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Ask Ellie: Time for some boundaries with jealous brother

Advice: Don’t let close people compete for your attention. It’s immature and harms all the relationships.

Dear Ellie: My brother and my girlfriend have a lot of resentment toward each other. The three of us live together. He doesn’t help out with chores like dishes or garbage/recycling and my girlfriend feels that he gets away with it. My brother can be lazy, I’ve accepted it, but I’m also not interested in babying him. My girlfriend will constantly complain about him, and I get it, but I find it repetitive.

He can also be rude toward her. He’s mentioned that he thought family gatherings were “family-only” when she is present (his girlfriend was unable to come) and he is often insensitive with his remarks.

Recently, he asked me to move seats at a gathering because he didn’t feel like sitting next to someone. I complied because I don’t really care where I sit, but my girlfriend found it annoying that he made us move. I think she has a tendency to be a bit oversensitive (moving seats wasn’t necessarily directed at her but she took it personally), but nonetheless has valid grievances with my brother.

I’ve talked to him about it before, and he denies any resentment, but says he will try harder. It’s gotten better, but there are still some issues. I feel caught in the middle.

What should I do?

Torn Between Them

You’re not “between them.” You’re an individual with two separate and equally important connections to these two people who are important in your life.

The layer of resentment between them comes from each one wanting to be the one closest to you. But that’s an almost childish and jealous competition they’ve created. It’s time for you to bow out of it.

Tell your brother you love him, but you can’t respect him if he continues to be rude and insensitive to your girlfriend. And if you can’t respect him, your closeness as “family” will be a thing of the past… and at least partly his fault.

But your girlfriend’s “oversensitivity” is not her fault, since she has, as you say, “valid grievances” against your brother. And, though he has his own girlfriend, he uses barbed remarks like “family only.”

So, recognize the reality here: You are not “caught in the middle.” There are three adults involved here, and you have to be the one who tells the two who are acting like squabbling kids to stop the attention-seeking and rude comments.

Either they respect each other, or you’ll have to see them separately, no matter whose girlfriend or visitor is on the scene. And that’s their own immature choice.

FEEDBACK regarding the grandfather “threatened” by his son-in-law (March 10):

Reader – “What happened between these two generations has become typical. To say that the younger generation knows better reflects today’s lack of respect for our elders. As a retired and current teacher on call, I’ve seen what may have had a direct influence.

“When computers entered our lives, older people were and still are, believed to be less proficient with current trends or technology. The younger generation did know more in the computerized world.

“However, this attitude has transferred over to all aspects of life. The years of life experience and knowledge, plus the books we read, are now given little respect.

“I see much entitlement and little compassion. That grandfather was simply offering advice from what he’s watched for much longer than his son-in-law has been alive. That he’d threaten the grandfather is beyond acceptable and completely disrespectful.”

Reader’s Commentary regarding the woman who called the letter-writer a “poser” for wearing a mask (Jan. 27):

Reader 1 — “I was moved to explain her reasons for still wearing a mask, but realized the proper response to rudeness was a simple “Mind your own business.’”

Reader 2 — “Wear a mask isn’t just for the person wearing the mask. It is also to protect those around you who may be vulnerable. You may not be worried about getting COVID but it could be a death sentence, even with vaccinations, to those with underlying conditions.

“I wear a mask indoors wherever I go to protect myself and others. I don’t understand why it is so hard for some people to do and, yes, I judge people for that decision. Wearing a mask indoors shows compassion for those most vulnerable in our society. Not wearing a mask shows, to me, a lack of empathy.

“I’ll continue to wear a mask indoors to protect myself and others.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Don’t let close people compete for your attention. It’s immature and harms all the relationships.

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