Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Go to My Brother-in-Law’s Wedding?”

Wedding Bells Pictures hs

I am engaged to a wonderful man whose family has already become almost like my own. I met fiancé through his brother and his brother’s (now) ex-wife. I was very close with the ex-wife and it was tragic for everyone when they separated and then divorced (2½ years ago). My BIL has always been close to the family, and his parents really rallied around him when he was having a hard time. They drove over four hours a number of times to comfort him for the first couple of months after the separation.

He entered into another serious relationship within six months of being separated. Everyone tried very hard to try to get to know his new girlfriend. We asked many questions, were friendly, and invited her to all of the family gatherings. While I have asked her many questions to try to get to know her, she has never asked me a single question about myself. At first I thought that she was just shy, but now I am not so sure. She gives off the vibe that she is just not interested in forming a relationship with the family. She chooses not to go to most family events and, when she comes, separates herself from the family. For example, she went to the beach for a few days with the family and would not sit in the same room as everyone else for dinner. The next day she got breakfast by herself even though she knew that the family was eating together later.

They got engaged over the summer (as did we). They booked the date (a Friday) and a venue across the country less than a year away without asking anyone in the family if they could come. I know that you do not have to ask everyone if the wedding date works, but, since it will be so far away for the family, I think it is common courtesy to ensure the important people in your life can come. While my fiancé has no problem with going (other than not supporting the marriage), I have several. First, one of my best friends is getting married that day. Next, I am in grad school completing an internship and do not have extra days to spare. Lastly, I cannot financially make it so my fiancé will be paying for all of the related wedding expenses.

After the wedding was booked, they decided to also move to the same city as the wedding. She moved in October; he moved on Christmas. Even though he is far away, he made many promises to visit. He said he would come to fiancé’s bachelor party (fiancé was his brother’s best man and planned his last one), Thanksgiving, and Christmas. He flew out to California for Thanksgiving, came early for Christmas, moved west on Christmas Day (even though his job does not start until after the new year), and said that he would probably not come to the bachelor party. While I respect the time he wants to spend with his fiancé, he seems to have pushed his family to the back burner. She is not close with her family and, instead of incorporating her into ours, they have been separating themselves from it.

While I know it is not my place to express my opinion about his relationship, I want to know if I should go to the wedding. My fiancé thinks that I should stay home and go to my friend’s wedding since his SIL-to-be has expressed no interest in having a relationship with me. I think that it may push BIL further away if he thinks that he is not being supported by all of his close family and friends, and I am worried that my absence will give SIL an excuse to not come to future family events. So, am I obligated to go to the wedding? — Not Interested in Their Wedding

If you decide not to go to your BIL-to-be’s wedding, it should not be for the reason you gave (which is that your “SIL-to-be has expressed no interest in having a relationship with you,” which, honestly would be a childish and immature reason to skip the wedding considering the SIL is just one-half of the couple getting married and the other half is your fiancé’s brother, the person who introduced you to your fiancé and who will always be family as long as you are married to his brother). You should skip the wedding if — and only if — you have already told your close friend you would be at her wedding. If you haven’t — if STDs, let alone invitations, haven’t even been sent out yet because the wedding is still several months away, and if you aren’t IN the wedding, then you obviously aren’t committed to going and should then base your decision on other factors, like which relationships are most important to you (and when thinking of your BIL’s wedding, you need to consider your relationship not with your SIL-to-be and not just with your BIL-to-be, but also with your fiancé’s family who will surely notice your absence at the wedding and may interpret it as a sign of your commitment to them and interest in being part of their family). Of course, the other factors you mention are also important — you won’t have time off to make the trip across the country and your fiancé will have to foot the bill of your travel and related expenses since you won’t have the money to spare (which he may be happy to do if it means having you there).

