Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Sister-in-Law is Mad Because I Don’t Like Her Social Media Posts Enough”

I am having a Confirmation party for my daughter and do not want to invite my sister-in-law. I have known her for 20+ years, she has been very difficult for all those years, but I have always kept the peace because she is married to my husband’s brother. Two years ago she alienated me, as well as my children and husband, because (in her words) I don’t like and comment on her social media posts as much as I do other people’s and that really hurt her.

My mother got sick in 2017 and was given six months to live. My SIL never reached out once. My mother passed away, my SIL showed up briefly to her wake, she was late, she sat in the foyer the whole time, and she left early. She did not attend her funeral. It’s been six months since her passing and she has continued to ignore me as well as her nieces and nephews. I find this extremely hurtful, especially over social media (?!).

My husband feels I have to invite her and his brother, but I feel justified in not doing so.

Can you offer any advice or insight? Anything would be extremely appreciated. — Annoyed SIL

She sounds like an awful person, and I don’t blame you for keeping your distance and not liking her. But I think NOT inviting her to your daughter’s Confirmation, especially when that means not inviting your husband’s brother, is actually going to take up so much more psychic space and create so much more drama in your life with her at the center of it, than just inviting her and ignoring her while she’s there. I get that you want to hurt her in the way she’s hurt you, but there’s no point. It’s not like she’s going to equate her exclusion to your daughter’s Confirmation to her blowing off your mother’s death and feeling bad about not being more comforting to you. No, she’s just going to think you’re a bitch and she’ll probably spread that all over social media and through your family grapevine. Then you’ll have some dramatic family war on your hands, and I can’t imagine you want that, right? After twenty years of sucking it up and keeping the peace with her for your husband’s benefit?

I say continue sucking it up. Invite her to the Confirmation and don’t waste anymore of your energy thinking about it.

From the forums:

My mother and I have never really been close and she stopped parenting me altogether when I waS 11. We reconnected, and she broke up with her boyfriend of ten years who had molested me. Less than a year later she reconnected with a friend from high school, and less than three months later they got married! Only about another three months after that, he passed away from liver failure due to alcoholism. It’s tragic, I get it, but I feel she had to have known he was sick.

It’s now a year later and I’m getting married to my boyfriend of seven years. We have a 1-year-old, and my mother is supposed to watch him at the wedding, but all she’s talked about is how wedding-planning is making her sad. I really just want to uninvite her or tell her to suck it up. I know these are bad options, so tell me what should I do. She called me this morning telling she might have to be airlifted off the boat we’re getting married on because of anxiety!!!! I now don’t trust her to watch my son and am cancelling my honeymoon. — Can’t Trust Mom

 
Look, your mom was a terrible mother to you, right? She stopped parenting you when you were 11; it rook her years to break up with her boyfriend who molested you. Even years later, since you’ve reconnected, she continues to make life choices that reveal questionable judgment, right (marrying a sick alcoholic after a 3-month relationship with him, for example)? Why on earth would you trust her with your 1-year-old while you go on vacation?!

I’ve known people like you before who sort of forget all the reasons someone shouldn’t be left in charge of their babies/young children because it simply isn’t convenient to remember those reasons. Childcare can cost a fortune. You really want to go on a honeymoon. Here’s your mom you’re reconnected with and she’s a preschool teacher, so she could watch your child – her grand baby — while you go away! Except, oh yeah, she was a terrible parent to you. So, no, she is not a good choice for a caregiver in your absence. In fact, you should never, ever leave your child alone with her.

Is there another family member or close friend who can watch your child at your wedding? Someone on your boyfriend’s side if not yours? If there isn’t, hire a babysitter. If there isn’t anyone you trust to leave your child with while you go on a honeymoon (not your mother!!), don’t go on one. Or bring your child with you. Once you have kids, your travel life changes. My husband and I used to go places all the time before we had children. Now, six and a half years later, I don’t even know where my passport is. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve gotten away without kids, and when we did, we paid a fortune for a babysitter to watch them for a night or two because we don’t have family members who live close enough by to watch them for us. Them’s the breaks. You sacrifice things when you have kids. A traditional honeymoon is one of those potential things if you have a kid before you get married (which isn’t exactly traditional, itself).

