I'm 26 years old, my brother is 31 and a recent argument between us has left me feeling really confused. Not just of our relationship but just confused about what I'm even feeling...
My brother and I are quite close - although we don't live near each other, we talk almost every day, we game together (along with my boyfriend), and we're basically part of each other's every day routine. We talk openly about things, rely and support each other, we have the same particular humour and it just feels like even if we lost everything else we would still have each other. We go to the gym together, we are both creatives, and just share a lot of hobbies. We are basically like best friends.
We did grow up in some hardships, problems with parents and stuff, so maybe that made us closer because we really felt all we had is each other.
Anyway, despite our closeness, I don't think we've ever really argued before (at least not as adults... obv used to fight as kids). There's always been this respect between us and just being able to understand each other. Again, as I said, we always had each others back. But the other day I went over to a family gathering at his house, we were having a bbq in his garden.
When I went into the house to get a drink, I checked my phone because it was charging there. I started chatting to my boyfriend over text and we ended up in a call, arguing about something minor. At that moment, my nephew (his son, 7 yrs old) came in. I would usually end the call or stop talking but I was upset with my boyfriend and kept sort of bickering on the phone even while my nephew was walking around. When I got off the phone, I felt ashamed and embarassed, got up thinking I have to get back before I embarass myself further. At that moment, my nephew who was playing a game turned to me and said 'I guess you only come here to be on your phone'. In the midst of how I was already feeling, I was crushed to hear that. It was like my shame was confirmed, that I really was a shit auntie. (I took it as in, because I haven't seen him in a while, then he must be mad at me and thinking I have neglected him). In my shock, I said to him, 'That's not a very nice thing to say', and continued on my way to the bbq.
When I came back to the BBQ I was upset and wanting to process it myself but I didn't think it was worth hiding when my family is there and they can easily reassure me. I said 'nephew said this to me, I told him that's not a very nice thing to say and walked away'. My mum and brother (his dad) said to me 'he probably meant it just as in when you went into the house now', I responded 'no he didn't, trust me'. I never said it with an angry tone, I was quiet and upset.
A few minutes later, my mum walked away into the house (to go and speak to him) and my brother blew up at me in front of everyone at the bbq. Although it was all immediate family, there was 2 other people who were friends. My brother was obviously triggered, looked hostile and said to me 'if (nephew) said that to you then why don't you spend more time with him? Why don't you give him attention?' etc. I was quite shocked at those heavy things to say. I didn't say anything but when then he said 'I'm not mad that you said that, I'm just mad at how you came in here saying 'I walked away' proudly.' At that point I said oh I didn't mean it that way, I meant it sadly, and I apologised for coming across that way. He was still so heated and affected that he went on, saying 'he only says the things he hears, he learned it from us, he's just a kid why don't you educate him instead of being mad at him'. I again clarified and said I wasn't mad, I was feeling hurt at the thought that he might really think that of me. It wasn't about nephew or to the nephew, it was just feelings of shame in myself, and seeking reassurance. I explained I didn't walk away in some punishment way, I meant it as in I left because I was floored by it. Still he continued.
Mum came back with nephew (worst timing ever) and had told him to apologise. I felt so awkward because my brother was raging, I felt humiliated and was trying to hold back the tears. I obviously accepted what my nephew said but tried to just make it all stop so there wouldn't be some performance in front of him while he was angry. I used this opportunity to go back in the house with him. He went inside and I stood at the door and burst into tears, my mum was with me and I told her what happened. I told her I wanted to leave, I can't believe he humiliated me like that even if it was a misunderstanding, that he should have spoken to me in private.
Mum told me not to go, so I went upstairs into the kitchen to cry. Shortly after my brother came in (obv mum had got him) and first thing he did was come to me, hug me, and say, 'I didn't mean to make you feel that way, I obviously don't hate you'. I burst out crying while he hugged me, and I was shaking and things. When he let go, I tried to calm myself, then at a calmer state, I told him 'that was wrong.'
At this, he reacted badly, and basically did everything in his power to refuse he made any mistakes. He was saying things like 'I wasn't wrong, I was being honest.' 'What so you get to just make me feel like that and I can't respond?' and then when I would catch onto these things and tell him, 'so you did retaliate, that's wrong brother', he would then reply 'no I wasn't retaliating I wasn't even angry.' He told me I came across proudly and it hurt him, I told him sorry again and it was my mistake that I wasn't more careful in how I said it, but still he shouldn't have reacted and called me out in public. He wouldn't accept it and kept bringing it back to me and my mistakes, even though I apologised every single time.