Be honest with yourself about what your TRUEST reason is for potentially missing this wedding. If it’s because you feel slighted by both your BIL-to-be and his fiancée, that may not be a good enough reason to skip the wedding (even in combination with your other reasons and even if your fiancé SAYS it’s ok if you don’t go). Your job is to support your fiancé, and, if he feels like he’s losing his brother to this woman, even temporarily, having you there by his side as his brother vows to stay with this woman, whom the whole family seems to dislike, may mean a whole lot to him. It could be the support he needs to keep the occasion from being incredibly depressing. Or, maybe not. You should talk to him about it a little more to assess his feelings. And when you do, you should continue keeping your opinion about the BIL and his relationship to yourself, as well as your thoughts about the BIL’s dismissive behavior to your fiancé and the rest of their family. Of course, maybe it IS hurtful to your fiancé that his brother has seemed to distance himself at this time, and after the family was so supportive of him during his divorce. But maybe he also realizes that relationships can change family dynamics. New partners can take time and attention from family members involved in the new relationships, and moves across the country, as well as creating a new life in a new home (new job and new friends, not to mention planning a wedding) can further dilute the kind of attention and time a person can devote to his or her family of origin. Your fiancé may also understand that his brother’s relationship may fail like his last one and that, if/when it does, it will mean a lot to him if the family has always supported him and is there for him again when he needs him rather than disappearing when they disapprove of his behavior and relationship.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

25 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite January 5, 2015, 9:15 am

    Wow, he really can’t catch a break from you. His family rallied around him because as you say they are close.

    Ever think the new girlfriend might’ve been overwhelmed in a pressure cooker of being at family events without some alone time including doing things like eating breakfast separately? I personally have a 3 day max or little things start annoying me to know end. We went for 5 days over Christmas and I almost snapped at my 79 year old father-in-law over something tiny.

    They didn’t have to clear the wedding date with anyone. It’s their wedding, really only they need to be able to show up. Maybe it was a way to have a smaller wedding. If you don’t support the marriage then don’t go because all they’re going to feel is the continued judgment that she’s not as good as the first wife.

    Your reasons are pretty shoddy since you’d have a year to prepare for completing the internship timely and getting finances in line after learning of the engagement. You clearly don’t support him or his choices and hate her so I don’t know why you’d lift a finger to try to go to their wedding vs your friend’s. It’s going to say a lot about you though if you don’t and this just reads like you wanted an out to get out of this. Like Wendy said, if you committed to your friends wedding than go, but don’t use it as an out.

    Something tells me they were interested in this city prior to booking the wedding, like they didn’t spontaneously move out there like you seem to imply. It sounds like it was at least a thought and they wanted to get everything in line and be able to easy plan for a wedding where they lived.

    Here’s the thing that really got me, he kept 2 of his 3 promises to visit on major holidays that he could’ve spent with his fiance. And you judge him harshly for moving on Christmas Day even though his job didn’t start until after the New Year… newsflash, that’s a WEEK to get everything situated and ready to go. I assume he’s starting today so less than 2 weeks for a cross country move. That’ s more than reasonable. You didn’t mention that BIL was your fiance’s best man or even a groomsman so he isn’t really obligated to move the earth to go to the bachelor party if it’s not in the cards.

    LW, you keep referring to respect and not wanting to judge while being super judgy and express tons of opinions about his relationship in the way you interpret every little thing. It doesn’t seem like he’s pushed his family to the back burner at all and just developed a relationship where his fiance is primary. I wouldn’t want a relationship with you either. You’re not obligated to go to the wedding but it says a lot about you that you aren’t willing to suck it up and go if the family is as close as you say.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra January 5, 2015, 9:39 am

      See I DO think the fiancee is being a jerk towards the family. I totally get what you’re saying, but sometimes you really just have to suck it up. Purposely eating dinner in a different room or eating breakfast separately speaks volumes about her willingness to be part of the family. I do think the LW is jumping to some conclusions, but it doesn’t sound to me like the fiancee is very fun to be around.

