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My brother arrives in three days for a family dinner. I moved to the desert to escape interaction with him, but now he has found me and wants to have dinner with me. I agreed to meet with him in order to maintain a “truce.” It’s a truce on my part, but he feels free to attack, belittle and manipulate me. Of course he plans to dine in a nice restaurant, so once he starts asking me intrusive questions I will have to raise my voice in order to maintain my sense of self. When I stand up to him it appears to others as if I am the problem, when in fact it is the other way around. I am older than him, this time I plan to remind him of that fact. Why do relatives always choose the holidays to start arguments? 

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Holidays are stressful and family tensions certainly make things worse.

Rather than raise your voice, could you perhaps tell your brother that you are not going to answer his questions, and that if he doesn't stop you'll leave? Be super blunt and honest. Phrases like:

  • "Brother, I hope we can have a nice meal together, it's been a long time."
  • "Brother, I'm not comfortable answering those questions or discussing this topic. Tell me, what have you been up to lately?"
  • "Brother, that's enough. I don't want to fight with you. If you don't stop, I will leave"
  • "Goodbye brother, I'm sorry we couldn't have a nice time together" Then quietly get up and leave.

Do your best to hold your temper, be the bigger person. Go home and punch a pillow or something in private, where he can't see that he's gotten to you. If he gets upset, raises his voice, etc. that's on him. I know it's super hard, especially if you're fighting depression, but you are well within your rights to set and hold boundaries about what you do and don't want to discuss. Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

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3 hours ago, Nomadiclife said:

Why do relatives always choose the holidays to start arguments? 

It's traditional I think. It's sad that you can't get along with your brother but if there really is no hope for the relationship then I agree with Geek that you should try to be the bigger person. You know what he's like, and if he does those things during the meal then don't let it bother you, because you weren't expecting anything else and if he's that awful a person then you should ignore his crap and not let it get you upset or angry.

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On 11/30/2018 at 4:13 PM, Nomadiclife said:

once he starts asking me intrusive questions I will have to raise my voice in order to maintain my sense of self.

Why must you raise your voice? How does that maintain your sense of self? Shouting does not make your argument any stronger, and broadcasts that you feel insecure.

Rather than going into the situation prepared to start shouting, perhaps you could take a little time ahead to imagine the encounter. Imagine how the conversation might go. Rehearse in your head what questions he will likely ask you, especially the ones that will set you off. Then think about how you would answer them. Imagine how he will react to your answers, and figure out what it is that brings you to the point of shouting. Then, since it hasn't actually happened yet and you have time to plan ahead, try to come up with what you could say instead of shouting that would give you a sense of self-confidence and determination that would allow you to answer him in a normal, calm tone and show that he isn't going to ruffle you. After all, he might just be pushing your buttons. In the end, it doesn't matter what he says - you are who you are, and you don't answer to him. There's no need to shout at all. You could even say that. Or flip the script, and start asking the in-depth questions about him...

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Thank you everyone for the responses, I really do appreciate your thoughts. Dinner at the restaurant went well, but I made the mistake of going back to my brother and his wife’s motel room to extend the visit. The discussion inevitably turned to health care, end of life care and money.  It’s really sad that my brother is focused on my wallet and how much money may or may not be left for him.  He’s a grown man who can take care of himself and his family. It’s times like these when I’m glad to have the psych meds available to ease me through the pain and anxiety of the family visit.  

 

 

 

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Meds worked o.k. last night for sleep. I may need to find another mental health care provider if the depression, agitation, anger, and anxiety continue during the daytime. I’m trying to get through this rough period without making any changes to my medications.

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