Big fight with brother

Ah, that stuff they I read about family systems work is right. When you try and change a long-standing pattern, people freak out on you to try and get you to change back. The deal is that you’re supposed to respond in a low key manner.

I wrote the follow-up email to my older brother, where as promised I responded in more depth.  Probably not a mistake, but man did it piss him off.  My first email had been textbook family systems, my second one, less so.

I told him his behaviour was condescending toward me, and essentially he didn’t know what he was talking about. I said that his fancy story of the woman he knew who’d just decided to be ‘over it’, was a case of her succumbing to peer pressure. And I called him on being incorrect when he said he’d ‘always’ believed me. (He once accused me of being delusional  “I know *you* believe you were abused…” he’d said in that patronizing lets be nice to the crazy person or imbecile tone. He was in med school and must have got it from somewhere)

Now, I did word it very carefully, and kept it brief, but essentially I shifted myself out of “messed up younger sister willng to put up with condescension and arrogance and let you get away with crap” to “knowledgable adult who calls you on your crap”  This is a big change.

His email back to me was vicious. Poor fellow must be freaking out. He accused me of all kinds of things, like making a dig at him in my speech at the wedding (he’s dreaming it) or buying a gift for his teenage son that was too young for him (I liked it, and I’m a lot older than his son, and besides, who criticizes a gift?).  He’s been holding all sorts of stuff against me, although I think the main thing is that it scares him I’m switching roles and he’s mad at me for disclosing in the first place, instead of being mad at my father.

Anyhow, I replied and told him I was his sister and he’d either have to work out his issues with me or project them on to other relationships, and if and when he was ready to talk further I would. I also responded to all of his accusations, explaining some of the misunderstandings he’d had without backing down.  As far as family systems correct responses go, I’d give it a C, since I did sink to his level a bit, and really you’re supposed to respond in a light, friendly and firm way, without muckraking. I did edit out some of the worst bits and was certainly warmer than he was.

The thing is, he’s behaving a lot like my dad. I wonder if he realizes? It’s that alcoholic selfishness, everything is never one’s own fault, getting angry when being held accountable. I don’t know if he’s a drinker, but he’s sure behaving like one. Someone at my wedding told me she thought my older brother was selfish and arrogant in the same way my dad is (she was a friend of the family and knew my dad. I defended him at the time (she’s a friend of my mother, and what my mom sees as selfish isn’t really), but now I see her point. )

This was just in email, thank goodness, but I was so angry I pounded my hands on the table and cried. What a dickhead my brother can be. I have this place where I remember him as a really nice guy, and I hold on to it, but honestly, he’s not showing it to me, not in several years.

10 thoughts on “Big fight with brother”

  1. Hi SDW,

    What have you been reading about family systems? Do you have any recommendations? My family is all kinds of screwed up and such information might be… illuminating.



    1. So is mine, to say the least. Harriet Lerner has written some good stuff: The books “Dance of Anger” and “Dance of Intimacy” explains it pretty well. I found quite a bit of it helpful, although since I don’t really see my immediate family any more, maybe not so much!

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  3. I think one of the most courageous acts of bravery is standing up to other family members. I LOVE how you did this with your brother. It is an example to the rest of us. He’s a fucking doctor, for heaven sake. Shouldn’t he know better? Hasn’t he seen firsthand the effects of abuse? It really is about time that the medical community wakes up to the fact that fathers are raping their daughters left and right, and if and when we survive it, we might talk to you about it. He’s your brother.

    You know – I wonder if he’s feeling guilty that he didn’t stop it from happening, or that he couldn’t stop it from happening, and that maybe somewhere inside, he knew it was happening and felt powerless. Thus, now it feels easier to attack you than to attack the attacker.

    1. Thanks, Butterfly. It certainly needed to be done, but really exposed something that had probably been true for about a decade, that my brother just doesn’t want to be in contact with me. He’s strangely paranoid, and hinted at some issues that came up for him after I disclosed. He said he hadn’t been abused himself but thought he might be. My money would be on him having been abused himself, given his wierd reactions over the past few years. My father is evil enough for it.

  4. Hi SWD,

    I’m glad that you wrote that letter and got that kind of response. At least he is being honest about it. But even so, you would have figured him out. I’m glad that the response was no worse. I know it aches. Good and healing thoughts to you.


  5. Hi SDW,

    I’m sorry this is happening. You are so right about the backlash stuff. I’m sorry that is happening. I know how it feels to be in the middle of that and how much it hurts. You did a great job of handling it and responding and it is hard not to at least a few times go down to their level. He has wounded you and that is not right. It sounds as though you are developing a very strong voice. Good for you.

    I have brothers like this as well. And one that I have several lovely years of him being my best friend in all the world and my champion. It hurts to remember the boy he used to be, but at least I have that. With some of my brothers I didn’t even have that.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


    1. That’s the thing with my brother too – for awhile he was a good friend and champion, my only safe relative, and now he’s all freaked out and distant. I honestly don’t think I’ve done anything inappropriate given the circumstances, but it’s possible the whole thing just overwhelms him, and the circumstances are certainly pretty heavy. I’ve heard guys get easily overwhelmed emotionally, and that might be what happens. He replied to me and basically was low key about it and said he’s overwhelmed in his life and can’t deal right now. That’s fair enough. Perhaps me taking the high road as much as I could has helped.

      Good and healing thoughts to you too.

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