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My brother- is this passive aggressive and how to handle?

(31 Posts)
Greekgoddess Wed 26-Nov-14 08:12:51

Wise MNetters- how to handle my brother, please.

I live some distance away from my parents who are late 80s and increasingly frail. My brother lives 5 minutes away from them. There are times when I want to talk to him and share my concerns about them, often when I've been talking to them by phone and something's happened which worries me.

But my brother makes himself 'unavailable' by phone. Not only to me I've learned, but my mum too. He doesn't have an answerphone on his landline and hasn't set up voicemail on his mobile (it just rings .) I am certain that for 99% of the times when I try to call he is just not answering- he doesn't have caller display on the landline so it's not as if he's screening the calls.

I'd like to stress that I am not pestering him. On average we speak once a fortnight on a sunday evening, but in between there are occasional times when I want to talk something over about mum & dad.

I've mentioned to mum that he never answers his phones and she simply says he does the same with her and he's busy 'working' (paperwork for some private work he runs alongside his day job.) and won't come to the phone during the evening. The work he does it not that time consuming and certainly doesn't take all evening every day.

he's single, no kids, no relationship, and quite frankly I think he's being utterly selfish but also passive aggressive by making himself unavailable.

Is there any kind and polite way I can raise this with him because there are times when I do need to share my worries about about parents - but it seems it's only when it suits him on his terms.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 26-Nov-14 08:18:32

In short, you can't make a selfish person unselfish. If he doesn't care and doesn't want to get involved with other people (especially people who might need him to put himself out), you can't make him care. The only real link you currently have is your parents and I think, once they are not around any more, you'll effectively not have a brother if he carries on the same way. His loss.

I'd forget being kind and polite quite honestly. I'm sure he's perfectly available if someone calls about something he's interested in.

happystory Wed 26-Nov-14 08:20:19

Does he reply to texts? I am wondering what would happen if your parents had an emergency during the night and needed him?

What is your relationship like with your brother? Are you or were you close?

One thought I have is that as he lives so close to your parents he sometimes has to make himself 'unavailable' if he's already doing a lot for them?

InnocenceAndExperience Wed 26-Nov-14 08:29:08

I get the feeling that he's always been like this, so to be honest you may just have to accept it.

Regarding your parents, my experience is that some people simply refuse to see that people they have always assumed would be there are now frail and in need of help. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, they will insist that their parents are fine.

Sadly, you may be on your own with this.

Are you reasonably close as well? Are you visiting regularly? If so, maybe you could pop by to see him as well when you visit, and work towards some specific tasks, like him visiting his parents once a week to reassure you.

ishouldcocoa Wed 26-Nov-14 08:38:43

Is he contactable via email? At least you could out your concerns down in writing.

Maybe he feels that, because he's only 5 mins away from your parents, you're pestering him unnecessarily..?

Greekgoddess Wed 26-Nov-14 08:40:36

He does usually reply to texts though TBH I don't text him that often. My parents are not able to text anyway- saw mum last week - 5hr journey for me to get to them- and she was saying again how she can't manage to text.

I suppose if it was a complete emergency I'd just keep ringing and ringing.

There is a big age gap between us. He's never had a relationship for longer than 6 months. He's dabbled with online dating over the past few years but his 'check list' of what he wants excludes 99% of women anyway! We do chat about this but all I see is that he has a very rigid way of thinking about life and a closed mind set.

I think my parents are pretty undemanding. He does help them out not excessively and it still leaves him masses of time for himself. He's never once invited them over to his house for a meal in all the 20 odd years he's lived there, he has no interest in my children ( his only nephew and niece) and basically he's not a 'people' person.

But I still don't know how to tell him it's not on to ignore his phone when we have elderly parents!!!

ClearlyOpaque Wed 26-Nov-14 08:44:28

It's quite hard to comment without knowing the history of your relationship with your brother. Having said that, I would suggest arranging to go and see him and raise the whole subject of how best the two of you can care for your parents now that they need more help. Make it an open, honest conversation and please don't imply that he should be more active because he lives closer to him (that might make him defensive and in my opinion, it's not a fair way to look at things).

When my Mum was ill, I took a much more active role in caring for her (and my Dad) than my brother, purely because he had a young family and I was single. It happened naturally, but after a couple of years, he pulled me to one side and apologised for not being more involved. I hadn't even given it a second thought as it made much more sense for me to take the lead and for him to provide telephone support (as well as the wonderful medicine of grandchildren!) to all of us.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you're worried about things, you need to raise things with your brother with a view to finding a solution, but you can't expect him to want to do more simply because he lives closer.

InnocenceAndExperience Wed 26-Nov-14 08:47:02

What is he like when you do speak to him?

happystory Wed 26-Nov-14 08:48:50

Think you just have to say it straight. Say you appreciate all he does for your parents but it worries you that you are five hours away and how will mum and dad contact him in an emergency? If they ring on his mobile surely he will know its them and that a call at an odd hour might be something significant? Perhaps you need a system.

