Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Do We Have To Invite My Fiancé’s Brother to Our Wedding?”

In a few months I will be marrying my fiancé whom I’ve known for the last ten years. We were best friends in high school and I maintained a fairly close relationship with some, but not all of his family members. My fiancé and I will be paying for the wedding completely on our own, and obviously, we’ve had to make many financial sacrifices over the last year in order to have the kind of wedding that we both wish to have. The total costs at this point are about $10,000.

While making our guest list, we have invited pretty much all of his immediate and extended family, except for his brother. In the past few years, his younger brother has had a history of lying, stealing, and drug use, and has even stolen several items of value from my fiancé – some of which were returned, and some weren’t. The two have not spoken for the past year and a half and though my fiancé has tried to make amends, his brother wasn’t interested.

The problem is, their mother is very insistent that we invite the brother to the wedding. We feel that since we are paying entirely for the wedding ourselves, we should invite only those that support us and we feel comfortable having around. At this point, I feel that if his brother attempts to make amends with my fiancé, it would be solely to receive an invitation to the wedding. What do you think? — Guest List Woes


While I agree with you that you should have 100 % say whom to invite to your own wedding that you’re paying for, I have to respectfully disagree that if your fiancé’s brother attempts to make amends, that just mean he’s just gunning for a invite. I’m sure your day will be perfect for you and that everyone will have a nice time, but let’s be honest: weddings aren’t events, like cruises or all-expenses-paid trips to the Caribbean, people buy raffle tickets to win. It’s an honor to be included, sure, but you’re not gonna be, like, collecting proof-of-purchase labels from your cereal boxes — or making amends with someone you don’t care to make amends with — to score an invite.

No, if your future brother-in-law actually attempted to make amends with your fiancé, it would be safe to assume he’d be doing so, not to get an invite to your wedding, but because he recognizes what a special time this is in his brother’s life and he wants to put their issues aside — or resolve them altogether — and show his love and support. If that attempt were actually made — and, I suppose that’s a big “if” at this point, right? — I would certainly not stand in the way if I were you. Doing so, I’m afraid, would be something you’d really regret in years to come. These two guys are brothers, and whatever bad blood exists between them, they’ll always be brothers. If there’s a chance for reconciliation — even partially so — you do not want to be responsible for it not happening. That would be a heavy burden to bring into your marriage first thing.

Having said that, if your future mother-in-law is insisting you invite the brother without an attempt on his part to make amends, it would be totally within reason for you to refuse, if that’s what your fiancé wants. But it’s his brother and it needs to be his choice. If there’s any part of him that is on the fence, let him talk it out and decide what’s best for him. I know as the bride, it’s easy to feel the wedding is all about you, but it’s not; it’s about family, too, and if your fiancé is having any reservations at all about excluding a member of his immediate family, it’s your job as a dutiful and supportive wife-to-be to let him work that out, and to trust that he has not only the best interests of himself and his future at heart, but the best interests of you as a couple at heart, too.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

41 comments… add one
  • avatar

    honeybeenicki April 12, 2011, 3:07 pm

    110% agree with Wendy that it is the fiance’s decision to make. I imagine a lot of people go through stuff like this when planning a guest list for a wedding – from people they feel they should invite but barely know, people who they are currently not speaking to but who are immediate family, etc. But, LW I have a quick personal tip – my mom and I did not speak to my aunt for nearly 3 years after a huge family issue(her sister). She was invited to my wedding just because I would have felt guilty otherwise. She didn’t come (even though she RSVP’d yes), so it was no skin off my back. So, if your fiance decides to invite him (which honestly – if there is any hope of any reconciliation anytime in the future, i would recommend it), he may not even come but it may prevent future problems if there is a reconciliation.

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    • avatar

      elisabeth April 12, 2011, 4:15 pm

      This is what I was thinking. It may be worth sending an invite simply as a gesture. If things are as bad as they sound, the brother may not show up at all, but even sending the invite in the first place is a courtesy. That said, if you send an invitation and he *does* show up, no complaining!

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  • avatar

    Green_Blessings_Goddess April 12, 2011, 3:17 pm

    Invite them, life is short.

    Wendy, Congrats on the baby, I knew but I didn’t want to say anything till you did. congrats! It is a girl. Amelia is the next to get pregnant with a boy 🙂

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    • Dear Wendy

      Wendy April 12, 2011, 3:21 pm

      What will her birthday be? Also, will she be an artist?

