Should I Be Worried That My Fiancé Is Jealous of My Brother?


Is my relationship with other people supposed to change?

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

A groom buttons his suit

Q: My younger brother and I are very close, and have been since I left home for college. We text each other almost every day and talk probably twice a week. My fiancé is not particularly close with his family, and as we get closer and closer to our wedding, he has started expressing that my closeness with my family bothers him. He has several times expressed jealousy for my relationship with my brother, encouraged me to talk to him less, and gotten upset when we’ve spent time together and I “ignore” him in favor of my brother, whom we don’t get to see in person very often.

Are people’s relationships with family naturally expected to change after marriage? I would never doubt that my brother’s wife is important to him, or ever consider that I’m more important than she is, but she’s never been bothered by my brother’s relationship with me. It seems strange to me that my fiancé would be jealous of a sibling, when our relationship is clearly very different, but I’ve never been married, so I feel like I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.

Did anyone else step away from their family when they got married? Is my fiancé being unreasonable, or am I for thinking that nothing would or should change? Are people expected to dial down other relationships when they get married?

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

To answer your first question, nah. The sum and substance of your important relationships shouldn’t change too much after marriage. I mean, you personally don’t change as a result of marriage, so of course you care about the same people, are interested in talking to them, want to spend time with them. None of that changes.

But, let me ask you something. When you get good news, who do you call first? You get in a weird situation at work, who do you ask for comfort and advice? Stuff that once defaulted to family, should now default to your partner. And that’s natural in just a logistical sort of way. Things that impact you, now also directly impact him. Turning to him first is great emotionally, but also just makes sense.

Based only on this letter, I can’t really tell you which of you is being unreasonable here, though I can try. To be straight with you, I get a little freaked out whenever anyone suggests their partner should spend less time with family. I’m sure there are times when it’s warranted, but it’ll always make me pause. It’s no mystery that abusive relationships often begin with slowly, deliberately isolating folks from loved ones. I’m not saying that because I think you are in an abusive relationship, but because it’s one of those thoughts folks should keep tucked away as a reminder. Also, more straight talk, the idea of someone being jealous of my relationship with my brother makes me involuntarily shudder. Like this.

But in complete fairness to your partner, he’s coming from a backdrop of not having any close family. In the same way that you’re admitting you don’t know what prioritizing a partner looks like, he doesn’t really know what a healthy, close relationship with a sibling looks like. It’s a good reason for me to cut him some slack. But, that also means he’s not a great gauge for what’s normal.

That doesn’t mean his feelings are necessarily invalid, and hey, there’s probably some specific stuff you can do to put him at ease (assuming he’s not harming you, and really just isn’t used to seeing what a close family looks like). Start with what I was saying above: Is he your right hand guy? Or is your brother? Who do you turn to first? Most? Then think about those social situations you mentioned. I completely understand your point about not seeing your brother often and wanting to reconnect. But look at it from your partner’s perspective. Are you holing up with your brother and leaving him to awkwardly, politely socialize with folks he hardly knows? Are you talking about things he’s unfamiliar with, swapping inside jokes without looping him in? If that’s the case, it’s an easy fix. Make him feel included.

Apart from that, nah. Relationships don’t naturally change because you got married. You’ve got a new go-to, a new sidekick. He’s your default, your most important, your top priority. But it doesn’t mean anyone else matters less than they did before. And don’t let him convince you otherwise.

—Liz Moorhead

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Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Lola

    This answer is totally spot on. As someone who doesn’t have a single family member, I appreciate firsthand how that can affect the way you view marriage BUT I will say that the idea of a fiancé being jealous of a sibling/that you need to step away from your own family makes my alarm bells ring big time.

    • Lola

      I thought about it some more, and here’s what’s bothering me so much about your fiancé: he’s making it entirely your problem, and putting the onus on you to fix it. And also, a man who would construe you spending time with your brother once in a while as you ignoring him WILL become territorial about other things later (if he isn’t already).

      • Zoya

        “he’s making it entirely your problem, and putting the onus on you to fix it”

        That was my read as well.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    What a balanced response! I had an ex who was jealous of my relationship with my brother. He didn’t get along with his brother, and treated his sister like crap. He also treated me like crap. (Weird!) This letter sets off alllllll sorts of alarm bells for me.BUT, there’s also a learning curve when joining a family with different dynamics than your own. The first time PADude visited my family for the holidays, he felt like he had stepped onto the set of Leave it to Beaver, and he felt really out of place. I had no idea how to navigate the complicated (but still loving!) relationships in his divorced-and-remarried-with-substance-abuse-issues extended family. The difference was, we talked it out and acknowledged what was different or strange or uncomfortable, without asking each other to walk away from the important people in their lives. We focus on asking for what we need from one another, not on taking away from other people.

    • NolaJael

      Exactly. My husband had a similar reaction to my family and we have since talked a lot about the differences in our families and the importance of support networks. Being open about it means that I can help him make time for those people he is close to (a favorite uncle, old college friends, etc.) so that he doesn’t feel like I have an army on my side and he has only me.

    • sofar

      Oh yes. My relationship with my family left me super weirded out by my husband’s relationship with his family (his is the leave-it-to-beaver family). When his family gathers, they pray together, and sing songs together like the goddamn Von Trapp family, and hold hands, and give each other shoulder rubs, and hug (LONG hugs), drink heavily, and flop down on the couch to watch movies together, and say “I LOVE YOU” all the time.

      When my family gathers, we sling jokes and burns, try to one-up each other in sarcasm, keep each other at arm’s length, and roll our eyes at each other. We hug *maybe* when we get off the plane. We don’t say “I love you.” My sister and I have a running joke where we don’t hug but punch at each other instead (we did this after her toast at my wedding).

      My in-laws did NOT get why I couldn’t be warm and affectionate with them and didn’t believe me that my family “just isn’t that way.” Until they hung out with my family and saw us in action.

