Trouble with siblings


Distinguished Member
May 3, 2007
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Hi All,

Looking for some advice on an issue I have with my brother, but first a bit of family history / background.

I am a brother of 3. Sadly when I was 13 my 15 yr old brother was killed crossing the road on the way to his paper round, my wee brother was 4 yrs old. As you can imagine this had and still has had a profound effect on my family. That was sadly 27 yrs ago now and the scars and after affects of that are still with us all.

My younger brother is 9 yrs old and we were as close as brothers with a 9 yr age gap can have however our personalities are very different, him and my older brother have very similar personality traits, which while I do not see all of them, I do see some of them in my Dad (I will get onto that later) where is my personality is more like my mum's. By that I mean my brothers could be very destructive to them round about them, argue and push back with anything and everything. Where as I am much more in the camp of avoiding confrontation both verbal and physical as well as trying to see the good and positive in people and situations where I can.

However when I was about 21 I met my future and now wife. Since we got together my wife and I are like two pups who are attached at the hip. We moved in together quickly and this meant less time for my brother, I always tried to make room for him by asking him round, having him stay over, taking him out and going places. However there was always something there between us, which was my wife. By that I mean he could not have me to himself and he took this out on my wife.

This has caused many arguments between me and my wife, my wife and him and him and me. We have always tried to patch things up but it gets harder and harder. I started seeing a therapist about 4 or so years as it was driving a wedge between my wife and I. However after I started seeing her and speaking about everything with her she was able to point out unhealthy thought processes I have had about the situation and my approach to it. It also has had a remarkable affect on my wife and I's relationship, we were always close but my brother and the situation was a real flash-point but since we have spoken about we argue rarely about my brother despite his behaviour and my wife has change how she approaches and reacts to stuff which has had a massive affect on me and us.

Just over 3 yrs ago my mum passed away after an 8 month battle with cancer. Its amazing how even when you know someone is the glue of the family and they pass away, just how much they were the glue. Since then my brother has married his then fiancee and they had a baby in April during lockdown. However in this 3 yr period I have had quite a few arguments with my brother about doing more things as a family like having my dad over every 2nd Sunday and seeing him every Thursday, he wanted us to also do another weekend when we had a Sunday family dinner. Now I work 5 days a week and was commuting across country almost every day and so was my wife, when I rejected this we had a massive barny.

But I have always tried to maintain a relationship that I am polite and friendly when we talk, text or meet (while hoping in the back of my mind that we all just get through whatever it is we are doing and can leave on good terms).

However, and this brings me onto what has happened this year. We live in Glasgow and my brother/family stay in Livingston (near Edinburgh) so we all went into lockdown in March. I have to say I found lockdown freeing (from responsibilities of having to see people, commuting, etc) and have enjoyed it (I know that is not the case for all and apologies if those comments are insensitive to anyone who has having a different and difficult time!). My brothers son / my nephew was born in May. As soon as he text me I text him back to congratulate him an then tried to phone. He text me back saying he could not talk and would let me know. I had no issue with that.

We ended up speaking a few days later when he had time and I mentioned once lockdown was over we could hopefully meet up and see the wee guy. My Dad came over when rules were relaxed a bit and we give him a card and present for the wee guy as we were not sure when we would be able to see them and wanted them to get it asap.

Never heard anything from them so message them to tell them what we did and hoped they had it.
We got message back from SIL saying they got it but would have been nice if we brought it ourselves.
My wife sent a reply saying were not sure when was good so sent out so you could get it but when suited them and we could go over.
SIL messaged back (a month later) saying sorry been busy (that has been a theme for a long time as well) you tell us when you (my wife and I) are free and they (brother/SIL) will tell us if it is convenient for them.
I message my brother directly saying why don't I call you and we can arrange something as brothers together.
Brother replied he is too busy and best to speak with SIL.
Said fine and replied to the group to arrange giving days when we could do it.
SIL said they could do the Saturday but only for an hour as they had other plans.
I said fine (meant we did not have to be there that long).

