New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. Read some of the most popular Dear Wendy posts here. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), do a search in the search bar, or submit a question for advice at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
I injured my back 15 years ago so traveling is very painful (my family knows this) and we don’t do a lot anymore except going to FL for the winter. Kerri’s having her wedding out of state this summer and has invited us. Years ago I was forced to disconnect from her mother and my mother because they were always trying to create drama even if something I was doing was considerate and thoughtful. I think a lot of it stemmed from me allowing myself to be a doormat for many years and their resisting once I quit allowing that behavior. My mom gossips about everyone and I can’t stand that! The last time I saw my entire family was five years ago when we flew home for my parents’ anniversary party and we tried to put on a happy face, but it was a terrible night for my husband and me. Several family members tried to bring up past issues and there were a lot of sarcastic remarks being flung our way. We stayed a good amount of time and left before it could get any worse. I burst into tears on our way back to the hotel because I’d never felt so alienated by my own family. My husband says my parents know nothing about leadership and encourage family conflict, and sadly I think he’s right. I love my family and, if they ever need me, I will be there for them, but I cannot engage in their constant drama and games.
Honestly, there is a part of me dreading the idea of going to the wedding and having to endure my family, yet I realize this is about my niece and her fiancé (whom I’ve never met) and their special day. I’ve always sent my Kerri Christmas and birthday cards/gifts yet rarely ever hear from her. She truly is not that busy, but that’s her excuse. However, I’m concerned that if I don’t attend her wedding, I will hurt her feelings and have even more family drama. BTW, if we attend, we will need to bring our dog on the trip with us and it will be pretty pricey because of the location, etc. (Even though we have two homes, we have them because of years of saving and frugal living).
This is my dilemma. Any thoughts? — Repeatedly Rejected By Niece
I wouldn’t go to Kerri’s wedding. Unlike yesterday’s LW who was thinking about skipping her SIL’s baby shower (which she hadn’t yet been invited to as the pregnancy hadn’t even been confirmed yet), you actually have good reasons not to go. For one thing, it would be a long distance commute, which is expensive and inconvenient, especially when you have a bad back and a dog you’d have to tote along with you. If you felt like your presence would be appreciated, either by your niece or her mother or other family members, then I’d suggest making the sacrifice. If you had a relationship with your sister whom you wanted to support by attending her daughter’s wedding, I’d suggest going. If you actually had a relationship with your niece, instead of the ignored invitations and being blown off while visiting the town where she lives, I’d suggest making the sacrifice and going to the wedding. If you felt like the wedding was a good excuse to connect with other family members you enjoy seeing, I would suggest going. But none of these things seem to apply. In fact, it seems you have good reason to AVOID a family get-together, even if it would be easy to get to, because the family drama is so draining and disappointing.
So, don’t go. And don’t feel guilty about it either. Send a gift and your regrets and spend the time and money you’d invest in attending the wedding on something nice for you and your husband instead. And from here on out, quit extending invitations to Kerri to come visit you and quit sending birthday gifts, too. You moved to another state when she was a baby and, as hard as you have tried to maintain a close relationship with her, she has made it clear that she’s not interested in having one. Try not to take it personally or to blame her either. At 30, she probably just has a full life at this point with closer relationships she’s had more face-to-face time to build and invest in. Instead of focusing on blood relatives who have proven to not live up to your expectations for familial closeness, look into programs in your area that would allow you to invest in children who need and would welcome someone in their lives who is as caring and loving as you seem to be.
Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].
SixtyFour February 11, 2015, 10:43 am
I want to be kind to you, LW, but I’m having a really hard time with it, because you seem to have so much resentment built up against your niece who frankly sounds like she has done nothing wrong. You saw her at most twice a year when she was a child and you don’t have a relationship with her mother.
She probably really doesn’t have all the time in the world to spend with you when you visited her state as an adult and now that you live there half the time. And I’m really curios on the geography here- how close to her are you really? Are you a five minute drive and she won’t join you for dinner? Or even though you’re in the same state, do you live in Albany and she lives in New York City? When she came down to Florida and wouldn’t “make the trip down to you,” was it because she was in Jacksonville and you were in Miami? It sounds like you keep extending invitations to her to visit, but you really have to think of how much time you are asking of her to travel just to see you. And really, what would she do when she visited you that she couldn’t do with you over the phone? You have a bad back and it sounds like you don’t do much to get out of the house.
