Author Topic: Sibling Confrontation/Argument -- Was I Wrong, and How to Move Forward?  (Read 3320 times)

ReadySetMillionaire

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Forgive me if this is dramatic, but I'm up at 4:30 AM thinking about all this, feeling terrible that I handled this poorly, and I've already talked about it to death with my wife, so here it goes.

My older brother and his wife made an offer on a house about a month ago and officially closed this Tuesday.  They are moving about 30 minutes from their current location. They still had about 1-2 weeks in their current place but wanted to move into the new place, so they called direct family up on Thursday and asked for us to help them move yesterday. 

My dad (64 years old), his wife (54), my mom (61) and I showed up at 8:30.  Hardly anything was packed.  Not a single kitchen cupboard was packed away, dirty dishes still in the sink, bathroom wasn't packed, clothes everywhere, sheets still on the beds, dressers still completely intact and full, nothing taken apart, closets completely full, I could go on. I would say probably 5% of their belongings were packed.

Everyone spent the entire day helping them until about 4:30. We took three loads over via U-Haul and F-150. By the end of it my mom could barely move.  And the worst of it is that they are only about 60% done, if that. They still have the entire basement and garage and cleaning their old place, which is going to take a ton of work.

So afterwards, I called my twin brother--who dodged this mess by being in New Jersey for work--to vent.  He said "enough is enough" with my older brother (long history with older brother constantly getting money from parents, being difficult at holidays, etc.) and decided to conference him in to call him on this bullshit.  I told him it was "absolute horseshit" (exact words) to not have anything prepared, to expect everyone to do all this for them, to expect our aging parents to still do this heavy lifting shit for him--especially when they GIFTED him the money for the down payment on this new house. I told him the lack of preparation today was unacceptable with plenty of choice words.

His response had every excuse in the book and then went nuclear.  "You know how hard it is to pack when you have a 13 month old?" "We just found out we closed this Tuesday." "We've been up every night until midnight." "This was the biggest emotional day of my life [finally buying a house] and you ruined it." "I've come from a bankruptcy and a divorce to buying a house and this is how you congratulate me." "I don't want you around tomorrow. You're not welcome." "I don't want you in my life, period. Don't call or text." "I don't want you around my daughter."

So I've basically caused WW3 in my family.  You can probably assume from his response that we didn't have the best relationship to begin with, but we always put on a good front together and helped each other out when needed (see today). 

Furthermore, my direct family all still lives within 20 miles of each other, so we are still going to have to see each other at holidays and get-togethers.

So how do I handle this? Apologize and try to move on (even though I strongly feel I'm right)? Let things settle and then call? Or was this just the nail in the coffin with my already not-so-great relationship with my brother, and we should just carry on our separate ways?

JGS1980

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So he's holding his 13 month old toddler hostage as a punishment for you calling him out on his lack of preparedness and expectation that everyone do his work for him?  Why didn't he just get everything ready over a week and then call you guys in for the move later?

Your older brother is (successfully) emotionally blackmailing you.  Don't fall for it. If he removes himself from your life, it sounds like you will be better off.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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You aren’t wrong, but you (and especially you twin brother) handled it poorly and turned it into a conflict when nothing could be accomplished by doing that. So yes, apologize.

Dee18

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It seems to me (internet observer who knows none of the people, etc) that your only mistakes were trying to justify your outrage by speaking on behalf of the older generation and complaining to your twin, rather than speaking directly to the brother you were angry with. Your parents and stepmother are not elderly; they can certainly speak for themselves. Each person involved could choose to participate or not and to complain or not.  And if you don't like how someone deals with you, in the future tell him or her directly.  I vote for apologize.

mrsmeganmustache

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Packing with a 13 month old is really hard, for what that is worth.

former player

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What went wrong here was the conference call - venting to your twin should have been kept between the two of you.

I agree that the way out of this is an apology to your brother.  As you can't call or text, make it a letter, albeit a short one.  You regret the telephone call.  You were tired, and worried about the effect of a long hard day on your mom, who you saw could barely move at the end of it.  But you are sorry that the telephone call ruined the day.  You will respect his wish that you no longer call or text, but hope that for your parents' sake you will both be able to attend future family gatherings together.

