How do I handle two siblings ganging up on me? Fun fact: they're 30.
May 12, 2014 10:43 AM   Subscribe

My two older siblings and brother-in-law are beyond irritated with me when all I've been doing is minding my own business and forging my path into adulthood. They are never short of criticisms and any attempts at satisfying them are futile. Things got way out of hand this weekend to the point I am either ousted from future family functions or there will be an awkward vibe/fake niceness.

I'm in my mid-twenties and the youngest of three; my two older siblings both about 30. After years of screwing around in community college and a long unemployment gap, I hopped back on the saddle with academia and landed part-time work at a large financial institution. I'm in a very serious long-term relationship with a wonderful lady; we've been living together for the past six months in a modest apartment. Meanwhile, my older sister recently found a job that pays well and she and her husband and two toddlers moved to a larger house, while my perpetually unemployed older brother who still lives at home finally acquired a full-time gig. Everybody's working and everybody's happy, right?

My older brother: He's always particularly been antagonistic with me primarily because of our 5-year gap, his insecurities, and his need to assert his dominance over me. He has a history of chronic lying, stealing money from family (myself included), taking out a student loan during his college years while using rent/tuition money from our parents to pay for car parts during the "Fast and the Furious" phase, stealing work for his graphic design portfolio, never holding a full-time job for longer than a year, and years of unemployment gaps. He portrays himself as the epitome of cool: hardworking, creative, gifted photographer with endless design ideas, skilled golfer with clubs and driver craftsmanship, hipster but not really, lover of professional sports, craft beers, and being "the perfect uncle" to our two nieces. I thought our relationship would strengthen once I moved out but he continues to send me the occasional wall of text when he thinks I've done something wrong. For example, my girlfriend and I live in a sketchy neighborhood, and at a recent family gathering at my sister's house, she brought up wanting to get one (for our protection)--so my dad offered one of his from his collection. My older sister and her husband, both shocked and thinking that my girlfriend was out of line, scurried upstairs pretending to check on the kids. As it turns out, my sister texted my brother what had happened, and when I got home I noticed a message from my brother saying, "You guys need to go home now because X & Y need to get up early for work tomorrow. And why is Q asking dad for a gun? Boundaries. She needs to know them." When I explained to him of our living situation, he backed off. While he is rude and short with me, he is extremely kind, giving, and accommodating to my older sister and brother-in-law to the point of nausea (bragging about her on Instagram)--bending over backwards for them, doing outwardly kind gestures or acquiescing to their requests/needs at the drop of a hat. He would never do that for me, and it's always hurt me that he and I will never have that close of a bond.

My older sister: We've been close a good part of our lives after some long rough patches and I've looked up to her as a good role model; she was usually the first person I'd turn to for advice. She's been distant in recent months which I've taken as being busy but after these incidents, I'm thinking she's developed a sour opinion of me and her husband followed suit. She's always been the "frugal super mom juggling family and work with cute crafty hobbies from Pinterest" and has regarded herself as the child who [now] has it all together, despite humbler beginnings with a shotgun wedding from an unplanned pregnancy. In recent family gatherings, she has the tendency to work estate planning into conversations with my parents as if she's waiting for them to croak any minute. Nothing wrong with planning ahead, but she seems so adamant about assigning a trustee as soon as possible (even months ago suggesting her husband be a trustee/POA and giving my parents an estate planner's business card). Our parents are only in their early sixties and they plan to have their finances split in an even three ways; however, I now fear that my limited knowledge of all this will give my sister the opportunity to take advantage of not only myself but my older brother. Meanwhile, my older brother occupies himself on his iPhone...

I've been able to tell for the past couple of years that my brother-in-law hasn't liked me despite starting out on great terms. He tends to show enthusiasm when my brother shows up and pretends to be nice to me out of obligation. When I try making conversation or voicing my opinion, it's almost always met with rejection with, "Well no..." as if he needs to correct me because he's more experienced in life. Last Christmas dinner, I asked how his new job was and what he does, and all I got was a snarky, "Well, management is the same everywhere you go..." In that same conversation, I mentioned in passing of wanting a dog in the way future. He looked at me from across the table and told me, "Don't get a dog. Have fun with your extra chores." I later told him through text that my girlfriend's then roommates got a dog and lighthearted joked that they have extra chores, but he somehow misinterpreted that as my girlfriend and I having a dog and went on to tell my family. The next time I met with my mom and brother for breakfast, they asked us who is watching our dog... so I had to do some damage control.

