Saturday June 7 2014

Relationships and family boundaries

By Eugene Mugisha

It is natural, and in fact expected, for brothers to watch out for their sisters. It is even understandable for brothers to be wary of the guy dating their sister, intention-wise, more so if the sister is the only girl, and even worse, if she is the youngest.

To be frank, I would want to steer away from such situations, because that kind of girl usually comes with a lot of baggage. But when I met her and we started dating, one couldn’t tell she was in that kind of situation.

She displayed none of the tell-tale signs of an overly protective sibling cove. By the time I found out, I was past the point of caring really. The girl was a rare catch, I wasn’t going to create mountains out of mole hills.

Besides, like I said, she didn’t have any of those characteristics. Even the brothers seemed content to let us be, so all seemed good. For the meantime. She has four brothers, she is the second last born. I have come to meet all her brothers over time and they are okay fellas.

But recently, one of them, the second oldest, started acting up. One day, he called me and surprised me by asking if we could catch a drink sometime. I didn’t have a reason to refuse. Besides, I was curious about what he was up to. I told her about her brother’s surprise invite and she shrugged it off.

We met, but he didn’t do much drinking. Instead, he tried to pry into my relationship with his sister. At first, I played along. He deserved to know how his sister was, considering I saw her more often than he did. Harmless questions like, “how is Elle?”, “Are you guys ok?”, “How is work”...all received polite responses.

(Elle is not her real name, by the way). But then, he crossed the line. He asked, trying to pass it off as light conversation, “So, what are your future plans?” And I answered, equally lightly, “That is none of your business”.

My future plans, like they say “my”, are mine. In my opinion, there are only two categories of people who are allowed to ask me that question in this context. My parents, and now that I’m dating her, Elle’s parents.

Mine deserve to know, and her’s earned the right, out of respect. But not this boy who even though was a few years older than me, thought being Elle’s brother brought some kind of special treatment. My response caught him by surprise, he couldn’t hide it.

He asked, as if he hadn’t heard me, “Excuse me?”, and I answered, more clearly this time, that my future plans were none of his business. At this point, I did not care what he meant exactly, whether he was inquiring in terms of career or my plans concerning his sister.

I don’t mind discussing my plans, they are no great mystery, but what ticked me off with him was the lack of tact. The actual question was, “what kind of future are you scheming for my sister?”
If he had brought it up like, “What are the prospects in your line of work?”, he would have got the answer he wanted, indirectly.

If he had meant to find out what was cooking for me and his sister, he needn’t even have asked; he should have used his own judgement. He could have used some tact to get answers from me. I probably wouldn’t have told him much, but I also wouldn’t have gotten that irritated. We left soon after.

I know that was not good for Elle and I, but, there are limits. The relationship, as much as it touches the rest of the family, is between her and me. The “rest of the family” should keep their meddling selves out of our relationship, my family included.