We went along were allowed in back door where there was small dining table in kitchen and that is where we sat the whole time. This was early in lockdown easing so that was fine by us and understandable. However the whole time we were there we not offered a glass of water, cup of tea or anything. I also spent what turned out to be 90 mins rather than 60 asking all the questions with no effort coming back from them to find out about us and what we had been up to since we had last met/spoken months ago. Again this is not untypical and I know they have a new kid but for me its been a pattern for years now. When I ran out of questions to ask there was pretty much silence and distracting themselves with the wee guy until I eventually thought of some other random question to ask.

after that we did not really get in touch with each other until August when it is my brothers and mum's anniversaries of their deaths (about 10 days apart). My wife text them to say were in Livingston for my mum's anniversary at end of August and if it was ok we could come round on the way to cemetery or on way back. However they said no as it was not convenient, not a major issue but we tried.

Then We sent a card for SIL birthday was in Sept so we sent a card and text message on the day and she sent one back to say thanks, etc.

In Glasgow we then went into another lockdown advising against travel about a week after SIL birthday and have been in that way until a week or so ago when we went into further lockdown and all non-essential stuff closed and all travel was advised against.

Then again that was it. My wife had been telling me to phone my brother last week so we could arrange a Christmas present for nephew. I need to work up to it but because I was on-call for work and it had been a bad week for call-outs I could not face it so my wife text instead to ask..... here it comes.

My brother then replied saying unless we bring the present around in person then not to bother as the gift is an empty gesture because we have not been in touch to see how he is.

When I read that I had a reaction I have never had before and that was one of rage. I could not believe he had sent a message like that, which to me felt like it was out of the blue.

My wife sent a calm message back saying sorry he felt like that and for upsetting them and maybe we could chat about it.

He said we could if it would help but they were busy, etc so would need to be another night. but he thought with pretty much the points we have above that we should have been in contact more and asking more about nephew.

This just all upset me but rather than looking for ways to calmly work through it, I don't know, something flipped in me and I sent a message saying I could not believe he had sent such a text message and we had been keeping ourselves to ourselves and also been very busy ourselves......

(one thing I forgot to mention is my wife's parents are in their late 70's have quite a few underlying health conditions so we also were trying to keep away from people in order so my wife could take them shopping for food once a week).

Anyway in the text I also pointed out that the last time we had arranged to meetup and when we came through I did not feel welcome and there had been no effort by them to take any interest in us and that they have also had many examples of empty gestures and sentiments as well if we are in the way of calling these things out. I finished it by saying I did not think a call would do any good as I had no idea what to say..

My brother then text me directly saying not travelling through more was not the issue but the fact I had not been on touch more to ask about him was what was annoying him and was not too much to ask. He said if I had not felt welcome or arranging a visit had been a problem I should have brought it up before now as we are adults and we should not allow that to come between our relationship with my only nephew.

When I read that it just angered me so I sent him a message back saying neither of us had been in contact with each other so I did not think there was any issue, I also said not feeling welcome had not been a reason for not being in touch, I had just been busy and thought you guys were too as I had not heard from him. I then finished it by saying maybe we focus on our own family units but our health and happiness is important to both of us and this is doing nobody any good. But also said I would be here for him if he ever wanted to contact me as I do love him.

He replied with ok and if I ever want to find out how my nephew is then I could contact him.
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Hi all,

sorry for how long that message is, there was a lot I need to get out there.
The relationship and recent argument/fallout give me loads of questions and issues I struggle to find answers for:

1) As I have very few friends and not seeing anyone because of lockdownI have litterally no one I can tell this to and find out if this sort of thing is normal?

2) If I am actually in the wrong or if we are all at fault, etc?

3) I did not know I was suppose to be fulfilling a quota for the amount of times I am suppose to text/phone to talk to them about my nephew/life updates.

4) My brother had not been in contact with me at all (apart from one other text I have not included on this list but which I replied to him) and I feel keeping in contact is a 2 way street - is that wrong?

