So, You Fell Out With a Family Member. Here's How to Fix It.
Photo: Steve DiMatteo / Unsplash

So, You Fell Out With a Family Member. Here's How to Fix It.

Fam is forever. Here's a guide to making peace.

The sad truth is, we're probably a mere few decades away from seeing the storyline of I, Robot play out IRL. But until the android apocalypse, we might as well make the best of artificial intelligence. So here it is: LEVEL's new advice column, We Asked a Bot, the place where your pressing concerns and queries are treated with a tenderness and care befitting of a machine learning algorithm.

Dear Level, 

About 10 years ago, my brother and I had a huge falling out. I didn't approve of the woman he was dating at the time (and subsequently married). As their relationship progressed toward marriage, the bitterness between us grew and my sister-in-law has refused to speak to me or engage in any family activities with me and my family. (I am happily married and have two young children.)

Now, my sister-in-law, I'll call her Sheila, is pregnant. My criticisms of her when they were dating were that I felt she was only after my brother's money and didn't treat him very well. He has a successful online business and while they dated, she demanded he pay her bills and buy her expensive gifts—even as he was struggling to get his business off the ground. Our parents have demanded that we mend our relationship, but my brother is still very angry that I didn't accept Sheila sooner. Now that they are having a kid, I feel more urgency to fix our relationship: I don't want to miss out on being an uncle or having my kids interact with their cousins. How do I fix this broken brotherhood?

—Bummed-Out Brother in Birmingham 

<We asked ChatGPT to answer this query in the style of an older, smart, empathetic family man in his 30s-50s.>

Dear Bummed-Out Brother in Birmingham,

It's evident that time has taken its toll on the once unbreakable bond you shared with your brother. Family conflicts are never easy to navigate, especially when matters of the heart are involved. The passage of a decade brings with it maturity, growth, and hopefully, wisdom. Let us consider a path toward healing and reconciliation.

First and foremost, humility is key. Reach out to your brother with an honest heart, acknowledging the past misunderstandings and expressing your regret for any pain your words or actions may have caused. Let him know that your desire is to rebuild what was lost and foster a more positive relationship for the sake of your growing families.

Understanding is the foundation of any strong relationship. Make an effort to comprehend the depth of your brother's feelings and the love he holds for Sheila. Show genuine interest in their lives, not merely as your brother's partner, but as an individual. Ask about their plans, dreams, and aspirations, and be open to finding common ground.

Related: Here's What I Wish I'd Asked My Elders While They Were Still Around

Apologize, not for your opinions or concerns from a decade ago, but for the way those opinions were delivered. It's essential that you express your love for your brother and your desire to have a harmonious relationship moving forward. Allow him to voice his grievances and concerns without interrupting, and respond with empathy and kindness.

As an uncle, your role can be pivotal in your future relationship with Sheila and your nephew or niece. Show genuine interest in the pregnancy, offer assistance and support, and let them know you're excited to be a part of this new chapter in their lives.

Related: If You Want Your Relationship to Last, Tell Your Moms to Mind Her Business

Remember, the mending of a broken relationship is a journey that requires patience, understanding, and forgiveness. Embrace this journey with an open heart and a genuine desire to rebuild the family bonds that mean so much.

Warm regards,

<Wow, that is a whole lot! We asked ChatGPT a follow-up: What kinds of things should Bummed Out Brother say in his first message to his brother and Sheila?>

Dear Brother and Sheila,

I hope this message finds you both in good health and spirits. Over the past decade, I've carried the weight of our strained relationship and the resulting distance between us. The passing years have brought clarity, and I realize that the words and actions from my part were hurtful and may have caused irreparable damage to our bond.

I deeply regret the misunderstandings and conflicts that arose during the time when you and Sheila were building your relationship. My intentions were rooted in concern for your happiness and well-being, but my approach was flawed, and for that, I am truly sorry.

Related: Forgiving My Father Took Years — Loving Him Takes a Lifetime

As we stand on the brink of a new chapter in our lives with the impending arrival of your little one, I feel an urgent need to set things right. I long to be a part of this joyous journey, to offer my support, and to be the uncle that my heart yearns to be. Family is a precious treasure, and the thought of our children growing up without the closeness we once shared is a heavy burden.

I understand that time and distance have created barriers, but I am eager to bridge that gap. I want to extend an olive branch, to listen to your side of the story, and to find a way to move forward as a united family. Sheila, I sincerely hope we can find a way to rebuild our relationship and create a supportive and loving environment for the newest addition to our family.

With love and humility,
Bummed-Out Brother in Birmingham

<So how did ChatGPT do? Well… if it's a message to your brother and his wife, we'd suggest personalizing a bit and making it sound a little less stiff… you know, like something written by ChatGPT. These days people are pretty savvy about that. Add some personal anecdotes, suggest a place or event where you can meet on neutral ground, and for goodness sake, change the salutation to your actual name and your brother's actual name. And let us know how it goes!>

LEVEL consulted ChatGPT 3.5 for the aforementioned text. Need advice, insight, or just want to troll a chatbot? Hit us up with your questions at We'll feed it to the robots and see what it spits back out. (Disclaimer: YMMV!)