Monday, April 22, 2024

Ask Amy: My brother is upset I didn’t answer his unexpected call

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Dear Amy: My brother and I have always had a tenuous relationship. Our father was abusive, but we are both in our 40s and have led fairly successful and stable lives. I often have to walk on eggshells when talking to my brother because he always seems to take what I say or do as an attack.

Last New Year’s Eve, I was at a get-together with friends and he called me for a video chat. I sent a quick text saying I was with friends and we’d talk later. He texted that he was disappointed because he told his kids they could talk to their uncle (me) and it seemed like I chose my friends over my nephews.

He added that maybe he should have “warned me,” but he felt the need to share how much I had disappointed not only him but also my nephews. I didn’t know how to respond and waited three weeks to respond to him, then only to wish him a good day on our late mother’s birthday. It’s been three weeks and he hasn’t responded. We don’t touch each other very often, but I feel like I’m being punished.

My question is: what should I do now? Should I keep trying to reach out? I’m sure whatever I do will be wrong.

Blocked: The perpetual dance of disappointment between you and your brother is the result of growing up with an abusive parent. Your relationship is unstable, in part because you were both trained from childhood to stay on high alert. Children living in abusive homes can never truly relax and allow themselves to make mistakes, be forgiven for their mistakes, and just be natural. Yes, the floor is paved with eggshells. This tension and instability now defines your relationship.

But there’s an upside to always feeling like you’re doing the wrong thing. This prevents you from having to second-guess your every decision because no matter what you do or say, it will seem wrong. So do it anyway.

You don’t need to “reply” to your brother to stay in touch with him. Just text him! Say, “Hey, I was thinking about you today and wondering how you and the kids are doing. I would really like to set up a FaceTime session with them. Is there any chance we can do it soon? »

I suggest you just dig your way through those eggshells and do your best to just be yourself. Your steadfast efforts might inspire your brother to finally relax and do the same.

Dear Amy: My husband and I do not have children. My sister is a single mother and she has always been strict with her children. She has a rule for her children: when they turn 18, they either pay rent or they move out. Her daughter turned 18, didn’t find her place and didn’t work, so my sister kicked her out. She asked to live with us and we accepted.

She is doing very well with us; she attends a local community college and works part-time. We love having it here. We don’t charge rent and encourage him to save his money. My sister is furious with us because we broke her rules around her children. I don’t know how to answer.

Aunt: Your sister’s rule was either pay the house rent or move out. Her daughter moved away. Your sister’s basic attitude is that when her children turn 18, they must take responsibility for their lives. As far as I know, that’s exactly what your niece did. I applaud your choice to provide housing and support as she continues to mature.

I suggest you avoid your sister’s fury by pointing out that her daughter is fine. In your sister’s house, she makes the rules, and in your house, you make them.

Dear Amy: Sensitive mother-in-law» wrote that the mentally unstable mother of her stepdaughters, who had not had any contact for several years, had contacted the stepmother privately, asking her to arrange contact with the girls. Thanks for answering a resounding “no” to that!

My mother (similar story) found ways to draw other people into her drama in order to reach us. We were afraid of her and really needed the adults around us to protect us and not open the door for us.

Cultivated: Thanks for confirming my instincts on this.

© 2024 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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