Housemate/brother friendship is falling apart... over the cleaning
August 14, 2020 11:25 AM   Subscribe

My relationship with my housemate (who happens to be my brother) is fraying. I'm not sure it's really salvageable at this point. How can I manage the situation?

A few months back, I asked my brother to take out the trash. (Him not doing his share of housework or buying any shared stuff for the house has been a constant bugbear, but I mostly just put up with it.) He said 'sure!' but the next day left to stay with his girlfriend without doing it. I sent a message saying that hey, you didn't take out the trash, and I've taken it out the last four times - so you can do the next four.

Cue a long, hurt reply about how he "doesn't want to be managed" by me, how he "gets enough of that at work without having it at home", etc. I managed to defuse the situation, explaining that I just want the housework to be done equitably. So he decided to put together a house rota, which was great!

Less great: he also decided to stop talking to me. For over two months.

I'd come home and he'd scurry away to his room. I'd suggest we could play [[favourite video game]] together - we usually played several times a week - and he'd say he was too busy as he had to take out the trash (...), which he spent five minutes doing and then went to his room. We went from cooking together, hanging out together, drinking and playing video games together, to him totally icing me out. It was pretty miserable for me.

One day, I see that the rota (drawn on a little whiteboard) has been erased. I asked what happened to it - he said he was "calling the experiment closed" after two months as having a rota "it was too damaging to our friendship".

Suddenly he's super friendly. Of course, he doesn't mention the whole not talking to me for two months thing, or suggest an alternative cleaning arrangement. I hang back to see if he'll actually do some housework now, but a few weeks pass with no sign of it. I get back from a trip away and decide to clean the whole place as he's not going to. I take out the trash - which is now crawling with maggots, and the trashcan covered with fly larvae. (This was pretty much the last straw for me.)

I message him about it, saying that this is a bit of a low point, and that we should get a cleaner. He didn't seem to care, just saying can 'we should about it', that he would want to pay less than half the cost as he's in the apartment less than me, etc. Sigh. At this point I'm happy to just pay for it myself if it means no more maggot-infested trash.

My resolve is kinda gone at this point. What I really want is some recognition that giving me the cold shoulder for two months, and warming up the second he got his way, was a shitty and manipulative thing to do. I'm not holding out hope that I'll get it, of course, and I don't really want to bring any of it up because he reacts so badly even to the slightest criticism.

Our lease is up in a couple of months and I think I'll just move out (which I'm sure will not be well received). But I'd like to survive those last few months, and to salvage my relationship with my brother if possible. He doesn't seem to think he's done anything wrong, and it's clear he's not open to hearing my thoughts on the matter. Is there any point trying to communicate my feelings? How would you behave if you were in my shoes? Any advice here welcome.
posted by osmond_nash to Human Relations (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You've been totally reasonable, in my opinion, and he's shown you how he wants to live and how he wants to behave right now. If I was in your shoes, I'd just stop right there. You're not going to win this, and you're definitely not going to change him.

Give him one month's notice that you plan to move out when the lease is up. Don't debate it, and don't argue over the past. A simple "We have different ideas about how to live with roommates, and we both deserve to be in situations that are comfortable for us" is good enough.

Stick to it. Move out. Get yourself into a living situation that's pleasant for you, at minimum.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:43 AM on August 14, 2020 [81 favorites]

Best answer: He knows your feelings. He's too much of a baby to take responsibility for his part in, you know, being an adult in the world, and he'll manipulate you to get his way.

A lot of people go through this as a phase in their lives; a lot of men never have to exit that phase, or don't until their first divorce. But others do grow up eventually, though they may remain sensitive about their shitty phase even after it is over.

Since this is a sibling you seem to want to have a relationship with (on his terms, though), you just survive the next few months and make a note to yourself that a) it's legitimately fraught living with someone you have an intimate relationship with if there is no dedication to teamwork (relatives, friends, etc) b) don't move in with someone else without discussing this in depth.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:44 AM on August 14, 2020 [17 favorites]

What I really want is some recognition that giving me the cold shoulder for two months, and warming up the second he got his way, was a shitty and manipulative thing to do

That's not going to happen anytime soon -- maybe not for many years, if it happens at all.

