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.
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