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How Do I Deal With My Angry Abusive Brother Now That We're Both Middle Aged?

by Lynn
(Laguna Beach, CA)

I am a middle aged woman with one older brother. We grew up in the same house, with the same parents and the same beliefs but there is a great difference in our personalities. He has always been a rebel.

He was born with a small birth defect and my Mom attributes it to that. Not being able to walk for a long time, then having a sister who learned at the same time as he did may have been the first cause of resentment toward me. This is only theory offered by my Mom.

He has always come "home" to my parents, from the military, moved back home for financial reasons, stayed with my parents during transitional periods of time in his life. While I turned, 19 moved out, got a job and never moved home. I am not perfect by any means, but just more stable and perhaps fiscally responsible.

He has always had issues with anger, discharged from the military, acted out physically towards friends, co-workers, and even my father when he was alive. He is back now, living near my family, after a divorce, and was living with my mother again until he recently got his own place.

My husband and I have children and have been together for over 20 years. Recently my brother has become more and more verbally abusive toward me (which I can handle somewhat) but has lashed out to me more and more and is now saying horrible things about my family...specifically one daughter who has a learning disability. He is also saying horrible things about my husband (who never says an unkind word about my Mother or Brother).

I can't mention what he has said as his words are so cruel and heartless. They begin with being called (f-ing) losers, to retarded, to much, much worse.

His tirades have caused me to shake, pull off the side of the road while driving because of sheer hysteria, not to mention tears, sleepless nights, and just being heartbroken. They have sent me into panic attacks as well.

He realizes later what he has done and offers apologies such as "I'm sorry I blew up at you. I was stressed. I hope you can move on from it". I accept it because I was taught to forgive but also as my mother ages, and we are all she has, I feel I have to for her benefit.

I just don't want to this time. I am so hurt to the core, but with the holidays coming up, and they have always been celebrated at my house, I feel like I should take the risk and reach out.

I am very conflicted as I would like to teach my kids about forgiveness, I also don't want to teach them it's okay to compromise your self-worth to do so. My Mother is not willing to listen to my side. She just gives me Christian literature about forgiveness every time she sees me. That hurts as well.

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Jan 15, 2020
Thank You
by: Anonymous

Thank you for sharing these thoughts, feelings, struggles. I'm also seeking to learn about healthy anger/boundaries & healthy forgiveness. Reading this helps me too. Much appreciated.

Oct 15, 2014
by: Anonymous

Hello, I can feel your pain because I have some of my own. I think you need to take care of yourself and not let anyone abuse you, family or otherwise. You come first, and your family is next, you don't have to put up with any kind of abuse, and it will just keep happening. Don't let him put your children down, that is unacceptable. There is a time for forgiveness and I think that he has passed it. Sounds like he needs a lot of therapy and anger management treatment. You putting up with his behavior is not part of that treatment. When he's done with therapy and then apologizes, he is ready for forgiveness and not until then. I wish you much comfort to your own family. Don't even bother to discuss anything with your mother, she is in her own mindset. Good luck.

Oct 11, 2014
You Have Every Right To Feel What You Feel
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hi Lynn

It's very clear how difficult this situation is for you. Your thoughts and feelings all make sense, even though they are conflicted.

While I don't have "answers" for you in terms of what you should do, I will offer some perspectives for you to consider, which will hopefully help you to decide what is best.

The relationship between healthy anger and forgiveness is interesting, and I have done a lot of work in that area. I have an audio program on the topic of Love, Anger and Forgiveness, and you can also watch this slide show on the same topic. Just as there are healthy and unhealthy forms of anger, there are also healthy and unhealthy forms of forgiveness, all of which is covered in these programs.

Here are some thoughts for you to consider:

1) You're not doing your brother any favors by allowing him to abuse you and your family. It is actually harmful to him to allow this to continue...not to mention how harmful it is to everyone else.

2) The purpose of all relationships is love, especially family. For that reason, I suggest you "find the distance from which you can love" your brother. Which means you will only be with him if he treats you and your family with respect.

3) The beginning place of love is respect. When respect is diminished, love cannot prevail, and damage occurs. I think that's what you're experiencing.

When you adjust your relationship with your brother to allow for and require respect, you are opening to the possibility of love. If you believe that God is love, then you're inviting God into the relationship when you do this.

I hope this helps, Lynn. I'm quite sure you will make good decisions on behalf of yourself and your family.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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