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      • avatar

        Sunshine Brite January 5, 2015, 10:50 am

        I don’t think either of them sounds very fun to be around. Even within close families there’s always seems to be one who doesn’t really want to be there. I think that she’s taking a lot of leeway in interpreting the fiance’s behavior since she was close with the former SIL and doesn’t have the same with this one.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra January 5, 2015, 11:05 am

        I agree the LW could be interpreting it wrong, but the more I think about it I’m also wondering if maybe the fiancee feels like she has a lot to measure up to when it comes to the ex wife? I’m guessing that is affecting how she approaches the family. Can you imagine trying to get to know a family where your fiance’s ex wife was loved and adored? I think that’s probably been pretty difficult.
        .
        I definitely see both sides to this. I don’t think either side is “right” or “wrong”.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra January 5, 2015, 9:16 am

    The biggest thing I’m learning as I navigate the waters of trying to figure out how to plan a wedding and keep as many people happy as possible is…I will never make everyone happy. I will never be able to plan a wedding where EVERYONE can be there. My fiance and I need to plan for what WE need. In our case, that includes having a big family wedding on a Saturday where as many people as possible can be there. But, if we were 100% paying for it though, we would have to cut the guest list down considerably and would more than likely have a Friday wedding.
    .
    LW, I guarantee you don’t know the whole story. They had zero obligation to check with family members before setting the date. Is it courteous to do so? Yes, of course, but it’s THEIR wedding. Now, does this excuse her behavior towards his family? No, it doesn’t. I agree isolating herself from the family isn’t cool. My point is that it seems you are jumping to conclusions. Maybe he promised to come out for family holidays and the bachelor party but after moving he realized that he doesn’t have enough money to do so. Not to mention, navigating as a couple whose family holidays you attend usually results in some very difficult decisions.
    .
    My point is that I definitely see your side, but at the same time, make sure you don’t jump to conclusions about your brother in law.

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ January 5, 2015, 10:19 am

    Wendy is right on all of this. Listen to her, LW, and don’t cause drama where there doesn’t have to be any. Most of your complaints are petty, at best.
    .
    As for the future SIL separating herself from the family for dinner and breakfast then next day on the vacation, the only way I can see this working and not being completely bizarre is if (a) she ate in her room while everyone else ate together or (b) everyone else was outside and she ate inside. I can’t imagine anyone insisting on eating in, say, the living room while everyone else is around the table. Well, unless there wasn’t room, then yeah, I can see that, too.
    .
    In any event, it sounds like it was only one night out of “a few” and she presumably spent the majority of the time with all the family. For that one night (and even breakfast the next day), it’s possible she didn’t feel well – too much time in the sun, headache, stomachache, too many margaritas, whatever – and didnt want to “ruin” it for everyone else by saying anything or was embarrassed and simply went up to bed alone. I certainly wouldn’t announce to my in-laws that I was suffering from severe diarrhea while on vacation. Maybe she hates/is allergic to whatever was made for dinner and didn’t want to say anything, so she went away to disguise the fact that she didn’t eat. If it’s an indoor/outdoor thing, perhaps there was another reason she didn’t want to be outside? Too hot? Too cold? Allergies? Raging swarms of mosquitos or other creepy crawlies? No room to sit? Hell, maybe she just had to get some work done and that was the best time to do it. Or deal with something personal. All of these are reasons I would quietly excuse myself from the group. (Maybe not the temperature or the bugs. But maybe so, depending!)
    .
    Point is, I can come up with a lot of reasons for this behavior, none of which have anything to so with disliking anyone. So, if you really want to be supportive of BIL, LW, stop viewing this woman as The Enemy and stop taking everything she does personally. Odds are, absolutely none of it is about you or even your in-laws. Let it go and go to the wedding. Otherwise, you’re doing the exact same thing you believe the future SIL is doing to you.

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  • kaluu

    kaluu January 5, 2015, 10:46 am

    I think you should go to your friend’s wedding because that would probably mean more to you, plus you have a tough schedule. You’ll probably have a long time to get to know your new SIL so after finishing grad school would be a good time. Maybe family will mean more to her if she becomes a mother? Absolutely don’t write her off but feel free to very graciously choose events that are more important to you since they probably would do the same. No need to be so generous with your time that you become resentful. Obviously wish them well and don’t skimp on nice words, and help your husband get them a great gift.

