Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother is 33 years old, and he is now living with my parents and me. I am 25 years old. This is his first time living in the United States -- we are from the Caribbean. He has been with us for about a month and a half. I've tried my hardest to get to know him and to help him get used to living in this new environment; however, he doesn't speak, respond or let me know if he is enjoying his time here. A few times I have been kind of insulted by him. I don't know how to get along with my brother. He rarely talks. I can't get a read on what he likes or doesn't like. It's awkward being around him, and I realize I have given up on getting to know him. He doesn't help out at home even though he isn't working. He just seems in another world. How can I move past not understanding him and start getting to know him? -- Frustrated, Queens, N.Y.

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Since this is your brother's first time in this country, he may be acclimating to a very different way of life. Though you didn't say it, there is a chance that he may not talk often because you and he have different accents. Sometimes people feel self-conscious at first about speaking differently. He is a grown man living with parents and a sibling. That is naturally awkward.

This is not to say that you should excuse bad or insulting behavior. If your brother says something to you that you find offensive, tell him. Your parents should define house rules and enforce them.

As far as getting to know him, give it time. He has been there for a very short period, although long enough for you to be annoyed. Give him space. Live your life and watch as your relationship unfolds.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm 26 and about four months pregnant by a guy who I was cordial with but who isn't my boyfriend. My friends and I believe this guy is bipolar. One day he would be happy about the baby; the next day he threatened to take me to court. Because of my finances, I had to move out of state to live with my mom, and I'm not sure if I should plan my future with this man in mind. I don't know if I should relocate to live with him and start a family or continue the journey as a single mom. Right now he says he doesn't like me or feel the need to support me even though I am unemployed. He doesn't feel the need to be involved until the baby is born. I feel uncomfortable trying to pursue this with him to start a family when he is so unstable, but I am afraid to do it alone. -- Afraid, Lexington, Ky.

DEAR AFRAID: I hate to say this, but your story is a clear reminder that it is not smart to become intimately involved with someone who is not your committed mate. Perhaps this man has mental illness. You could recommend that he see a doctor. Do not move in with him now if you see him as unstable. Instead, line up resources that can support you and your baby, and prepare for the baby's arrival. Pay attention to his actions so that you know what you are up against.