Q: My 45 year old brother still lives with our parents and shows no interest of ever leaving. He has no social life & never dates. He has fear of change, failure, answering the phone or door & probably OCD, but refuses to seek help. My parents enable him, even though I know they wish he would desire more out of life.
He contributes financially, and they say this makes him a responsible adult, even though he is emotionally still very dependent. My parents also rely on him to drive them, as they do not have a car. No car payment frees up more gambling money for my dad, who is addicted. Mom never learned to drive. This gives my brother a position of power over them.
I think their dependence is unhealthy for all of them, but they get mad at me for telling them so. I am married with children, but I find visits with them way too depressing.
We all pretend everything is normal. Is there any way that they will change?
A: They may change, of course. But there probably isn’t anything you can do to make their changes happen.
The word “enmeshed” is usually used to describe this kind of extremely dependent family. They’ve worked out unique ways to get their basic needs taken care of without anyone “having to” grow up emotionally. (You might want to read “Are You Emotionally Grown?“)
I suggest that you focus on your own life, and discard any sense of obligation you might feel toward your parents and brother.
If you ever want to visit or want to offer help of any kind, you could do that of course. But don’t do anything you don’t truly want to do, especially if any of them try to make you feel guilty or ashamed in order to get you to do for them. And don’t expect them to change as a result of your efforts.
Your parents and your brother show no signs of even wanting to change their arrangement. You, since you have your own family, have broken the dependency pattern to an important degree.
Focus on yourself and your current life. Be proud of yourself for breaking this cycle, and be careful about instilling any degree of this dependency on your own children.