Post # 1
So I am engaged to a wonderful man, yadda, yadda. My dad adores him, which is a good thing, right? I also have an older brother (my only sibling) who is…different. He has epilepsy (controlled with medication), and would probably be diagnosed with Asperger’s if he went to a psychologist. College was a 7-year struggle for him, and he has been mostly un- or underemployed for the last 5 years. He is currently living at home again, working odd hourly jobs and trying to figure his life out.
My fiance and my dad are very similar, and when we visit I can always find my dad regaling fiance with stories, offering him cigars, and mixing him drinks. And I have noticed that my brother sort of fades into the background. I had the horrifying thought that my dad is treating fiance like the son he “wanted.” Now, my dad loves my brother, and wants him to be healthy and happy, but they just don’t click and never have. Dad has worked every day of his life, and thinks all obstacles can be overcome with determination and hard work. He used to think my brother’s issue was that he was lazy and unfocused, and he used his medical issues as an excuse to flounder (dad doesn’t feel that way anymore). Shudder. And my brother doesn’t socialize normally, which is off-putting to by-the-book guys like my dad.
I guess I’m not really asking for advice, because I can’t control how my dad behaves, and am not even sure anyone else notices what I do. My brother has had a difficult life, and if I were in his place I would be upset to have this guy who is everything dad wanted my brother to be come onto the scene. Sigh. I will try to spend more time with my brother when we visit.
Post # 3
This broke my heart for your brother. I think a good thing you could do is try to plan fun events you can all do together when you are home with your family. I’m not sure how comfortable your brother is with crowds/public situations but you could all go to a movie, or go bowling together. That way you call can interact together. Also, since this is your family I don’t this it’s out of line at all for you to mention your concerns to your fiance. Let him know how much it would mean to you and to your brother if he tried to bridge the gap a little. Like when your dad mixing drinks and telling stories your fiance can pull your brother into the mix.. “Hey ‘brother’, what do you think of that story?”
Post # 4
I think that it is very sweet of you to want to spend more time with your brother. My son has pretty extreme ADD, and although he has above average intelligence, he has also struggled throughout his (more than 4) college years. Like your dad, my husband couldn’t understand my son’s unique set of abilities/disabilities. And throughout his years many people have misjudged him and thought him to be lazy. I am sure through his struggles he appreciates how much his sister loves and includes him in her life. I am sure that your brother will too. 🙂
Post # 5
I feel bad for your brother. Do you think it will help if you brought this to your FH, Dad, and Mother’s attention? Maybe they don’t realize what you have noticed. I hope everything works out.
Post # 6
One of the characteristics of Aspergers is an inability to relate outside of yourself (ie take interest in others in a real way). It can be very difficult, especially in more extreme cases of Aspergers. So, your dad may actually have felt, throughout his time as a father, that he was really missing that connection. Depending on the level of your brother’s condition, it may just not be something he is capable of, and your father may be acting to finally feel connected to a son-like figure. Maybe after a transition time with your dad/fiance/brother, you could either gently bring it up or like PP have said, create environments that foster connection with your brother, in a way he is capable of. At the very least, you could speak frankly with your FI.
Post # 7
I feel for ya! My older brother in law has anexity problems and is back living at home with no job. It can be hard on the family especially when not everyone accepts those types of problems as “real”. Progress has been slow for him in the last few years with lots of ups and downs. Sometimes I feel guilty for living so far away with DH and I can’t help out day to day as well as financially but sometimes feel grateful to have a low stress life across the country.
All I can say is GOOD therapy can help. If it sought out and done right.
Post # 8
Thank you all for your compassionate and helpful responses. You have given me some more things to think about.
@creativeplannertobe: my brother is also above-average intellect, but he has trouble expressing his thoughts in a way others can understand. I’m sure your son also like my brother doesn’t want to be pitied or treated like a child, which can bring angry and withdrawn behavior. he would never consider himself “disabled,” even though he would technically qualify as his condition affects his ability to support himself.
@crayfish: what you say about not being able to relate to others makes so much sense. My brother will say odd or unkind things and seem surprised when his comments elicit a negative response. And when I hear autistic parents wish that their child could say, “I love you,” I think that is probably how my dad feels too. He loves giving advice and mentoring people, but my brother’s condition hasn’t allowed him to play that kind of role with his son.
I have talked to my fiance about my general concerns (though not about any perceived favoritism), and he has really made an effort to include my brother in our activities and conversations. At least I know everyone’s heart is in the right place.
Post # 9
I’m sad for your brother. The good thing is that you recognize this and want to do something about it. Can your FI help? Maybe try to bring your brother into the conversations? It might not affect your father, but if your FI is trying, then maybe your brother will feel comfortable hanging with your FI and then in turn, your dad. Good luck!
Post # 10
Stellablue’s advice seems like a really good idea! My heart really goes out to your brother, and it says a lot about you to recognize these issues!
Post # 11
I feel for you, my older sister has epilepsy (also controlled by medicine 10 years since her last seizure!!) but she also is mentally disabled. (she had a stroke when she was 5, caused by the seizures and it caused brain damage) she is 6 years older than me and very very special to me. I dont have the same problems as you but know you arent alone, i feel guilty all the time for not spending enough time with her. I constantly feel bad that she does not live a normal life, though i dont think she notices..she is as happy as can be, but it makes me sad to think she will never get married or have kids, she will always live with my parents. I have made a point to try and do special things for her, i call her often just to chat, i try and get her out of the house for dinner or a movie or just to go shopping. it breaks my heart when i think about all the things i get to do that she never will. I suggest making special time for you and your brother, if you dad isnt going to do it then take it upon yourself to make him feel extra special and know that he is loved. My sister is going to be one of my bridesmaid and this makes her sooooo very happy.
Another thing, my dad has a very short temper..there are 5 kids in my family so he always had to be the tough one and lay down the law and i think he had a difficult time dealing with my sister in the younger years. She is 30 now and he is 62 and ive noticed the past couple yeara he has really really changed..he is so laid back and really tries to relate to her. i dont know if that is just because he is older now and all the kids are out of the house (except her), or he is just realizing how short life is and he needs to spend as much time as he can with his family.
Everything put aside i am soooo happy to have my sister just the way she is, it has made me a much better person and more sensitive to others who are in the same position. it also makes me really appreciate my parents, it takes special people to deal with this their whole lives. It has also brought up interesting conversations between my FH and I because when my parents pass (god forbid that happens anytime soon) it is very possible she will come live with us for periods of time. Im so lucky that FH is amazing with her. it truely is a test for the SO’s in our family.