I know if I ever get married, I’ll have to make a choice between inviting my dad or my brother. This will be to protect each of them, and protect the day from family arguments.
Every adult family relationship dynamic is different. For me, our difficulty is that my older brother, who I am very close to, will not talk to our dad. My brother knows I will not cut contact with our dad, even though he feels I should. He has respect for my desire for a relationship with my dad. Still, being trapped in the middle is difficult.
Our parents divorced when I was two. Once our dad moved out we grew up with our mum. Every Sunday our dad would come and take us out for a walk round the park or a trip to McDonald’s. Occasionally we would go to the cinema. Then one day when I was seven, we had a phone call from him to say “ohh, by the way: I got married today.” We had met his future wife however as a “friend,” so as you can imagine we were a little shocked.
A few years down the line and all contact was cut off by him beyond a Christmas and birthday card which were always put through the door in the middle of the night. For eight years I saw my dad five times. Once at a family wedding and then four times in the car park at Ikea where we happened to meet by chance.
During this period my brother was in Egypt during the 2011 revolution. Yet our Dad never asked after him. Having separated from his wife, Dad’s contact started again. He apologized for being not the best dad in the world. My brother just couldn’t accept it — it was too little too late.
For me, being in the middle wasn’t easy until I started to look at things from my brother’s point of view. When we went through everything with the divorce, he was four years older (and maybe wiser) than I was. He also would have remembered things from before the divorce.
Once I saw it from his point of view, I stopped trying to make them become BFFs and supported my brother, while maintaining a relationship with my father. Here’s how to navigate this tricky “family member in the middle” situation:
- Make it very clear to everyone you’re a neutral party. This is very important in my view so no one ever feels like I am “picking sides.” I see both points of view and respect them.
- Do not let yourself become a messenger. If my dad wishes to say something he can, but I’m not delivering it.
- At family events I will make sure that I am sat with my father, so that my brother won’t be.
- If I am going to see our dad, I check in with my brother about what information about his life he’s comfortable with me sharing, should our father ask.
What other “family member in the middle” advice do you have to add to this?