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    • avatar

      WatersEdge April 12, 2011, 3:52 pm

      Are you psychic? Being psychic runs in my family. I’m a bit intuitive, but it comes and it goes. Nothing really useful.

      If you’re just kidding and I’ve outed myself as a psychic-follower then I won’t like it, but I stand by my statement.

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      • avatar

        Jennifer April 12, 2011, 7:14 pm

        I wish I were psychic! That’s so cool!

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      • meadowphoenix

        AB April 12, 2011, 10:23 pm

        I will out myself with you! My mother is scarily intuitive, and I sometimes get completely unimportant mundane dreams of stuff that will happen years later.

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  • avatar

    SGMcG April 12, 2011, 3:37 pm

    You’re not just marrying your fiancé, you’re also marrying his family. There are members of your family you want there and there will be members of his family that your fiancé will want at your wedding. Just because YOU don’t want your future brother-in-law there (with justified reason) it shouldn’t automatically equate to WE don’t want him there.

    Your fiancé should extend the invite, only if HE truly wants to do so. If he doesn’t, that’s something that HE should bring up with his mom. If she keeps being insistent on wanting to play happy family during his wedding day, even if it is against his desires, your fiancé could ask her to make a financial contribution towards the costs of bringing the unwanted brother. Be warned that this request is a good way for your fiancé to potentially damage his relationship with his mom and you’ll have MIL issues in the future, yet it does firmly entrench you as the leading lady in your fiancé’s life.

    No matter what your fiancé decides to do, be there for him. He’ll obviously need your support in the wedding drama too – it’s not just your day, it’s also his as well. Have fun at your wedding and may your marriage be happy.

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    • avatar

      honeybeenicki April 12, 2011, 4:04 pm

      “it’s not just your day, it’s also his as well”

      I had to be reminded of that so many times. My husband would get so mad when I said “my wedding” instead of “our wedding,” but you’re absolutely right – the bottom line is, it is the fiance’s wedding too and this should be his decision.

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  • avatar

    cdjd2614 April 12, 2011, 3:47 pm

    In my family there are certain people we NEVER want to invite to any event/occasion but we live by this little rule. Be the bigger person and invite them and hope to hell they don’t come. Not only do you look better by extending the invite you don’t step on anyones toes and if they happen to show up be cordial but having a conversation with them is not required. Most times when inviting people you really don’t want to they know you don’t really want them there and don’t bother to come in the end.

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    • avatar

      Kate April 12, 2011, 4:12 pm

      I do the same thing: try to be the bigger person. Usually those people don’t end up coming anyway.

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    • avatar

      kali April 13, 2011, 12:21 pm

      cdjd2614 – are we related??

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  • avatar

    Jessica April 12, 2011, 3:48 pm

    I feel that you should encourage him to invite his brother to the wedding. Honestly, if he’s not invited, that will only worsen their relationship and will make it to where it may not be fixable anytime in the near future. But, if he does send out the invite, then it will be up to his brother to decide whether or not he’s willing to take the extra steps to fix the broken relationship he’s had with your fiance for however long.

    I don’t however feel that you should push it. Just remind your fiance (like Wendy said) that this is his decision to make, not yours, but that you are there for him as he decides it. But do encourage him to try to do the right thing by inviting his brother..it doesn’t mean he’ll come if he’s invited, it just means that there’s a 50/50 chance as opposed to no chance.

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  • avatar

    hana April 12, 2011, 3:50 pm

    Just to point it out, a lot of people don’t like going to weddings but they go to show support of the people they love. I don’t see why he would try to make amends just to score an invite! But I hope that whatever happens the two of you are happy on your day and that if your fiance chooses he eventually makes peace with his brother.

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  • avatar

    ReginaRey April 12, 2011, 3:52 pm

    Wendy, I think it’s totally creepy that I know those hands in the picture are your’s and Drew’s! Your ring is so unique, I couldn’t help but remember it! 🙂

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    • Dear Wendy

      Wendy April 12, 2011, 4:13 pm

      You’re right! (Hey, if I can save money on stock photos and and use my own, I’ll do it). The ring was made in 1928 and belonged to my great-grandmother.

