Why, I don’t really know nor understand, but these days I am confronted time after time with people who thrive on deception and betrayal. Whether directed at me, or at people around me. For personal advantage, monetary gains, or just for the sake of power.
I never understood why people do not accept failure, or losing, like losing a game. Why some cannot see that participating can be more thrilling and satisfying than winning. Is it our educational system that raises youngsters to become competitive animals where only the best are rewarded? And besides that, why do some need to gain power over other people? Is life not hard but satisfying enough trying to make it near-perfect for yourself and the ones you love, without wanting to control others around you? And then there is another thing: envy. Why would I want what another has? I have my live, I am happy if a beloved one has something that makes him/her happy, and if some stranger has something I don’t, why should I be envious? I live, I have my life, I have my sorrows, I have my loves, and I have my joys. Sounds like more than I can handle in one lifetime.
Has society brought us to the point we always want more, indoctrinated by publicity and media we really need those things? Is this the reason people are envious, because another one apparently – at least seen from a distance – reached those goals we set for ourselves and we are not near to achieve them? Because the other one found some way to reach an aim by talent, luck, providence, intelligence, the right contacts or whatever, and we seem to get no closer to our target? Is that the reason people get envious? Without even asking themselves if the ‘succesful’ one really is succesful, or if it only seems so, if he/she really is happy, how much he/she had to suffer and work to reach the point he/she got to.
The reason I write this is because I recently experienced a major clash with my brother-in-law, with all the ingredients like envy, greed and control. A clash that ultimately got in between the person I deeply love and me, without understanding why this all happened to us. From the beginning I met my wife, a bit more than 6 years ago, I often felt stupefied at my brother-in-law’s reactions and his behavior. Fortunately my partner and her brother are almost complete opposites both physical as well as personality-wise. I felt something was wrong, though he seemed friendly and charming. Just some little habits of his raised red flags in my mind, but I saw my wife was fond of her brother, so I did not give it much further notice.
I sent the man two subsequent friend requests on Facebook in the first year my wife and I fell in love. He declined them. When asked by my partner what the reason was, he just declared with a friendly face but with determination, and in my presence, that he didn’t know how long our relationship would last so he couldn’t be bothered. I just thought it was weird. Maybe even a little creepy. Some engineer turned airline pilot, and on top of that a computer nerd who had not even a notion how long it took to de-friend someone on a social networking if things went wrong with our love? My wife was a little bit embarrassed but said no more about it, so I just went along. One year later her brother informed me I could submit a new friend request which he would accept…
My wife left her ex-husband because of the abuse, the repeated cheating, his many absences when she had to raise the kids and do the household all alone, his alcohol consumption, etc.. He hit her many times, enraged when she asked to many questions or confronted him with things he did not accept to be confronted with. She is a very soft-spoken and caring person, too sweet and considerate at times, so it was not that she was looking for conflicts. But still he beat her up, over and over again, until she made the courageous decision to leave him. Her brother was aware of the beatings, but he kept being friends with her ex-husband and insisted she went back to him, saying that she ‘should not dramatize things and that dialogue would overcome all those problems’. I don’t know if there are many brothers in this world who would not be enraged when learning that their sister was consistently beaten and abused by her husband? But he thought otherwise. And she, being a soft and loving person was hurt by this but covered it all up with the veil of love and understanding, for she sought excuses for the inexplicable behavior of her brother and thus found a way to make his behavior acceptable to her.
During the years after her divorce her brother stayed friends with her ex. Inviting each other to parties at their houses, meeting each other, etc.. Her brother said he did it for her own good, to get more information from her ex so she could anticipate when dealing with justice and so on. But I, I did not understand this. I did not understand him still being friends with a monster that beat his sister, and I could not understand her for accepting this. But I did say nothing, I kept my thoughts to myself because it really wasn’t my business, even if it hurt me. Then, when she met her ex by ill luck on an unfortunate day in the street, three years after her divorce, he hit her unconscious and she was taken with an ambulance to a hospital. Her brother went to talk to his buddy, because he ‘wanted to understand why he did that’. Now it was my turn to get really mad, and I could not keep silent nor neutral any more. I definitely had the impression her brother was not really impressed by the facts, stating that there were always two sides to a story. Pushed by my insistence she presented her brother with an ultimatum: her or her ex, and he reluctantly chose to stop seeing his buddy. At least that was what he told us…
The years got by with not many things happening between us. Of course I had my doubts, and I felt something was wrong even if I could not point it out. From time to time he had those little reactions, those strange expressions, but I got used to them and did not give these much thoughts as my wife and I were happily getting along surrounded by our love for each other.