      • Pickle

        Damn, I consider myself to be pretty close with my family but I still had a full-body cringe at “hold hands”.

        • Jess

          Yeah. That was a nope for me from that part of the sentence on, thank you very much.

        • sofar

          It weirded me out, too, when I saw my SIL and now-husband hold hands with their mom at the table. But I think maybe it’s a cultural thing? I saw a lot more familial hand-holding (and experienced the holding of MY hand) when I went to their home country. As in, an aunt would grab my hands and sometimes kiss them. Or grab my hand and hold it while sitting in the car.

          Not my cup of tea, but hey

          • guest

            It’s probably cultural. My DH’s family never hugs, kisses in any way, or shakes hands. They are typically very distant physically. But they hold hands. My family is all about hugs, cheek kisses/ air kisses, high fives…But we don’t hold hands.

        • Kate

          I hold hands with my mom and occasionally sisters. I’ve had some very close friendships where we’d occasionally hold hands or lock arms walking down the street. I honestly would like it if more of my friends were into hugging, locking arms, or just being physically closer. To each their own. For example, kissing family on the lips is not something I was raised with and is definitely full-body cringe territory.

          • Pickle

            Yeah, I’m sure everyone has unique limits! For instance my family does sing together like the Von Trapps.

          • L.

            Mine does too! My dd plays guitar and we all sing when someone is cooking or doing dishes. And hugs fairly often. I kind of trained myself out of holding hands much with my family as a teenager or so, when I started to realize that most people would find it a little odd–I’ll still hold my mom’s briefly in some circumstances, though. It’s a contrast to my inlaws, who are also quite close but a lot less physically affectionate with each other, but it works out ok. (except for the fact that my wife is tone-deaf and, although she loves to sing, frequently out of tune–which bothers me more than it should).

          • ART

            Same w/ kissing on the lips, like I consider us to be a really affectionate family, we hug a lot and will happily cram onto a couch together, but the first time I saw non-romantic family members (& close family friends) kiss on the lips in greeting I was like WTF, WTF? No one has ever tried to do it to me, luckily…I think my involuntary response would be unpleasant.

          • Anneke Oosterink

            *cough* So… Ever since I was little our family gives kisses on the mouth… :S Now I feel very weird. Kisses is how you greet everyone though (in the Netherlands that is, and not on the mouth) so a kiss in general is not in the least bit sexual. I would never kiss my husband on the cheek, since that would feel like he’s only an aquaintance.

        • Oh I hold hands with my cousins all the time when we are hanging out on the couch and I would with some college friends, too. My family also sings a lot though. (Although we almost never tell you I love you, because we do not like to say emotions.)

      • anony-nony

        Yep, husband and I have had our family culture shocks as well and I think after being together 7 years (married 4) we’re finally on pretty comfortable ground with each other’s families (though it’s an ongoing process). In our case, his family was more likely to do “Von Trapp family” things, and more likely to spend hours on the phone together, despite a history of substance abuse, infidelity, and various mental illnesses that caused a lot of strife and created weird dynamics I wasn’t sure how to navigate. Our family is more like yours – we’re less physically affectionate, more standoff-ish, and more likely to show our love through borderline cruel sarcasm. But there’s been very little drama in our family and everyone gets along well (or at least leaves each other in peace). There were definitely a few times when I felt my husband was unfairly judging my family’s ways, and vice versa.

        • sofar

          “There were definitely a few times when I felt my husband was unfairly judging my family’s ways, and vice versa.”

          I still remember the fight we had when my husband was like, “They think you don’t like them! They want you to treat them like family!”

          And I was like, “I’m cracking jokes and keeping a safe distance, that’s how I treat family!”

          • rg223

            Ugh, what a minefield!

    • toomanybooks

      I deeefinitely don’t think my family is a perfect leave it to beaver family – is anyone’s really like that? (And also, would leave it to beaver really be a perfect family, because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that show but I bet it’s patriarchal BS.) But between me and my wife, my family is the leave it to beaver one. I’m pretty close with my family, my sister is my best friend, my mom asks me to sit on her lap every time I visit LOL. (I don’t think we are creepily warm huggy people though, we definitely don’t force that on anyone else and don’t expect my wife to like, join in on this dynamic.) But my wife thinks it’s nice that my family and I are close. Maybe like, cute and kind of absurd to her sometimes, but nice. She isn’t jealous of any time or attention that goes to my family, she encourages me to spend as much time with them as I want. Your sibling is your sibling for life – I mean, barring some extreme circumstances like you had to distance yourself because of abuse or something, that’s the person you’ve always been able to rely on, your friend no matter what, someone you can say anything to and no matter how mad anyone gets you’re still friends the next day. It’s a valuable bond! I don’t know why the fiancé is acting like this.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        Feel free to insert whatever stereotypical TV family you wish! I don’t think my family is perfect either, but we apparently read picket-fence-2.5-kids to a guy whose nuclear family broke apart before he was old enough to remember it.

      • Amy March

        I think that’s really the key. Can you get past “omg what you sit on her lap” to “omg you’re my favorite person I think all your strange things are endearing and charming.”

        • Bean

          Absolutely…as long as lap sitting is just lap sitting. If it’s a sign of a mom who, say, deeply infantilizes her grown kid or expects to be given preferential treatment under the guise of faaaaaamily or uses physical affection as a form of Family of Origin Gatekeeping, it’s not unreasonable for the partner to back up and say, “Whoa, let’s talk about this and how we’re going to ensure our partnership is the priority.”

          • Amy March

            I don’t think its ever unreasonable, I just think if your partner is cool with it, and you’re just not, and you can’t find a way through that, then you’re maybe not going to make the relationship work.

          • Bean

            Some replies seem to think that any criticism of a family of origin’s dynamics are a “red flag.” Just saying that reasonable, non-abusive people can request boundaries without being egregious family haters, even if it ultimately means they’re incompatible.

          • Amy March

            Fully on board with that!

