I feel under no obligation to have a relationship with my brother

Dear Troubleshooter:

I am a male student in my 20s. I am the oldest son, with a brother three years younger. We don’t get along well and have barely spoken to each other for four or five years. My parents seem to be very concerned and press me by saying things like: “Please work things out with your brother because you’ll have to move out of the house once you start working. This is the last thing we’ll ask you.”

However, I harbor some real feelings that I can’t express to my family, and that is to say that my brother was born out of my parents’ selfish desire and I became his brother not of my own volition. So I believe that I have no obligation to have any involvement with him.

I can only think that it is my parents’ ego to urge me to get along with my brother. I even think that my parents’ failure to educate me has made me think that way, as there are people who are on good terms with their brothers and sisters.

Why do we need siblings? Should siblings try to stay on good terms with each other even though they don’t get along? Can we call a sibling relationship meaningful and good because the brothers and sisters act cozy with each other just for the sake of the parents?

— M, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Mr. M:

I have a younger brother as well, so I understand exactly how you feel. Brothers often see each other as rivals, and it is common for them to have opposite interests and personalities.

Just because people are related, it feels unnatural to force yourself to deal with him. However, you should also understand the feelings of your parents. It is natural for them to want their children to get along.

Just like you can’t choose your parents, you also can’t choose the number, order and gender of your siblings. People often live with someone who doesn’t behave as they wish. German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel regarded sibling relationships as the start of social relations.

So, could you think of your relationship with your brother as a trial run for becoming a member of society? Going forward, there will be increasing instances in which you work with people you don’t like. Unlike your time as a student, you will have to deal with people with whom you aren’t on friendly terms, and do so without making waves.

As time goes by after you move out, you might see a different aspect of your sibling relationship. Can’t you put your feelings aside and deal with your brother as someone who was born to the same parents and has a connection with you?

— Masahiro Yamada, university professor