don't live up to that amazing life and go to that '1st league' school, that they're still okay. Because hey, they are.
posted by Dimes at 10:29 AM on July 29, 2013 [17 favorites]

What kind of person do you want to be?

When I had been trying to get together with a friend for weeks, we agreed on a time and place (fried chicken and beers woohoo!). Then her husband had to go out of town for a job interview, leaving her at home with her baby. I thought, she's an awesome friend, I want to be an awesome friend, what would an awesome friend do in this situation? So I offered to pick up some fried chicken and beers and bring them to her place. Because I don't think of myself as an awesome person but I think that that's what an awesome person would do.

This is an opportunity for you to be an awesome person. My wedding day felt like a blur but I remember who was there. My grandfather who died less than six months later. His sister who hung out with him one last time. I also remember who wasn't there. My cousin's wife who went to a different wedding instead. A friend from college who RSVP'd, then didn't bother to show. Seeing the people who were there altogether for one day, connected by little more than the fact that they wanted to support me and my husband, gives me warm fuzzies.

We don't get many opportunities in our lives to be awesome people. You have an opportunity to be an awesome person. I think you should take it.
posted by kat518 at 10:32 AM on July 29, 2013 [14 favorites]

If he does get a job before the wedding, there's no guarantee he will be allowed the vacation time needed to go to Switzerland.
posted by cadge at 12:28 PM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Something important I've realized about depression lately: depressed people (or many, anyway) don't want to feel helped. They want to feel that they are helping. Feeling like an object that people pour good intentions into doesn't cure depression. Feeling like you are doing something meaningful, like your contributions to the world are necessary and useful -- that works.

So with regard to your wedding, I'd suggest taking matthew.alexander's suggestion that you ask your brother to document your wedding as a story. Or, if he's good with a camera, tell him you need his particular eye as a photographer. Or ask him to write an app explaining wedding customs in and common wedding phrases in Japanese, French and English. Or ask him to be your DJ, or caterer, or something. What skills does your brother have that would help with your wedding? Give him the sense that you need him, his abilities and his intelligence. (But don't just find some random thing and ask him to do that -- it's got to be a meaningful contribution, something where you need him, not just anyone with a pulse.)

In any case, don't view him as a charity case you need to fix; help him find ways in which he helps you, and helps the world at large.
posted by jiawen at 1:25 PM on July 29, 2013 [16 favorites]

Depression is a real illness. He's really sick. There's a lot that can be discussed about whether ir not he's doing all he can to get well, but his illness sounds quite real. If he had Myxofibrokelosis(not a real disease), would you pay his way? I think you would. Having people judge him probably makes him feel bad, and it sure isn't helping. Pay his way, welcome him with open arms, and provide a sympathetic ear. Encourage him to get therapy, which he needs. Have a lovely wedding.
posted by theora55 at 3:20 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know you from Adam, but since this is Metafilter, I'll do some armchair analysis. Please forgive me if I miss the mark.

But it sounds to me like you have multiple people that you want to please in this event, people who say what they want to you. The list: dad, your mother-in-law, and perhaps your spouse.

However, you're not being an advocate for what you want. You can't please everyone here, so if you have to chose, what does your own heart tell you? Forget dad's wanting your brother to be cut off. Forget that your mother-in-law wanted a foreign wedding. Forget (for a moment, bear with me) that you and your wife might have to scale back your honeymoon by some fraction if you brought your brother to Switzerland.

Forget also that he's unemployed and lazy or depressed.

Instead, ask yourself: "Do I want my brother here?" and "How do I feel about him not being here?"

These are things that address your needs.

What you do follows from answering these. Advocate for yourself, consider what your family means to you, and proceed from there.

You may think "eh, I'm not so close to my brother, and we'll have plenty of time to see him after." Or you may say "this is a big day, and it's not like we're going to be in Michigan anytime soon, and I miss the big guy."

Look at what you want, and not what will make everyone else happy. Then move forward from that point.
posted by zippy at 5:22 PM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry I was away from the thread for a day, if people are still reading, I'll fill in some apparent information gaps.

Firstly, as I said before, money is NOT a non-issue. I'm already trying to pay off student loans from when I graduated in 2006 that I only became capable of paying off late last year once I got a new job. On top of that there's a tiny remaining part of a credit card bill, and again, the whole "most expensive city in the world" thing.

Secondly, a Swiss castle wedding is actually really not as expensive as most people might be assuming; we've got the venue and some other included things for about $3,200, which doesn't seem that bad. Furthermore, Japanese custom dictates that instead of crappy toasters and silverware, guests chip in for the insanely expensive party by giving envelopes stuffed with cash, depending on social status and age, sometimes upwards of $600, with the bare minimum usually being $200. What I'm saying is, basically, the wedding's not as lavish and expensive as some people might think. It's going to be my family and her family and nobody else.

Thirdly, the reason for choosing Switzerland was that it was a nice medium point for all involved. Short of having two ceremonies, where one half of the (newly formed) family is completely absent, it seems unfair to my wife's (paper married today, yay!) family to have it in America and unfair to mine to have it here in Japan. Equally unfair both ways? EUROPE. Add to that the fact that I have zero interest in visiting MI (or pretty much anywhere else in the states), and add the Mother In Law's hinting/requesting, and a place like Switzerland seemed like the most logical choice by far.

Apparently there were a few deleted comments, which leads me to think that people started personally attacking me for asking this question, so let me finally just say that no, I'm not as big a monster as some of the blithe commenters might be assuming. I'm fully aware of how poorly I understand his situation, which is why I asked this, because I DO still care about him. The answers have been invaluable to me, and I'd like to thank everyone for their input, especially the ones who did it with a minimum amount of snark.

You've all done a great service to me, and I've been throwing out favorites as I went along, and now I'll go back and flag some of the answers I thought were either of the highest quality or that were most profound and thought provoking to me.

Thanks again, and cheers. I'm pretty sure I know what I should do now.
posted by GoingToShopping at 12:09 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

A job in Michigan in 2013? Surely you jest. I'm in Michigan right now watching the state perform it's own one man show entitled "The Great Depression II." It's enough to beat down even the strongest and most determined of us, let alone someone with depression. "Personal responsibility" is great and all, but environmental factors do play a part. Please don't overlook this.

This would be an excellent time to show some charity and good faith to your brother. If you can afford to help him out, I think you should do so.
posted by Shouraku at 11:10 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

So, late to the party, but one thing I would like to suggest, as a thought experiment, would be thinking of your brother in terms of what he's achieved instead of where he's failed.

Does that change how you feel? It may or may not.

We have nothing to go on but what you've told us, but I will say from bitter personal experience that making irrevocable decisions based on transient situations has not worked out well for me or my wife. The thing is that your wedding is going to happen once, and it's a Really Big Deal, whereas you will (God willing and the creek don't rise) have a relationship with your brother for decades.

In general, my advice to everyone is to go very cautiously when a decision about a one-time event could have an impact on a long-term relationship.
posted by scrump at 10:40 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Another quick update: it tuns out he's recently been sending applications out, and even has an interview next week, so for all the people saying I was being too harsh, you were right.
And a special thanks again for all the people going "WTF" in their responses, it was pretty clear from the start that I had no idea what all this was like for him, and your writings and the way you wrote them helped make that more obvious.
posted by GoingToShopping at 10:04 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

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