Hi Wanda and Wayne,
My older brother has always been my best friend and hero. Our dad wasn't around but my brother was always there for me and our mom. He watched over me, took care of what he could around the house, did great at school, always had a job and encouraged me to do my best too. He never complains or takes a shortcut, even as a busy adult who still looks after Mom and keeps tabs on me. Those same traits make him very successful at work and he's a leader at whatever he's doing. And since I was little, he's always treated me as a friend and equal and made me feel important. We've always talked about everything.
So I was really disappointed when he told me that he's been seeing a married woman for a few months. They've been friends since high school and he said it just evolved in recent months. I literally couldn't believe it and didn't know what to say. And I still don't. Even worse, he isn't trying to get out of it. He says they're both having fun, that there's no pressure and that they're both adults who know exactly what they're doing.
It's all crazy to me but he doesn't even get defensive when I try to take a moral high ground with him. He says her husband is never around and doesn't treat her right when he is. He said that it's a nice escape for both of them and that their time together makes them happy and is something they both look forward to. Ugh. I'm so bummed that my brother is doing something like this and doesn't even think it's a big deal. But I think it's wrong and feel sick about it. I don't know what to say to him or do about our friendship moving forward. I don't even know what to ask you guys – I guess I just want to vent. But if you have any advice, I'll take it. Thanks.
Sorry to hear that. It's always world-rocking when someone we trust, love and look up to lets us down. But it's also a sobering reminder that we're all human and that no one is perfect – even our heroes. Sad but true.
I could play armchair psychologist and guess that his dalliance with a married woman means he can't handle any kind of serious romantic commitments, which could stem back to your parents splitting. And maybe now that you're all grown up, he feels a need to have someone to take care of. I could also guess that he came to you because he doesn't exactly feel awesome about this behavior and he needed to get it off his chest. Just amateur guesses.
One thing that is perfectly clear: He still loves, trusts and needs you.
What should you do? Well, we're talking about your brother and best friend. Is this really a firing offense? Or are you just disappointed and hurt?
I bet he respects you and your word more than you think. This could be an opportunity for a role reversal and for you to provide guidance for him. Reiterate your love and respect for him and then make it clear that his decisions have let you down and that he isn't walking the walk anymore. And then close by saying you might not approve or want anything to do with it, but that he's your brother and you'll be there if and when he needs you. That's what family, and best friends, do.
It's hard when people who have served as moral lanterns along our path then slide into gray area of ambiguity – and go a direction we tell ourselves we would never, ever go. You probably feel almost personally offended, and absolutely you feel let down. This is normal. Like Wayne said, it's a hard day when we learn our idols are infallible.
Consider the evidence in your corner: Notwithstanding the sideline possibility that this woman has an open marriage and this is all permissible, your brother is now with someone who, under current circumstances, will never be able to give him the full emotional bandwidth that a relationship requires. And statistically, she probably won't end her marriage to be with him.
Is this really what he wants? A relationship with no potential for upward development and a positive ending? He may say it's "just fun," but things that are just fun have a shelf life, and inevitably someone's feelings grow, expectations shift and things start to get really complicated – the opposite of fun, in fact. Have a heart-to-heart, like Wayne suggested, and ask what he really wants out of life, love and ladies; and then ask, is he really on the path toward that outcome? My guess is no, and you might be able to shine the light that illuminates that truth.
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