          • Ashley Weckbacher

            This. I think if you and your partner are on the same page, nothing else really matters

      • Jess

        I mean, if we want to fill in some possible “why is the fiance acting like this” giving them the benefit of the doubt:

        It kind of sucks when the #1 person you go to with *your* news and time doesn’t reciprocate in the same amount/has a different #1 person. Especially if there isn’t anybody else in your life you have a relationship like that with, especially when you expect to be that person.

        That’s definitely something fiance should work on alone and something LW and fiance could work on together depending on the situation.

        (FWIW, I would not be able to get past witnessing an adult sitting on their parents lap. That is too far from my family dynamic for me to be able to take in and be comfortable with. Which is not a judgement on your situation, more just pointing out how much adjustment entering families can need.)

    • Jess

      Oh man, is that learning curve on family dynamics real.

    • Abs

      The different family cultures thing is huge. My partner loves his family and calls them and sees them a few times a year, but he isn’t close to them, in the sense that he would never talk with them about big life transitions or ask for their advice. I am close to my family in that sense, and it has occasionally weirded my partner out that I talk to my family about stuff that seems to only have to do with us (like my job search, which will eventually lead to our moving to another city). He’s a very chill person, so this has never been a huge issue between us, but with someone else it could be. I don’t feel like I’m crossing any lines, but there’s clearly a gray area where reasonable people can be uncomfortable.

  • sofar

    “We text each other almost every day and talk probably twice a week.” This stood out to me, and I’d like more details.

    The “almost every day” and “2x a wee” aren’t what I’d consider weird per se (although it’s more than my sister and I talk, and I consider us close). But I’d love more context. Is LW in a never-ending loop of text conversations with her brother when she’s hanging out with her fiance? Are the phone conversations super long and infringing on the limited alone time she’d have with her fiance? Does she take calls from her brother while she’s hanging out with her fiance and then having long-ish conversations while he sits there at the dinner table?

    Because that would drive me nuts.

    • Sarah E

      Yeah, this: he has “gotten upset when we’ve spent time together and I “ignore” him in favor of my brother, whom we don’t get to see in person very often”

      While it’s not cool to ask you to generally talk to your bro less, it IS okay, and totally reasonable to ask that when you’re spending time together, you put the phone away. Everyone’s rules and limits on phone usage while with other people is different, but that line stood out to me, as maybe you’re snuggled up on the couch, or chatting amiable over a drink with your partner, but also carrying on a secondary conversation via text with bro-sky.

      Perhaps the logistics of how you communicate are getting conflated with generally being close with your bro. The first is easier to address, anyway, so start there.

    • Mrrpaderp

      Yeah I came away from the letter with more questions than answers. Like what does “expressed jealousy” mean? And what is everyone in this situation doing to encourage FH and brother to have a relationship? Does FH not want a relationship with brother? Because that’s… not ok.

      The comment about ignoring him stuck out to me though – I’ve definitely felt like a third wheel when I thought I was meeting the then-BF’s family/friends but really they wanted to stroll down memory lane and I was just sort of… there. I mean I get it, it’s hard when there’s distance involved. You’re excited to see people. But if you’re going to bring your SO then you have to actually include him, which might take some more effort on your part if you know he’s introverted. If you want to have hours long chats in your secret twin language, or something almost equally exclusionary, then leave the SO at home.

      • Jess

        I definitely have more questions than answers too. There are so many ways this *could* be, it’s impossible to say if LW’s relationship with her brother or her fiance are actually fine.

        I have definitely felt super isolated around R’s family, too, which can be really jealousy inducing.

        I do want to say, though… It’s ok if FH doesn’t want to be close to the brother or have a relationship beyond “polite conversation at holidays” as long as he’s not restricting the LW from having a
        reasonably healthy relationship with her brother.

        ETA: I say that last bit as someone who will likely not ever be friends with my SIL. We get along ok, but we’re just not gonna click.

    • Jan

      I was surprised that was all the contact she described. Like, I text my sister every single day– usually a few times a day– and we visit each other at least once a week. We are incredibly close. But, I also keep our chatting to a minimum when my partner and I are spending time together, and I will often visit her when he’s got other plans so I’m not always ditching him. It helps, too, that he is is really, really close with her and her kids and sometimes wants to join me; it was important to me that I help foster a relationship between them once things started to get serious.

      So, yes to everything you said. You can be super super close with a sibling (or anyone) and not have it infringe on your relationship.

  • Anon for this

    I have a close relationship with my brother, the kind where we have lots of inside jokes and shared language when we get together. I can tell when we’re leaving my husband (or anyone) out of conversation and try really hard not to do that, and I got the sense that my husband was a bit intimidated by my brother at first (although he never said anything about wanting us to be less close, more like just wanting to be included more.) I think I would have really had to think about our relationship if he’d told me to cut back on talking to my brother.

    On the flip side though, my husband’s youngest sister was a lot for me to deal with when we first started dating. She was the one that had some jealousy about our relationship, and did/said some things to try to drive little wedges between us (subtle trash talking about me, trying to date an ex of mine, weird little things like that.) She was also incredibly needy and drama-prone, and as the youngest person in her family, the expectation was that all the family members would drop anything to rush to her side for everything. So yeah, after a few months of feeling like our lives were revolving around her drama, I did ask my husband to dial back his involvement with her. But it was really a conversation about boundaries, not about their relationship. Family dynamics are complicated, and sometimes unhealthy dynamics aren’t readily apparent to the people inside that family. Husband’s sister has grown a lot over the last few years, and we all have a better relationship now because of boundaries my husband was able to enforce over time.

    I appreciate Liz’s response for not jumping immediately to “red flag, run away” (although it very well could be, as she said) and I think there’s a lot of conversation to be had around this issue between LW and fiancee to get at the root of what’s going on.

    • e.e.hersh

      “Family dynamics are complicated, and sometimes unhealthy dynamics aren’t readily apparent to the people inside that family.”

