Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Updates: “Scared of His Brother” Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today, we hear from “Scared of His Brother” whose boyfriend wouldn’t kick out his violent, alcoholic brother who was staying with them.

First of all, I want to thank you for your advice which was spot on. I informed my boyfriend that I would not be able to stay in the house while his brother (I’ll call him “Jim”) was living there. My boyfriend reluctantly agreed, and I went to stay with family. A couple days later a family meeting was called (which I did not attend) and the evidence was laid out against Jim, who claimed he was unaware that he was doing anything wrong. Jim then contacted me and told me that he was very sorry and that he had no idea that I was bothered by his behavior. He claimed he didn’t know we didn’t want him to have guests over; he said his “threats” against his in-laws were just his “dark humor” and that he didn’t mean anything by them. He swore he was back on the wagon and that, if I just told him exactly how I wanted him to co-habitate with us, he would follow my rules. He then asked that I return home because my boyfriend was “sad” that I was gone. Against my better judgement, your advice, and the advice of most of my family, I returned to the house.

The first week was actually really great. Jim was as helpful and friendly as he had been when he first moved in. He went to a couple job interviews and even got an offer. I was elated because the promise of a job meant he would have the money to move out. He asked if he could take me and my boyfriend out to celebrate and we agreed. While at the restaurant I noticed Jim spending an awful lot of time away from the table and up at the bar. He claimed this was because he knew the bartenders and hadn’t seen them in awhile. He returned to the table after one trip with a small cup filled with clear liquid. I asked what it was and he told me it was water. I was suspicious due to the size of the glass and the amount inside, and, when he left to go to the bathroom, I tasted it and discovered it was vodka. I informed my boyfriend (who up until then had been engrossed in conversation with a friend and not paying attention to what Jim was doing). We confronted him and demanded that he leave the restaurant. When we got home, I was ready to tell him to pack, but he addressed my boyfriend. He started crying, telling my boyfriend how much he loved him and how sorry he was, bringing up childhood stories and telling us both how we could “never understand what he is going through, because we are not addicts.” He begged for another chance. My boyfriend said ok, defending his decision to me by saying that Jim had a job now and we would ask him to leave after he got his first paycheck.

Three days after that incident Jim was keeping to himself. He claimed he was sick, and, when I asked about his new job, he told me they had pushed his start date back. He asked me if it would be ok for him to a have friend over to the house that afternoon. I told him he needed to make sure his friend was gone by 6:30 because I was having company, and he told me that was fine. The friend in question was a girl he had met on the internet. He didn’t even know her name. She didn’t show up to the house until well after 11:30 PM and didn’t leave until 1:00 PM the next day. I was livid and confronted Jim, who then went into his apology dance and making excuses. My boyfriend was also enraged, and we went to his mom that night to tell her he needed to go. She asked us to wait til he got his first paycheck, telling us she had already spoken to him and she could tell he was sorry. He promised he wasn’t going to invite anyone else over, he went to an AA meeting and blah, blah, blah. I felt powerless. My boyfriend agreed we would wait. I wanted to leave that night but didn’t, figuring that I could stick it out for another two weeks.

I wasn’t even a little bit surprised when Jim ended up not actually getting the job he was offered. He told us this crazy conspiracy-type tale about how he lost it, and he gave more apologies. We went back to his mother, who asked us to let him stay longer so he could get a new job. My boyfriend and I were fighting constantly because his behavior had not improved. He was still lying, still wasting money, and still not contributing. I demanded that he leave and go to a homeless shelter or half-way house, but my boyfriend wanted to honor his mother’s wishes and continue to support him until he got a job. I told him I didn’t think I could do that and started looking for new places to live. However, before I had the chance to move, Jim ended up making a really poor decision to be disrespectful and threatening towards me in front of my boyfriend, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We asked Jim to leave, much to his mother’s dismay (she blamed me of course). The funny thing is Jim found a new place to live in three days — a place that charges far more money a month than he ever offered us, and apparently he is doing really well.

