I am preparing to get married to a man I love very much. My fiancé has one brother and their relationship is not how he would quite like it to be. His brother works a job where he travels often (every week is often) and he lives a much different lifestyle than we do. We reside in the suburbs, and enjoy evenings in with a movie and pizza and value spending time with each other. His brother, who is also getting married in April, lives in Hoboken and lives a very luxurious lifestyle. Late night parties, $300 shirts and weekend getaway ski trips are an everyday part of life for him and his fiancée.
I know that it bothers my fiancé a great deal that his brother doesn't include him in his life very much, as he makes many attempts to include him in ours. I am an only child so I never really understood the brother/ sister/sibling dynamic. Is there anything I can do to help bring them closer to one another or is it a lost cause?
Battling Brother Blues
Simply put, the best way you can help is to be supportive of your fiancé, and encourage him to continue making invitations to his brother. When and if his brother declines, be present to your fiancé’s anger, disappointment or whatever he may be feeling. That may not sound like you’re “helping,” so to speak, but often times it’s exactly what is needed.
It’s hard to see the ones we love feel uncomfortable, troubled or unhappy, and it’s natural to want to help them, or to “make things right.” This feeling is amplified when you’re in a serious relationship or about to get married, or newlyweds. Marriage is a whole new start, and because Western culture is heavily invested in the theme of “happily ever after,” there’s a temptation to want to “make everything ok” for our spouses and loved ones.
Understand, however, that although you will be marrying this man and sharing your life with him, whatever the relationship may be between he and his brother has probably been developing for years. Dynamics between family members are created, develop and change over time, especially as everyone ages. Siblings who may have been closer than close in childhood may later find that, as they become their own person and the responsibilities of adulthood come to bear, they aren’t as close. But that doesn’t mean that the siblings don’t love each other, but just may show it in different ways. A challenge we face as people is accepting that our family members may not be as close to us as we would like them to be, but that doesn’t mean that the love is lost. Or, as an old saw goes, “Just because somebody doesn't love you the way you want them to doesn't mean they don't love you with everything they have.”
But it could be something as simple as timing. Maybe the brother’s job is so intense and high-stakes that he needs to focus on it, while also being anxious about his own upcoming wedding. $300 shirts and those parties may have a professional purpose; weekend ski getaways may be the time he can spend with his fiancée, away from his job. Perhaps things will change once the weddings are done and everyone begins to settle into their new lives together. Only time will tell.
Again, it’s very tough to watch someone you love experience the many negatives that life and fate throw at each and every one of us, especially when you’re looking forward to the “big day” and the new adventure that waits on the other side of that day. But I think you’ll find that as the years go on and you grow in your marriage, you’ll learn to better accept that some things in your spouse’s life are beyond your control (and hopefully he’ll learn the same) and that the best help you can give is to be present for him.
I wish you and your fiancé all the best.
A graduate of Seton Hall University with a Master's degree in counseling, Frank Fleischman III counseled a diverse population of adolescents, adults and children as an intern at both Jersey City Medical Center and SERV Behavioral Health Systems, Inc. He also received training from the National Coalition Building Institute, which focuses on diversity and interpersonal communication. Need advice? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org