My Brother the Nerd Now my Champion
March 26, 2007 12:23 PM   Subscribe

I want to have a closer relationship with my brother.

When growing up, I was very emotionally troubled. Along with this I was self-centered and deperate to be "popular". My older brother was a "thick black-rimmed glasses, high water pants, pocket protector" nerd. I was in plays and pep squad and considered pretty, cool and funny. My brother and I weren't close. I am ashamed of the person I was then, and I am so proud of who my brother is and the kind of father, husband and man he turned out to be.

I have been very clear with him about how much he means to me. I love him very much. And, since we both had a fucked up childhood, having him as one of the last honest eye witnesses, has made him essential to my mental health. At this point in my life, I have come to understand that I was seriously emotionally, physically and mentally traumatized as a young child and my only salvation was to shut down and leave the shell to function in the world. I didn't a become a full human being until about 45. I'm not sure he knows this. He knows about the trauma, a violent incident when I was 8, but we have never discussed it in over 40 years. No one in my family ever discussed it. Hence: Shell enclosed me and I robot-walked through life.

Because I lived inside myself, I was incredibly self obsessed and, as I view it now, filled with self-importance. Since then, I have gotten on some great meds, had groundbreaking therapy, and met and married my soulmate. (I'm a lesbian).

I'm 51 now. He means a great deal to me, and I want to see him more often and spend more time with him. I want to make some sort of connection that I can't define, but in which he and I could be close friends. There are a few problems with this:

1: I'm not sure HE wants that. He's married for 30 years and has a 6 year old son and a job that takes a lot of hours from his life. Those things are HIS priorities.

2: He's a guy. He's not good at all with expressing emotions. And when I do, he gets very uncomfortable. He's always able to say, "I love you too" in a really sincere way, but I can tell he's squirming. There are other topics that when I mention them, like our mother or father, he seems to pull away or shut down.

3: He's a computer geek. I don't really know what to talk to him about. One thing we have in common is a love for Graphic Novels, which he sort of introduced me to. But, he likes war things, like "The 300". I like things like "Blankets" by Craig Thompson.

4. His wife is a little strange. She's very possessive, and jealous of his relationship with both me and our mother. My mom doesn't like her. But I'm okay with her. She's his wife. They've been married 30 years. She rules the roost. I have nothing against her. I DID, and I used to be vocal about it, but, again, that was at least 15 years ago. I have apologized and made amends for that. I think she is okay with me now. But she's still possessive and jealous.

On the good side. When I had to have a major surgery in 1999, without being asked (and it wasn't expected), he cleared his work calendar for a week and came down and helped my mother and I. When I came to from the anasthesia, they had forgotten to hook my morphine up and I cried out in pain for twenty minutes while they tried to find the morphine drip bag. My brother grabbed my hand and held on for dear life. In my pain-anasthesia filled haze, it was like my first clear indicator that he truly cared about me. That's sort of when I understood that how I felt about him was reciprocated. We have done better and gotten closer, but I want more. Also on the good side: He loves my SO. He and his wife both think she's the cat's meow. Yes, I used an old lady phrase, that's the kind of radical, lefty, feminist, lesbo I am. I use spinster phrases from the 40's.

I want him to know I'm there for him. That no matter what HE HAS ME. What I have learned about men is, words don't mean as much as actions. I have to act in a way consistently over time for him to know this.

What are some things I can do, to bring us closer? How can I communicate with a guy in a way that won't make him uptight about feelings? What do I do with my feelings? Which are very deep, and seem like they can never be expressed or described. What are things I can do that won't necessarily take him away from his family, but could give him a consistent sense of me thinking about him and caring about him and his family?

He lives in the Bay Area, I live in LA.
posted by generic230 to Human Relations (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's quite possible he already knows most everything you're trying to communicate to him and shares most of your feelings, but if he is non-demonstrative and guyishly squirmy about talking about squishy emotions, he's not comfortable in expressing this stuff on your particular wave level more openly. I have no doubt that my siblings have my back and that we love each other, but we rarely actually come out and say that and I do feel uncomfortable when those "Hey, man, I love you" moments come up.

