Coping with a tensed brother-sister relationship

@meiteoh (420)
Switzerland
May 2, 2009 11:21am CST
This is something that has been going on for a long time in my family and I am not too sure if I ought to even worry about it (you'll see why). I have only one brother who is older than me by five years. He is married to a woman who is five years older than him and they have been married for ten years already. Before his marriage, we were quite close and loving - I have really fond memories of him planning great birthdays for me and my parents (things like treasure hunts, surprise parties and so forth). He would also give my mum and I gifts on Valentine's Day and such. While there are fights between my parents and him, it was mild and rare. After he got married, it's like he changed overnight. In the beginning when we were all staying together, it was understandable because he has a wife now and so forth. I have been very respectful towards my sister-in-law (SIL) and tried many times to talk to her, include her in stuff that I do even though she's 10 years my senior. But every time, she never says more than a word to me, rejects my invitations, hides in their room every day after dinner. She treats my parents no different as well. After they moved out, the change became more obvious. My brother stopped coming home and the visits dwindled to like once every three to six months even though they live ten minutes away. My SIL barely comes to visit with my brother, using work as an excuse (she was working as a senior journalist then). When my dad volunteered to fetch her home because my brother was out of state on business, she always says no and that she prefers taking the cab home. Being Asian, my parents are big on respect and manners so they expect my brother and SIL to greet them when they come home with a "Hi Mum". Before starting a meal, we were taught since we were kids to "invite" elders to eat first - somewhat the equivalent of wishing someone "bon appetit" before they eat. But since my bro got married, all this stopped and even my mum's cheeky strategies (asking me and my husband, then boyfriend) to do it didn't work. Now being the only son and the eldest of four grandsons, my parents were hoping that my brother would have children but around three years ago, after much beating around the bush, my brother finally admitted that he and my SIL didn't want children. No reason was given. That made my father quite angry and disappointed my mother but they accepted it anyway. Things got from bad to worse - whenever my father calls up my brother to ask for help with the computer (my bro has an IT degree), my bro comes over and lectures my father, calls him stupid and such. My dad is not a highly educated man, hardly works with computers and such. It got to the point where my parents prefer to send the computer to a shop for repairs and modifications than to be humiliated by my bro. He does the same thing to me as well - when he heard that I was going on holiday to Beijing on my own money, he came over and lectured me by saying that I was a spendthrift, that I was wasteful, that I should be more like him (buy a house when he's 30 and such). Never mind that I hardly go on holidays and that it's a backpacker style vacation for FOUR days. Never mind that he bought his house using money from my mother, and she even sponsored the renovation, the airconditioning units and such. When my hubby and I decided to get married, I asked him if he could be a witness at the civil ceremony. He say no and threatened to boycott the wedding because my hubby was jobless at that time. My dad was disappointed with him because when my bro got married, he was jobless as well and my parents were extremely supportive. We went ahead with it anyway (my parents were the witnesses) and I never got a word of congratulations from him or my SIL. From that time onwards, he never talks to my hubby except if he wants something from my hubby. The most obvious being this time when my bro's company had an event and he needed some help so he approached my hubby about it. My hubby was surprised because usually my bro doesn't talk to him except when he wants to interrogate my hubby. Throughout the whole event, my bro was ultra nice and after the event was over, back to square one - no talking, no smiling, no nothing. When I moved to Switzerland, I wrote back very often, sent postcards and stuff - no reply from my brother or my SIL. I still write and such...but I get no replies. Heh. When I got pregnant, no congratulations. When I had a miscarriage, no words of comfort. When I set up my online shop, he demanded that I sent money home to my mum for her pocket money. Never mind that HE himself doesn't give her any money. When I got pregnant again, no congratulations, no phone call, no nothing. Then out of the blue, one day after I announced that it was a girl and we had picked out names and such, he sends a message to me over Facebook, telling me (not asking) to include our family name