Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Sexist Brother Offends My Girlfriend and Me”

My girlfriend and I live together in a desirable city, and my older brother and his wife stayed with us for a couple weeks in late July. Our apartment is on the small side, so having guests, even just for a night or two, is a bit trying and stressful even without any added complications. While they were here, “Jim” and “Karen” (not their real names) didn’t offer to help with dishes or cover the cost of entertainment, and my brother was incredibly condescending to me at every turn (which, sadly, I expected). While that was frustrating, the real issue has to do with my brother’s attitude toward women.

During his visit, Jim expressed harsh opinions against every woman in his life (save for Karen) — he has a deeply conflicted relationship with our mother, and he straight-up hates our stepmother, our father’s caretaker, and his best friend’s wife. Within a few minutes of his arrival, Jim made a condescending remark about my girlfriend’s level of education (ironic, given that he failed out of college and she was on dean’s list almost every term). It swiftly became clear to both of us that Jim is a misogynist, something that wasn’t obvious to me while we were growing up.

To make matters worse, immediately following their visit, my girlfriend and I went to visit my father in my hometown. Jim lives nearby, and while he was over for dinner one night, he told our dad’s caretaker that my girlfriend can’t cook and that I “wasn’t being well-fed” — both lies, and lies he was in no position to tell as he and Karen wanted take-out every night they were here. Besides, I certainly don’t believe that it’s my girlfriend’s job to cook for me. As if to confirm my judgment, my stepmother has since informed us that Jim verbally abuses Karen. This behavior affected me, too — for several months when I was ten, my brother refused to call me by my name, opting instead to refer to me as “the little bitch.”

Jim has been calling and e-mailing often to invite himself back for another visit within the next couple of months. My girlfriend and I agree that we don’t want my brother in our home. How can we handle this? We’ve already tried to explain that we’ll be very busy in the coming months because we are both students, but Jim swears that he and Karen can get around the city on their own and won’t be in our way. Making matters worse for me, I was raised in a family of the sort that feels that hosting family members is a paramount duty and we were both told as children to always and in all circumstances have room for each other. The fact that I even considered — let alone decided on — not taking him would be considered shocking, and I’m not prepared for the fallout I expect if we tell Jim the truth — that my girlfriend and I are unwilling to put up with his rude behavior and sexist remarks in our home. If he comes here, I strongly suspect that things will get ugly between Jim and my girlfriend — there’s only so much crap she can take from him! — and I’m afraid of what Jim will say to other family members if she (or I) were to confront him about his misogyny. What should we do? — Unhappy Host

You have two decisions to make. The first, obviously, is whether to allow your brother and his girlfriend to stay with you. It sounds like you’ve already made that decision, but if you’re still on the fence, you need to weigh the worst-case scenarios of each option. If you tell your brother “no,” he may very well get angry with you and the decision could drive a wedge between you two. The rest of your family may take his “side,” though it sounds as if at least a couple of family members don’t have good relationships with him either, so it’s hard to imagine that they’d all jump on his anti-you bandwagon. On the other hand, if you decide to let him stay with you, you may drive a wedge between you and your girlfriend, who has made it clear she is uncomfortable around your brother. Furthermore, as you said, things could very likely get ugly between your brother and your girlfriend if he continues to push her buttons. And if things are ugly between them, you can bet you’re not going to walk away unscathed.

So, let’s say you make the (wise) decision to turn down your brother’s request to stay with you. You’ll then have to decide what reason to give. You’ve already tried the “we’re really busy” excuse with little success, so that leaves you a few options: tell the full truth; tell a partial truth; lie. If you thought there was any chance in hell that you boyfriend would be receptive to the full truth, that would probably be the way to go. Maybe hearing from you that he comes across as pushy, misogynistic, and ungrateful would be an incentive to make some changes. However, based on what you’ve shared in your letter, it’s hard to imagine him taking the full truth well. So, you could lie to him, but I’m not sure exactly what you’d say that would: a) be believable; and b) keep away now and in the future. I suppose if he’s allergic to cats, you could always adopt a couple furry friends, which would relieve you of the burden of hosting him for at least the next 15 years or so.

But, let’s go with the second, perhaps more practical, option: tell the partial truth. The partial truth is that you and your girlfriend both felt put-out by his last visit and like he didn’t pitch in enough to help around the house or pay for the entertainment. Not only can your nerves not handle another visit from his and his girlfriend, but your wallet can’t either. In addition, you took offense to the way your brother spoke to and about your girlfriend both while he was staying with you and when you saw him during your hometown visit. While your brother can argue that he isn’t misogynistic — that can be a subjective thing, after all — he can’t argue that he didn’t offend you. Feeling offense is your emotion. Your brother can’t tell you that’s not how you felt. He can say he didn’t intend to offend you; he can even apologize (let’s hope he does). But you own that emotion and you should use it as the reason you can’t let your brother stay with you.

