DEAR AMY: I have been married to my husband for a wonderful 17 years, but I have never felt accepted by his family. He is one of seven children. They are a very close family.
They plan get-togethers and don’t remember to tell us until the last minute. When we are not available last minute, they shame us for not making family a priority.
Recently I received a Facebook message from one of my husband’s brothers. He is a single man who works only six months of the year. He told me I have no right to be upset for not feeling invited to family get-togethers and that we should make time when we are invited.
As a family of four, between three jobs, school and activities, we are very challenged to find time when invited at the last minute. My brother-in-law also told me he does not come to our home because he has to drive three hours to get here.
This same brother told me he tries to avoid us. He finds me too competitive and says it has influenced our daughter to the point that she has become a bossy know-it-all, making it difficult to enjoy her.
Is it inappropriate for one brother to insult his brother’s wife and daughter? How should I respond to my brother-in-law in a way that builds a family relationship?
Left Out and Hurt
DEAR LEFT OUT: Yes, it is inappropriate for your brother-in-law to insult you. So now that you know that he is inappropriate, how lucky you must feel that he promises to avoid you!
Families are complicated. Large families often have a herd mentality that is both wonderful and challenging – especially for in-laws. It is fun to be part of a herd when they are including and enfolding you. It is no fun at all to be on the fringes and to feel judged.
When someone insults you, you can respond honestly by saying, “Well, I’m so sorry you feel that way, but I really don’t appreciate your insulting comments.” It is also appropriate to delete the message and not respond at all, if you don’t want to. In terms of your husband’s family, you should put the word out that you are doing your best and will continue to try to attend family functions if you can. Because of your other commitments, you can only do what you can do.
What I’m suggesting is a sort of detachment where you realize that you are not responsible for the way other people behave. See the good in these people when you can, enjoy the good bits and the individual friendships with your in-laws when you can have them, and plan your exit for those times when you don’t like the dynamic.
DEAR AMY: I was invited to three nephews’ “destination weddings” in one summer. I am an older widow and find it difficult financially and logistically to travel solo. I suggest more understanding be given to elder invitees to these extravagant weddings; the events are becoming “a bit much” (and all for show?)!
DEAR AUNTIE: Psst … come and sit by me. I have an unsavory little tidbit to share about destination weddings.
There is a high likelihood that these invitations are “for show,” and that your dear nephews didn’t expect – or even want – you to come to their weddings.
If they wanted to host a wedding that was family-centered and inclusive, they would have hosted it at a venue where people would find it easier (and less expensive) to attend.
DEAR AMY: Regarding “Upset Parents,” whose adult children seemed always to find fault with them, they should respond by letting their kids know that when they are footing the bill, they can weigh in on tipping, driving, etc.
My father’s favorite phrase (he’s a pilot) is, “If you’re buying, I’m flying.”
It worked great on me, and as an air traffic controller I use it on my kids now too. It gets the point across humorously and, really, anyone could use it.
DEAR CONTROLLER: I’ve used this phrase many times myself. Well done and thank you.
Write Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.