Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Brother is a Misogynist”

I’m a 25-year-old sister to two brothers. My younger brother is very close in age to me and we’ve always been friends; however, we have problems that didn’t seem like a big deal when we were kids but are insufferable now that we’re adults. Basically, I’m a natural caregiver and I take care of my family as best I can. Little brother is a “free spirit,” a moniker that I’m reluctant to bestow on him because he walks the walk but that’s about it. Really, he’s more of a selfish, indolent child. I let him stay with me, I’ve helped him out financially, and I’ve been his shoulder to cry on more times than I can count. All because I feel duty-bound to do so.

So, my problem is that he doesn’t appreciate or reciprocate any of it. On top of that, he’s the single most touchy, sensitive person I’ve ever known. He really cannot take a joke. And perhaps one of the most difficult things in dealing with him as an adult is that he’s a misogynist and I’m a feminist and he pretty much refuses to reign in his use of words like “bitch” to describe women. He’s too dense to understand why it’s not justified and why I do not like being called a bitch (yes, he calls me a bitch despite my protestations). I know that there’s a lot of complaints here, but I’m trying to paint an accurate picture of what our relationship looks like.

I’m kind of at an impasse. Before, I would just kind of stew in my own anger every time he did something inconsiderate, but then I would let it roll off my back because I do love him and I want for him to be a part of my life. But I’ve realized now that I don’t want his ridiculous brand of selfishness and rudeness in my life. I’m not really sure how to go about this. I don’t want to cut him out of my life, and, quite frankly, I don’t really have the option because the other members of my immediate family rely on me to be a conduit between him and them because he doesn’t pick up the phone often to tell them how he’s doing. Should I quit helping him out? Should I give him an ultimatum and tell him to look elsewhere for support until he learns to treat me with respect? I want to do the right thing, both by my family and by myself. Your input is appreciated. — Oh, Brother!

If your brother makes you nuts and taking care of him or acting as a “conduit” between him and the rest of your family is creating so much resentment, freakin’ stop taking care of him and stop delivering messages back and forth all the time. Quit lending out money, quit being a shoulder to cry on, and quit doing whatever else it is you think your brother should be appreciative of and isn’t. And if you can’t stand spending time with him, quit doing that too. Limit your interactions to special occasions when the whole family is together. And if the rest of your family needs to be in touch with him so badly, they can pick up the phone and call. I just don’t understand why your assistance is needed in that regard. Surely your parents and other siblings and relatives know how to dial a number, right?

And there’s no need to give an ultimatum. I mean, seriously. What do you really think that’s going to accomplish? A bunch of drama, that’s what. And I have a little, sneaky feeling you might like the drama. Because why else keep martyring yourself by constantly taking care of an able-bodied, grown adult who drives you so crazy and never appreciates your effort anyway?? Just quit. Get some hobbies. Better yet, get a dog! A dog will give you something to care for AND it will give you a built-in excuse to get out of things you don’t want to do (“Oh, sorry brother, I can’t call mom for you/ listen to you whine/ drive you to the store/ wipe your ass because I have to walk the dog.”).

***************

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51 comments… add one
  • avatar

    bethany December 23, 2013, 9:11 am

    LW, I feel like you’re bringing this on yourself. You’ve set up a situation where your brother needs/relies on you, and you’ve allowed yourself to take on the role of “go between” for your family. Stop that.

    You don’t need to do any of that stuff. He’s a grown up. Eventually, he will learn to take care of himself, and your family will figure out that if they want to stay in touch with him, they can pick up the phone. They’re grown ups, give them some credit.

