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Jealousy, Control, Sibling Rivalry And Ghosts Of The Past

by Maggie
(Long Beach)

Ever since I could remember as a small child, my younger brother has been the primary focus of the family...(i.e. the prince of the house). It seemed as though from the day he was born that he was everything, and I became the "other child" who was not as smart or good enough to compare to my wonderful brother.

Fast forward to early teens - Mom was going to college, Dad worked and traveled a lot. At 12 years old I was expected to care for the house, do all the chores, cook supper and have it all ready when they got home. This included cleaning up after my 10 year old brother. Dad had a very difficult time reconciling that his daughter was growing up and put very restrictive rules in place. This continued through high school. Brother got to go places and do things - I was a girl so I couldn't go places without supervision. During high school they had little brother evaluated for his education and decided he wasn't being challenged enough an sent him to private school. I tried rebelling - that didn't work too well. Lots more restrictions.

I went to college for a while. Dad used numerous connections to get little brother into a service academy. That lasted a whole year. Meanwhile, as a rising senior in college, I received a phone call from the parents - we can no longer send you to college - we have to put your brother through college. I was devastated. I had asked a couple of time for help from my folks to get me started in life - like help getting a car so I could work and such. Well, little brother, after dropping out of the academy was given a car, an apartment and college tuition after he had lost a full ride scholarship.

I decided that I would have to rely on myself and not ask for any help. I joined the service and stayed for twenty years - got my retirement and now work at a second career - very successfully I might add.

Little brother got his degree - a double degree and tried engineering for a while - did not have the right mind-set to be in an operational world/work environment (because those people were stupid and didn't understand how smart he was - his words not mine) became a teacher - a noble profession. However it bleeds into his relationships with every one now - he has to be the smartest guy in the room in every room he enters. We call him the Professor (behind his back).

I understand this comes from insecurity on his part but if another person knows something he doesn't, he gets angry and confrontational. if you disagree with him, he becomes confrontational and will browbeat the person he is talking to until they either walk away, back down, or cuss him out. This is the norm with most every interaction. it is usually over something that is of little importance, like some detail in a movie, some insignificant factoid, or a political opinion. It never ceases to amaze me how angry and abusive he gets over these details. He will do everything in his power to prove the other person wrong no matter what lengths he has to go to. It is way past insane at this point.

I have tried to reason with him, tell him people have the right to their opinions - this only escalates the situation.

Now he is in financial straits, has lots of medical problems, and Mom has had to rescue him numerous times from his own foibles - mostly from "keeping up with the Jones" activities. He's blown through two of his wife's inheritances and allegedly went broke putting their daughter through college. I'm sorry he has health problems, but his financial problems are of his own making.

He seems very jealous of any success I have - I have been fortunate to have had good careers, finished my degree, and have a wonderful life with my dear sweet husband. Oh, by the way - husband agrees with me on this - not because I want him to - but because he's had to deal with the brother also.

I've tried talking to Mom and she just wants us to get along. let him have his way, just let him bully everyone, just keep quiet. Keep the peace. I had a long discussion with her and she basically told me that my brother and I would have to work it out between ourselves.

He is toxic. I don't want to interact with someone who is constantly abusive and treats me like I am some kind of second class stupid person. I am no longer jealous, just sad for all the opportunities I missed to be with my parents because of his behavior. I could never visit my folks and have any meaningful conversation with them without him being present and running the conversation.

Am I going to have to "divorce" myself from this situation to keep my sanity? Any advice out there?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Maggie, and thanks for telling your story here. As you have experienced, favoritism is a very painful and destructive practice in families. You have felt the pain of rejection, exclusion and neglect, but fortunately you currently have a good marriage and a good career. I congratulate you for your success.

Interesting that your brother has not fared well, even though he was the favored one. I see this pattern a lot. Favoritism hurts the favored child as much (albeit in a different way) as it does the less favored one. Nobody wins in this type of situation.

I think you are wise and healthy to avoid any toxic relationships in your life, even if its with your family. A good practice is to "find the distance from which you can love" your brother and your parents. In a healthy relationship, you can love people up close, but when the relationship is toxic, you need a lot of distance to feel love and acceptance of that person.

The following page will also be helpful to you: letting go of a relationship.

You may also want to learn about nurturing your inner child, to give yourself the love and attention that you needed and didn't get as a child. This will also help you to grieve and let go of the sadness you feel about what you missed with your parents.

You are a good and intelligent person, Maggie. Be grateful for that, focus on that, and continue to create a good life for yourself. The positive journaling exercises on this page will help with that.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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Dec 28, 2012
A skewed sense of normal
by: Maggie

Well, the holidays have come and gone - another "normal" visit with family... Now my younger brother has started his shenanigans with our Mom. When she disagrees with him he gets all indignant and starts spouting rhetoric like a graduate student defending his thesis. Of all things this was one about when Mom got a microwave in the kitchen of the house we grew up in - it is always some triviality that doesn't matter. She told us she replaced the old combo-stove/oven unit with a stove/microwave unit... to which he told her there was no way she had a microwave that he couldn't even afford one when he was in college so there was no way she had one...(We found this amusing because he didn't work while he was in college - Mom & Dad paid for him to got to college - so of course he couldn't afford a microwave) - he misremembers things like this all the time - makes up or imagines this stuff. My husband, God bless him, asked him if he was the cook in the house and stated that perhaps the people who did the cooking would remember this detail a bit better than he might... it escalated from there with him losing his temper... I was proud of Mom - she did stand up to him. Unfortunately, I told him to shut up that he didn't know what he was talking about and then he really got mad. It drives me crazy that he bullies people he determines to be inferior to him and I stand up to it now - which he hates. This was in a local restaurant - a place my husband and I go all the time. When we left, he bundled Mom off and I didn't get to say goodbye or hug her. What a JERK! I know I shouldn't even react to him but we had been ignoring his actions/behaviors for several days and it was getting worse by the minute. At this point I can't see my mother without him around - this breaks my heart.

Nov 27, 2011
Getting Even
by: Anonymous

I am the youngest of 5 in my family and from the other side of the coin, I always felt my next to the youngest sisters jealousy. We have a span of 17 years between us. She has been angry at me since as early as I can remember, like 8 or 9. I am now 34. Our father is now aging and was having trouble keeping up his house alone. Her and her husband lost their jobs and moved in to "help out" but what it feels like now is that she is taking advantage of the situation, with her it's like yippee I now get dad all to myself.

She will only allow visits now when it is inconvenient for anyone to come over, then makes it known that we are not allowed to drop in. We used to visit him every weekend, now we cannot since she moved in there. I cannot help but feel that this is about her trying to make us feel like she felt after I was born. I have never told her how I feel until it became reality that something has to change or I am not going to get to visit my father in the final years of his life.

Now that I have said something, she is shooting blame all over the place, even blaming our dad. I told her we get hurried out the door and I felt it was because of the tension between us because he does not do this when they are not around. She didn't get it, saying it was because he mistreats us and oh how sorry she is. But that we have to understand that he is old and grumpy.

Then on and on about how much she does for him. When she does not see that she blocks everyone out from having a chance. I feel like she does not even know that she is trying to "get even" I cannot change the resentment that she has felt towards me since birth, and we have never had a sibling relationship, so emotionally I'm not really upset that she feels this way, I've never had anything to lose with her. But now I have to go through her to see my father.

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