When you tell this truth, you need to also be very clear that you still love and care for him as a brother, that you would be happy to hang out while he’s in town, and help him find a suitable place to stay, but that you have loyalty now to the woman in your life and that means protecting her from feeling uncomfortable in her own home. Keep in mind, that even this partial truth isn’t likely to go over well with your brother. He’ll probably get angry and hold a grudge. But in a situation like this, there is no perfect solution. There isn’t an answer that will make everyone happy. So, weigh the worst-case scenarios, practice integrity, stand up for what you believe in, and choose the option that makes the most sense for you, regardless of how others are going to react.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

67 comments… add one
  • avatar

    justpeachy September 13, 2011, 3:17 pm

    While I think Wendy’s advice is good in theory, it sounds like your brother will try to find a way around any sort of half-truth (“We can’t afford to entertain you like last time.” “Well, you don’t need to entertain us.”) If you choose to go that route, I’d almost pick something large enough that gets EVERYONE out of the apartment. Isn’t the weekend your brother is coming a good weekend to get the apartment fumigated or painted and you’ll actually be staying somewhere else?

    The problem is not just this visit, it’s the decision you have to make about the future of all your relationships. You are being forced to choose between your girlfriend and your brother. It sounds like you want to choose your girlfriend, but in choosing her, you may be alienating the rest of your family as well. From your letter, it sounds like you’re a mature, nice guy who’s been put in an ugly situation, but I think you’ll make the best decision.

    (While no one here can tell you who you should pick, pick your girlfriend.)

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    • avatar

      MissDre September 13, 2011, 3:22 pm

      Not that it matters, but I think the LW is a girl. She (or maybe I’m wrong) said that her brother called her “the little bitch” as a child.

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      • Jess

        Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com September 13, 2011, 3:24 pm

        hmm, I took that as a jab like when one man calls another “a girl” –something that would be especially likely coming from a misogynist.

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      • avatar

        thyme September 13, 2011, 3:26 pm

        Disagree. Guys call each other “little bitch” to be mean all the time.

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        thyme September 13, 2011, 3:26 pm

        mean guys, that is.

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      • avatar

        MissDre September 13, 2011, 3:29 pm

        Could be. I just thought it was a girl writing, because the LW used “little bitch’ as an example of how the brother hates women.

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      • avatar

        amber September 13, 2011, 3:34 pm

        I think this definitely makes me think the LW was a guy: “Jim expressed harsh opinions against every woman in his life (save for Karen).” The LW doesn’t mention that he expressed any opinion against him except for the example of verbal abuse from his childhood.

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      • avatar

        MissDre September 13, 2011, 3:37 pm

        I guess.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Wendy September 13, 2011, 4:29 pm

        The LW is a man, FYI.

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      • avatar

        LTC039 September 13, 2011, 4:32 pm

        I thought the same.

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      • avatar

        justpeachy September 13, 2011, 3:26 pm

        The only reason I assumed the LW was a man because, from the description of the classy, classy brother, if the LW was a woman, and a lesbian, I can’t imagine they’d have any sort of relationship at all.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 September 13, 2011, 3:31 pm

        That is definitely a term I have heard guys use for other guys. I could be a girl, but don’t base it on that phrase, because that can be a common phrase used for guys who think they are much more manly than everyone else. That and the way he expects the GF to do the cooking, makes me think that there is a man and a women in this relationship.

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      • bagge72

        bagge72 September 13, 2011, 3:49 pm

        Umm err, I could be a girl should be it could be a girl.

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      • avatar

        Riefer September 13, 2011, 3:39 pm

        I think “the little bitch” was a way to emasculate the LW. I assumed the LW is a man, and the reason is that if the LW was a woman, I’m pretty sure the letter would have included homophobic remarks from the older brother. He doesn’t sound like the kind of person who would be ok with same-sex relationships, and he certainly doesn’t sound like someone who would hold back on his opinion of them.

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      • avatar

        TheOtherMe September 13, 2011, 4:26 pm

        I also thought the LW was a girl ( woman ).

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  • Jess

    Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com September 13, 2011, 3:22 pm

    Just one comment/observation which is that I think its refreshing that we’re getting this letter from the boyfriend/brother and not his girlfriend. I just mean that its nice that when you consider your partner and take proactive steps to safeguard each other from negative characters, especially the ones you’re related to!

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    • theattack

      theattack September 13, 2011, 5:38 pm

      Amen!

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  • avatar

    iseeshiny September 13, 2011, 3:24 pm

    I can’t get over the fact that he got away with calling his sister “the little bitch” even once, let alone a couple of months. We weren’t even allowed to call each other “dummy” and real cursing would’ve gotten our hides tanned into leather.

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    • avatar

      iseeshiny September 13, 2011, 3:27 pm

      Oh, or brother, I think it is a male LW, actually. Because of the whole girlfriend not cooking thing.

