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.
My older brother is estranged from the family. To sum up a long story, he moved to Portland, Oregon with his then-fiancée in the fall of 2008 (our family is from, and still lives on the east coast). My parents were never too fond of his fiancée and I think that was partly to do with the fact that she didn’t get a job after they moved and my brother was stuck working long hours to support both of them. However, they were never cruel to her and had tried their best to be supportive. In the summer of 2009, they got married in Portland. My parents and her parents flew out for the wedding. I, unfortunately, couldn’t go due to financial reasons since I had spent a good deal of money to visit them in March, and my brother had been very understanding of this.
Anyway, on the day of the wedding, a series of events went down that ended with my dad and brother arguing at the end of the night. My dad said some unkind things about my brother’s bride and her family in the heat of the moment that he apologized for the next day. Two days after the wedding, after my parents thought the fight had blown over, my brother kicked them out of his house telling them he didn’t want to see them again before they left. So they had to find a hotel and flew back to PA the next day.
Within the week following this incident, my brother and his wife had their cell phone numbers changed, they did not respond to email, they unfriended family members on Facebook, etc, etc. They basically ceased contact with our entire family (not her family) and any of my brother’s friends still living on the east coast. We found out that a few months later, her parents and sister moved out to Portland to be with them. We have received an occasional Christmas or birthday card from them, but no responses to the longer letters we’ve written. But at least we do know he still lives in the same place because he has been cashing the checks my parents send him for birthdays and holidays.
The estrangement came as a complete shock to my parents and me. My parents were not perfect parents — often strict, overprotective, and very Catholic — but they were certainly not bad parents (never abusive or anything). My brother and I used to be fairly close, talking on the phone a few times a month, and often confiding in each other. So obviously, I was devastated that he cut me out of his life over something I wasn’t even involved in. Regardless, over the last 2 1/2 years, I have moved on and accepted the fact that he does not want us in his life and the situation is out of our hands. My parents, however, are still heartbroken and I wish there was something more I could do for them.
I am angry with my brother for the hell he has put my parents through. My dad believes that the best course of action is to fly out to Portland and meet him either at his home or work and plead forgiveness. I believe that “ambushing” him like this cannot end well, but I can’t think of a better plan. Is there a better way to help my parents reconcile with my brother? Is there a way to help my parents cope with the loss of their child? — Suddenly an only child
This is asking the obvious, but have you reached out to your brother? You say he cut off his family, including you, which I can’t even imagine how hurtful must have been, but at any point — especially in recent months — have you, personally, tried to connect with your brother? It seems since you two were once fairly close and since you weren’t even involved in the fall-out between him and your parents, that you would stand a better chance forming a bridge back to your family than your dad would. And maybe this also goes without saying, but have you ever expressed regret that you weren’t at the wedding and couldn’t be a mediator between your brother and your parents? I know you say he “understood” that you couldn’t afford to attend his wedding, but maybe he didn’t. Maybe he was already hurt about that or hurt that your parents didn’t/couldn’t offer to pay your way so you could be at your only brother’s wedding that their behavior pushed him over an edge he was already flirting with.
If you haven’t yet, it would certainly be worth trying to communicate with your brother and let him know how much you miss him and how sorry you are that you were MIA during such an important event in his life. (Even if you’ve already expressed regret about this and even if he truly doesn’t care, it never hurts to be overly apologetic, especially in the case of estrangement). Ask him how he’s doing now. Tell him what’s new with you. Don’t push anything. Don’t suggest he call your parents or come visit or anything like that. Just gently open the door to a possible reconciliation with you and then slowly see where that leads.
If you’ve already tried in vain to reach out to your brother — and to his in-laws — with no success and so have your parents, then after 2 1/2 years, I sort of side with your dad. The best course of action — or, at least the next course of action — may be flying out to Portland. But I would absolutely NOT ambush him at work. That’s just begging for trouble. I wouldn’t ambush him at home either. I’d get a hotel room and call from there. Leave a message saying, “I/we’re here in Portland in hopes of seeing or talking to you. We’re staying at the Blank Hotel and will be here all week. You can reach us at this number. If we don’t hear from you, we’ll try you again tomorrow. We miss and love you very much and it would mean the world to us if you’d agree to see us.” And keep making that call every day. If, on the last day of your/your dad’s visit, you still haven’t heard back from your brother, then go to his house. Knock on the door, but be prepared to leave a note if he doesn’t answer. In the note, tell him how regretful you are about not seeing him and how the door is always open for him at home should he choose to reach out.
If/ when your brother decides to let you all back into his life, it will have to be in his own time. He can’t be pushed into making a decision, but it will help if he sees effort made to make him feel welcome. Good luck!
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.
Kerrycontrary January 25, 2012, 7:19 am
Oh man this is heartbreaking 🙁 Life is too short to cut off relationships from family members (exceptions to this of course: abuse, addiction, etc…). But in this case I think your brother is having a pride issue. Plus his wife is probably pretty hurt that her in laws basically ruined the memory of what would’ve been the happiest day of their lives. I think Wendy’s plan is a good idea, as long as you all can afford to stay in Portland for a couple of days/a week. Best of luck to you and your family!
Amybelle January 25, 2012, 7:57 am
I agree, but he’s not too proud to cash their checks though!
honeybeenicki January 25, 2012, 7:59 am
I wondered about that. I mean, obviously the parents don’t mind them being cashed if they keep sending them, but still…
caitie_didnt January 25, 2012, 8:35 am
I think the parents probably send the cheques as an apology/atonement. Although I also find it a little bit odd that her brother still cashes them. The other thing I wonder is how old the LW is. If she’s on the young-ish side, or still lives at home, the brother might their parents as being behind any attempt she makes to reach out to him. On the other hand, I think she might be older (or at least living on her own & self-sufficient) because she couldn’t afford to attend the wedding.
The other thing that doesn’t sit right with me is that the parents didn’t offer to pay for part or all of her airfare to the wedding. I guess if she’s an adult, they don’t have to. But you’d think that they would want their daughter to be able to attend her only sibling’s wedding; even if they had to help her get there.
amber January 25, 2012, 9:02 am
I’m wondering if it had less to do with paying for the flight and more to do with time off. If she took a large amount of leave to visit not to long before the wedding perhaps she didn’t have any to use.
Will.i.am January 25, 2012, 10:56 am
Yes. If I was mad at my family, I wouldn’t cash the checks. I would just sent them back to my family and say thanks but no thanks. Since he’s cashing those checks he’s leaving a window of hope to the family. That’s unfair to them and he’s being very selfish. He’s currently getting to have his cake and eat it too.
Taylor January 25, 2012, 4:01 pm
I agree! It’s kind of an asshole move I think – hi, I am not going to talk to you or allow you to be in my life, but I’ll take your money.
evanscr05 January 25, 2012, 1:22 pm
“The other thing that doesn’t sit right with me is that the parents didn’t offer to pay for part or all of her airfare to the wedding. I guess if she’s an adult, they don’t have to. But you’d think that they would want their daughter to be able to attend her only sibling’s wedding; even if they had to help her get there.”
This statement really resonated with me. My brother told me about a week or two before my wedding in September that he wasn’t going to make it because they didn’t have any money due to their own wedding from two months before. He had known about my wedding for a year and a half, when and where it was going to be, and that they were in it, whereas their wedding they crammed in specifically to beat me and I didn’t even know when it would be until 5 months beforehand (legit, he told me constantly that he WOULD be getting married before me, like it was some kind of competition). Though I knew they truly didn’t have the money, I was not only furious, but deeply deeply hurt. I was so caught off guard, though, I didn’t tell him how much it hurt to know he could be so selfish as to miss something so major all because he had to win at getting married. My parents were equally as furious, and between the two of them, were able to get him out here to participate. My mom kept telling me not to worry and that I would have my brother there. If he hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have spoken to him for quite some time. So, to be honest, I’m not at all surprised her brother included her in the estrangement.
What is curious to me, though, is not so much why the parent’s didn’t help out the LW to be there for such a major event in her brother’s life, but why she spent her money to visit at another point in time instead of his wedding. I mean, IF you knew about the wedding early enough, why would you spend the money to go in March instead of when the event was? That seems off to me.
oppositeofzen January 25, 2012, 8:53 am
Exactly what I was thinking! I wonder how he (or his wife) would react if the checks stopped coming?
CG January 25, 2012, 9:40 am
Yeah, her parents need to stop sending checks to that jackass ASAP. I almost fell on the floor when I read that line!
britannia January 25, 2012, 3:42 pm
So did I! Any sympathy or understanding for why the brother might have possibly iced out his family went out the window once I read that he stills cashes their checks. The thought that went through my mind? “What a slimy little jackass!”
The family should definitely stop sending those checks until he grows a pair and talks to them about why he’s distancing himself so drastically.
mcminnem January 25, 2012, 9:53 am
Yeah, I was kinda with him (you do NOT get to talk smack about somebody’s partner on their wedding day, no matter who you are) right up until I read that he’s still cool with taking their money. What?
Unless in the last two years they’ve fallen on really hard times and need every penny – in which case I’d be only slightly more sympathetic…
Calle January 25, 2012, 11:29 am
Perhaps the brother’s wife is pregnant…That is the only thing I could think of…And he does send them Christmas cards and Birthday cards, so I don’t think cashing the checks is that horrible in context.
mcminnem January 25, 2012, 11:34 am
I missed that he was still sending Christmas and birthday cards. Maybe he feels it’s alright since the money is being sent as a Christmas gift, and he’s still communicating with them in that context? Hmm.
Brad January 25, 2012, 7:46 am
LW: You said that he unfriended you all on facebook and presumably any other social media site he uses but it made me wonder. In the last two years have to tried sending him a short facebook message, or an email? I think an electronic message would be a pretty low-key way to begin recommunicating (especially if you don’t know his phone number) and I agree with Wendy that initial communication should be really neutral topic wise. Taking the attitude of reconnecting with a long lost high school friend or something to that effect (interested but nonpushy). I hope you’re successful with reconnecting with him soon.
honeybeenicki January 25, 2012, 7:58 am
All in all I agree with Wendy’s advice for the LW to be the one to try to reach out to him.
But I can’t help but wonder… if this is all about the fight between the LW’s dad and brother, why did he unfriend all of the family (including those who weren’t at the wedding) and even all of his friends? Is he just trying to forget he had an east coast life or is there something more going on there?
Michele January 25, 2012, 8:04 am
LW, I’m sorry that you are going through this. Please, please tell your dad that ambushing your brother is not the way to go. My fiancé is estranged from his parents, and they have tried this twice. All they have accomplished is to further solidify his feelings that they don’t want to hear what he has to say and want a relationship on their terms only. Definitely made things worse, not better.
amber January 25, 2012, 9:01 am
I kind of wondered the same thing. One thing to unfriend immediate family, but friends who more than likely have nothing to do with the fight too?
