Social Question

loltooratchetforthat's avatar

My brother is distancing himself from me... What's going on?

Asked by loltooratchetforthat (21points) September 12th, 2012

Alright, well I’m 18, and I have an older brother, Stephen, who’s 20. We adopted Stephen when he was 7; I was 5. It’s very clear, too, since he’s a rather tall, muscular black guy, and we’re all rather short and very white. I’m 5’2’’ and I’m about as pale as you can get. Haha Anyways, I love him very much. He’s the best brother. He’s always been there for me; he’s very protective of me. I used to be annoyed by it, because every guy I dated would have to pass his inspection (lol), and he would constantly have an eye on what I was doing, but I don’t mind now. I know he just cares about me. He’s just a great brother. He’s so much fun, and he’s just the kindest person.

Anyways, because we look so different, everyone has always given us a lot of crap about being siblings. People in my graduating class would make fun of me for “the big, muscle-y black guy” being my brother, and he always got all kinds of b.s. from the people in his class about the “tiny pale white girl” being his younger sister. And because we spent a lot of time together in school, seeing as how we’ve always gotten along fairly well, people would see us together all the time. This just fueled their fire, and we always knew when we were being talked about. It didn’t used to bother either of us, and I certainly never cared, and still don’t, but during Stephen’s senior year of high school (my junior year), he started acting weird about it. He started distancing himself from me at school a bit (not in a way that was hurtful to me. He just sort of drifted from me), but at home, he was exactly the same as always; fun, joking around with me, hanging out with me, etc. It still bothered me that he actually cared what they thought, though.

Anyways, we both go to the same community college now, and Stephen has sort of gotten together a new group of friends. I’m not particularly fond of any of them. They’re not terrible, but they’re different than him; they can be somewhat obnoxious and seem like trouble, honestly. Stephen and I are both really good kids; we don’t drink, smoke, party, or any of that. But whatever, I’ve been trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. However, they recently came over our house, and met all of us (myself, our parents, and our 15 year old sister Breanna). They reacted the exact same way everyone in high school did. I heard them giving him a lot of garbage about looking so different from all of us. He invited me into the living room when they were over to hang out with them, and they seemed really judgmental the entire time. Since then, Stephen has seemed really distant, and sort of… quiet. He seems upset all the time, and I try to go in his room and hang out and ask him if he’s alright and he just says something like he “has a headache” or something. What’s going on? What do I do? I miss the normal Stephen, and I’m worried I’m losing my brother. He’s my best friend. :( What do I do?

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11 Answers

Pandora's avatar

I would just have a heart to heart like you did here and tell him how you are feeling. But this kind of thing happens in college anyway. Even if he looked the same as you or you guys were related by blood, you may have still suffered from changes his life is going to take. He’s trying to fit in. The fact that he invited you means he still cares for you. Maybe he just feels conflicted because he feels ashamed that he didn’t stand up for you and kick them to the curb. However,he has to start growing and changing and you aren’t always going to approve of these changes. It could be that he sees your disapproval and feels judged. My kids had the same problems during college. This probably would’ve happened sooner during your teen years but good kids usually go through this stage later in life.
The only thing you can do is try to be supportive and let him know that you will always be around and will always love him. Tell him you understand that you both may not always agree on stuff or in the friends you choose but you hope you can always agree to be there for each other and support each other and still remain best friends.
Oh, and welcome to fluther.

augustlan's avatar

As @Pandora suggests, it’s hard to know if this has anything to do with adoption and looking different, or is a normal developmental stage in a sibling relationship. As we grow up, we oftentimes distance ourselves from immediate family as a way of becoming an independent person. That phase is pretty normal, and usually resolves itself in time. A new type of relationship emerges eventually, and can be just as close as it once was (though it may be different).

For now, I’d talk to him and let him know that you miss him, but understand if he needs his space. Let him know that you will be there for him and that you hope he will be there for you, as well.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Welcome to fluther. Sounds like he’s trying to establish his identity. We all have to do it at some point in life. Let him know you love him and he will always be a part of your family and you want to be part of his.I’d love to be able to say race isn’t playing a part, but we aren’t that advanced yet. As hard as this is for you, it’s probably harder for him. Try to spend some quality time alone with him in a private setting. He might open up a little with no one else around. Good luck.

marinelife's avatar

Your brother is going through an identity crisis. It sounds like he was raised right and will come out of it on the othr side fine, but until then the best thing that you can do is let him go through it.

