My Brother The Verbal Abuser

by Sadsituation

My brother is a very angry person who we have asked to get help for his anger issues for years...reading up I believe he has a lot of signs of a sociopath also.

He is in his 40's and we have been dealing with his mean behavior and mood swings and verbal abuse for years, usually taking it to avoid a "blow up". Our mother who is now in her 70's pretty much takes most of the abuse with constant put down's and name calling and being made fun of. She takes it because he has a 3 year old and a 3 month old who she loves dearly and when the mood strikes him he will not let her see them.

For all of us to see them it is by appointment only and I live a half mile from him. He is like a roller coaster ride and we never know what will set him off or if he does not return calls/texts to see them suddenly we usually have no idea why or what he is upset about. He is a control freak and his wife does everything he asks and even asks permission if she may eat and on what she can give their 3 year old. I believe she does this also to avoid a blow up. She is like a robot.

My nieces' first birthday party they only invited Grandparents, that was their explanation of why the aunts uncles and cousins weren't invited, then the 2nd birthday they did the same and the last one he decided to invite me but not her other uncles on his wife's side. No one understands what his logic is only that he likes to hurt people or be mean and it gives him some sort of joy? He goes through friends and becomes best friends and is so very wonderful to them and all of a sudden they will be unwelcome and we never see them again.

I have shut him out of my life many times due to his mouth and behavior and the severity of his cruelty but usually he will weasel his way in through a sob story or family emergency etc. Then it will be magical and wonderful (yet I keep my distance best I can) and then the cycle will continue and he'll turn ugly and blow up or do odd angry things.

He recently asked us to go on a camp out and was in control of all the food and if he doesn't he will cut down make fun or say nasty comments on others. On this recent camp out it began raining heavily and we suggested packing up and going out to have breakfast (it was our day to leave anyhow) and he insisted on cooking and won't let anyone help then when you ask to help or get something he snaps and will say things like "I will get the lettuce in a second but I am REALLY busy right now cooking for everyone." When I offer to get it myself and that to let others help he won't answer. He enjoys making people feel bad or making people feel that he is going out of his way and they are so terrible for not helping yet he won't allow anyone to help.

He is like a time bomb waiting to explode!

On the rainy morning we all did as he instructed and ate in the rain and then things again went south. He began complaining then putting food items away. He threw a box of cookies I had bought for his daughter in the fire pit without saying a word. I looked at him in disbelief and asked why he did that and he said it wasn't his and I shouldn't leave my things next to him even though we shared the campground food made absolutely no sense at all. Then from there it went downhill fast.

I have become so hardened by his cruel nasty behavior that I have no feelings for him in the sense that I don't care if he is in my life or not, whereas before I didn't want that. It seems that the times that I experience without him in my life are calm and peaceful and when he is in it it is STRESS, put downs, never anything nice. It is hard to see my mother take the verbal abuse. I wish she would be strong and get out of that situation but she loves her grandkids and he knows he has that control over her.

I read up and try to understand what he is and why he does these things...I almost feel as though it brings him some sort of joy to be mean to people.

My mom got up one morning and he just put coffee on and she said good morning to him and that it smelled good and his reply was "just shut up already mom." So she sits there like a zombie and doesn't say anything...nobody was around when he said this, she had told me later. It's a sick situation. He will never apologize for his horrible behavior or actions, he has never sat and talked about his feelings or how to resolve things. I have asked him to seek help and told him he has anger issues among other things when he wanted back into my life and he always say's he will but has yet to do so.

I plan to keep him out of my life and feel it is the only way. He is toxic...I don't know what else to do.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello, and thanks for telling your story here. You have made it very clear just how difficult it is for your family to deal with your brother. That is high stress, and it makes perfect sense that you would want him out of your life.

First, I'll offer some perspective, then some possible courses of action.

One thing to consider, which you may have already thought of, is that the family's efforts to "avoid a blowup" sends a message to your brother that his behavior is warranted and effective. When others cater to his needs, tip-toe around him and try to keep from upsetting him, he gets two messages: one is that he's a monster that everyone is afraid of, and the other message he gets is that he is correct in all of his judgments, criticisms and anger toward the family.