I wish I could say that his departure has improved things, but, while I sleep better at night and don’t have strangers in and out of my house, I am not sure if the damage to my relationship can ever really be repaired. My boyfriend has become colder towards me since his brother left. Even though he was in agreement that Jim needed to leave, I wonder if he blames me. I feel fairly confident that his mother does, but I have just made it a habit to avoid her and the rest of his family for the time being. This experience has definitely made me question helping people. I feel I was a fairly charitable person in the past, but after this I don’t even want to help my own family for fear of being used. I still have anxiety about Jim returning. I am currently looking into finding a therapist to help me deal with these issues. I still love my boyfriend, and I don’t blame him for this. I know he was just trying to be a good brother and son. I don’t doubt that he would see a therapist with me, and hopefully that will help us get to a better place.

Thanks again for your advice, Wendy, as well as the advice and encouragement from your readers in comments.

 
Wow, that’s quite an update. I’m glad Jim has moved out and you’re safe, but I’m sorry there was so much drama and anxiety before it finally got to that point. It sounds like your boyfriend’s family is a real piece of work and he’s in an awkward position of needing to distance himself a bit and create boundaries with them. Hopefully, therapy and time will help with that and your relationship will survive the challenge. Best of luck!

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

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at [email protected] with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

You can follow me on Facebook here. And if you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

25 comments… add one
  • avatar

    lets_be_honest April 7, 2014, 1:07 pm

    Oh man, LW. This whole thing sucks. I’m really sorry.
    “This experience has definitely made me question helping people. I feel I was a fairly charitable person in the past, but after this I don’t even want to help my own family for fear of being used.”
    If it helps, I think a lot of us have been there and it blows. There’s really nothing good to say about it other than that I guess. Try not to become too jaded about it.
    Good luck with your boyfriend. I sympathize with both of you really, but hopefully he can get over “hurting” his brother and isn’t blaming you.

    Reply Link
  • Diablo

    Diablo April 7, 2014, 1:36 pm

    I’ve said this before in other contexts, but your bf’s first duty in YOUR HOME is to you and no one else. He is cold to you now, maybe blaming you for the blowback from his family? Eff all that. He owes you an APOLOGY for ever making you live with his alcoholic brother, for ever putting you in this situation in the first place. In my own life, I try to fix things, not just cut and run. But i think your bf’s attitude stinks. I doubt he deserves you. And i think you just got a sneak preview of what life with him and his family will be like. Are you sure he’s worth it? are you sure you aren’t worth more?

    Reply Link
    • sobriquet

      sobriquet April 7, 2014, 1:54 pm

      He does owe her an apology and I imagine that with some introspection and work on their relationship, it will come (or not… and then she’ll really know). This situation is still fresh and new and hurtful. If he’s still cold and hasn’t apologized in a few months, then yes, MTFOA. She’s gonna give him the benefit of the doubt first, though, I imagine. Family stuff is so complicated. This can be a great stepping stone in their relationship for figuring out priorities and family boundaries.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    Painted_lady April 7, 2014, 1:38 pm

    So, I hate to make you feel even worse than you already do, but….

    You notice your boyfriend only did something about his brother after he saw him threaten you, despite your telling him about it countless times. So that doesn’t speak well for any situation where it would be your word against someone’s in his family of origin.

    That’s kinda fucked up.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      lets_be_honest April 7, 2014, 1:43 pm

      You’re not wrong obviously and I really do agree with Diablo, buttt I’d have trouble with that kinda stuff too. Its hard to get used to your “new” family and putting them first. Plus I’m sure he thinks/wants to just help his brother, then add on mom’s guilt about it and ugh, I’m glad I’m not the brother. Its a tough balance I think. 20+ years with one #1 family and then BAM now they have to come second and your girlfriend has to come first. I don’t think the boyfriend handled it the right way, but I can sympathize with him.

      Reply Link
      • Diablo

        Diablo April 7, 2014, 2:08 pm

        We all do this type of stuff, but the tone is important. M puts up with some aspects of my family, but it is with the understanding that this is a favour she does for me, and which I return by enduring some aspects of her family. If you knew the number of times I’ve said something like “I agree with you 100%, but we’re gonna do X to placate my sister,OK? Thanks, I owe you one.” And the alcoholism and threats make the ante much higher than in my family’s garden-variety brand of kookiness.

        Link
      • avatar

        lets_be_honest April 7, 2014, 2:10 pm

        I like the way you put it. And yea, the safety issues here do make it much different (even if the brother doesn’t see it that way?).