On Saturday night, I politely declined an invitation to Mother's Day brunch at my sister's house because finals are coming up this week and I need all the time I can get to study at this point, even though I made prior arrangements with my mother to celebrate afterwards, and she was completely fine. Knowing full well that there was a phone/texting exchange between my siblings, I first received nasty texts from my brother ("What do you have going on that's more important than Mother's Day?" "No, really. Explain.") while on the phone with my sister, who asked me why I couldn't spare just one hour the following morning. She began to get preachy, saying I'm ungrateful, spoiled (true, but so were ALL of us), and "mom has sacrificed sooo much for us." I was on the verge of changing my mind and explained to her that by working 4-5 days a week with 16 units of school, I've hardly had time to spend with our mother. Before I could finish she interrupted with, "Oh, BOO HOO. Don't YOU tell ME you don't have time. You wouldn't live a day in MY shoes; you wouldn't survive!" When I told her I didn't want to have a dick measuring contest and asked her what living her life has to do with my "ungratefulness," she preached some more, saying I grew a big-headed since moving out and that I "keep tabs on spending time with mom," thinking that spending a day with her makes it okay for me not to see her for a couple more weeks or so. None of this is true, although it wouldn't surprise me if my brother embellishes the truth or even outright lies about me to stir up gossip behind my back with my sister and her husband. I'm extremely close to both of my parents and have made time for mom whenever possible -- going to school (with a 7AM math class) and work all week + work on Saturdays leaves me with only Sundays to sleep in and study/do homework. But, of course, I'm not a mother of two working full-time... so I don't know what busy really is. ;P

After hanging up on my sister, brother texts me, "You chose Q over everyone." [Blah blah blah you're a bad daughter] "Have fun while she weasels mom into a high risk business: a "restaurant."--my mother, who recently quit her job after 30+ years, is looking to open her own restaurant and the only thing my girlfriend is doing is helping her dream come to fruition. She has been the *only* person helping her. When discussing this entire ordeal to my mother last night, she mentioned she purposely withholding any of her ideas from my brother because of how quick he is to reject anything she has to say. At one point, she needed help with her resume and asked for his help. He threw a mini tantrum, she scolded him, and then he felt bad and agreed to do it. Oh yeah, he's living at home where we all grew up -- rent free.

I apologize for the novel-length post but I felt the details were necessary to paint a full picture of who I'm dealing with. It always feels like if it isn't one thing, it's another... as if I'm always coming up short. How do I handle this? My dad has been living in a different state for work but is coming back for good by the end of this month and we have a family intervention in the works. I really need assistance in figuring out how to compose myself when this happens because I can see all 3 of them unleashing their cannons at me. I'm a very emotional person and have never been assertive, but I want to be composed and prepared. Your opinions, analyses, and advice are invaluable to me, fellow MeFites.
posted by HiphopAnonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Stop texting with them. Immediately. Block them if you have to, at the very least never ever respond, and it would be better if you never saw them. You can tell them first if you want ("oh by the way, I've decided to cut down on texting because it has led to a few misunderstandings in the past. I won't be reading any texts anymore so if you want to get in touch with me in the future you can call!") Or after (next time you see them and they say "why haven't you responded to my texts!" you can use the same script as above.)

As far as in-person stuff, if someone is treating you poorly -- don't engage them or argue with them, but you can feel free to say something like "if you speak to me like that I will need to leave.", and then if they continue speaking to you like that, just leave. Don't fight, just get out.

