Dear Annie: How to handle a troubling brother

Dear Annie: My girlfriend has a brother, “Joel,” who is 23 years old and has Asperger’s syndrome. Now, don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against people with Asperger’s. But this guy is too much. He always has to have the last word, argues constantly and thinks he knows everything. Their mother insists that my girlfriend let him tag along whenever we’re together, and she actually lets him. I’ll say, “It’s just going to be us tonight, right?” She’ll say yes, but when I get there, she has him with her. I’ll take her aside and remind her that it was supposed to be just us, and she’ll say, “But my mother didn’t want him to be at home by himself.” He’ll proceed to ruin the evening. First he’ll insist on a different restaurant. Then he’ll interrupt everything I say. And by the time we get our food, I’m ready to walk out.

Recently, we were out with some mutual friends, and sure enough, she had Joel with her. We all went back to my place. Then he wanted to order pizza. I calmly said, “Joel, you don’t need to order pizza. There’s food here already.” He ignored me and ordered pizza to be delivered. Because of a mix-up, the order arrived cold just as everyone was leaving. He wanted me to warm it up in my oven, and I suggested he do that when he got home because I just wanted to go to bed. He started giving me all kinds of stupid reasons, and I cursed at him and told him, “Be a man and eat it cold.” My girlfriend then got angry with me for being mean.

The last straw was last week, when we went out to a nice restaurant for my birthday. Joel showed up even though she had said he wouldn’t be there. I tried to bribe him to leave by handing him $20 and saying, “Get a sandwich and see a movie.” But that didn’t work.

Everything would be fine in my relationship if it weren’t for Joel and the way my girlfriend enables him. She and I get along really well, and we have fun together, but our time together is limited. I don’t have a lot of patience for aggravating things — Over It

Dear Over It: Long-term relationships aren’t just about getting along well. They’re about priorities. And it sounds as though you and your girlfriend have some irreconcilable differences in that department. In all the incidents you mentioned, Joel’s presence never seemed to be a nuisance to her, only to you. Even if firmer boundaries would be beneficial for her, that’s a decision she needs to make on her own. It could be that her family will always come first. If you’re not prepared for that, consider ending things now. That would give her the chance to meet someone a bit more sympathetic to her family.

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Dear Annie: I’d like to respond to “Child-Free and Tired of Judgment,” who wondered what to say when someone asks her why she isn’t having children. She should just look at the person and say, “Why do you ask?” I find this works for someone who is being just plain nosy. What could anyone possibly say except, “I’m nosy”? — More Caring

Dear More Caring: Those four words really do say it all. Thank you for sharing this excellent retort.

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Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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