        Link
      • theattack

        theattack April 7, 2014, 2:11 pm

        This isn’t supposed to be any sort of value judgment on anyone’s decisions, but I guess from what you just said it’s more stable to move in with people after everyone has started the transition from prioritizing nuclear family to the new family. Not that that has anything to do with this LW, and not that anyone can really predict how it’s going to actually go in these sorts of situations. It’s just much harder all around when someone doesn’t know where their loyalty is.

        Link
      • avatar

        lets_be_honest April 7, 2014, 2:17 pm

        Hmm, I don’t know. Honestly, even if I had been officially married, I still would’ve probably handled it the same way when I had to deal with this kinda stuff (mentioned below). Maybe not, but I think so. I’m sure its easier if there are many, many years in the relationship.

        Link
      • avatar

        Breezy AM April 9, 2014, 8:21 pm

        Honestly if that’s how you would handle it then you wouldn’t be ready to be married, IMHO. If you’re married, your spouse is your priority period, barring some kind of messed up fuckery on the part of your spouse. That doesn’t mean family of origin gets no love or respect. It means if you don’t honour spouse first you’re not grownup enough to be married, or shouldn’t be married, perhaps both.

        Link
  • sobriquet

    sobriquet April 7, 2014, 1:48 pm

    Oh wow, I’m glad he’s out. Try to refocus your thoughts on the positive. This is something your relationship CAN get through and be stronger for if you’re both willing to work on it. Try to remember that you were both in a really difficult, uncomfortable position regarding Jim.

    As far as how this is affecting your relationship, I went through something similar (though quite different) while living with my fiance and his brother and SIL last year. When we finally moved out of that toxic situation, his brother and SIL were a sore subject for me. My fiance and I made a vow to not talk about them whatsoever for at least a month. To me, that meant absolutely no mention of them in conversation. I didn’t want to know any updates. I didn’t want to hear their names in passing. And it really worked! My fiance told me nothing. They even got a new puppy during that timeframe (who had a habit of peeing on my fiance) and I didn’t hear about it until BIL told me himself.

    Having several weeks of both physical and mental space from them helped me clear my head and move past it. So maybe start there. Get some mental space from Jim. Try to go a month without talking/thinking/hearing about him. Then revisit it. This is something that you’ll need to address in your relationship, but it may be helpful to have a clearer head before you do so.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      lets_be_honest April 7, 2014, 1:52 pm

      I really like this advice. I’m thinking other’s may not, but I do. I had a family member staying with us for about a month and some stuff upset Peter and he felt disrespected. Prior to that, they got along really well (to the point I still think they’d be a better match haha). So it just sucked a lot, and I was defensive of the family member and obviously that didn’t sit too well (“you’re picking her side” kinda thing). I didn’t want to not bring up the family member because I felt like that was BS, but any time I did, it turned into like, reliving that time. So I stopped mentioning it and about a month later, it was water under the bridge and they are back to really liking each other.

      Reply Link
      • sobriquet

        sobriquet April 7, 2014, 2:02 pm

        I just know firsthand how difficult this kind of family stuff can be. Especially early in a relationship- I think it’s much easier after decades of marriage. You have to realize that the brother in this situation has been in the boyfriend’s life for decades longer than the girlfriend. I’m not saying that makes it right, it just makes it incredibly complicated in figuring out priorities. Throw in a guilt-tripping mother in the mix and I can see how this situation isn’t sitting well for either party. And I was the LW in a similar situation! I was like ‘RAWR BE ANGRY AT YOUR BROTHER’ and he was hesitant for obvious reasons. It sucked, be we worked through it and there’s no question that if we were put in the same situation now, it would go much differently.

        Link
  • avatar

    MsMisery April 7, 2014, 1:56 pm

    Codependents be codependent. Sounds like none of these people (in the boyfriend’s family) can function without “Jim’s” drama. Good luck with your relationship, LW, but this guy will always be a presence. Your bf will probably always be torn.

    Reply Link
  • katie

    katie April 7, 2014, 2:14 pm

    between the brother and the mother you have a very hard road in front of you, LW. i wouldnt make this particular issue your reason to draw a line in the sand- but my prediction is you will have to draw a line in the sand at some point. good luck…

    Reply Link
    • iwannatalktosampson

      iwannatalktosampson April 7, 2014, 3:46 pm

      That’s what I was thinking. I’m not saying people with shitty families are unlovable or not worth it, but I’m kind of saying that. Their are so many fish in the sea, I would never (anymore, haha, a lesson I learned the hard way) date someone with a fucked up family with shaky boundaries. It should never be about me vs. your family, and if it is the dynamic is already off.