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      • avatar

        ReginaRey April 12, 2011, 4:21 pm

        Makes me wish I had an antique ring to inherit! I absolutely love the idea of updating family heirlooms…guess I’ll have to settle one day for something vintage-inspired 🙂

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  • avatar

    cmarie April 12, 2011, 3:57 pm

    I agree that it should be the fiance’s decision and that you shouldn’t try to influence him. If you do I hope you encourage him to invite his brother. There is a chance that their relationship won’t always be strained and when he looks through his wedding album the fact that his brother is not there will be painfully obvious and if they do manage to maintain a good relationship it will be something he regrets. A friend of mine got married recently and even though they were paying for the wedding and frankly it was only to get on his insurance (after being together for many many years of course) she encourage him to invite his father, who he was estranged from. They did and her husband is grateful that they have pictures of him celebrating their wedding. Point is, you never know what the future holds so try not to do something you could live to regret.

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  • avatar

    Desiree April 12, 2011, 4:33 pm

    I recognize the beautiful ideal here of reconciliation between brothers. But I do have one practical reservation in mind. Depending on the details of the event, is it really such a great idea to invite a person with a strong history of theft (especially someone who steals from family members)? Weddings can be a prime opportunity to steal, particularly with guests bringing gifts/cards. And, if anything went missing from a venue, that burden would fall upon the bride and groom. I think maybe a more controlled environment would be a better start to reconciliation.

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    • avatar

      honeybeenicki April 12, 2011, 4:37 pm

      I didn’t even think of that, but since you mentioned it you may be right. If there is a major history of theft and there is a possibility of it happening again, it may not be a great idea. I would hope the brother would be more respectful than that, but since I don’t know him I can’t really say for sure.

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      • avatar

        Maracuya April 12, 2011, 5:07 pm

        I was thinking more along the lines of lots of purses left unattended while people dance…Hopefully this brother left his past behind him and no longer steals?

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    • caitie_didnt

      caitie_didn't April 12, 2011, 5:43 pm

      That’s definitely a good point. It’s nice to be the bigger person and try putting your differences aside, but from a practical standpoint how are the Bride and Groom going to feel if their guests report money missing from their purses or gifts or items belonging to the venue are reported missing? It’s not like you can warn the guests ahead of time that someone there has sticky fingers.

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    • avatar

      SpyGlassez April 13, 2011, 1:06 am

      I’m a bit of a cynic, I guess, but this was the first thing that occurred to me, also.

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  • avatar

    fallonthecity April 12, 2011, 7:09 pm

    I agree with Wendy and everyone else that it needs to be your fiancé’s decision… but also with the people who would be worried about his sticky fingers! But, I think for the most part this could be controlled by having a coat/purse check with tickets — hire a couple of teenagers or somebody from your community who could use a little extra cash to run it and guard people’s things.

    “…let’s be honest: weddings aren’t events, like cruises or all-expenses-paid trips to the Caribbean, people buy raffle tickets to win.”
    This is so true, and I feel like telling this to my friends who are getting married all the time (don’t worry, I keep my mouth shut). It’s not like a wedding is going to be the party of the century or something — if people really want to come to your wedding, it’s because they want to support you during such an important time in your life. If the brother tries to make amends so that he can come to the wedding, it’s probably because he knows he would regret not being there for such a huge milestone in his brother’s life.

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  • avatar

    Sara April 12, 2011, 8:18 pm

    First, I totally agree with Wendy: this is your wedding, and you can invite whomever you– just understand all the consequences. I want to add a consequence that potentially stems from a personal non-confrontational nature. If your MIL-to-be is dead-set on your fiance’s brother being invited, you should think about taking her feelings into account. She will be in your life forever. My mother can hold a grudge for years, and I changed some things for the wedding so that she would still be happy–which in turn made me happy. For me, a relationship with a MIL is just a little trickier sometimes because you are coming from different value sets that you might not even recognize. Bottom line: your wedding, but your MIL-to-be’s feelings might be factor.

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  • avatar

    Kalipzo April 12, 2011, 8:43 pm

    As someone who didn’t invite my mother or one of my two sisters to my wedding, I absolutely say this is your fiancé’s decision and it’s your job to stick to his decision 150%.

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  • Amanda

    Amanda April 12, 2011, 8:44 pm

    I’m going to slightly, but respectfully, disagree. I understand there’s bad blood – trust me, I’ve seen enough of it in my family – however and invitation does not guarantee that he’ll show up. And if the relationship is as strained as the letter writer says, it’s highly doubtful that he’ll show up.