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      • avatar

        MissDre September 13, 2011, 3:29 pm

        You could be right. Maybe I assumed the LW was a girl because of the “little bitch” comment but also I felt the tone of the letter was that of a woman. So I just assumed they were a lesbian couple. I know it doesn’t matter but now I’m curious!

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest September 13, 2011, 3:56 pm

        I thought that too.

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      • Lyra

        L September 13, 2011, 5:58 pm

        Wendy clarified up a few threads that the LW is a man.

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  • avatar

    thyme September 13, 2011, 3:24 pm

    I almost believe that my boyfriend is the LW here, and he just changed a few details of the story. (But I’d be VERY surprised if he’s a DW reader 🙂

    We visited his older brother a couple weeks ago. I’ve been around brother a few times, but he’s always been sober, and although he constantly picks on my bf, he’s always been very nice to me. Well, turns out brother is a misogynistic and racist ass when he’s drunk, and the stuff he said that night about girls, and specifically about what girls of my race “like to do,” made me want to gouge his eyeballs out and cry. My bf and his mother have warned me many times that brother can be a huge ass, but I guess I didn’t expect him to be to sexist and racist kind.

    My bf was very, very embarrassed, but he didn’t confront his bro because he knew from many past experiences that it would provoke him to start a physical fight, and it would have been way more drama than it was worth.

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    • katie

      katie September 14, 2011, 2:44 am

      unfortunately, all you can do to those kind of people is ignore them… i have known them as well, and they are terrible, but theres little you can do to change their mind. i blame a poor upbringing, so it interesting and refreshing that your boyfriend is so different from his brother!

      also, liquor has a great way of bringing around the “real” of people… case in point.

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 September 13, 2011, 3:37 pm

    I personally would go with the whole truth, but that is just me, because I’m not afraid of my family, or how they would think of me for standing up for something. It’s your brother, and if you can’t tell him what an ass he is being than who can you tell. From the sound of you letter, it seems a lot of people feel this way about him as well, and you will probably get a lot more support than you think (unless they are afraid of him). I really feel you need to tell him that not everyone in the world feels the way he does, and that you can’t make him change, but he can at least keep his thoughts to himself, especially as an invited guest in your home, and if he doesn’t like that then he isn’t welcome there.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow September 13, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Wendy, I love the last couple sentences of your advice, and will keep it in mind next time I’m faced with a problem that has no “perfect” solution.

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  • avatar

    cdobbs September 13, 2011, 4:05 pm

    Your brother is rude, plain and simple, you should be under no obligation to have him stay with you (brother or not). He is YOUR guest, you are opening your house to him, if he can’t be gracious then he does not deserve to be in your home. As far as what other people and your family think, just tell them exactly what you wrote in your letter, i doubt any of them would want a house guest who behaved in such a way.

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  • avatar

    SGMcG September 13, 2011, 4:15 pm

    I don’t think the potential fallout would be as bad as you fear if you told the whole truth LW. It sounds like that you have potential family allies in your corner if you tell your brother that you don’t want him at your place. Rather than make it about his disrespecting your girlfriend (which is very admirable and a good reason!), treat it as though his presence in your place disrespected you.

    Besides bringing up the fact that he didn’t offer to help with dishes or cover the cost of entertainment, emphasize that even though he argues that his presence won’t bother you, tell him that it’s too soon to say how hectic the school schedule would be and that you’d rather be safe than sorry and do not plan on having ANY guest stay over the school year unless it’s a designated break period, even if they’re family. Remind him about the size of your apartment and how small it can be. Call him out on his condescending treatment of you (not girlfriend, but YOU alone) and let him know that having his presence in your home makes you uncomfortable. If your brother is insistent on coming to the point of bullying, call on the allies to assist you in backing off his requests.

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  • Budj

    Budjer September 13, 2011, 3:16 pm

    I’m just a little weary about bringing the gf into the discussion. I mean you probably have to address it ion some way as that was a major part of the problem, but could that just cause him to direct all the negativity at the LW’s gf? Just food for thought – sticky situation.

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow September 13, 2011, 3:35 pm

      I thought about that too… But Wendy did tell the LW to “own” the feeling of offense, so to speak… Like, *I* took offense to the way you talK to/about my girlfriend. The brother can still put some coltrane on the GF but it might be to a lesser extent if the LW words it carefully.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow September 13, 2011, 3:51 pm

        I have no idea what “coltrane” was supposed to be… Blame, I think. Haha.

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      • cmary

        CMF September 13, 2011, 6:02 pm

        Haha, I was like, “wow, that’s a new word…I’ll have to google it.” Auto correct makes me laugh way too hard.

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      • Budj

        Budjer September 13, 2011, 3:37 pm

        you are right, I misread…my comment below pretty much echoes what wendy said with a little more of my personal flavor as one of many male progeny in my family.