Whatever it is, don't feel like you need to justify yourself to them, because you don't, ever.
posted by brainmouse at 10:57 AM on May 12, 2014 [15 favorites]

Best answer: The way -- and believe me, I know how difficult this seems when you have no practice doing it -- the way you deal with it is by refusing to participate. Do not argue, explain, defend, apologize or even engage. In person, walk away. On the phone, hang up. Over email, delete. On Facebook, block.
posted by jon1270 at 10:57 AM on May 12, 2014 [43 favorites]

HiphopAnonymous, your siblings sound like complete assholes. Ignore them.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 10:58 AM on May 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Your siblings are awful. Don't give them the ammo they want to use to make you feel terrible. Your life choices should be on a need-to-know basis. Since all they do is judge and criticize, freeze 'em out.

And seeing mom when they aren't around is a great idea. Do that all the time; it's your only chance to have an actual relationship with your parents that isn't warped by your siblings' hostility.
posted by Scram at 11:00 AM on May 12, 2014 [12 favorites]

I would pull waaaay back from communications with your siblings. They're rude, meddling, drama-addicted jerks. It's possible to love your family, and be nice/polite, while also creating and enforcing boundaries for your own well-being. Stop responding to their rude messages, or simply reply with "I am not going to discuss this with you." Repeat ad nauseum. They're going to try to yank you around for their own satisfaction since you're the emotional one and they thrive on the drama, but you need to just protect yourself. Their shit does not need to be your shit. If they try to badmouth you to your parents, you can say something to your mother like, "I don't know why X said that. It's obviously not true." It might take awhile, but if you stick to your guns about not engaging with their drama, they will knock it off simply because they're not getting any return on their effort. You, your girlfriend and your mother know that you are a good, nice, supportive person to your parents, and that's what matters.
posted by Safiya at 11:01 AM on May 12, 2014 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I usually think "family interventions" are bad ideas, and even more so when it sounds like your siblings are not interested in any actual soul-searching but rather however to get you to lie flatter as their doormat.

I'm sorry to say it but in your shoes, I would go extremely low to no contact with them and see your parents on your own. If you want to still attempt family holidays, start building up the courage to leave when they start railing on you. You really can just get up and drive away. Even at Christmas.

As always, therapy might help you deal with understanding why your siblings are so oddly enmeshed and bent on controlling your life when you're all adults.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:11 AM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your siblings are probably ganging up on you because it's the easiest thing to do when they're antsy and annoyed about something wrong with themselves. It takes the heat off of whatever they find irritating in their own lives.

Be polite and do the bare minimum. Don't fall victim to their crap just because they seem to imply that it's the only way to be. Live the life that you know to be right for yourself.
posted by Madamina at 11:18 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me like some time away from your overbearing siblings is just what you need right now. Your situation sounds a lot like that of a dear friend of mine: he's the youngest of a large family, has a very different personality from his siblings, and has a great relationship with his mother. However, his siblings just can't seem to stop treating him like a little kid who doesn't know what he's doing and has to be constantly told what he's doing wrong.

(Heck, I'm the younger of two, and I get my share of that - I think we just lucked out in that area because there were never two of us to gang up on a third and the sides were always even.)

I'm no family counselor, but it strikes me as a game you can't win. I'd continue spending as much time as possible with the parents, without the siblings around, and try to not engage with them when they go all cuckoobananapants on you like that. Maybe say something along the lines of, "This discussion usually leads to an argument, and I really don't want to argue with you."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:19 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh boy does this sound like some, not all, twenty somethings trying to act like adults but really acting like overly wrought 13 year olds. Set your boundaries with them. Setting boundaries with siblings is part of becoming adult friends. Do not discuss what you are doing with them. Just do it.

Families, in my experience, change as the kids become adults. The old family dynamic needs to change so everyone can get along as adults. Some families just do this naturally and gracefully, others not-so-much. I come from the later type of family and have gone years with little contact with some of my siblings, only seeing them at family gatherings. But if they have a problem or if I have one and need help we swarm like bees to help. Distance makes us all care about one another more, I think, than being overly involved in everybody's daily life.

Good luck.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:20 AM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds like your siblings are needlessly aggressive, for sure, and it looks like a theme is developing in this thread, but I think you could also benefit from some putting of yourself in their shoes. Especially to the extent that you do still need to continue interacting with them. For instance, here's a thing that caught my eye:

"Have fun while she weasels mom into a high risk business: a "restaurant."--my mother, who recently quit her job after 30+ years, is looking to open her own restaurant and the only thing my girlfriend is doing is helping her dream come to fruition. She has been the *only* person helping her.