I think you're on your own with regard to housekeeping. He's not going to do .any of it, and if you bring it up he's going to say and do more assholic things and you're going to feel worse. Just keep telling yourself "I can't fix it; it will be over soon," and bear it for the final two months. He may turn on you if you move out, but you won't have been the cause of that treatment.
posted by wryly at 11:48 AM on August 14, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: If maintaining a civil relationship with your brother is your main priority then I would move out and until then remind myself constantly that there are some people, relatives included, who I can personally like very much, but that I should never live or work with because our styles do not match.
Should anyone’s style include maggots? Absolutely not, but there is often a roommate who does not pull their weight/live up to the standards of their roommates even after multiple prompts, and rarely do they turn it around due to some magical communication strategy. Your brother has already been petulant about this, so you know it is likely not to go well. Look forward to spending time in your own space, where you can invite him over and hang out without seething over the fact he has not taken out the garbage and then send him back to his maggot-infested hovel.
posted by pie_seven at 11:48 AM on August 14, 2020 [14 favorites]

Sounds like you two may just not be compatible housemates and moving out may be the best option for you.

In terms of salvaging your relationship with your brother, I think it's important for you to separate your feelings about the living situation from your feelings about your brother as a person. Everyone has good and bad qualities, and household chore ability may be one of your brother's worse qualities, but that doesn't mean he's a bad person overall! His inability to pull his weight with the housework is an irrelevant aspect of his personality once you're not living with him anymore.

I always feel a pang of guilt when I read these types of questions, because I have unfortunately been the "bad housemate" once -- I had every intention of contributing to the household, and I believe that taking shared responsibility for chores is important, but I had (and still have, to some extent) some anxiety and executive function issues that interfered with my ability to keep up with the chores, which led to a guilt spiral. I finally came to the conclusion that it was better for me to live alone until I could manage those issues better, or at least find a more compatible housemate.
posted by mekily at 11:54 AM on August 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: He's basically told you that he only considers your relationship valuable and good when he's allowed to exploit your labor and act like a spoiled child. He's an adult man who is choosing to act as though you're his servant and has no problem being cruel when you don't happily play along. Two months of being ignored?! Maggots in the trash?! That's really beyond the pale.

Absolutely make plans to move out as soon as you can and then you can resume activities with him that don't require you to put in a disproportionate amount of labor to literally clean up after him and do his shopping for household items. He doesn't want to hear about his ridiculous and unacceptable behavior and he doesn't want to address the fact that he's manipulative and shitty to you. He's unwilling to change and will punish you for bringing it up, so get a cleaner, steer clear of mention of these issues, and move out.
posted by quince at 12:04 PM on August 14, 2020 [52 favorites]

Your brother is behaving like a shitty, manipulative asshole who has no respect for you. You aren't going to change his behavior, so don't waste your energy.

Move out as soon as you can, and create/maintain specific boundaries with him moving forward ... if you even want to continue to see him at all, since now you know that he is only willing to be nice to you when you are doing everything his way and making no demands on him.

Someone who would treat you like that is not your friend and might not ever have the capacity to be. You can be civil to him at family functions without letting him take advantage of you anymore. Good luck!
posted by mccxxiii at 12:09 PM on August 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

Just move out, good lord. Obviously he isn't an appropriate housemate for you and if you continue living with him you will hate him, for excellent reasons.

He might not be an appropriate housemate for anyone because he's a disgusting slob by nature. Or it's possible he was only behaving in that babyish way specially for you, because he knew that you, his loving sibling, would put up with it. Don't worry about the "why", just the what. Get out. Hopefully the relationship will be salvageable when you're no longer housemates.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:12 PM on August 14, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: So now that you know that your brother is manipulative, childish, disinterested in your feelings, unwilling to engage in mature dialog about conflict, and willing to take advantage of you monetarily and otherwise, what kind of relationship do you want to have with him?

We all have different tolerances for that kind of behavior and are willing to make some allowances for family members. By moving out, you'll have to deal with those behaviors a lot less, but you'll still have to deal with them. So what boundaries do you want to set for yourself? I can't imagine having a close relationship with someone who behaves like that, especially towards family, but you may feel differently.

In thinking about your boundaries ask yourself the following:

- In what settings am I willing to spend time with my brother?
- For how long am I willing to hang out with my brother at any given time?
- What words or actions would make me get up and close the interaction/leave immediately?
- How much do I feel the need to explain myself and my preferences?
- What are the phrases I'm going to use to set appropriate boundaries?

