I am one of three kids, now an adult. Our parents are no longer alive and my brothers both live back east and I am on the west coast and have been since 1982. We are all married; one brother wasn't able to have kids, the other has four kids ages 13 to 21, and I have two kids ages 15 & 13. As children we didn't have any cousins, as my mother was an only child and my father had a sister who never had kids. Everyone we knew had cousins and I always imagined that we would enjoy getting our kids together when we were older. I am the only one who ever makes any effort towards getting together or staying in touch.
Yesterday, my brother (the one with kids) called to ask me something, I can't even remember what at this point. We talked - or I should say I asked questions about his family and he related stories to me. Not once did he ask about me or my kids or husband. So typical. Also, his wife has called me maybe once in 23 years, although she is very pleasant when we get together on the east coast. They never acknowledge any of our birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving etc.
Should I mention this to my brother and let him know how hurt I feel by his distance, or is the saying "you can pick your friends and not your family" true here? Should I just let it go? I have let a lot go and I do not want to get in a fight, but I would like to feel as though I am somewhat important in his life.
The only thing that really causes people to fight is if they feel shame and inadequacy or believe that other people think of them as an inadequate person. When people believe this to be the case they take things too personally and then become defensive. Shame begets defensiveness or rage. When a person believes they are owed something and don't receive it they feel slighted in a righteous way and assume that the person who slighted them must believe they are inadequate or shameful. Again shame begets rage.
In reality people are very different and often slightly strange. They often do things that don't make sense to another person because of different values, background, or temperament. It really has nothing to do with what they feel about the other person and usually people are so consumed with their own lives that they spend little time thinking of others.
I do not mean to defend this, but simply to state the realities. Personally I would tend to agree with you that he is showing very little brotherly feeling. I would suggest however that you not take this personally. He probably loves you, but is either not as family oriented as you are or is just not very demonstrative.
If you are looking at it as objectively as possible and the emotions are manageable so that you would not come across as if you are blaming, then I do agree that talking with him makes sense. He might have no idea how or why you feel the way you do and might even be willing to modify his behavior a bit. At least you will know that you have given it your best try, and if he still doesn't change the behavior then you can lower your expectations and your energy in the relationship so it doesn't seem unequal.
Good luck with it.
Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT
This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.For more information visit: http://www.asktheinternettherapist.com/