There are sooo many potential complications packed into this one little excerpt. First of all, restaurants ARE high risk businesses! Most bars and restaurants fail, and profit margins are super low in food service generally, not to mention it is one of the most work-intense industries. If your girlfriend is the "only person" helping your mom's "dream come to fruition," what does that mean? Maybe the entire rest of the family is being a bunch of dicks and telling her she's stupid and trying to shut her down, etc. Or maybe they are trying (in their own way) to keep her grounded, make sure her expectations are realistic, and make sure your parents have their retirement otherwise nailed down (since, again being practical, restaurants are often money pits).

Which is true? I don't know! I'm not there. But it could certainly be the case that your girlfriend is being the optimistic influence in your mom's plan, and your siblings are being the realistic influence, and both parties have important, meaningful things to contribute. Frankly I am concerned that you are so dismissive of your brother's concerns about the risk your mom is planning to take on. Yeah, it sounds like he's being a dick about it, but don't push back against the underlying point because of that - it is unfair to your mom's expectations and financial prospects.

Etc. etc. I know this restaurant plan is not everything - but ask yourself where else such things may be cropping up due to surface-level strife.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:25 AM on May 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

a family is like a poker hand dealt from the great deck of souls. no guarantee you'll get a flush or a straight or even a pair, sometimes you don't get shit.

dial the interaction with your siblings way down, maybe 3-5 interactions a year.

the son-in-law is moving to take control of your dad's assets. you might warn him against this slick character, ounce of prevention and all. how offfensive is it that someone who isn't even a blood relative views him as having one foot in the grave already? does your large financial institution have trust/estate planning services?
posted by bruce at 11:32 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit! But!

It's hard to avoid them completely because:

1.) When my dad visits from out of town, he goes to mom's house. Older brother also lives at home and my siblings play tug-o-war with Dad and his attention. It often turns into "Dad! Dad! Look how successful I've been since you've been gone!" I've personally avoided this, because I have nothing worth bragging about. :P Not yet, anyway.

2.) We all live within 10-20 mins of each other and a lot of family gatherings revolve around going to my sister's house because of the toddlers (everything from diapers to toys, etc. are there). I'm imagining future events where everyone shows up except my girlfriend and I, and missing out on some great times, especially with my two nieces.

3.) @JoeyButtafoucault: You are exactly right! My siblings are on the more realistic side of my mom's business ventures because she is [too] idealistic. My girlfriend entertains that side and even I've been a little weary of some suggestions, but I'm not very business-minded so I've been sitting on more of the cautionary sidelines with the occasional warnings (like not opening up shop "at that corner near Barnes & Noble because..."). I'm trying to get my dad a little more involved since he's more knowledgeable and business savvy. I am worried since she did get caught up during the housing bubble, but that's for a whole 'nother thread. I wouldn't mind any private messages on this matter. :)

The reason my mom doesn't open up to my brother and sister about any of this is mainly from their delivery. It seems anything she suggests immediately gets shot down--rudely, especially by my brother. My sister would be a better guide, however.
posted by HiphopAnonymous at 11:37 AM on May 12, 2014

I can kind of understand where you're coming from. I'm one of four kids and am basically the black sheep of the family for not having an advanced degree. But when they act rough, I disengage. I don't say anything that would put up a wall between us in the future but otherwise, I pull away. Continue your relationship with your parents. Don't take any crap from your siblings. If they send jerky text messages, ignore. If they call to yell at you, "this is not a good time to talk, gotta go, love you, bye!"

If it helps, on the phone or in person, you can think in terms of three strikes, they're out. First time sibling says something crabby, "When you talk to me like that, I feel like I'm being attacked. Please knock it off." Second time, "I said that when you talk to me like that, I feel like I'm being attacked. If you don't knock it off, I'm going to go." Third time, "I said that if you kept talking to me like that, I would go so that's what I'm doing. Love you, bye!"