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    • Budj

      Budjer September 13, 2011, 3:35 pm

      I have thought about it more. If the LW is a dude like I am assuming from the cooking comment then the guy needs to “bro” this out with his brother and nip it….don’t talk about his gf’s feelings (not that they don’t matter) but focus the discussion on how HE finds the way his brother talks to his gf offensive and in general finds his attitude towards women despicable. That way blame can’t be misplaced and if his brother is going to come around he would respond to that…I don’t see how you can be family for so long and let this go for so long….really…I’d open hand slap one of my brother’s of they were pulling that crap.

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      • avatar

        amber September 13, 2011, 3:40 pm

        Well some families just sort of expect you to ignore the issue. They’re family right, you always choose them and don’t ever say anything negative. (at least that’s the mentality I’m imagining.) Almost like the family was in denial that the brother was a jerk b/c they didn’t want to deal with it….

        I like you suggestion though. Using the I feel this way, takes it off the brother and the gf and puts the issue back on the lw.

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      • Budj

        Budjer September 13, 2011, 3:49 pm

        Sometimes you run out of throw rugs to stuff things under! I think in most families that are brotherly dominated the conflicts happen and are over with…I equate to boys that are fighting in the school yard one day and best friends the next…we are used to just hashing out an issue and being done with it.

        I would definitely sort this one out – it is going to be tough to even have a relationship with both his gf and his brother if this keeps up. Obviously the right choice is to choose the gf if they see a future together and even if this relationship putters out maybe his brother will come around with the next one.

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  • avatar

    LTC039 September 13, 2011, 4:16 pm

    I think your brother needs to be called out on his behavior. He seems like a person that goes through life getting away with things bc for some reason no one ever puts him in his place.
    My brother-in-law is just like this. He is constantly saying things he shouldn’t, acts like a child, & rarely ever does anyone call him out. If they ever do, he gets all pist & stops talking to them, threatens to cut off all ties with them, etc… I’ve learned to deal with him bc I have been dating his brother (quite seriously now) for over 3 yrs, but I don’t allow him to cross the line with me. I’m pretty sure your brother is damaged from some experience in his life (you mentioned your mother & him don’t get along) & that’s why he feels the need to belittle women ona constant basis. But he is an adult & he cannot behave that way. Tell him you & your girlfriend will not tolerate that kind of attitude & behavior in your home & that is why he cannot come back for another visit. Tell him his words/ constant insults are hurtful & extremely disrespectful & both of you refuse to expose yourselves to that once again. Until he learns to act appropriately & with respect he is not welcome in your home. The doors will always be open for him as soon as he ceases that behavior.
    He needs to know his attitude is unacceptable. If his wife won’t stand up for herself, that’s their issues, but you need to make it known (on your behalf) that it’s not OK with YOU.

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    • avatar

      MiMi September 13, 2011, 5:07 pm

      I totally agree with you, LTC! Enough with the pussy-footing around someone who isn’t acting like a brother to you – call a spade a spade and let the family “expectations” fall where they may. You can’t jolly along or placate such a personality and still retain your self-respect and your girlfriend.

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      • avatar

        LTC039 September 13, 2011, 5:24 pm

        Exactly! Why should the LW & his gf have to subject themselevs to that kind of treatment for the sake of family expecatations! Just bc you are family does not mean you can disrespect one another. This guy’s behavior is out of line!

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  • avatar

    Sarah September 13, 2011, 4:42 pm

    You know why your brother still acts like misogynist bully douche extraordinaire after all these years? Because you let him. You, your family, his girlfriend, every time you don’t take a stand when he intimidates you into doing things for him and let him insult the women around him. It should make perfect sense that he keeps pushing you to do things for him even though a decent person would have gotten the hint by now that you are uncomfortable with it, how the hell else do you think he gets anybody to be around him and do things for him? His winning personality?

    This is how bullies work. They find people, they bully people, and they keep the people who are willing to stay bullied in their lives and hate the others. The good news is he can’t hate you, you’re family. He can distance himself from you, sure, but no matter how hard he tries not to care, he will always abide by your opinion of him much more than he would with other people. You want a good relationship with him? Define the terms. Make it clear that you’re not planning on giving him stuff or a place to crash because of his disrespectful behavior, but that you would love to get together to discuss the issue.

    When/if he apologizes for his rude behavior and you and your girlfriend feel better about inviting him over, STOP SPOILING HIM. Guess what? The little asshole stays over and wants take out food? You feed him the dinner you and your girlfriend planned to make. Does he want to go to a baseball game? He hands over the cash for his ticket before he leaves the room. If he doesn’t like it, he can hoof it the Ramada. Keep being invested in his life without allowing him to create a negative cycle between you two, and he will eventually have to adjust his behavior.