      That is so, so true. When you grow up with something, it’s enmeshed… it’s part of your world view. So having an objective third party weigh in (a therapist, maybe) is a good way to figure out what’s “normal”.

  • Oy Vey

    Hi! I think Liz’s advice is great, but I’d like to share some anecdotes on this.

    First, is my personal one – my ex (before telling me my parents couldn’t come to my wedding) tried to dictate when I could talk to my family and for how long (never in black and white terms) by telling me I needed to “draw clearer boundaries” with them – why, I had no idea and he never did either; there were never any specifics when I asked for them. In order to respect our home space, I would make it a point only to talk to them when I wasn’t at home, but that wasn’t enough – he would complain when I went to visit them or when they came in town, and if I asked them if it would be okay if I stayed home for X holiday, he would complain I was only staying with him for X and not Y and Z too. If you’re in a situation where you feel like the concessions you’re making are only being met with complaints or unrealistic requests (you only need to see him once a year – that’s what “normal” people do), I would see that as a red flag.

    However, sometimes spending time with people you love can turn out to be an imposition…

    One of my lifelong friends married the love of her life recently. Her husband has a cousin who is basically like a sister to him. They have a lot of inside jokes and memories that she likes to bring up and indulge in with him that she was on the outside of. At the time, she didn’t have many friends and so would come along on dates sometimes or request to be the third wheel. Husband allowed it and had even cancelled plans with my friend before because the cousin requested to hang with him. Her speech at the rehearsal dinner made it sound like she was mourning the loss of a lover and not celebrating his wedding. My friend, in pre-marriage counseling, made her husband promise to set some firm boundaries with his cousin and to stop acquiescing to her every request. It was tough at first, but it worked – cousin now waits to be invited places or plans fun adventures for everyone. Also, within a year after losing her crutch/my friend’s husband, she’s created her own social life for herself and has just celebrated one year with her own awesome guy. So it was win-win, but it definitely wouldn’t have happened had my friend not gotten tough on her husband.

    Whichever version of situation this is for you LW, good luck! Dealing with boundaries and family is always tough.

    • Jess

      This is a really good picture of two wildly different ends of the spectrum!

    • This one

      Hi! i remember reading your letter a year ago and I was really worried about you. I’m glad to hear you got out. Did you update your story, and I just didn’t see it?

  • Anne

    Yeah, Liz’s advice is good. I will say that interactions with your SO’s family can be really stressful, especially if they have a different/closer dynamic than your own family experience. And it can take a while to figure out how you fit into that. My husband has a little bit different persona that comes out when he is around his family, and we had a whole conversation about how that’s just what happens when their weird senses of humor with years of backstory feed off each other, and doesn’t mean that he enjoys spending time with them more than me or anything like that.

    So I would err on the size of having honest conversation, trying to empathize with fiance and cut him a little slack. That said, if he is demanding that you spend less time interacting with your family, that would be a major red flag.

  • Noelle

    I agree with many commenters that Liz’s response was right on, and I’d go a step further to say (and this is probably an obvious recommendation) they should consider working with a marriage counselor about this – speaking as someone who married into a family with very different dynamics from my own, where it took me over a decade (+ therapy) to start to fully understand those differences. The therapy helped me to unpack my emotional responses to some of the differences, too.

    Hopefully this is a similar situation of different backgrounds, rather than an abusive/controlling situation.

  • Not Sarah

    My husband texts his siblings and some close friends very regularly. I’m happy he has these people he talks to regularly. I draw the line at when he’s texting them while we’re in the same room talking to each other, particularly while eating a meal together and my phone is off/down. At that point, he should either put his phone away or his Apple Watch into Dot Not Disturb or include me in what they’re saying.

  • Anon for this

    So I’m someone who had to ask my husband to create serious boundaries with his sister. I wouldn’t say that I was jealous, but her dependency on him was extreme and was actively interfering with our relationship. She would call him every day, multiple times a day. One time she called 27 times in a row and he called her back, panicked, because he thought it was an emergency. Nope, she just wanted to chat and didn’t get why he didn’t pick up (spoiler: he was on a date with me). One time he was on the phone with her and said, “I gotta go, it’s dinner time with Anon” and she said, “Can’t we just keep talking through your dinner? She won’t care.” [There was no serious emotional support needed – she just didn’t want to get off the phone, even though they had been talking for over an hour].

    And honestly, this was all the tip of the iceberg. Early on, my husband reacted defensively because he thought I didn’t understand sibling relationships (I’m an only child). But eventually, we worked through it and he realized that his sister’s neediness was actively interfering in our time together. She didn’t love the boundaries at first, at all, but she eventually came to terms with it. They still talk every day and my husband still refers to her as his other best friend, but I don’t think I was unreasonable to have some serious discussions with him about her intrusiveness. But I might not have married him if he hadn’t dialed her the hell back.

    For the record, it doesn’t sound like LW is like this. But I just wanted to point out that there’s a spectrum of closeness and co-dependency, and not all partners who are weirded out by family dynamics are in the wrong or potentially abusive.

    • Jess

      Yeah, there really is a big spectrum. Liz asked important questions, like “Is this the first person you go to with your big news?”

      I think “Does interaction with your sibling detract from time that a reasonable person would expect you to be with your fiance” is also one that should be asked. Being on the phone during dinner? Calling a million times if fiance doesn’t pick up right away? Not for me, thanks.

      Another question of importance, to me, is “Do you talk to your brother about issues in your relationship before and/or more than to your fiance?”

      If the answer to these things is no, you’re probably ok.

      ETA: If the answer to any of them is yes, ask yourself why. Recalibrate.