As for you brother's feelings about you moving out, you are under no obligation to explain your feelings or decision not to live with him anymore. His inability to see the obvious justification is his problem.
posted by brookeb at 12:15 PM on August 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'd say, "You were right. Trying to come to agreement on household chores is too damaging to our friendship. I'm going to move out so we won't have anything to fight about and we can just be friends." Be friendly to him, move out, and hopefully you can continue to be friends. If he tries to talk you into staying, tell him you've realized that it's important to you that anyone you live with be willing to share equally in household chores and since that's not what he wants it's not going to work for you to keep living together. Don't even bother to try to get him to feel guilty about it. Just tell him what you want for yourself without criticizing him for not being able to provide it. (And don't listen if he tries to convince you not to want it, because it's a perfectly reasonable thing to want.)
posted by Redstart at 12:25 PM on August 14, 2020 [29 favorites]

Best answer: In your situation, I'd be a lot less worried about the housework per se than about the manipulation and lack of respect he's demonstrating. There are many people whose standards of domestic cleanliness are on the low side but most of them don't behave like he did.

I agree with the others that if you want to salvage a relationship with this person, make plans to take care of yourself and don't get into any debates. He unilaterally declared the chore rota a failed experiment that was over, and you need to do the same with being roommates. You don't owe him any more discussion than he gave you.

Going forward, I'd suggest that the best way to maintain any kind of friendly relationship is to accept that you are always going to have to have your own back as far as he's concerned, because this guy is not going to look out for anyone except himself. Accepting that, and knowing that it's up to you to set boundaries that are comfortable for you, will allow you to enjoy his good qualities (whatever those might be) without getting crushed by the bad ones.
posted by rpfields at 12:27 PM on August 14, 2020 [15 favorites]

Best answer: OP, I think after you move out, you maybe spend some time thinking about what you have learned about your brother. I can't tell how old you both are, but one of the drawbacks of growing up is finding out a relative you used to like is not a good person, and you have to figure out how much of them you can put up with.

I have siblings that I love who hold hateful views. We don't really have a relationship. We are polite. We have memories of good times when we were kids and that's it. It sucks but that was a choice they made.

You may be discovering you are in a similar place. Your sibling acted mean, petty and abusively to you. If they don't ever change that about themselves, there's not really going to be a relationship to salvage, if you want to not be treated like that. That's a choice they will have to make.

That's sad and awful and can make you feel lonely and full of grief. But it's better than letting someone who is supposed to care about you make you feel like shit.
posted by emjaybee at 12:42 PM on August 14, 2020 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Folks who behave like this are interpreting the situation through the lens of power and control. They don’t really think that your concerns are valid and worthy of respect, even when they’re plainly reality-based (I.e., if no one takes the trash out, it get flies and maggots, this is not healthy, etc.) because they can only see your overtures to problem solve as attempts to control them, to make them submit.

From this perspective, his proactive move about the rota was in line with his icing you out: he was just attempting to get the upper hand. Unilaterally deciding that the rota was invalid and warming back up were more of the same; he got to be the one to decide how things were with the two of you.

The only way to really win this is to not play. Attempts to get them to understand what’s going on with you will fail because it’s just interpreted as ratcheting up the control moves. You’re lucky that you can move out and that you don’t need to go through an expensive divorce to do it. His first wife won’t be so lucky. If you do maintain your relationship with your brother, you might be able to help him learn this lesson after they split up. Best of luck to you.
posted by Sublimity at 12:44 PM on August 14, 2020 [24 favorites]

Could I say something in defense of your brother? Because I see his point. He’s expressing it badly, but he has a point, which is that he doesn’t value taking out the trash the same as you do. And that’s generally ok. Some people are messy, some are clean freaks, and that shouldn’t end a relationship.

I’m on the messy end of the spectrum, and when I’ve lived with people who had different cleaning expectations than me, I have gotten frustrated. It can feel like micromanaging. Ideally, your brother would have that conversation with you, but he’s avoidant. Not ideal, but people have been through worse.