There's a tendency with siblings to fall into whatever dysfunctional pattern you had growing up. I'm one of the younger kids and I have to stop myself from acting younger than I am around my siblings sometimes. You're old enough and have been out of the house long enough to know who you are outside of your family. Be true to yourself and be that same person when you're dealing with your family.

You might get grief and/or pushback from your siblings when you pull back. And you might feel like it's counterproductive. But every interaction that starts on the wrong foot that you can avoid is one less opportunity for either of you to say something that you really regret. That's a worthwhile thing, in my opinion.

Regarding not seeing your parents except at their house or your sister's house, start thinking of places like Panera or such where you can get a quick bite with your parents without feeling like you're on anyone's turf. And props on not playing "look how successful I've been!" It is super annoying in my opinion, like we're all showing off our report cards.
posted by kat518 at 11:43 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You'd be surprised how far "not giving a damn about petty argumentative bullshit and intentional misunderstandings" will get you in life.
posted by destructive cactus at 11:48 AM on May 12, 2014 [19 favorites]

My dad has been living in a different state for work but is coming back for good by the end of this month and we have a family intervention in the works. I really need assistance in figuring out how to compose myself when this happens because I can see all 3 of them unleashing their cannons at me.
Are you saying that your family is planning an intervention for your Dad? Or are you worried that they are going to stage an intervention for you? Or your mom?

It sounds like your mom gets the same treatment from siblings as you do, and you have a good relationship with her. So I vote that you just disengage from your siblings and see your parents on your own time, outside the house. Have your parents over to your place, or go on an outing with them.

As for family events at your sister's place - if you go along, try and always be around the kids, under the assumption that your siblings are less likely to start breaking out the rude talk in front of the little kids. Stop responding to texts and maybe block them too.
posted by Joh at 11:49 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Stop making excuses about why you need to see these people. They are, by your own admission, toxic liars who make you unhappy. You don't need a novel. You don't need to thread sit. You need to decide that your siblings don't have access to you. As long as you're engaging in their drama, you have some culpability for your own misery. See your mom when they aren't around. Don't announce it; it's not worth the drama. And don't have some sort of high-drama intervention. Just back away quietly.

Also, stay out of your Mom's business. Restaurants are very high risk and not the place to put the money your Mom needs for retirement. If she wants to go after that dream, it's on her to pursue it. Your girlfriend needs to absolutely stay out of it. Your girlfriend isn't a family member and isn't an investor. Your girlfriend needs to have some boundaries here.
posted by 26.2 at 11:50 AM on May 12, 2014 [16 favorites]

my mother, who recently quit her job after 30+ years, is looking to open her own restaurant
he's living at home where we all grew up -- rent free

For me, part of growing up was deciding that I didn't care how my parents spent their money. They're not 1-percenters or anything; they can't offer me life-changing sums. They're also not in poverty; I'm not worried about their basic safety or well-being. My parents have made / are making decisions similar to your mom's high-risk restaurant decision and your parents' letting the grown son live at home rent-free decision. I kind of feel like I'm the parent and they're the young adults, and I'm biting my tongue while they make choices that seem obviously ill-advised to me, but they are adults and can do what they want with money they earned.

missing out on some great times, especially with my two nieces

I'm maintaining a low-contact sibling relationship primarily because I want to be part of sibling's children's lives. What I do is offer my services as a free babysitter who brings pizza. For gift-giving holidays, I schedule a time to drop by with gifts--not at some big family gathering, just sometime around the holiday, I let the kids' parents choose a weekday evening or weekend morning that works for them. I am 100% focused on the kids when I'm there; anything the parents say that has to do with me and my life, my response is, "Excuse me, I'm busy building a fortress right now."
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:10 PM on May 12, 2014 [10 favorites]

I felt the details were necessary to paint a full picture of who I'm dealing with.

The details aren't necessary. You're the scapegoat. Once you're the scapegoat, you will always be the scapegoat unless you stop giving a shit.

any attempts at satisfying them are futile.

Stop attempting.

I have two older siblings who have been assholes to me since we were kids. They're assholes to me still. They've been a useless aunt/uncle to my kids. It took me a long time to walk away, but it's really freeing. And now they reach out to me. Not reliably, not sincerely, but they know I won't take their shit anymore, so they don't dish it out anymore.

