Strained Relationship with Brother

Hopefully some of my FT friends can give me insight on how to handle my brother whom I love. Both my parents are deceased and he and I are the only family left. The problem is he cannot tolerate people of a different race, color, or sexual orientation. He's also had 3 different women divorce him and after 20 years is still very bitter. I myself have been divorced, but I know there are more good men than bad. My brother has lived in the same city all his life and worked for himself. We now live in the same city, but I've lived most of my life in a large city interacting, working with, and been friends with all races and people with different lifestyles.

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Nearly every time I see or talk to him he brings up political, racist, etc. comments. He gets so loud and verbal and when he sees I don't agree his anger seems to escalate. Afterwards, I tell myself next time I won't even comment. The holidays are right around the corner, shortly after the presidential elections and I can't bear the thought of spending the holiday with him, but on the other hand I don't want him being alone. I'm conflicted.

By Betty

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July 26, 20120 found this helpful

Would your brother be willing to have a "agree to disagree and not talk politics" rule? Maybe you could both agree to not discuss controversial issues, and just keep to fun holiday type stuff. Whenever I deal with someone like that, I just nod and smile. No point arguing with him - he doesn't sound like someone who has an open mind. If you were going to invite other people too, especially people he might hurt or offend, I would think again about inviting him.Maybe you could meet him for dinner at a restaurant on Christmas Eve, or something like that - in public.

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Jerry Seinfeld said once that he often dealt with people by pretending he was a talk show host - nodding and smiling and not giving a d*** what the other person was saying. On the other hand, if your brother has crossed the line into being abusive, then you need to nip that in the bud. He needs to stop or keep away. If he's yelling at you or being verbally abusive then you need to protect yourself. Good luck.

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July 28, 20120 found this helpful

Your brother sounds like my brother. After years of putting up with him I finally had enough.These "brothers" are angry people. When they rale against people they don't even know and get angry when you dissagree they are looking for a fight. For my own serenity I stopped having anything to do with him.

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You need to be around people who share your tolerant views and who make you feel happy when you are with them. By trying to force his views down your throat he really doesn't care about your feelings. Let him go his own way and in time he may come to his senses. And don't worry about him. There is nothing you can do for him.

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July 28, 20120 found this helpful

My husband has a similarly strained relationship with his own brother, who is so bitter and lonely and has a completely opposite worldview from our own.
It's hard for them to be together without arguing. When they are together, my husband tries to steer conversation to neutral topics, but that is getting harder and harder. It is much easier in a public place, like a restaurant, where the brother is less likely to be uncivil.

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Or maybe you could help avoid argumentative discussions by using the visit with your brother to talk about old times, childhood holiday traditions, look through photo albums if you have them of when you were both young, etcetera. Unless those days were unhappy ones, perhaps talking about them will help him center on what you do have in common instead of what you don't.

Whatever has not worked in the last visits, try to avoid that scenario. Certainly don't turn on the TV or watch the news with him, but try to keep his mind busy with other things besides what he likes to argue about. Maybe play some board games or chess or something to distract him from the usual argumentative thoughts.

It's good that you want to reach out to him, but some people make themselves hard to reach by just being unreasonable. If you must be firm with him, just be honest... "I love you, I want to see you, but I would rather not see you than argue. So let's not talk about things that we know will make us argue, so we can continue to visit."

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July 28, 20120 found this helpful

Some people feel that they can be politically incorrect with close friends and family - so when they talk racism, sexism, etc with you it is meant to be a compliment - you are one of the family.

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You can always just nod and smile, as Vaylmer suggests.

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July 28, 20120 found this helpful

I agree with Lilac. I have a sister that is very difficult to deal with. I just think it is better that we don't have a relationship because when I am around her it is so stressful. I think she is a bitter person and she has no friends. Who wants to always be around someone who is bitter and rigid! If you feel like you love your brother enough to try to make it work but as for me, I am happier with no relationship at all.

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Anonymous
July 28, 20120 found this helpful

I am in the same situation as you being that both of our parents are deceased as well. My brother is really strange and could often be crude, cruel and difficult to speak with and I think maybe sometimes more so because he's a recovering alcoholic/drug addict whose brain has been a bit addled from decades of addiction and many really bad experiences including three wives who were poison for him (not saying they were bad people just poisonous for him) and at one point he literally had sunk as low as to be living under a freeway bridge in the Tampa Bay area.

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I personally have chosen to continue to love my brother and work on being close with him and not alienate myself from him and have found ways to deal with my own frustrations because of our differences. Just because he can be different and difficult doesn't mean I am not different and difficult for him to deal with and I am certainly no better than he is. No one is better than anyone else and we all can be pains in the arse in our own ways if we're truly honest with ourselves.

It's all a matter of perspective and asking the most important question, "What would Jesus do?" Would He not teach by personal example, with empathy, with understanding, with patience, turn the other cheek when need be and, above all, sincerely pray for guidance?

Guess what? After many years of doing what Jesus would want me to do not only has our relationship grown and become so much better but my brother has opened his heart and mind and become happy and whole because he now sees life in a different light simply because someone loved him in spite of himself and didn't give up on him; just like Jesus didn't give up on me :-) Look in your own heart, Betty, and you'll find the answers to help your relationship and ultimately it will help your brother. :-)

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July 28, 20120 found this helpful

These tormented mind related problems can be assisted. Try and talk your Brother in his best interests to consult a Physiologist on a "one to one" confidence talk. This attitude could relate from early child-hood situations or a number of other issues. Good luck to both of you.

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July 29, 20121 found this helpful

It's been my experience that people who are loud, verbal, racist, and have anger that escalates easily, are not looking to get along with anyone. They are simply unhappy, abusive people who feel they have the right to do whatever they please and demand that others follow their lead.

While disagreeing with them causes a fight, saying nothing reinforces their unwavering opinion that they are correct in their ridiculous feelings, and you are backing them by agreeing in silence. My question is: how much self confidence do you have in yourself if you cannot stand-up for what is right, as in racism? Is keeping the peace and getting along really worth your ethics and values? Where does morality come into play?

Politics can easily be ignored, differing religious views accepted, and loudness overlooked, but you cannot turn away from right and wrong. If he is that offensive, you really must do what's best for yourself and quit feeling sorry for him; he's made his bed and now he must take responsibility for his mistakes and correct them. If he chooses to be angry and bitter, it's ultimately his choice - your niceness will not sway him.

Another note: most angry people are master manipulators who never tell the full story in effort to sway people to their way of thinking. No one can ultimately tell you what you should do or how to handle him, we have no idea of your family dynamics or the paradigm you have lived, we can only relate our stories and say what we did in our situations (which are vastly different from yours).

Remember that family dynamics play an important part in how we relate to family members, especially siblings. But, neither of you are children any longer; you do not need to take care of or look out for the other. I assure you, your brother does not care what stress he is placing on you--he is not thinking about your health or comfort. My advice is to step back from your situation, look at it with an open mind, and make the decision to pick the healthiest choice you can find for yourself.

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