Dear Dr. Darcy:
Last winter my brother and I had a fight and we haven’t spoken in just over a year. He has always treated me as though he doesn’t respect me very much and for me, this fight was the last straw. The thing is, my wife just got pregnant and I’m torn over whether or not to make amends for the sake of our child. We have a very small family and I would love for my baby to grow up with cousins. I’m pretty sure that when he finds out that we’re expecting [a baby], he will try to reconnect. What should I do?
Let me state for the record that I’m biased, and because you didn’t give me the specifics of your fight, I’m having a hard time not seeing it through the lens of my own relationships.
You say that your brother never treated you with much respect. How do you imagine your child will feel growing up witnessing someone being disrespectful to his/her Dad? Will your child internalize that information and conclude that he/she doesn’t need to treat you with respect? Might your child mistreat his/her future siblings? Do you expect your brother to treat your child differently than he treats you? Would you accept your brother treating your child the way he treats you? These are all questions worth pondering.
At any given time in my life, I’m not speaking to 50% of my siblings. Our issues come from upper management. We have poor leadership in my family, and because management has always refused to take responsibility for sailing the family ship, we capsize every 5 years or so. With that said, at our age, we should know right from wrong. We’ve had enough life experience to know how to treat people. I’ll tell you what I’ve told my mother countless times:
Being genetically related to an individual does not give that person the right to mistreat me. I expect my siblings to treat me at least as well as a stranger would. I value peace above all else, and if the only way to maintain peace is to insulate myself from toxicity, I’ll do it. I may love unconditionally, but I do not keep people in my life unconditionally.
You need to ask yourself if your child deserves the same respect that you feel entitled to, and then surround him/her with people who have proven that they can deliver. Think quality over quantity. Form close friendships with people who can become your child’s aunts and uncles. And congratulations on your new arrival. That’s VERY exciting!
Writer’s Stats: Male, heterosexual.