Wedding Woes

I think you may need to look up the definition of 'cordial'.

Dear Prudence,

I have a brother who has been a toxic presence in my life—emotionally manipulative, condescending, and occasionally very cruel. With the help of therapy, I’ve intentionally distanced myself from him over the past few years. We have a cordial relationship when we do occasionally see each other, but we are not close. My therapist has recommended I explain how I feel, but I believe this would do irreparable damage to our relationship and larger family dynamic. I’m not willing to risk that, and I’m fine with our distant, polite relationship.

The problem is that he always wants to know why I’m keeping him at arm’s length. He sends me long (often very hurtful) messages about how sad he is that we aren’t closer and how it’s my fault because I’m not making an effort. I recently tried to set a boundary by saying that I need space and I hope he can respect that, and he completely flew off the handle. How do I get him to understand I’m not interested in a closer relationship with him without also sacrificing the cordial relationship we do have? I’m tempted to be forthright with him but believe that will cost me not only my relationship with him but also with my parents.

—Not Your Keeper

Re: I think you may need to look up the definition of 'cordial'.

  • Keep it professional.

    He's gaslighting you and continuing to make any reasons for conflict to be your fault.  

    He's not going to understand that he's the one at fault so stop trying.  
  • cupcait927cupcait927 Western NY wine country member
    Seventh Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    LW's brother is my sister. She's been a toxic presence in my life since childhood. It's not possible to maintain a cordial relationship with her because she doesn't understand why I won't be closer with her and tears me down for it (gaslighting). I've had to completely cut her out of my life because it's not worth the drain on my mental health. My parents have come to understand why and support my decision. LW needs to do what's best for her and hold her ground. Don't bother trying to explain anything to him because it will just make the situation worse. 
  • Well clearly LW isn’t fine with their relationship the way it is or they wouldn’t be writing to Prudie. 

    It sounds like you need to lay things out with your brother and then go from there. Because it’s not working the way it is and he’s probably not going to let up. 
  • I feel bad for the LW that it sounds like the decision they make on this could irreparably harm their relationship with the parents also.

    I guess to keep trying to maintain that, they need to keep doing what they are doing.  Keep their boundaries.  Keep bland statements on repeat like, "I'm know you want a closer relationship, but this is what I am comfortable with."  There just isn't much more they can do than that without alienating their parents.  Which doesn't necessarily sound like a bad thing to me, because the parents must know about the emotional abuse even if they don't want to admit it.  But it's not what the LW wants and I can understand that also.
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