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"Three sentences made me realise I needed to give up on my relationship with my brother."

“I will contact you when I am ready. I don’t know how long it will be, but it needs to be on my own terms and at my own pace. I hope you can understand that.”

This was the last message I received from my brother. Within three sentences, I finally understood that I could no longer pursue a relationship with him. That it was time to let him go because our relationship was now one being dictated to me.

Any worthwhile relationship should be a two-way street. But it was clear to me that this would never be the case with ours. It had rarely ever been and it was definitely not going to be now. Especially in his mind.

All I had wanted was for our relationship to work out. The ‘dream’ I had of two siblings who connected and built some sort of friendship was so important to me. But instead, I was left with emotional pain and anguish that has hurt me beyond words.

The impact of my brother’s behaviour and his apparent desire to be in control and the imbalance of power curated by him was immense.

My brother, or technically my half-brother, and I have only known each other for about a year and a half. To say the situation that links us is complicated would be an understatement. It is a complex and convoluted web of experiences, values, emotions and personalities.

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Shona and her two daughters. Image: Supplied.

My brother and I share the same father. Although I had known this the majority of my 33 years, he was completely unaware until I told him, half way through 2017. For him, finding out was undoubtedly a shock. But despite this, our relationship began as seamlessly as I ever could have imagined.

Although stunned by the news, he was so happy to find out that he had a sibling. He asked me questions about me and my life, he opened up about his own and even shared photos. He asked to meet me and three days after me telling him this news that is what we did.

At a coffee shop in Melbourne, we sat for hours and spoke.

Later that day his wife came with his two daughters to meet me and then my husband came with mine. We walked across the road to a playground where our children played together, new found cousins, girls all similar in age running around together as if they’d always known each other.


This experience generated a feeling I’d never felt before, I don’t even know the word to explain it. But It was the first and only time it would occur.

My brother grew up like me as an only child but unlike me he grew up with our father as a significant figure in his life. Although I knew my dad’s name and small pieces of information about him, I never really knew him (unless the visits he made until I was two and a handful of brief phone calls from a phone box each year until I was 18 counts as knowing him). I had never even seen a photo of him.

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Shona and her daughter. Image: Supplied.

About three months before I told my brother the truth, I had tried to start communicating with my dad. To find out about him, to perhaps meet him. After beginning my own family, it was important for me to know my father in some capacity.

Like the relationship with my brother, it started off well but slowly my dad distanced himself. He told me that hearing from me made his blood pressure rise, that I needed to give him a “rest from all of this” and that if I told my brother about my existence, that he would never contact me again.

Finally, he told me that he could never meet me as “it was too hard.” I was emotionally blackmailed, I was emotionally abused, I was disrespected and made to feel unwanted and completely unloved. Being made to feel this way by my own father was soul destroying, it was complete and utter rejection.

Now it seemed as if it was all happening again.

In my brother’s eyes knowing me was just “too hard” for him. Hearing from me just brought “him down”. I was asked to not contact him at certain times. I was told that the way I spoke or wrote messages made him feel“too much pressure” and were “condescending” or “too heavy”.

He began to dictate when I could contact him and when I could not. Just like my dad, I always had to fit into his schedule and it had to be about what he needed or what he could deal with. But he was unable to ever do the same for me.

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"Our relationship was now one being dictated to me." Image: Supplied.

It became very one sided and made me question everything I said to him, wrote in a message or even thought. Would it upset him if I say this? Would he get angry or think I was pressuring him? Would he even answer? I never knew. I could never seem to get it right. It was emotionally taxing and arduous and slowly, it dominated my whole emotional state.

There is no question that our circumstances and the situation around us is complex and hard. There is no doubt that he has struggled with knowing the truth about our father and his actions. With all of this I empathise, I have always cared and always tried to be supportive. But a relationship cannot be healthy or fair if its terms are dominated by one person and is based only on their needs. But it seems as if he was indeed his father’s son.

My brother told me he wanted us to have a relationship, that he wanted a sister, but I don’t think he knows how. The reality is, I don’t know how to have a sibling either. But in the end, it comes back to the fact that we are people and people deserve respect, fairness and to be happy. It’s as simple as that.

Relationships require a 'we', not 'I'. They are about working together, not dictating conditions.

The actions of our father have impacted my life just as much as my brother's. I too have struggles and I too have competing priorities in life. But not once have I asked him to think of me over himself. Not once have I demanded or dictated the terms and conditions of our relationship. Not once have I put him in a state of limbo and uncertainty, so I can look after my own needs while expecting him to just wait.

But I am now. Goodbye.

Shona Hendley is a freelance writer from Victoria with a a passion for education, animal welfare and trying to raise her children. You can follow her on Instagram at @shonamarion.

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