Family relationships can be some of the most difficult ones to navigate. Those people who are supposed to love and support us the most can use that love in ways that are terribly painful. I believe that just because a person carries the title of “family” doesn’t give them license to abuse and create undue pain. We can often forgive family simply because they are family. And we can give them a few more chances because they are family.
But what’s the breaking point? When do we come to point where enough is enough and we just can’t let it go anymore? When do we say that self-protection is our most important objective?
For some reason this weekend I was thinking about my relationship with my brother. Some of you may know that I have a brother who is a year older than I am. In the past he’s had some issues with law enforcement. I believe he’s had some addiction issues. I know he’s had some abuse issues. He’s hurt people I love. He’s bankrupted the family. (& yes I know that they made the choice to give him the money) He’s a bi-polar schizophrenic.
In many ways, he’s like my father (who had almost the exact same behaviors). And at some point, for my own protection, I had to make the decision to sever that relationship. And I made that decision with my brother.
The last time he tried to contact me was in 2010, right as I was going into my final dissertation defense. I didn’t respond. He sent a few letters. I ignored them. And I wondered this weekend, if I was still doing the right thing. It’s been years. If he’s taking his medication? If he’s compliant and doing the things he’s supposed to be doing, it is possible that he is a different person.
More than likely, though, nothing has changed. The things that are wrong with him are things that are not easily fixed and are things that take a lot of work to change. I’ve not ever seen my brother willing to do that work. It’s too easy to remain the same, to engage in the behaviors that work for you, than to make a change. Deep down, I know that with regard to that relationship, I’ve made the right decision.
He is who he is. I’m sad for who he might have been and who he will never be. I’m sad for a relationship that won’t ever be what it might have. If he were healthy, maybe it would a different story, but the truth of the matter is that he’s not. He can’t be. Some of it’s within his control; some if it’s not. It doesn’t really matter much what is what. It just is. And while I mourn the relationship and what it could have been, I’m OK with it. Really.