Then tell your parents that you had an argument with your brother over the telephone, that you have written to apologise, and that you hope that family gatherings will not be affected.

Then hope for the best.

JCGreen

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You are not wrong, but that doesn't mean the way you handled the situation was right.

If you wanted him to be more prepared, getting in a verbal knock down drag out fight was probably not they way to go about it. Most family situations need to be handled with tact and diplomacy. He will never see you as being right if he is on the defensive and feels ganged up on.

I would wait a few days until you are no longer angry, and give him a call back, apologize for getting angry with him, but that you had different expectations and was upset about your mother's condition. At least in my family, once everyone has cooled down, they will pick up the phone and pretend nothing ever happened.

That belng said, how do you want this to end? You are not going to change your brother, but you do have control of your interactions with him. If you don't want to see him again that's fine, but you need to base your actions on what you want, not how you feel. If your brother pulls something like this in the future, you can always leave with an excuse and say something along the lines of, "I will come help when you are prepared, but since you are not, I am going to finish up project X. Just think of keeping family peace as being about your parents, not about your brother.

This is not meant to be a condemnation of you, just a recommendation of how to handle difficult family members. I can't talk to certain family members in anger because I know how it will end. I have to wait a few days to collect my thoughts in a constructive manner. It might be the same way for you and your brother.

Roadrunner53

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My husband had a falling out with his half brother years ago. His brother is not a good person at all. He was a punk thief as a kid, he has abused animals and he said vicious things to my husband. That was the frosting on the cake. They have not spoken in close to 20 years. The parents are long gone. The parents and one sister took the punks side and didn't speak to us either. It was worse when the parents were alive and having no contact with them. We are glad the brother is out of our lives. He has anger issues and has been arrested a few times for getting in fights.

Your brother appears to have issues too and I would have been furious to have had to pack up all that crap. People have kids and have to move so that was a stupid excuse. Your brother absolutely doesn't have his shit together and never will from your description. You will never change him and never expect he will improve.

Maybe to keep peace in the family, apologize. You may not mean it but trust me, this thing will get worse. Perhaps you could send a housewarming gift and send an apology with it. Personally, I would not have my heart in the apology and probably would not be sincere but to keep peace, it might be the best thing to do. Tell him you were tired, your mom was tired. I couldn't convince my husband to make peace and truly, his brother should have been the one to apologize for the ugly, ignorant, vicious things he said. Good luck and keep us posted.

SKL-HOU

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They were wrong to rush the moving. If it is hard packing with a 13 month old, they should have waited another week to pack more since they have more time at their place. Having said that the way you went about it definitely wasnt ideal. So i would apologize and use being under a lot of pressure with starting your own practice (i hope i am not mixing up posters) as an excuse for the harsh words.

Fishindude

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I gave up helping family move a long time ago.   
Last few times my kids and mother in law moved, some of us just chipped in and helped pay for Two Men and a Truck Moving Company.
Much less stressful for all parties.

Roadrunner53

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You are not wrong, but that doesn't mean the way you handled the situation was right.

If you wanted him to be more prepared, getting in a verbal knock down drag out fight was probably not they way to go about it. Most family situations need to be handled with tact and diplomacy. He will never see you as being right if he is on the defensive and feels ganged up on.

I would wait a few days until you are no longer angry, and give him a call back, apologize for getting angry with him, but that you had different expectations and was upset about your mother's condition. At least in my family, once everyone has cooled down, they will pick up the phone and pretend nothing ever happened.

That belng said, how do you want this to end? You are not going to change your brother, but you do have control of your interactions with him. If you don't want to see him again that's fine, but you need to base your actions on what you want, not how you feel. If your brother pulls something like this in the future, you can always leave with an excuse and say something along the lines of, "I will come help when you are prepared, but since you are not, I am going to finish up project X. Just think of keeping family peace as being about your parents, not about your brother.