What are you getting out of this?
posted by headnsouth at 12:16 PM on May 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

You may want to ask your girlfriend to pull back on helping your mom. I mean, she shouldn't refuse, but she probably shouldn't encourage too much either. Help keep her clear of the family drama.

Don't avoid family gatherings, but definitely cut back on texting with your siblings. It doesn't sound like they are being as critical in person. It sounds like they are taking out a lot of their stress on you - keep that in mind. Your sister's Mother's Day reaction in particular does *not* sound like it was about you.
posted by maryr at 12:26 PM on May 12, 2014

BTW, the funny thing about fake niceness? It often becomes actual niceness. Not always, of course, but you seem close enough to your family that I think it can here.
posted by maryr at 12:27 PM on May 12, 2014

You can stop *engaging* with your siblings without cutting them off. Stop texting with them, just don't freaking respond and don't initiate. It doesn't matter what they say, don't respond and don't initiate. When they do it to you in person, just smile and say "okay" with no intention of fighting back or doing what they say or taking their bait.

For as long as you play this game with them, you are part of the problem. Who cares if horrible people don't like you? It's fun for them to make you dance, stop being their monkey.

The upside of all this is that it often improves everyone's relationship if one person starts breaking the cycle. You focus on your relationship with your parents - and make your decisions about socialization based on them, not what anybody else is doing, and let your siblings worry about themselves. It kind of sounds like your parents know full well what's going on and are staying out of it, because they enjoy sanity.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:38 PM on May 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

We all live within 10-20 mins of each other and a lot of family gatherings revolve around going to my sister's house because of the toddlers (everything from diapers to toys, etc. are there). I'm imagining future events where everyone shows up except my girlfriend and I, and missing out on some great times, especially with my two nieces.

"Great times," "where everyone shows up" in some imagined future, you say? No, no, you won't be missing out on any good times.

You have nothing to lose by avoiding Big Family Events where the family jerks are going to be present.

Since you all live so close, there truly is no need for you to take abuse at large family gatherings, ever. The good news is you can actually have the relationships with your mom and the toddlers without having to deal with any of the toxic folks. No travel or hotel costs necessary! You could see your mom 1-on-1 tonight if you wanted to, right? You can arrange to see your nieces sometime when their father or mother is not around - by offering to babysit sometime. You could also have the people you want to see over to your place. Or meet them somewhere else that is not a Big Family Event. You live so close!
posted by hush at 12:49 PM on May 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Some of these people telling you that your siblings are dicks or whatever is not helpful. Try not to spin a tale in your head that your siblings are jerks that are only out to get you. I can probably imagine that they love you very much.

You're all adults here and don't really need to impress mom or dad or worry about who is doing what with their houses or crafts or estate planning or whatever. We all have roles in a family and sometimes those roles are difficult to shed.

Your parents are grownups and can speak up if they don't like the estate planning talks. I would let that kind of stuff go and stop trying to control what people are saying or how they are behaving.

I would let all of this pointless drama go. It amounts to nothing and it seems everyone is healthy and functioning, if a bit dysfunctionally. They say only the tortured person tortures but I'm not so sure any of y'all are that tortured. There are bigger things to worry about. I don't see them ganging up on you. I doubt they dislike you. I see them overstepping a bit and they are probably maintaining their dysfunctional roles in the family.

She began to get preachy, saying I'm ungrateful, spoiled (true, but so were ALL of us)

Just because all of you were/are spoiled isn't an excuse to behave poorly. Maybe you should have gone to the Mother's Day brunch. Showing support can't always being on our terms.
posted by Fairchild at 12:50 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is a fascinating set of responses. While I agree that your siblings sound like they're putting you into a tiny and limiting box and are pretty into drama, it seems like it runs in the family. You have a lot of generalizations and stereotypes and roles ("frugal supermom" type, "epitome of cool" guy) that you're putting them into, just as they put you into the screw-up stereotype. And you're dismissive of them just as they're dismissive of you: it actually *is* really hard to be a working mom of two, and you don't need to put a ":P" around that fact; your brother's "outwardly kind" gestures for your other family members may actually just be kind, but you're not allowing him much space to be a good guy; "management is the same everywhere" and misunderstanding that you had a dog aren't affronts or "damage" that needs to be controlled.