It doesn't sound as if you get on too well so what do you have to lose by being forthright with him?

Greekgoddess Wed 26-Nov-14 08:51:20

Just to explain a bit further- when I visited recently it became clear that Dad has had a kind-of diagnosis of something via blood tests ( a week ago) but this is being monitored every 3 months. He told me but was very dismissive of it- he just says he's getting old and something going to go wrong one day. He played it down, but doesn't look at all well.

I wanted to talk this over with my brother partly so we can try to work out how serious this is ( and to support our mum) . I know there is not a lot we can do for dad, but part of the conversation is about me airing my feelings and wanting some emotional support/ connection with my brother because tbh I don't think my dad has that long left- could be wrong but he's not far off 90.

I'm realising that my brother is no good at offering any emotional support or even making himself available to talk except as and when it suits him - totally selfish.

Joysmum Wed 26-Nov-14 08:54:55

It's a difficult dynamic, even with the best of relationships between siblings.

The sibling that didn't leave can feel very pressurized, stressed, taken for granted, like the other sibling needs to take on their share, like the other sibling only wants to be in touch re the parents, like the sibling has it easy and can dip in and out when it suits them, like everything is on their shoulders, etc

So no, I wouldn't say it's passive aggressive. If you're right about availability it suggests to me he's finding it too much and that should concern you, rather than seeking to blame him.

You might be able to tell from my post that we've been in the position your brother is now in and felt all of those those at times despite having a great relationship with my SIL and knowing she couldn't change things. It's not easy being the one who didn't leave and having all the responsibility and worry 24/7. We could feel like the person that left is putting their own life first and the selfish one by being away from the situation. It's not easy thinking rationally when emotions are high anyway because of worry for the parents.

Might help you to see things from his point of view and get in touch simply to talk about how he is and express relief he's there and how you can only imagine how difficult it must be for him. A little appreciation of his feelings will mean a lot if it is that he feels the situation is getting to him.

InnocenceAndExperience Wed 26-Nov-14 09:03:11

So, how involved is your brother with your parents? Is he also concerned?

Greekgoddess Wed 26-Nov-14 09:11:18

I totally get what you mean JM, but I do try to do my bit- I'm the one who orders things for them over the web, like their Xmas shopping from the supermarket, and gifts etc. I do what I can and TBH if they needed me to be more hands-on I'd up sticks and go and live there if necessary for a while- my kids are grown up and I could afford not to work.

My mum goes to great lengths to not pester him- she phones him maybe once a week- and she phones me more than that which is my own bug-bear; I work from home and she thinks nothing of disturbing my day by calling me over nothing important!

He actually does very little for them - a bit of gardening now and then, and a bit of DIY. They do a HUGE amount for him: look after his dog for the day if he's working late, taking delivery of parcels so he doesn't need go to the sorting office (he addresses all his parcels to them so they have to stay in!), dad driving him back from garages when he's left his car for servicing etc. Far more than most elderly parents would or could do.

I'd say they are doing more for him than he is for them, tbh.

I suppose what I am saying and understanding by writing this is he is no good at emotions, relationships, and as he's never had a relationship with anyone he's not got much empathy.

happystory Wed 26-Nov-14 09:18:33

I think you are over-hopeful if you expect some sort of emotional support from a brother who you have variously called 'selfish, not a people person, rigid and with a closed mindset'.

Mulderandskully Wed 26-Nov-14 09:20:25

It's not passive aggressive IMO-
I often don't answer the phone if it doesn't suit me but that doesn't mean I never speak to people

InnocenceAndExperience Wed 26-Nov-14 09:20:41

It doesn't SOUND as if he's worried abut them but I wonder if this is his way of staying involved. He probably thinks they like having the dog, and taking in parcels - and maybe they do! Some people can't get their heads round doing something with no 'purpose'.

Have you got POA set up? It might be that you could ask your brother about this - get a family meeting set up to discuss.

happystory Wed 26-Nov-14 09:21:19

And while you are about it, why not explain to your mum the hours you are working from home and just speak to her when it's more convenient. If you worked out of the home she'd have to wait.....

ClearlyOpaque Wed 26-Nov-14 09:24:28

I may be way out line here (and feel free to ignore me if I am), but it sounds like your anger at how your brother behaves towards you and your parents is the issue here. Your parents sound well looked after, so that seems like a secondary concern, from what you're written.

You're allowed to be angry at him for not being more giving and more involved with your kids, but you won't be able to change him. Some people do just take people around them for granted and if they never get challenged on it, they have no reason to change their ways.

I also feel for you not having a sibling to share your worries with, but I'm guessing this isn't a new thing. I think you either have to accept him for what he is (and figure out ways to make it work for you) or confront him with your opinions on what more he could be doing.

MaybeDoctor Wed 26-Nov-14 09:38:25

A fair bit of dislike for your brother is coming across in your posts.