  • Pickle

    I take some issue with this line: “When you get good news, who do you call first? You get in a weird situation at work, who do you ask for comfort and advice? Stuff that once defaulted to family, should now default to your partner. ”

    While certainly my partner is my go-to person for many, many things, I really don’t like this idea that once you get a partner everyone else in your life is basically demoted a step. The answer to that question for me is. . .depends? If I’m dealing with some sexist bullshit at work, I’m probably going to text my lady-friends-group-text immediately and tell my fiance about it later. If I’m worried about a health thing, I want to call my mom first because she’s a nurse. If I get good news relating to one of my interests that I share with a friend or family member but not my partner, I might tell that person first. I certainly share all of these things with him, but I’m bothered by the idea that it matters that I go to him “first”. Lots of people have very different, very important roles in my life, and I feel fortunate that my partner sees things the same way.

    • Amy March

      I think you’re taking too much issue? I think as a general rule, which is what Liz was proposing, yes, your first person should be your spouse. But that doesn’t mean absolutely everything has to be, and I don’t think that’s what Liz was suggesting. I think it matters not that you go to him first for everything, but that he’s your general default person.

      • Pickle

        I might be, it just feels like a really common theme, related to the “your partner should be your best friend” stuff that also really bothers me.

        • penguin

          I’m with you on that. My husband and I both hate the “my partner is my best friend” stuff. Cause he’s not my best friend – he’s my husband. Yeah I can talk to him about anything, but I have a best friend already and so does he.

          • Another Meg

            1 million upvotes.

          • Zoya

            THIS.

          • SS Express

            My husband is my best friend. We were already friends before we started dating, and if things hadn’t worked out between us as a couple we’d probably still be friends to this day. It doesn’t mean we are each other’s only close friends – I have a few best girlfriends and some really close guy friends, he has a group of guys he goes way back with – or that I think every couple has to be best friends, but it just so happens that the person I’m in love with and want to bang is also one of my best friends.

          • Jan

            For real. My partner isn’t even remotely my best friend. He fulfills my life in a million ways that my two actual best friends could never fulfill, and vice versa. Very different, and all very key relationships and we’re both cool with that.

        • Mrrpaderp

          There’s not a right or wrong answer with this, but it’s important for both partners to be on the same page. If one partner is a “partner is your BFF” person then I’m not sure they could be happy with someone who doesn’t want that sort of relationship. Idk if that’s part of what’s happening with LW or not, but Liz’s comments about this should help LW to frame her thoughts for discussion with FH.

          • Jess

            Yes. It’s ok to think one way or another… as long as all partners are ok with that expectation!

          • Abs

            It can also be hard if one partner happens to have more of a community around them than the other at any given time. The solution isn’t always to pull back and focus on the primary relationship, but if one partner’s like, “we need a bunch of relationships in our lives” and the other partner has no one else they feel close to, that can feel shitty.

    • Kate

      I think this is a really good point, especially if you’re the kind of person who processes things by sharing. No one person could probably handle all of the things I want to talk through in a given day.

      • penguin

        Yep I talk through stuff with a lot of different people. I end up telling my partner pretty much all of it, but not necessarily first.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      I think it’s a fair question to ask, and she doesn’t really prescribe a particular answer. She didn’t say every and all news should be shared with your spouse first always, just that some stuff does and should shift from family to partner. Your particular answer to that question sounds really healthy and balanced. If the LW’s answer is “brother” more often than “dude,” the fiance may have a point.

      • Anon for this

        My husband’s sister’s answer is still “brother” nearly 100% of the time over her current live-in dude and it’s caused problems in her relationship. Her boyfriend didn’t even know about her new job until three days after she accepted it…and my husband had helped her with the application, interview process, and negotiations. Her boyfriend was incredibly hurt when he found out. Her response was pretty much, “Well, I’ve known my brother longer.” Not really my circus or monkeys, but how can a partner ever become #1/the default person if that’s the bar?

        If my husband was the same way with her and me, it would be a serious problem in our marriage.

        • Jan

          Oh, man, yeah– this is a clear example of someone who isn’t even kind of prioritizing her live-in dude. If I’d done that I am certain my partner would be hurt, both because he wants to know my big life things (so he’d be hurt even if I hadn’t told my brother and just kept it to myself), and also because I’d shared the news with someone else.

        • laddibugg

          “current live-in dude ”
          Well, maybe that is part of the reason. Not everyone moves in with others as a stepping stone to bigger, stronger relationships. Some folks just need a place to stay. Not saying that’s the case for her, but maybe she;s still feeling things out (even years later)

    • Liz

      I agree, you’re not going to go to your partner for every single thing. But if you do a gut-check, ask yourself who you generally contact first, and come up “brother” I think that spells trouble.

      Have you read this? https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/09/we-expect-way-too-much-from-our-romantic-partners/541353/

      • Pickle

        Thanks for clarifying where you’re at on it! And, no, I haven’t seen that, will read :)

    • Abs

      I think it’s less that your relationships with other people have to be automatically demoted, and more that if you have a primary relationship in your life you need space for that. It’s hard for a primary relationship to thrive on the leftover bits of attention, so there’s usually an adjustment in how you spend your time and emotional energy. The calling someone first is just a metaphor for that: how up to date are you and your partner on each other’s lives? If, in the absence of a crisis, you’re putting more time and energy into a relationship with a parent or a friend than you are into your relationship with your partner, then that’s something to think about. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing love wrong, but it is worth talking to a partner about what the relationship should look like.

  • Cara

    My brothers now wife was jealous of our relationship. She wouldn’t allow him to carry on with inside jokes we used to have because she didn’t like being excluded. Because so much of a familial relationship is built on shared history, eliminating the ability to share in that history actually really set up our relationship to begin to dissolve. We are no longer close.

    • S

      I am in this position too, and my brother seems to have bought into it. I have tried gently approaching the topic of having a good relationship, periodically talking, and taking the time to call him/text/send silly emails, but it appears that he really is not that interested in maintaining our relationship. It seems like he feels the need to choose his now-wife OR his only sibling, which has been devastating. The part that hurts the most is that my spouse and I worked really hard to include him instead of making him feel like a third wheel, and he seems to have jumped ship. How do you deal with this situation when the sibling is the one totally abandoned?