This is not meant to be a condemnation of you, just a recommendation of how to handle difficult family members. I can't talk to certain family members in anger because I know how it will end. I have to wait a few days to collect my thoughts in a constructive manner. It might be the same way for you and your brother.

I agree with the highlighted above. It is about the parents, not the brother. Make peace for them. Bite your tongue and lie that you are sorry. Definitely keep your distance from him in the future as it seems he could be very annoying and will get on your last nerve.

Norrie

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I’ll admit that I flat out cringed when I got to the part about you and your twin conferencing in your brother to confront him. On what planet could this have possibly gone well? You absolutely had a right to be frustrated but you absolutely did not handle this well.

It is indeed really effing hard to pack with a 13 month old, but your brother should have notified the family of where things stood and maybe held off on having you all come in until they were more prepared. (That said, our neighbors totally bailed us out on a similar level of preparedness when we moved out of state with a 20 month old. We had put effort in, but had severely underestimated how much shit we had.)

It sounds like you’re uncomfortable with how you handled this and for good reason. Your brother’s lack of organization and family history of mooching has nothing to do with how YOU conducted yourself, so I would apologize for the parts that you are willing to own (without any “I’m sorry, but...” involved) and move on.

Family is complicated AF.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Thanks all. Took everyone’s advice to heart and texted my brother the following about an hour ago:

“Slept on it. Sorry for calling you like an idiot. I was way out of line. Frustrated about a lot of things, most notably that my law office has lost $228 since April 13. I’ve had no income in 3+ months. My time is my money these days so I was just extra upset yesterday.

Happy for you guys and your house. It’s beautiful. Again, sorry. Hope [daughter] liked her first night. I’ll respect your call last night and stay away today. If you need help call me. Again, I apologize.”

He hasn’t responded. His birthday is in two weeks so thah will be interesting.

My mom had a good observation: my reaction to his lack of preparation was the culmination of being fed up with a lot of bullshit, and his response was also the culmination of a lot of emotional issues he has with me (he feels like then “black sheep” of the family).

Oh well. Obviously could have handled this better. Hopefully things die down.

Roadrunner53

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Thanks all. Took everyone’s advice to heart and texted my brother the following about an hour ago:

“Slept on it. Sorry for calling you like an idiot. I was way out of line. Frustrated about a lot of things, most notably that my law office has lost $228 since April 13. I’ve had no income in 3+ months. My time is my money these days so I was just extra upset yesterday.

Happy for you guys and your house. It’s beautiful. Again, sorry. Hope [daughter] liked her first night. I’ll respect your call last night and stay away today. If you need help call me. Again, I apologize.”

He hasn’t responded. His birthday is in two weeks so thah will be interesting.

My mom had a good observation: my reaction to his lack of preparation was the culmination of being fed up with a lot of bullshit, and his response was also the culmination of a lot of emotional issues he has with me (he feels like then “black sheep” of the family).

Oh well. Obviously could have handled this better. Hopefully things die down.

Good job! He may sulk for a while but I think he will come around. If not, you did what you could to mend fences. Your Mom's observations are spot on!

lhamo

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I'm sorry you had to deal with this on top of the business start-up stress.

If you get back on an even keel with him, I would focus on setting better boundaries in the future.  For example, when you walked into the house yesterday and saw nothing was packed, you could have said something to the effect of "Looks like you are nowhere near ready to move today.  Can we take Niece for a few hours so that you can start getting things boxed up?  Suggest you start with the non-essentials, and we can move those boxes tomorrow.  Then you'll have next week to pack everything else and we can help you with the final move next Saturday."

Hopefully you won't have to help him move again for a long time, but the idea is if someone comes to you with no or an unworkable plan, you clearly outline what IS feasible from your perspective given where things stand.  Easier said than done, most likely, but also healthier than just going along with their haphazardness and then resenting it. 

bisimpson

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There's a lot of wisdom running through all of these replies. Your parents are their own people and have to decide how to best relate to your older brother. And just like @Malkynn pointed out, even they probably relate to each of you, their kids, with different goals. It sounds like your mom has both of your best interests in mind.

