Can You Love A Monster?

What do you do if someone you love is a rotten person? Not just an inconsiderate jerk but actually just fundamentally wrong?

Last week, I was awoken at six in the morning to a phone call from my brother’s girlfriend. This was unusual—she rarely called me unless I was on the East Coast visiting them—so I decided to pick up. All I heard on the other line was indecipherable words and violent sobbing. My first instinct was that my brother had been injured and I immediately felt a pit develop in my stomach. I asked her if everything was okay and the first words she got out of her mouth were, “I want you to know that your brother is a terrible person.”


A little backstory: My brother is messed up. Even though we’ve become “close” in the last few years, I still acknowledge that he’s a person with serious rage issues. I knew things weren’t going so well between he and his girlfriend. He had cut her off from her old life when they started dating and subsequently made her entirely dependent on him. He’s a rich dude so he basically has the power to do whatever he wants. She’s a girl with little education or skills so at first, this must have felt like a sweet deal. Move in with a rich guy, get coddled and live happily ever after.

She failed to realize that my brother is a controlling weirdo who doesn’t like to leave the house. He suffers from crippling anxiety and anger management issues. Everyone in my family knows this but when this girl came into his life, we hoped that she could be the one to chill him out. She was so sweet and kind and loyal. Honestly, she was the perfect girlfriend and we prayed that she would knock some sense into my brother and help him deal with his crap.

That didn’t happen obviously because now she was calling me at six in the morning to tell me that he was a terrible person. This wasn’t the first time she’d done this either. When I stayed with them around the holidays, she came into the guest bedroom where I was staying when my brother was in the shower and told me that she couldn’t breathe in this house, that he was paranoid and obsessive and she wanted to get out. I told her to dump him, that he was screwed up and couldn’t love her the way that she deserved. She agreed but ultimately didn’t do anything.

She dropped a bombshell on me this time though when she told me that my brother hit her. I was stunned and disheartened. I always secretly wondered if my brother was physically abusive to his girlfriend. After all, the concept didn’t seem so far-fetched. He had already declared psychological warfare on this poor girl so what would stop him from slapping her around?

I told her all of the things I should’ve: You need to get away, he’s insane, make a clean break. Who knows if she actually will though. Now I’m stuck with this knowledge that my brother abuses women and I’m unsure what to do with it.

I immediately called my mom and told her the news but she didn’t believe me. In fact, she hung up on me, which was the response I expected to get actually. My mom is a big fan of denial (one time when I was abusing pills, she found a giant bag of Vicodin in my room and didn’t say anything) and I can understand why she would not want to think of her son in that way. But it doesn’t leave me with much to do. I want to call my father because I know he would believe it but I’m also worried he might disown my brother. And what if she goes back to him? Then they come to Thanksgiving dinner with everyone knowing that he hits her. Pass the turkey, please.

I also love my brother, which makes this not a cut and dry situation. This is a tug of war between the power of filial love and what I know is wrong. Can I love my brother knowing that he has done these terrible things? Am I allowed to? Blood is supposed to be thicker than water but what if that blood is spoiled and kicking the water’s ass? I honestly don’t know what to do. You’re supposed to love your family no matter what but I don’t know if the “no matter what” included this. One thing is clear however, which is nothing will be the same. I will always look at him and see what he’s done to her. It’s funny how quickly a relationship can change. It takes so long to build but it only took one phone call to destroy it. TC mark

image – Wikipedia


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  • Samie Rose

    Your brother broke the law. If she doesn’t call law enforcement, you should. Loving him also means knowing when he has crossed the line and being the only one willing to do something about it.

  • Isa Almazan

    You better do something about this.

    • Sarah N. Knutson

      Seriously. A phone call to the cops needs to happen. If anything more serious happens to your brother’s girlfriend and you didn’t do anything, that’s gonna be some wicked guilt you’ll feel on top of her emotional and physical destruction.

  • Vanessa S

    sometimes you need to show a little tough love

  • Mmmmbop

    While I sympathize for the author, the way the article itself is written seems more like a therapist rant than an article with a point…

    • Nicolette Beach

      You new around here?

  • em

    Not doing anything means that you could (and probably are) keeping your brothers girlfriend in danger.  I really, really hope you do something, even  if that means calling the police.

  • Sharron

    I will always look at him and see what he’s done to her. It’s funny how quickly a relationship can change. It takes so long to build but it only took one phone call to destroy it

    Powerful stuff and very true, and you are caught between a rock and a hard place. She has to want to leave him no matter what you do, say or try, she has to think her life will be better without your brother in it

  • Kai

    Loving someone “no matter what” is the stupidest concept I’ve ever heard.  That attitude is one that lets abuse continue. How can you love someone you don’t respect and how can you respect someone that you know is emotionally and physically abusive?

    You’re worried about the awkwardness at Thanksgiving while your bother is brutalizing someone. If you’re not a good enough person to step in, tell someone who is.