    Like Wendy said, you don’t need to make a big production out of this, just stop doing what you’re doing. Start saying no, and mean it.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna December 23, 2013, 9:13 am

    I agree with Wendy. Definitely stop helping him out and playing the messenger between him and the rest of your family. He’s an adult, he should manage his relationships with other family members by himself. Spend less time with him, and if you get into a fight and he’s calling you a bitch, just leave. Disengage. Like Wendy, I don’t think you need a big gesture or ultimatum here. Instead, just see less of him. You’ll probably already feel way better if you do that.
    Btw, I suspect this development happened because you two are close in age. But it’s now time to redefine your brother-sister-relationship and let go of the roles you’re playing. Maybe your brother will have a positive reaction if you manage to disengage a little bit. It seems like your enabling his immaturity somewhat.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle December 23, 2013, 9:21 am

    Yeah, WWS. LW, you describe yourself as a “natural caregiver” & then go on to explain that the only reason you’ve been a financial help, solid shoulder, & shelter for your brother is because you feel bound by duty. There is nothing “natural” about that, & that’s okay. Just admit that you don’t want this burden anymore, & stop giving so much of yourself. That doesn’t mean you cut your brother out of your life—it just means you learn to say NO.

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  • avatar

    Lindsay December 23, 2013, 9:29 am

    I think are getting ahead of yourself. If you want to cut him out entirely, you have that right, but why not just make him move out and stop being his caretaker. He sounds like a jerk, but he really wouldn’t be causing you so much heartache if you weren’t creating the conditions for him to do so. When you say you’re a natural caretaker, it sounds more like you’re a natural doormat because wanting to take care of people doesn’t mean putting up with awful behavior, and it sounds like you’ve assigned this “duty” to yourself. Don’t be the go-between. They’ll figure out how to get in touch with him, and if not, it must not be very important.

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  • lemongrass

    lemongrass December 23, 2013, 9:34 am

    People will treat you how you allow them to. By not sticking up for yourself when your brother calls you names he then feels it’s okay. Seriously, this is not a healthy relationship between brother and sister. Cut him off financially and when he starts with the crap hang up the phone or end the visit. If he’s at your house tell him to leave. He will eventually figure out that he can’t treat you like that if he wants you in his life and modify his behaviour. If you are allowing his bullshit because you are afraid that he won’t still see you then you are trying to make his decisions for him and that is not okay. He is an adult who makes his own decisions and needs to learn from the consequences.

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  • Stonegypsy

    Stonegypsy December 23, 2013, 9:52 am

    Seriously, WWS and WEES. Kick your brother out, stop supporting him financially, stop allowing him to call you names, stop making it easy for him to be an irresponsible man-child/jerk. It is not your duty to enable this BS.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. December 23, 2013, 10:36 am

    You say he’s a “selfish, indolent child”. How do you treat such a child? You tell them to stop whining and grow up and let them know there will be consequences if they don’t. He has no reason to change his behavior because it works for him. He gets everything he wants. You absolutely can tell him you don’t like his language and if he wants to continue to have a relationsip with you, it needs to stop. Kick him out and let him fend for himself. And please stop letting your entire family wipe their feet on you.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie December 23, 2013, 10:41 am

    As long as you keep giving he’ll keep taking. Break this unhealthy cycle for everyone’s sake including his and especially your own.

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  • avatar

    csp December 23, 2013, 10:43 am

    LW:

    The next time your brother says something you don’t like, be like, “hey, that isn’t nice. Who do you think you are talking to when you say that?” if he gets snappy. Say, ” I love you but that is mean. I will talk to you later. Love you.” and hang up.

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  • katie

    katie December 23, 2013, 10:53 am

    LW, you dont have a problem with your brother. you have an internal problem with how you relate to people and boundaries. i have to wonder what all this “natural caregiver” stuff is about, when people above pointed out that you are not doing what you are doing because of “nature”, your doing it out of a sense of duty. why is that? because i have to wonder- if you do successfully deal with your brother, are you just going to replace him with someone else? is this going to become a pattern in your life?

    i would examine how you got to this point. did you have really shitty male/female relationships in your childhood to model off of? have you internalized the “women are caretakers! its why they have babies!” mindset? were you taught to never stand up for yourself? i think you need to do some serious work on yourself here, to make sure that this dynamic doesnt repeat itself…

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    • Stonegypsy

      Stonegypsy December 23, 2013, 10:57 am

      That’s a really good point. It’s likely that even if she stops putting up with her brother, the dynamic will just repeat itself until the root cause is dealt with.