I have a similar situation with my family sometimes I handle it well, other times not so much. These days I'm trying to extract myself from those situations that I know will make me upset. I think in your situation I may not have helped if you knew it might have ended up like this.

For what it's worth: my older sisters are twins. They have an uncanny tight-knit bond. They talk everyday and share the same opinion on just about everything. They protect each other and rarely call each other out. A confrontation with both you and your twin may be particularly hard since he already feels like an outsider.

If you want your brother to really make changes, then you need to approach him when he is more open to thinking about better ways to live. I find that exploding really only entrenches the other person in their opinion.

All the best as you move forward.

Paradise

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Won't add to the good advice you've received, but wow - your description of the (unpacked) house gave me flashbacks from 25+ years ago:

I took an hours-long flight, along with my 4-month old nursing infant, to assist a family member moving out of their large family home the next day to a small condo in another state. Upon walking in the front door, nothing looked any different - paintings on the walls, every stick of furniture in place, etc. I was immediately asked if I'd like anything to eat - and the door of a totally jam-packed refrigerator was opened in my face. In shock, I asked if anything had been packed. The family member defensively said "Not yet, but I got boxes," pointing to a corner of the room where three (!) empty Xerox paper boxes sat. (This move was not sudden - it had been "in the works" for at least several months.)

Another family member and one family friend showed up and we worked all through the day and night, packing a UHaul and putting a massive mountain of items out on the curb for collection - only then to be told that the local trash collection fee (a thing in that part of the country) had not been paid for years and that although the collection truck would be coming through the neighborhood that day, it would not be stopping at that house. Well - when we heard the truck rumbling down the street, we ran out with a fistful of $20 bills and whew - the entire curbside of crap was swiftly cleared away. Somehow, the move was successfully completed that day (with barely a peep of thanks or even grudging appreciation), and all these years later, I still twitch when I think of this nightmare. Sorry you encountered a similar situation and hope that your efforts and thoughtful apology are gracefully acknowledged...
« Last Edit: July 22, 2018, 10:13:50 PM by Paradise »

iris lily

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Generally, if I ever agree to “help move” or to “help clean up X” or to “help clean out a house” I say “sure, I will be able to help you for X hours.” I put in my hours and I leave, having helped as I said
I would.

There is no way I commit to help others do their stuff to the point of completion because ,as you found out, you are not in control of the process.


FatCat

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Is it that unusual to have nothing packed? This sounds like every place I've gone to help. When you show up whoever asked for help has done nothing or barely anything.

GuitarStv

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Packing with a 13 month old is really hard, for what that is worth.

It's expedited by packing the 13 month as soon as possible.




Protip - remember to provide air holes.

dcozad999

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There's a lot of wisdom running through all of these replies. Your parents are their own people and have to decide how to best relate to your older brother. And just like @Malkynn pointed out, even they probably relate to each of you, their kids, with different goals. It sounds like your mom has both of your best interests in mind.

I have a similar situation with my family sometimes I handle it well, other times not so much. These days I'm trying to extract myself from those situations that I know will make me upset. I think in your situation I may not have helped if you knew it might have ended up like this.

For what it's worth: my older sisters are twins. They have an uncanny tight-knit bond. They talk everyday and share the same opinion on just about everything. They protect each other and rarely call each other out. A confrontation with both you and your twin may be particularly hard since he already feels like an outsider.

If you want your brother to really make changes, then you need to approach him when he is more open to thinking about better ways to live. I find that exploding really only entrenches the other person in their opinion.

All the best as you move forward.



That's an interesting take. I don't have twins in my family, but I can see how being the brother/sister of twins could make you feel like an outsider, considering their extremely tight bond (usually). Your brother has probably felt this way since you were born, so the two of you ganging up on him on a 3 way call wasn't going to do anything but make him defensive.