Bagge72 January 25, 2012, 10:50 am
I wonder if his friends and family kept calling, and emailing him to tell him that he was being a jack ass or something so he just defriend them all. His pride is probably what is keeping him from reconnecting now.
camille905 January 25, 2012, 10:37 am
Yeah unfriending and cutting contact with his east coast friends? That to me seems like a major red flag as far as some craziness going on between him and his wife. East coast to west coast flights are expensive and if they only had a few months notice, maybe they couldn’t afford it, which to me is totally reasonable. I say only a few months notice because why would the sister come for a long visit in March if she knew they were getting married over the summer?
Bagge72 January 25, 2012, 10:51 am
True true, maybe he is upset that they didn’t show up for his wedding.
jlyfsh January 25, 2012, 10:55 am
as i mentioned below something people need to remember when they get married far from their childhood home is not everyone will be able to come. it sucks a lot, but if it was something that wasn’t planned out in advance it’s a lot to ask of people to buy cross country flights and pay for hotel rooms, etc out of the blue. i mean why would the sister visit in march if they couple was getting married in the summer. makes it seem like it was a last minute decision….
Bagge72 January 25, 2012, 12:17 pm
I’m with ya homie.
jlyfsh January 25, 2012, 12:18 pm
sorry if that was a little intense, i’m dealing with a friend who is having a destination wedding that is too pricey for me to attend and i have a little stress surrounding it 🙂
Dave Yognaught January 25, 2012, 8:28 am
I can very strongly identify with the LW and wish to offer her the scant comfort that she’s not alone with this kind of problem.
I come from a very similar set of circumstances … I was once close to my older brother when we were in high school. We had good parents, but they were Catholic and strict also. My brother had a really tough breakup around the age of 18 … but within a few days of the breakup, he was already seeing someone else. The new girl, now my sister-in-law, probably has a personality disorder and has succeeded in completely disrupting our family life. She was very possessive of my brother and his time, and did her best to start fights between him and me, my parents and other siblings. The drama over the years has been endless, and rediculous. It started out that she was hypersensitive to perceived insults … now both of them are hypervigilant and get very mad with us over what is really very tedious, meaningless BS. Now it’s several years down the road, and they’ve been married for years with two kids, but it’s like they hate me and my parents. They pretend to like us by inviting us to their kids birthday parties, but snub us and cut us off on holidays. I know the sister-in-law hates us all thoroughly, (I think deep down she’s very threatened by us and must own him 100%), but my brother you can tell still kind of likes us underneath, but never shows it because his wife completely owns his identity now.
My parents and I have done nothing to estrange them, we’ve always been very accommodating, respectful and lovely to them, and tried everything we can think of to heal relations with them. We are constantly apologizing, reaching out, sending gifts, etc. etc. All to no avail. Recently my strategy has been to limit contact with them … I just can’t take the toxic drama in my life. But that tack doesn’t work, because they get pissed that I’m less involved with their kids and accuse me of being a bad aunt, and then take it out on everyone by refusing to come to holidays. I’m so mad at them for hurting my parents, because they cut off my parents from access to their grandchildren.
It just makes me sick. I have had to accept that my brother is a weak person who allows his wife to run his life, identity, family relations and everything else, and his role is to constantly feed and enable personality disorder. It sucks because our family is so awesome otherwise. I love my other brother and my sister and parents.
I don’t know if there’s anything constructive I can offer to the LW … unless she believes the bride of her brother is Borderline or has NPD. If so, than I can provide a good idea of what to expect. But I’m sorry to hear of this situation and offer my heartfelt kinship in these family problems and know how stressful it can be. Stay strong, sister, and just always take the high road, and love yourself first.
Calle January 25, 2012, 11:35 am
They invite you to their kids birthday parties but choose to spend the holidays on their own…that does not sound like anyone is getting cut off or not having contact with the kids When people have their own kids, sometimes they want to spend Christmas with just them, especially if there is traveling involved. Perhaps you need to reevaluate.
Dave Yognaught January 25, 2012, 12:29 pm
I see where you’re coming from and I think this is a valid point that should be considered for many families and also for many aunts, uncles and grandparents out there.My brother does spend certain holidays with just his family, and we all know about it and accept it 🙂 I would probably ask for the same kind of thing if I had children of my own.
The holiday snubbings come when my parents or myself or siblings are hosting, and they have accepted but then don’t show up, or storm out, or cancel half an hour beforehand with a call out of left field. This year my brother was all set to spend Christmas Eve with us, but then pulled everyone aside the day before and delivered a “letter” cataloguing all of the perceived insults we allegedly committed to him over the past few years. Sadly almost all of it was sheer minutia … a comment here or a perceived stare, nothing worth fighting over at all. 🙁
Jay August 10, 2020, 12:54 am
Wow….Almost exactly like what happened to my 13 month younger brother and I. He’s what my wife and I call an “enabler”. He knows how she is and use to talk to me, our mother and my wife about her behavior for years. Now he defends her bad behavior. I’ve been enduring her blow ups going on 30 years until this year I’d had enough of her and her flying monkey children. BTW, her children all still live at home 23, 25 & 28 year olds! She ruined Christmas with an outburst bringing my 84 year old mother to tears and that’s all I could take anymore. I haven’t spoken to my brother in 9 months. I believe she also has a personality disorder/ mental illness that requires her to control my brother and her children extremely closely. She’s insanely jealous, insecure and attacks at the slightest belief that she’s been insulted or slighted. It’s nutz.
Bagge72 January 25, 2012, 12:20 pm
It sounds like your brother has somebody new to run his life now, besides his family. It’s like how somebody kicks one addiction, by picking up another.
anonymous January 25, 2012, 8:33 am
While it’s very difficult, sometimes estrangement can happen between people who are both good eggs, but very different. Family ties can skew dynamics to the point that the adult “child” can no longer support a relationship on those terms.
Example: my mom & sister get along really well. My mother is so enmeshed with her life that I often wonder which are my sis’s decisions and which are my mom’s. I have very different tastes and interests from the pair of them, but my mom has never understood why she & I don’t have as “close” a relationship. I find her to be very controlling and it makes me not want to share anything with her — she always has an opinion how to do it “better”. If my mom & I underwent an estrangement, I can easily see how my sister would write a letter like this and not understand what went wrong.
That said, the cutting off of friends from the east coast seems a little extreme. Are they his personal friends or family friends? Is he worried that they’ll have “divided loyalties”?
Another possibility that’s in the back of my mind (but unlikely since the fight was between dad & bro) — could new wife be emotionally abusive? Abusers often manipulate the situation to isolate people from their support system. Just a thought.
Budj January 25, 2012, 8:56 am
You are probably on to something with your last paragraph…except I think she is abusing his parents…
I think the brother here made the mistake of mouthing everything his father said to his new wife (which was totally unncessary and counterproductive – when it comes to families of a bride and groom keep your shit separate)…and now the wife is punishing the parents by isolating their son. Purely speculative, but this kind of stuff happens a lot and the situation is suspcious.
Budj January 25, 2012, 9:43 am
After reading it again I think it might be abuse on the brother too – cutting out EVERY contact on the East coast is overkill and very suspcious behavior.
Budj January 25, 2012, 9:43 am
why can’t I spell suspicious today…
Budj January 25, 2012, 8:39 am
Sounds to me like his wife is motivating this shunning….seriously….your brother needs to grow a pair.
I agree with Wendy’s advice above. And I think that eventually your brother will regret his decisions….I’m pretty disgusted that he is still cashing the checks though. I have some estranged family (for more legitimate reasons) that send me stuff and I don’t “monopolize” on it.
KKZ January 25, 2012, 12:42 pm
That was my thought too, that the wife caught wind of Dad’s harsh words and flipped out, and LW’s brother was still upset too so he went along with it. Why it has carried on for this long, that’s beyond me, but I do think she played some role in it. If my husband up and decided to cut contact with his family over an argument that was already apologized for, I would probably try to talk him out of it, yeah?
Budj January 25, 2012, 1:12 pm
YES! My mother’s mother HATED my dad and my mother and her mother never had a strong relationship (alcoholism). Those issues trickled down into my mom’s sister relationships…my dad pushed my mom to work on those relationships and always encouraged her to continue a relationship with her mother. Even though he knew my grandmother would talk shit about him the whole time.
My mom now has functioning relationships with her sister’s and my grandmother, who was found having seizures because she was essentially doing nothing but drinking vodka and / or gin and is now in an old folk’s home with my mother essentially spending 3 days a week helping her shop, socialize, and maintain a healthy living style.
I really have a hard time with people that shun others over things like this LW’s family issues…
Elle Marie January 25, 2012, 8:49 am
For a good year and a half, my older sister and I became estranged – for a long time, I didn’t even know WHY she decided she “never wanted to see or speak to me again” (her exact words), and having grown up to be very close, it was incredibly hurtful.
I will say that after a while, once she had had time to get some perspective on things, she did come around. Our relationship is different now, but we are able to be a small part of each other’s lives.
One thing I did do (and still do, as she has a habit of receding into her own feelings and not being in contact very frequently) was send cards with personal notes every other month or so; little “I’m thinking of yous” to keep the lines of communication.
At the end of the day, if people are going to act horribly to one another, they are going to act horribly. Perhaps the best thing to do is to give your brother space – all of your family – since it sounds like from still sending birthday checks, your parents certainly aren’t. (And what is WITH sending checks to someone who refuses to speak to you? My mother insists that I have to call or preferably spend time with her in person if she is going to give me any sort of gift, especially money.)
(likely) unpopular opinion January 25, 2012, 8:53 am
I feel like this is likely to be an unpopular opinion…but just because the parents weren’t physically abusive doesn’t mean it was ever a healthy relationship. It sounds like no one was accepting of the girlfriend/new wife when the brother was dating her. Already, things started off on the wrong foot. And then, his sister doesn’t attend what is a VERY important day in his life (again, actions speak loudly here…financial motivations or not!). And to top it off…the parents are disrespectful and rude on what SHOULD be the best day of son/new wife’s life.
I can’t say that I agree that he should shun the entire family, but I think the family should realize that they are not exactly innocent in this. The brother is doing what he can to protect the love of his life. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t always a cure-all. And depending on WHAT was said, perhaps there isn’t a good way to mend the relationship.
I think that Wendy’s advice to keep reaching out is good. Time does heal…maybe the brother just needs more of it.
honeybeenicki January 25, 2012, 9:58 am
I would agree that it might not have ever been a healthy relationship, I don’t see how it would apply to him cutting off the LW (who says they were always close) and all of his friends. That just doesn’t compute in my brain.
(likely) unpopular opinion January 25, 2012, 10:03 am
I agree! It doesn’t compute in my brain either. Perhaps they WEREN’T actually that close? That would explain missing the wedding, and no other family members willing to help cover the cost of a plane ticket. I even figured that the brother probably could have helped lend a hand if they were really that close.
There are so many things we can speculate on though, I guess.
CollegeCat January 25, 2012, 2:21 pm
I doubt that since she said she had just spent a lot of money/time off work to visit them a couple months before the wedding. I would assume that before this fallout she was on good terms with the brother AND the wife. If the wedding was short-notice that could also explain why she did not save ahead of time and why the brother seemed to understand her absence. If other family members/friends were in the same boat (short notice/barely able to afford the trip) it could explain why they did not help the LW out. The brother still cashes checks from the parents he disowned and lives on 1 income so I doubt he could afford to fly her out either.