in the baby's name. Meaning my daugther would have to carry my hubby's and my family name. When I rejected the idea nicely by saying that it would be too long (English name + Chinese middle name + hubby's family name), he insisted on the idea saying "no need to mention it, just put on paper so both family names will be there". That pissed off my hubby to the point where he said that if my bro wanted someone to carry the family name, then HE (not us) should have children of his own. Never mind all that. Recently, my bro and SIL went home to visit my parents. There was a guest present - a family friend. My bro and SIL just walked in, did their thing and left without greeting either my parents or that said family friend. This is something which my mum feels very strongly about. Later, my mother wrote to my bro to nicely tell him that it would be good if he and my SIL greet guests and family next time (only proper, it's good manners and such). The next morning, he called to scold her and refused to listen to any explanation or accept my mother's apology. My mum had to scream at him and hang up before he could even get the picture. My SIL on the other hand, wrote back to my mum with a very sarcastic reply and has yet to step foot in the house (it has been over three weeks). My brother later came back with some food like some token of apology and stuff...but without my SIL. The thing is this - with my bro and SIL's attitude, do you think they would treat my daughter any different? I'm 28 weeks pregnant and so far, my bro & SIL show no interest or sign of interest in my baby. I feel like telling my brother off but when I went through the idea with my parents, they mentioned that it would be like starting off World War 4 (World War 3 is what happened between my mum and him recently). Their exact words were that they have given up on my bro and SIL. I don't know what to make of it. Sometimes I get really sad because we used to be so close but after he got married, it's like I don't know him anymore. He is closer to his in-laws than us and such. The fact that my HB and his sister are close and more caring than he is makes it an ever more painful thing to think of. Should I just not bother like my parents or continue hoping (that he would change)?
3 people like this
4 responses
@kiran8 (15319)
• Mangalore, India
3 May 09
Hi meiteoh, It is a sad state of affairs. I think your brother is being completely manipulated by his wife. I think you and family should just ignore him for the time being and go on with your lives instead of being so unhappy about it.I can tell you with conviction that life has a way of paying back with interest, you reap as you sow, so have faith in life's justice , but don't waste your feelings on someone who doesn't care..
@meiteoh (420)
• Switzerland
3 May 09
Thanks for those words of comfort... O'well...I'm not all that gungho about entertaining his whim and fancy, and unlike my mum who has a short memory span (of how my bro treats her), my dad and I do remember and sometimes when he writes emails to me about my brother, I can feel his pain. He blames himself for how my brother and SIL turned out and so forth. I try to tell him that it's not really his fault because he taught us both the same values and I certainly don't treat my parents like my bro does...but y'know how some old people are when they get to reflecting about their life and so forth. *sigh*
1 person likes this
@mtdewgurl74 (18160)
• United States
3 May 09
I am really sorry to hear that, I know all about those types of relationships. Until December I hadn't seen one of my brothers in over 5 years. So I know a bit about that. And last month I made my sister and niece mad at me when I told them I couldn't have a baby shower here at my house but would hold it at her house instead her house being bigger and we were having plumbing problems and I felt people would feel uncomfortable having to go next door to use the restroom. But it seems all blank broke loose and they moved to Ohio shortly after and I had to hear it from my mom who heard it from my younger brother who heard it from my older brother who heard it from them.. so it is a big mess still and I haven't seen or heard from them since or heard about how the baby is doing even from my sister or niece. I wasn't bailing out of the baby shower I just wanted to switch places it was being held and they said for me to forget it.. and that was the end no phone calls nothing.. and this is from a sister who used to call me almost daily and my niece stayed with me after her baby was born for over a week till her mom got out of the hospital with my other niece. So, I know all about the stress and tensions it can do to a family. I just want it to stop and people stop acting like they do over simple things. maybe one day your bother will see the error of his ways especially when a parent falls ill or something and he realizes he should be cherishing what time he has left not fighting with them over simple silly things.
