Question: Dear Luise; Like many of your readers, my oldest brother hates my mother “for being a lousy mother”. My sister and other brother are at a loss, as we don’t share the same perception of our childhood as he does. After decades of dealing with rude behavior and hurtful remarks, we finally had enough and advised him we would not tolerate his verbal assault on our mother any longer. The problem is, he continues to join family gatherings, but totally ignores our mother – presumably to avoid any further reprimands from us. He doesn’t respond to the simplest of questions from her, won’t eat with her, instead visiting with other members of the family – especially my father. My mother has tried to speak to him, but he simply ignores her. Is there any intervention she or any of the family can take to stop this childish behavior, or must we disengage? C.
Answer: Dear C.: There is no way to make a person stop being how he/she is. Your brother knows all of you disagree with him and he knows you find his behavior offensive. He is probably getting a twisted kind of pleasure out of continuing to take pot shots at your mother at family gatherings.
It doesn’t do any good to tell him you won’t tolerate it. He has a “so what” attitude that renders you ineffectual. The question is; what can you do? He is totally in charge at present…do you see that?
Well, for one thing, it is probably past the time for your mother to stop trying to speak with him…hoping, endlessly, to find him approachable. He can’t be reasoned with and he probably enjoys her pain. And your father needs to acknowledge what’s going on by refusing to carry on any discussions with him unless they include your mother. Both of your parents are playing right into his hand.
As a family, you need to take a stand but that can only happen if you all get together and decide you are done with it. If you all agree, including your parents, then you can decide what you are going to do about it as a group. It may be time to move the family gatherings a private dining room in a restaurant and not invite him. I have no idea what you will come up with as a solution but when all of you have had enough you will think of something. Unity is required. Everyone must agree that it has to stop.
I know of a family that saw it as so abusive that they felt the need to get a restraining order. The abusive son was banned from their gatherings and if he didn’t comply, he faced being arrested.
Until you band together…he will continue to be in charge and will hurt your mother deeply in front of everyone every chance he gets. It’s a game he has invented and it is ruthless. He wants her to beg, he wants your father to ignore his attacks and he wants you and your siblings to feel powerless. No wonder you’ve had it. Blessings, Luise