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    • possumgirl

      Jenn December 23, 2013, 2:53 pm

      Katie is 100% correct. That’s a very important self assessment to take. Being able to take care of yourself and set important boundaries is important in ALL aspects of life too. Not just your brother, but with friends, co-workers and more importantly, whatever partner you choose for yourself.

      Learning that being needed DOES NOT equate to love is something that took me 20 years to figure out. Don’t spend the next twenty years of taking care of others at your own expense. There is no reward, only exhaustion and heartache.

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  • avatar

    Scooze December 23, 2013, 11:00 am

    I see so many people who have this false sense of obligation to fix other people’s lives. If someone doesn’t show appreciation for something, that’s because they don’t appreciate it. Don’t do that thing again. Actually, I have been coming to the conclusion that it is a form of control. These martyrs are trying to control the people around them (for their own reasons) that they purport to be “helping”. My advice, as Wendy said, just let it go and focus on your own life.

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    • avatar

      jmkenrick December 23, 2013, 12:30 pm

      I have to say, I normally agree with people here, but I think people are being a bit overly harsh on LW. It’s really, REALLY difficult to say no to a dysfunctional family member, even if they’re treating you poorly.

      While I agree with the substance of the answer (she needs to not coddle him) I think the tone is off. If this was a relationship or a friendship, yes, then perhaps it would indicate drama-seeking behavior on her part…but it’s really hard to cut ties with family members, and many people are born into families whose patterns and behaviors are not necessarily reflective of their own.

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  • avatar

    iseeshiny December 23, 2013, 11:01 am

    Set some boundaries. Not just with your horrible brother, but with your family, too. It sounds like you’ve let them shove you into the role of Person-Who-Deals-With-Shitty-Brother-So-We-Don’t-Have-To. It sounds like you’ve invested a lot of your identity in being the only one who puts up with this crap. Be prepared to hear some whining from everyone involved about why are you being so mean, you’ve always been willing to do this before, he NEEDS you. He doesn’t need you. He’s grown. He might WANT you to always be around to kick around and take advantage of because it’s worked out really well for him so far, but he will be just fine if you withdraw his support. You’ll be doing him a kindness in the long run.

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  • avatar

    MMcG December 23, 2013, 11:06 am

    If you want your brother to not be such a misogynist towards women, you might start by demanding a little respect for yourself.

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  • findingtheearth

    findingtheearth December 23, 2013, 11:07 am

    I agree with all of this. Stop talking to him if he does not treat you with respect. Stop being the go-between. If he is an adult, then he can take care of himself. Maybe the reason the family uses you to communicate with him is they cannot stand him themselves. So just stop. If he wants to treat people poorly, that is his choice- not yours to be a part of.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark December 23, 2013, 11:13 am

    I wish you’d provide more examples of him using the word bitch, of him not being able to take a joke… There is no context for any of this. Honestly? This letter is so vague I am left with no real opinion…

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    • avatar

      Lucy December 23, 2013, 11:42 am

      Imma have to go with the idea that if he’s regularly calling his sister and many/most other women “bitch” despite being asked to stop, there isn’t any context in which that’s cool.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergamark December 23, 2013, 11:56 am

        Eh, calling ALL women bitches is misogyny. Calling some women bitches is accurate. And she claims he can’t take a joke — maybe she can’t either and he calls her a bitch specifically to get her goat. Or maybe it’s a direct response to her unfunny jokes. “Why are you such a bitch, sis?” Who knows? I’ve often found that those who claim others can’t take a joke tend to unwaveringly possess the idea that their joking gives them license to say pretty horrible shit. This letter is vague and obtuse. Nothing in it is clear at all.

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      • avatar

        bethany December 23, 2013, 3:17 pm

        Yeah, that’s the feeling I got, too. If there were concrete examples where the brother was clearly out of line, I’d feel differently, but “bitch” is one of those words that is soooo easy to use when joking or being sarcastic, that I don’t think we have enough info to label the brother a bad guy.