Also, at the beginning, you mention wanting to have close relationships with all your nieces and nephews, and yet you seem to only harp on Kerri. Are you close with your other nieces and nephews? Will they be at this wedding? If you are not close to the others but don’t fault them for it the way you do Kerri, might want to ask yourself why you expect so much more from her. And if you are close with them, then why not go to this wedding just to see and spend time with them?
something random February 11, 2015, 11:00 am
I wonder if the lw really has resentment built up or if she is just building up a case about why her niece doesn’t seem to have a relationship with her (she’s trying to show it wasn’t for lack of initiation). I agree the niece didn’t really do anything wrong, but I don’t think the letter writer has either. I hope she gives herself permission to see it that way.
bittergaymark February 11, 2015, 12:56 pm
Honestly? Nothing is more tired than people crying about being alienated from their family — who then proceed to drone on and on with great specifics about how they, in fact, alienated THEMSELVES from their family… Hello! Meet this LW. 😉
something random February 11, 2015, 10:55 am
I agree with Wendy. I just don’t think missing a wedding is the end-of-the-world deal most people seem to make it out to be. Sure, if you’re close it hurts. But you really aren’t close. If you are comfortable with the level of involvement you currently have (occasional letters and invitations) then stick with that. I don’t think missing an out of state wedding means you are completely closing the door on a relationship with your niece. But agree with Wendy, that if neither you nor your niece is getting anything out of it, there is nothing wrong with taking steps back and letting things fade.
bittergaymark February 11, 2015, 12:17 pm
“Woe. Woe is me… I had to disconnect from my family because I think they create needless drama. There is nothing worse than needless drama. Now, allow me to ask you for permission to create needless drama…”
Jane63 February 11, 2015, 12:17 pm
Love your response, Wendy. LW, I think you can safely MOA from this relationship. With no guilt. Good Luck!
Taylor February 11, 2015, 12:18 pm
Lots of letters like this recently. Is the winter making everyone angry? It’s making me angry. I am SO OVER SNOW. Screw you snow!
Dear Wendy February 11, 2015, 12:45 pm
Yes! Winter is really starting to make me angry, too! I am so over winter. Why, oh, why is it not just 4 weeks long? Four weeks of snow and ice and bundling up every time one steps outside, I can handle. 12-16 weeks of it? Not so much.
bittergaymark February 11, 2015, 12:52 pm
Here in Cali our winter apparently lasted… four days.
Dear Wendy February 11, 2015, 1:04 pm
Of all the comments you’ve made, I find this the most rage-inducing. 😉
bittergaymark February 11, 2015, 4:42 pm
Ugh. And of course it’s near 80 today. Maybe even above that. I am so OVER having to wear shorts… 😉
ktfran February 11, 2015, 4:56 pm
God I hope it stays that way for a few weeks! I’m flying out to LA (from Chicago) the last weekend in February. I’m staying in Santa Barbara. I’m praying for dress weather. And for sun.
bittergaymark February 11, 2015, 4:59 pm
Bring WARM clothes. Even if it is 80+ in the day, nights in Santa Barbara are most often CHILLY… Even in the summer! Trust me. There is little humidity in the air, so once the sun goes down…. Brrrrr!
ktfran February 11, 2015, 5:28 pm
Thanks! I’m totally planning on layering, but I’m so hoping for warm days! I was in Santa Monica for a week last spring and the high during the day was low 60s. I really would love it to be a little warmer this time around! Although, I’ll take what I can get.
ktfran February 11, 2015, 5:29 pm
Also, do you have any favorite places/recommendations in the area?
bittergaymark February 11, 2015, 5:42 pm
Hmmmm, it’s been a several years since I’ve been to Santa Barbara…. The seafood places on the pier are a bit pricey but they are wonderfully old school California… And you can’t beat the views…
Boobs Magee February 11, 2015, 4:58 pm
It’s 88 here in San Diego. (Please don’t throw anything at me!)
Portia February 11, 2015, 9:36 pm
::throws a snowball your way::
Taylor February 12, 2015, 9:58 am
Second snowball. The hard packed icy kind! One to BGM too.
Portia February 12, 2015, 10:22 am
Update: it was snowing here again this morning.
bittergaymark February 11, 2015, 12:31 pm
Honestly, this LW rubs me the wrong way…
“My niece makes stupid excuses. Now.. hear MY stupid excuses.”