5) Maybe I should have made more of an effort to contact my brother and find out about my nephew but surely if that was a big thing for my brother then he could have made some effort, text me, phone me, have a video call so we can talk and I can see him and nephew?

I do not regret the messages I sent but at the same time I feel sad / weighed heavy that we have fallen out. not sure what I expect anyone to say or advise (Christ getting through my first post is an award in itself!) but just sad all round I guess.
Family can be strange. My younger sister is an utter prick and have told her so. I won’t go into the reasons again, but we haven’t spoken for about 4-5 years now. My younger brother still lives close to our parents so I don’t see him often but that is what WhatApp is for.

Will my sister ever talk to me again? I don’t think she will.
If you think you can mend your relationship then keep contact even if just for your nephews sake, but if it's unrepairable and toxic, I think for your own health to part ways.
Sad to say but this sounds like a completely one way and controlling relationship with your brother and SIL behaving despicably towards you and your family

I hope you can salvage the relationship - though from what you have described I sincerely doubt it unfortunately

I think that it is probably time for a frank and forthright discussion - preferably face to face with your brother - about the situation

You mentioned your Dad earlier - is he aware of the situation and how badly the relationship has broken down?

You can't control how other people act and feel so let it go.
Your brother is an adult and his own man with his own wife (who I bet is pulling the strings here) and his own family.
Give him space, if he is worthy of you, he'll come back around. If not, you've cut negativity and stress out of your life.

I am very close to two of my cousin's (they are brother and sister) because I was raised with them for years.
However Dean had been a real difficult person to be with sometimes and although he's now 50 and settled down better, he's had plenty of drama going on throughout his life.
Because he was like my big brother, I followed him around like a little lost lamb until my mid 20s.
Although I've no regrets, I did follow him into borderline alcoholism but was able to get my life together better.
He was circling the drain for quite a while and at one point one of his friends was telling me that they were going to lose their friendship beggar he'd done Dean a favour meaning Dean owed him some money and he wasn't paying it back, but he was going out drinking all the time.

I paid him the money so they could put it behind them and take the pressure off Dean.
Trouble is, I didn't talk to him first.
When he found out, he went banana's at me and didn't speak to me for about 5 years.
He wouldn't even go to family functions is he knew I was going.
His mum and dad and sister were gutted about it and asked me lots of times, I told them I didn't know what it was about as it was obvious he hadn't told them and I thought I'd he was embarrassed about it, I'll not tell.
5 years later we were actually at a function together and got talking and it was just like nothing had ever happened.
We've stayed in contact since then, and one time wow having a beer together he bought up the 5 year absence and said he didn't even know what it was about. I said I didn't either, but it might be because he was not in a good way but at that point I had got in to a new relationship and moved in with her (me and Dean were renting a house together at that point and working together), he got made redundant and I then left and went away to join the police so it might have been that things were going bad for him and were on the up for me and because his drinking were getting out of control.

That has been excepted and we've moved on and we are both now happier and stronger people.
But he needed his space and needed to find his own way back and I needed to cut the stress and negativity out of my life.
Thanks for responses.
My wife thinks they are trying to be contolling & is why she decided to change her approach & while not wanting to spend time with them she does tries to do the right thing in terms of keeping the door open.

I am normally the one to say “lets meet and talk” but I doubt I am going to be the one that does that this time and with my brother being quite stubborn I do not see him doing it either.

like you said my SIL could be the one in the background pulling strings however my brother and her do have similar personalities so its hard to say and not necessarily as clear cut as that.

lastly my OP is my side of events and my thoughts on it & I am sure my brother would give you a totally different story and history take on our relationship.
You mentioned your Dad earlier - is he aware of the situation and how badly the relationship has broken down?

the day after it happened I spoke to my Dad over zoom and decided not to mention it (no reason just did not really want to talk about it). Then I spoke to him on Thursday night and had a general chat about Christmas and decided to mention it, full in the knowledge I was confident my brother would have mentioned it to him or complained about me to Dad.