In other words, trying to avoid a blowup just won't work--as you've probably noticed.

The best thing that could happen is if the entire family refused to be around him when he acts that way. I know that won't happen, and if it did it would mean the family would be deprived of contact with his children. It still would be good, however, because it would send a very clear message that his behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Currently, he's getting the message that his behavior is acceptable, from everyone but you.

Re. a course of action. Shift your focus from your brother to yourself. Do not allow his behavior to occupy your attention any more than absolutely necessary. Focus on what you love about yourself and everyone around you. The positive journaling exercise on this page will help you with that.

Every time you think of your brother, choose to see him at his best, and getting better. This is your refusal to let his bad behavior into your own mind, and to hold out the possibility of change. It will probably be easier to do this if you're not around him much or at all. That's fine. This is for you, not for him.

Create a fabulous life for yourself, and focus only on what you choose to be part of your reality.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

P.S. If you found this to be helpful, please consider making a donation to this site to support our mission.

Comments for My Brother The Verbal Abuser

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Jun 29, 2016
My Older Sister
by: James

It's not my older brother that's the problem. It's my older sister. She's like a volcano always looking to erupt. She's been bullying me since the day I was born.

One Christmas I had to spend on my own and I couldn't visit my elderly frail mother because of my sister. She thinks the worst of everyone because she sees the worst in herself. She's a loner and has never been in a romantic relationship in her life. I think she's a sociopath. She doesn't have a mothering or nurturing instinct at all.

She says the most wicked things when she's angry. She was spoilt. I was out working when I was 17, she didn't do her first day’s work until she was in her 30,s. She has an extremely volatile temper. One time I had to make a 999 call as she was hiding my life saving medication.

She loves war--that's her favorite hobby. I don't know how her school friends don't know what she's like. I was out working full time for 16 long years. She's only worked full time for 12 years. I always tell my mum that spending Christmas day on your own has got to be the worst day of the year to spend on your own.

I fear she's a sociopath like my older brother who climbed the corporate ladder successfully but was a loner at heart. I still can't forgive him for violently assaulting me even though he passed away naturally not that long ago.

Feb 01, 2016
To the author of "I Love My Brother..."
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hello, and thanks for your comment. I suggest that you find the necessary emotional distance you need from the abuse in order to feel safe and balanced personally. When you practice these types of personal boundaries, it will send a message to both of them that if they want you around, they cannot engage in that. Trust them to work things out in their own way, and focus on what is good, right and working in your own life.

I hope this helps,

Dr. DeFoore

Jan 31, 2016
I Love My Brother But I Don't Know What To Do
by: Anonymous

I am between a rock and a hard place. I love my brother but I feel badly for his wife, and I love her too. He verbally abuses her. I feel that part of me, as the sister, should say something to him, but then I question myself. I question whether it is any of my business.

Nov 09, 2015
To author of "Why Won't My Parents Stand Up For Me?"
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hello, and thanks for your comments. It is not your parents who need to stand up for you, it's you. You're 32 years old, and it would not be healthy for you if you relied on your parents to stand up for you to your brother. Besides, they don't even stand up for themselves.

It's time to let go of your parents and step fully and completely into being an independent, strong adult woman. Build on the strength of that "tough girl" and grow her into a powerful woman.

Read this page about personal boundaries, and then put that knowledge to work in your relationships.

The bottom line here is that you are worthy of respect. Anyone who is disrespectful to you is not worthy of your company.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

Nov 08, 2015
Why Won't My Parents Stand Up For Me?
by: Anonymous

I am currently 32 and have been bullied/abused by my older brother my whole life. I am a tough girl raised by a long line of independent women. I think that is why my situation is so hard for whole childhood, my parents would tell me not to talk to my brother or not to antagonize him.

Any disagreement we had would end up in extreme physical violence. After a while I started thinking I just need to keep my mouth shut, or don't say anything to upset him.

Now I have learned to take it to avoid a blow up. I don't see him much so I find it much easier. He is no longer physically violent but he is constantly criticizing and taunting both me and my husband. Tonight however I had enough of his torment, so I stood up for myself (aka sharing an opinion which differs from his) and then he exploded.

