Jack wanted to spend time with his brother while we were staying at their parents’, which is why he wanted to know what day his brother would be visiting so we could plan to all hang out. We would be in town for less than a week and wanted see all the family. We did drive out to some people (those in the area who couldn’t drive/elderly relatives not able to get out), but nothing more than thirty minutes away. Most family came to us. My mother-in-law planned our group visit days, so we hung out at her place all day with the baby while family would drop by throughout the day.
My brother-in-law is now extremely angry and hurt that my husband turned down his invitation. Both my husband and I found it rude that his brother didn’t invite the whole family unit. Yet the brother-in-law is extremely angry at his brother for not making it a priority to see his new place (he recently moved into a group-type home) while we were sort of nearby.
Jack wants to fix the relationship with his brother. We are coming back to the area again for a wedding that is four hours away from where the brother-in-law lives, and an aunt has suggested that Jack go out by himself to visit his brother and see the new house when we are out there. Should he? — Mad at the BIL
Is there some reason the brother-in-law doesn’t want to see you or doesn’t want you to see his home? What is your history with him like? What type of “group home” is this? Does he live independently or does he have some sort of assistance?
I have been married four years now and my interactions with my brother-in-law have been few and quite volatile. I do my best to try to connect, but we really don’t have anything in common. He basically just talks to my husband during the majority of our visits and they talk about sci-fi stuff, which I try to contribute to, but, eventually, I get bored because I don’t know what they are talking about and they don’t seem to care whether I’m there or not.
In other instances, he has sent very angry emails in the past (to the whole family, not just me) and then won’t talk/email/text the family for months. We will all try to call or contact him, with no response. I think the longest stint was eight months without contact. Then he starts contacting people and apologizes and we forgive him. He seems to be a very emotional person and seems to get hurt easily by things that would not even bother me. Maybe I am thick-skinned?
“Group home” is probably the wrong description for where he lives. He is not physically disabled — he has a full time job and a car. The home he lives in is called a co-op home, basically. Everyone pools resources, pays a small rent, pitches in for food and household expenses, and takes turns doing domestic shores like cooking and cleaning.
Ok, so it sounds like your brother-in-law has some emotional or mental issues that make life and relating to others a little more challenging than for a “normal” person. Beyond likely having limited financial resources (small income and/or problems with money management), it sounds like he also has trouble managing interpersonal relationships and lacks empathy and perspective about various lifestyle challenges and situations that may hinder other people’s ability to be there for him in the way he thinks they “should.”
Whether your BIL’s issues are diagnosed or confirmed by a professional or not, I would think all his family is aware that something out-of-the-ordinary is going on and should adjust their expectations and their way of interacting with him, thusly. Expect that your and your husband’s relationship with him will likely always be a bit strained and that, in order to have interactions with him, you will have to meet him more than halfway because he is more limited than you are. I would not take his limitations personally, but I also would not inconvenience yourself beyond reason to meet your BIL’s special needs.
If driving four hours out of the way is doable without sacrificing too much to see your BIL while you’re out that way for a wedding, go. You could go together, with your husband and your kid, or, if you have a comfortable place to stay for a night or two while your husband visits his brother, let him go on his own. On future visits when you see him, ignore his criticisms of you like you would a young child who doesn’t know any better. Limit your interactions with him and make maintaining the relationship between the two brothers the priority of get-togethers. On future visits to your husband’s home state, plan an extra day into the visit so that Jack can drive the three hours to see his brother while you and your kid stay with your in-laws and visit with other family. That way, Jack maintains the brother relationship and you don’t have to deal with him. If he comes out to visit you all, encourage Jack to make a “guys’ weekend” of it, while you stay home with the baby. Maybe Jack and his brother can even stay in a hotel together — or meet somewhere between their two homes — and watch all the sci-fy they want without your BIL being “offended” by your jewelry-wearing and lack of cooking him some lasagna.
In a perfect world, we’d all have totally normal, healthy family and wonderful relationships with all our in-laws. We’d feel loved and accepted and everyone would get along famously. But, the world is not perfect; we are all damaged and flawed, and many of us are ill in various ways. We cannot meet everyone’s needs while also supporting our own, as well as taking care of any children we may have. Be gentle with yourself — and your husband — when navigating this delicate family situation. Understand that there may be times that you do heavier lifting at home, or are inconvenienced, while your husband is dealing with his brother and trying to maintain a relationship with him. And one day, you will likely be in a position of needing your husband’s support while you’re called to handle a situation with your family (a sick or dying parent, a sibling in need, or even a very close friend going through something traumatic where your time and love and attention are especially appreciated). This is the give-and-take of a marriage that hopefully spans many decades.
Your BIL is an inconvenience, yes. But he’s also the person your husband grew up with, with whom he shares a bond he does not share with anyone else — a bond he has interest in maintaining. Support him as much as you can, even if it means some sacrifice on your part. And overlook slights from your BIL that, coming from someone with more functional social and emotional tools, could be perceived as personal. They aren’t. It sounds like he’s weird with everyone. And it sounds like he’s probably doing the best he can with what he has. Practice compassion, and I think your husband will especially appreciate your effort and will return the favor when you need compassion from him.
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