I was surprised that my younger sister and brother, both of whom I thought I was close to, had gone along with this. My husband and I were the only family members not invited, and I have no idea why. I telephoned my older sister the following morning to ask her why and she hung up on me. After much consideration, I decided I no longer wanted to be a part of their lives. I no longer trusted them and couldn’t believe they would treat me so badly. I still don’t know why they did this.
Four years ago, my younger sister rekindled our relationship and we are now closer than ever. I still have no contact with my brother or my older sister and her husband or their adult children. My younger sister’s son is having a house party and wants me to attend. How on earth do I do this when many of the family members I don’t have contact with will be attending with their mutual friends?
I really don’t want to let my nephew down as he wants me to be at his party. He understands how difficult it may be and said I can bring some friends. Can I still get through this? Any tips would be most welcome. — Partying With Estranged Family?
I find it hard to believe that your older sister excluded you from a birthday dinner that all your siblings were invited to and you literally have no idea why. Harder to fathom is that you cut ties with your younger sister and brother simply for attending the dinner that you were excluded from, as if they made the call not to invite you. Did you ever think that maybe they didn’t know you weren’t invited until they got there? Or that they did know but were put in an impossible position of, essentially “choosing sides”?
I can understand being hurt that they didn’t skip their other sister’s fiftieth birthday dinner out of loyalty to you, but to cut them — and their kids! — out of your life for years because of one dinner that they attended is, frankly, bananas. It speaks to a level of immaturity, irrationality, and lack of compassion that I have to assume might be the basis for whatever reason your older sister had for excluding you from her birthday celebration in the first place. What a lucky thing, though, that your younger sister hasn’t held your treatment of her against you, and that you are now closer than ever.
My advice is that, if you want to keep that close relationship you’ve built with your younger sister and if you have any interest at all in maintaining ties with her son and perhaps rebuilding relationships with other members of your family, you will go to that party, with or without a friend in tow. You will show up because showing up is the most important thing you can do for the people you love even if it is sometimes inconvenient or uncomfortable for you (especially if it is inconvenient or uncomfortable for you). Have a glass or two of wine (but not more than that) if you’re a social drinker to help you relax. Volunteer for a task — like passing out hors d’oeuvres, serving as bartender, tidying up throughout the night, greeting guests and showing them where to put jackets, etc. — that will keep your hands and mind occupied and give you something else to focus on besides how nervous you are to see these estranged family members and their friends.
Attending this party may be the fresh start you need to rekindle some other relationships you let die ten years ago (with your brother, for example, who didn’t deserve to be cut from your life for a decade for attending his sister’s fiftieth birthday dinner). But whether it’s the start of something new or not, one thing is certain: If you don’t attend, it sends a very clear message to your nephew about where he stands with you. He made it clear he wants you to show up. He’s extended an open invitation for you to bring friends if that will make you feel more comfortable. Your skipping the party tells him that he’s not important enough for you to step outside your comfort zone. You were once sent a clear message from a family member that hurt you deeply. Let’s hope your nephew, if he’s in the same boat, has more compassion than you did ten years ago. But it would be best if you don’t put him in that boat…
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