Then, last year, he wanted his sister to ‘remodel’ him. To be more cool, to be more flashy and trendy. Yes, he looked like a nerd, his clothes new but not very fashionable, they were just outdated. So she went to clothing stores with him and advised him what to buy and to wear. Then he wanted a new haircut and wanted to go to the same hairdresser I went to. And then he told me he would like to learn to paraglide, as I have been doing for many years now. I told him I would be happy to introduce him into this sport, but that seemed not to appeal to him. A bit later he started taking motorcycle driving classes, when I just bought a new motorcycle. And slowly I got shivers down my spine and goosebumps in my neck. This guy wanted to be me! Why? What did I have he possibly wanted? I was just the guy his sister was deeply in love with… Ah.. his sister…
Then he threw his wife out, the mother of his two daughters, and told us stories about how hard their relationship had been for him in the past: she was continuously depressed, he had to take care of everything: the household, the girls, the cooking, etc.. And then he turned up quite soon with a new girlfriend. A veterinarian from Switzerland, and despite the distance between Belgium and Switzerland it was clear he was deeply in love and he was even considering going to live there, despite having two little daughters in Belgium. We were just happy for him, we hoped he would be all right now, even if we were a little bit alarmed by the pace things were going.
New Year’s Eve was another landmark in the relationship of my brother-in-law and I. I made some – I humbly concede – stupid joke, but he reacted rather badly. It was not that anybody else was present, it was not that I put him to shame, it was not that I wanted to hurt him.. I just made a silly joke, like I often do. I often tease people, I love laughing, and my friends know I do tease them whenever I can. I just learned the hard way that life is easier when you laugh. Just like the commanding officer told us when we started our Special Forces training: sleep when you can, eat when you can, and laugh when you can. But back to my story: he lashed out with hatred, and all I could do was to turn silent, shut up by astonishment and disbelief.
Lately I had some problems with the IRS, and my mother-in-law agreed to give me a loan against an interest that would be more favorable for her than putting her money on the bank, and more advantageous to me than loaning with a bank. We did everything the official way, a counsellor wrote the contract and I took an insurance to make sure she would see her money back whatever happens. It just hit me in the face when my mother-in-law told me and the lawyer at his office that her son had strongly advised her to directly deposit the money on the IRS account “to make sure the money got where it was supposed to get”. At that moment I could have crawled under the table of shame and disbelief. Had this guy just insinuated I was able to steal the money and make a run for it or what? Wasn’t there an official contract saying I had to do monthly payments to her to refund the money? What was his problem? What did he care where I used the money for? I could feel the blood boiling in my veins after the shame left me, watched by my trusted lawyer who looked rather embarrassed by the whole unusual situation, but I said nothing. Later on I confronted my brother-in-law with what had happened, and al he said was: “this was no more than a normal request, there is absolutely nothing strange about this”. I just replied to him that this just told more about the way he thought trough life, than the way I was…
But sooner or later the growing ulcer inevitably had to burst. It happened on the party of both our daughters. My wife and her brother had agreed to hold a party together, with some uncles and aunts and cousins. When I passed the kitchen I made a small joke about the pasta he absolutely had wanted not being very succesful, because the guests had hardly touched it. I should not have said that, I see now, because jokes about pasta are very harmful, degrading and disrespectful to other people. So he yelled at me, and while doing so he spilled some wine on the floor. I immediately got to my knees with some napkins to clean his mess up, but then I got rebuked a second time. If there had been a little hole in the floor, however small, I would gladly have sunk trough it to hide inside Earth’s core for I felt so embarrassed. Later on several people came to me and spoke about it. I had not noticed them being too ashamed when my verbal flogging took place, but they were shocked by what they had seen and heard.
When later on, in the evening, he greeted me with a big smile and asked me how I was, I replied I felt not so good. Still with a smile he replied that I should not dramatize things, but I told him I did not accept those things any more, and he had hurt my feelings deep to my core when insinuating to his mom I possibly was a thief. His reaction was strong and full of hatred. He yelled and threw me out, saying I was not welcome in his house any more. I stayed calm (against my nature) but felt beaten, as well as afraid for the reaction of my wife because in all those years she had been finding excuses and explanations about her brother’s behavior, and it was clear she did not really believe me. He always had a ready explanation to her, and had told her I had belittled and bullied him during all those years.
So the next day, when I noticed that my fear came true and not much of my version was believed, I packed up my things with tears in my eyes but without much comment and took the road for a 28 hours drive from Belgium to Bulgaria, back to the place I felt safe. It was the strangest Birthday I had, but traveling trough Romania nature kept my spirits up by offering me amazing views of lakes and valleys, white mountains and swirling mountain streams, ending the day with a spectacular sunset. It is now the most remarkable Birthday I ever had.
My wife? She went back to him to talk about what happened, but when she heard the hatred in his voice, saw his furious eyes and his hostile attitude towards me, she understood… She deeply apologized to me for having been so blinded by her love for her brother, and every day since then she is still apologizing and asking for my pardon. But even now she still is finding excuses for her brother’s behavior, and ways to soften the blow. I am not sure I can condone this behavior, it sounds like the past years all over again, and in the end I will have this guy sit on our couch again smiling as if he’s my best friend while stabbing me in the back. So I think I have to admit with much sorrow and pain this is the end of the story for us.
Love ❤️, yann