RunsWithScissors January 25, 2012, 11:23 am
Maybe he doesn’t want to have contact with anyone who would either stick up for his parents (Dad was definitely out of line) or who would try to attempt a reconciliation between them.
cmarie January 25, 2012, 12:12 pm
Maybe he cut off all contact with everyone because he didn’t want them reporting back to his parents. I’m estranged from all of my father’s family because even though he was the one who abandoned me, they were the one giving him updates and sending him pictures. I didn’t want him in my life and if they couldn’t respect that, then I can’t have them in it either. Just a thought…
jlyfsh January 25, 2012, 10:03 am
here’s the thing though, it is expensive to fly coast to coast, expensive. and she had just visited. i think saying that saying actions speak louder than words in that specific instance is unfair. i guess i’m taking issue with that because i have a close friend getting married in mexico and i can’t afford to attend. i would love to, but i can’t afford it. i guess i don’t see my actions of not going making me care any less for my friend or her groom, and i can’t see where the LW’s not going would be any different.
(likely) unpopular opinion January 25, 2012, 10:16 am
Maybe the brother’s decision has nothing to do with the sister not attending the wedding. I was really just throwing it out there, because it stood out to me (and it absolutely strikes me as strange that she would visit a few months before the wedding– unless the wedding was completely spontaneous and unplanned…it seems like a weird choice). I just know that personally, if my sister decided not to attend my wedding, I would be miffed. I would NOT however, shun anyone! 🙂
And yes, people who decide to have a destination wedding need to be prepared that not everyone is going to be able to make it!
jlyfsh January 25, 2012, 10:20 am
yeah i guess i read it as she visited. and then a few months later they were like, we’re getting married! want to come back. i can see where depending on when in the summer it was somewhere in the range of 3 to 5 months after it would be hard to go.
camille905 January 25, 2012, 10:40 am
That was my thought- they must have gotten engaged after she visited or decided on the date because why would she spend money otherwise? Also not everyone’s parents can afford to pay for them- a plane ticket and hotel are expensive.
camille905 January 25, 2012, 10:42 am
But if the parents can’t afford to pay for the daughter (which have been several hundred extra dollars) and she was just out to visit, I don’t think it should be held against her because she can’t afford it. I think the wedding was most likely planned after she came to visit…..otherwise she would have save her vacation time and money.
Calle January 25, 2012, 11:40 am
No, I completely agree that it is a bit suspicious. The key words were “very Catholic” to me and the fight the night before the wedding. Some things, unfortunately, you just can’t take back and if the father made some sort of prejudicial remark against the bride I can see the brother flipping out. While I think he shouldn’t cash the checks, the brother does send the family Christmas cards and Birthday cards which might include some sort of gift in them.
oldie January 25, 2012, 11:51 am
Depending upon how much contact the LW had with her brother at the time of this incident, it is not difficult to see how she might have been included in the estrangement. Either a parent said something to the effect of “and your sister agrees with us that…” or LW was pushy about brother making up with parents. Some of this attitude comes across at start of letter ‘but he apologized the next day’, as if that should make everything fine. This is a parent who was highly critical of gf before marriage and was again critical on day of marriage. We aren’t told what the father said. Perhaps LW doesn’t know herself, even if she thinks she does. It is doubtful that if the father said anything truly hateful, that he would tell LW the truth about his actions. Likely she got a watered-down sanitized version and may have communicated with his brother on that basis that he was unreasonably holding a grudge.
An apology doesn’t wash away a nasty insult to your bride. The apology is merely saying “I’m really sorry that I didn’t keep my hateful opinion to myself. I was very wrong to have said what I did.” Even with that apology, both the son and the father know full well that what was said represents the father’s true feelings toward the new bride. If what was said was awful enough, it is very difficult to let father back into his life.
If LW wants to make up with brother, she may need to make it clear that she doesn’t share her parents views and isn’t supporiing them. Her first goal is to heal her own breach with her brother, not try to intercede that he get back in contact with the parents. Once she and her brother are speaking, she can find out his version of events, and judge for herself what it will take to bring a reconciliation with the parents or whether a reconciliation is even possible. Unless the brother is convinced that his parents are truly accepting of his wife, this will be difficult.
This is nasty enough that there seems to be a lot more involved than LW is disclosing. Either brother/wife have mental health issues, or the father has a bigotry issue with regard to the race, nationality, or religion of his son’s wife.
(likely) unpopular opinion January 25, 2012, 12:08 pm
Oldie- Well said!
I also agree that there’s a lot of missing information here, and I can see how not attending his wedding also put her on the “parents side” of “I don’t accept your new wife, and don’t support your decision to marry her.” It might have been a bigger snub than she realized.
Calle January 25, 2012, 11:56 am
Look, I’m in the camp that there are somethings you can never take back. The father insulted not only the bride but her family on HER WEDDING DAY to the point that the LW’s brother kicked him out. It really depends on what words were said in context. If the father said some sort of racist remark or something incredibly offensive to the bride’s mother or father, then I understand the estrangement. I just wish more context was provided. I agree that LW should write to the brother’s wife and perhaps get her side of the story. I also believe that LW should try and re-establish a relationship with the brother and try to leave the parents out of it by not mentioning them.
Renee January 25, 2012, 8:57 am
I mentioned this before on the board, I’m Catholic. And probably be defined as ‘strict’ ,’ Conservative’, or whatever people think a Catholic is or isn’t.
“Anyway, on the day of the wedding, a series of events went down that ended with my dad and brother arguing at the end of the night. My dad said some unkind things about my brother’s bride and her family in the heat of the moment that he apologized for the next day.”
I don’t want to go into details, because in the past I had conflict with my in-laws. It actually requires a lot of space with little to no communication, while not an estrangement/cut off all contact it was absolutely needed for the health of our marriage, if not today I would be divorced from my husband if he did not stand up for me. I’m very glad, that well hurt my in-laws feelings we are in a much better healthier place. What occurred has no been forgotten and boundaries are there and we mutually understand that five years later.
As for your father, I don’t care if he is heart broken.
How do you think the bride and her family feels???
He needs to accept consequences of his behavior, he places his own son between in a position to defend his new bride on their wedding day. Your brother is awesome for kicking them out and making them stay in a hotel.
Your father emotionally destroyed and probably humiliated his own son, he now grieves for and demands a relationship?
It’s easy not to be perfect, when your children are minors, but the rules don’t play out as well when your children are full grown adults and don’t have to put up with “your flaws”, which ruining one’s wedding day is more then just a flaw, that’s being a jerk!
How can anyone even look at the wedding album/anniversary without thinking of what your father did to them!
Cope?? Cope?? They’re Catholic right? I’m sure the parish priest is available, instead of making you carry this burden of your father’s stupidity.
Have your parents stop sending cash, because it seems they’re doing it to manipulate them and not out of good will.
I suggest make a point of NOT being your parent’s therapist.
If they bring up your brother, suggest a third party. Not you.
Not until your parents take that burden off of you of being ‘the only child’, only then in the far future can you have a relationship with your brother. You’re right, you shouldn’t be punished for your father’s stupidity.
Do not fly to Portland. His wife may take out a restraining order!
Respect his wife and respect his marriage.
Respect him and his choices.
Stop blaming your brother for the estrangement, and get your father a spiritual reality check. Call a priest or a deacon.
Dad isn’t the victim. He’s the offender.
Budj January 25, 2012, 8:59 am
I think you are utterly and completely wrong.
Renee January 25, 2012, 9:09 am
All LW dad wants is forgiveness from his son, when he should be apologizing to the bride, her family, and also LW’s dad should be apologizing to LW and to his wife for his stupidity.
Why is LW writing to Dear Wendy??? She didn’t do anything wrong. LW’s dad is making LW’s life so miserable in his ‘grief’, she is being force to seek advice.
My advice is, LW’s dad needs a reality check and dad needs to seek third party help.
jlyfsh January 25, 2012, 9:14 am
actually I think the LW is writing in to Wendy because she misses her brother and wants advice on how to deal with the situation. And to be honest if I was in her shoes I would feel just as bad for my parents.
Renee January 25, 2012, 9:37 am
I agree, but LW is states “I am angry with my brother for the hell he has put my parents through.
Anger is misdirected at her brother, when her frustration should be with her father.
jlyfsh January 25, 2012, 9:41 am
Actually I would be angry at the brother too. Both the Dad and the Brother are in the wrong. However, the Dad tried to apologize and the brother just chose to cut everyone out of his life. She has every right to be frustrated with both of them.
Calliopedork January 25, 2012, 12:46 pm
agreed, the brother and wife had good reason to be upset but 2 years and shunning everyone but her friends and family sounds like he is being controlled, also if you are so mad that you refuse to speak to someone dont accept their gifts.
Renee January 25, 2012, 9:15 am
Would I like to see father and son reconcile? Yes.
But I don’t think LW’s dad’s head is in the right space right now, with this ‘Oh whoa is me, I lost my son’.
But LW did nothing wrong, so she needs to separate herself from the issue between incident in which she wasn’t even there and not play intermediary.
Tell dad to get a priest, if he brings up.
jlyfsh January 25, 2012, 9:06 am
Here’s the thing, people make mistakes. They’re not perfect. If the parents didn’t want to admit they were wrong and didn’t offer an apology I could see where they were coming from. But, they did. And they kicked them out two days after? I mean that’s odd. Sounds like the bride was pushing him to ditch his family. And sending them cash may be the one link they have to them, seeing that it gets deposited is there way of knowing they still live there and are ok.
Budj January 25, 2012, 9:20 am
My thoughts too.
People make mistakes…navigating joining of families is stressful for a LOT of parents…BOTH of my current SIL’s caused weird issues for my parents…one was my parents AND brother’s fault (why I commented above on keeping parent issues to the direct relations) and the other marriage was the SIL’s fault…in both cases they didn’t shun my parents they worked through it and are better off for it. Shunning is abusive, manipulative, controlling, and counter-productive. Holding grudges and forcing your s/o to pick his family or you is a shitty thing to do.
Budj January 25, 2012, 9:22 am
That said I still think the brother is at fault to blame for a lot of this conflict getting to this point and for allowing the ultimatum / shunning to occur as well.
It’s also easier to just run and avoid the conflict so he definitely isn’t scoring any positive points there…doing all of this while cashing the checks I lose even more respect for the guy.
camille905 January 25, 2012, 10:44 am
I’m confused as to why the brother would tell his bride and her family the things his family said if they were hurtful……there’s no good reason to do that unless you WANT the drama, etc. it will bring. If the brother had really been thinking of his bride, he wouldn’t have said a damn thing so that at least she could have had a wonderful day even if he didn’t.