He started saying 'so what? You can come into my circle with my son and then -' I was really hurt by that, and responded with 'my circle? My circle? Am I not your circle?' instead of realising his mistake, he took a deep breath, nose flaring and all and looked like he was about to kill me, then carefully said 'Why, are you so worried, about the words?' I didn't know what to say, he then went on quite intimidatingly 'you're missing the point. You don't want to focus on the point.' So I responded, 'you're the one not focusing on the point and focusing on the words. The point was you humiliated me!' Finally something seemed to click. He realised he humiliated me. I was relieved, but still at the end of that he didn't apologise properly for it. He said 'I'm sorry I did humiliate you, but I was responding to you and we both made mistakes.'
I was hurt by that, because in a way it was still him trying not to take full responsibility, but I left it because I was too emotional to continue in that intense discussion. I had never had that with him before and I'm not used to that kind of confrontation either. He quickly said 'why don't you come back to the bbq? You want a drink? Have some tequila that'll make you feel better'. Making jokes and brushing over it. I told him to give me some time to just calm down. In that space, I was able to calm down so I could prepare myself to leave (I was always going to leave, because he had crossed the line.) I spoke with mum, she agreed and saw my point of view, and agreed that my brother went too far. I said goodbye amicably to everyone, and then left.
At home, I received a text from my brother, saying he was sorry but once again in the message he was saying 'Just didn't handle it well, like you didn't handle it well. We both reacted', etc etc. I already felt quite jarred by what happened - his defensiveness, attacking, denial even though I backed down and apologised every time. I waited until the next day, then I wrote a message to kind of explain that what he did was out of order and crossed the boundary. That I love him and our relationship is important, but not just because we are family but because of the way we respect each others values and boundaries. He didn't do that there and so that hurt my trust a bit and made me feel a bit unsafe. I said it could obviously repair but only if he could take full accountability and not say 'well we both made mistakes'.
He responded later on taking full accountability for the speaking in public, but once again he said 'but I think our communication was the same, so we both made mistakes.'
I then went on to kind of explain why the communication wasn't the same. Even though we both felt surprised by each others words, I tried to explain that we reacted to that hurt differently. When he hurt me, I did not react the way he did. I was not defensive, I was open and apologising. But when I had hurt him with my tone etc, he called me out, was defensive, refused to apologise, and attacking.
I checked every message I wrote with my boyfriend before sending them - he is super neutral and sometimes he even disagrees with things I write. But this time, he thought each of my messages were balanced and neutral, so I didn't send them heated or without checking. My brother replied to this message saying it sounded like an instruction manual, he doesn't want to hear how I like to be spoken, I shouldn't try to control his actions, etc etc.
I lost it, I responded in a heated way telling him basically, 'is it impossible for you to just apologise? I've apologised and apologised. If you want me to say I'm a bad person, ok I'll say it. If you want me to say I'm wrong, I'll say it as many times as you want. But at least just apologise, properly.' etc I was really upset, angry, and just couldn't believe how someone can be so avoidant. To my surprise he actually apologised, but not without his comments 'I'll do it in my own words. I'll do it in my own pace. Don't instruct me, my feelings are valid. I am not going to give you a play by play of my future actions, let me learn by myself.' (I had asked him to reassure me that he takes it on board and will try to make me feel safer in his approach next time).
I honestly couldn't believe that he still, STILL, had to add some kind of protection for himself. But at the end of his message, he did apologise, for both things, and didn't add any extra comment to it. So I had finally got what I wanted, in a way, and I said 'thank you.' I told him if he ever needs to 'instruct me' I am happy and open to receive that, because I don't take it as instruction, I take it as communication, and I'd be happy to change my approach for him whenever.
He then responded happily saying he'd do anything for me, and he's learned a lot, and will change his approach. ???????? Contradictory, because he finally did give me what I wanted, what I needed, but he had to put soooo much of a fight before giving it.
I'm sorry for this long message but this is now why I am so confused. A part of me feels betrayed, feels weird? I feel like I don't know who he is because I've never seen him so irrational, so adamant, so in denial, so unable to see anything but his own point of view. It almost feels childish. I'm confused about what I feel and I'm questioning my reality, like is this me? He did apologise, but why do I feel like I'm the one who ruined it all?
I have this weird sick feeling in my stomach, it almost feels like when you break up with someone, which is weird because he's my brother.. I just feel like I don't know how to process this. Why was he responsive when I was direct but not when I was genuinely saying things nicely? Was I really making an instruction manual by telling him that he was defensive and he should be more open and receptive when we talk? I don't know... I feel like everything is ruined, because even though he apologised, my trust is still affected and it looks like that won't be coming back.