Em is a writer and student with a special interest in social sciences.
So, You Can't Stand Your Brother's Girlfriend
- Identify the things you don't like about her and why they bother you
- Think about the things she's dealing with that may be contributing to her unlikeable qualities
- Consider what your brother likes about her
- Ask yourself if you're doing anything to perpetuate the tension between the two of you
- Decide what boundaries you need to establish to create as peaceful a rapport as possible between you, your brother, and his significant other.
To say that my brother and I have always gotten along with each other's partners would be a major lie. He couldn't stand the guy I saw through my senior year of high school and I wasn't always simpatico with his prom dates, but it wasn't until we were into adulthood that the stakes–and emotions–ran higher. Since then, he's been quick to point out when a new beau doesn't seem to treat me as well as he'd like and I had to almost literally bite my tongue on family holidays with his last girlfriend.
But why? The truth is, at least in my case, some of my concerns about his paramours have been legitimate (like the girl he dated for 6 months in college who insisted he be cool with having an open relationship when he definitely wasn't), while others have been less so. What I've learned over the years is that sometimes my dislike for another person has more to do with me and how I perceive the world than anything else. That being said, it can be really, really hard to get along with your brother's girlfriend sometimes. And guess what? It's okay to not jive with everyone, you can't control that. What you can control is your actions and reactions towards someone you don't enjoy.
1. Identify The Things You Don't Like About Her and Why They Bother You
With my brother's last girlfriend, I could list off at least five things off the top of my head that I absolutely couldn't stand about her without taking a second to catch my breath. Some of it was annoying to me but ultimately harmless - she chewed with her mouth wide open and insisted on sharing her conspiracy theories at every family function.
Other stuff was more glaringly concerning, like that she required my brother to hand over all his passwords and wouldn't allow him to talk on the phone with me unless she was also present and the conversation was on speaker phone so that she could monitor him for signs of infidelity (which is a sign of emotional abuse within a relationship).
Why It's Important
Taking inventory of why you don't like your brother's girlfriend will help you to analyze whether you're being overly critical and need to take a step back, or if your concerns are valid.
How to Do It
Create a list of the things about her that drive you nuts, why they make you cringe and what an appropriate reaction to those things would be.
2.Take Her Past Into Consideration
If your brother's girlfriend is anything like my brother's most recent girlfriend, she probably loves to talk about herself including everything from her previous relationships to her own family dynamics and childhood memories.
Why It's Important
As Dr. Andrea Bonlor explains in a post for Psychology Today, practicing compassion for someone you dislike can soften the edges of that dislike and give your a more rounded perspective of them by understanding how a person's past influences their present.
In my case, after spending more time around my brother's girlfriend and her family, I began to see a pattern of her mother belittling and verbally antagonizing her which had to have contributed to some of her less-than-lovely traits. While it didn't excuse some of her more aggressive behaviors, it did help explain why she thought and acted the way she did and why she might struggle with impulse control having never had it modeled for her as a kid.
There is solid evidence that sending thoughts of mercy and good will can help alleviate angry, hateful feelings. This is not about forgiving the person — though that may be helpful, too.
— Dr. Andrea Bonlor for Psychology Today
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How to Do It
Take interest! Don't just write her off at the first awkward interaction. Listen when she talks and ask conversation starting questions without being too intrusive. You could ask things like:
- What did your family do for fun growing up?
- How does your family celebrate holidays?
- Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Most people will take these cues as a chance to open up and share and while she does, listen for some telling clues into what her family dynamics are. You may find that the reason she doesn't go out for Sunday brunch cocktails with you and your sisters isn't because she doesn't like you or that she's stuck up, but because she grew up with an alcoholic mom.
A Word of Caution
Your first few impressions that your brother's girlfriend is unlikeable may actually be your subconscious accurately interpreting the words and actions of a toxic person. And sometimes, toxic people exaggerate or outright lie about their past to make themselves seem like a chronic victim or way more successful and admired than they actually are in order to get the people they tell these stories to, to feel badly for them which makes them easier to manipulate.
