Dear Amy: I come from a family of four kids.
Mother was bipolar and kept the four of us at each other's throats through manipulation. It took me years to repair my relationships with my two brothers, and our sister passed, refusing any attempts at reconciliation with her siblings.
Mother died several years ago, and my two brothers and I had fairly good communication.
Then when our father died, the eldest brother, who was physically abusive to us when we were younger and very much verbally abusive as adults, emotionally attacked me and refused to allow the younger brother to attend the funeral.
Now, my younger brother has also alienated me, even though I took his side during that skirmish.
Since Father's death, Big Brother continues to invite me to his family events, and my family wants me to put his past meanness aside and spend time in his home.
I am now in my 60s and do not wish to be demeaned by him. He just cannot help himself.
He is basically saying that I just need to get over it, but I AM over it, and I do not wish to be exposed to his mean-spirited attacks any longer.
I would rather my immediate family visit him (if they wish), without me.
I hate it that my family is so fractured, but I have no control over any of this.
I am much happier with my immediate family and without the old family ties, so how can I make this nagging issue go away?
Dear Contented: Congratulations on being officially Over It.
You say you are contented now, and so the last thing I would want to do would be to try to "cure" your contentment.
Your narrative illustrates the heartbreaking generational fracturing caused by extreme dysfunction.
Yes, you should carry on, determined to be better and to do better than the generation that raised you. And yes, you should certainly encourage any family member to reach out toward your older brother on their own accord.
Things might go well for them, and, if so, great! Or they might fly a little too close to the family flame and also get burned. But your own children (for instance) might be better equipped to handle this, because they weren't exposed to this abuse during their own childhoods, and because they were raised by you in a higher-functioning and healthier home.
You can't make this nagging issue go away. But you can cope with it, safe in the knowledge that you are taking good care of yourself.
Dear Amy: I recently attended my nephew's wedding, which was also an occasion to get together with members of his father's family. While we didn't grow up together, I feel close to this family and really enjoy our celebrations and gatherings -- with one exception.
One of his aunts is extremely "touch/feely." She seems incapable of reading subtle cues. She doesn't recognize personal boundaries. She gives uncomfortably lengthy hugs, and kisses male family members on the mouth.
Often she will stand behind me (and others) and massage necks and rub backs.
I have tried moving away or withdrawing, but it persists. Several of my family members have complained to each other, but we don't want to create friction.
I should mention that as a survivor of sexual assault I also feel triggered by unwanted touch.
How can I address this problem without offending or creating a rift?
-- Auntie Hands Off
Dear Hands Off: It might be a case of personal preference, but yes, being kissed on the lips or massaged by someone's auntie would definitely be a "no go" for me.
Because this woman doesn't read physical cues or body language, please -- instead of avoiding her or complaining about her to others -- give her the courtesy of verbally letting her know that you don't want to be touched in that way.
You say, "Oh, Belle, so nice to see you. But please don't massage my neck and shoulders. Come sit next to me and tell me how you are."
Dear Amy: I disagreed with your response to "Concerned Cousin," who was conceived through sperm donation and now wanted to tell her cousin that she was conceived the same way.
When will people get the memo: This is none of your business?!
Dear Upset: A person's DNA IS the very definition of their "business." This cousin thought her aunt and uncle should not keep this important information from their (adult) child, and I agree.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.)
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