“My mother likes to gossip about others, and I won’t have that… Now… hear my gossip about others…”
“I never travel. EXCEPT ever winter I somehow survive an epic trip to Florida…”
“My niece NEVER makes any effort to see me. I apparently make no effort to see her either, but I won’t realize this as I am a whiney self absorbed clueless dolt…”
Oh, and for fuck’s sake. Put the blasted dog in a kennel. Or find a sitter. Trust me — it WILL survive!!
Portia February 11, 2015, 1:20 pm
There aren’t a ton of times that I disagree with Wendy’s advice, but it sounded to me like the LW was victim-carding here a bit. I’d hate to think that if I hadn’t lived up to my aunt’s expectations, she would hold a grudge and basically cut me out of her life. That sounds terrible. Not that missing a wedding is a horrible offense, but keeping this grudge up is just not healthy.
My own experience with stuff like this: I have an aunt who used to give me shit about not visiting my grandpa more when we lived in the same state even though I did see him and gave my sister shit about not spending tons of time with my grandpa when she made it out to visit me. She didn’t show up at my graduation despite being in the area at the time and I really hope she didn’t have the same frame of mind as this LW about it. Then again, my aunt tends to make things about her when they’re not about her (I’m not the only one to have experienced this). I was actually glad not to be in contact with her a few months ago because to her finishing my dissertation would have not been an excuse to miss my grandpa’s birthday party halfway across the country.
Dear Wendy February 11, 2015, 1:38 pm
I don’t think we disagree. Maybe I just didn’t make my argument clear enough. I definitely don’t think the LW should hold a grudge (which is why I told her not to blame her niece for their lack of closeness or to take it too personally). I just don’t think she needs to go out of her way to attend a wedding of someone she isn’t close to, who hasn’t expressed much, if any, interest in her, and with whom she shares family — who will be at the wedding — that, apparently, make her feel bad.
Portia February 11, 2015, 6:57 pm
I think what I mostly disagreed with was your characterization of the LW. Even though it sounds like she did less than the LW yesterday and that there’s been no real negative interaction with the niece, I heard much of the same attitude. No one has to go to a wedding, just like no one has to go to any event really, but it sounded to me like this LW was protesting way too much and really needs an attitude adjustment.
bittergaymark February 11, 2015, 7:05 pm
Agreed. The tone in this letter? Eh… I just didn’t but her story at all.
Sketchee February 12, 2015, 10:53 am
I think Wendy is being pretty smart on this one. If she wants people to take her advice, part of that is to give empathy. That means seeing their point of view and presuming it’s valid. Sometimes we get to whine and protest tthings we don’t like, that is a valid thing to do and that is the LW’s experience with her family. To be fair almost all problems can be seen tonally in a number of ways, they question is why do people take up this tone.
I think Wendy acknowledged what was basically the letters repeated attempts at saying “I don’t want to go and I feel like I should” by saying hey you know what you don’t have to and why should you. Doesn’t seem like anyone is getting anything so why go?
Eve February 12, 2015, 5:48 am
I’m reading it in a different way, probably because I’ve been in similar situations all too often. I don’t think she’s holding a grudge to her niece, she is just disappointed/hurt from extending acts of kindness and invitations for meet up so often and them not being reciprocated. She still feels she loves her niece, but because of this lack of response on her part she is in two minds what to do about her wedding.
Also she’s estranged from her family and I totally get why the sarcastic comments made by the rest of the family regarding the past can make any family gathering an extremely unpleasant experience. I find it rude for the relatives to make such remarks and showing passive aggression to the LW and her husband, because it’s none of their business and because I doubt they truly know the whole story.
This alone would put me off going as well.
For me the bottom line is if someone clearly doesn’t want to have a close relationship with you no need to hold a grudge and resentment, just go on with your life and don’t have huge expectations from this person and don’t go out of your way and go through all the inconveniences of attending a wedding where you apparently will be met with negativity. If your niece had shown a lot of desire to maintain a close relationship with you throughout the years, i’d probably suggest to man up and be there for the most important day of her life. However, giving that she can’t find the time to come and meet up with you when you travel close to where she lives, I wouldn’t sweat it so much.
And stop it with the invitations. I have been in a similar situation with close friends, I used to get upset about as a teenager. I might give them a call if I’m nearby, but I’ve just learned not have any expectations. Now I’m just like “oh well, lets carry on with life”.
