My younger brother came out last year at the age of 27. Coincidentally, I’m also gay but I’ve been out since I was 19 (our mom loves having two gay sons!). My brother recently texted to say he started dating a guy and that they’re officially boyfriends. When he first told me, I was super happy for him (Yay, little bro!). I asked him to send me a pic of the guy. He sent me the link to the guy’s Instagram page, and that’s when things got weird. My brother’s new boyfriend is my old FWB from college who I’m no longer in contact with! Even worse, he wants to bring him to our family holiday dinner!! I don’t know what to do! Do I tell my brother? Do I wait and act surprised when I see my old FWB? Or do I reach out to him ahead of time? The holidays are fast approaching and I’m kind of freaking out.
Dear Brotherly Lover,
Congrats to your younger bro! That’s amazing that you both can share in the gay experience together, although I’m sure you didn’t plan on sharing this much (cue the Jerry Springer music).
Clearly, your old hook-up buddy has a “type”, so much so that two of his partners share the same genes! It definitely puts you in a weird predicament, because now you are holding information that could be perceived as important to share, or even imperative.
At the same time, you don’t know if your ex-FWB even realizes he’s dating your sibling, or if you’re somehow overstepping your bounds and affecting their relationship by saying something. What is your responsibility here?
Before I give you my thoughts, let’s just first acknowledge what a strange situation this must feel like for you. It might be a good idea to talk to an understanding therapist about this, because regardless of how you’re going to handle it, it’s just an odd thing to imagine your brother having the same kind of intimacy that you had, with the exact same person.
Maybe it even brings up some jealousy in the way that brothers can be competitive about various things. Perhaps you wonder who’s better in bed, or if your ex feels stronger about your brother than he did about you. Or, you might be feeling some anger, wondering if your FWB knew he was crossing a line. It could help to talk about all these feelings with a professional, or at least a close friend.
Now, onto the immediate concern. If a client came to me in therapy with an issue like this, I would advise him to imagine all of the possible scenarios, and try to put himself in each of them while assessing how they would feel emotionally.
By immersing in how each course of action would make you feel in your mind and body, it’s only then that you can determine what feels the best for you, with the least amount of anxiety, anger, guilt, or awkwardness. Once you figure out what would feel the best for you on an emotional level, you have your answer.
In your current situation, you outlined several options. Waiting and acting surprised when your FWB shows up to the house for the holidays, for example, might make you feel inauthentic and anxious when you imagine actually being in that situation. Having to lie or mislead in a situation can be nerve-wracking. You might be on edge that you’ll slip up and reveal that you actually knew about the relationship sooner. Therefore, this might not be the best approach.
On the other hand, when you imagine telling your brother right away about your previous relationship with his boyfriend, and laying it all out on the table, you might feel some relief (even if a bit off awkwardness). That’s a sign that you’re on the right path. Holding something as monumental as this in and not revealing it can create a build-up of anxiety, especially if you are normally fairly close and communicate well with one another. By telling your bro immediately, you’re demonstrating to him your loyalty and respect.
The last option of reaching out to your old FWB ahead of time may feel a bit too manipulative, when it’s really not your place, and feel icky. You may feel guilt or shame when trying this scenario on. The person that’s important to you here is your brother, and it’s not your job to get involved at this point, especially if you haven’t been in touch with him since college. You obviously may end up talking about it at some point in the future, especially if he might eventually be a part of your family, but that shouldn’t be behind your brother’s back.
Playing all the scenarios out, and seeing how they feel in your body and emotional state is your litmus test to making the best decision for yourself. We can’t always please everyone in our lives all the time, but you can make sure that you’re acting within your own moral compass, and being in integrity with yourself. Remember, at the end of the day, blood is thicker than water… or a boyfriend.
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Jake Myers the Founder of LGBTQ Therapy Space , the first LGBTQ-owned and operated national platform for teletherapy. He is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in both CA and FL, with an online private practice of his own based in SoCal.