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Appropriate response to bombastic older brother

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member


I have a brother who is only a few years older than I. He has been on a campaign to promote his version of a particular road safety issue for over 25 years, with little success. Unfortunately he does not see this. We have not heard from him for 10 years, after my other siblings got sick of him ringing up on a very regular basis, going on about his wonderful road safety campaign, and how he was going to have it nationally accredited, and all States will be forced to adopt it. His claims are somewhat exaggerated (for example, he alleges the State motorist association is supporting him suing the State transport department for $3m for not adopting his version), but when I or others question his judgement or statements, he gets very angry and abusive.

Two days before Christmas last year (after 10 years of not hearing from him or his wife), he rings out of the blue, wanting to reconnect with family. I gave him my updated list of siblings' phone numbers, which he then proceeded to ring to "update them" on his progress. Most of them have phoned me saying nothing has changed...he is still as bombastic and misguided as ever.

As each one challenges him (he is 67) that he should drop the issue and relax and enjoy retirement, he abuses them, hangs up, and then rings me, telling me how selfish and ignorant my siblings are. It turns out my wife and I are the only one he rings now...unfortunately every second day.

I have tried to gently suggest to him that we want a relationship with him and his wife, but we dont want to be dominated by his campaign. He seems not to have taken the message, so we have had to check the phone when it rings, and limit answering his calls if they come in more than once a week. I am not sure what else we can do. He is pushing to come and visit our house for a meal, but I genuinely fear that the whole event will be dominated by his issue, and if we try to get him off the topic, he gets aggressive and abusive. I dont want to expose my wife, nor myself, to this behaviour in our home. So we have suggested meeting somewhere halfway for lunch, so we can limit the damage and exposure.

Any thoughts or suggestions here?

7 Replies 7

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi again Quietall

Some people become obsessed by certain things. Or nothing matters except their passion.

My lovely sister has tennis. Her business runs around tennis, her daughter is in the business and is 21yo and is happy to spend every moment in tennis. Tennis tennis tennis.

So xmas day we talk tennis, her business etc etc.

Then two hours I draw the line. Ok sis, two hours is up. She knows from past experiences that means we talk...well....kit cars like what I have lol. But also talk about my kids education, country living, bbq, estranged family members and politics.

In your situation when you suggest he no longer talk about that topic he is enraged.

If you change tack and half jokingly suggest to change the topic, or better still change the topic constantly until he gets the message it is worth a try.

Somehow, because his other siblings have rejected him, he doesn't get it and never will.

I read an article on the net the other night about family separation. It is truly amazing what siblings will tolerate in order to be in contact. Yet at the end of the day the contact is merely due to them being "family". There often is no other reason for them to be in contact.

For this reason you might have to give him a gentle ultimatum. eg "based on our other siblings making it clear to you that this campaign has become destructive in all of their relationships with you and you seem oblivious as to its ability to create turmoil, I have to say to you that we are on fragile legs now ourselves...and we have only recommenced our relationship for a few weeks.

I cant see any way of quelling a senior man from this obsession.

Is his relationship with his siblings less important to this campaign? A question for him maybe.

Tony WK

Community Member
Hi Quiettall. He sounds rather full-on, obsessed with his importance etc. Meeting somewhere neutral for lunch sounds perfect. That way, you can have an 'escape plan' worked out with your wife, prior to the meeting. When your brother phones to arrange and confirm your meeting, I would quickly explain how long you can meet for. Let him think you have a previous engagement, but you can meet for lunch, include a time frame so there can be no misunderstanding. If your brother 'starts', I suggest a pre-arranged signal discussed with your wife as an escape plan, call it 'plan 'B'. Make sure you and wife are on the same page with this one. Any questioning glances between you, he is sure to pick up on. Lynda

Hi Tony

I am expecting a daily call today, and feel bad about letting the phone ring out. So your advice was very similar to what my wife and I discussed this afternoon. I have to summon up the courage to lay it on the line to him. It is so crazy as he is at retirement age and has a great life ahead for him to enjoy and relax, instead of this constant rant and fantasy thing he is into. I was thinking that after 25 years on this, one rational thinking person would get the hint and realise it as nothing more than a fantasy or pipe dream. Anyway, I am starting to sound like him....sorry and thanks heaps

The saf bit about your brother is that he could be mentally ill. Certainly such obsessional behaviour points there. But that makes anyone so focussed ill. Such obsessors invented flight, cars turbines etc.

But you need to care for your own home and health first.

I just feel for him to lose family and not stop he must be unwell.

Tony WK

Thanks Tony and Pipsy

I actually applied the suggestion last night when he rang. Initially he was taken aback, but then after I explained a bit more that we all care for him but he is isolating himself from his siblings, and that I would also withdraw if he didnt modify his behaviour, he eventually admitted even his wife was withdrawing from him and becoming quite negative to his inflated statements. It ended up being a lengthy 1 hour conversation where I think I got the message through that e can be proud of his achievements, but dont blow his trumpet so often to others, if he wants respect and ongoing contact from them. It is the first time in a long time that i got off the phone feeling like he heard me fully, responded positively and thoughtfully. I can only hope he applies the message and doesnt bounce back with the same old behaviour.

Hi Quietall

So far that is a good result.

Coming from a family of toxicity and disowning some for my own mental health, l often write posts as to the benefits of such actions.

However, while that is fine for those intent on harming others, it is not necessarily the right way to go where it comes to those that have no control and dont mean what they do.

Sometimes we need to reach out with firm compassion in last ditch effort to get a positive response.

Perhaps he needs to be told that a balance is needed. After all, all good relationships flourish when both sides ask questions with a mutual interest

Tony WK

Agreed Tony. Now my task is to somehow try and get him to tone down his enthusiasm and work with the other siblings to give him another chance. We are all in our 50's and 60's and it is sad when a family cant relate because of issues like this.