How "This Is Us" Completely Shifted My Relationship with my Brother-In-Law

"Don't judge a book by its cover," they say. But what if you feel your judgement is justified? Such was the case with my brother-in-law, Limil, for the first two years he was married to my only sister, but the television show "This Is Us" completely shifted our relationship in an unexpected way.

My sister and brother-in-law got married in April 2015, and to be frank, I was selfishly un-thrilled. Growing up, my sister and I had a touchy relationship, but around 2010, something clicked and we became best friends. As I was entering adulthood, shifting into spiritual maturity the years before, I relied on my sister's wisdom to point out areas I needed to grow in. She had, and still has, an uncanny ability to be extremely blunt and to the point. Her experiences, example, and advice were what I needed, and I soon regretted the previous 20 years of avoiding a strong relationship with her.

In 2011/2012, I remember her mentioning she was dating a new guy, Limil. He was our fraternity brother, and though she met him that year, I knew him during my party days as a sophomore in college. He was okay, but was he for my sister? No. He was a party-goer and drinker (so was I), and seemed like a "bad boy." I didn't approve of that for my sister. She was a goody two-shoes. Isn't it unfortunate that oftentimes we pass judgment on others even though we do the EXACT SAME actions? Somehow, we extend grace for ourselves for the same mistakes we withhold grace from for others.

Fast forward to 2015, Limil hadn't gone away. He had proposed to my sister the previous year, around my birthday no less, and married her. (OH and there was that time we took our first Sisters Trip to Miami, and somehow he ended up meeting us there,*rolls eyes* making me the 3rd wheel on my own vacation). Lucky for me, 2 years after marriage, they continued to live in our family home which still gave me ample opportunities to maintain my close friendship with my sister. Though he and I were cordial, I can admit that besides a few words here and there, I didn't embrace him. His appearance was a constant reminder of my college days and the shame and guilt I still carried from those days. If I could avoid him, I wouldn't have to think back to all the wrong I did and who I was back then.

Also, seeing him reminded me that we were only prolonging the inevitable- with her having a husband, there'd be a time when my sister and I weren't in the same household. Our daily rehashing of our workdays on each other's beds would become infrequent, and eventually, we'd have to settle for seeing each other in passing at church twice a week. I attributed and projected my disappointment of the looming shift in my relationship with my sister on him. How welcoming, huh? Looking back, I can admit how incredibly selfish this was. At a time that was joyous for my sister and brother-in-law, I was selfishly subconsciously sabotaging any attempts to welcome him in the family. It was so noticeable. My brother in law mentioned to my sister that he could sense my disdain for him, and when she brought it to my attention, I heartlessly shrugged. I was solely concerned with maintaining closeness with my sister because she was my best friend, and my feelings were more important than any other parties involved.

In 2017, my sister and brother-in-law moved out. Was I devastated? Yes and no. I had 2 years to prepare for it, and they moved 10 minutes away. My sister and I reminded each other that we were still nearby, and for awhile, she came over just about every other day. Within a few weeks, however, we unexpectedly put our childhood, family dog to sleep, and it felt like my childhood had died. Also, his death magnified the changed house dynamics. My dad was in a funk from my sister & brother in law moving PLUS my dog dying. So the house felt, cold and lonely. It solidified that I was in a season of growing up because things I had clung to for comfort were being stripped away. You know what I'm learning? Sometimes, when we refuse to loosen our grip on things God is releasing us from, He orchestrates events to force us to do so because He knows what we need to mature.

So how did This is Us shift our relationship? I don't remember exactly how, but I think either 1) I got to the point where I realized if I wanted to spend time with my sister, I'd have to go to her house or 2) we missed hanging out and she invited me over to watch tv. Either way, I went over and suggested they watch This Is Us because it was so good. I didn't know Limil too well, but I knew he was a thinker and liked tv shows with depth. We watched a few episodes together, and it became a recurring event. I came over, and we watched- discussing plot lines, making predictions, yelling at the characters, relating their experiences to our lives, etc. We've been doing this for about 9 months now, and continue even though the season ended. I, honestly, will forsake everything else on a Tuesday to get to their house. I wake up on Tuesdays checking my watch until it's time to go over there.

You know what I've realized about my brother-in-law? We're actually incredibly similar, and I really enjoy our conversations. I've missed out these last few years and that's my fault (And really, it makes me wonder how many purposeful relationships have I missed out on because of my own selfishness). Talking about life with him helps me reflect and see my own experiences from a different viewpoint. He always offers different, honest, or new thoughts in conversations. Consuming tv together every week provides us a regular time to come together to get to know each other in a non-intimidating way, and our conversations help us navigate what it means to be friends for the sake of friends, not just tolerate each other because we both have relationships with my sister. Is there someone in your life you're choosing to tolerate just because you have a common friend? Can I encourage you to take the time to get to know them and who they are? God loves each and every one of us. We each have purpose and intentionality. God saw fit to place us, in our uniqueness, on this earth. Take some time to get to know people around you, not because of what they can do for you, but for the purity of having conversation and relation with them. Ask yourself: "What might God have been wanting to accomplish when He created them?" I've learned so much more about my brother in law based on the conversations we have around tv shows (now we watch church sermons LOL). I'm realizing I have a habit of prematurely deciding who I think someone is and using my pre-judgments to justify why I shouldn't talk to them, when really it's something within myself that hinders me from pursuing knowing them. 

Our weekly "Taco TV Tuesdays" gave/give us at least 2 hours to talk about life, our perspectives, how we've grown since college days, and how we're growing in real-time as adults (LOL). We have like, legitimate vulnerable, therapeutic discussions that I truly value. My brother-in-law knew me from my days of "reckless abandon"... my "wild'n out days." I graduated from college and put those days behind me, not looking back, and here he came. A daily reminder of my past while simultaneously snatching away my closest, most constant friend (my sister). My lack of desire to embrace him had nothing to do with him, but everything to do with me.

Don't allow your own insecurities, selfishness, or skeletons in your closet to be the reason you limit relationship with others. God has a way of bringing us into right relation with people we tried to run from. God can use these direct encounters to force us to make peace with our past and heal from our own self-inflicted wounds; He often uses relationships to bring about such healing. 

Having difficulty adding a new person into a relationship you've already formed?
1) Pray for direction & self-reflection. Ask God to give you insight regarding what about this person might be causing your reluctance. Make the shift within yourself once you have this awareness.

2) Create safe spaces to get to know the other person. TV night worked for us, but we also had family game nights. Playing games like "Black Card Revoked" as a family, helped us have simple conversations about our upbringings and experiences. Create spaces where you can just talk and they can just talk, with no hidden agendas.

3) Save your premature judgments. More and more I'm learning, if I took the time to know someone's heart, I'd be less offended by their words and actions. Knowing someone helps you look past faults or forgive their slip ups. We all need grace, but we're less likely to give it when we don't know the person pass obligatory casual conversations.
What else has helped you become more comfortable with evolving friendships? Comment below!


Dear God, Thank you for maturity and growth. Thank you for creating spaces for me to grow. Oftentimes, we don't realize that relationships and community help us see ourselves in different light, as well as others. We need community to grow and evolve. Help us not run from it, but run towards it. I pray for anyone reading this post. If there's anything holding them back from taking the plunge and initiating a relationship with someone who they've chosen not to, help them make room for such community and cherish the growth that comes from it. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.