Budj January 25, 2012, 10:52 am
Yea – not sure if you are saying I didn’t mention that, because I agree with you. He should have kept it to himself / between them and let his parents warm up to his wife (if she truly is the lovely person he probably thinks she is) and then everything would have worked itself out in time.
oldie January 25, 2012, 12:05 pm
I got the possible misimpression that the father’s comments to son were overheard by others. It is equally possible that the comments left the son so upset that his bride couldn’t help but noticing. If the parents are staying with the son and his new wife at the time, it is a little hard to keep such things a secret. I imagine that the bride finding her new husband totally pissed off on their wedding night might lead to some misunderstandings requiring an immediate explanation.
silver_dragon_girl January 25, 2012, 9:17 am
I think you’re projecting here, a LOT. Not saying you’re entirely wrong- I, too, think dad and brother’s fight probably was a lot worse in reality than he has reported to the LW. But come on. I know we all speculate a lot in letters, and we have to kind of use our best guesses to give advice, but this seems a little overboard given that, really, we have no idea what their fight was really about.
BecBoo84 January 25, 2012, 10:20 am
I agree completely that the fight between the dad and the brother was probably A LOT worse than the LW has been made aware. The LW is basing everything off her parents’ accounting of events, and I have the feeling that the brother would tell a different story.
I do think it’s odd that the brother cut off the LW too, but for all we know, while arguing on the wedding night, the dad might have said something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, fyi, your sister didn’t want to come because she hates your new wife, too.” I hope nothing like that is the case, but something like that could possibly explain why the brother cut her off, too.
RunsWithScissors January 25, 2012, 11:30 am
oldie January 25, 2012, 12:00 pm
I didn’t read your comment before posting mine, but largely agree with what you said. Dad seems to assume that he can say whatever nasty thing he wants to say about his son’s wife and things should be okay if he apologized for it. If the Dad insulted both the bride and the bride’s family, it seems he is not even illegitimately responding to some behavior that he disagrees with on the brides part, there is something inherent about the bride’s family that sets off his prejudices. LW certainly does appear to be carrying water for her father. The letter is more about his hurt. Hers seems secondary. If Dad has recruited her to his team to this extent, he likely tried to recruit the son’s friends to push for a reconciliation.
It is interesting that the son did not immediately send his family to the hotel. This suggests that, at least in the brother’s mind, another offense was committed after the first. Friendly with son, cool to wife? The son was expecting that an apology would be made directly to his wife, waited a while, and this never happened.
Kate B. January 25, 2012, 12:10 pm
Should the father have said those things? Absolutely not. But people aren’t perfect. Any spiritual advisor worth his salt would tell you that. We all do things we shouldn’t. The only thing you can do is try and make up for it as best you can. Dad tried to apologize. The Bible tells us to forgive, yes? Turn the other cheek? Well, if the brother values his relationship with his parents at all, he should try and forgive his father. Not forget, but try and get along for the sake of his family. The fact that he can’t or won’t is totally on him. I personally think there is something else behind this and if I had to guess, I would say it is the wife. A husband should stand up for his wife if she is insulted, but to cut off the entire family and friends who had nothing to do with it? At most, cut off contact with the offending party – the father – but not your sister and friends. I think when the LW says she feels as if the wife has to own him 100%, she is right. To quote Budj, Brother should “grow a pair”. He also needs to stop taking his parents’ money. Cutting off contact includes taking the money.
Kate B. January 25, 2012, 12:17 pm
Oops, re-reading the letter I see the LW never said she feels her s-i-l owns her brother 100%. Not sure where that came from.
silver_dragon_girl January 25, 2012, 8:58 am
I second the idea of sending your brother a short Facebook message or maybe email, just a sort of “Hey, I’m thinking about you, hope life is treating you well” type of thing. I would be very careful to keep your parents out of this, though. Don’t go reporting back to them if you hear back from your brother- just keep it to yourself. That way you can truthfully tell your brother that you’re not being motivated by your parents, that you just miss him.
Also, please be aware that no matter how pointless this conflict seems to you, there may be issues and things going on under the surface that you know nothing about. No matter how close you were to your brother, and no matter how truthful your parents generally are, you’ve only heard one side of the story so far.
Eljay January 25, 2012, 9:27 am
Wow. This just breaks my heart. Because I know first hand what it does to a person to have his/her family cut them out of their lives. My mother does this. Often. She’s doing it right now. Hasn’t talked to me in almost two months. Over ridiculousness. It’s her MO, whenever she doesn’t get her way, feels wronged, or offended, instead of talking it out – she shuts you out. Life is too short for this BS. She wasn’t talking to my brother when he died. She wasn’t talking to her mother when she died. She felt all sorts of guilty because of this and here she is right back into the same old pattern again. I feel for you, LW. Listen to Wendy, she is absolutely right. Don’t give up just yet.
Budj January 25, 2012, 9:33 am
I like this comment because it really helps put these things into perspective. It’s one thing to have legitimate reasoning for cutting a toxic person out of your life…a whole different issue when you are shunning family for petty reasons that result in things like you’ve described.
Eljay January 25, 2012, 9:48 am
Thanks Budj. I just wish I could shake some sense into people like this. Is it really worth it in the end? I guess you get to say “I showed them!”, but what exactly have you “won” in this little battle? In the grand scheme of things, no one really “wins.”
Turtledove January 25, 2012, 9:30 am
I fully support the idea of you trying to get into contact with your brother in order to repair your personal relationship with him. I will say, though, that that relationship likely cannot be prepared as long as you see yourself in the role of mediating for the entire family. You are not responsible for your parents relationship with your brother. I know it’s probably heartbreaking to see the estrangement’s effect on them, but there’s nothing that you personally can do about it. If you approach your brother with the aim of getting him to talk to your parents, then he is right to distrust your motives.
Here’s the thing, even though your his sister and you grew up in similar circumstances as him, you cannot know what his relationship with your parents felt like to him. You can’t know what ways his experience of your parents differs from yours so you have no basis on which to pass judgement on whether or not he needed an estrangement for reasons other than their treatment of his wife. Your description of actions prior to the wedding in addition to the wedding debacle hint that there was likely tension there before the whole wedding went down. I say this because my sister and I have very different relationships with our parents because we are very different people and have different needs and personalities.
So yes, try getting into casual contact with your brother– but leave your parents out of it. If they want to discuss the estrangement with you, you should try to find a way to shut it down. You are their child, not their negotiator, not their therapist. Their relationship with your brother is theirs to manage just as your relationship is yours to manage. They aren’t tied together.
silver_dragon_girl January 25, 2012, 9:35 am
I 100% agree with this.
jlyfsh January 25, 2012, 9:50 am
I think too perhaps suggesting therapy for the parents would be a good thing too. They’ve basically lost their child. I’m sure it is extremely hard and awkward at holidays, etc to deal with his absence from their life. I can understand wanting to help them reconcile too. However, i do agree with you that if the brother gets the idea she’s not doing it for herself but rather for them he will shut her out again. The whole letter just makes me very sad. You only get but so much time with your family and I just hate seeing things like this. I hope that the LW is at least able to talk to her brother again. I keep imagining what it would be like if my sister stopped talking to me and cut off all ties and it just makes my heart hurt.
Leroy January 25, 2012, 10:28 am
Very good points. My sister is estranged from my mother, because my mother makes her miserable. From the outside it appears that my mother is the victim, but my sister’s behavior is justified given their history. Fortunately she’s mature enough to differentiate between my mom and the rest of the family.
Jubietta January 25, 2012, 11:32 am
I agree with this. It’s very likely that an objective assessment of the situation would show both sides are wrong on some things and both sides are correct on some things. Having a third party mediator who’s not immeshed in the family history can put the emphasis on where things need to change to build a healthy new relationship for everyone.
Having been in a similar situation for too long a time, my biggest fear for the LW getting in touch with her sibling is her being in the middle of things and having to make tough decisions in no-win situations. As much as it sucks to be estranged from part of the family, being in between family members who aren’t communicating brings difficulties, too. Please take care of yourself and make sure to keep others accountable for their choices.
eelizg23 January 25, 2012, 1:31 pm
I totally agree. My mother and brother were estranged for a few years, and it’s extremely hard to be the person in the middle. I inherited the peacemaker role in the family when my grandfather died, but at a certain point, I realized that it was not my responsibility to make sure everyone got along. Trying to be the peacemaker really took an emotional toll on me, negatively affecting my relationships with all of my family–on either side of the divide.
The LW needs to focus on repairing her personal relationship with her brother. Her parents and her brother are all adults, and they should handle whatever it is between them. Sometimes all it takes is time, and there’s nothing you can do to speed that along. My mother and brother were estranged for two years, to the point that she did not even attend his wedding. Years later, they have come a long way and have a pretty decent relationship now.
TECH January 25, 2012, 9:30 am
I would strongly recommend to the LW, and any one else affected by this topic, to read When Parents Hurt by Joshua Coleman, Ph.D. Not many books have been written about estrangements between parents and children, and his work is excellent.
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com January 25, 2012, 10:00 am
Sad, sad story. So sorry for LW.
I wonder, has anyone tried reaching out to the wife with a longer, heartfelt apology after all these years? Also, what was the nature of the parent’s dislike of her (was it just the unemployment thing)?
Budj January 25, 2012, 10:10 am
I’m speculating…but having dealt with a similar situation….I think it has more to do that she moved him away from his family for seemingly no reason. She didn’t even have a job offer…just seemed like a sporadic decision. The unemployment issue was probably just fuel to the fire of their disagreement with the situation.
That combined with them maybe not liking her very much and marrying their son (parents get very distraught if they think their offspring are marrying someone bad for them) and taking him away from them was a huge pill to swallow. Not justifying anything – just saying from their side that is probably the perspective. I wouldn’t exclude the mother from this either – often in traditional Catholic families the father is the vocal one – but the mother’s opinion are in his words.
Budj January 25, 2012, 10:12 am
Add in the bride’s family moving to Portland after the wedding it makes you wonder if the wife was just making sure she was close to her family when they settled down…adding more points into the controlling manipulative wife speculation.
Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com January 25, 2012, 10:53 am
That part is odd, yes, I have to say.
plasticepoxy January 25, 2012, 4:12 pm
But the letter doesn’t say that she was the reason they (brother and now-wife) moved. It just says he moved out to Portland with her, and her family moved out there to be with them.
I moved out to Portland for 6 months. I had a job lined up before I went. I moved with several friends, only one of whom also had a position in place before moving (there were 5 of us total). 2 of the remaining 3 didn’t find jobs the entire time we were out there, and not for lack of trying either! They were submitting 5-6 applications a week at various places, including gas stations, chain stores, etc. There just weren’t jobs available at that time, and I can’t imagine that things have improved in that area. My friends all decided to move back at the end of our 6 month lease just because they couldn’t find employment, I decided to come back too, since my income at the time wasn’t enough to support myself on, I needed a group living situation and didn’t feel comfortable living with strangers (this was before craigslist).
Budj January 25, 2012, 4:27 pm
You are absolutely right, my misread.