You could either talk to him or write him a letter telling him he is a vital part of your family, that spending time with him is important to you and you love him, but don’t put the burden of your own hurt feelings on top of his other issues.

Then give him the gift of time to sort himself out.

Shippy's avatar

I can’t really add to the wise answers you have already received. But will add its a shame so many reacted to the ‘color’ issue. They have never heard of adoption? Anyway here in South Africa its is very common and very accepted and understood. But families are educated in allowing the adopted kid to understand and seek to find more information on that childs culture.

geeky_mama's avatar

@loltooratchetforthat – as others have pointed out your brother is probably trying to figure out his identity in the world. This is all normal and while it might be hard for you to understand why he is less present in your day to day life at college—it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “losing” him at all.

Friends may come and go – but your family is your family. He is your brother for always – and that means 5 years from now, 10 years from now and on and on. You can remind yourself of this anytime you feel like he’s being distant…remind yourself that he will always be there for you when needed, and you for him. That’s the beauty of family.

I think @marinelife offers good advice – let him know (at home, in private, or by letter or text) how much you love him and that he is a great brother—and then give him the tremendous gift of space & time for him to figure out who his friends are and what his identity is to the outside world.

Pandora's avatar

@shippy, In the US, kids are picked on and made outcasts for every little thing imaginable. Short, tall, white, black, latin, indian, too smart, not smart enough, fat, thin, not cool, too cool, too serious, too honest, date too much, never dating, pimples, too pretty even can get you picked on, too shy, too witty, too loud, too quiet, adopted not adopted, gay parents, fat parents, too poor, too rich, your hair is too pretty, or not pretty enough, your voice is too high pitch or too low pitch, you take drugs or don’t take drugs. It’s a miracle anyone can come out of high school without a complex. There is a hate group for everything.

Shippy's avatar

@Pandora that’s so sad. And hard I guess here we have so many cultures ethnic groups so on that we are forced to understand. We even give respect to holidays and religious days too.

wundayatta's avatar

I have to wonder if racism is playing a role here. Are his friend black or a mix or what? Because if his friends are all black, then he is probably facing the issue of his racial identity. He’s black brought up in a white house. Now he has black friends (if, indeed, that is the case), and they don’t approve of his white family and may be pressuring him to act black. If he is influenced by this, he would certainly feel like he isn’t sure who he is around you.

So that may be part of what is going on. Hard to say without being there and without knowing a lot more details than you have provided. Do you guys every talk about race and what it is like having different color skin? Does he ever tell you about what happens to him that doesn’t happen to you? Are you open about that or do you not talk about it?

And as others have said, when you make a transition to a new school, then it is natural to have different crowds. It’s hard to imagine he would feel comfortable including you with what he does. Not that it never happens, but it seems to me that siblings often have different crowds as they move through schools, and then after everyone graduates and marries, they start coming back together at family gatherings.

Anyway, I’m not saying it is race. But I am a little surprised you haven’t mentioned it.

loltooratchetforthat's avatar

@wundayatta Most of these new friends are black. Which is relatively new for him, because our high school was 95% white kids, and he had only ever had like 2 black friends before this. We don’t really talk about the fact that we’re a different race. I mean we make jokes about it all the time, but that’s just brother/sister kind of stuff, you know what I mean? I mean, we’re open with each other, he’s never really talked about being treated any differently, besides how people acted when they saw us together. We did talk about that pretty openly, though. Could he maybe just not have told me? I mean I understand that something like that would probably suck to open up and talk about. :/

wundayatta's avatar

All I know is that black people tell me a lot of shit happens to them because of their race. I can imagine that there might be a lot of pressure to conform to black culture when he is with black friends, and he might feel really weird because it is not something he had in your house. I don’t know what it would have been like before he came to your house.

But this is the reason why a lot of black social workers did not want black kids put in white homes. They won’t get training in their culture. Their blackness. It can put them in an awkward position, and they might be called oreos—black on the outside, but white inside. They he may feel like he has to prove his blackness, and that could cause him to distance himself from you.

This is all speculation. I don’t know if this is happening. I have heard that it is a problem, but I don’t really know the specifics. I can imagine he wouldn’t tell you.

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