I was confused. I’ve been married to my husband for 33 years and I always look forward to celebrating with everyone. It’s been years since we’ve all been to dinner. The next morning I told my husband about the text and said I wasn’t invited to his mom’s birthday. He said that wasn’t right and that he wasn’t going either then. On her birthday, we took Mom a beautiful hanging basket and my husband did some yard work for her. I was there for a short while and my husband stayed longer to continue working. Before he left, his mom asked if he was going to the her dinner and he said he wasn’t because I was excluded.
The next day his mom texted me and apologized. I’m not mad, but I’m hurt that my sister-in-law obviously doesn’t value me or my friendship. I’m just so tired of putting myself out there! I’m blessed that my husband stood by me. Even though my mother-in-law apologized, the damage is done. I now feel differently about my sister-in-law and mother-in-law as I don’t feel they value me. Please give me some suggestions on how I should respond to my mother-in-law (I don’t think my sister-in-law even cares). — Left Off The Invite List
Something about your letter seems a little off to me. You’ve been part of this family for 33 years and you were completely caught off-guard to be excluded from your MIL’s birthday dinner? Something like this has NEVER happened before? You are on good terms with your in-laws and didn’t see this coming? Really? You say you are “so tired of putting yourself out there,” which leads me to believe that your relationship with at least your SIL is somewhat shaky, no? But it sounds like things are good with your MIL — good enough that you visited her on her birthday, you would have liked to have had dinner with her, and she apologized to you when she heard that you were excluded. It sounds like at the very least you are mutually respectful, and I suspect there’s mutual affection, too. So, why take out on her what your SIL did? It wasn’t your MIL’s fault! She didn’t even know about your being excluded until your husband told her hours before the dinner.
Are you hurt that she didn’t boycott the dinner, too, like your husband did? Surely you can appreciate how awkward that would have been for her — how much that would have strained her relationships with her other kids? She did what she felt was best — let her kids take her out for a birthday dinner and then apologize to you for their excluding you. You want to know how to respond to her? Tell her: “I’m hurt and confused that I wasn’t included, but it’s not your fault. I appreciate your apology though, and I am grateful to have you as my mother-in-law and happy I was able to spend part of your birthday with you. I hope you had a wonderful dinner, and I hope that in the future we can enjoy more inclusive celebrations as a family.”
A reply like that makes you the good guy. It’s diplomatic, it’s loving, it’s truthful, and it doesn’t put your MIL in the tough position of having to defend her kids or feel worse about seeming like she’s choosing sides. Best of all, it expresses openness to future healing, in whatever way that might come. You may also consider reaching out to the SIL who excluded you and express a similar sentiment. But I wouldn’t do that until you’re able to do so without anger.
From the forums:
Anyway, I used to be close with my one sister, but she married a guy who has become a more openly racist and pro-white supremacist lately. My sister loves him and they have a baby together, but I don’t know how long their marriage is going to last. He’s made some really derogatory comments about our family, and it has created a rift between us. I think she’s defending him because she feels obligated to stand by her husband, but I don’t think she’s happy and I want to show her that I’m still there for her.
I want to get her a really nice Mother’s Day gift, but I have no idea what. We haven’t talked since shortly after the election. — Missing My Sister
Hmm, I appreciate that you want to show your sister that you’re “still there for her,” but I’m not sure that that kind of sentiment and the implicit message behind it would necessarily be welcome. Basically, what you’re saying is: “Your husband’s a douche, and I know you know this, but I also know you feel an obligation to stand by him. I want you to know I have your back.” That might be well and good if your sister had actually explicitly expressed to you that she was unhappy with her racist husband, but that’s pure speculation on your part. I could see her being very offended by your implication that she’s unhappy, and her feeling very defensive of her husband, which would only serve to alienate you and further cement whatever obligation she might feel to stand by him.
I think you’d be better off calling her or even sending a card telling her that you miss her, you’ve been thinking of her, and you’d love to take her out for lunch at her convenience. And then, when you do get together, avoid discussing your feelings about her husband. (If she brings up her feelings, listen to her, but refrain from sharing your thoughts.) I’d also avoid discussing the election and your parents, if possible, and stick to neutral topics like: her baby; your careers; recent movies, books, or tv shows you’ve enjoyed; the weather; maybe your love life; and whatever else might be going on in your life that you’d like to share. Better than a “really nice Mother’s Day gift” will be time spent catching up with you. That alone will let her know you’ve got her back, and that you’re “still there for her,” whether she’s asking for your support or not.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.