Question:

I am single with no kids, but I have dogs. Sometimes, I think my brother thinks his life is more important than mine because he has children.

When the subject of my newly adopted dog came up, he rolled his eyes and abruptly left the room. In the past, when I have brought up my dogs, he has commented, "They are just dogs."

I am so hurt - we spend endless hours talking about his kids, yet he makes me feel as if what is going on in my life is not important. What should I do or say when this happens?

Answer: Next time, tell yourself that two adults are still competing for attention, probably as fiercely as they did as children. That would explain your brother's need to talk endlessly about his kids (sorry, nothing's that gripping), and your need for his validation of dog-rearing.

The image of siblings sneaking punches in the backseat of the family roadster does not age gracefully.

Of course, there are huge differences. You're not belittling him - you just want inclusion, while he apparently needs to win. He's also wrong. Your dogs certainly matter.

But whether he grasps that is irrelevant. On your own, you can choose, consciously, to override your childhood circuitry. You can decide your brother's opinion has no bearing on your satisfaction with life. Wanting a sibling's approval is natural, but don't mistake that for needing it.

You made your choices for your reasons - and in those choices, in those reasons, is where your fulfillment (or emptiness) lies.

So when he says they're "just dogs," simply say, "They matter to me," and then finish what you meant to say.

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