Let me make an analogy. I love food. I would eat eight meals a day if I could. When I’m not cooking or eating, I’m reading food blogs or Cooks Illustrated. Ingredients, techniques, it all fascinates me. My wife, not so much. When I’m away for work, she’ll often just eat cereal for dinner. Is it fair, then, that I force her to do half the cooking? Of course not. I do the cooking, because I’m the one who cares about what we eat. Now, there’s a certain minimum effort she has to do: she can’t refuse to make something for the kids if I’m not home, for example, and it’s helpful if she’d take over cooking when I’m sick or have a late meeting. But that’s all I expect from her. If I asked her to cook dinner three nights a week, we’d both be disappointed.

Clean people seem to think that they’re normal, and that everyone else should conform to their standards. In practice, to someone who doesn’t care about cleaning, that comes across as overbearing and a bit manipulative. Yes, your brother is absolutely being manipulative, but if you asked him, he would probably say you are as well. You know the saying “hurt people hurt people”? I would wager that he’s acting the way he is because he feels hurt by the pressure you’ve put on him.

I’m not saying you’re wrong. You have a right to your own expectations of cleanliness. I’m just trying to express a possible explanation for your brother’s behavior, because it seems like he’s unwilling or unable to. But if you’re going to stay friendly, you’re going to have to have the whole conversation: both your expectations of cleanliness and his, plus your respective emotional reactions to each other’s behavior. Ideally, you’d have had this conversation before moving in together - that’s why dorms make you do roommate agreements at the start of the year. But oh well, hindsight is 20-20.

I agree that one of you moving out is the best solution. You just have different living styles. Whoever moves out, make it clear that it’s not a moral judgment. It’s not that oil doesn’t like water; it’s just chemistry. Oil and water have to be separate. (I guess you could find an emulsifier, but that’s kind of straining the analogy too far.)
posted by kevinbelt at 12:52 PM on August 14, 2020 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Who's on the lease?

I'd be tempted to just move out early, and before that just keep to your room. Do as little as possible. Don't clean up anything in the common area. Wash your kitchen stuff only and keep it in your room. Throw away only your trash, etc.

Let him just drown in his own mess and then move out early so that when the lease is up, he'll be the one to deal with cleaning up the whole place and making it presentable. (Contrive to be unavailable when he moves out.)

And be friendly and unapologetic throughout.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:58 PM on August 14, 2020 [13 favorites]

Step one is to do what you need to do to get through these last few months before you can move on. It sounds like you are somewhat conflict avoidant and brother is likely to create drama out of whatever you say. So, do what makes you feel best. It is OK if you want to have a conversation about what happened. It's also OK if you want to wait until you have moved out to do so.

Step two: absolutely hire the cleaner. If your brother thinks it would be fair to pay less, ask him what is fair and then expect him to pay that share. See what happens to your feelings and his when the clean issues are eased.

Step three (or maybe one or two): You can let him know that you agree that fighting over cleaning isn't worth ruining the relationship. His distance during the time was hard on you. In order to prioritize the sibling relationship, you are (1) going ahead and hiring the cleaner (2) move out - too stressful for both of you to try to be housemates as well as siblings. You may not get an apology or even empathy at this point but you are letting him know where you stand in the most positive way possible
posted by metahawk at 1:06 PM on August 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

posted by terrapin at 1:07 PM on August 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

Yes to moving out.

It might be interesting for you to learn about overfunctioning vs underfunctioning. As the overfunctioner in a sibling relationship, it's been helpful for me to know about this but so far I haven't figured out how to use that knowledge to improve anything, except to cut myself some slack.

But on another level, your brother's not being an adult, at least not in his relationship with you. It's up to him to fix that, and he's refusing to do so. Take care of yourself: move out when the lease is up.
posted by bunderful at 1:08 PM on August 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: How would you behave if you were in my shoes?

It's hard to say without knowing more about his personality and the family dynamics and family culture. If one of my siblings did that I would (a) move out and (b) explain that I was moving out because they'd treated me like shit and given me the silent treatment for 2 months and what the fuck was wrong with them, that is fucked up. I would make it clear that I was fucking angry. But my siblings aren't yours and my family isn't yours and it isn't clear if he's just oblivious or something more dangerous or malignant. It kind of sounds like that might be the case, and I'm sorry. If you think he might be in any way dangerous or apt to retaliate, I'd go with a gray rock kind of approach.

I do disagree that this is just about you two having different styles though, because that's a whole other thing from unilateral moves and extended silent treatment. That's actually abusive in my book. But again, I don't know the context you two grew up in.
posted by trig at 1:08 PM on August 14, 2020 [21 favorites]

I totally agree with what everyone is saying about the fact that you and your brother need not to be roommates and he is effectively taking advantage of you (although I also think there's a lot to what kevinbelt is saying too).