I was super proud of my mom when she asked him to leave. He then charged and her and got in her face. Later my dad said he didn't see that. Then my brother called my dad and said he would never come back when I was there. My dad responded with a lot of I know's and okay's.

I was so angry! I just wanted him to stick up for me and say, "Hey, you were out of line tonight." I can accept my brother’s behavior. What I'm hurt by is my father's. I also know my mom is going to pretend like this never happened with him, but she will tell me she had a really stern talk with him.

I'm not sure how to move past how hurt I am by my parents and especially my father.

Jul 29, 2015
by: Anonymous

Thank you Dr. for your advice and insight, it's so nice to hear what I pretty much thought for years.

Well since I wrote that year's ago now, I cut him out of my life like an axe hacking a thin branch... WHACK! It was very difficult for probably the first year and still hurts but I really try not to think about how he is and to dwell on the "I wish he were different" or "I wish he would miss me/us to get help" etc... I've gone on and life is pretty nice without having to deal with him.

I miss my niece and nephew so terribly and it hurts the most not being able to be a part of their lives and enjoy and love them and have them experience all the fun things that Auntie's and Uncle's and Cousins could add to their young lives. I tried sending gifts and cards to them and finally realized one Christmas as my mom told me that they opened up my gifts and weren't told who they were from so I knew after that it was really pointless. I cherish the times I do get to see them usually through a visit to my mom when she's sick or a run in at the store or something. I hug and squeeze them and sniff them and try so hard not to cry. I do think they know and sense that I love them so much though, and I do tell them.

I struggled and still do over thinking that the kids will grow up thinking I don't care of love them but I know this is just another way for my brother to be in control and to be hurtful or punish me in his warped mind.

I wish it could be the way you described it and ALL of us checked out of his life when he behaved horribly but my mom won't do it, she takes the verbal abuse and does everything he says to see the kids and I do understand how she feels wanting to see the kids and that is the only way but so true that it just enables him and confirms in his mind that he is right by how he behaves and does.

Fortunately he can be civil with me as time went on when we do have to see each other from time at funerals, hospital visits to my mom etc., but I can tell he is the same. I almost now look as an outsider looking in feeling sorry for people who do have to deal with him when he's "malfunctioning." He'll always be right and the world is wrong and there is no between.

I have gone on with my life and am happy though! It's sad but it's much less stressful having to deal with him and his mouth and demands.

My mom loves getting to see the grandkids when he decides he will let her but she also tells me how stressful it is for her too always wondering if she'll say something wrong or if anything will ignite his fuse. She tells me he will lash out at his wife now with his mouth horribly (never physical that we know of) but it's pretty bad so maybe she's getting more of it since we aren't there to split the release of anger quakes! But that's her deal not mine. These are two highly educated people also were talking about to boot!

Anyhow the net result is that I'm happy but nothing has changed. I really wish my mom would follow through when he gets nasty and we join together so maybe he'd see that it's a clear "it's not ok for him to behave this way to any of us" but it'll never happen. He's right always in his mind and so far won't budge on the idea of getting help or wanting to talk. I think in his mind it would be like defeat instead of bettering his life. I was always very careful on my wording when I would suggest getting help for his anger by offering to go with him and was open to changing anything I do that could help. But no.

Thank you so much.

Jul 28, 2015
I'm Going Crazy Because Of His Behaviour
by: Anonymous

I don't know what it is about him. He is the only person to make me so angry to the point that I cry my eyes out, I bite my fingers, I punch my own head...I don't know how to express my feelings. I have never hated a human being ever so much in my whole life. I am forced to live with him everyday. I clean up the house and he always messes it up again. He always talks about how I need to "respect" him because he is older but I think he is the one that needs to respect me! He is inconsiderate, he never thinks of other people, he always says the most hurtful and wrong things. He chose a religion that is mostly kind of a cult. The leader of his religion is always debating with other people because their way of life is so restricted it's just wrong. Women aren't allowed to wear pants, have their hair down, have make up or jewelry, it's so sexist. They talk about respect all the time. So whenever I tell him that he needs to do this and that, he snaps and says "you need to respect me I'm older than you!" What the heck does that have to do with anything? And then he tells me that I can't say specific things to him or else he will punch me, or throw my body into a river, or just plain hurt me. I talk back to him and he always says "SHUT UP I'M NOT EVEN TALKING TO YOU" I don't know how to react. I hurt myself and pretend I'm hurting him. I hate him so much. I don't know how to react to this. I'm too young to go crazy. Please help me.