2 people like this
@meiteoh (420)
• Switzerland
3 May 09
I think sometimes my brother cares more about his pride than his family. I really want to continue hoping that he would change but even my parents tell me that they have given up which makes me sad when I do think about it. And yes, my brother can create uber fights over the stupidest of things. =.=
1 person likes this
@skysuccess (8880)
• Singapore
3 May 09
meiteoh, This is just another incident and fact that people do change and your brother is not exceptional. We are all bound to, with time as well. Some will grow strong and better with discernment, yet there will be others who will walk the opposite path. It just shows how people make their choices and decides on life issues. I cannot speak much as how and why your brother had become what he is today and yet I cannot help point a finger at your SIL for being partly responsible in what has happened and for the episode today. I hope that you will be able to talk it out with him and let him realize just what is happening and has happened. It is certainly sad to see that your parents are suffering because of this. Circumstances and tough times does affect men and lives, some will overcome and become better with their outlook and attitudes. However, sad to say your brother here is just the opposite. Try and find some time for the both of you to talk and let the other party know what is going on and feeling. Communication is of the essence here and that the both of you should get down to it ASAP. Take care and hope that the both of you will be able to get this resolved.
@meiteoh (420)
• Switzerland
3 May 09
Y'know, I would love to talk to my brother openly about this but I just can't communicate with him. He doesn't respond to anything I say and if I tell him all this, it'll only start another major fight. He doesn't respond well to people telling him that he's only human and has made mistakes. Just today, my mum told me that he lectured my dad about what my dad does now that he's retired (he has been retired for the past three years or so) - he interrogated my dad and when my dad didn't take too kindly to that, he accused my dad of not making any effort to talk to him, respond to him and of simply accusing him of sidelining them. But really, would you want to talk to someone who says the following "So, what have you been doing since you were retired?" the first time he/she opens his/her mouth? Every time we do talk, it's usually with him telling me how to live my life, how to do things and etc. He never lets me have a chance to tell him my plans and such. AND when I do get a chance to share, he just doesn't say anything - keeps mum and that's it. I really hope that my SIL has nothing much to do with this...that would really be sad.
1 person likes this
• Singapore
4 May 09
meiteoh, I am sure that your SIL is fully aware how her husband, your brother is behaving and she is no 3 year old to be told that it is acceptable especially at how things are going at home with your parents and you. I can understand if his change had something to do with some previous and past grave experiences. However, he has to be understanding enough that these experiences could happen to everyone including you, his dearly beloved sister and he does not need to be harsh and judgmental about it. Especially when his advice is not heeded, people just have their way of dealing with things and situations. As for your parents, I can understand their passiveness in this matter as they are equally difficult for them as blood is simply thicker than water and this is their son they are talking about and dealing with. Painful, helpless and running out of ideas will be what they are experiencing now. And as much as anticipating what might happen here if there were to be a face to face confrontation between the both of you, I think you will still need to do it by talking and communicating something to him. I do not know how you will see this but as a good starter you may want to start emailing him and chat online with him. At least, it will be better than doing nothing. Take care.
1 person likes this
@meiteoh (420)
• Switzerland
10 May 09
Thanks for the suggestion(s) but herein lies the problem - I do write and I do chat online with him...if you consider his one-word replies to be a form of two way communication. Every time I write to my parents which is at least once a week, I send an email off to both of them and I have never received a reply before. When I do see him online, I chat him up but again, it never goes beyond one word replies and five minutes. So really, I don't see how I can do any much more than I already am doing... :/
1 person likes this
@barehugs (8984)
• Canada
3 May 09
Its obvious that your brother Has Changed. After all this time he is not going to get any better. Its also obvious that he does not need his sister or his Parents in his life. If I were you, I would get on with my own life, and find my own friends. I would be indifferent to his demands, and would not allow him to bother me in any way.
1 person likes this
@meiteoh (420)
• Switzerland
3 May 09
Well, I do have my own life and my own friends and while a part of me may be indifferent, he is, after all, family and I have been taught since I was a child that no matter what happens, family is still family - blood is thicker than water and all that. Despite all that has happened between my parents, my brother and myself, my dad keeps on reminding me that when they are gone, we have only each other. I really want to accept that wholeheartedly but part of me wants to do like what you said - pretend that I don't have a brother at all. It's like I'm torn between what I grew up knowing and what I'm experiencing now. :/
1 person likes this