I just want briefly to add that I think that sibling and parent-child relationships are inherently somewhat different from most other relationships. I have noticed how I tend to slip into childhood patterns with my siblings and my parents. When I visit my parents, for instance, I have noticed that I tend to let my parents pay for things and let my mom do the cooking and cleaning, behaving like a child or a teenager rather than interacting with them as though we are all adults. I'm not saying this is a good thing, just that it's a thing. And when I give my dad financial/real estate advice (something I'm objectively rather well qualified to give), he brushes it off like I'm three; when my husband offers him the same advice (and, let's be clear, my husband is less informed than I am on these matters and has largely gotten his information from me), my dad takes him seriously. My dad treats me like I'm a child presumably because he parented me and remembers me so strongly as a child, and we have well-worn decade-old paths of engaging with each other that we tend to stick in. My relationship with my younger sister is another good example of this phenomenon. Although we are both adults, in interacting with her I still tend to act like the "big sister", and she tends to treat me as such. She calls me when she's stressed out at work and wants reassurance, or when she's having relationship problems and wants advice. I rarely solicit advice or reassurance from her because our dynamic just has never included that, even though, if we met as two unrelated adults today, I'm sure our friendship would take a different and more equal shape. I also think that my sister and I are a bit more informal with each other than are with even our close friends. Something about having seen each other during childhood temper tantrums, awkward phases, etc. has made us feel fundamentally relaxed with each other. This is usually a good thing, but it can sometimes also result in taking too many liberties with each other (e.g. assuming the other person will understand and forgive if you treat them a bit egregiously - not returning calls for a while, or showing more negative emotion when you're upset than you might in a normal friendship).

All this is to say that it's possible your brother would be a better roommate to someone else than to you: it's possible he's regressing into childhood patterns with you, and/or taking too many familial liberties, but would be more adult in a more neutral relational environment. This doesn't impact what you should do (you should stop living together), but it might be able to help you have a bit more charity for what might be motivating his behavior.
posted by ClaireBear at 2:06 PM on August 14, 2020 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Yikes. I'm so furious on your behalf. I'm sorry you've had to put up with this absolute walnut.

Your brother's attitude appears to be about control more than anything, and he seems to be treating you with less kindness or respect than he would show literally anyone else he could live with. This isn't just about incompatible cleaning standards, this is about you finding out that he doesn't respect or value your money (won't pay for shared household goods, wants you to pay more for house cleaner though he cleans LESS), time (wants you to go back to doing all the chores), or feelings (won't engage with you at all, wants you to play nice). It's a pretty big betrayal, and I think you've just found out that you can't rely on your brother to be there for you in a pretty big way. I don't think you should minimize your feelings about this to smooth things over, be as mad as you want to be. Absolutely move out, and when it comes time to do so, say "living together is too damaging to our friendship."

Unfortunately, you can't make someone accept your narrative. Your brother might never recognize himself as the asshole, might never apologize, might never be willing to have an equitable relationship where your needs and his needs are on the same level. Part of protecting yourself is going to be building boundaries and not putting yourself in a position where you have to rely on him for anything until he proves that he can be trusted. I don't know what your relationship looks like, what behavior you're willing to accept, how much joy and support you get from the rest of your relationship -- but it would take me a long time to get over treatment like this.
posted by autolykos at 2:59 PM on August 14, 2020 [16 favorites]

There's "different expectations for clean and/or tidy" and then there's "won't even take out the trash when there are maggots in the trash can," and I am gonna just go on record here to say that the latter is not ever a valid lifestyle choice in a shared dwelling.

What I really want is some recognition that giving me the cold shoulder for two months, and warming up the second he got his way, was a shitty and manipulative thing to do. I'm not holding out hope that I'll get it, of course, and I don't really want to bring any of it up because he reacts so badly even to the slightest criticism.

It doesn't seem likely that you will break through his self-absorbed haze while you're still both living together in this situation that spawned it. I don't know that you're going to gain anything by trying right now.

I think that once you move out (go go go!) you two can probably normalize your relationship again, but with the caveat that you can't un-know that your brother has a shitty manipulative streak. Maybe after some time passes, he'll be ready to see how he treated you.
posted by desuetude at 3:13 PM on August 14, 2020 [39 favorites]

(Him not doing his share of housework or buying any shared stuff for the house has been a constant bugbear, but I mostly just put up with it.)

