Ask Amy: Reluctant uncle won't bond with nephew

FresnoAugust 13, 2013 

Dear Amy: My sister and her husband recently had a baby. They are in their late 40s, and have been together for 20 years. They never told me that they wanted a family, and it turns out they spent years trying to conceive.

I continue to feel hurt that my sister kept this important fact in her life secret from me, even though my nephew is now 3. She disclosed this to some close friends and co-workers. She feels bad that my feelings are hurt, but said that they kept the secret from all the family members and didn't want to have to explain for years when fertility treatments didn't work.

While I understand this explanation, and I think of this birth as me gaining a nephew, I am having trouble facing the reality that I never had the relationship with my sister I thought I had, and know now that I never will.

I find myself keeping an emotional distance from her, and I have a hard time emotionally connecting with my nephew.

— Hurt brother

Dear Hurt: You don't say if you have children, but if you did you'd be more sensitive to your sister's situation. Sometimes it is preferable to share challenging news about your reproductive system with people who you don't have to face across the Thanksgiving table.

It's also tough to disclose private information to one family member if you don't want other family members to know (some siblings feel honor bound to disclose information to parents or other siblings, for instance).

Keeping intimate challenges out of the family realm can also be an attempt to try to protect loved ones from the drama and disappointment of infertility, job instability, splintering marriages or other personal challenges.

Here's your reorientation: If you refuse to bond with a (no doubt adorable) 3-year-old because you don't approve of how his mother handled her infertility, then you will never have the relationship with your sister you'd like to have. Rejecting a child is a surefire way to alienate the child's mother.

Dear Amy: Regarding the letter from "Disgusted" about her "nonreligious" Jewish husband who went online to buy an ordination so he could officiate at his son's wedding (and get upgraded by airlines for being "clergy"), the commonwealth of Virginia expressly precludes anyone from doing this.

— Michael F. Kuzma, marriage commissioner, Commonwealth of Virginia


Dear Michael: Couples wanting to be married by online "clergy" should definitely check their state laws before saying "I do."


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