As for uninviting your mother to your wedding, if you do that, you will again be estranged. Do you want that? Or would you prefer to have her in your life at arm’s length (I would not advise getting closer than arm’s length; she is still the same person who stopped parenting you at 11, after all)? If you don’t mind being estranged from her again, then, sure, tell her you don’t want her at your wedding, that her constant focus on herself and her sadness and her anxiety is not something you want ruining your wedding or the planning of it. If you would like to keep her in your life, tell her that you want her at your wedding, but from here on out you won’t be sharing the planning process with her and you’ve found someone else to watch your child so that, if she needs to be airlifted off the boat, you’ve still got childcare coverage.

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

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.

23 comments… add one
  • avatar

    JD March 20, 2018, 9:26 am

    Who and why the F does anyone care how often you like their posts? IS she 12???? Good riddance to that level of nuts.

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    • othy

      othy March 20, 2018, 12:18 pm

      My husband never likes my posts on facebook. In fact, my husband isn’t friends with me on facebook. Should we break [email protected]!!?

      Mostly we’re not friends on facebook because he’s not on facebook, but I can be indignant, right?

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    • avatar

      JD March 20, 2018, 12:23 pm

      My husband still gives me shit because I FB friended him FINALLY on our wedding day. I said ” told you I don’t make FB friends with people I date”. All in one day I went from having him as a friend to in a relationship to engaged to married. We still crack up about it.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse March 20, 2018, 9:29 am

    Damn the petty fights people choose to prolong are exhausting. Just because your SIL acts like a child doesn’t mean you should meet her anger with the silly garbage. Keep the peace because you love your husband and it’s his brothers wife!

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      anonymousse March 20, 2018, 9:36 am

      Your mother was a bad mother, and still is! I think you should tell her that you can’t expend anymore energy worrying about her feelings on the day of your nuptials. Tell her you’d love her to be there, but you understand if her grief makes her too fragile to come.
      And NEVER leave your child with her. I don’t trust either of my sets of parents (divorced, remarried) and not even because of any molestation, just that they are all so self absorbed and have no concept of how to care for a child, or frankly, the energy and patience it takes. You can go on a honeymoon in a few years, when you have a qualified caregiver in your life.

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  • Cleopatra Jones

    Cleopatra Jones March 20, 2018, 9:43 am

    LW #1:
    On an adult level, I agree Wendy. But damn, sometimes being the bigger person is h.a.r.d! Especially, when SIL always gets away with all kinds of petty BS. It’s so infuriating.
    .
    I will say that I’ve learned the hard way that killing someone with kindness is a particularly painful death for shitty people. With kindness, you can get people (particularly stubborn ones) to do what you want, and you don’t feel all rage-y inside after dealing with them.
    .
    Invite her and be an unfailing kind host. 🙂 Then when she leaves don’t think one more second about her. Whatever is going on in her life that she engages in this petty BS behavior has nothing to do with you. Don’t engage and get caught up in her shit.

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    • avatar

      LisforLeslie March 20, 2018, 10:14 am

      EXACTLY! For one moment think about how exhausting it must be to a) worry about how much someone is or is not commenting on your social media and b) take the time to count and compare to show definitively that you are nicer to other people online than you are to her.

      So, mess with her head and be the nicest sister in law without giving into this tantrum. If you pretend that you have no idea that she’s pulling this nonsense and invite her and greet her warmly and thank her for being there (and perhaps qualify for an acting award) one of two things is going to happen – she’ll escalate and look like a complete fool or she’ll back off and stop being a 12 year old.

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  • avatar

    Essie March 20, 2018, 9:53 am

    LW1, invite your sister-in-law. You’re going to escalate her petty nonsense to a family war if you don’t invite her and your brother-in-law. Or were you planning to invite him and tell him not to bring his wife? That’s not going to end well.

    Look at it this way. I’m sure everyone in your husband’s family knows how childish and ridiculous she is. Everyone saw her behavior at your mother’s wake, and has no doubt drawn their own conclusions about it. Everybody knows about her meltdown over social media likes.

    Right now, you’re on the high road because you’ve continued to be polite to her and include her (I assume). She’s out there on her own, looking like a fool. If you escalate this and don’t invite her to the party, you go right down into the mud with her. Now family members will be rolling their eyes at both of you.

    Invite her. She’ll probably find a reason not to come, but you’ll look like the better person.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph March 20, 2018, 10:29 am

    LW2, you cannot count on your mother. Sorry but its true. You don’t have to include her in wedding planning, and you don’t need her raining on your parade. Plan your own wedding. (I have a good relationship with my mom but she lives 1000 miles away so she didn’t help me plan my wedding much either).

    And hire a babysitter for the wedding. Someone who isn’t your mom or another guest. And definitely don’t leave your kid with her while you go on your honeymoon.

