Family Matters: He's my brother

Conflict resolution expert advises what to do when an older brother can't see that his younger brother is all grown up.

By SHIMRIT NOTHMAN
May 2, 2013 10:55
4 minute read.

David asks: “I am the youngest of five children in my family.  I always had a unique relationship with my eldest brother, Jeremy. He took care of me and our other siblings when my parents were at work and I always regarded him as a combination between a brother and a second father. Now, I’m 25 years old, a grown man, working and supporting myself, but for some reason my brother refuses to see me as an adult. He makes the most annoying remarks about my choices in life; whether it be work, lifestyle or even the female partners I choose.

How can I convince him that I’m no longer this young boy who needs guidance and protection?”


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You’re probably sitting right now, thinking to yourself: “Poor David, I know exactly what he’s been going through. I as well, had a ‘Jeremy’ in my life.”

But how can we make our ‘Jeremy’ open his eyes to notice we’ve grown up and no longer require the same protective relationship we had in the past?

Put yourself in his shoes

Ask yourself - how different am I from my brother? What do we both need in life? What are we both afraid of? If you answer those questions honestly you’ll discover you are not that different from him after all. Perhaps you both have the need to feel loved or you’re both afraid of losing the close relationship you have with your sibling.

When you realize that you’re more similar than different it will be easier for you to put yourself in your brother’s shoes.



Now ask yourself: Why does he keep criticizing me? Is it because he thinks I’m still a child, or is it because he loves me very much and doesn’t want me to repeat the same mistakes he made when he was young? Does he make remarks about my lifestyle because he thinks I’m incapable of making the right choices in life, or is it because he wants me to be successful and not waist my time with bad decision making?

Whatever the true answer is, if you choose to believe it’s the latter, you’ll end up being more compassionate towards your brother, which may clear some of the bad vibes between you and help you discuss the situation.

Help him help you

Have you ever discussed how you’re feeling with your brother? Show your brother you sympathize with his caring for you and tell him that you understand where he’s coming from when he is giving you advice. Explain to him that you still want him to be a part of your life, but perhaps the role he once had has changed. You no longer need him to constantly steer you in the right direction and out of harm’s way. You now need him to be there with you, enjoying your successes and witnessing your progress.  This doesn’t mean that he can’t let you know if he thinks you’re doing the wrong thing, but it might be best to say it once or twice and accept the fact that you are now old enough to decide whether or not to accept his advice.

Introduce him to the new you


Consider inviting your brother to just hang out. This can be the perfect time to catch-up on things, letting him know what you’ve been up to and also hearing how he’s doing. You can also ask him to come meet you one day for lunch and invite him to come up to your office, to see what you’re doing for a living and to meet the people you’re now working with. This experience might give him a different frame of reference, which will allow him to draw a more accurate picture of who you are today. In time, he may realize bit by bit that his perception of you was flawed and he’ll make the necessary adjustments to it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all those people who aren’t treating us nicely, would suddenly, with the wave of a stick, change their behavior? I am sure it would, but until then, if we want to change the dynamics between us, we have to be the one taking control. We can share our emotions and our thoughts, hoping that it will have the desired effect. We can spend more time together, helping them get to know us better and vice verse. And we can also accept that just like us, they as well can make mistakes. They may not treat us as we believe we should be treated - but at least we can choose not to be offended and not make a big deal out of every remark. 

This column is brought to you as general information only and should not be a replacement for professional advice.

Shimrit Nothman has a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution and believes that like charity, conflict resolution begins at home. She recently published her first children's book teaching conflict resolution in the family.

If you have any questions for Shimrit, please use the comments section below or email her at familymatters.jpost@gmail.com.


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