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  • avatar

    FossilChick January 5, 2015, 11:05 am

    I think you’re way overthinking this. Go to the best friend’s wedding. You and your fiancé can let the whole family know, “Hey, a cross-country trip for both of us is out of the cards because (money/time off from work/whatever), but Fiance is looking forward to celebrating and we’re excited to visit/have you visit soon.” Send a nice gift and card, fight the urge to gossip about the SIL even if his family is bashing her, and make your unavailability a completely separate issue from your negative feelings about her. In this case, I don’t think taking the high road is sucking it up and spending all your money and time off to attend this wedding. I think it means being polite, supportive, and happy from a distance, and letting the chips with the BIL and SIL fall where they may.

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  • avatar

    ktfran January 5, 2015, 11:06 am

    This column is pretty timely for me. I have a similar question. Well, vaguely similar. So, every year my immediate family (parents, sisters, nieces, brother in laws) go on a fishing vacation somewhere in the Ozarks. Since moving back to the Midwest 6 years ago, I said I would go with them every other year. Well, that’s this year and they’re going 4th of July weekend. Last week, one of my close friends IMd me to say she picked a wedding date (she got engaged three weeks prior) and she wanted me to mark my calendar before the official save the dates went out. Of course, it’s July 4th weekend. I really want to go to her wedding, but I had told my family I was going with them on vacation this year.
    .
    What would you do?
    .
    Also, I’ll be home in February for my dad’s 60th b-day, March for one niece’s b-day and August for the other niece’s b-day. Since the niece’s are still out of school in August, I’ll be there for an extra couple days than just the weekend so I can hang with them.
    .
    As for this LWs situation… your fiance told you to go to your friend’s wedding. IF HES IS SERIOUSLY OK with this and isn’t just saying it to be nice, I might consider it doing that.

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    • avatar

      ktfran January 5, 2015, 11:07 am

      Sorry to highjack the thread. This has been weighing on my mind ever since my friend told me this. It’s a decision I’m seriously struggling with.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra January 5, 2015, 11:10 am

      If I were you I would talk with your family about not going on the trip…primarily because you’ll be home so much anyway. If the vacation was the only time you were planning on being home then I would say go on the vacation.
      .
      I actually almost set my date for the 4th of July because it falls on a Saturday this year…but then I found a better venue with a different date available! I think this will be best for everyone. 🙂

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh January 5, 2015, 11:15 am

      It sucks having to travel to family all the time and feeling bad doing other things rather than visiting them. But, you’re going to be there a lot. I say go to your friend’s wedding. It sounds like you will see them a lot and potentially there will be chances to visit again in the fall. And this doesn’t sound like a thing where your presence or lack there of will change the ability to go for everyone. So, again another reason to not feel guilty. Although I always still do in situations like this!

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      • avatar

        ktfran January 5, 2015, 11:39 am

        That’s it… the guilty feeling I have in the pit of my stomach if I don’t go on the family vacation after saying I would. If it were anything other than a good friend’s wedding, I would 100% go on the family vacation.
        .
        I actually did mention it to my mom and she said that she would understand. I still feel bad though, because I don’t want to be “that” person who says she’ll do one thing and then backtrack. Ugh.

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      • othy

        othy January 5, 2015, 12:00 pm

        Don’t feel guilty. You’ve gone the last 6 years, and simply have a conflict this year that’s out of your control. You’re seeing them plenty over the year, and you’ll presumably resume your attendance on the trip next summer. It’s not like you’re ditching them for good. And, is the trip pretty long? Could you make it for part of the vacation?

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    • avatar

      Sunshine Brite January 5, 2015, 11:36 am

      I would say go to the wedding too since it doesn’t sound like you’re going to not be seeing them all year or anything after talking with your family and gauging their response. I see yours slightly differently than 2 this is only going to happen once events since it’s a yearly thing. Depends on how close you are to the friend too, my cousin did her yearly camping so she didn’t lose the slot over our wedding and that’s fine.