Portia February 12, 2015, 10:19 am
The invitations to meet up are her inviting her to another part of the state. It sounds like the LW dismisses the niece’s excuse that she’s too busy – that’s what rubbed me the wrong way the most. It’s what probably leads to the niece going on in detail about all the other plans she’s made to demonstrate that she is in fact busy, or is not going to plan what may be a sizable trip to go visit someone she barely knows and who doesn’t visit her and probably writes in detail about her own excuses for why she can’t visit the niece. Plus, the LW said “same state” – the same state could mean many hours in the car each way, and if it was close by, I think she probably would have said something like, “only 30 minutes/an hour/whatever!” I recently “visited the same state” that my aunt lives in and kept almost all mentions of it off social media, partly because I didn’t want her being like, why didn’t you come visit us while you were here?
I agree with you that she should stop with the invitations and sending cards if she’s going to get bent out of shape about them not being reciprocated. I make an effort to send holiday cards to family every year. There are so many I know that don’t, but they’re not taken off my list because of that. Some people don’t and odds are the niece isn’t sending cards to anyone.
Eve February 12, 2015, 12:32 pm
To be fair, sometimes if someone suggests we meet up and I don’t feel like seeing the person I also go in a lot of detail of all the things I have to do. I am not making up tasks which doesn’t exist, not at all, but truth is that in reality I could theoretically make the time for a meet up IF I WANTED TO, for example for someone I actually wanted to see. I think if you really want to see someone, you generally can make the time to do so at least one of the x amount of times the meet up was suggested.
I think the niece obviously doesn’t want to see the LW as much as the LW wants to keep a close relationship with her. This is okay, in the end she hasn’t been such a large part of her life for a very long time, the niece has her own life to live and people to drift apart even if they do see each other more than twice a year. And the LW should just start accepting this, not everyone you want to be close with wants to be close with you. And when you realise this is the case, stop wasting your time and energy forging some sort of a relationship. It takes two people for sustaining a relationship.
I feel sometimes people on advice columns and forums are being far too harsh on the letter writers/posters without that much real evidence.. It’s like the almost immediate assumption is that the person writing the letter is definitely in the wrong and is a horrible flawed human being who is massively over reacting/ dramatizing / exaggerating / lying.. Obviously some of the letters and posts are beyond ridiculous and the LW deserves to be cyber slapped in the face to get a reality check, but I truly don’t see this in this letter.
wobster109 February 11, 2015, 1:23 pm
LW, please stop blaming Kerri. As a kid she saw you twice a year! To her that’s like she barely knows you. She hasn’t embroiled you in drama or said sarcastic things to you. All she’s done is politely decline your invitations. You can’t blame her for her parents.
And please don’t tell people how much time they have. You don’t know what’s going on in their lives. You don’t get to judge the legitimacy of someone else’s reasons.
Wendy (not Wendy) February 11, 2015, 1:25 pm
A year or more ago I wrote to DW about how to turn down an invitation from my aunt that I didn’t want to accept. It seemed insurmountable at the time, but Wendy and all the commenters were, like, “what’s the big deal? just tell her sorry, I can’t”. I was worried because the aunt is into drama and I didn’t have a good excuse. In the end, as far as I know I worried for nothing. But I bet my aunt could write a very similar letter. It’s true that I visit other people in the state and not her. It’s true that I often don’t respond when she writes. When I do respond, trying to answer her questions and keep her slightly updated on my life, it probably does sound like I’m talking about how I have time for all these other people and not for her. Basically, I do the bare minimum out of guilt and politeness (I don’t want to get into why I don’t do more, but will just say that I’m satisfied with my reasons). If I got married and invited her to the wedding, it would be out of politeness and nothing more. If you want to go to the wedding because you think you’d enjoy it, go. If you don’t want to, skip it and don’t think anything else of it.
And yes to all BGM’s comments.
tbrucemom February 11, 2015, 1:51 pm
It sounds like Kerri may be trying to be loyal to her mother and since her mother and her aunt are estranged (as well as the grandmother) doesn’t try very hard to keep a relationship with the aunt. Or maybe the mother has filled her mind when certain info that may or may not be true. I do have to say this LW for someone who supposedly doesn’t like drama or gossip, seems to like both. She also sounds like she tends to make things all about her when there in fact may be lots of other reasons there are issues in her family. She has alienated her sister, her mother and now sounds like she’s trying to cut out the niece too. At some point you have to look at the common denominator.
kare February 11, 2015, 3:54 pm
It’s really weird to see a letter discussing someone with my name (especially since the spelling is the same).