So in short, get him liquored up and then have this talk.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 12:30 PM on March 26, 2007

If you feel comfortable with it, show him what you just wrote.
posted by ruwan at 12:42 PM on March 26, 2007

i agree with ruwan, or write him a letter/email detailing your feelings. he obviously still cares and wants a relationship with you if he took a week off to "nurse you back to health." its an actions-speak-louder-than-words situation.

and kudos for working on this relationship - i feel the same way about my sibs. our relationships with them can be the most important ones in life.
posted by enaira at 12:48 PM on March 26, 2007

Is this corny? Find out his love language and communicate your love for him in a language he understands.

Show your love for him by loving his son and his wife. Make a conscious effort to attend regular family events and be a part of his life. Surprise all three on random occasions with small, personal, fitting gifts.
posted by indigo4963 at 12:54 PM on March 26, 2007

Is traveling more frequently upstate within your budget?
posted by brujita at 1:00 PM on March 26, 2007

Sacrificing for him, giving your time for his comfort, making it about him and not your ego. If you have the cash to go there, offer to babysit so he and his wife can go out. Ask if he has projects or hobbies you can help with or provide research for. Be diligent about sending personalized notes for his wife's birthday/whatever else if you aren't already. Like you said, so what if she's possessive or odd, being explicit about your appreciation for her being in his life would make clear that you treasure him and that extends to all his significant life choices.

Cook for them? Send them gifts or packages that could make life easier in some way? I guess fruit baskets are passe but I always wish someone would send me delicious fresh produce for no real reason.
posted by birdie birdington at 1:11 PM on March 26, 2007

I was about to post a lengthy response involving my own family experiences, but then thought better of explaining my relationship with my sisters on AskMe. So, check the e-mail on your user page. And good luck, it sounds like your quite well prepared to enjoy a great relationship with your brother!
posted by Banky_Edwards at 1:29 PM on March 26, 2007

Response by poster: Brujita, yes I can afford it financially and time wise right now, I just don't know if HE has the time. He's very protective of his family time. He works long hours and weekends are sacred for him.
posted by generic230 at 2:37 PM on March 26, 2007

Skip the talks about your parents and/or childhoods. I'm pretty sure my dad has some childhood secrets, and the brother who occasionally tries to talk about those things is the one my dad avoids. The brothers he's close to are the ones who leave the past in the past.

I know that all that isn't good psych advice, but you asked how to be close to your brother, not how help him deal with his and your crappy childhood.

Call him on the phone, chat, write emails, visit, do stuff together.
posted by clh at 3:08 PM on March 26, 2007

One of the things my family does (and it makes us really close) is to find events or things some of us like/have in common and schedule time together - baseball games, picnics at state parks, random expositions, historical sites at spots halfway between the various parties involved. There are kids of all ages at these. Cater to the son - does he love science museums, roller coasters, climbing things. What about the wife? What is she interested in? Does she have skills/knowledge you could learn or use or get advice on?

It literally begins with an email: I've always wanted to do X or go to Y or I hear Z is pretty great. We were thinking about going next month - do you guys want to come along? They may not always have time or interest or inclination, but the invitation is always a nice way to say "I'm thinking of you and I like you and would like to spend time with you" without actually saying it. And sometimes they'll say Yes, and you'll get the chance to spend time together doing something together that isn't about the affection and closeness, but rather existing in that affection and closeness.
posted by julen at 3:45 PM on March 26, 2007

Be the best auntie you can be! Your influence on your nephew and the way he interacts with you will unlock some magical memories and happiness for your brother, and be a great way of reinforcing your bond. It'll be like seeing reflections of the two of you as children again for him. Of course, you're a very different person now, but the best things about you never changed.

Talk to his wife about your desire to be closer to him. She communicates with him deeply, right? Surely she knows some good advice and insights, and as possessive as she is, she'll likely be thrilled to have some control over/input in your developing relationship.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:00 PM on March 26, 2007

There are a few things more wonderful than a fantastic lesbian aunt, but they usually don't let kids have those things. Being a fantastic. I second Ambrisia's suggestion of being a good aunt (I had one! More like a big brother, she was only 13 years older than me).

This could only help you become closer to your brother. I'm glad you have him. My sister and I have grown a bit closer in recent times, too (email helps).
posted by Goofyy at 7:14 AM on March 27, 2007

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