I don't always agree with it when I see it referenced around here, but this is a great example of where the concept "teach people how to treat you" is so true, if sadly valuable mostly in hindsight. Your brother acts like this because there is no real consequence - you will eventually capitulate, for your own comfort/hygiene/safety There is no reason for him to change; the worst he has to do is bear with a few pointed text messages.

As others have said, I would move out. Your brother knows that (at a minimum) he is being unkind and unfair; that's why he doesn't want to hear your thoughts on the subject. He is not going to change, even if you hire the house-cleaner he will still be a housemate who doesn't contribute equally to shared resources and is willing to hurt your feelings rather than step up or apologize or talk it out or any number of more reasonable responses than just icing someone out for two months.

When you tell him you're leaving , do not be swayed by any false promises of "being better."
posted by sm1tten at 3:59 PM on August 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: but he has a point, which is that he doesn’t value taking out the trash the same as you do. And that’s generally ok.

It is not ok. not generally, and not specifically. people who are moral relativists about the value of inviting literal writhing, swarming vermin into the home are either not good people or not well people. the courtesy owed to them extends to not making any assumptions about goodness versus wellness. it extends there and it also stops there.

maggots are unacceptable. acknowledging this does not put you on the Clean Person team. many people live in comfortable messes all their lives and never descend this low. there is mess, which is a matter of personal inclination, and there is filth, which is not. this is not a question of subjective taste, and it is not "ok."

he feels hurt by the pressure you’ve put on him

right, but who cares. everybody feels "hurt" when they're reminded of some truly vile thing they've done or let happen. you still have to say something about it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:13 PM on August 14, 2020 [68 favorites]

So the only thing that gave me pause is that it seems your communications about this have been via text. Text is often a terrible medium for important conversations. And the last straw — why didn’t you ask him in person what was going on?

We don’t know if you’re insulting him (“Why didn’t you take out the trash, asshole?”) but even if you’re not, are you both so conflict avoidant that you won’t attempt an in-person conversation?

Since this is your brother and I presume you want a long term relationship with him, it seems like it would be for the best to try to talk this out. Not so that you can live together, but so that you can still be family.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:44 PM on August 14, 2020

maggots are unacceptable. acknowledging this does not put you on the Clean Person team. many people live in comfortable messes all their lives and never descend this low. there is mess, which is a matter of personal inclination, and there is filth, which is not. this is not a question of subjective taste, and it is not "ok."

Yeah. Look, I'm so very far from being Team Clean Person. My threshold for mess and even, to a lesser extent, actual dirt, is pretty high. Due to various physical disability and executive functioning issues, actual writhing creatures have occasionally occurred in my living space. I do not think I'm a terrible person because of this, nor do I judge other people who find themselves sharing a kitchen with wildlife on occasion.

That is a whole separate thing from thinking building a maggot hotel in a kitchen that you share with someone else is a perfectly valid lifestyle choice. It is absolutely not. Rotting rubbish and pest infestations are Objectively Not Okay. Deliberately choosing to inflict those things on housemates is even less okay.

It doesn't sound like this is something that Brother can't help. It sounds like a choice he's making, and it's not an acceptable choice if he wants to share living space.

Even if it's not a choice, it does seem pretty clear that he's happy with the situation and not interested in remedying it, and that's a very good reason to move out.
posted by BlueNorther at 6:05 PM on August 14, 2020 [11 favorites]

Are you a woman? Because this sounds like, sadly, a completely normal misogynistic way to treat women in many families and cultures. That your feelings, concerns, desires are all subservient to even the minor desire of a male to avoid the tiniest inconvenience.

If this person was not family, you would leave and never see them again because of how awful they treat you. Why we accept that from family is surely the subject of many books and dissertations.
posted by flimflam at 7:13 PM on August 14, 2020 [17 favorites]

I also wondered whether you’re a woman. And I also wondered whether you should forewarn the girlfriend.
posted by zadcat at 7:57 PM on August 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to be that person, and judge your brother's behavior toward you as straight up abusive.