      • NolaJael

        Maybe this is overly simplistic but…include them both? Text the wife too in a group text? Invite them both to dinner? Then you can become “couples friends” not just friends with your brother.

  • beeethanyj

    I immediately wanted to jump on board and say that your fiance is being ridiculous, and then I thought of a friend of mine who has a really strange relationship with his sister. He is constantly dropping everything to do whatever the sister wants, in a way that is inconsiderate of his girlfriend, so it causes the girlfriend a lot of grief. So it’s possible that there’s something like this going on. If it really is just innocuous texting and a couple calls a week, I think he’s being unreasonable.

  • AmandaBee

    I appreciate Liz’s super balanced take on this. Like Liz, the idea of someone asking their partner to distance themselves from their family member sets of alarm bells. It doesn’t automatically mean something unhealthy is going on – because there’s a lot we don’t know – but it is worth reflecting on what, exactly, it is that bothers him about this relationship.

    One thing to consider, LW, is how you’re looping your partner into your family of origin. When your partner is around your family, it can be really helpful to intentionally help him connect with your parents and siblings. Point out things they have in common, or start conversations that they can all contribute to. If you’re hanging out with your partner and your sibling, make sure you aren’t inadvertently leaving your partner out of the conversation. It might make him feel less like he’s competing with your family of origin if he feels more included when they’re around. I’m totally projecting here – my in-laws are very close, and are really great at making me feel like part of the family during holidays and visits. It wouldn’t occur to me to feel left out, because I feel genuinely looped into their family when everyone is together.

    Or maybe that’s not the problem at all, and partner needs to re-evaluate the healthiness of his approach to romantic relationships. It’s okay to have different approaches to things like family connectedness, but that’s something you’ll want to talk out for sure (with a professional, if you can).

    • Jess

      Oooh the feeling of isolation within your family is also an important angle!

    • Abs

      This is such a good point. We spend a ton more time with my family than with my partner’s, and
      my family and I are really close. That has been fine, because my family have all developed
      independent relationships with my partner, such that they will call or email him when they want to ask him something, rather than going through me. I don’t have that relationship with his family, and while they are really very nice to me it would never occur to them to interact with me independently, other than chatting when he’s out of the room or something. For that reason (among others) spending time with his family can be more draining on me than spending time with my family is on him. So it’s not really as much about the time you spend with family as the quality of the relationships.

  • toomanybooks

    Haha are we all like “wow I can’t believe Liz didn’t just say he was being super weird and she should leave him byeeeeee”

    I mean, Liz’s suggestion that you examine whether you are prioritizing your brother over your fiancé in an unreasonable way is certainly good. But I also don’t want the fiancé to get in your head about your relationship with your brother being too much. I definitely saw him thinking that as a red flag too! Like what is bothering him, exactly? Does he need to be the Only Man In Your Life? The only person? Does your brother like your fiancé? Do the fiancé and brother have some sort of beef? Idk. But it creeped me out that your future husband wants you to spend less time with your own sibling, who as far as we know isn’t stealing money from you/threatening your fiancé/horning in on your dates.

    • CMT

      I don’t know, I don’t think there are enough details in the letter to say one way or another about red flags.

    • Amy March

      I think for me, the thing that stopped me from saying that was her seeming to think that her relationships won’t change after marriage. Cause yeah? They probably will, and should, and need to, and if you’re expecting actually nothing to change, then maybe that is worth revisiting and thinking about whether you are making room in your life for your marriage.

      • rg223

        My relationships didn’t change after marriage, because I had already “made room” in my life for my partner (and really, just A partner – I made room for my husband before our relationship too). So I think it’s reasonable for her to think that her relationships will stay the same. I think any blanket statement that a person being coupled (or uncoupled) will (or will not) change their relationships is over-generalizing.

        • Amy March

          I guess to me, sure, I get all of that, but based on this letter it was enough to make me think, yeah, there could be more to this story than just he’s a controlling jerk.

          • rg223

            Oh yeah, I think there could be more to the story too! I just don’t think that comment by LW is particularly illuminating in either direction. As someone else said in the comments, I have more questions for the LW than answers on this one.

      • e.e.hersh

        This is a good point. And I agree that your relationships will change a little after marriage… they should. Bringing two people into a marriage creates a third entity – the couple itself. I think we (mostly women) have trouble sometimes because we don’t want to sublimate ourselves or our friendships/family for our partner (which is good and understandable). But at the same time, a marriage needs attention and boundaries. You can’t always offer yourself to your friends/family after marriage in the same way you could as a single person.

    • Bean

      I think saying that she should “leave him” is really harsh. Unhealthy dynamics can exist with all relationships, including sibling ones.

      • toomanybooks

        Yes to be clear I said that in jest! I don’t know much about the LW or her fiancé.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Where did all your comments go??

          • toomanybooks

            I took my 2 comments down because I was getting a bunch of email notifications with replies to them that felt far more grave than the intention behind my own, and I didn’t want to have social media anxiety! I was kind of like “oh, I wish I had just never said anything.”

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            I feel you.

          • rg223

            Yep, definitely been there!

  • Kate

    I do not expect my partner’s attention to be on me when we visit his brother. They get in to very long, technical conversations about engineering stuff. My partner does not expect my attention to be on him when I am reunited with siblings, particularly my closest sister. Both our families of origin are very welcoming but I just accept that sometimes somebody is going to be a little left out. My partner’s whole family has ADD, so the conversation moves in a way where participating fully can be tricky. So sometimes I check out mentally and dust the mind palace for a bit. Ideally I get to skip the mind palace dusting by advocating for one-on-one time with siblings/friends before everyone hangs out together. Three’s a crowd, y’all.

  • Ashley Weckbacher

    My family is a lot more complicated than my husband’s and I admit that sometimes I feel quite dark about it all. I think if he sensed that your brother loved him, if he felt like it was becoming his family, too, and he was growing closer, that jealousy would turn to excitement at finally having those closer relationships that media tells us all normal healthy people have with their families.