    Also, on a personal note, my dad is from a very misogynist family, and they would make very disparaging remarks about women to, and about, my mother. My mother used to beg my father to stand up for her when it happened, and my dad had a choice: either risk insulting his family and creating a scandal by confronting them, or keep quiet when it happened and let my mother fend for herself. In the end, he chose to keep quiet, because he didn’t want to be the one to cause drama in a family that feeds on it. It disappointed my mother a little, yes, but she understood his intentions.

    JK! It actually made her DESPISE my father for his cowardice and it was one of the major contributors to their massively bitter and miserable DIVORCE!

    SUPPORT YOUR GIRLFRIEND.

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    • avatar

      ktfran September 13, 2011, 5:04 pm

      Sarah,

      I think you hit the nail on the head. Everyone, including the LW, is enabling this guy. He won’t change unless people stand up to him. I was honestly suprised to hear he was married, the brother, not the LW. Yikes for the wife!

      Oh, and I LOVED your JK response. I laughed.

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      • Budj

        Budjer September 13, 2011, 5:08 pm

        I think you hit the nail on the head with the enabling comment – that is exactly what has been going on here…I think it’s not so much supporting the girlfriend in this case (indirectly, yes) as it is not enabling your brother to be a huge douche to every woman he knows anymore.

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    • avatar

      artsygirl September 13, 2011, 5:06 pm

      A millions thumbs up – if you are not willing to step up for your GF and support her from people you bring into your lives then you don’t deserve her. It doesn’t matter if it is friends or family – your GF would not hang out with your brother except for the fact that HE IS YOUR BROTHER.

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      • avatar

        silver_dragon_girl September 13, 2011, 5:24 pm

        Totally agree. I was just coming by to write that if I were the LW, I would tell my brother to show respect or GTFO, but you said it much better 🙂

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      • avatar

        Christy September 14, 2011, 6:18 pm

        Exactly! Someone being related to you doesn’t mean they get to disrespect other people in your life.

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    • Lyra

      L September 13, 2011, 6:02 pm

      Sarah, you rock. That response was perfect.

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    • avatar

      Kristen September 14, 2011, 11:59 am

      “He can hoof it to the Ramada.”

      Love.

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  • avatar

    AKchic September 13, 2011, 4:46 pm

    Were it me (and I’ve dealt with this sort of thing from uncles, an ex-husband, and ex-inlaws), I would be honest. Even half-honest is better than outright lying and avoidance.

    The female contingent of your relatives probably already KNOW that your brother is an ass. You won’t hear a peep from any of them who have had to put up with his crap over the years.
    Your brother is a bully. Plain and simple. Stand up to him and don’t take it anymore. Call him out on his BS when he does it (if it’s not a petty time to do it like during a wedding). Be calm, matter-of-fact and do not engage in any fights. Just tell him that he’s acting like an ass, that his behavior is uncalled for and disrespectful to So and So and leave it at that. He’ll get tired of being embarassed in front of others enough times that he’ll either stop going to the events or will modify his behavior.

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  • avatar

    artsygirl September 13, 2011, 5:01 pm

    LW – families can be a bitch. You unfortunately don’t get to choose them and despite sharing genetic material and upbringing it is amazing how different siblings can be.

    I imagine your brother thinks you believe the same things, otherwise he would not make the comments to you. Racists, sexists, etc know that their opinions are not acceptable to society at large so they will only express them when they think they are around like minded individuals. Your letter indicates that your brother is a bully and has been one since your childhood. Do you want him coming around?

    While only you can decide how to deal with this situation, you do need to deal with it. Being vague about having them stay at your place is not reading loud enough for him to hear so you will need to get explicit. You should also say that you don’t appreciate the comments he has made about your girlfriend and women in general. I would not say that your GF does not want him at the apartment because that will allow him to pull a victim card and reinforce his stance on women. I can hear the comments now: “Little Brother’s girlfriend is a raging feminist bitch who has him pussy whipped. She won’t let him be a man and make decisions…” (continuous caveman rant). YOU don’t want him in your place and YOU are related to him. Good luck and I hope there is an update.

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  • avatar

    maddie September 13, 2011, 5:02 pm

    if you want to avoid the issue, but not have him stay with you, tell him your neighbors have a bedbug infestation.

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  • avatar

    maddie September 13, 2011, 5:04 pm

    If you want to avoid the issue, yet not have him as a guest, tell him your neighbors have a bedbug infestation.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie September 13, 2011, 4:38 pm

    I have no siblings so it’s easy for me to say that this brother doesn’t deserve the privilege of living with you. A confrontation is inevitable, thus being prepared for it is essential. Pick out some neutral location and tell him what his behavior is causing. Maybe, just maybe, it will lead to his taking responsibility for his actions. Emphasis that a positive outcome is your goal and that you have a valid need to protect the relationship with him and your GF which you will pursue both with vigor. The fact that he will be a part of your life forever means you have to set parameters for being in his company. If it at your home, no drinking and if he doesn’t like the meal that’s offered, excuse himself and hit KFC or whatever. If it’s at someone else’s home and he starts up, excuse yourself and leave. You can’t control him but you can and must control how and where you interact with him.

