The Reality of Reunions: Melinda and Mike

Reality After the Reunion
Dr. Phil talks reunited guests and talks about expectations of reuninons.Melinda was 10 years old when she found out that she was adopted and had a brother. For the last 25 years, she has fantasized about what her older brother would be like. "I imagined him to be the perfect big brother. I put him up on a pedestal as a person who would protect me," she says.

Last year on her 35th birthday, Melinda met her biological brother Mike for the very first time. They both felt the instant connection and became close very quickly. Melinda even invited Mike to move in with her and her husband.


Once they got to know each other, the reality set in. Melinda explains, "My brother has been unemployed for about eight months, he drinks too much and he seems to be depressed." She is disappointed and wants Mike to be the big brother she imagined him to be.


Mike knows he has disappointed Melinda. He has cut back on his drinking, and is trying to be more responsive and aware of Melinda's feelings. He explains, "I'm still learning to be the big brother."

 

Dr. Phil reiterates that "the reunion is an event, but the relationship is a process." He asks Melinda and Mike if they went into it with realistic expectancies. Melinda responds, "Personally, I don't think I did. Since I have 25 years of emotional investment in this relationship, I think I have a lot of unrealistic expectations."


Mike explains, "I didn't know anything about Melinda until January of last year, so no, I don't believe I had unrealistic expectations. I didn't have any expectations."


Dr. Phil asks Mike, "Do you think she has fantasized you and put you on some kind of pedestal or something that's hard to live up to?"


Mike responds, "Absolutely. With 25 years to think about a brother she never knew, sure."

 

Dr. Phil explains, "Here's the problem with finding people after 20 and 25 years. If you have this fanciful, fantasy, unrealistic expectancy, there is no way anybody can live up to that and you are guaranteed to be disappointed. And it is not what happens in people's lives that upsets them, it's whether or not what happens in their lives is what they expected that upsets them." He tells Melinda, "You expected big brother to ride in on his white horse and protect you on the playground and do all the things that big brothers do ... and he comes in and his horse isn't quite white, and he isn't doggin' on everybody at the playground that is saying anything to you, and so you are guaranteed disappointment and you guys had conflict fairly early on over that."

 

Melinda agrees that she needs to re-evaluate the situation. "I think I just have to kind of step back and realize that he is a human being, he is a person, he is not this fantasy person that is perfect ... I think I need to take a look and just accept him for who he is and just know that there is going to be fault."


Dr. Phil warns, "Here's the thing ... if you don't do what you just said, you are not going to have a relationship with your brother, because you will continue to be so disappointed."

Dr. Phil confronts Melinda. "You've said that you want to live together for the rest of your lives. Does that sound reasonable to you?" Melinda shakes her head no, and Dr. Phil continues, "He is a 42-year-old man and doesn't he need to be living on his own and having his own life and seeing his sister when he sees his sister?"


Melinda agrees, saying, "I think so. I just feel like I have 35 years to catch up on and I am kind of feeling that I have to cram everything in a small amount of time."


Dr. Phil responds, "But grown adults don't live together! ... Isn't that putting the very relationship in jeopardy?"


Melinda responds, "Somewhat, but not having grown up with my brother, this is a learning experience and I feel like I have a lot to learn."


Dr. Phil says, "Let's learn some things then ... You guys feel like you have this genetic attraction, and you clearly have a bond, no doubt about it. And I want you to nurture that and flourish with that, but you need to do that in a more natural instead of a forced way ... There are differences here, and if you force this, you will have the conflict that you've had. It is a process and you need to really change the expectancies."

 

Dr. Phil explains, "What I am trying to do is recognize that even though you feel this sense of urgency to close the gap, what you want is to have a good relationship long term. And what you are focused on is having a real intensive relationship short term. And that is where you are starting to have friction ... This is a marathon, it's not a sprint ... You want to have a good relationship ... down the road, and your best chance for doing that is to move at a more measured pace than what you are doing."


He reiterates, "It is not healthy to be living together long term." He tells Melinda that her brother feels mothered and smothered. "He rebels from that and that is not good long term. You need to give yourself permission to not quite feel such a sense of urgency about this ... If you push this too hard too soon, it will break and it has already shown some cracks ... Everybody wants the same thing. It's a matter of everybody just saying, 'Let's take a deep breath, let's make a plan that's a little more relaxed.'"