If he answers texts to you, then I am not sure if there is a huge problem. I am not a huge fan of phone-calls out of the blue and can see why he might sometimes leave his phone to ring if he is busy working.

Also, if your parents are mostly fine, then you don't need to go into crisis mode yet - I say this from the perspective of having had a parent die from a long-term terminal illness and all that entailed. Enjoy these times and try not to over-anticipate the future.

Greekgoddess Wed 26-Nov-14 09:50:21

Oooh- lots of points to come back to here.
POA is sorted- parents did that ages back.

My anger at my brother is that he shuts people out and has what I'd call a very low emotional capacity- for want of a better description he can't 'multi task emotions'. He's never had to- no relationships, no kids, nothing. Considering he lives alone and doesn't work long hours, he has masses of time compared to other people. My parents manage very well either doing everything themselves, or paying for someone to do things- and rarely ask him to do anything.

I'm looking for some sibling support at a stage of my life when it's clear my dad's days are numbered- and sadly my brother can't see that and because he lives near to them it makes it easier for him. I have to plan my work around a visit and do a 10 hour round trip.

But you're right- he won't change and I suppose I am expecting too much.

brassbrass Wed 26-Nov-14 10:00:57

it sounds as though he has his own difficulties if he's not had long lasting relationships and is as you describe 'not a people person'.

Could he be on the spectrum of ASD?

In any case you sound desperate for him to deliver something that he isn't capable of. If he hasn't managed a meal at his in 20 years and no one has questioned if this is an issue for him - it's a bit odd now to think he will suddenly produce meals. Do you know whether he cooks for himself? He may be managing on take ways and processed meals and doesn't know where to even begin thinking about meals for your parents.

It sounds like you and your mum bitch about him not answering the phone. If he has the slightest inkling that you are both moaning about him it is not surprising he keeps his distance. You concede that he does reply to texts.

I'm afraid that strong feelings of selfish, not a people person, rigid and with a closed mindset do have a tendency to leak out. I strongly suspect that he his aware of your opinions of him.

I do what I can and TBH if they needed me to be more hands-on I'd up sticks and go and live there if necessary for a while- my kids are grown up and I could afford not to work this might be your best option and if it becomes necessary in the near future is a very good plan B. At least you can take care of your parents to your standards without the added problem of having to wonder about him.

It's a shame not having a sibling to share your worries with but it does sound like you've let a situation develop over a lifetime and now want it fixed overnight. If he's not interested in your kids it sounds as though you were never that close to begin with. How have you contributed to that situation? What is the age gap between you?

InnocenceAndExperience Wed 26-Nov-14 10:21:11

I want to say you are not alone and you have my sympathy.

My brother doesn't support me emotionally but to be fair I don't support him - we didn't get on as children and its not going to magically resolve itself now.

However, at this critical time there is a compulsion to pull closer and be a 'family' and it sounds as if your brother doesn't feel this at the moment. That's not to say he won't ever.

Greekgoddess Wed 26-Nov-14 11:00:01

Thanks Innocence.

There is a 9 year gap between us and I've not really seen him that much since I left home for uni then moved away.

I don't think he feels my mum and I bitch about him- because we don't. My mum thinks the sun shines out of his proverbial and if I complain that he never answers his phones she just shrugs and makes excuses for him, saying he must be busy in his study and doesn't want to have to walk downstairs to pick up the phone. FFS!

I don't think he is ASD at all; it's more lack of life experiences and in some ways behaving like a child still even though he has moved 2 miles along the road. He does cook for himself so that is not the issue. When we visit my parents I ask him if he'd like to stay for a meal and I'll cook and he always says no- has work to do, or needs to wash his shirts. Quite feeble excuses - my DCs live alone, have all of that to do but pack in a huge amount more than he does both socially and working long hours.

I do feel like an only child tbh, but I think I just need to accept how he is.

Might drop him an email about the not answering the phone and how to get in touch if the parents are ill and he's gone to ground.

FishWithABicycle Wed 26-Nov-14 11:06:28

This isn't passive-aggressiveness. It's just selfishness.

PA would be if he did plenty of stuff for your parents but then went out of his way to make sure you and they felt really guilty about it.

As for how to handle - you can't make a not-nice person nice. WWYD if you were an only-child. Do that.

brassbrass Wed 26-Nov-14 11:18:03

There's clearly some kind of issue though isn't there? He makes himself scarce at every opportunity and doesn't accept family meal invitations. You've had little to do with him since you left for uni. Do you know really anything about his life? It doesn't paint a picture of normal family/sibling interactions.

It's this element that is key. if it hasn't been addressed before now how are you expecting it to suddenly change? there is no real relationship between you as people so why would you expect so much from him now?

And if your mother does think the sun shines etc and makes excuses for him then you also have to accept that they have enabled this behaviour in him over the years and he thinks it's all perfectly normal. It's what he's been used to all his life. No one has challenged it.

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