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  • avatar

    Autumnrose March 20, 2018, 10:34 am

    LW 1 your SIL is being petty and jealous. I say invite her to avoid family drama. After all, this party is about your child and no one else. The more the merrier, right? And if your BIL and SIL are a no show than your husband can deal with them. Not you. But out of curiosity since you have known your SIL for 20 years, have the two of you ever been close? Do you get along? There are new studies showing signs of depression and forms of mental illness when people take things personal from social media such as someone not liking their post or conversation with them on social media enough. Your SIL could be suffering (its just a thought) if you have no problems with her you could reach out to her and go hang out and spend time together. She may need a friend. People can easily make themselve more attractive (appealing) through social media which in return gives a false reality of real life and how people are living. Its a thought.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph March 20, 2018, 10:48 am

    And as for LW1, I agree the social media thing is ridiculous but I’m not sure I really get the ire over the funeral. I guess if your families were really close, maybe, but otherwise, I think this expectation is misplaced. Funerals are usually during business hours, if she works I would think that it would be overkill to take off work for that purpose. And you don’t even like her so why would you want her at the funeral anyways?

    Also, idk I’m Jewish and we don’t have wakes but I’ve been to one for a friend’s grandfather and I didn’t think it was really possible to “leave early” or “arrive late.” Don’t they like go all night and its a stop-in kind of a thing? The one I went to was open casket and some people are kinda freaked out by dead people so that might explain why she hid in the foyer. The fact that she showed up at all I think is fulfilling her obligation in this. I agree she should have reached out before or after to offer support, but I think you are focusing on the actual funeral when your issues really lie elsewhere.

    Regardless, your daughter is her niece which is a lot more of a familial relationship than she had to your mother whose funeral you think she should have attended, so you definitely need to invite her.

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    • avatar

      JD March 20, 2018, 11:03 am

      Ya I don’t totally get the upset over the funeral thing. LW doesn’t know for sure if she was just uncomfortable. I know I will not go see an open casket at a funeral at all. I did once with someone who had been in a very bad car accident and that image is still burned into my mind 20 years later. I prefer the image I have of someone alive. She showed up. She could have been completely uncomfortable for all you know.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros March 20, 2018, 11:25 am

      I agree. Even with the “reaching out” thing, people who reach out in times of loss do so because they are caring individuals who specifically care about that person who experienced the loss. The SIL had already shown herself to not be like that and to not like the LW much. It’s definitely valid to be upset that she didn’t reach out, but at the same time, I don’t know that I’d hold out much hope for someone that bonkers who dislikes me to contact me and I’m not sure it would do much for me if she did.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph March 20, 2018, 12:06 pm

        Right, like why do you want this crazy woman you don’t even like to show up to your mom’s funeral and/or bother you in the weeks afterwards? Maybe think of it like you dodged a bullet of having to deal with that pain in the butt during an already terrible time in your life.

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      LisforLeslie March 20, 2018, 12:15 pm

      @Spacey – Wakes are like sitting shiva. You go to the wake before the funeral. And just like with Shiva, some families have people in and out all day and other times you have the rabbi announce the times for shiva -same for the wake: The family will be holding shiva/wake from xpm to ypm.

      LW – a good SIL will show up. But, in this case I think you dodged a bullet because she would have made any interaction about her. So if you didn’t great her enthusiastically enough or with enough whatever – she would have criticized you and you don’t need that when you’re dealing with that kind of loss.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph March 20, 2018, 1:41 pm

        I’ve never seen a shiva that wasnt a come in and out over a large span of time either. Like they announce times for kaddish where they need a minyan but people come at other times too.

        Maybe my family is just more casual about funerals than some…

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        LisforLeslie March 20, 2018, 2:48 pm

        I don’t think of it as a casual or not casual thing . It’s really a decision by the family. If you have people in an out all day, it’s much harder on the family with food and cleaning and frankly having to play hostess and thank people for coming. By limiting when people could stop over you give the family quiet time. Obviously immediate family and those who have traveled from out of town are exceptions.