L January 25, 2012, 10:08 am
I have a similar (but very different) situation with my brother. After he graduated from college in 2008, he moved out of state to accept an amazing job offer that he received. It’s not far from home (about 300-ish miles), but he only comes home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sometimes Easter. It kills my parents. He is single, and from it looks like is very much enjoying his bachelorhood, but he just doesn’t understand the importance of maintaining communication with family. He never calls and never writes. I know that he is very busy with his job, but it’s sad that he just kind of cut communication with his family. It feels like I’m the only child because my parents now focus all their energy on me…which can get stressful, but I understand why my parents do so.
I think the reason why my brother doesn’t come home or even call home is that he just doesn’t get how much effort it takes to maintain relationships with family and friends, but I think in your situation your brother just feels hurt. It is important to reach out to him and let him know that he is missed. It is important for your dad to reach out to him — and NOT by flying out and surprising him — to make amends. Good luck!
parton_doll January 25, 2012, 11:08 am
I agree with you. To expand, I don’t think any of them should fly out there to talk to him. As much as it might feel like a sincere last ditch effort, the brother could take it as harassment and take an even more stringent anti-family stance than he already has. Unfortunately, he won’t come around until he is ready to. I think all they can do continue to reach out and keep the lines of communication open … he will come around when HE is ready to.
Anonymous March 8, 2022, 9:48 am
I have a daughter that does this to me although she has done so many horrible things to me and I have forgave her over and over she said I was a horrible mother but she had lost her children due to drugs and so many things that make me so mad at her ..she had allowed this man to father her children and control her life to the point of estrangement from everyone but his family..it’s the wife doing this I can already see the resemblance. I am so happy I have these babies but I wish they could have had a better father because the kids are not wanting to to have anything to do with him and he doesn’t get that
Chaotonic January 25, 2012, 10:15 am
This is going to be an completely unpopular opinion here but the LWs parents have disliked the brother’s wife for a long, long time, and for it to come to a boiling head at the wedding was just the icing on the cake, who would want to have any contact with someone who treats their bride with such disrespect? The wife probably straight up told her husband that she no longer wishes to have contact with them due to their animosity to her and as her husband he sided with her. The father said nasty things about not only the new wife / GF, but your brother’s new in-laws as well and although the father can apologize all he wants those words and feelings are out there forever and he should have thought about the consequences before he opened his mouth in such a harsh manner. I think they were in the right to cut off the parents, I think they need time to figure out if you’re in the same boat as them. Have you said anything negative to your brother about his wife before they were married? If you haven’t then why don’t you try to continue opening up the lines of communication? Send a card, try emailing, try social networking, try whatever you can think of, but do not fly across the country to ambush him at work. If you want to fly out there go to his house and have a sit down talk with him and his wife, don’t just try talking to him, because she was a part of the reason the cut off started and she needs to know that you mean everything sincerely. I also don’t think its wise for you to go with your parents, you weren’t there for that particular bit of drama and they have their own fish to fry with him. Don’t exclude the wife, I cannot emphasize this enough, I’m apart of the daughter-in-law society / sisterhood (used to be motherinlawhell.com) where wives talk about their horrible (and I mean like one’s in-law seriously kidnapped her child) in-laws, and the first thing any of them say is that when it comes to apologies they want to be there for it, they do not want to hear from their husband how sorry they are, they actually want to be face to face with them. Okay my two and 1/2 cents are over.
Pinky January 25, 2012, 10:20 am
RULE #1: Don’t say crap about the bride at the wedding.
RULE#2: Don’t repeat crap said about the bride to the bride (the EX Mr. Pinky used to do this).
Apologies don’t help if they’re not sincere. If you do the same thing over and over again and then apologize for it, it’s not a panacea. You’ve got to stop doing the thing. Okay, the LW’s folks don’t like their son’s wife. DON’T TELL HIM! Don’t tell anyone! She’ll find out. Do you want to associate with people who don’t like or approve of you? Do you want to hang out with people who say crap about you at your wedding? Do you want to hang out with people who say crap about you and then expect an apology to be a total reset of their actions?
The one thing that makes me wonder about this is the fact that the brother cashes the checks and sends Christmas cards. I’m at a loss about that.
wendyblueeyes January 25, 2012, 10:45 am
You can still send a message to someone via Facebook, even if you are unfriended. Send a short message. Tell him you miss the closeness and memories you once shared. Can you call him? You promise not to breathe a word of this to your parents. Or he can call you, if he doesn’t want to give you the number. Baby steps to re-establishing contact.
Budj January 25, 2012, 10:54 am
This is also a good way to test out if the wife is calling the shots on this. If the LW can’t even do this, then that is a clear sign the wife is trying to cut him off from his family.
Renee January 25, 2012, 11:31 am
There is a very good chance, we are both right. His wife could be a completely psycho and even the initial causation of the estrangement. But all we have to work with is LW and her advice to her father.
Who hasn’t had choice words with their in-laws, and what in-law said something completely wrong and insulting to the other? The key is where they said it, in my personal case it was at my child’s baptism, in this case a wedding.
In my case everything has been resolved, and things are much better and I speak with my in-laws regularly. I should note there was underlying neuro-psych issue, which this incident lead to its proper diagnosis for my in-law. Yay!
I’m not best friends with my in-laws, but that’s just because we’re different in personalities. They respect me as their son’s wife and I respect them as my husband’s parents. We have have a very good understanding, as adults. Now that I have complete trust that my in-laws respect our relationship, it is so much much easier for my husband, the children, and ‘gasp’ myself to have a relationship with them. My husband doesn’t have to play sides, but it’s only because my in-laws had let go and trusted my husband in his choice of a wife (even if I could be nuts).
The context is key.
One time my mother called my husband stupid and she meant it. I just laughed at her, because she did it in private. I could NEVER imagine my mother, in all of her flaws to ever say my husband is stupid in front of him or in front of it family on my wedding day. I seriously wouldn’t know what to do.
LW’s father actions at the wedding, brings new meaning to the term burning a bridge.
Budj January 25, 2012, 11:35 am
You are right context does matter and I’m glad you and your in-laws came to an understanding…but I think we are both coming from opposite ends of these fights with me having an outside and full perspective of both sides (on two separate occasions).
This to me sounds like the guy married a basket case and as wrong as it was for his parents to talk trash about her and her family, if they are right about her, I can’t fault them for trying to do the right thing by their son…if they are in the wrong however I completely agree he has a right to set the boundaries where he has.
I still go back to my comment though that said he should have kept it between he and his parents…dragging the wife into it blew this out of proportion. If he kept quiet they may have worked this out over time and been “one big happy family”.
oldie January 25, 2012, 4:38 pm
Your conclusion seems totally unwarranted. LW visited her brother and future SIL a few months before the wedding and got along great with them. There is no indication in either the original letter or the follow-ups that the SIL is a ‘basket case’, mentally unhinged, or overly controlling. The LW has no way of really knowing what her parents did when they were in Portland. She does know that they were openly disapproving of the brothers gf before the couple moved to Portland as well as after. We do know that it was her brother, not her now SIL, who got in the fight with her father. We know her father does admit to some pretty bad words. I don’t know, but suspect what was revealed to LW by her parents is the tip of the iceberg and couched to get LW on their side against her brother.
Parents may feel compelled to voice and opinion on an adult child’s choice of gf. This is something that needs to be done very delicately and generally backfires. To continue voicing that opinion after your son has just married, after he has given your views on his gf whatever credence he thinks they are due and decided to marry her anyway, is stupid and almost guaranteed to cause an explosion.
In the letter and followups, the LW seems to skate around the issue that her Dad is a religious bigot. It seems clear he is never going to accept his new DIL or her family. It wouldn’t surprise me if LW’s brother deliberately moved to the opposite coast in order to escape his parents and the negative impact they would have on his marriage.
cmarie January 25, 2012, 1:41 pm
Why does it always have to be that the new wife just has to be crazy? Why else would he cut off contact? It’s not like they didn’t like her from the start or said insulting thing about her (and likely to her) at their wedding. They were at the wedding, don’t you think it is all possible that this argument was heard by all? The father humiliated the wife and his own son on their wedding day because he didn’t like who he married. It doesn’t matter whether the wife heard or the son told her; they are married and have a responsibility to each other and if the son was that hurt by what his father said he told his wife then it is no one’s business but theirs. The son is not obligated to keep his father’s secrets (if it was even a secret, which I doubt) from the woman he just married and promised to put above anyone else.
Another note, the LW says that their parent’s weren’t happy that she was unemployed after they moved to Portland. Portland has one of the highest unemployment rates and limited job opportunities, some fields are worse than others, some better. Perhaps while they were thinking she was being lazy and making him work she was actually looking for a job. Having been unemployed in Oregon I can say it’s not easy to get a job no matter how hard you look. Perhaps, the wife could sense that that they believed she was just mooching off their son, adding another mark against them. It’s not easy to be unemployed and it’s even harder when people don’t think you’re trying. It’s also likely that they didn’t just up and move their for the fun of it, maybe the son got a job and she moved with him. It’s also no completely unreasonable that her family would move out there after they settled down, they want to be close to their child as well…
Fact is, once your children become adults you have no control over them and unless they are truly in danger it’s not your place to intervene. His father may not have liked his chosen wife but the son picked her and he should have respected that and kept his mouth shut. Especially at their wedding for pete’s sake! I agree with Wendy’s advice and truly hope everything can be worked out, just don’t try to force your parents on him. He might be open to reuniting with the LW but if she pushes him to see/speak with his parents, it will just drive him further away. Make it about you and him and his new wife, don’t leave her out of it. If you want a relationship with your brother, you have to accept a relationship with his wife.
Budj January 25, 2012, 1:55 pm
Because I think it is ridiculous to promote shunning of family for something like this…this isn’t the Uncle that touched the children…or the father that beat the children.
cmarie January 25, 2012, 2:44 pm
You’re assuming that she’s the one who initiated the shunning, it is possible that the son decided that the insult of bad enough to warrant cutting off contact. Like other commenter have said, it’s completely possible that the wedding drama was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous that everyone just assumes that if the son isn’t talking to the family it’s because the wife is playing puppet-master instead being open to the idea that the son made this decision of his own volition.
Budj January 25, 2012, 3:26 pm
I am making that assumption….but even if that is wrong – she should be trying to get him to re-open those lines of communication. Inaction is action. She sounds like she and her family have what they want – her family in town and his “controlling catholic family” out of her life.
It doesn’t have to be what it was before, but allowing the behavior to continue like this is ludicrous. If we get an update that she is trying I will eat my words, but I highly doubt it.
cmarie January 25, 2012, 4:39 pm
His parent’s apparently think she and her family has bad morals and she’s a horrible mooch and he made a mistake in marrying her… I wouldn’t want much contact with those people either, and not because I want him all to myself. My partner’s parent’s did not react well to her coming out and our relationship. Their reaction has made a permanent scar on any relationship I might have with them. They said some pretty bad things about me and refused to even acknowledge that we were together for the first year. I don’t try to keep her from them nor do I try to make her contact them. Her parents are her problem and I stay out of it. It’s not my job to make sure she has a good relationship with her father, especially after he told everyone that my family was nothing but trash. If the son made the decision to cut the family out, it’s not her responsibility to change his mind. He had his reasons and that is all that matters. I am almost positive the wedding isn’t the first time his family expressed their disapproval and I am completely positive that the wife wasn’t oblivious to it their entire relationship. I’d want those people out of my life too. That doesn’t mean I would keep him from his family and it certainly doesn’t mean that she is. I guess I just find it insulting for the “controlling” girlfriends of the world that everyone assumes that the only possible reason why he would cease contact with his family is because she made him.