    I’ve been on the non-invitation end of a wedding. My half sister (we share the same dad) was getting married. She asked me to be a bridesmaid, but then refused to ask our dad to the wedding. Now, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, but it was a bogus reason. Her parents are divorced and her mom did not want her ex-husband (our dad) there, even though they got divorced over 20 years prior because she had an affair on him.

    That was almost 10 years ago. The damage it did to my daddy, mom, and myself was huge. I haven’t spoked to her in that amount of time. I’ve heard that she’s had two children that me and my family will never meet. I also lost my half brother and nearly my aunt because of this.

    So, please – if you do not invite him PLEASE think about the repercussions. Understand that this is something that will never be forgotten (possibly forgiven) and will last for *years*. This is not something to take lightly. If it really upsets the future brother-in-law, can you live with your children (assuming you have any) never getting to know that uncle? Or if it’s the future mother-in-law, can you accept the fact that they may not get to know their grandma? This is something far, far bigger than one day. This is a whole lifetime.

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    • avatar

      Kalipzo April 12, 2011, 9:09 pm

      This is the most important line in the letter:

      The two have not spoken for the past year and a half and though my fiancé has tried to make amends, his brother wasn’t interested.

      If the brother can’t be arsed to be a part of their lives on a day to day basis, why does he deserve to be at their wedding? To be an uncle to their future children?

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      • Amanda

        Amanda April 12, 2011, 9:35 pm

        Because what if he cleans up his act? What if the next year and a half he does want to make amends and be a part of their lives on a day-to-day basis?

        Look, I’m not saying this guy is worthy of it today. Certainly, he isn’t. But I just think this is something they need to think about because this cannot be undone.

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    • avatar

      Jessica April 12, 2011, 9:53 pm

      I agree with this.

      But mainly because this would be the biggest way to cause a reconciliation between the brothers, that I personally think should be done.

      I’ve seen how bad things can be when brothers and sisters and whoever else seemingly hate one another. My grandfather recently passed away and my aunt had done such great damage to her relationship with my dad and uncle that she wouldn’t even call them up to find out what was going on. She had to go through me to get details, had to call up my mom to vent (she had no one else), and she basically refused to go to his funeral because my father was there. I wish that they would do whatever it took to restore their relationship, especially since they’re all they have left. Even if my dad kept extending his hand to restore things and she kept refusing, it wouldn’t matter to me as long as he or she was trying. But he tried a couple times then gave up, and now it’s too late it seems to fix anything. If death of their father wont bring them back together, what will?

      I would hate it if that happened to your fiance and his brother. To where even a death of a loved one couldn’t bring them back together. Even though he’s tried a few times, this will be the biggest thing to show his brother that he’s serious and that he’s still loved even though he’s screwed up multiple times. I feel that you should never give up on someone you love, especially if it’s a family member, since you never know what could happen and what could make it “too late” to fix anything.

      Though, I do agree that you should do something to make sure that he wouldn’t be able to steal anything since he has a history of it. Maybe have all the gifts left in a room that is lockable and has someone guarding it, and make sure he can’t get in. Or tell people to keep track of their belongings. There are many different options and you and your fiance could explore them together if his brother is invited and decides to go.

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  • avatar

    anna728 April 12, 2011, 9:31 pm

    There’s no reason why someone who neither the bride or groom wish to invite should have to be invited, especially if they’re footing the bill. I have a few family members I can’t imagine inviting to my weddings, though that will be a long way off.

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  • avatar

    stina April 13, 2011, 11:12 am

    I’m on the fence about this too. I see arguments for both sides. But I keep thinking that not inviting him could make their relationship even worse…or that inviting him could be a way to lead up to a reconciliation.

    And I also keep thinking that if they end up reconciling eventually, not being invited to the wedding could be a sore spot

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  • avatar

    maxy April 13, 2011, 11:26 am

    I would just like to point out, that since the brother has a history of stealing, if he does come to the wedding you should have someone watch the gifts. I went to a wedding and the groom’s aunt, who had a history of stealing, stole several of the envelopes with money in them. Not only did they not know which she stole (so they couldn’t send thank yous) but she STOLE their wedding presents because they were left on the table.
    Just a warning.

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    • avatar

      MAC2011 April 13, 2011, 2:21 pm

      people suck!