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  • avatar

    Loo March 20, 2018, 11:11 am

    LW#1, yes invite her but I hope you are not still facebook friends with this woman.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros March 20, 2018, 11:22 am

    LW1: I’m sorry for the loss of your mother. Your SIL sounds very unpleasant. That said, she seems to me like someone who I’d just see as that obnoxious relative that I want to not chat with at parties. When I started reading, I expected you to say that she was spreading lies on social media or you thought she’d throw a fit at the party. The stuff she’s done is rude, but once I’ve determine that I don’t like someone, them avoiding me or not talking to me isn’t really that bad of a thing, to me. I mean, do you really feel that you would have benefited from her contacting you to be comforting or being more involved in the funeral? I get being upset because she didn’t do what she is “supposed” to do to be a good SIL, but based on past behavior, I’m not sure that the expectations for her behavior should be much higher than what she actually did. I detest my cousin’s husband, and if he fails to acknowledge things that happen in my life, it matters much less to me than someone who I love.

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  • avatar

    brise March 20, 2018, 11:35 am

    You are in a conflict with her, but this party is about your daughter. You don’t want it to remain in the family archives as the day where you and your SIL took your war to the next stage. So, like other followers, I would recommend to invite her, but not in your first waves of invitations, and to block her of your social media.
    Then, stop paying attention to her, focus on your daughter’s party. She is not important, she is nuts, let her be and don’t enter any confrontation with her. Ignore her.

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    • othy

      othy March 20, 2018, 12:22 pm

      I’m glad someone else pointed out that the party is for the kid. My guess is that the daughter is about 14, so more than old enough to have an opinion on whether or not the aunt should be invited. Just because the aunt has drama with the girl’s mom doesn’t mean the girl wouldn’t want her to attend.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse March 20, 2018, 1:26 pm

    Be a good role model and the bigger person and invite her and play nice. Be mindful before you see her and be ready for her shit. Be as compassionate as you can.

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  • avatar

    G.C. April 3, 2018, 8:16 pm

    It sounds like the bride’s mother doesn’t want to go to the wedding but won’t come right out and say it. It also appears the bride’s mother can’t be trusted around children. So, as for the bride’s child the bride needs to make other arrangements for the care of her child if she wishes to spend some time without her child. Or, she needs to take her child with her and disregard any wishes she may have to spend time without her child. Since the bride wasn’t parented properly, and now that she has a child herself, she may not fully understand that the life and well-being of the child comes before anything else. Period. Her child’s well-being comes before her own choices, it comes before her fiance’s choices, it comes before everything and everyone else. In practice this isn’t really as hard as it sounds, but when it comes to planning something such as a celebration the child’s needs come first, period. This doesn’t mean the bride must be a slave to all the child wants, it just means she will have to find a way to take care of the child’s needs with an eye to making sure they are taken care of, alwasys, till the child is grown.

    As for the bride’s mother, she is a grown woman whose choices have been seen to fit a pattern. She has low interest in her own child when compared to adults who are better at parenting. The bride’s mother is balking at going to the wedding in a weird way. It’s not that she wants to be dis-invited, she just wants to be let off the chain of her having to babysit and also to be let off the chain of attending the wedding if she doesn’t want to go when the time for the wedding approaches. She wants to have her cake and eat it too, so to speak. She is probably glad she was invited as it stroked her ego, unhappy she was roped into having to consent to babysitting when she probably didn’t want to but felt obligated to say yes since it was her daughter and her daughters wedding and all that. So, she said yes but is now balking using silly words and strange unsupportive comments. So, the bride needs to immediately take back her request that her mother babysit and assign this to someone else or handle the issue of her child without the bride’s mother needing to be a part of any solution to that issue. Then the bride needs to, smilingly tell her mother that, while the bride hopes her mom will attend – which is why the bride invited her mother in the first place, the bride will understand if, at the last minute, or if during the event, that if her mother needs to not attend after all, or attends then needs to leave the event early for whatever reason, she is free to do so without the bride being upset. Give her mother the assurance that her mother can continue to behave selfishly and childishly as she has always done and the mother will be happy. And then the bride must just accept that her mother may or may not show up, and not worry if she does or doesn’t. If the bride’s mother does, the bride’s mother can be in the wedding photos if she wants, or not, and she can eat the food the bride paid for, or not. Whatever. In the end, the bride must carry on and enjoy her mother’s company if she’s there and not worry about it if she’s not. As the bride already learned to do long ago. In the end, this is about the bride learning how to parent better than her parent did. In the end, this is about the bride’s child, not the bride’s mother, or even herself. Its about doing the right thing for her child unlike her mother did. And to grow from it and mature and move on. This practice – of doing this in this way now, and doing it well, will bear much fruit in the future as it will give her confidence in herself as her life goes one, and some personal inner joy when her own child will, in the future, recall that the child’s mother was always there for the child, no matter what. Even, during the child’s mother’s wedding. Smile, bride, smile. For all brides are beautiful. Always.

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