    This woman needs help. She reached out to you. That takes tremendous courage. Show her that it’s worth it.

    eta: You say you see him in a new light. If this new light isn’t enough to make you change your opinion of this man, your judgement is severely flawed. Seriously, if he kills her, will you still love this guy?

  • Nicolette Beach

    So you keep your mouth shut. Maybe you get a few more early morning calls from her, telling you that your brother has hit her again. You keep your mouth shut some more. Are you going to keep your mouth shut until he puts her in the hospital or kills her?

    You need to talk to your father about it, at the very least. In my opinion, he SHOULD disown his son for putting his hands on a woman like that.

  • Anonymous

    You tell people. Thanksgiving dinner is awkward anyways. Tell her people if nobody else. Find out who her parents are.

  • Guest

    what if this wasnt your brother and his girlfriend, what if this was your mother and father, and you found out years later that your mother had been abused for years and everyone knew about it and didnt do anything to stop him.

    you need to step up. you obviously can tell right from wrong unlike your brother, so the next time he attacks her you have to call the police and document her injuries. if she doesnt listen to you, you have to find people who she will listen to and help her.

  • Guest

    what if this wasnt your brother and his girlfriend, what if this was your mother and father, and you found out years later that your mother had been abused for years and everyone knew about it and didnt do anything to stop him.

    you need to step up. you obviously can tell right from wrong unlike your brother, so the next time he attacks her you have to call the police and document her injuries. if she doesnt listen to you, you have to find people who she will listen to and help her.

  • callmebby

    Great article. You seem to have a lot of insight and be very self aware.

  • indi

    i was married to someone very much like your brother, minus the cash.  both of our families knew it was bad but they never knew quite how bad.  nobody did.  I kept most of it as quiet as I could but there were times when his rage issues bubbled up to the surface when there were others around.  Everyone was trying to be supportive of my decision to be with him and stay with him but also let me know that they were there for me if I needed it.  looking back, they were at times too timid with their suggestions that this might not be a healthy relationship – but I was young enough when it began that I would not have bothered to listen to them anyways.  And by the time that I got a bit older and more open to advice from my parents, I was already so far under his thumb that escaping didn’t seem like an option.

    we were together for 8 years, married for 4 of those.  I pretty much had to hit bottom before I finally made the decision to leave – one of the hardest things I have ever done/will ever do. the last year that we were together, i ended up having to call the police on him multiple times after violent outbursts, mostly self-inflicted injuries but also physical violence towards me.  he was in and out of therapy, on anti-depressants and anti-psychotic meds, he kept telling me that he was making the effort to change and after an episode things would get better for a while and then something would trigger him and we’d be right back to square one.  every time I threatened to leave he would threaten or attempt to kill himself, trash our house, hurt me, threaten to kill me. 

    I gave myself 6 months to see some real changes, then that deadline passed and I wasn’t able to leave and it still wasnt better…then another three month deadline, and still i couldn’t hold myself to it.  I was miserable, he was miserable, we were both falling apart.  it wasn’t just me that was trapped in a downward spiral, it was him as well.  Codependency is a total bitch.  At some point I think I just resigned myself to this being my life, my lot in the world.  It was, in many ways for both of us, easier to stay than to leave.  The abuse became familiar, internalized, desensitized.  I felt hollow.  Weak and hollow and so very tired.  I pushed all of my anger and resentment and frustrations down inside a little box and when they came out they manifested not in taking a stand against him but in harming myself.  By the end of it I was only 24 but I felt so old.  Used up and grey.

    Having support from my family when I had finally reached my own breaking point was crucial. he and I had moved away from the town where we grew up to live in the city while I went to university.  I wasn’t allowed to have friends, and literally felt like – even if I wanted to leave, I had nowhere to go.  My brother finally moved to the city and that, I think, was the tipping point in me putting together a concrete plan for getting out.   For once I had family not just telling me that i needed to leave but providing an immediate place for me
    to go and holding me to my decision once i had made it – because afterwards, he tried to win me back multiple times.

    it can be difficult and complicated providing the necessary support when you are a confidant but also a family member of her abuser.   not to mention that your physical distance makes it difficult to provide any direct assistance.  where is the girl’s family in all of this?  Depending on her home situation she may not want to tell her parents or siblings about the abuse…but if you don’t feel comfortable going to the police, a good compromise may be to let her family know that they need to step up and help her get out of this relationship.

    in the end, i realized that neither of us was going to find and heal the spaces within ourselves that had brought us into this spiral and kept us there.  neither of us wanted to continue, but I was the only one strong enough to make the break.  I had to let him go for both our sakes.  it was not only about saving my own emotional, mental and physical well being, but his as well. 

    we all have our own demons in life.  your brother, like my ex-husband, is very likely not an intrinsically bad person.  but he has a long and difficult road to walk towards wholeness of being and positive change, one that will not take place without time and space away from this relationship to take a long, hard look at himself, why he does the things he does and how his actions affect those around him.  i do not know if my ex has since taken the opportunity to grow as a person.  but after all is said and done, five years since i said goodbye, I wish him well.