I'm not trying to be aggressive or question your lived experience, but see a lot of commonalities between the way you're categorizing and dismissing them and the way they're doing that to you. This is not an uncommon dynamic and it doesn't mean anyone is a bad person, but it's hard as hell to extricate yourself from them or see how you're contributing to them. Therapy: will be great for helping you detach from this. Compassion: will help you understand that your siblings probably don't see this as victimizing you, and are being damaged by the same competitive weirdness that's bringing you down.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 1:11 PM on May 12, 2014 [36 favorites]

Here's the thing, you don't have to cut off your siblings, but you have to stop letting them boss you around. Here's a good phrase, from Bob Boze Bell. It has served me in good stead lo these many years.

"If I want any shit from you, I'll squeeze your head."

Don't text anything with siblings except things like, "running late, should arrive in 10 minutes." If they text you, don't reply. Ignore them. If they phone, you can say, "I don't have to explain my choices to you."

In the case of your brother and your girlfriend and the gun, rather than explaining, you could have said, "That's between Dad and Lisa. Why don't you ask Dad about it."

You will find that ignoring your siblings may be the best thing to do. If they say anything, you can tell them, "I didn't respond because I didn't feel like it." Basically, don't let them get to you. Siblings know how to push your buttons, and vice versa. If you fail to engage, the fire dies out from lack of oxygen.

No one is doing better than anyone else, stop comparing yourself to them, you're in your skin, they're in theirs. If they feel insecure or condescending or any of that, it's all on them. Don't play their game.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:29 PM on May 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Whenever your siblings or brother-in-law start giving you orders or unsolicited advice face to face, calmly coolly (not snarkily!) ask "why do you think this is any of your business?", then ignore them. Delete their texts with any kind if commands or directives: don't even acknowledge them. After all, you're all adults; how you live your life, or how THEY live THEIR lives, is none of anyone else's business --- which means you stop judging them, too.

As for your parents' money, and eventually whatever estate they will to anybody: it is not yours, it's THEIRS to with as they please. You may think it 'unfair' if one of your siblings talks them into giving that sibling more than you get, but remember this: it is NOT YOUR money, and you can't "lose" what you never had..... there is absolutely no requirement that your parents (presumably competent adults) treat all of their children exactly the same in their wills. That may not be what you want to hear, but it's something you need to accept.
posted by easily confused at 1:58 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you considered moving further away? Distance does wonders for drama. You can send your nieces presents if you like. Maybe as you all age, your siblings will calm down, or maybe they will always be addicted to drama.

You sound a little addicted to drama yourself, which is why I say, consider moving further away at some point. It can be so good for your mental health, and get you out of the drama habit, so that when you do visit, it's easier to resist the constant digs and pokes your siblings are giving you to make you join in. You can just laugh and go take a walk, or volunteer to wash dishes. Learn the value of saying the following things in response to drama prompts:

"That's too bad."

These are all responses, but they are noncommital, and keep you from assuming the role of participant. Then you smile and walk away when you need to.
posted by emjaybee at 1:59 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Both of my parents (both the youngest in their families) had rough experiences with their siblings, and for a long time I thought that it was really important to make sure our generation (my siblings and I) set a different course, and have a good relationship with each other. While I think it's important to try, you just can't force a better relationship. You're only responsible for yourself.

My older brother is somewhat like yours - can come off as charming, hard-working, presents himself as very caring about others, successful, a leader, etc. But he's also a compulsive liar, has a raging temper, and has a very different personal vs. public persona. We had a falling out a year and a half ago, that left me very hurt and angry, and him refusing to hear me out or meet with me. At the insistence of one of my sisters, we even tried "sibling therapy" for a while last year, which pretty much only resulted in him shouting at me, berating me, lying some more, and then not showing up. One of the final straws was a sliver of honesty, with him voluntarily admitting, somewhat out of the blue, that he's a manipulative person. When people show you who they are, believe them. When people voluntarily *tell* you who they are, trust them.