      Reply Link
      • GatorGirl

        GatorGirl April 7, 2014, 3:56 pm

        Yeah, my mom married into a pretty toxic family and it’s been a hard road for her and my step dad. People with not so great families are definitely lovable, but they have to have clear boundaries.

        Link
      • katie

        katie April 7, 2014, 6:14 pm

        yep. jake’s family is… interesting. i wouldnt say toxic, he might, but there has never even been a question- not even a doubt, actually- to where his boundaries are. its one of his best qualities, actually, and its really because the boundaries arent for my benefit. they are for his benefit.
        .
        and then of course this also goes back to the “if you have a problem with your SO’s family you actually have a problem with your SO”- period, always, all the time.

        Link
  • avatar

    artsygirl April 7, 2014, 2:22 pm

    LW as I am sure you noticed – your BF’s brother was showing classic addict/abuser behavior. They do or say something horrible, apologize/make excuses/make promises, then there is a honeymoon period where everything is unicorn farts. The problem is, is that the honeymoon phase is a lie because ultimately the addict will return to form and the cycle will start again.

    Likely your BF’s mother is treating you poorly is because a) it is easier to blame you then to admit her son has a substance abuse problem and is fucking up his own life and b) when he moved out he seems to do better so in her mind it must be your fault that her precious baby acted out. Reality is that this good period is not likely to last. He is still not taking ownership of his addiction and how his actions are solely responsible for the state he is in. So sooner or later (and lets admit it is probably sooner) he is going to screw up. He will loose his job and/or get kicked out of his new place. Eventually he is going to hit rock bottom and hopefully his family will stop making excuses for him or allowing him to make excuses. I am sorry it is falling on you but hopefully you and your BF can work it out.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Leah April 7, 2014, 3:09 pm

    LW, I hope that once you’ve gotten some distance from this situation that you feel comfortable helping people again. Being charitable and kind to others are incredible traits. In the future, a good motto might be to help people who are also willing to help themselves. “Jim” not only refused to help himself, he was openly disrespecting and taking advantage of you. Not everyone who needs help with do that. I’d even hazard to say that MOST people wouldn’t! Addicts are selfish and irrational, though. There is probably no help that you or your boyfriend can give to this man that would make a difference. He can only really help himself, and he has to choose to do so.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    j2 April 7, 2014, 5:02 pm

    Change your locks, and do it now! You cannot know if he has a key. Even if he turned any he had back over, he could have had duplicates made.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      AmyP April 7, 2014, 8:59 pm

      Yes!!!!!

      This is very important. Do this as soon as possible.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    Kaluu April 8, 2014, 9:13 am

    Might want to start fresh. This guy may be a lost cause if he’s acting weird about YOU after the absurd things his mom said. I guess she thinks you should live with the drunkeness and Internet hook ups (he sounds like a John almost), so why doesn’t she do it? It’s HER son! Your man needs an epiphany or something. Maybe he needs you to dump him, his brother to then move back in and ruin his (your boyfriend’s) life, his parents then not to help him, to see clearly. But I don’t think he’s seeing clearly now, and that should concern you. It’s a bad thing that he has an “interesting” family, but what’s worse is that he couldn’t see the need for boundaries until you actually moved out and made a point. And now he’s still seeming a bit wishy washy. The hard thing about dating someone who has a family that you can’t embrace is that it can be unavoidable that they will resent you for seeing their family for what it is, or at least they will if they have not matured enough to see things clearly. It doesn’t sound like he’s on the same page as you completely yet.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Zanderbomb April 8, 2014, 9:59 am

    I don’t remember you addressing it, but was there a reason Brother couldn’t move in with Mom?

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Lucy April 8, 2014, 12:47 pm

    I haven’t read all the comments, so thus might be a repeat. But I strongly urge both you and your bf to attend some Al Anon meetings. It could be the difference between this episode breaking your relationship, or making it stronger.

    Reply Link

Leave a Comment