    I would not discount the foreigness of seeing a family dynamic so far removed from your own. And what I think we’ve learned is that whatever relationship we have with our individual families is possible only if we are in agreement about what those relationships should look like.

    Also, sidenote, are you sure your brother has always been welcoming and kind? Your fiance may have a different experience of him than you do, and you may not see every interaction in the same light, which would color his opinion. I think you all just need to talk…

    • Jess

      “I think if he sensed that your brother loved him, if he felt like it was becoming his family, too, and he was growing closer, that jealousy would turn to excitement at finally having those closer relationships that media tells us all normal healthy people have with their families.”

      That struck me hard. I wish it was easy to adapt to being accepted and loved and switch from jealousy to excitement. I feel rather dark about the whole thing too.

      It’s hard to learn to be comfortable around loving families when you don’t really have that. It’s hard to see people as welcoming when you have many years of family meaning “what can I do to prevent an explosion?” and it’s hard to trust kind actions when you’ve been trained to be cautious and on edge.

      I know R and I have had a lot of conversations about that strangeness and misunderstandings that have happened between me and his family. It’s a really vulnerable talk, but I agree that it’s really necessary for LW and her fiance.

      Good luck in your own adjustments to your husband’s family.

    • Zoya

      My one hesitation about your first paragraph is, he seems to expect his partner to do the emotional work of managing those feelings. Like, when he feels partner is “ignoring” him to talk to brother, does he then make an effort to engage in the conversation? Or strike up another conversation with another member of the family? If he does, and has been rebuffed, then it makes sense he’d be hurt. But if he doesn’t, and instead asks that his partner change their interactions with family to soothe his disquiet, that speaks to a certain level of emotional outsourcing that I (for one) would bristle at.

      • Ashley Weckbacher

        I think that’s totally a valid point. I would just counter that it is your job to smooth your partner’s path into the family and if this is so completely new to him, it’s going to be harder and she will absolutely need to be more sympathetic. I don’t think he’s right to ask her to change her relationships with her family, but she will need to do some of the work to make him feel like a part of those relationships. They are going to need to find a compromise, and so he’ll need to do work, too.

        Edit to add: I will say that I think it goes both ways — and he needs to figure out a way to move forward so that he can be what she needs, as well

      • Amy March

        Such an interesting take on it. Like, what if it isn’t “ignoring” but actually is ignoring, no quotes. I’d expect my partner to do the work of being polite to me and including me in a conversation without being asked, and I’d be insulted and unimpressed if they needed to be told “actually it’s rude to ignore me, fyi.”

      • I also feel like after you have been involved in a family for a while, if your family is generally welcoming and friendly then it is partially on your husband to handle interactions, etc. At this point we have known each other’s families for 6-8 years and I feel like if he wants to join in a conversation with my family, then he should jump in, and vice versa with his family. And sometimes I do have conversations with family members that aren’t interesting or relevant to my husband and he can go do his own thing, just like I do when his family has their very detailed conversations about sports. But admittedly, both our families are generally lovely and welcoming to the other person so I could see this method not applying in other situations.

  • L.

    So, my sister and I are really close. Always have been (we’re twins, not that that necessarily means anything in terms of a relationship). I’m married, and I consider my spouse and my sister co-most-important-people in my life. Obviously I have different relationships with them–I live with my spouse, our lives are intertwined in a way that mine isn’t with my sister, we plan our futures together, etc. But for general emotional support, I tend to rely on them about equally, and since I only see my sister in person a few times a year, I definitely pay more attention to her when she’s around.

    I know that this is something that wouldn’t be ok with some people, and I respect that. There are people who really want to be the first person for their partner, which is reasonable. On the other hand, interfering in my relationship with my sister would be a relationship deal-breaker for me. So I think that, at least in some cases, this may be one of those things where nobody is necessarily right, but two people might not be compatible (although there also are scenarios here where one person really is wrong, such as isolation or abuse, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case). In my case, my partner is ok with our really close relationship, so it works out for us.

    I think that this is one of those things where there isn’t necessarily a “right” amount of closeness with your brother or with your fiance. As long as you’re being considerate of your partner in the ways that Liz and other commenters have discussed, I don’t think you need to feel obliged to change your relationship with your brother. But I also get a bit defensive about this kind of thing, so I’m not unbiased. In your shoes, I would have reacted really, really badly to any of your fiance’s suggestions.

  • e.e.hersh

    I think marriages DO change your friend/family relationships – making sure that you and your partner are a team and an entity means that you sometimes give up some of the things you used to be able to do as a single person. That feels normal and healthy to me. The key, I guess, is making sure you’re not giving up or changing TOO much – that the changes you’re making are fair to both parties and that the goal you’re working towards is healthy relationships with friends/family as well as your partner. Too many demands from any one side isn’t a good thing, of course, but I think the LW and her bother need to be open to the fact that their communication style/frequency may have to change. Once she rules out the possibility of her fiancé being a controlling jerk, that is.

  • Alex K

    I am definitely using a bit jealous of my husband’s relationship with his siblings. He and his siblings get along really well, and my brother and I don’t. I wish I got along with my brother as well as my husband gets along with his siblings. When we first moved in together that feeling of jealous encouraged me to call Emmy brother more often. Then I realized my brother and I don’t get along for a reason (he is a racist conspiracy theorist). I can’t tell if the jealousy in this letter is similar, but will admit the part where the fiancé asks the LW to step away from her family give me pause.