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      • avatar

        Lucy December 23, 2013, 3:19 pm

        This comes back to the idea of taking the LW’s word for reality, unless s/he is obviously delusional or self-contradicting. She says he’s a misogynist who calls women bitches all the time, including her, even though she’s asked him to stop. I can’t see a reason to doubt her statement of fact (except just to be contrarian, but we don’t know anyone like that). If you call your sister a bitch as a joke, and she gets upset and asks you not to do it again, you don’t do it again unless you’re a dick. Full stop.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle December 23, 2013, 3:28 pm

        I agree (re: the continued name-calling, even after she asked him to stop), but I do think BGM is onto something with the “jokes” thing—at least, that part of the letter complicates my understanding of the dynamic (between the siblings). He repeatedly calls her a bitch? but she claims ~he~ “cannot take a joke” & is “touchy” , “over-sensitive”.

        I dunno, all I can say is that I read that part twice, because normally I’d assume the person throwing the word “bitch” everywhere would also be the one saying, “Oh, you can’t take a joke.” So it’s interesting that that’s actually one of HER complains about *him* ?

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      • avatar

        Lucy December 23, 2013, 3:43 pm

        Yeah, I thought that was interesting too, but I decided it was in there to show that he’s a bit of a hypocrite – he calls his sister a bitch, even when he’s asked not to, and is too insensitive to understand why that’s not cool… but he’s also hypersensitive and can’t take a joke. I don’t know if she didn’t give any specifics, or maybe they got edited out.

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      • katie

        katie December 23, 2013, 3:43 pm

        yea, WFS about that for sure.

        my guess is that its just some shitty sibling dynamic that is pretty common. LW can stop it if she wants!

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  • TaraMonster

    TaraMonster December 23, 2013, 11:22 am

    It does sound like you’re allowing him to behave this way. It’s time to start being firm with him.

    Tell him one time you will no longer tolerate him calling you a bitch, or using the word bitch, and then enforce it. If you’re home and he calls you a bitch, show him to the door. If you’re out and he calls you a bitch, leave. It shouldn’t be a whole lot of drama, either. Just cut and dry, “If you’re not going to respect my boundaries, then I can’t be around you.” If he throws a fit or otherwise acts like a baby, then that’s his problem. Roll your eyes and tell him to grow up, and point to the door again. Honestly, I’d do this if *anyone* called me a bitch. I’d do that and a helluva lot more.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow December 23, 2013, 11:37 am

    I don’t know if you have a martyr complex or not, but you’ve definitely gotten yourself into an unhealthy relationship pattern with your brother. I understand; when someone needs help, you do what you can to help. It’s gone too far, though.

    If doing things like letting him stay with you, giving him money, and being the go-between for your family is causing resentment, then just stop doing it. Break the pattern, since he is not likely to do so (I mean, clearly he is the one benefiting from it). Do what everyone else said re: creating boundaries and learning to say NO.

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    • avatar

      Christy December 23, 2013, 11:42 am

      Yeah, it DEFINITELY sounds like a martyr complex to me.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow December 23, 2013, 11:50 am

        I guess so. Otherwise this question is a no-brainer. No boundaries, you say? Make some boundaries. There doesn’t need to be an ultimatum or dramatic “cutting off.”

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow December 23, 2013, 11:50 am

        It just sucks when you *think* you are doing The Right Thing, and it turns into…. this.

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      • avatar

        Lucy December 23, 2013, 3:46 pm

        This is one of those situations where the phrase “climb down off the cross” comes in handy.

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  • avatar

    Lucy December 23, 2013, 11:40 am

    Your brother is a dick. The way to stop enabling his dickishness is to just stop. Practice saying “no” in the mirror if you have to, and then use it on him AND your family every time they ask you to do something that’s outside your boundaries. Remember that sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is to force them to help themselves.

    And good on you for finally setting some boundaries with him.

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  • avatar

    rachel December 23, 2013, 11:55 am

    You’re not going to change your brother, but you can stop giving him so much help. Your resentment for all that you are doing for him makes his annoying personality traits seem that much worse. Spend less time around him, and stop being his “caretaker” and you will be able to have a more normal relationship with him.