Budj January 25, 2012, 5:12 pm
I am noticing a theme that everyone siding with the LW’s brother (for the most part) has personal experiences with having issues with s/o’s parents. I do not deny my opinion is probably jaded from my personal experiences with these scenarios and I admit there are other possibilities…we are both putting our experience into our points of view…
Not that you need my affirmation on this, but if you were to ask me about your situation I would say your s/o’s parents acted way worse than the LW’s.
I’m suspecting she is controlling because of other factors than the argument with his father.
-Two days went by after the argument before shit hit the fan.
-He has blocked even his BEST MAN at the wedding from his life in Portland.
-He had to lie to his in-laws and wife telling them his parents were “making” him have a Catholic wedding while feeding his parents the lip-service he wanted a Catholic wedding.
-And while not strong evidence the brother’s mother-in-law sounds like a passive-aggressive bitch.
-If the wife disagreed with what was going on she would have reached out to someone about it…I’m sure there are friends that aren’t “direct lines of information” to the parents.
ForeverYoung January 25, 2012, 6:09 pm
I like everything you just said. And it does seem like the majority of commenters that are siding with the brother are projecting. I never grew up thinking it was okay to just cut family out of your life. Everyone has that one drunk cousin, the creepy uncle, the judgmental grandma. But it’s family and you get over it – normally but 11am happy hours whenever you’re together. Keep in mind I have one the official battle between all if my friends of who has the most bat shit crazy and passive aggressive mother in law. But you know what? I put up with her crazy ass bc she’s family, and I would never let my pride get in the way of my husband having a relationship with his family. That and his dad is my favorite person alive.
ForeverYoung January 25, 2012, 6:10 pm
Holy iPhone errors batman. But hopefully you get the picture.
oldie January 25, 2012, 6:57 pm
You are certainly right that everyone is projecting their own experiences and/or trying to fill in the gaps in what LW’s parents told her and she told us.
The whole fight with the brides mother seems fishy. Son was staying with Mom and Dad. Son went to church an hour early. Parents didn’t go with their son. Why? On both issues. I fill in the blanks thusly: son went to church early to get away from his Dad. Why? Dad was likely trying a last-ditch effort to convince the son to ditch his bride. Do men really go to the church by themselves an hour early?
Which leads me to next question. How does Dad no that his son was pacing around the church unhappily for a half hour? Was the bride really late.? Again, I fill in the blanks thusly: after son storms out and goes to church, Mom is anxious to follow quickly. They get there ‘early’ for the ceremony, but perhaps not what Mom/Dad view as ‘appropriately early’. Given the father/mother/son dynamic I don’t see son complaining to his parents that his bride is late and he’s been pacing around for half an hour. If he left for church an hour early, the expectation would be that he would pretty much be there on his own for at least a half hour.
I also suspect from what was said that Dad and Mom put considerable pressure to agree to a Catholic wedding. The bride’s family acquiesced. Bride’s Mom shouldn’t have blurted out what she did, but I can imagine given all that’s occurred it would be beyond annoying to stop by to pick up husband’s parents (certainly not normally the responsibility of the bride and her family) only to find they had already left, to arrive at the church, and be immediately accosted by groom’s mother and told you were late.
The parents’ story just doesn’t hang together here. They rushed to the church to avoid being late, yet had time to see son pacing worriedly for a half hour, yet were in parking lot to encounter the bride and her family as they were arriving.
ForeverYoung January 25, 2012, 7:29 pm
Most of the time the people in the wedding party have to get to the church way earlier than everyone else for pictures, bonding time, last minute getting ready, etc. So It’s not weird he went early. And the LW stated that the bride was 30 minutes late. Meaning it could have been pretty obvious to everyone if the groom is stressed out/pacing. If the wedding is supposed to be at 3 and the bride doesn’t show up until 3:30… Thats weird. And I would be LiVID if I was in an unfamiliar family and was supposed to get a ride from someone that just decided not to pick me up and try to make me late to my own sons wedding.
cmarie January 25, 2012, 8:43 pm
I agree that we are all projecting our own experiences onto this experience, but then again, isn’t that what happens with every letter…
I agree that waiting 2 days to kick the parents out is a little weird but at the same time it was 2 days after their wedding. They might not even have seen each other for the first day. In my experience, newly weds like their privacy.
Like I commented before, it’s possible he blocked the best man because he was feeding the parents information or trying to get him to “let it go”.
We don’t really know if he lied to his in-laws and wife….He knows religion is important to his family and he’s important to his wife so it’s possible she agreed to the Catholic church because it means something to them. It possible that he did want the Catholic wedding or he just wanted to make his parents happy; don’t all kids do that though. He knew they didn’t approve of his bride so maybe the ceremony was a way to bridge that. Her mother was definitely out of line for yelling at his mom. But, if their non-Catholic daughter is having a Catholic wedding then it is because of the groom’s family, including the groom. Don’t get me wrong though, I think she should have kept her mouth shut, just like his dad should have kept his shut.
It is not the wife’s responsibility to make her husband talk to his family. She can encourage of course but if he cut off contact with all his friends because that’s what they were doing, why would she put herself in that position. Besides, if she were to contact them behind his back, that could be a pretty big betrayal. He had his reasons and it’s her job to respect that.
She might be controlling, but it’s equally possible this is his decision and it could come from more than the wedding insult.
Seriously though, you pit a new husband against his new wife and think it’s going to go over well…I’m sorry just doesn’t cut it.
Leroy January 25, 2012, 6:42 pm
I don’t think that it’s an either / or proposition. In all likelihood both the parents and wife have contributed to this situation. But for the reasons that others have pointed out, I do suspect that the wife has been active in persuading the LW’s brother to take such drastic steps.
landygirl January 25, 2012, 10:56 am
I recently got married and one of my brothers couldn’t afford to attend the wedding. Along with that, neither of my brothers’ wives or my future sister in law attended. I understand that not everyone can drop everything to be there on your wedding day and it seems petty that the brother would punish the LW for circumstances beyond her control.
I’m almost certain that the wife is behind the estrangement here. IMO and I’m sure it won’t be a popular one, is to just let it go. I think your parents should stop sending them money and you should stop trying to reconcile with someone who obviously is so highly influenced by his wife that he would shun his entire family.
You can’t convince someone of something when they have a bug (or a wife) in their ear telling them what to do. Nothing you can say will change his mind because his mind is no longer his own. I’m truly sorry that you and your parents are hurting but your brother has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with you (just your parents checkbook) so let him have his way. He may come around he may not, but it’s his choice. There is no need to constantly re-open a wound.
LetterWriter January 25, 2012, 11:06 am
Hi All! I’m the letter writer of this letter and I have been reading over your comments all morning. Thank you, some of you have had some comforting and great suggestions. But I felt the need to clear a few things up that I didn’t go into detail in the letter because I didn’t want the letter to be too long.
1. When I visited him over March, they were engaged but had been planning as of then to come back to the east coast for their wedding that summer. After my visit (which had gone well, we had a lot of fun), they decided to have a small wedding in Portland instead. I tried to get off of work to come, but I just couldn’t. And I also couldn’t afford it since I had paid for both my boyfriend (now husband) to go in March with me as well. I talked to my brother on the phone the day before the wedding (last time I heard his voice) and he was very sympathetic and said that he would prefer me to save my money and visit another time when we could spend more quality time together like we had in March since the wedding would prevent us from having one-on-one time. On a similar note, I got married last may and had invited him. Not only did he and his wife not attend, they never sent the rsvp back.
2. I have written him several letters as Wendy has suggested about what I have been up to, that I miss him, and asking him how he has been. I have never gotten anything back from him other than a sentence or two, ie “Have a great birthday”
3. Wendy suggested that we go to Portland and once we’re there and call him. We don’t know their number or cell numbers. The only number we have is his work number. So I suppose we could call that, but it could anger him to be surprised in the middle of his work day
4. Many of you have suggested messaging him on facebook. He, as far as I know, never had a facebook account. His wife had unfriended me on facebook and has since either deleted her account or upped her privacy settings because she is no longer searchable.
One suggestion that someone mentioned that I think I will try is actually writing his wife a letter. I have sent her birthday cards with a few sentences and asked about her in my letters to my brother, but it never really occurred to me to reach out to her. Thank you to whoever mentioned that one!
Budj January 25, 2012, 11:12 am
Sorry for your situation. I hope things can work out…your letter pushes me more towards my suspicions though. Any details on what the fight was about? That would also help clear things up. Totally cool if you don’t want to divulge that information on the internet though.
LetterWriter January 25, 2012, 11:36 am
“Anyway, on the day of the wedding, a series of events went down that ended with my dad and brother arguing at the end of the night.” I’ll give a brief description of the series of events told to me from my parents: The wedding was to take place in the early afternoon. My parents had stayed with my brother the night before, and his wife had stayed with her parents. My brother and his one best man (who he also doesn’t talk to anymore), left for the church about an hour before, but his wife’s parents told my parents they would pick them up on their way. They had not shown up as of 10 minutes before the wedding was about to start. So my parents, a little panicked that they would miss the wedding, bummed a ride with my brother’s neighbor. His wife and parents finally showed up at the church 30 minutes after the wedding was about to start. My mom, who was a little freaked out because my brother was nervously pacing for 30 minutes, ran out to their car and was like “where were you?? You’re late!!” And her mom yelled at my mom “Put a smile on your face, she’s getting married in a Catholic church to make you happy” Which I should note, that my brother led my parents to believe that he also wanted a Catholic wedding, which may not have been true. So caught off guard by this comment, my mom said she was near tears the entire ceremony. So after the ceremony, they all met up at a restaurant for a small reception that I guess went fairly well. Except my mom was still upset but trying to hide it. So after dinner, everyone was heading out to a bar to celebrate more. My SIL and her parents headed over first. So my brother was left with my parents, at which point my dad pointed out to my brother how upset my mom was. My brother said something like there’s nothing he can do about it. My dad told him to grow a pair of balls, and stand up for his mother. Eventually after some back and forth between the two, my dad said that her family had bad moral values (the catholic thing) and that she was lazy and taking advantage of my brother (the whole not working thing) and that he made a mistake. Needless to say, my brother went on to the post celebration at the bar without my parents. The next day, my parents apologized to my brother, his wife, and her parents.
Budj January 25, 2012, 11:40 am
Yea – sounds like your brother through your parents under the bus to his wife and her family.