  • Jessica

    My first thought was that Kate from “This is Us” was writing in. Is Kevin technically her younger brother? ;)

  • EF

    i mean…i’ve posted about incredibly close friendships here before (and i think this is what this is, blood relation or not) and people have hated on me. so I’m not gonna opine too long.

    but i AM gonna say, people have their people. it’s ok to have more than one person. when i get good news at work, i might text my partner first or i might text my bff (who is like a twin brother) first. or i might group text them. or i might text bff and wait to tell partner at home. bff lives very far away.

    bff and i travel together, stay at each other’s apartments when we visit each other, are planning a roadtrip next year with each other. he’s the person i asked to go with me when i got hamilton tickets. he’s also the one i call when partner and i fight, who listens, and then tells me to remember X thing about why partner is great.

    i think relationships that are not marriage-based are incredibly important. others do not. the worrying thing to me in this letter is that the fiance is not down with it. literally every time i dated someone who was not ok with the friendship i have with bff was a bit shit. every girl bff dated who hated me turned out to be awful. yet both bff and i have found wonderful partners who support the fact we have this friendship, rather than being threatened by it.

    so it’s a balance. but everyone in the equation has got to be ok with the balance for it to work.

    • Jess

      I mean, even if those past people hadn’t been shit people… they still would have been very much not right for you on that point alone.

      Which is, in my opinion a good reason to part ways.

      You’re right that it’s a balance and that everybody has to be ok with it.

      Also, I very much agree that relationships outside of a marriage are vital.

  • Anon

    Without knowing the exact specifics of how much you’re interacting with your brother, and whether those things directly impact your relationship with your fiance (i.e two phone calls a week sounds very normal to me, two phone calls a week during carved out quality time with your fiance or while you guys are out together so he has to trail after you in silence, not so much. Messaging a quick, “Omg I just saw the cutest cat!” once a day is different to being on a long message chain all day but while at work and not at home, which then again is VERY different to messaging incessantly at home and during dates with the partner.) it’s hard to say. But I would definitely be wary here. My partner and his sister probably message every day or at least most days, and probably speak on the phone at least once a week. What’s “normal” is a pretty wide range for me. To me “not normal” is if they hated each other and didn’t have a relationship at all, or if they were obsessed with each other like that creepy episode of Friends, and the middle point between those two extremes is pretty vast. If they messaged once a week or several times a day, if they spoke on the phone never or a few times a week…all of that would be normal to me because I know his sister and their relationship and I’m glad they’re close and their interactions don’t affect me. When occasionally he does plan things with her without talking to me first and subsequently I don’t get to spend much time with him that weekend during a life period where we haven’t had much time together in general, that’s when it bothers me.

    It’s important to note that while “how much interacting with a sibling is normal” is a really hard thing to quantify, it’s actually pretty easy to gauge whether his jealousy and feelings of being impacted by your sibling relationship are normal from an objective standpoint (though harder to do inside the relationship). Is texting your brother day every day normal? Well, it depends, but there’s no grey area for whether it’s normal that your partner doesn’t want to be ignored while on a date: that’s normal! Is it normal for your partner to be upset that you message/call your brother every day to chat but it’s during work hours or when he’s not home? Nope, not normal! Normal: your fiance not wanting to be excluded, or not be the immediate go-to person in your life. Abnormal: your fiance feeling threatened by your brother’s presence when it actually doesn’t affect his relationship with you. Normal: wanting a degree of quality time with your future spouse and wanting healthy in a relationship. Not normal: being threatened by your future spouse being close to anyone who isn’t you. Normal: “Can you put your phone down while we watch this movie? I’d like you to be here in the moment with me and you’ve been on it all night.” Not normal: “Do you really have to see your brother this weekend? You just saw him two months ago.”

    I had a relationship with high school with someone who was jealous of almost every male I associated with, which actually included my (gay, not that it really matters) little brother. Him being threatened by perfectly healthy, functional relationships in my life was not normal and was a giant red flag. If that’s what you’re dealing with, I feel very comfortable saying you should get counselling together or leave him.

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  • Ella

    People have infinite love (of different kinds) to give, but finite time and energy. So no, I don’t think your relationship with your brother needs to change, as long as there’s still space in your life for your partner.

    My initial reaction was “of course he is being unreasonable” but maybe he’s not asking LW to step away from brother so much as step to fiancé. I’ve had similar conversations with my partner in which I have to explain that it’s not that I don’t like that he does xyz for his brother, it’s that I want him to be there for me in equivalent ways and in the past haven’t felt like that’s the case.

    • Ella

      However, if he really is saying “don’t be close with your brother” then yes, alarm bells.

  • Amy Sigmon

    I was a little surprised that the response didn’t mention therapy, mostly because APW is such a pro-therapy space. I would say that if, into your marriage, you’re still dealing with this, go talk to someone. You want to make your marriage work, you want to have healthy and loving relationships all around, etc.

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  • Mags

    I’m going to chime in as someone who is jealous of their spouse’s relationship with family. My husband texts (or used to before I put my foot down) his mother and sister many times a day. In these texts they talk about everything, mundane (what you had for breakfast) and important (starting a new job) and I really felt like they were his number one people. Also, his mother would sometimes text me with information about me/my life that I barely had (such as she had seen the inside of a new apartment in more detail than I had). It felt that his family was just too present in my life and I wasn’t okay with that. I’m a very private person and so I didn’t like that my husband’s family was being given such a personal glimpse into my life. It wasn’t fully about being excluded (though I didn’t like it when we were on a date and being interrupted by parental texts, at the age of thirty-something), but it was part that and part that I was being forced to share many details of my life that I didn’t give the okay to share with someone new.

    So LW, I would make sure you are do the gut check of who is my go-to person that Liz suggested. I would also ask yourself if you’re over sharing details of your life with fiance that fiance doesn’t want shared. Or that fiance at least wants to control some (the information, not you). For me moving was a big thing; after a couple of moves in which it felt like my husband’s parents got a say in where we lived/how we decorated during the most recent move I put my foot down and said that I didn’t want them to see the place (or many video/pictures of the place) before I felt settled in it. Also, I think sex life talk is too personal. I don’t discuss anything other than the most basic details (whether I’m happy or not) with close friends or anyone besides my husband because that is too close to information that he should have control over (and I would expect him to have the same courtesy for me).