Not taking his side in this, because he should have had everything packed and ready to to. We had a 5 year-old and an 11 month-old and my wife and I made damn sure we were 95% packed before our friends arrived to help us move. It's just common courtesy. And if your mom was willing to help do the heavy lifting, I guarantee she would have been happy to come over and watched her beautiful grandchild those nights before the move so that they could get to packing.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2018, 09:01:46 AM by dcozad999 »

cats

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If you get back on an even keel with him, I would focus on setting better boundaries in the future.  For example, when you walked into the house yesterday and saw nothing was packed, you could have said something to the effect of "Looks like you are nowhere near ready to move today.  Can we take Niece for a few hours so that you can start getting things boxed up?  Suggest you start with the non-essentials, and we can move those boxes tomorrow.  Then you'll have next week to pack everything else and we can help you with the final move next Saturday."


This.  It sounds from your post like this behavior was not atypical, so if you plan to continue having a relationship with him, you need to figure out what you're okay with and what you aren't, and what you're going to do to make sure things you aren't okay with don't happen.  I will note than in my experience this is easier said than done, but I think it can get easier/better with practice.

As far as your parents go, yes, it sounds like what he asked of them was unreasonable, BUT...they are adults and should be able to say for themselves things like "I'm going to have to call it a day now" or "I'm too old for some of this lifting, you might need to hire movers to finish this up".

formerlydivorcedmom

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I'm glad you told your brother off.  He deserved it.

I'm also glad you apologized for it.  He deserved that, too.

Good boundaries are about what YOU do, not about what the other person does. 

My husband, whom I love dearly, is one of those people who is laser-focused and organized about things he is very interested in, and, um, NOT, about other things.  Moving falls in the latter category.  Left to his own devices, moving looks EXACTLY like moving your brother.  I'm not ever going to change that about him.   I'm not ever going to convince him to put moving in the "interesting things" category.

My solution?  Next time we move, I'm sending him out of town for a week.  (He thinks I jest.  Joke will be on him - it will be a MANDATORY vacation for him.)   When he gets back, everything will be done, and I won't have either killed him or be sitting in the office of a divorce lawyer.

Life is waaaaay happier and more satisfying when I remember that I have control over my choices and I haven't abdicated that to someone else....and when I'm not constantly trying to change someone else.  Also when I'm not trying to rescue someone else - because then I'm trying to change THEIR choices (e.g. - your mom had the CHOICE to work herself to the bone or...NOT).

It's amazingly difficult to have good strong boundaries around our family, but, as you discovered, it can also be amazingly important to do so.

Now is a great time for you to figure out what yours look like.  That way, if your older brother decides to see whether you really mean your apology, you have some personal insight to share with him on how you know you'll manage not to be an a$$ next time.  (and I say that in a loving way, having been the donkey in question many times)

MrThatsDifferent

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Dude, you’re brothers, fights happen and then time chills things out. My brother and I had the biggest fight of our life 6 months ago and I thought it was over between us and then he apologized profusely and told me he loved me profusely and it turned into one of the nicest moments we’ve had together since we were kids. Brothers. You obviously care about him and he’s obviously stressed. Let him get settled, sort his shit and you take time to work on your own shit and maybe both of you will stop using each other as punching bags?  Also, I’d be just as pissed as you if someone asked me to move and I had to do most of the work. Helping people move is the worst and after the last time I did that for someone I swore I’d never do it again.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2018, 12:28:17 AM by MrThatsDifferent »

pbnj

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+1 to Iris Lily.  Very sensible approach.  Avoids irritation . 

ReadySetMillionaire

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A "rant about your sibling" thread came up, and I just wasted my morning spilling out a treatise of my frustration that led to this point.  Read at your leisure:

What a great thread this will be for people to vent. Allow me to partake.

***

This was part of the genesis in my thread I just had over the weekend, which I posted after a huge fight with my older brother: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/sibling-confrontationargument-was-i-wrong-and-how-to-move-forward/

My older brother was also the subject of this thread three years ago -- he and his wife had two cars, two motorcycles, three dogs, etc. and were asking me for $5 so they could buy food: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/brother's-gf-just-facebook-ranted-about-food-stamps-need-help/

**

My older brother (now 32) began mooching off my parents when he got a $10,000 loan from them to start a landscaping business in 2004. That went out of business after one summer, but that treadmill of mooching hasn't stopped.