Apr 01, 2015
You Can Step Out Of The Victim Role
by: William

You do not have to continue to be a victim to your brother or anyone. Take a look at this page on abusive relationships will help you to begin healing from that role, which began in your childhood.

Re. your present relationship with your brother, I want you to consider 1) that you owe him nothing, and 2) you need nothing from him. I encourage you to stop offering advice or help of any kind. He is not respectful to you, and therefore he is unworthy of your time. Find the distance from which you can relax and love him, and maintain that distance.

And master the art of taking very, very good care of yourself, which will build your reserve of joy and well being.

Believe in yourself.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

Apr 01, 2015
Angry And Rude Brother And A Continued Pattern Of Being Bullied
by: Anonymous

Hi there,
I also have an angry, abusive and violent brother. I don't know where to start as it been my life forever. It all began in childhood, ruining my toys. Swearing and being the naughtiest kid in school. It affected my self esteem to feel my brother was so hated. I tried to fight his battles and stand up for him in school but I gave up. I decided instead to be the good kid so my mum and dad didn't have me to worry about me too. I fought for our family name so at least there was one 'good' kid from our family. I forgot my needs so there could be peace and I'd always try to play peacemaker. This didn't really make me safe from his power of abuse and anger but I had to do something....

I'm much stronger today as I'm away from family, running my own life. But I'm now home for a bit as I've been unwell and my parents are looking after me. But of course my brother is here and he was screaming at me yesterday. I tried to give him some advice about a job application. He is often unreasonable and then gets abusive when you give any constructive advice. Yesterday, I was labelled as fat, lazy and low confidence. He always mentions my weight and that I waffle too much which shows I have no confidence.

I'm used to the pattern of his behaviour but I am scared of the abuse, as I now see clearly just how it affects my confidence and interferes with my happy, independent life away from him. It's like a tumour that grows in size. Enough time away and the tumour goes away. Then it grows back when I see him....

But I have to keep in touch as he is my brother. But the pain always comes back and I'm pretty sure it's holding me back in life. I am not able to tolerate bullies. I've been bullied by my boss previously. As I'm clearly vulnerable perhaps. I am scared today that I'll never be fully happy as I have the scars of his abuse. That makes me open to more abuse open when bullies or abusive people arrive. They always exist in life. I guess I have to be better at sniffing them out. I was in two abusive relationships with men. Now my boyfriend is the loveliest man alive, I never thought I'd be with him but he works. I hope my scars stay closed and I can gain enough support so they don't open but it is hard...

Any thoughts would be welcome. Thanks for listening.

Dec 07, 2014
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for your comments about my story/situation. It's really nice to read there are also others who are in the same situation.

I am a forgiving person and have forgiven him many times for hurtful behavior and words. I think I'm just done.

I do love him and know deep down he is a good person and believe it or not very sensitive but his anger takes over and all that goes away.

I have many times tried to speak with him about seeking help for his anger and also let him know that "I" know that "I" am not right and he is wrong and that's not what it's about, but it is his behavior and how he snaps and is so cruel and I would be happy to speak with someone to try and make things better so he doesn't feel attacked. I've tried many approaches with him and I was really hopeful that would work. He basically (when he's wanting to see me and my family or decides he wants us back in his life again) agrees, and never follows through. He will promise he will get help and discuss the situation and that never happens.

It's been years now since I cut him out of my life and there have been a couple of situations when we had to be in the same room due to our mother being sick and one was recently. He will be cordial and cold but that's ok with me. I still am good with my choice to keep my distance with him even though it still makes me very sad especially when I see "normal" brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles with their kids and wish I had that.

He is still (according to my mother) the same controlling, angry, verbal abuser he was before so nothing has changed there. My mom tells me he can be very verbally abusive to his wife now where he wasn't before so maybe because his world is getting smaller and smaller, so she get's it now. I'm sure she walks on egg shells around him also and lives by his mood of the hour which is sad but that's her choice.