While reading the first part of your question, I tried giving him the benefit of a few doubts: maybe he is your standard clueless male who doesn't know how to keep a tidy home, maybe he has different standards of cleanliness and just doesn't "see" the filth, maybe he's the absent-minded sort and had every intention to take out the trash but forgot and then got defensive when you reminded him. Each of these is still problematic in its own way, but wouldn't necessarily make him a bad person, just someone who needs to work on himself.

But when I got to the part where you described the months following his creation of a house rota, he demonstrated that, in fact, he understands perfectly what is required for keeping a tidy home to an acceptable standard of cleanliness, and is also capable of reminding himself when chores need to be done. So that fully discredits him of perhaps just being a bumbling, clueless, messy person.

Of course, that dove-ends perfectly with the manipulative tactics he used. First he tried to play the victim by pegging you as mean and bossy and making him feel put upon in his own home. Then he held your relationship hostage, and literally tried to blackmail you into paying the ransom of 100% of the household chores, or else lose his "friendship." Then he gaslit you by not giving any acknowledgment of how terribly he treated you for two months (!) and not addressing the enormous elephant in the room of *who* does he expect to clean up after him if he won't do it himself? Finally, when you suggested a perfectly reasonable solution that doesn't involve you "managing" him, or a rota, or any further expectation that he lifts a finger, he tried to evade financial responsibility for that as well - I can almost guarantee that you would never see a dime of his share of the cleaning costs.

I think emjaybee is unfortunately right that you may now be finding out that someone you love and held in high regard all your life is not really a quality human being, and that the good relationship you thought you had with him is not and may never be good again. I'm sorry, that's a tough thing to accept. In any scenario, you've given him months to get his act together, plenty enough time for him to quit sulking and see how unfairly he has been treating you. It seems vanishingly unlikely that he still just doesn't get it, and quite certain that he actually values your services as a maid over your relationship as siblings.

Hire the cleaning service until you're able to move out, and then go. Whatever happens to your relationship with your brother after that, please know that it was his choice. You shouldn't have to do all the cleaning or pay for all the cleaning, and he shouldn't have tried to use you for that. He knows that too, he just doesn't care.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:16 AM on August 15, 2020 [21 favorites]

Best answer: I'm with keep it under cover, honestly. I didn't say this in my last comment because I got sidetracked by what? no, vermin are not an equally valid lifestyle choice , but there's something really quite chilling about your brother's behaviour here.
That thing where he did the chores for a while and was mean and distant, then stopped doing them and turned the friendliness back on like a switch? That was him deliberately showing you your options. "I can do it your way and be a dick to you, or I can do what I want and be nice. Which do you prefer?" The sheer blatant manipulation of that is really quite disturbing.
If you want to maintain a relationship with him, I honestly think the best thing you can do is move out.
posted by BlueNorther at 4:04 AM on August 15, 2020 [17 favorites]

There's "different expectations for clean and/or tidy" and then there's "won't even take out the trash when there are maggots in the trash can," and I am gonna just go on record here to say that the latter is not ever a valid lifestyle choice in a shared dwelling.

According to groups like child protective services and adult protective services, maggot-infested trash is objectively an invalid lifestyle choice. This is way beyond "cut him some slack as his standards are just different from yours."

Your brother sounds incredibly self-centered. Once you move out, you might want to find a time to explain to him that he will end up sabotaging any future relationship if he can't get himself to a less selfish place about chores. He doesn't care about how his actions affect you but he might care about how the interfere with his own desires. Let him know that very few spouses or significant others will want to have sex with someone who turns chores into such a power struggle that they are willing to have maggots in their home.
posted by crunchy potato at 7:07 AM on August 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm going to be that person, and judge your brother's behavior toward you as straight up abusive.

I agree. the point at which I was certain it was a dominance game rather than (or in addition to) mental issues was when you said something odd about being able to "defuse" a conversation. this isn't something you have to do with people who are reasonable, and it isn't a skill--or an idea of relating--that people from non-abusive backgrounds necessarily even have. when you have to treat your brother like an emotional bomb that might go off, you can't live with him. you have to get out.

I admit I also wondered about the gender dynamic because it does sound like trained-in feminine deference, a little bit. some kind of vestigial fucked-up childhood dynamic from a traditionalist family, maybe. but I do want to say clearly that it's not less abusive if you're also male.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:11 PM on August 15, 2020 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the thoughtful answers all, and for helping me navigate a tricky situation.
posted by osmond_nash at 3:00 AM on August 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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