    I’ve come in contact with this exact type of brother and was put into the the role of protecting my GF from that misogynist. He was the brother of a neighbor whose wife was one of his targets and the neighbor kicked his ass out. To nobodies surprise he assumed a victim stance. Never saw or heard from him again nor wish to.

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  • avatar

    honeybeenicki September 13, 2011, 6:04 pm

    As someone who has recently dislodged myself from horrible sibling relationships, I would advise you to give it to him straight. The reasons for my severing ties with 2 of my siblings are way different than yours, but overall the same principles applied. I would make myself stressed out and just plain sick thinking about the next time I’d have to see them and deal with their BS, so ultimately I told them a) what the issue was and b) that I was done.

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  • avatar

    Unhappy Host September 13, 2011, 6:40 pm

    Hi all! This is the LW. Thank you all, especially Wendy, for your advice.

    Part of the problem, which was too complicated to include in the original letter, is that a lot of the family that he would actually respect is practically set up to support him. For instance, my father, who is helping me pay for my education, is older and has designated my brother as the arbiter of all of his accounts–so, God forbid, if my father passed away, my financial situation and educational future would be in my brother’s hands. And while my father isn’t a misogynist himself, he’s the person I learned procrastination and avoidance *from,* so I know he would do his best to prevent any and all confrontation from taking place. Moreover, while my brother and mother have a very fraught and complicated relationship, I am fairly certain that she would beseech me to try to endure him, as he is my only brother (a phrase much heard in my childhood). The other allies I’d be able to rally–my step-mother, for instance–are already my allies but also don’t really have any weight with him cause he doesn’t care. And, it really doesn’t help that despite my best efforts my family does not seem to see my girlfriend as a permanent fixture in my life (rest assured, insofar as I’m choosing anyone, I’m choosing her). So, overall, a rather sticky situation for me. And, having a confrontation before, or “bro-ing it out,” though desirable, are not really possibilities, in that he is significantly older and stronger than me, making it hard for us to relate on that level.

    While I had decided not to have much of a relationship with my brother even before I met my girlfriend (made easy by the fact we live beyond driving distance), you all have helped me set my mind to confront him, though I still would like to avoid him staying with me at this particular juncture (it is also a REALLY inconvenient time, even without a misogynist in the apartment). I want to wait for something specific to happen to begin the confrontation, and I need to make sure my parents will support me, rather than him, both of which will take some time. So, I guess what I’m asking is, given what I’ve added, do any of you have any further advice?

    And, by the way, I will definitely be writing an Update once things have shaken out.

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      LTC039 September 13, 2011, 6:55 pm

      While it sucks your brother has a lot of control in your family, I still would not allow his behavior. In the event (hopefully not!) that your father passes & your brother wants to be a heartless douche & forbid you from using funds to pay for school, I’d tell him to “keep it” (but in a much ruder way) & take out loans. Yeah, they suck, but I guess my pride is too much to allow a person to disrespect me on a consant basis just for money & family ethics.
      I’m really glad you’re making the decision to take a stand & I really feel the conversation should be brought up now that he asking to stay at your house again. The longer you wait the harder it will be & you risk blowing up on him one day when he REALLY crosses the line (which would have to be really really bad as he’s already said some pretty awful things). If he’s already said all these awful things infront of everyone, including your stepmother who pointed it out, & your family hasn’t done much, I don’t think waiting for the “right moment” is going to make a big difference. A well thought out, semi-planned conversation now I think will be sufficient. You also risk losing your gf, I’m sure there’s only so much abuse from your brother she can take, whether or not he’s allowed in your home.
      Good luck to you!

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      Amy P September 13, 2011, 7:58 pm

      Good heavens, that’s much worse. Can anything be done about your dad’s arrangements? You sound much too mature to be under your brother’s thumb.

      He’s totally using you as a hotel–if you were living in a less glamorous area, there’s no way that you’d be seeing this much of him.

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      Sarah September 13, 2011, 11:00 pm

      I guess…I see where you’re coming from with regard to wanting your parents to back you up, but this is part of being a grown-up. “Well, Mom, I certainly do know that he is my only brother, and that relationship is very important to me. At the same time, I don’t let anyone in my life treat me like this, and that’s also really important. I want to have a good relationship with my only brother, and I don’t think the status quo qualifies. I appreciate your input, but this is a line I have to draw.” “Well, Dad, I was hoping to avoid a big blow-out as well, but Rachel and I really aren’t comfortable with him staying here given how he acted the last time. Unfortunately, he wants to stay here again and it is just not going to happen, so any conflict that arises out of that is something we are all just going to have to deal with in our own ways.”