So, when taking inventory of someone's past you have to consider the source: where is your information coming from? In his book 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life, licensed clinical social worker and mediation lawyer Bill Eddy describes how people with high conflict personalities (those who are especially prone to arguments, outbursts and overstepping normal boundaries) may not be reliable in their recollections. So, keep that in mind as you're getting to know your brother's girlfriend and, as Eddy recommends, take your relationship with her slowly and casually ask others who know her what they think about her to ensure you don't fall prey to her storytelling.
3. Consider What Your Brother Likes About Her and Why
I know, I know, it's kinda hard to do. But the thing is, you don't need to like her. Afterall, the person whose opinion about her really matters here is your brother! Take a step back and ask yourself what he likes about her and why. Does she help him come out of his comfort zone and enjoy parts of life he's never explored before? Is she an amazing cook who treats him to 5-course weekend dinners?
Why It's Important
Inevitably, there are things about her that he adores. It's what attracted him to her in the first place and whether you find those attributes attractive or not is a moot point. Getting an understanding of what draws him to her may help soften your dislike for her or at least help you to be more patient with her when she's really grinding your nerves.
On the contrary, if his reasons are just that she's thicc and picks out his clothes for him, you might realize your brother is kind of a doink which could actually give you some much-needed sympathy for the poor girl.
How to Do It
Ask him! Enthusiastically be like "I'm so interested to hear what made you realize she's your type!" and then be prepared to barf. No, I mean, listen intenetly and nod along even if you still don't get it.
Remember that being a supportive sister is still in your role requirements and that arguing his reasons for attraction is unhelpful.
4. Ask Yourself if You're Doing Anything to Perpetuate the Tension
Hoooboy. Here we go. It's like the title says.
Why It's Important
As sisters, we don't get to just say "you're not good enough for my brother so bye, Felicia," and walk off into the sunset completely blameless. We have to honestly ask ourselves "am I doing something to make this relationship worse than it needs to be?" Afterall, if you're not practicing a certain amount of self-reflection you could very well be the instigator of the tension, even if the only thing you're doing wrong is actively disliking her. In this article for Headspace, writer Crissy Milazzo explores how dislike for another person creates a sort of feedback loop in the brain that looks like this:
|My brother's girlfriend makes me feel bad, so I dislike her.||<--Infinite Loop of Chaos-->||I dislike my brother's girlfriend and that makes me feel bad.|
How to Do It
- Examine any negative behavior you've consistently displayed with your brother's girlfriend including rolling your eyes when she's speaking, smirking when she shares an opinion, talking to her in a condescending tone or even gossiping about her behind her back.
- Acknowledge anything you may need to apologize for and then do it. It doesn't need to be overly emotional and it definitely shouldn't be with the intention of winning her over and becoming best friends, but for the sake of being a peaceful person.
- Take time to set healthier boundaries between you, your brother and his girlfriend as you move forward.
5. Decide What Boundaries You Need to Establish to Keep The Peace
Boundaries are a beautiful thing but they're also a tough thing, especially when it comes to family.
Why It's Important
Sure, your brother's girlfriend isn't your family, but your brother is and he's invited this person into his orbit so, inevitably, she's in yours now too. Establishing healthy boundaries to keep the peace in this situation is now key to everyone's well-being.
How to Do It
- Limit your time with your brother's girlfriend. This one is hard because it probably means limiting your time with your brother too. Look at it this way, the less room for an argument or tension between you and his girlfriend, the less room for tension between you and him. That group text where you and your bro send each other Spongebob memes that she often gets offended by? Leave it. Likewise, if she invites you out for her annual birthday booze cruise politely decline (work is busy!) and send a gift card in the mail instead. You can show up without actually showing up, y'know?
- Be choosy about when (and how) you choose to spend time with your brother's girlfriend. For me, I found that family holidays were actually a lot easier than one-on-one time with her so I made sure to make it to those and let the loud din of the cousins drown out any opportunity to listen to her weirdo conspiracy theories.