I have since made the decision to severely limit any interaction with him, permanently. It's been the best decision I've made in a very long time, and I feel free. I let go the feeling of responsibility in having a better sibling relationship than my parents did with theirs. The only communication I have with him, is over an inherited house that we all maintain - it's professional, polite, but minimal. That's it. He has since tried to draw me back in - but I ignore all communication and do not engage at all, unless it's something related to the tenants of our house. Both of my parents have passed away, but I'm very lucky that I have two older sisters that I respect and trust (and they respect and trust me). The oldest has a similar experience with our brother - I think she and I are pretty similar, despite her being the oldest of 4 and me being the youngest). The other sister is kind of confused. We agree to have our own relationships with each other (they figure out their own relationship with our brother, and so do I - our relationships with individual siblings do not have to match).

If I can suggest anything, it would be to trust yourself. Trust it, and stop worrying about convincing others, stop satisfying your siblings and in-laws, stop trying to convince them of your case. I think it's largely futile. Try and work on disentangling the different relationships (this is super hard I know), and deal with your mom or parents as just them. Deal with your sister alone. Deal with your brother individually. Do not engage if your mom wants to talk about your sister, or your sister wants to talk about brother. Tell them so, and communicate with individuals individually (not a game of "telephone" and relayed messages). After disentangling, sort our those individual relationships and where you want to take them (work on, distance from, etc). It's hard in families because everyone gets in everyone's business. While that can be ok in healthy families, it doesn't work out well when there's scapegoating or people trying to convince others to get on their side. Don't worry about getting others on your side. Set boundaries, enforce them, and trust yourself.
posted by raztaj at 2:49 PM on May 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

I had the opposite situation -- a terrible relationship with my parents, but I was so close with my siblings I didn't want to give up on family togetherness. I decided eventually that it wasn't worth abasing myself to get more time with my sisters.

If I were you, I would schedule individual things with your mom. I'd skip all family events for a few months, and I'd return only polite e-mails/texts from your siblings and only after a few days' delay. I'd just try to get some psychological separation between you and your siblings. Eventually you might be able to spend more time with them (I'm actually very close with my parents now) but that will not be fun for you until some respect has been established in both directions.
posted by gerstle at 3:34 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm the youngest in my family and have had no contact with my siblings (going on 10+ years) for much of the same reason as you - they've always been bullies. I think it's important to remember that just because you share the same blood/parents as these people, does not mean you're under some obligation to include them in your life.

If these people are making you unhappy, then you need to remove them from your life, just like you would any other person that attacks you, makes you feel terrible and lies. I would simply drop communication with them and keep answers short and simple to avoid deviating from the topic and to prevent chances for them to go on the attack. Invest in your relationship with your parents - as they age, they'll care more about spending time together and less about the arbitrary accomplishments/dick measuring of your siblings.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:26 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Why are you putting up with these people? Would you put up with it if they weren't relatives? No? Then don't put up with them because they are "family". Family is supposed to treat you better, not worse.

Do not reply to texts. Period. See your parents when it works for you and your parents. If you want to see your siblings, sure, do it. But have boundaries, and when they cross them, the visit is over. They will not respect you until you respect yourself enough not to allow this sort of behavior to continue.

I'm sorry you're in this position. I have not spoken to my brother in over three years because he pulled the same exact crap with the texts and the judgment and the showing his ass, and I had enough. We're adults, we should act like it. As should your siblings. There is not one thing wrong with you expecting that, and not providing the opportunity for them to behave terribly.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:36 PM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just for some perspective, my sisters and I rarely text each other. When we do, it's basically "can you celebrate mom's bday next Sunday? I'll bring the hot dogs." We don't berate or question one another. If someone can't make the bday, the proper response is either "should we change the date?" Or "we'll miss you!"

We're not a perfect family. I've had some gripes and difficult moments with them -- but nobody in my family engages each other the way you describe.

The proper response to your siblings about missing Mother's Day (although not responding is good too) is "Mom and I made other plans. We're all set. Have a good day and kiss the little ones for me."
posted by vitabellosi at 11:37 AM on May 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

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