September 26, 2005
I am the oldest of three kids. I am 28 and my brothers are 24 and 16. I wish I could say the years of sibling rivalry are over, but I'd be lying if I did. My 24-year-old brother still lives at home. We used to get along, but things changed when he turned 16. He developed a violent temper which is directed only toward me.
It started with the typical bickering you get from any brother and sister and evolved into cursing, name-calling, and insults. That further evolved into spitting on me, throwing food at me, and physically threatening me. It's hard on my parents because they cannot control his temper. They've spoken to our family physician, but unless my brother is willing to help himself there isn't much they can do.
I started dating an amazing man over a year ago. One day he overheard my brother cursing at me. He told my brother if he was going to talk to me, to do it with respect. There have been no violent encounters or arguments since. This works for my family because the fighting has stopped.
It hurts so much that my brother hates me. I don't have this kind of relationship with my younger brother. In fact, we are close. But I wish I knew what it is about me that bothers my oldest brother. I want to find a way to fix things. Is there anything you can suggest to help me build the bonds of this broken relationship?
My boyfriend told me to realize it's a lost cause, but he's my brother and I love him. If anything happened, I'd be there regardless. I want to make peace but don't know how. Is everyone right? Am I hoping for the impossible?
Mary Jo, years ago Wayne rented a farmhouse in the Ozarks. Wayne owned a St. Bernard, and he and the dog would roam the woods together and the dog would watch as Wayne picked apples in the orchard. One day the landlord decided to put cattle on the land. Unfortunately the dog sensed the cows feared her, so she entertained herself by chasing them.
Wayne thought he might have to give the dog away. A dog that runs cattle can't stay on a farm because cattle can overheat, collapse, and die from exhaustion. Things changed, however, when the landlord bought two young bulls and made them part of the herd. The bulls began to stalk the St. Bernard. Her fun over, the dog lost all interest in chasing cattle.
Apparently you found a "bull" to end your brother's fun. While we wouldn't call your brother's behavior healthy, it does appear to be under his control rather than an undiagnosed mental illness. It also appears he trained you and your parents to accept his behavior, and he escalated his tantrums to increase his power.
Today many of us are raised to believe there is a fix for everything. Experts claim to have a system which will put other people under our control. But these claims often disappear on close examination.
The author of a best-selling relationship book admits he gets along with his wife by pretending she is as important to him as his clients. The author of a book purporting to eliminate divorce, in fine print on the copyright page, specifically disclaims any legal responsibility for her claims. And a leading researcher on communication skills, whose work is often cited in self-help books, no longer stands by that research.
In the United States you can recover money from an auto mechanic who fails to fix your car, but there is no legal recourse against "experts" who claim to fix any relationship. The worst part is, when you fail to make their system work, you blame yourself rather than them.
The power to change this situation is in your brother's hands, not yours.
Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached at www.WayneAndTamara.com.
Send letters to: Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield, MO 65801 or email: DirectAnswers@WayneAndTamara.com.
Posted on Sep 20, 2005 by Site Admin
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