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‘My brother is meeting fabulous women, but they leave because he does not want more children’

Tell Me About It: As with all our familial relationships, we need to move from our childhood patterns into more adult connections and this usually only happens when we are forced to do so

Question

My brother was happily married for many years and is now divorced. He is meeting lots of fabulous women who are all self-confident, with good careers and would make wonderful partners for him.

The problem seems to be that he is very clear that he does not want to have more children (he has three from his marriage and is a great dad to them). The women all know from the outset that he does not want to have children, but, at some point in the relationship, they think they can change his mind, only to discover that he is not for changing and the relationship ends. I have got close to many of these wonderful women and when they leave, I feel upset and rejected, along with my brother. He seems to just move on to more dating and I am now frustrated and feel I need to say something. I obviously want him to be happy, but I am beginning to side with the partners who want to create their own families with him.

The reason that I am so close to my brother is that we are the only members of our family left, since my parents died, and it has always been the two of us against the world. I’ve spent my life looking up to him so have never had a conversation where I criticise him, but it is getting harder and harder not to pull him up on this. Of course, I could be wrong and he right, but I feel stronger about this than I imagined. I am single myself, and very happily so.

I do not think that a person needs children to make a life complete, but I know my brother is really happy when in a good relationship.

Answer

The issue in your brother’s relationships is one that many will recognise, that what we say early in a relationship is not really believed as the whole truth and that we might be able to find a different outcome once the relationship is established.

While this is sometimes the case, it is better to work from the assumption that people are generally more upfront when they don’t have to worry about letting someone down and they should be believed. At the beginning of relationships, we often try to mould ourselves into something we consider more desirable to the chosen partner, but this often ends up as a sticking point later.

Take, for example, when someone writes in their profile that one of their hobbies is theatre and they get together with someone who is a real fan, only to reveal much later that they only put it down so they could seem cultured. The result is distrust and a breach in the relationship that might be difficult to overcome.

Your brother has been clear and honest from the start and in time he will find a partner who accepts his word, and they can progress from there. However, you feel the sadness and pain of the loss of previous partners who seemed so perfect for him and who could not have their desire for children met with your brother. It must be very hard to have a relationship with such potential to go awry, but it demonstrates the importance of procreation for these women who will not settle for less than the whole package (of parenting) for them.

This brings us to your difficulty in having a conversation with your brother. From your letter, you believe that he should take more care about his relationships and perhaps he could do with learning from his experience and really laying out his position very early in any potential dating scene. I assume that what is stopping you from speaking is your reverence for your brother and your fear of upsetting what is a very special relationship for the two of you. However, you are in the perfect position to challenge him as you would do it with genuine care and love, and this offers the best possibility of meaningful discussion. He might not know that the ending of his relationships is also a loss for you, and this might be something he could take into account.

However, as with all our familial relationships, we need to move from our childhood patterns into more adult connections and this usually only happens when we are forced to do so. You have an opportunity now to step away from the younger sibling role and while this might be difficult, it might also offer a much richer and deeper connection going forward.

It may happen that he is upset or defensive when you bring up the topic of his relationships, and you have to respect his right not to share his views with you, but it will change the dynamic and you might trust that this will turn out to be a good thing in time.

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