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  • avatar

    Teri Anne December 23, 2013, 12:26 pm

    Because people often think of abuse as a problem of romantic relationships, it can be difficult to recognize other abusive situations. Despite my awareness of abuse and its dynamics, I found myself very surprised when I realized I was in an abusive situation with my uncle. The LW’s brother is an abuser. I have met plenty of men who think women are inferior, but who would never call their wives or sister a bitch. The brother is relying on his sister’s love and sense of obligation to keep her in line, so that she will keep lending him money and bailing him out of the messes he creates.

    Like so many women, the LW believes that it is her job to be everyone’s caretaker and fix everyone’s problems. She now realizes that her relationship with her brother is unhealthy, but she is not quite sure how to handle this situation. I eventually had to end my relationship with my uncle, but hopefully this will not be necessary for the LW. I would advise her to gradually reduce contact, and see how it goes. If he wants to borrow money, say no. If he gets mean and calls her a bitch, end the visit or phone call.

    Asserting herself in this relationship will be very difficult for the LW. Not only will she be breaking long standing roles, she will also have to stand up to other family members who are now burdened with the brother’s bad behavior. Wendy and other commentators are quite right that the LW needs to stand up for herself, but they may not understand how difficult it can be to break an abusive cycle. I want to tell the LW that difficult as it may be, she can do this. She has already realized she has an abusive situation, and that is often the most difficult part.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray December 23, 2013, 2:09 pm

      WSS

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray December 23, 2013, 2:12 pm

        Oops I meant to reply to Saro below. But hi Teri Anne that was nice too. We can call you TA 2.0 since TA is taken.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray December 23, 2013, 3:49 pm

        Except oh yeah sorry I agree with Bethany and the others – it doesn’t sound like abuse. But even if it were, it sounds like all advice to the LW is the same – put a stop to it / stop enabling him / find something else to do

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    • avatar

      bethany December 23, 2013, 2:39 pm

      I think calling the brother an abuser is a bit over the top. I’m pretty sure I’ve called my best friends a “bitch” before- does that make me an abuser? I really think you’re reaching here.

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      • avatar

        Teri Anne December 23, 2013, 2:59 pm

        The abuse comes from the fact that the brother refuses to stop calling the LW a bitch, even though she has repeatedly asked him to stop. If they had an understanding that using this word was acceptable, then it would not be abuse. In general, the word bitch should be avoided because it is such an insulting word.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark December 23, 2013, 3:09 pm

        PLEASE! For all we know her “jokes” that he supposedly can’t take are abusive. To jump to the abuse word so fast just proves my claim that this site’s commenters are so anti-men lately it’s hilarious.

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      • avatar

        bethany December 23, 2013, 3:09 pm

        Even if that were true (it’s not- read the letter- they have no agreement, and he just uses the word in general, not just at her), I still don’t think saying the word bitch, or calling your sister a bitch counts as abuse at all.

        We’d need a LOT more details or examples before I think calling him an abuser would be justified.

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      • something random

        something Random December 23, 2013, 3:17 pm

        But what about an immature brother who just likes pushing buttons? Is being a rude, bratty, taker the same as abusive? I just wonder because I didn’t get the vibe that she felt cut down, shamed, or controlled. More that she was just pissed at him being a general asshole to her in addition to everyone else because she had made so much effort to befriend and support.

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      • avatar

        Teri Anne December 23, 2013, 3:39 pm

        The control comes from the rest of her family, who are used to her handling her brother’s bad behavior. They will probably put pressure on her to continue to handle her brother, so they do not have to bother with him.

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      • something random

        something Random December 23, 2013, 3:56 pm

        I think we both agree that her acting as a “conduit” between her brother and the rest of the family is unhealthy. The fact that she doesn’t think she “really has an option” is a self-imposed misconception. It’s true I’m assuming this, but so is concluding that her family is controlling her. I agree that most people are resistant to change and if she chooses to stop being the go-between she will probably have to assert herself more than once.

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      • avatar

        Teri Anne December 23, 2013, 5:36 pm

        I am shocked that so many commentators think it is ok for the brother to call his sister a bitch. If it is not acceptable for a husband to call his wife a bitch or a boyfriend to call his girlfriend a bitch, why is it ok for a man to call his sister a bitch?