      That’s definitely something the LW has to consider. I’m on the fence too, not sure what the right thing to do is here. But I agree that the fiancee should totally make the decision with 100% support from the LW.

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  • bittergaymark

    bitter gay mark April 13, 2011, 4:26 pm

    Invite him. If you don’t, this could get blown way out of proportion later on. And for years and years to come… What people often fail to realize is how just many people there are at weddings… In the grand scheme of things, one person you are not that crazy about truly isn’t that big of a deal. There will be throngs of other guests demanding your attention…

    Could be that I am feeling especially snarky today, but something about the tone of this letter set me off. Its writer is bordering on petty. I say, be the grown ups, invite him, and deal with it. Remember you risk not only alienating his brother, but his mother as well. Great way to start off that relationship with your mother in law… Really. Think about it. Is that really how you want to enter into their family? By being remembered as that bitch who wouldn’t invite so and so to the wedding? PS: The word “bitch” is not my choice, but rather an anticipation of theirs… Ten to one that will be the word they choose…Ten to one that is how you will be remembered. Trust me.

    PS — Kudos to Wendy for pointing out the obvious… This guy isn’t going to try to make amends with his brother JUST to get an invite. Fact no Bride will ever admit: a sizable portion of weddings are downright tedious and dull to those attending… If the bad brother wants to be there, he genuinely wants to be there for his brother. It’s not that he is just desperate to do the Funky Chicken dance after dining on shoe leather and listening to all those “endlessly witty” toasts… Trust me on this.

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    • avatar

      spaceboy761 April 13, 2011, 4:43 pm

      “…a sizable portion of weddings are downright tedious and dull to those attending.”

      Oh yeah? Well my wedding was so awesome that a bridesmaid got banged in the bridal suite during the reception! So in case any of you ever wonder if I’m cool, that.

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      • bittergaymark

        bitter gay mark April 13, 2011, 4:48 pm

        Okay, so your wedding was memorable to at least two of the guests… 😉

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      • avatar

        spaceboy761 April 13, 2011, 4:51 pm

        Um… make that three.

        Yeeeeeeeeeeah. [awkardly slinks away]

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  • avatar

    Lindsay April 22, 2011, 12:55 pm

    It’s totally the fiance’s decision. I wouldn’t want my fiance trying to tell me who to invite in my family. Yes, there are pros and cons and moral obligations, etc., but in the end, it’s his brother and his decision.

    But even if the brother was attempting to get an invite, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe he’d feel left out or realize that missing your brother’s wedding is a BIG DEAL, even compared with not speaking to him ever. It’s not like he’s going to really gain at your expense from going to the wedding.

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  • avatar

    matt j hehehe July 12, 2011, 5:00 am

    Maybe you should invite the kid so he can get a free meal. Sounds to me like he could use that and a drink.

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  • avatar

    Mary shamblin February 7, 2012, 10:38 pm

    Yes you should. I understand that you are paying for it. OK I don’t understand the problem, what does that have to do with everything really in the long run? Yes it is both your wedding but It is your family and his family celebrating your life together too. If you don’t want to include all the immediate family on both sides and he is close to everyone else on his side it is going to cause a stink. Personally if this is the case, I would run away and avoid it and save my money for a big honeymoon. This is what is going to happen I know this because I have dealt with it in our family and I have seen it with other couples. Down the road your husband is going to be upset at you. He will hold that grudge, he may not say or show it now but he will and so will his family towards you. It may be YEARS down the road but it will come up. He will blame you if you do leave the decision his hands. But seriously all in all you said he drinks, stills, does drugs. Ok look at this way. Ok so he is not going to get an award for being the best citizen here. Do you think he is going to steal things at your wedding? Do you think he is going to show up drunk? Is he going to be high? If you think he is going to make a stink at your wedding have a person keep an eye on him. If he is out of line show him the door. Other than that, most of the people you invite to be honest I am sure has one or all 3 of those issues. Bottom line, it is a brother you are part of this family like he will be a part of yours. Even if he does think he does not want him to come I would encourage if because It sounds to me he has a strong family values or this would not be an issue. You should keep encouraging this. We all want strong family values in our families. I am not saying be buds with him. If he does show and I am thinking he might, you may never hear or see much from him again. But if you don’t it will make your other half sad in the long run and make it harder for the relationship to rebuild and I know you don’t wish that for him. So encourage it, he will only love you more in the long run. Good luck.

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