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      • avatar

        ktfran January 5, 2015, 11:45 am

        Pretty close to the friend. Close enough for her to tell me the date when I know for a fact she hasn’t mentioned it to other mutual friend’s yet… And I know she wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t make it, because she’s super close to her family too, but you’re right, it’s a once in a lifetime event and I’m so very happy for her. I’ll probably go to the wedding. I want to gage my sister’s reaction too.

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    • Portia

      Portia January 5, 2015, 3:16 pm

      I say go to the wedding! There’s always next year and you’re seeing your family plenty.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph January 6, 2015, 10:07 am

      I would go to the wedding. I wouldn’t even apologize. Because if your family thinks they can hold their grown child to an every-other-year promise you made six years ago, then they need a reality check.
      It doesn’t work with your schedule and that’s that. You’ll be home 3 other times this year. You have nothing to be sorry for.

      Sorry, this is a real hot-button issue for me. I am tired of families thinking they own every holiday and minute of vacation time for their adult children.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark January 5, 2015, 11:37 am

    Eh, just another letter from somebody basically asking for permission to be a complete and total bitch. Permission DENIED. LW, it is hilariously obvious how much you loathe this woman. Do you REALLY think that she hasn’t noticed? Think about it. Your disgust is so transparent in your letter. No wonder she flees from you at every opportunity. No wonder she remains less than eager to break bread with you… It is quite clear to anyone reading your self-serving query that you’d simply much rather be breaking dishes over her head…

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  • avatar

    booknerd January 5, 2015, 12:09 pm

    I definitely think you are analyzing every thing this woman does in order to find things to hate about her. Sometimes, being with a person who has a huge family can feel really really overwhelming. Multiply that times a million when you can feel the tension from some family members like you.

    You need to get over your feelings about this woman.

    They moved away to another city…..how is that about you or the rest of the family? Newsflash! People move all the time, to experience new places, to try living in a town they’ve loved visiting. Not everything is about you. Or the family. Get over it.

    Why is she purposely avoiding a group dinner? Maybe she had gas, maybe she can pick up on your not so subtle hatred… If you really feel as though her behavior warrants so much discussion… Why don’t you ask her about it?

    i think if you want to have a relationship with BIL, and support him, you need to make an effort. Does that mean going to the wedding? That’s up to you. Stop comparing her, and adjust your expectations.

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  • sobriquet

    sobriquet January 5, 2015, 12:22 pm

    Wait, you don’t like your soon-to-be SIL because she doesn’t ask you questions and she needed some alone time during a lengthy family gathering? Give the girl a break! She sounds awkward at worst. It’s probably not easy to be the new girlfriend right after the wife that the entire family loved (I mean, “tragic”? A divorce? Really?). Not everyone is going to fit into the perfect fairy tale vision you have for your family. This woman will potentially be in your family for the rest of your life. Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill within the first 2 years of knowing her.
    .
    I come from a very small family in which family gatherings center around specific events (dinners, parties) and then everyone disperses to do their own thing away from the rest of the family. For example, we had a destination wedding at a resort and true to form, my family members pretty much did their own thing until the designated events rolled around. That’s just how we do things.
    .
    My husband’s family is the complete opposite. Their family gatherings are all-day events. Get up and eat breakfast, spend the entire day together, and then spend even more time together until everyone basically passes out at night. That’s how they do things and it works for them. His family is huge, too, and for *me*, it’s OVERWHELMING. I need my physical space. Luckily, it’s an easy compromise- we just stay at a hotel. This allows us to get up at our own pace and eat breakfast together before meeting up with the whole group, and it also gives me the opportunity to wind down in solitude. It’s not because I don’t like his family (I love my in-law’s!).
    .
    So this leaves me with my final point: your soon-to-be SIL is probably not being reclusive AT you. That’s just how she is. My small family didn’t really like my brother’s wife at first due to her overbearing, kind of… “fake” sorority girl personality, (if that makes sense,) but we got over it and now we really love her. Part of gaining new family members is accepting them for who they are. I suggest you start with your new SIL!