        Other commentators have used words like immature, bratty or rude to describe the brother. These words may be equally applicable, but they imply that the brother is acting like a teenager who is still learning proper behavior. He is now a man who should know better.

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      • Cymepkee

        Cymepkee December 23, 2013, 6:41 pm

        Nobody said it’s ok, they said it’s not abusive. Your continued assertions that this is abuse make no sense, as none of the red flags for abuse are present in this letter. The LW feels unappreciated and fed up with her brother’s selfish immaturity, she isn’t a victim trying to extricate herself from a dangerous situation.

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    • avatar

      Lucy December 23, 2013, 3:28 pm

      To call this relationship abusive seems way, way over the top given the facts as actually stated in the letter, and I suspect has far more to do with your own experiences than it does with this LW’s reality.

      The LW has total control over whether she communicates with her brother, helps him when he asks, tolerates his foul language, gives him money, lets him cry on her shoulder, and generally enables his shitty behaviour. She has chosen, freely, as an adult, to continue to enable his behaviour despite his total lack of gratitude and respect. Now she wants to stop. There’s absolutely nothing in the letter to indicate that she feels intimidated or controlled by her brother; she just feels bad that she won’t be playing the good girl caretaker role in her family any more.

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      • avatar

        Teri Anne December 23, 2013, 3:44 pm

        Yes it is true that the LW does have control over how she responds to her brother, and whether she tolerates his bad behavior. She does have the power to stop enabling him, and I hope she decides to stop tolerating his bad behavior. Exercising her power will probably generate a lot of flak from her brother and her family. Difficult as it may be for the LW to exert her independence, she will find it very worthwhile to her peace of mind and personal development.

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  • avatar

    sarolabelle December 23, 2013, 1:02 pm

    This is the silliest letter. “Help, I am doing things I don’t like doing, what do I do” Um….stop doing them!

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    • avatar

      Teri Anne December 23, 2013, 2:54 pm

      This is not a silly letter. The LW has found herself in an abusive situation with a family member, and is having trouble extracting herself from the volatile situation. When a person is in an abusive relationship, they are often shamed by comments like “I would never put up with that” ; “You are too sensitive”; or “You need to assert yourself”. But the ordinary rules of behavior and communication do not apply to abusers. Most victims like the LW have already tried asserting themselves and communicating their dislike of the abuser’s actions, but to no avail.

      The most dangerous time for an abuse victim is when he or she tries to leave or get out the situation. I urge the LW to be careful because her brother may escalate his behavior once he realizes that she is no longer going to enable him.

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  • avatar

    smlr August 1, 2014, 5:36 am

    This is a little late in the game, but I ended up on this site because I’m in a similar situation with my OLDER brother. He’s 5 years older and we’re both in our 30’s and he does similar things, he only calls when HE has problems, is misogynistic towards women, calling women he’s dated in the past bitches or c#&@, and I’ve bailed him out with money more times than I’d like in the last 3 years. He doesn’t live with me, but when I moved overseas to get married 3 years ago, he moved to the same country, another city about 2 hours by train, just for the adventure and because he fell in love with the capital city (at first), and he’s been here for 3 years even though he admittedly hates this country and continent. I honestly don’t know why he’s still here, but it’s been a huge pressure for me to be there for him, since we’re far away from the rest of our siblings.
    But even though I’ve been there for him, to help him with women problems, landlord problems, boss problems, and of course financially, he hasn’t been there for me and treats me condescendingly and sometimes just plain aggressively, to the point where my husband can’t look at him in the eye anymore. Recently, it escalated where I did tell him how I feel, before he stood up like he was going to physically attack me, and I’ve decided just not to speak to him any more.
    I come from a very large family, and in the past, our older sisters protected him/babied him and he acted the same with them, but they continued to enable his behavior & defend him, cause he’s the middle child or sensitive, or whatever excuse they have. I am very sorry for the author’s situation, but reading this let me know that I’m not alone.

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