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Feel like I don’t belong in my own family

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  • #384024
    Aum
    Participant

    Not really sure how to articulate this, but I’ll try my best. I usually handle my feelings on my own, because I didn’t have the best support system growing up – my parents and my only sibling, my brother are not what you would call emotionally available or even aware. I used to be able to confide in my bf, but after 9 years together, we separated last year.

    Anyway, I’ve lived abroad for just over a year and returned back home recently, to the apartment I share with my brother. We’re close-ish, he’s only a year and a bit older than me, and we have a good relationship, despite the fact that we had very different upbringings.

    My parents treated him/treat him with more respect, consideration, and care because he was/is very smart and good at school, and he isn’t emotional or temperamental. They put him on a pedestal and still have him up there to this day. I, on the other hand, am the complete opposite. I had/have a bad temper, was/still am very emotional and sensitive. I’ve always been compared to my brother by extended family members and friends: he is the polite, quiet, reserved and intelligent one. I’m the easily angered, opinionated, “disagreeable” one.

    I’ve never resented my brother for this, but it definitely hurts whenever my parents treat me this way. It’s a lifelong pain that I’ve had.

    Anyway, after living away and alone for over a year, I realized that I needed to heal and that I deserved to be treated with respect, kindness, and support, esp from my own family…right??

    In my first week back, I talked to my brother about how I felt like, he and my parents never respect me, always talk down to me, and how they’re never emotionally supportive. My parents also make me (unconsciously?) emotionally responsible – both for them and for my brother. I explained that I understand (not condone) why my parents are this way, it’s a generational gap thing and they never had the tools/language to address this stuff.

    My bro on the other hand is practically the same age as me,  yet he can’t seem to be emotionally available, treat me with respect, be accountable etc. Every time I bring this stuff up, he either gets defensive/offended (“Fine then I’ll never disagree with you about anything ever again”) or he struggles to accept, acknowledge what I’m saying (“But mom and dad do that to me too” “But you don’t have to feel that way” “But no one asked you to be that way/do that for us”).

    He generally only takes me seriously when I cry and my pain/upset is visibly apparent.

    Idk whether it’s repression or denial, but he never feels bad feelings, never wants to talk about bad feelings and whenever I approach him to talk about my struggles, he gives me a few moments of his time before getting bored/disengaging/withdrawing. It’s like he can’t handle heavy emotions.

    Now I let this go in the past, because I figured that, like my parents, he wasn’t ready to accept this stuff, he wasn’t ready to engage.

    I should mention that over the past 10 years, my brother has been in several relationships (that I know of, he never disclosed some to me). He dated a handful of different women, usually only telling me about them when he was “serious” (perhaps 6+ months of dating idk) and I’ve only met about 3 of them. He’s only ever introduced 2 of these women to my parents.

    He’s never been terribly devastated by a break-up: he’ll let me know it happened, seemingly skip the first 4 stages of grief, arrive at acceptance, open a dating app and start swiping right. He says that he doesn’t believe in holding on to sadness/feeling sad because everything happens for a reason. I’ve always worried that he doesn’t process, debrief his emotions but, of course, can’t talk to him about this either.

    Anyway, something I noticed was the way he treats the women he dates: with absolute attention, respect, care, consideration, kindness, support, and love. He even treats their friends and family sometimes better than he’s ever treated me – or my parents for that matter. It hurts me deeply. I’ve never told him.

    When I came back home, he told me he’d been dating someone for a year, he’s introduced her to my parents. He’s quite serious this time – he’s planning on marrying her. I’ve mixed feelings about this but know better than to approach it.

    I guess my question is this: Am I completely overreacting when I say that I feel like I don’t belong in my bro’s life or even my parents’ lives? They love me of course, I love them. But since I’ve come home it hurts to be around them – esp since I know that if I put some (literal) distance between us I can be much happier, healthier, and at peace. When I was away from them, I felt like I was my best self. My absence didn’t seem to impact them in any way, my bro in particular seems indifferent to whether I’m even in the house or not.

    Honestly, I just want someone – a stranger – to tell me if I’m insane for feeling this way rn.

    Sorry for the long post! Thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far (T_T)

    #384044
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Aum:

    Welcome back almost a year since you last posted, in later August 2020!

    First the easy part for me to comment on: “I know that if I put some (literal) distance between us I can be much happier, healthier, and at peace. When I was away from them, I felt like I was my best self. My absence didn’t seem to impact them in any way, my bro in particular seems indifferent to whether I’m even in the house or not“- put a literal distance again, between you and your family (parents and brother). It’s a Win for you.. and it is not a Lose for them. A fair deal!

    Second, about anger and what came first: “My parents treated him/treat him with more respect, consideration, and care because..  he isn’t emotional or temperamental… on the other hand.. had/have a bad temper, was/still am very emotional.. he is the polite, quiet, reserved and intelligent one. I’m the easily angered, opinionated, ‘disagreeable’ one“- seems to me that First, your parents favored your brother, Second, you became angry (“bad temper… very emotional… easily angered.. ‘disagreeable'”).

