Alexis on the Sexes: Bros before...

Updated 12/6/2012

Should a sibling's ex be off-limits?

Alexis is on vacation, but here's a classic column from the archives.

Q: My brother was in a relationship with a beautiful girl for nine years. They broke up almost four years ago, and not on the best terms. I always thought she was attractive. After seeing her in different social circles, I approached her, and now we are about to get romantically involved. My brother recently was made aware of this and became extraordinarily angry, even though he is now married to a different woman. He's gotten my family involved and created a rift between us. Family gatherings have been awkward and not altogether peaceful. Should I feel guilty? Or is he just being selfish? I really enjoy this girl's company and have no plans to drop pursuit of a relationship with her.

A: Wait, what? Your brother has gotten the rest of your family involved in this business and he's married? What the hell does his wife do when he pitches these fits about you dating his ex-girlfriend? Stare at her lap, mortified, until the topic passes? How lucky she is to be married to such a gentleman.

It's fair for your brother to have unsettled feelings about you dating his ex, but to throw a proverbial tantrum and get the rest of your family involved is completely unreasonable. How would you describe your relationship with your brother? If you have a lifelong history of competing with each other, this might just be another way for him to keep the fight going. It's normal to maintain a healthy sibling rivalry into adulthood, but this particular topic requires a grown-up conversation between the two of you and no one else.

If you're totally bent on pursuing a relationship with this girl because you think she could be your soulmate, then he needs to know that. He found the woman of his dreams and you're entitled to the same happiness. He'd have to be a real dick to attempt to stand in the way of that. Same goes for your parents and any other relative. If she's "the one," and you've communicated that to your brother, then he needs to suck it up and go home to his wife.

On the other hand, if any part of you doubts your actual motives for getting involved with your brother's ex, then put this thing on pause. He's telling you that you can't do something, so maybe you want to do it that much more. I say full speed ahead if you think about this girl all day, every day -- but if a Chipotle burrito crosses your mind more often than she does, going after her isn't worth the indefinite silent treatment from your bro. There are other future scenarios you need to consider, too. Like if you think Thanksgiving with the family is awkward, imagine what Christmas will be like when you bring this girl home. God forbid you come from one of those "Pass the turkey, no idiot, the Wild Turkey" families whose holiday gatherings put Festivus to shame. (Although this girl was part of your clan for nine years already, so she's obviously a veteran.)

Blood is indeed thicker than water, but there are exceptions to every rule. Your M.O. from here is to determine just how much you like this woman. At first blush, your question doesn't exactly drip with passion -- you "always thought she was attractive," you "really enjoy this girl's company" -- so bust out your own crystal ball and see if she's the beginning of the rest of your life. If not, skip the drama and keep her in the friend zone. But if you really do love her, your family will accept her (I promise) and your jerky brother will be forced to grow up and deal with it.

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