Patricia Redlich

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Brother Is In Trouble

I am 42 years old and live on my own with a mortgage. There isn't much money left over for luxuries but I don't really mind that. A few months ago I met a lovely guy after many years on my own. We enjoy each others' company and have days out at the weekend. We are now ready to take our relationship to the next level. We both feel comfortable with this. My boyfriend lives quite a distance away.

My brother broke up with his wife a few weeks ago and has moved in with me. The problem is that he has his two children over to stay with him each weekend. They also come to visit him for a couple of hours several nights a week. They are 10 and 12 and I love them both. But in the space of a few weeks they have managed to break several family heirlooms, marked my walls with their bikes, put my TV out of focus, and basically have my house looking like a tip. I might be a bit set in my ways, but I can't have this. My brother takes no notice of anything I say about this. He's up to his eyes in money trouble. He does give me some money, but it doesn't even cover their food. The money, however, is not the issue.

I feel sorry for my brother, but I just can't handle the whole lot of them. Yet we've no other brothers or sisters and my parents are very elderly. But my boyfriend and I get no privacy. And when I'm in his house, I cannot relax because I have no idea what state my house will be in when I get back. My boyfriend has told me that he's had enough.

What's with the boyfriend? Why does he sound like he's threatening you? He wants to bring the relationship to the next level in terms of closeness and commitment, but at the same time he's having trouble handling a family emergency. What planet is he on? No, I'm not shifting blame onto him. I'm just trying to help you feel more robust about him, get him out of the way for the moment if you like.

You are confronted with a family crisis. It's just happened. You stepped in to rescue your brother. That's what families do in crises. Yes, it's a mess. No, you couldn't possibly put up with it long-term. Yes, it is interfering with your life. That is the definition of a crisis. You are your brother's only sibling. Your parents are elderly. You did the right thing.

You need to get a grip on yourself. That means first of all asking your boyfriend for support. Make some sensible decisions. Why can't you stay with him for a while? That would solve the privacy issue. Yes, I know he lives some distance away - which presumably means a distance from your workplace too. But couldn't you just confine yourselves to his place for togetherness, even if that means only seeing him at weekends, until this crisis is resolved?

You need to drop the hysteria about the house too. Heirlooms got broken. Not nice, but at another level, so what. Set against the emotional well-being of two children caught up in a marital meltdown, such breakages fade into non-significance. Marks on the wall mean paint, or even a bit of plastering. No big deal. Yes, I can imagine that the house is like a tip. But think about it. It wouldn't take long to clean it up, not really.

I'm not saying all this to be unsympathetic. I'm trying to make the point that you're panicing. And the reason you're doing that is because you feel you have no control. You're scared. And I'm trying to help you not feel scared.

To begin with, you feel at a vulnerable stage with your boyfriend. At last you've found someone, and you want to both enjoy the relationship, and make it work. This crisis hasn't come at the right time. I understand. All I'm saying is that it will all work out if you stop the panic. At the moment you're even bringing your distress down to your boyfriend's place. And he's getting worn down. I don't know if he's actually uttering threats. Perhaps he's just catching your panic. Or perhaps you're reading a sense of threat into an ordinary comment, thrown out because he doesn't know what he can do to help you.

Instead of fretting about home for every second you're with him, ask your boyfriend for comfort, or just discuss how you might handle the situation. And don't do too much of that either. Enjoy his company, do nice things together, and let him know that there's no need to feel helpless about the situation - because there isn't.
As for your brother, you have to stop feeling trapped. You are in control. You don't have to find a solution for him. He has to find one for himself. All you have to do is set limits on how long you're prepared to tolerate the situation. And ultimately that's down to you. Think about it. If you could calm down, enjoy your time with your boyfriend at his place, and lose your sense of fear and helplessness, how long would you allow your brother to stay? And that's the length of time he has - at most.

To repeat: You are not helpless. You are in control. You are not your responsible for your brother's destiny. You are responding to a crisis, which by definition is short-term. And the time-frame is ultimately down to you. It's just that within that time-frame, it would make sense not to be too jittery about the state of the house, or the fact that your new relationship is being disrupted. As for your boyfriend, he'll come up trumps if you calm down, enjoy his company, do fun things together, discuss your dilemma with him, seek his support, and acknowledge the comfort and joy he brings you.
Irish based professional therapist and journalist. Website By : Deise Design