Ask Abbie: Do I cut off my cheating brother?

Published 10:45 am Saturday, October 6, 2012

by Abbie Long

Question: My brother is married. His past and present are full of short- and long-term affairs of unfaithfulness to his wife and family.

My family and I have talked to him and it has not helped. I feel if I keep including him in our family events, I am displaying approval of his lifestyle.

I don’t know if I should break ties with him or not. Please help.

Ready for a pet

Answer: A person’s emotional growth and maturity, including your brother’s, is very similar to a flower’s developmental from mere formation through full blossom.

The emotions of a young budding child instinctively close tightly in upon themselves. This is nature’s way of keeping the child from hurting by putting in place an automatic protection mechanism. This guard remains in place, regardless of physical maturity, until the growing child has developed the emotional strength to weather the uncontrollable storms of family or social dysfunction blown in by life.

In addition, dependent upon a willingness to address unresolved pain, this mechanism may remain in place for one’s entire life at the sacrifice of total healing, emotional victory and lasting peace.

When a person with unmet, unaddressed and yet to be healed emotional issues marries, they often expect their new spouse to meet each and every one of their unfulfilled needs. However, marriage is actually meant NOT to provide the source for meeting all emotional needs.

Marriage instead is intended to serve as encouragement for the previously closed flower bud of shielded emotions to push aside its protection mechanism so it can bloom into the most colorful and beautiful victory imaginable. Think of marriage as nature’s Miracle-Grow placed upon the soil of our roots, an added boost to help our blossoming flowers open so we can address and heal our deepest emotional wounds.

To illustrate how marriage attempts to tear down one’s inherent emotional protection mechanism, consider a woman who as a child was repetitively abused by her father. She will often marry an abusive, controlling man.

A man whose mother was an overprotective worrier often marries an overprotective worrying woman.

The married person is now face to face with the pain and is faced with a choice. They can avoid facing the pain all together and abandon the relationship. They can numb the pain with agents such as drugs, alcohol and affairs. Or they can take the most difficult to break the cycle of dysfunction by using marriage as a catalyst to promote actual healing.

At the point your brother and his wife become mutually ready to commit 100 percent to making the marriage a success, they must first be willing to address their own individual issue before the marriage will turn around toward victory rather than continue onto defeat. Commitment to make a marriage work from one partner alone is a recipe for failure.

As long as his wife is willing to honestly assess her own past and emotional hurts, she will likely find she is also unfairly expecting your brother to fill her emotional vacancies. One partner is never solely to blame for all marital difficulties.

Should you “emotionally cutoff” your brother? Remember, your brother is not the problem; his problems are the problem. He is not a bad person; he is a hurt person who continues to make the bad choices.

Instead of exposing and dressing his deep emotional injuries, he is choosing to put a Band-Aid labeled “affairs” over his wounds. His choices should not receive your approval and by having already discussed your concern with your brother he is aware of this.

The longer he leaves his actual wounds covered and uncared for, the deeper they will penetrate and become more difficult to heal.

You can’t change your brother. However, even when he feels he can’t love, forgive or count on himself, he can know he will always have the support of his family ready and available.

Your brother has the miracle grow of marriage placed upon his roots to aid in his healing. He now needs full exposure to not cutoff from the family’s sunlight to keep his roots from rotting.

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to