Budj January 25, 2012, 11:41 am
And it seems like your brother was doing some double-talk to appease your parents and avoid conflict with the in-laws…
oldie January 25, 2012, 12:24 pm
Huh? His father said the bride and her family were of low morals and that the bride was just taking advantage of his son. How can son not stand up for his bride. Dad threw himself under the bus. I’m going to bet that the parents said a bit more to the bride in that first encounter at the car than they told the LW.
budj January 25, 2012, 12:42 pm
He said that out of anger in a heated moment. The son set the parents up in the wedding arrangements to be the bad guys. He therefore through them under the bus
budj January 25, 2012, 12:43 pm
TheGirl January 25, 2012, 2:26 pm
The bus was already there, set up by the parents years ago by their intolerance of other faiths. What was the son supposed to do? Tell his Mom & Dad that he was only having a Catholic wedding for them? That would have gone over like a lead balloon, I’m sure (my evidence being his rant about their moral values). Yes, the MIL acted in severely bad taste for saying that and I can’t fathom why someone wouldn’t have called to say they were running late with pictures or the hair salon or whatever it was, but that doesn’t give him the right to tell his son he’s made a horrible mistake immediately after he just got married! And as for the son telling everyone else, well, he was super pissed that his dad put him in the middle of something on what was supposed to be the happiest day of his life and probably a little drunk. Plus, I can’t imagine its the first time they disrespected the woman he loves seeing as LW initially mentions that they never approved of her.
Budj January 25, 2012, 5:27 pm
I do agree…catholic parents are annoying…they were to my brothers…thankfully I will be the last to be married and they will be sick of fighting that battle so I can do what I want stress free (probably a non-religious wedding).
I also agree (and I have never defended what he did) that the father was in poor form that night. But spinning it from the angle of being probably a little buzzed (at least), furious his wife was disrespected (two wrongs don’t make a right though), pissed his son lied to the in-laws (and him) all that time about the wedding arrangements, and that his son wasn’t going to rectify the situation I can understand heated words being said and immediately regretted. That doesn’t make it right and I’m not suggesting I would have acted the same, but nothing here is deserving of cutting an entire family out of their lives…and unless this son has been butting heads with his parents since birth I just don’t think it is solely his decision to do this.
Something More January 25, 2012, 2:32 pm
I completely agree. I can just hear that conversation where he pushed her into a Catholic mass wedding because he knew how much it would mean to his parents. Because if you are raised Catholic and even if you no longer practice, you’re still guilted either into it or “tsk-tsk”ed at for not doing it. (I still hear about it that my daughters aren’t baptized. My mom says as my mother she can “gently remind” me once a year.) I’m sure he was probably trying to be a good son and then when his parents said that crap about his new wife, he was not only upset at them for saying it, but also hurt that he planned his wedding to suit their religion and they were being assholes.
If he didn’t want a religious wedding (knowing it was probably expected) he should have talked with his parents to let them know.
meg January 25, 2012, 9:49 pm
Ha, your mom sounds like my mom.
Leroy January 25, 2012, 11:54 am
Is your dad right?
What he’d said – if that’s the whole thing – is bad, but it’s not unforgivably bad.
Renee January 25, 2012, 12:18 pm
I find it so very ironic they were married in a Catholic Church, considering how much as Catholics in our marriage prep stress along the lines.. “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”” Matthew 19:5-6
I know it may upset LW’s dad, but it is very possible your brother is simply trying to practice what his parents’ faith asked of him.
FireStar January 25, 2012, 12:28 pm
Then he wouldn’t disobey the commandment about honouring his mother and father.
Renee January 25, 2012, 12:45 pm
“As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family . . . But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so . . . Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them. (CCC 2217)”
And what respect should his father really get?
Something More January 25, 2012, 2:06 pm
This… is ridiculous. I was raised Catholic as well (altho now not a practicing one) and this isn’t how we were raised. The only people who take passages like this from the Bible so literally are people who 1) try to use it for their own objectives (ex: politians) or 2) complete nutcases. Obviously, when you get married, you are a unit with your spouse, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn your back on your parents. And to suggest that this is what the brother is doing is… ludicrous Especially after the comment from his MIL regarding the reason they were getting married in the church.
Renee January 25, 2012, 3:09 pm
What is my objectives?
My objective was just to share what the Church teaches, because LW father is a practicing Catholic and to what degree do Catholics obey/respect our parents as adult and to what degree do parents have to accept their child’s marriage.
I wasn’t trying to pull anything out of context. Just trying to help.
Something More January 25, 2012, 8:59 pm
My mom’s side of the family are practicing Catholics (as was my dad’s before they all converted to Lutheran.) I know how they roll. What they don’t do is follow the Bible to the letter so as to shun the grooms parents because “the Bible told them to do it.” At least the sane ones don’t.
FireStar January 25, 2012, 3:00 pm
“it is very possible your brother is simply trying to practice what his parents’ faith asked of him.”
My response addressed the absurdity of this position. The brother surely does not shun his father and his family in order to be a good Catholic.
meg January 25, 2012, 9:59 pm
“And what respect should his father really get? ”
Really? His father deserves to be completely cut out of his life forever for one mistake?
The people who preach the most are so often incredibly intolerant and judgmental. 🙁 ew
oldie January 26, 2012, 11:09 am
It seems highly unlikely that this was one mistake, but rather an on-going campaign to separate the son from his chosen life partner, almost certainly following a whole lifetime of not allowing the son to express opinions different from his own. This seems little different than the problems experienced by homosexual sons of religiously dogmatic parents. The message is clear: I’ll love you and you’ll be a part of this family as long as you believe as I believe and behave exactly as I want you to behave.
FireStar January 25, 2012, 12:25 pm
I feel for you LW. I am estranged from my brother as well. I can easily say it is because of the woman he married but the reality is I’m estranged from him because of how he chose to act. My mother cries every day because of it – and my heart breaks for her. I hope one day she can have a relationship with her son again. My story is different and for me the damage my brother has inflicted on my mom has been fatal to any relationship I could have with him so I understand your anger at your brother. But this is what I know: Everyone is responsible for their own conduct and you can only be responsible for your actions and not anyone else’s. Your brother will one day have to reconcile his conscience with what he did to his family. I hope for his sake it is not too late when he does.
I don’t know what type of man you brother is but perhaps grovelling at your brother’s and sister-in-law’s feet might just strengthen their own position in the “fight” as far as they are concerned and reinforces the current behaviour they have been exhibiting. After you have sincerely apologised then you just have to leave it. Even if your dad was wrong – your brother’s behaviour has since out-shined your dad’s. A response has to be proportional to the initial affront. Maybe send a last letter in lieu of the cheques and explain you will be there when he is ready and then just leave it. I’m sorry.
ktfran January 25, 2012, 1:38 pm
I wholeheartedly agree with this response to the LW. I have nothing to add really because I think this is perfect.
Skyblossom January 26, 2012, 7:14 am
When I read this I see a tremendous level of arrogance from your dad. He demanded that your brother do something about his mom being upset, meaning what, start an arguement with his new in-laws on the day of his wedding? Demanding an arguement is saying that he can still tell his now married son what to do. That is arrogant. Then going on to insult the wife and her family is rude and again it is arrogant to think you don’t have to follow basic rules of civility with your own son on his wedding day. Then your dad finished by insulting your brothers masculinity, what else does grow a pair of balls mean. Your dad was arrogant, belittling, emasculating and rude. A man who would behave like that on his own son’s wedding day is a man who behaves like that day in and day out. This isn’t a one time thing and your brother did exactly what your dad said. He grew a pair of balls. He grew a pair and he became a man. He has effectively said that he will never tolerate that arrogant, belittling, emasculating rudeness in his life. He has decided that his life is better without your family in it. He has made his decision and it would be a mistake for your parents to ignore his decision and show up at his door. That is just more arrogant behavior. It effectively says that they can show up at his door and be in his face if they want, regardless of his wants. Many people seem to think that they don’t have to treat their own family with the basic courtesy that they would treat a stranger and sometimes people get away with that level of rudeness and sometimes they don’t. My belief is that in life you must earn the respect of everyone, including your own family. Your dad hasn’t behaved in a respectable way, in fact, he went in the opposite direction and your brother won’t take it any more. An apology can never repair the years of insulting behavior that your dad almost certainly did. The final round of insults were too much when piled on top of all that had gone before. Your dad’s behavior sunk to such a low level that your brother refuses to put up with even one tiny bit more.
The fact that your brother was married in a Catholic church shows how hard your brother and his wife worked to try and please your parents. They had to join a church in Portland and attend regularly or they wouldn’t have been able to get married there. They had to also attend all the pre cana classes required by their parish and they had to promise to be a Catholic family and raise their children Catholic. For all of their effort to please your parents your parents weren’t pleased. Your brother and his wife went to a lot of effort trying to make your parents happy and all they got for it was arrogance and rudeness. Your brother saw that there was no pleasing your parents. Nothing would make them happy and so he made himself happy. He cut them out of his life.
jlyfsh January 25, 2012, 11:14 am
I hope reaching our to your SIL helps. Like I said above the idea of losing contact with my sister just makes me so sad, I can’t imagine what you’re going through!
Leroy January 25, 2012, 11:22 am
Contacting the wife probably is a good idea, if for no other reason than to gauge her role in all of this.
Budj January 25, 2012, 11:24 am
PArt of me thinks she won’t even write back – or will send something snarky back…
landygirl January 25, 2012, 11:31 am
Leroy January 25, 2012, 11:47 am
Well then she’ll know. But I suspect that you’re onto something. It would be one thing for him to have cut off the father, or even both parents, but all family and East Coast friends – while still cashing the checks?!? That does seem like the work of a puppet master.
Also it’s not uncommon for someone w/ controlling parents to seek out controlling partners.
ForeverYoung January 25, 2012, 11:41 am
This breaks my heart! I’m so sorry you are going through this. I will never understand what goes on in the minds of manipulative people… It’s like they think there isn’t enough love to go around. I have no advice, but my heart goes out to you.
pamplemousse January 25, 2012, 11:15 am
I feel like it takes more than one fight (even if it was on the day of their wedding) to cause someone to immediately sever ties with every one of his friends and family members, and have his wife’s family move across the country. My guess is that there are bigger issues between your parents and your brother that you may not be fully aware of.
I think Wendy’s option of flying out to make themselves available to make amends is viable, especially if your parents are really desperate. However, I do have to say that, being estranged from my own mother, if she came to my city and camped out at a hotel calling me everyday and then coming to my home if I ignored the calls – I’d be pretty livid. That said, if the issues aren’t that deep with your brother and his parents, maybe he’d appreciate the effort.
AKchic January 25, 2012, 12:23 pm
If my father did that – I’d shoot him on sight if he was on my property. Plain and simple.
