Kevin and I never/rarely fight. I mean, sure, we get impatient or snarky occasionally because: humans. When we do fight, it is ALWAYS about his brother. ALWAYS. Sometimes about the racecar/vehicles but really, it's always about his brother.
A fight though is like super rare. We're living in the End Times so why not. Let's go.
This go-around was started because there is a project requiring tech support for the racecar. Kevin had planned for us to work on this on Saturday. Then unexpectedly he had Friday afternoon off. I mentioned that we could work on the project now instead of Saturday then he would have his whole weekend free.
This was met with a curt no because his brother is due home soon and "I don't need that stress."
Sigh. "That stress" is because when his brother comes to our house (shop, never in the house) it is awkward because we don't speak really. Summed up: I shut down and/or disengage when his brother is around. I just CAN'T around him. In turn, he doesn't acknowledge my presence.
My point was: Can this ONE TIME not be about his brother? Kevin's point was: It's not worth it, we had a plan and stick with the plan. My response was This is exhausting and ridiculous.
The Summary of The Issue of His Brother:
I've mentioned the brother before but here's the nutshell: He has untreated depression and anxiety, which also results in lots of narcissism. His behavior has been excused and enabled his whole adult life. As a result, he has disrespected-abused every single member of this family from Kevin, to the parents, to his grandchildren.
It's NEVER About him. Never. It's always someone else's fault. Globally.
Exhibits A,B, C, D:
(because this isn't simply he's a debbie downer, or nitpicker, or lazy. He's all these things And:)
At Christmas, he yelled at one of the bigs for....existing? Young Nephew literally just walked into the kitchen and he yelled at him to get out. When he walked back into the living room, I hugged him and said "I'm sorry that your grandpa is an d*&k. We love you." (One nephew asked at Easter "Why doesn't he like us?" How heartbreaking is that?)
When his son nearly died (not hyperbole, literally almost died) and was discharged from the hospital, he had to live with them. Because he couldn't return to five children in his own house with a depleted immune system. On that same day, my sister-in-law was in a terrible car accident that required her to be on bedrest for weeks. HE went to bed with a COLD for a week, requiring another family member to come live with them to help care for the nephew and his wife, and now him. A COLD. Or should I say a "cold."
One of the last times the ambulance was called to the house for my mother-in-law, he didn't come to the house. He stayed in bed because "Dad said I could". As we watched her dying in front of us and paramedics doing CPR and shock in the ambulance IN THE DRIVEWAY, he stayed in bed. Leaving Kevin and I to deal with all.of.that. Then complained he was tired the next day at the hospital.
This is the last one, even though I can go on for days without exaggeration. Remember when we didn't have power for four days? FOUR DAYS. The first day, Kevin came home from work early to ensure everyone was taken care of. Including using our generator for his parents because THEIRS WAS AT THE BROTHERS HOUSE. When the brother got home from work -at regular time-, he stood in the driveway in the rain and pouted because we were going to dinner and "he didn't know what to do. The generator was out of gas." (he's a millwright in case you're wondering what his vocation; a mechanic for all types of engines)
So, there's some solid examples of why I just can't with him. This isn't just little personality quirks; it's abusive and manipulative behavior.
This isn't addressing the impact he has on my husband because this needs to be a post and not a novel. You can guess.
I was married to Satan who also had these behaviors and I had an alcoholic father who has these behaviors. So THANK YOU UNIVERSE for putting yet another male figure in my life with these qualities. It could be said that I keep having these "lessons" put in my path because I haven't learned yet and to that I offer a polite, yet emphatic: f&*k off.
I have little to zero patience with people who are rude or disrespectful. I've worked hard on not engaging and trying to let it go. However, this is thirty years of experiences with him and, remember: he lives next door.
The Brother's Narrative, probably:
Anything I say or do, facial expressions or actions, are ALL ABOUT HIM no matter what.
If I say something: there's perceived tone. Or "Why did she say that?" Or "She knows I think that..."
If I'm working and concentrating, I'm being rude. (working on racecar or the racecar computer, mostly in this situation, which bugs because I'm a girl, and he isn't "needed")
If I disengage, I'm being rude or standoffish. Defining "disengage" as I will excuse myself or not go out if he's in the shop, I will go straight into the car trailer if we're racing, I will opt out of going somewhere.
It has been said multiple times that I treat our CANADIAN FRIENDS completely different than him. (Ummm...YEAH.)
My Rebuttal Argument:
He is the only person who treats me "like a girl" when it comes to the racecar. I have lots of knowledge that he doesn't possess because it's MY racecar and I hear/read/work on/about it all the time. (He does very little work on his racecar. Nephew does most of it, with Kevin's help. HE takes all the credit though.)