He continues to consistently and regularly borrow money from my parents. He plays ping pong with each of them, alternating calls about every two weeks, needing money for different reasons.  He drives his car over my dad's house on an empty tank, knowing my dad will fill it for him.  He only comes out to eat when he knows someone else is paying for the meal.

It's always the vital thing that needs money (cell phones, electric, whatever).  It's not that they buy Dunkin Donuts every day or eat out more than the rest of my family combined, it's that oh, man, their cell phones are getting shut off, how could this be.  It's very comparable to a drug addict asking his parents for "grocery money."

This has gotten to the point that I'm considering paying for my parents to undergo professional addiction counseling.

***

My brother is a police officer making about $30k/year. He has a huge inferiority complex about not going to college, even though I think  about him not going to college probably the same amount that I think about the hair on his ass.  It actually never crosses my mind, but whatever...him being the "black sheep" of the family is one of his go-to lines.

His wife has two psychology degrees but commutes about 170 miles round trip to work in Pittsburgh for about $16/hour. Rather than cut her losses, she is going back to school for more degrees this fall. And rather than move closer to work, the house they moved into is actually 7 miles further from Pittsburgh.

***

They spend so much money it makes my head spin.  Eat out all the time, shop all the time, and the amount we moved out of their house was just insane.  Oh, and they just bought that house, which they were only able to do by, you guessed it, having my parents gift them money for the down payment.

They spend every last cent every month. They get Dunkin Donuts seemingly every day. My brother is probably 5-7, 260 pounds, and his wife his probably 5-4, 220 pounds.  They constantly complain about their weight and blame their busy lifestyles.

***

A summary of my brother's advice to me over the last decade can be distilled to the following: "Wait until you have to pay your own bills. Wait until you get a girlfriend. Wait until you are engaged.  Wait until you are married. Wait until you have a kid."

The shame in this most recent line--"wait until you have a kid"--is that my niece is beautiful and the cutest thing you've ever seen. But her middle name might as well be "Excuse," because she is the bottomless well that they always go to.  Having a one-year old is why  they are each about 80 pounds overweight, she's why they're tired, she's why they're broke, she's why they are late to everything, she's why they can't attend anything, etc.

Some day they will probably have a second child, so at least their current daughter won't have to shoulder all the blame.

***

It's almost as if my brother and his wife believe that all of this happened by circumstance, and that he just has a bad stroke of luck. His wife's long commute, his low-paying job, their never-ending need for money, their stressful life raising a one-year old...all of it is the just they way life is, and there's nothing they can do about it.

And when they are around, it is just so depressing. Everything I've posted is all they talk about at the dinner table. My brother talks about some guy he beat the shit out of at the jail; his wife talks about a kid who wants to kill himself in Pittsburgh; they talk about how busy they are; how they wish they could get their daughter more but can't; etc.

Just hearing about it is all so exhausting. Nobody in my family can stand it, yet my recent blowup with my brother is the first time anyone had said anything to him.

***

As someone else iterated, I'm nowhere close to perfect. But I married well, and I live well below my means and take personal responsibility for my decisions. I started my own law office three months ago and haven't quite figured out how to pay myself (due to tax reasons), so I haven't had an income since April 13th.  You'd see me in a pit of snakes, raccoons, spiders, and rhinos before you saw me ask my parents for money.

***

I went golfing with a close friend Sunday night, who went to high school with me and knows my brother well.  He asked, "Why do you care so much? He's never going to change. Just let him go." 

I'm sadly getting closer and closer to just not caring anymore.

Roadrunner53

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Did your brother ever accept your apology?

WOW, just read your treatise and no wonder you are at the boiling point and exploded!

Your brother and his wife are unreal!

Yes, your brother is never going to change. He will have a rude awakening one day when your parents no longer can fork over money.

Just keep your distance. You can't change him. Your parents want to help but really aren't. I hope he isn't sucking them dry and they run out of money themselves.

clutchy

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You aren’t wrong, but you (and especially you twin brother) handled it poorly and turned it into a conflict when nothing could be accomplished by doing that. So yes, apologize.

I agree with this.  Also realizing he's a big man-child.