- Take the high road. Sometimes setting boundaries with another person is actually more about setting boundaries with yourself. My brother's girlfriend used to try to talk smack with me about my parents. I didn't always respond with curt, mature statements like "That sounds frustrating." No, instead, in shock that she thought I was a cool person to vent to about my own family, I would get a really wacked out look on my face and say stuff like "Maybe you shouldn't drink and drive if you want my parents to let your borrow their Corvette." Was I right? Probably! Does that mean I should have said that? It turns out, no. No, I shouldn't have. I should have set boundaries with myself to prevent me from partaking in negative discourse with her in the first place. Why? Because remaining neutral in difficult situations will help keep things as contained within healthy boundaries as possible.
Questions About Not Liking Your Brother's Girlfriend
Should I tell my brother I don't like his girlfriend?
Probably not! If you just come right out and say, "Dude, I hate your girlfriend!" then he's going to interpret that as "Dude, I hate you."
Why does my brother's girlfriend hate me?
Who really knows? It could be that whether on purpose or subconsciously, you've sent out some negative vibes in the hope to scare her off. On the other end, perhaps she's a toxic and unhealthy person who struggles with jealousy and possessiveness.
How can I get my brother to break up with his girlfriend?
There's a pretty good chance that you can't. Here's why: If there was something obvious you could point out to convince your brother to split from her, he'd have noticed it himself already. The negative stuff you see in her is something that he either doesn't care about at all or that he maybe finds annoying but not enough to outweigh the things he really likes about her.
Now, if you have incriminating information (and solid proof!) on her like that she's been stepping out behind his back, or that she hasn't been truthful with him about something important, this might be just the clout you need to break up the pair. Or it could all blow up in your face and you could be accused of trying to meddle.
How do I react without blowing up at my brother's girlfriend even though she infuriates me?
By analyzing what it is that really bugs you about her and then dissecting how you can react in a calm and non-toxic way. Here's some examples:
Why I'm Bothered by My Brother's Girlfriend and How to Handle It
|Thing She Does That Annoy Me||Why it Annoys Me||How I can Appropriately React|
She yells at my brother when he disagrees with her.
It makes me uncomfortable and angry to see my brother being yelled at.
By not engaging in the argument at all. I can also privately express my concern to my brother when/if we're alone.
She has cried and abruptly stormed out of many family functions/holidays.
Once or twice I can write off as a tough day, but beyond that it feels manipulative and immature.
By not reacting at all. I can't control and am not responsible for another person's emotional outbursts.
She doesn't return my phone calls or texts.
It feels like she doesn't respect my time or care to create healthy communication with my brother's loved ones.
In this case I'm probably being oversensitive (not everyone is great at telecommunication) and self-centered (she's dating my brother, not me).The best reaction here is to just let it slide and not make a big deal out of it.
She complains about the plugin air fresheners when visiting my apartment and asks me to unplug them when she arrives.
I feel irritated that she's dictating aspects of my home and feel that she's overstepping a boundary.
By accommodating her. Again, my irritation here is an oversensitivity on my part. Not everyone appreciates or can even tolerate fragrance. Unplugging the air fresheners when I know she's coming over and cracking a window to air out the scent is the kind and respectful thing to do.
She believes in most popular conspiracy theories.
I honestly can't believe my brother is tapping someone with such curmudgeon-y and bold views.
Ignore or engage on a neutral basis, responding to her theories with brief statements like "That's an interesting idea," or "I've never considered that," and then changing the subject. I recognize that trying to argue her theories is unproductive and will likely end in an argument because we both feel strongly about the topic.
She talks badly about our parents to me and expects me to take sides.
Wtf, does she seriously think I'm going to talk smack about my brother and I's parents with her? That's just for my bro and I, dudette.
As with the appropriate response above, the best thing to do here is to respond with brief statements that focus on her without furthering the conversation/tirade. Saying things like "That sounds frustrating," and then changing the subject is the best move here. Only unreasonable people would overstep these familial boundaries and having an argument with an unreasonable person in unproductive and harmful to my mental health.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Em Clark