Why do so many people feel like they have to ask permission to no go to weddings? Especially when the wedding is a strain physically/financially. This makes me want to elope even more, because I’d hate my far away relatives to feel so guilty about missing a party.
Portia February 11, 2015, 6:37 pm
I’m right there with ya. A wedding invitation is an invitation, not a summons. I did seriously consider eloping, and it’s still not out of the realm of possibility – me and Bassanio are calling it our “nuclear option.”
Lyra February 11, 2015, 8:30 pm
I’m from the kind of family where every aunt, uncle, and cousin attends every wedding. It means a lot, especially when my family who lives near DC comes to Minnesota for every wedding.
I have to say, it sounds to me like the quality time you spent with her was when she was younger. Maybe she just doesn’t feel as close to you anymore because she doesn’t remember the time you spent with her. Not to mention you can’t assume that she isn’t busy. You say in your letter that you know she isn’t busy, but how do you know? I think you might be making some assumptions. I’m engaged and I can say that wedding planning takes over your free time in ways you don’t expect. I’m not having a super extravagant wedding, but with the sheer amount of meetings, my Saturdays are pretty much booked. You simply can’t make assumptions.
I wonder also if maybe her mother has something to do with her not spending time with you. You mention how you haven’t had a relationship with her mother for quite some time.
If it means that much to you to be at her wedding, then by all means go. Being scared of potential family drama is a poor excuse to not go to the wedding.
Judi February 13, 2015, 4:44 pm
WTF? I think being concerned about family drama is a damn good reason NOT to attend this wedding. But more importantly it sounds like you’ve tried to have a relationship with her but she keeps slamming the door on you. Why go to great lengths to attend her wedding when she never makes time for you? I’ve got family like this & I figure if they have no time for me, fine, but I have none for them either. Fair play!
Susan August 2, 2018, 3:38 pm
Life is simple. People either make an effort to visit or they don’t, people send gifts for special life events or they don’t, people send invitations and call or they don’t . My rationalizing is easy…people either make an effort to reciprocate or they don’t. If they don’t after a half dozen times or more after my efforts of initiating……I MOVE ON. They obviously have no interest in sharing their time or life with me.
ner August 25, 2019, 6:47 pm
Ahhhh….whenever this stuff comes up, its paragraph after paragraph (or vast list) of how good and wonderful THEY were and how rotten the other side was. She is carrying this giant load of past wrongs and trying to fix it by wanting a relationship with her niece. And the niece not responding would be the final crushing straw (alas)! She needs to get grateful niece invited her, accept the relationship the niece is comfortable with. Next be a big girl, act like a grownup, send a lovely, wonderful gift (you are a nice caring person who does not hold grudges right?) and graciously thank her for the invite but tell (do not explain why) you are unable to attend. And go on with your life that is free of grudges and relatives that pick on you. And do not be surprised if niece happily responds with a nice thank you letter. After all her aunt is behaving in a nice healthy manner unlike the rest of the family!!
Jamie February 24, 2020, 1:21 pm
There is a lot of hate in the comments. I agree with the advice given and a few of the comments. You should take care of you mentally and physically. I have family that hasn’t made it to my events and that’s fine. I have made more efforts to spend time with my aunts and uncles over the last 10 years but I am grown with a son. I understand the importance of family and who has been there for me now. I invested a lot in my two nephews while they were growing up. When I had one son, that family disappeared. Mind you my nephews are 20 and 28. But when I was there age, I was investing time with them, even watching them for my sister and her husband. When I had my one son as a single parent, my sister loudly and clearly proclaimed that she isnt going to do the same, anything I did was out of the kindness of my heart. She doesnt babysit. I had to pause and evaluate myself and my relationships. Yes I did it out of kindness, but also what I felt was familial obligation. Maybe we had never discussed, but I know there were expectations put on me that family wouldnt put on themselves. My nephew is getting married and I dont want to attend the reception for various valid reasons. I am attending the wedding itself and sending a modest but beautiful custom gift that they can hang on their wall. I live close so it’s easy to attend the wedding only then go pick up my young son and spend the evening with him doing healthy family activities. I have zero guilt because I know I’m doing right. Do things out of love and not anger. Do things within your means. Then, you will be fine.