After an abusive childhood, the brothers find it difficult to get along

Dear Amy: My brother and I have always had a fragile relationship.

Our father was abusive, but we are both middle-aged and have lived fairly successful and stable lives.

I often have to walk on eggshells when I talk to my brother because he always seems to read what I say or do as an attack.

Last New Year's Eve, I was attending a meeting with friends and he called to video chat.

I sent a quick text saying I was with friends and that we would talk later.

He texted saying he was disappointed because he told his kids they could talk to their uncle (me), and apparently I chose my friends over my nephews.

He added that maybe he should have “bumped me in,” but he felt the need to share how disappointed I was not only for him, but for my nephews.

I didn't know how to respond and waited for three weeks to text him back and then wish him a good day on our late mother's birthday.

It's been three weeks and he hasn't responded. We don't communicate much, but I feel like I'm being punished.

My question is what should I do now? Should I keep trying to communicate?

I'm sure everything I do will be wrong.

– related

Dear stuck: The constant dance of disappointment between you and your sibling is a result of growing up with a bad parent. Your relationship is unstable, partly because you have both been trained since childhood to remain on high alert. Children in abusive families can never relax and allow themselves to make mistakes, forgive their mistakes, and just be normal. Yes, the earth is paved with eggshells

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This tension and instability define your relationship now.

But there is an advantage to always feeling like you are doing the wrong thing. This frees you from having to second guess every decision you make, because no matter what you do or say – it will sound wrong. So – do it anyway.

You don't need to “reply” to your brother to stay in touch with him. Just text him! Say: “Hey, I was thinking about you today and wondering how you and your kids are doing. I'd really like to set up a FaceTime session with them. Any chance we could do that sometime soon?”

I suggest you fight your way through eggshells and do your best to be yourself. Your diligent efforts may inspire your brother to finally relax and do the same.

You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.

© 2024 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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