      Also, yo, anytime you have houseguests for “a couple weeks,” they need to scale way back on future requests to stay over. And if they don’t, you are well within your rights to say, “I’m really sorry, it’s just not going to work,” over and over and over again. “Oh, but it’s only for two weeks, not three.” “I’m really sorry, it’s just not going to work.” “Oh, but your school is bullshit and we won’t be a bother.” “I’m really sorry, it’s just not going to work.” “Oh, but we won’t expect you to go out with us etc.” “I’m really sorry, it’s just not going to work.” Etc. Learning how to set boundaries, especially with family, is one of those things that helps you feel more confident in future conflicts and problem situations, because it reinforces your maturity and makes everyone take you seriously as an independent adult–they can’t just treat you how they would want to based on preexisting historic schemas about your role in the family. When you truly set boundaries, it jolts people into a new frame of reference viz. you in their lives. The road can be bumpy, but it’s totally worth it.

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      kf September 13, 2011, 11:43 pm

      In addition to what the others have said, remember that you’re an adult, which means your financial situation and educational future are in YOUR HANDS, full stop, regardless of whether your father is currently helping you or not.

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      Painted_lady September 13, 2011, 11:45 pm

      Jeez, LW, that sucks. A lot. My brother is a misogynist asshole, but he’s younger, my parents are not the avoidant types, and I’m also the financially responsible one of the two of us. I get some of what you’re saying, though. My parents want to see the good in him and keep giving him more chances, so while no one defends his behavior, I am subjected to it at family gatherings where he consistently has some sort of drama that makes it aaaaalll about him and how terrible his life is (due to poor choices, but whatever).

      I will say that I strongly encourage you to talk to your dad if you can. Explain to him what you’re dealing with and the reasoning behind your fears of standing up to him. Granted, my parents don’t tolerate my brother’s behavior in the moment, but their desire to give him a second (and eighty-second) chance led to my occasionally getting the shaft because they would cancel plans with me or an evening would be ruined because they would invite him to dinner without telling me, and he would run late or “have to” bring four friends along who made everyone uncomfortable. Hell, my mom and I had plans for a spa weekend one summer, and she called to let me know plans had changed and she was taking my brother river tubing, but I was welcome to come, too. I finally lost my patience and let them know that while I admired their spirit of forgiveness, I kind of resented that I was getting shafted for being the child who never raised a fuss. I also pointed out that while he’s my only brother (my mom’s fond of that one as well), I’m his only sister. It was unfair of them to always appeal to my better nature simply because I’m the only one who has a better nature at this point – my brother is just shy of twenty, so there’s hope left.

      It didn’t make all the difference in the world, but it helped, both in that I had more of a voice in my family and I think it also helped my parents come to terms with who my brother is at this point. Maybe that approach will help you, too. If your dad is the avoidant type, he is more than likely just hoping you’re okay with the situation and assuming you are because it sounds like you say very little, which is my style as well. He won’t offer anything up voluntarily because he doesn’t want to rock the boat, so you’re going to have to do a little rocking for him to even acknowledge the situation.

      Beyond that, I would still say you should confront your brother and make it about you, not your girlfriend. Obviously, there’s a lot on the line, but how much is your self-respect worth? This is not going to be the last time he’ll throw his weight around, and how far into adulthood are you willing to cater to his tantrums? People have put themselves through school before without assistance from family, and it may be worth saving yourself the humiliation, if that’s what it comes down to.

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      SGMcG September 14, 2011, 12:03 am

      Wait…your dad designated your brother as the custodian of his finances? As well as designated him as his legal guardian? All this, without your Mother’s OK? I’m sorry LW, but it sounds like the perfect scenario for textbook elder abuse. I’m not saying that your brother falls into that category, yet it occurs more when one person in the family assumes control for an older relative in ALL aspects of decision making.

      You know, if your brother’s manipulation worries you that much, why haven’t you talked to your Dad about a will/last wishes? I know, it’s all morbid to bring up, but if you approach it from the angle that you are genuinely concerned that the worries associated with disbursing an estate may be too much for one person, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Besides, how do you know for certain that your brother will be an executor of the will?

