Carolyn Hax: Brother's overseas girlfriend has family hot and bothered

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Hi, Carolyn:

My family has a tricky wicket. A year ago September, my brother, at 22, received a year-long work visa for Australia. While my parents weren't thrilled he'd be away (we're a close family), they are relatively supportive of our choices and try to not be obstructive.

A year later, my brother had to return to the States, but not before falling in love with a local. None of us likes her. Now he's totally smitten and plans to leave immediately to spend another six months with her in Australia.

I think the part that really upsets my parents is that he's literally thousands of miles away, and has shown ZERO interest in getting a job or taking some semblance of adult responsibility. My brother is a smart, talented college graduate but can't see the forest for the trees with this Aussie serving as a shiny distraction. Mom is crushed, Dad is non-responsive and neither my sister nor I can talk sense into him. This is tearing our family apart, and I can only begin to imagine the WW3 that will erupt when the grandparents lay into him.

Anonymous

Has anyone made a connection between the family's deep investment in his life choices and his sluggish start on adulthood?

Just asking.

The best remedy for a 22-year-old with an unappealing girlfriend is to support his right to choose while you hope the thing runs its course.

And the best remedy for a 22-year-old who is slow to assume responsibility is to remove the financial crutch.

Pulling out all the emotional whips and chains -- where the "crushed" and "non-responsive" hand-wringers "talk sense into" and "lay into" someone? That tears families apart. Actually, that's often what makes distractions so shiny. Mates who are a direct challenge (geographically, emotionally, culturally . . . ) to family absolutes can seem like oxygen to someone smothered by those absolutes.


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