Thank you all for your comments, I so appreciate them!

Dec 05, 2014
Find The Distance From Which You Can Love Him
by: Dr. DeFoore

The point of all relationships is love. It's hard for you to feel love toward your brother when he is verbally abusive, which is totally understandable.

I encourage you to back away, do not criticize him, make suggestions, or try to change him in any way. Create a distance (in terms of contact, time together, frequency) that allows you to accept him and love him as he is.

He will either change, or he won't. He definitely will not change because someone else wants him to -- this is human nature. I elaborate on this in my Happy Relationships article.

I hope this helps,

Dr. DeFoore

Dec 05, 2014
I Want To Improve This -- How?
by: Me too!

Hi, I'm in a similar position with my older brother. I neither have nor wish to have a relationship with this guy due to his aggressive, controlling behavior.

He goes cold to hot in an instant. He has a problem with strong women who stand up for themselves - like me and my older sister - so he has always bullied or snapped at us. My younger sister was always his favorite and he never bullied her. Now I realize why - she kept her head down.

His ex-wife dumped him due to his verbal abuse. Now he has another partner who (like his ex) is quiet, sweet, tolerant, and has a limited support network (an only child, parents who live out of town). I am just waiting for him to begin abusing her. At the moment he is using this kind of controlling language - "I don't want you to put on weight; you're perfect the way you are." I pointed out that this sentiment was sexist and disrespectful, but he and my parents told me I was the one with the problem.

He wonders why his three kids fight, lie and say nasty things to each other. He does not seem to comprehend that it is learned behavior. I worry about them because they deserve a father who shows them love and positivity - not the constant negative language and blame that they receive.

In short, his behavior makes me feel ashamed, even though I know I am not particularly responsible for it.

Feb 25, 2014
Bully brother
by: Anonymous

I also have a bully brother. He bullied my mother for years until she died and now he is starting on me. He would get in my mother's face and scream at her until she was shaking all over. No one including his girlfriend, and my older brother and his girlfriend would ever tell him to stop. They are all scared of him, even the neighbors. He tells me that my kids are going to die and that I am not allowed on my property. He used to tell my mom that he would kill me if I came to her house. It is a horrible feeling to be bullied. I believe the only way to stop him is to take away his freedom. He is a very sick individual. I have help now and he will have to stop or he will be in serious trouble.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Good for you for finding a way to protect yourself. I'm glad you found help. No one should have to submit to this kind of treatment.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

Jan 13, 2013
Thank you
by: Anonymous

Thank you for your comments and replies. It is helpful to know that I am not alone. I wrote this story 3 year's ago and sadly nothing has changed. I am happily going on with life as an "only child"...I have not had any communication with him still. I miss my niece and nephew terribly and it breaks my heart it has to be this way but it is the only way.

To see them I would have to deal with him and be sucked into his world again...and it's always the same. There is a "Honeymoon" period in which he is soooooo sweet and nice and as time goes on he as he always does explodes or says something horribly cruel and hurtful in an angry outburst.

My mother still chooses to deal with him to see the kids and she tells me that he is the same if not worse than he was before. She says that she tries to keep her visits short to avoid a situation.

He is pretty much the same sick schmuck he mother is staying with me recovering from a broken leg and knee replacement and he was not there for her surgery, did not go to visit her in the hospital (she was there 2.5 weeks) ..he did go see her when she was in the rehab center twice. It hurts her because she is so good to them and thoughtful and generous. In turn it hurts me. But it is the way it is and will probably never change.

My dream is that my mother and his wife get fed up also and we all do some sort of an intervention...that is probably the only way he will take a look at himself and actually do something.

But I am happy and peaceful in my life without him! No tension, no hurting, no crying, no stress, no walking on eggshell's around is good!

Jan 10, 2013
I Have a Monster Brother Too!!
by: Anonymous

Thank you for this very insightful account of angry siblings and how parents allow and instill these behaviors.

Sep 04, 2011
by: Anonymous

Thank you for the story and response.

I felt better when I read this. It made me feel like I'm not the only one putting up with a monster.

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