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Was I patronising to my brother-in-law?

(20 Posts)
CabbagesOnFire Tue 16-Feb-16 18:50:38

My brother-in-law suffers from panic attacks, and has no idea why. He is very open about discussing it in front of all his siblings including my partner, and myself. I like him, and get on fine with him, although we don't know each other well.

He is several years younger than me, and recently I sent him a long email about it, totally unsolicited. I wanted to empathise and share my experiences, and I'm just better in writing than in person.

I said that I hoped he didn't find it an intrusion, too personal, or too preachy, but that I get it, I understand, because I have for many years experienced emotions which don't seem to make any sense - not panic attacks for me but mood swings, guilt, shame - and that there is a wealth of techniques and methods out there: counselling, CBT, etc, and to keep trying to get to the bottom of it. The email went into quite a lot of detail about the things that my own efforts have uncovered about my own issues with my family - possibly way too personal - but also said that of course I'm not saying that's what it is for him.

He didn't reply, which is not out of character for him, he is often bad at getting back to people. And I am assured by my partner and his sister, that he won't have been offended, he will have been grateful for any efforts to help, but I am still unsure. Was I patronising?

MatildaTheCat Tue 16-Feb-16 18:56:52

Well the only person who can answer that is the recipient of the email. It sounds as if you were very well intentioned but possibly got a bit over personal. Could it have read as if you were expecting him to confide in you? It may have been better to offer support and personal experience rather than simply send it but since you did he should have replied.

Can you ask him if he's ok or if not ask his wife? He's probably just being lazy rude. smile

Flanks Tue 16-Feb-16 19:11:49

In my opinion, yes it is patronising.

Flip it around, and imagine you are in a similar situation, and someone that knows your situation from the outside only opts to give you advice.

Pretend it happened to you in early months of having a new child, that someone you kind of knew but not well, sent you a completely unsolicited email giving advice. Would you accept it?

I wouldn't!

CabbagesOnFire Tue 16-Feb-16 19:14:15

Is there something I can say to apologise without seeming to pester him? I'm very willing to say sorry but don't want to annoy him further by bringing it up again.

phequer Tue 16-Feb-16 19:14:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ScarletForYa Tue 16-Feb-16 19:16:09

I'm not sure about patronising. Maybe just a bit random if you don't know each other that well.

Discussing it in front of you and his brother is one thing but you suddenly sending a long, detailed mail out of the blue might have made him a little uncomfortable.

scribblegirl Tue 16-Feb-16 19:17:03

I actually don't think you were patronising, at least on the info above.

I'm quite open about my problems with this stuff and have had some gorgeous notes from my friends before with support. When I'm 'good' I thank them profusely but when I'm in a bad place I hermit and just can't bring myself to respond. Everything causes anxiety and I just want to hide.

Perhaps an email following up, saying that you didn't mean to offend, might make things easier. But to me it sounds like someone sharing their experience and offering support - not unlike posts we often see on these boards flowers

Flanks Tue 16-Feb-16 19:27:06

The problem is that you have written an email to him, claiming it is about you, but it might be helpful to him, but he shouldn't take it as advice. Then why the crap did you write the email at all??? If we take everything you said in your post at face value, then some of it must be untrue, because it can't all be true!

At best it is patronising to be honest.

At worst it is passive aggressive and quite rude!

In my opinion the route here is to not talk to your brother-in-law, but to talk to your (I assume) sister. Explain what you did, say how you feel about it, and ask her what would be appropriate to smooth over any potential difficulty.

LaurieFairyCake Tue 16-Feb-16 20:11:08

I think sharing your personal experience is never patronising. You didn't tell him what to do, just shared things you found helped.

You did a lovely thing thanks

Joysmum Tue 16-Feb-16 21:36:46

I too think sharing experiences in the hope somebody else can see parallels and maybe make a minor breakthrough isn't patronising, whereas telling somebody what the should do is.

Unfortunately, as you can see from this thread, however good and kind your intentions, there are always people ready to think the worst of anything anyone ever does and get offended.

Only he can tell you if he's offended/feeling patronised, or if he's taken it in the spirit in which you intended it b

scarlets Tue 16-Feb-16 22:26:39

Maybe he thinks that a long email deserves a more comprehensive reply than, "thanks, that's helpful" and is getting round to writing it.

I think I'd be quite touched if someone bothered to write a message like that for me.

CooPie10 Tue 16-Feb-16 22:30:51

I can't understand why you would zone in on that and email him? Has he ever said anything along the lines of wanting your advice. If I was sent such a heavy email like that I would be thinking is my issue bigger than I thought for people to bring it up with me.

ravenmum Tue 16-Feb-16 22:54:58

Maybe the email went in his spam file or something? I'd also see your writing in such detail as a bit random, if anything, and if his family say he would be fine with it ... well, they know better than us!

Next time you see him, maybe ask if he got the email then add that you really hope it didn't come across as rude.

Did you write the email in a big burst of good mood euphoria then regret it when you were back to normal / low mood again?

phequer Wed 17-Feb-16 03:43:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

JohnThomas69 Wed 17-Feb-16 04:10:52

Motives? Perhaps feelings of empathy? Why does there always have to be some hidden self serving alternative? Many people exhibit acts of kindness. It can happen. Sometimes even strangers are the intended recipients. Shock horror.

phequer Wed 17-Feb-16 04:31:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CabbagesOnFire Wed 17-Feb-16 10:21:33

Thank you all for your replies.
He's not my sibling's partner, but my partner's brother.
Phequer you asked why I sent it - it's because I've sat through a few social occasions where he's discussed it in front of me and I've not been brave enough to pipe up (I'm quite a shy person) but been bursting afterwards to share that I understand.
In my own family nobody ever empathised - I was always the "one with problems" - so I wanted to give him the sort of help I never had. I can see now that that was self-centered and more about me than it was helpful to him.
I agree it might have been a mistake. My partner assures me as strongly as he can that his brother will have been grateful for any efforts at help, but I'm not sure I believe him, I think he may be being too kind, which is why I'm asking on here - to get some objective honest views.
I have seen him once since. He was perfectly friendly but didn't bring it up.
What Ravenmum said is a bit true - I did it in a burst of hopefulness - "I can be helpful here!" - then doubted my wisdom later.

So, I like Flanks' suggestion of a follow up email to smooth over any potential difficulty, but how can I do it without coming across as even more self-centered, mad and erratic than I already have?

blindsider Wed 17-Feb-16 10:25:24

I don't think it was patronising at all. Your heart is in the right place and your reasons for sending the email are genuine so I wouldn't worry too much.

Isetan Wed 17-Feb-16 13:45:08

You really are asking the wrong people, if you're not inclined to believe your partner, then you'll have to ask your BIL.

I don't think you were patronising but if you had included why you never spoke up earlier and why you've opted for emailing, then it might have clarified your motives better.

Personally I think you're overthinking this, the email has been sent, if he wants to respond he can.

Don't send any further email's to him.

Flanks Wed 17-Feb-16 14:13:32

Im with Isetan. Wait for next time you meet naturally, and if you get a private moment ask if the email was OK etc.

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