  • Matisse Jenkins

    Wow. This was so beautifully written.
    But honestly, this is one of those situations when someone needs to know. When ISN’T Thanksgiving dinner awkward?

  • Bethanie Marshall

    I agree with everything written here. You can’t force her to leave, but the very least you can make sure something is documented. Regardless of him being your brother, hitting a woman is not something that can just be brushed aside. If anything, him being held accountable for his actions might even be a wake-up call for him that he needs help for his demons/issues. 

  • misskimball

    You are the only one who can fix this. His girlfriend has done all she can and it hasn’t worked, whether she leaves or stays things will stay the same or get worse. So you’re looking at your brother going to jail. Go and have a long talk with him, he needs to get help so this never happens again, he’s probably really ashamed of what he’s done and knows inside that it can’t continue. I think it’s your duty as a brother.

    Involving the police at this stage would just make things messier but he’s pretty close to having them involved anyway

  • douchegirl

    I have to start off by letting you know that I love my brother more than anyone else in the world. However, loving someone does not mean you get to be their accomplice. If you keep quiet this time, next time might be too late. There will be a next time, by the way. Once someone crosses a line like that, they will easily cross it again and again. Who is to say that next time is not the time he kills her? Or she kills him in self-defense? 

    I hope he gets better and she gets better but they cannot do it while staying together. Someone mentioned co-dependency as a disease and it’s true. 

    Please do something about it. 

  • feminine mystake

    personally, while I think spousal abuse in abominable and what your bro has done is irretrievably wrong, I think you’re maybe blowing it out of proportion. I would try to understand the extent of the wife-beating before I go and decide I can never look my bro in the eyes again. It’s wrong, okay? But did he smack her or did he beat her senseless? and I can predict shit people will respond with  “it doesn’t matter; abuse is abuse”  etc. but does that really hold water? don’t go all lifetime movie too quickly, all I’m saying.

    • V. Funny.

      i instantly regretting making this comment. here we go…

      • NoSexCity

        wait for it, waiiiit for it…

    • Sra Martinez

      until one day it gets out of hand? 

      • V. Funny.

        are you getting this from life experience or from lifetime movie experience?

    • Anonymous

      You’re wrong. The degree of abuse is irrelevant. Any abusive behaviour should warrant concern and a response.

  • Gregory Costa

    I keep reading articles to find out if a comment using a Simpsons quote would be appropriate.  Sadly, “The only monster here is the gambling monster that has enslaved your mother! I call him Gamblor, and it’s time to snatch your mother from his neon claws!” does not seem appropriate….good article, though. 

  • Thegirlwhofellasleep

    Oh man… I get this.

  • Anonymous

    Please do something. Loving someone means helping them when they need it. Your brother has been emotionally, and now recently physically abusive towards his girlfriend, and it sounds like you are pretty much the extent of her support network. At the very least, please call a women’s refuge or similar in her area and ask for their advice.

  • Aja

    Geez.  What a terrible thing to have dumped in your lap.  Well, here goes.  Your family is your family and you’re stuck with them but that doesn’t mean you have to handle any bullshit lying down.  When something is wrong and everyone knows it is, someone has to blow the whistle even if it makes things a mite bit uncomfortable.  Unfortunately that’s going to have to be you.  First things first, have a chat with your brother.  Tell him that if you receive another phone call of that nature, you’re going to call the police, end of story (if you can’t be honest with your family, who can you be honest with?).  Then urge your brother to seek treatment.  Explain that you’ll still accept him as your brother but if this sh*t continues, you won’t.  Second, keep an eye out to see if how things go.  If you receive another distressing phone call, you know what to do.  I wish you the best of luck with this.  

  • Space Ghost

    I think abused women everywhere wish they had someone to stand up for them. If you can—do it!!!

  • Space Ghost

    I think abused women everywhere wish they had someone to stand up for them. If you can—do it!!!

  • I feel you, grl.

    I don’t believe that blood is thicker than water nonsense. Whoever said that clearly didn’t live with people like our brothers. I know his type and although I won’t say mine is worse, but having a 26 year old high school drop out, convicted felon, alcoholic, drug abuser, misogynist, paranoid, controlling, insecure, angry, mentally unstable brother who beats women and treats them like objects living down the hall from you everyday makes you re-think that stupid phrase.
    I know exactly how you feel. The parent situation, the disheartenment, the everything. He might be your brother but the building forts, going on bike rides, playing hide and go seek sibling you once had is dead now. Please get his girlfriend out of there. If you can’t save your brother at least try to save her.

    • Jordana Bevan

      ” If you can’t save your brother at least try to save her.”

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