Dear Annie: I am one of four adult siblings in a family that has always had difficulty communicating. I haven’t spoken to my brother, “Tom,” in many years.
After getting married, Tom never bothered to invite our parents over, and he and his wife missed all the holiday celebrations. His wife is distant and didn’t try to establish a relationship with my parents, even though she is very close to her mother. Eventually, Tom stopped speaking to Mom and Dad altogether.
A few years ago, Dad passed away. I sent Tom an e-mail and called to let him know. He was aggressive and rude on the phone and didn’t show up for the funeral. He never called our mother to console her. Needless to say, she is still devastated that her only son could behave in such a way.
My parents were never able to confront my brother and ask why he was so mean to them. I have the same problem. I want Tom to know that he has caused a lot of hurt, and that he needs to explain himself. How should I do it? – Angry Sister
Dear Sister: These efforts don’t always turn out the way you think. Telling Tom how much hurt he has caused will make him defensive. Asking him for an explanation will make him angry. Had he thought he was behaving poorly, he would have fixed it. Instead, he has found a way to justify his actions.
If all you want to do is vent, go ahead and write Tom a letter, with the understanding that you are not likely to get a useful response. If you are looking to reconcile, you will need to be patient, tolerant and forgiving, with no guarantees. Decide what you hope to achieve by contacting your brother, and then do what will cause your mother the least amount of pain.