I can rationalize that I'm Kevin's wife and that status bumps him down the food chain. I am an obstacle to Kevin, whom he is hyper-focused & neurotic about. Kevin said that the same issue arose with his first wife. It's not totally me, he would be this way with anyone Kevin was married to.
Kevin has really been working on boundaries with him, so of course he's being resistant and it's got to be all my fault. There is no other rational explanation in his world.
A Study in Psychology:
He has told Kevin that "If I just knew why she didn't like me then..." which is a specific kind of ridiculous because he has no intention of changing. Why would Kevin enter into that kind of discussion? "Let's see, well, she thinks you're a mentally ill, selfish ass who abuses everyone around you. Can you work on that?"
He pulls focus to him, constantly. (see going to bed when your wife is injured and your son is recovering from dying) If Kevin has a project that requires his attention, the brother will create a sudden problem so that Kevin's attention is required to be on him. In every restaurant, he will order steak. It's never right then sends it back then we have to wait and listen to him pretend to feel guilty about making us wait. (He ordered steak at a PIZZA place and then was pissed because it wasn't right. A PIZZA PLACE!)
If we are watching sports at his house, he will pause it because he has to go into the kitchen, making a group of people wait until he returns. (think Super Bowl) He hosts a pay-per-view sports event, makes extravagant dinners and CHARGES his friends. (Kevin and I disagree on this one, he says it's okay because it costs him money. I say no because he chooses to host)
He acts as if Kevin's long-distance friends are also his friends. They have never spoken beyond social media comments. At most Kevin will put his phone on speaker so he can work while talking and he overhears. He talks about them as if are besties. If Kevin friends someone on social media, he does (I hid him on facebook because GAH) He'll tell stories of things he's done, when it's things that Kevin has done.
Yet, he can change his behavior. He's had a long-term job. He's not such a dick when our friends are around but not always. A few of the friends can call him on it but most tolerate it because he's Kevin's brother. (he doesn't have his own friends, only Kevin's) The point being that he can be self-aware.
Research and Strategies:
Because I'm a nerd, I researched this topic over the years. How to deal with difficult family members, how to cope with toxic people, how to overcome childhood baggage, Dealing with Trauma and Trauma Responses, etc. The advice is to lessen opportunities (check) not engage when behaviors arise (check) and suck it up, buttercup because family (check) To mostly, no avail.
I disengage because it's what I need to do and in attempt to keep Kevin from being under fire. Knowing that I trigger him, I lessen opportunities for interactions but that has proven unsuccessful.
If I be myself, he finds me offensive with me all being a girl with opinions and knowledge and stuff.
If I'm not me and hold my tongue and/or withdraw myself from potential situations, it sucks to be me and bonus: I'm being disrespectful or inconsiderate.
It just pisses me off that he is such a precious little fragile flower that everyone has to change to his expectations. If I hear "That's just him" once more, I'm moving to Narnia. (Or "He's been in a good mood lately" I threatened to punch people if I heard that ever again. Hello, trauma response.)
Kevin is stuck in the middle; because he becomes the mediator to keep the peace. He has done a tremendous job at keeping some distance and creating boundaries. He gets a lot of praise there. Sometimes though, Kevin is so used to his behavior that he doesn't always see it. It's just become part of the scenery, which can be frustrating to me.
While I can justify that he behaves this way because it's been allowed, it affects everything we do. If we go racing, he's there. If we go on vacation, he's there. If we go outside, he's there. Holidays are spent at his house. (there is no changing that, to those of you who just thought "What about...")
Rinse and Repeat. Because really, there's no other option.
Try to human more. Historically, I've found this unworkable.
Example: After the fight, I walked out to the shop and the brother was unexpectedly there. I decided I would try and looked directly at him when I walked in, creating an opportunity for engagement. He looked away. I asked Kevin a question, he answered, I looked at the brother again and smiled. He looked away. Sigh. (he would say "Well, she makes me uncomfortable" or "She never does so...")
Or Kevin gets a praised/condescending "She was nice to me!" comment like I'm a misbehaving puppy.
Wait until the parents pass/go into assisted living then interactions are significantly less. We have not completely crossed off moving after this happens.
Any advice/opinion is welcome. My feelings are not easily hurt nor am I easily offended. Evidence perhaps to the contrary.
Frankly, I know there is no solution to this. This post is just venting uselessly to the universe. Maybe it will provide some entertainment or solidarity to others who also have difficult family members. I hope that is the result.