    It is not that your brother was born to be non-emotional and you were born overly emotional and angry. What it is, is that the two of you reacted to different treatments from your parents. They encouraged him to be a certain way, and he is. They didn’t treat you as an equal to him, so you became understandably angry.

    What do you think of what I wrote here so far?

    anita

    #384050
    Aum
    Participant

    Hi Anita, thanks for having me back 🙂 I’m sorry I don’t have more pleasant things to write about.

    First, thank you for taking the time to read over this and give a response, I really appreciate your time and energy.

    Second, I have been thinking about leaving ever since I returned, it’s terrible but true. I’ve been looking at moving out too, but financially, it’s not an option rn. I feel guilty about it, but I think again at this point, parental/familial guilt is something we all have…

    I think what you’re saying is true. I guess I was angry that I was being treated differently, maybe picking up on it even when I was young. Now that I think about it, I lashed out a lot when I was a child, and even now, being around them makes me want to lash out. I don’t want to resent any of them for this even though it really hurts. It’s pointless when they’re so ignorant to all of this and I’m sure there were some deep-seated cultural reasons for the fact that my brother, a boy, was given favor over me, a girl.

    Is there a way to move past this without an acknowledgment or apology from them?

     

    #384054
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Aum:

    You are very welcome and no need to apologize for posting about “more pleasant things”!

    Is there a way to move past this without an acknowledgment or apology from them?“- yes, if you physically move away from your family who is still treating you unfairly,  and if  you choose a relationship or relationships elsewhere, where you are being treated fairly. Otherwise, I don’t see a way to live with, or interact with people who treat you unfairly and ..  be okay with it.

    anita

    #384096
    Aum
    Participant

    Hi Anita, I see what you mean. I don’t mind the going away part, I’ve done it before so I don’t think it will be hard doing it again.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’d still like to be part of my brother’s life, esp now that this big thing is happening for him. We have the type of dynamic where we tell each other important life stuff first, even before we tell our parents. Basically, he’s my emergency contact. I think whatever role I have in his life currently is going to be lessened pretty soon, which is why I don’t feel as guilty about leaving.

    Am I insane for still wanting to maintain a relationship with him?

    #384101
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Aum:

    Of course you are not insane for wanting to maintain a relationship with your brother and with his family, once he marries and has children.

    Idk whether it’s repression or denial, but he never feels bad feelings, never wants to talk about bad feelings and whenever I approach him to talk about my struggles, he gives me a few moments of his time before getting bored/disengaging/withdrawing. It’s like he can’t handle heavy emotions“-

    – he has bad feelings but he is able to brush them off and not dwell in them. Be happy for him, that he is able to do that. Try to be more like him in this regard. I am not saying that you should deny or repress your feelings, but when you are around him and his future family, when interacting with them, focus on the here-and-now, and not on the past. Stop approaching him to talk about your struggles in regard to your parents and childhood: he is your brother, not your friend, and not your therapist.

    You are unhappy about his responses when you shared your feelings in regard to your parents and childhood, but it is very unlikely for any adult sibling to have an adequate and accurate understanding of another sibling’s subjective experience of childhood and parents (when it is different from one’s own) because a sibling is not objective enough to have such understanding. No matter how much one sibling shares with the other, the other can’t really get it.

    He cannot understand your subjective experience of your childhood and you cannot understand his subjective experience of his childhood because neither one of you is objective. It is well known that for a psychotherapist to have a good understanding of a client’s experience of childhood, the therapist has to be objective enough, that is, to separate her experience of her own childhood from that of the client’s, which is often not easy to do. Siblings with different subjective experiences of childhood are very unlikely to be able to do that. Therefore, I suggest that you no longer try to make him understand your childhood experience, including your relationships with your parents. And keep in mind that you don’t really know his experience!

    When you told him recently something about how you were treated negatively by your parents, he said:  “But mom and dad do that to me too“- you didn’t know that, did you? You thought that your parents treated him perfectly?

    anita

     

    #384108
    Aum
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    When you said

    “he is your brother, not your friend, and not your therapist”

    and

    “it is very unlikely for any adult sibling to have an adequate and accurate understanding of another sibling’s subjective experience of childhood and parents (when it is different from one’s own) because a sibling is not objective enough to have such understanding. No matter how much one sibling shares with the other, the other can’t really get it”

    something clicked for me. I totally understand what you’re saying. I guess I got so lost in the hurt of the past stuff that I was being myopic. I think maybe I tend to take even little things personally because of how we grew up. But that’s on me not on him. I do struggle to stay present if I’m being honest, so I will have to work on that more.

    I know this situation isn’t that serious, but I do get trapped in my head a lot so thank you for talking this through with me I really appreciate it!

    #384109
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Aum:

    You are welcome, and you can post here anytime you are trapped in your head, as you phrased it. It is very tough to grow up being treated as less-than a sibling, it leads to ongoing anger that blurs a person’s sight, causing that myopic vision you mentioned.

    anita

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