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        Unhappy Host September 14, 2011, 10:53 am

        My parents are divorced, so my mom isn’t really involved in the decision making process. My father has told me that he is naming my brother as executor of the will (my dad is older—in his seventies—so this is something we’ve discussed many times)—we have several older half-siblings, and my brother is responsible for carrying out the wishes of my father’s will. Part of the reason is that my brother already has a hand in my dad’s finances—they have shared accounts, so it’s just easier that way—and the other part is that my brother is the only family member living anywhere near my dad (other than my step-mother, who has been with him for several years although they decided they’ll never actually get married). As far as I know, my dad is depending on me to make funeral arrangements and all that. I have a better relationship with our half-siblings than my brother does, so I’m in a better position to negotiate with them about where and when all of that will happen. My much older half-brother who is a doctor has and will always be the medical decision maker in the family. Overall, I think control over my father still rests mostly in his hands, and I imagine it will until he becomes ill or mentally incapacitated in some way (thankfully he is in wonderful health and he’s very mentally functional—he still works a full time job and is very active)—after that, the only thing my brother will have power in is finances, so I’m not terribly concerned about elder-abuse. (Though it is certainly something to think about, so I’ll keep it in mind—thank you for bringing it up).

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      6napkinburger September 14, 2011, 11:43 am

      You need to talk to your father. “Dad, I have something really serious to talk to you about. I realized something is very wrong. John asked to come stay with me again, and I realized I could not say no because I’m scared that, should anything happen to you, I would be financially cut off because I know you have made him executor of your estate. This is bad, dad, this is really bad. I should be able to talk to my brother without fear that he will economically devestate me sometime in the future. Don’t you see how that is a terrible way for me to live? Can we discuss setting up a sort of trust for my education, so I don’t live with this sense of impending doom if I offend John?”

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  • Lyra

    L September 13, 2011, 6:47 pm

    For the sake of women everywhere, please please PLEASE put your brother in his place. You sound like a great guy and choosing between your brother and your girlfriend is a crappy decision no matter what the issue, but my vote is tell him straight out why you don’t want him over anymore. Stand up for your girlfriend, your brother’s wife, women everywhere. Tell him you don’t appreciate the way he has treated your girlfriend and that he needs to get his act together. I agree with above comments that you need to keep your girlfriend out of it–don’t ask her to do the confrontation. She will greatly appreciate being left out of this situation.

    It’s a whole different issue that he was totally mooching off of you while he was there. As a student I’m sure you don’t have much extra cash floating around, so ask him to stop being a parasite and pay for his own freakin’ meals/entertainment. If he can afford to go on a mini vacation to visit you, he can afford to pay for food.

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    meaghan September 13, 2011, 7:07 pm

    Break the cycle of enabling that’s going on in your family. You are letting him know its okay by not standing up, and you’re going to pass that onto future generations. Stand up now, and set an example for your family.

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    wendyblueeyes September 13, 2011, 7:40 pm

    What’s wrong with putting on your big boy pants? Just tell your brother that his days of bullying you, and/or your girlfriend are over, that you are all grownups now, and you don’t have to put up with his rudeness just because it makes him feel superior. Once he realizes that he can’t bully you anymore, he won’t. Every time something rude comes out of his mouth, call him on it. He will either stop, or you will stop interacting with him. End of story.

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  • katie

    katie September 14, 2011, 2:51 am

    LW, all i would say to this situation is that if you dont speak up and try to stop this terrible behavior, who will? it seems that everyone in your family is either scared of him, or scared to create a scene, and so everyone just avoids the subject. as Sarah pointed out extremely well, this is not helping in the slightest.

    grow a pair, and stand up for yourself! stand up for everyone else in the family that is too scared to speak up. you may be a lone voice in his head, but atleast there will be some kind of voice that causes him to question himself and his actions (i hope anyway)….

    besides, if you dont say anything, you will forever regret it. you will think back on the now second time that he is going to visit you, and will just be thinking, oh i should have said this! or this! i could’ve said no when he said this and this!! get everything off your chest and live without regrets- and live around the kind of people YOU want to surround yourself with, not abusive bullies who just do/say what they want and nobody stands up to them and tells them to stop.

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    Bossy Italian Wife September 14, 2011, 11:38 am

    I have a brother who is also rude, offensive and has caused a lot of grief for our family as well as for my husband and I. Being Italian, hosting family members is an expectation, so I totally understand where LW is coming from. However, you are not your family, and you have to decide what is best for you.

    In this situation, I feel that you should definitely be honest with your brother about how deeply he has offended you, but I certainly wouldn’t do it in person, or over the phone. On this one, I would kick it old school and write a letter. This way you can clearly state the way you feel without having to deal with your brother’s attitude and it gives him the chance to process what you have said without pure reaction.

    Tell him you would love to be able to enjoy a closer relationship with him, and express your concern for his lack of respect for women. Tell him how important your relationship with your girlfriend is, and that when he is in your home that he has to respect your rules and your relationship.

    My guess is that when you give him this letter, the issue of whether or not he will come and visit will be put on the back burner. At that point, the ball will be in his court and he can decide how to proceed. He may get really mad; he may say things about you to the family. But you cannot allow your girlfriend to be disrespected in her own home and that is that.

    Also… two weeks?! My god, my husband and I would never be able to handle TWO WEEKS with our families! We have a three day rule when it comes to [most] guests. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but two weeks is WAY too long!

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