A lot of tension occured when he got a DUI in late 2011 and dropped out of school. He lost his license, and we moved away from our childhood home for financial reasons – isolating him from friends. Further compounding this isolation, he works nights and weekends at our family restaurant. It doesn’t help that most of his friends are from privileged families, whereas we’ve had a rough couple of years financially (like many Americans). He recently ended his first serious relationship with a lovely girl.
I believe him to be depressed as he has completely withdrawn. Furthermore, we suspect him of an alcohol problem. I find myself extremely angry and frustrated with him, though I try to rationalize and understand his situation. I am conflicted because on one hand I feel like he is acting like an entitled brat: not helping contribute to household expenses, not pitching in with chores, and acting hostile towards his employers – our mother and grandmother. But then I know it’s been a traumatic, tumultuous period for him. What has really devastated me was when he showed no compassion for the loss of my dog that I’ve had for 14 years – no words of kindness or even a hug. Neither my mother nor I are sure what action to take. Have him move out and force him to grow up? Encourage therapy? Or just hope things get better?
What finally prompted me to write is that I did a naughty thing and snooped on his computer. I found he’s been excessively viewing a lot of unconventional porn regarding transvestites, incest, and sex with animals. I’m not sure how to regard this. Should I be alarmed? Is this a symptom of something greater? I am at a loss. — Concerned Sister
I don’t know whether your brother’s porn fetishes are a “symptom of something greater” or even what that something greater could be, but what I do know is that it isn’t any of your business. As long as the porn your brother is looking at is legal, it’s not your issue to worry about. And let’s be honest here, you didn’t just do a “naughty thing” by snooping on your brother’s computer; you did a completely disrespectful, manipulative thing that you would be outraged over had your brother done to you. And why did you do it? Because you care about your brother? Because you’re worried about him? Because you’re looking for some kind of explanation for his recent withdrawal and distant behavior? There are better ways to find out why your brother is acting weird than snooping through his things.
But you can’t un-see what you’ve seen now, can you? And you can’t very well ask your brother about his porn habit — for the love of God, do NOT do that unless you want to really alienate yourself from him. So what are you to do? My suggestion is the same I would have given if you’d written to me before snooping: get some healthy distance from each other. One or both of you should move out. I’d advise starting with your brother packing his bags.
He’s in his 20s. He works for the family business. He doesn’t need to spend all day working for his mother and grandmother and then come home to the house he shares with his single mom and intrusive sister. He needs some independence. If you’re worried about his maturity level, giving him the responsibility of paying rent, paying his own bills and maintaining a home of his own may be the crash course he needs. And maybe the physical distance he’ll have from you and your mom will be enough that he won’t be trying to create emotional distance too.
And, frankly, the distance would do you some good as well. You’re spending a lot of energy worrying about your brother who seems to have fairly normal 20-something issues: He’s moved away from childhood friends; he’s experienced a recent breakup; he doesn’t work an ideal schedule; he drinks a lot. Aside from the DUI, which was hopefully a wakeup call for him, these are challenges many young adults go through. It’s navigating those experiences that lead to the kind of maturity you wish for your brother. So, step back, butt out, and let him experience his life. With him working for the family business, the leash is certainly still short enough for you and your mother to keep tabs on him and monitor his behavior without him sharing a roof with you too.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.