My brother has always been closer to my Dad than me. Dont get me wrong I get on great with my Dad but my brother relies on him much more than I do for advice, help with doing things around the house or while he is out and about in a way I never have. Also as he is about 5mins from their house their is a locational closeness as well.

He said as I expected that my brother had already mentioned it to him and he was sad about the situation and wished he could fix it but also that he did not want to get involved as it is up to us to sort it out.

its what I expected and I never went into the he did and she did or he said and she said detail (although I suspect he might have) of the situation but just said it is not going to be fixed anytime soon.

i also said they have his grandchild so totally understand at future events and family occasions he will want to spend it with them as he is his new priority and that I was cool with that.

we shall see what happens over the weeks and months to come but I am doubtful I will hear from him anytime soon.
I guess that we will all be wishing for a Christmas Miracle....... :)

i also said they have his grandchild so totally understand at future events and family occasions he will want to spend it with them as he is his new priority and that I was cool with that.

must admit thrst I personally don't agree with you on the above - you and your wife were/are there before any grandchildren arrived on the scene so I don't really get your reasoning - he can't be expected to forget/ignore family get togethers with your family just because your brother has a baby surely?

I can well understand him nrit wanting to get involved - but at the end of the day "he is" and has a responsibility to - at the very least - not encourage or support - even passively - your brother and his family's behaviour....

Totally get that but for example Christmas with a child is a special time & understand he would want to be there to enjoy that. My wife and I chose not to have kids so that is just one example of a time he eould want to spend time with them over us. However I fo get uour point & would agree if every birthday, christmas or family based event was with them then I would not like that.

i do not tell my dad the ins and outs of argumdnts or disagreements I have with my brother as there are two sides to every situation & my Dad has had tendencies to stick up for my brother in the past so I just dont tell him much of the detail these days. I am sure my brother deals with my dad differently to me but I dont mind. If my brother tries to paing himself as the victim / innocent party then I cant change that all I can do is focus on me & what is important to me & my relationships.
Bloody hell I was getting angry for you, reading all that. Had to calm down.

I've dealt with that sort of emotional blackmail a few times - they always go for the nice guys. With time I've become immune to it and if anyone tries it, I just turn it back on them and walk away.
I do not tell my dad the ins and outs of arguments...
Entirely your call of course but I'd suggest that if you value your relationship with your Dad, then he needs to know. Otherwise you risk that being poisoned by a constant drip of your brother's side of events. Maybe consider putting your side in writing to him, just so that it's on the record. No need to discuss it further if neither of you want to or engage in an exchange over the details. Just lay it out in concise terms for him to digest as & when he's ready.

Whether you want to pursue fixing things with your brother is another matter, but that will never be resolved by text message.
Your brother sounds like hardwork.

I think your wife has the right idea in keeping the communication open but sometimes we just have to accept that we won't have the relationship we want, no matter how hard we try.

Families are complicated but if your mental health is suffering over the toxicity then I recommend you put yourself first to have peace of mind.

We only have one life and if you have tried and get nothing but grief in return you shouldn't feel guilty for letting the relationship go and making your happiness a priority.
Aaahhh families, especially siblings.

Keep in contact if you can for the sake of your relationship with your nephew, this might be somewhat difficult though as your nephew is obviously far too young for him to make his own decisions about contact with yourself. Obviously you and our wife must be comfortable with any contact and if either of you are not then it has to cease, perhaps with a word to your father indicating why.

Continue to send birthday and Christmas presents, regardless of what your brother says. If he gets far too stroppy about it then open a bank account for your nephew and start pushing some cash in for birthdays/Christmas.

To some degree most of us have been there for a short or longer periods of time. I have two sisters, one older, one younger. The eldest and I no longer have any contact with the younger sister and have not done so for about 5 years (no need to go into gory details) but we still have strong relationships with the younger sister's kids. Then again they are all 20+ now so they can decide who to chat to themselves.

Take care.

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