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph January 6, 2015, 9:49 am

      Agree a lot that the poor girl is probably just awkward/a little reclusive. I like my husband’s family a lot, but I struggle with making conversation and like a lot of alone time which I rarely get when we visit them. That’s a personality type, not because I hate anyone. I know you feel like asking all your questions to get to know her is helping, but maybe she feels interrogated. You want her to ask questions back, so you ask a lot of questions– maybe she just wants not to be questioned and so she doesn’t ask a lot of questions. She’s trying to show you how she wants to be treated, just as much as you are.

      Also, it seems like you fit in very well with the family and that the ex-wife did as well, which has got to be daunting for this new girl. My husband and I live 1000 miles from his family. We met here, we live here, and so at most I’ve spent like a week at a time with his family and always all of us cooped up in the same house. My husband’s sister and brother, on the other hand, have lived near their parents since early in their relationships with their spouses. I often feel like my BIL and SIL fit into the family more seamlessly than I do because they had more time to get to know them, while I’m perpetually new to the family.

      So, I think you should probably cut the poor girl a break. And I don’t care what you say, if you hate her, she probably knows. Few people are as subtle as they think they are.

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  • avatar

    BILWeddingLW January 5, 2015, 4:29 pm

    LW Here!
    Thanks for the input already. I could have made this column a lot longer, but feared too many details would be too much to read. So… I actually wrote to Wendy not to clear my conscience about not going, but to reenforce the fact that I should go. My friend knows that I will most likely not be going to her wedding and is understanding, My fiance, however, does not think that I should go because of her disinterest in the family, even though he has promised to go and be in the wedding. He actually WAS his brother’s best man in the last wedding and planned the bachelor party, etc. Also, the family does not love his exwife anymore, but she definitely made his family a higher priority than the new SIL.

    The only family members currently going are his parents, my fiance, and probably me. The Brother is currently not feeling supported by the family, which is the main reason why I think that I should go. I do not want to be a reason that he feels isolated. It is still a hard decision, however, because of everything else that is going on. I am doing a 600 internship in a school, which I could not begin until a few weeks ago so if there is a lot of snow, I could be screwed! Brother also wants the family to come out earlier in the week to spend time with them because they are leaving on a honeymoon the day after the wedding. Obviously, I will not be able to come any earlier, which I am sure everyone will understand.

    I also do not think that the SIL has felt mistreated by either my brother or I. We actually have not seen her in over a year. When we did see her, we both talked to her a lot and were very friendly with her. I also have never told BIL about my feelings towards her as it is not my place. I have asked him questions about the move, his job, her job, etc. I think this is part of the reason, my fiance and I are frustrated- because we did try so hard, until she stopped coming to most family events.

    His parents, however, are a different story. I believe that they have been polite to SIL’s face and have not complained too much to BIL, but they are very upset. They also place all the blame on SIL, which is really not fair since BOTH of them are adults. They are only going to the wedding because they have to. I think it is just very hard for them to have seen their son go through so much with his recent divorce and are fearful of it happening again and their son being so far away when it happens.

    I think that many of you are correct, however, that she just prefers a different style of family, maybe one not so intense. I am hoping that, with time, maybe she will begin to seem to enjoy spending time with us a little more. If not, I know that there is nothing that I can do to change her!

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark January 5, 2015, 7:23 pm

    Well, yay! I, for one, am glad you are going. But I remain confused as to just what this woman has done that has you all so irked. Honestly? His parents sound like whiney little (british definition) cunts. They blame her for this. They resent her for that. Look, they can’t have it both ways. They can’t be impossible to fucking please and they whine behind somebody’s back about how so and so doesn’t please them. It’s just NOT cool. No wonder she and your brother-inlaw have up and moved far, far away.

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    • avatar

      Sunshine Brite January 6, 2015, 7:55 am

      This! The parents are mad at the future SIL for not making their family a priority when she went without her future husband on the last two major family holidays to fulfill promises to them. With this information, I assume she just got tired of it over the year and stopped going due to his parents. A person can usually tell when they’re being talked about and blamed for things even if nothing’s said since people tend to get passive aggressive when things are left unsaid.

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