Betty Boop January 25, 2012, 11:25 am
Some words cannot be taken back. I don’t know if your father did say some unforgivable, but, “I’m sorry: cannot always fix what’s been done. It’s terrible that you’re caught in the middle of this craptacular situation, but you are in no position fix the relationship between your parents and brother. I really like the suggestion that your parents seek council from their priest on how to handle their heartbreak without putting a burden on you. I also strongly agree that you seek contact with your brother completely independently of your parents. He and his wife may agree to it if it’s clear your parents are not involved in any way and that you’re not “reporting” information back to them. You can only attempt to repair your relationship and try to remember that you only have your father’s explanation of what happened. There could be much that was left out.
mandalee January 25, 2012, 11:34 am
I had something very similar happen in my extended family, with my mother’s brother (my uncle). My mom and my uncle were inseparable growing up and she idolized him. Soon after turning 18 and dating my aunt, who was quite different from my family but a great person, they decided to get married. There was some family turmoil during the planning, and after the wedding, my uncle completely cut out my entire family and family friends from his life. They lived in the same small town as the rest of my family, so it was an even bigger slap in the face. For years growing up, I never spent time with my uncle and aunt and didn’t see my cousins except at larger school functions.
After a mutual family friend died seven years ago, my uncle showed up to the funeral and confided after to my mom the trauma he felt growing up in my grandparents house. They were also not physically abusive, but they were extremely strict, emotionally abusive, and were unloving. My uncle was deeply affected by this because he was eight years old than my mom and saw and understood more than he did at the time. He was in counseling for years, and his wife and him decided they did not want to subject their children or themselves to the hardships he experienced. Happily, they reconnected and I am very close to my cousins, but their family does not talk or associate with any other family members, including his parents.
I just wanted to share that story so that you understand, that while you may have grown up in the same house, he may have dealt with your parents internally a very different way than you did. Maybe the fight at the wedding was the tip of the iceberg, maybe your brother has more blame. All I know is, family estrangement is very complex.
Hopefully, you can regain contact with your brother in the future. Maybe by writing a heartfelt letter to both your brother and his wife about how you miss having contact with them and despite what might be going on between them and your parents or other family members, you would greatly appreciate a relationship with them because of how dearly you miss your brother.
AKchic January 25, 2012, 12:20 pm
Coming from a very “odd” family dynamic, and not reading any of the other comments yet (I was out of my office yesterday, covering for another program), I have to wonder just what was said to the bride and her family.
My father is someone I do not claim. He is “Dennis” if he is ever mentioned at all. I’ll be totally honest and admit that he is the entire reason I was in foster care when I was young (7-9 years old). My grandpa is the only grandfather on my side of the family that my kids know of. For a very, very good reason.
On occasion, my “father” will attempt communication. Usually through his younger sister. She’ll contact my grandma, who will give me the phone number. I’ll call, hoping that it will be brief (so I can tell her to stop calling my grandma), she’ll get the phone number from her caller-id, and then pass it on to him. 3-6 months later, I’ll get a phone call saying “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas”, and it is nowhere near either of these occasions (it’s usually the middle of March). Sometimes, I’ll get presents mailed to my grandma’s house, and they are plastic jewelry suitable for a kindergartener. Or $5 in a card. One year, I got a pink baby blanket for my boys, and the youngest was 3.
This, after telling him that I want nothing to do with him. Each time, changing my phone number so both he and my aunt can’t call me. They now do this to my younger sister, who is so hard up for attention and free money that she buys into it.
The money being sent is manipulation. It’s a “well, I’m good enough for money, so I must be good enough for actual communication. He owes it to me since he took my money”. I’m sorry, but if what was said/done at the wedding was so harsh that the LW’s brother cut off communication to protect his bride (much like I cut off all communication to protect myself, and more importantly, my kids), then I think this LW needs to respect that. The LW does not know what exactly what was said, or has heard very watered down versions from his own father and mother to assuage the father’s guilt.
Your father needs to accept that what he did was wrong and needs to stop. He reopens the wound every time he sends money and every time he tries to reach out. You can reach out on your own, but leave your father out of it. If your brother wants to reconnect with your father, that is up to him. On his own terms.
Jac January 25, 2012, 12:44 pm
After reading what the fight was about from an above comment from the LW, I think the parents acted poorly on the wedding day. Your brother had every right to to be angry at them as what they said was inappropriate and very hurtful. While I don’t think they deserve total estrangement, there could have been other things going on that led to this. Your brother’s relationship with your parents may be very different from yours, particularly the relationship with your father.
I don’t think you should ambush them because I dont think it would work. I say you should send a letter to your brother and a separate one to your s-i-l, but leave your parents out of it. Focus on rebuilding your relationship with them. Maybe over time, that will lead to a better relationship with him and your parents. Your parents should get counseling to deal with the loss and examine their own actions and words.
Bossy Italian Wife January 25, 2012, 1:37 pm
I think that LW shouldn’t have as much sympathy for her parents… maybe that is why the brother doesn’t want to talk to her. The thing is, she wasn’t present at the wedding wherein the father said some nasty things about the bride–AT THE WEDDING! That is the most hurtful thing you could do to a kid in my opinion. If he knows that all you are going to do is defend your parents, maybe he’s justified in not wanting to speak with you. It doesn’t sound like anyone has heard his side of the story.
Your parents behavior sounds calloused and insulting if you ask me, and they displayed a complete lack of respect for their son ON HIS WEDDING DAY. Then they just “apologize” and that was supposed to be that? I am sorry, but I am failing to see the logic here. Your parents ruined what is arguably a huge day in a couple’s life and not only that but they showed a complete lack of support of the relationship…. why would they want to talk to your parents?!
As for you, if you want a relationship with your brother, stop siding with your parents, get the real story and show some support and validation for your brother’s feelings. Is it necessarily mature that he cut out the whole family? I don’t know, probably not. But the fact of the matter is, he is an adult and as hurtful as it may be, it’s the choice he’s made.
RhyanShae January 25, 2012, 1:48 pm
This almost reads like I wrote it in 1997. Almost every detail.
Both of my brothers were married in 1997. The one I was closer to married a girl in June of that year that was from California. We are from rural NYS, not well off at all, and they met in college and had a primarily long distance relationship. Needless to say, my family flew with great expense to California for the wedding and I, myself, was in the wedding party as a bridesmaid. I stayed with the family, as they were pretty well off (this was Santa Barbara) and had the room for the bridal party to stay, and my parents stayed with a neighbor of theirs. I was also 17, and this is important.
During the time out their, our soon-to-be in laws were immensely controlling, and it was very clear that we were being “tolerated” as my brother’s family. At one point, the bride’s parents refused to let my oldest brother have a talk with the one getting married, and a big fight happened. At that point, it was the night before the wedding. Everyone made plans to move out of the houses after the wedding, as we didn’t want to ruin my brother’s day, even though we were essentially being forced out of his life.
The day of the wedding, before we were going to get hair done, etc, my parents came by to pick up my stuff from the in-laws house, and take me to the hotel they’d gotten for the remainder of our time in California. The in-laws actually refused to let my parents see me, and tried to lock them out of the room I had been staying in. Yes, you read that right.
Needless to say, we stood up and were the bigger people. We went through the wedding because it was what my brother, who we were hurt by but still loved, wanted. We flew back to NY, but things were tense. My brother rarely contacted us (they had moved to Chicago after the wedding), and was extremely close to the in laws. Both of my brothers refused to talk to each other. My entire family, including the extended family, felt we had lost someone.
Fast forward about a year and a half, and it turns out the bride was a nut. She was extremely moody and emotionally abusive, and even threatened my brother with a knife. She eventually cheated on my brother with some guy she found online. She ran away with this guy. My brother came back, and with newly opened eyes, looked at the events that happened surrounding his wedding, and realized exactly what we’d seen. And, most importantly, even if he had cut us out of his life and heart for a time, we never did the same back. We healed.
Obviously, my situation is not yours. In my opinion, what fosters a potential for reconciliation is an openness in one of the parties to reconcile. A willingness to look beyond the pain and accept the person back when they need you and come to you. Wendy gave you great advice. I just wanted to show you an instance where patience and tentative reaching out did lead to a reconciliation. It is possible, and I hope eventually your family can heal this rift.
RhyanShae January 25, 2012, 1:50 pm
GAH! I should have read this over more carefully! Sorry for the their typo!
JK January 25, 2012, 1:52 pm
This letter (esp. the updates from LW) reminds me a lot of my mother.
I mean, she´s my mum and I love her, but she is a total drama queen. ANd Lw´s mother´s act at the wedding sounds just like something my mother would do, I can imagine her sitting with a long face throughout the ceremony, filthy looks to the in-laws, etc.
Maybe I´m projecting, but maybe not.
Ex: when my 1st baby was born, I´d asked everyone to please wait until we asked them to go. Of course everyone ignored my wishes, when I was leaving the delivery room, my mother and brother were sitting right outside, my mother actually stopped the wheelchair to get a look at the baby. When we got to our room, my MIL and FIL were there, my MIL barged into the room, and that was enough to make my mother have a huge tantrum, stressing me out totally, badmouthing my MIL and husband throughout my hospital stay, insisting to be there at visiting hours (over my husband being there), terrible.
But, she remains to this day completely oblivious how awful her behaviour was, even though I´ve told her several times.
AKchic_ January 25, 2012, 2:30 pm
My SO’s mother left after we threatened to call security. The attorney she brought advised her that it would be better to leave than get arrested. She showed up the next day, pulled Eryx out of my arms while I was feeding him (thank goodness I was bottle feeding, right?), and started looking him over and told us we weren’t allowed to circumcise him because her father had had “penis cancer” and had to get circumcised when he was in his 60s and he swore it messed up his libido and she didn’t want her grandson having a messed up sex life. Completely ignoring the fact that she herself allowed all three of her boys to be circumcised, and that both my SO and I had told her numerous times before that she had absolutely no say in what we did in the raising of Eryx.
Knowing that she already thought I was a slut, I simply said “none of the circumcised guys I’ve been with ever complained about being circumcised” and smiled. The SO tried not to laugh and said that he had no problems himself.
I wish I could have video taped all of her shenanigans. Just for impartial proof, and comedic relief.
jlyfsh January 25, 2012, 2:14 pm
I’m always very surprised by which letters divide people in to two distinct groups. I feel like this is definitely one of them. I guess my feelings are that most issues like this can be worked through, we get so little time with our family that I wish more people were able to reconcile. Yes, I think the Father was in the wrong to say the things he did. But, he did apologize and it just makes me sad that the son doesn’t want to at least try and hear him out and let his Dad show him how sorry he is. I guess I imagine having kids and the kids never getting to meet their Grandparents or one of the parents passing away before amends could be made. Just makes me very sad.
First Time Commenter January 25, 2012, 2:22 pm
I have been an avid reader of Dear Wendy but have never commented until today. I am a little nervous because I know that the community here can become rather harsh and opinionated towards certain dissenting comments but here goes.
I feel the need to respond to this blog because I am in a similar situation only I would be labeled the “crazy psycho wife.” I assure you I am anything but that. My husband and I have had to selectively “cut off” certain members of his family of origin because they are completely toxic and psychologically unstable. It was my husband’s decision. We discussed the issue(s) with a therapist and we decided to set up clear boundaries together. Although it has caused some stress on his extended family as a whole, we try our best to explain our position kindly and firmly but change can be painful. I am responding to the LW from this perspective.
I believe the heart of the issue is triangulation, which is a “no go” if two people want to keep their sanity and their marriage intact. LW’s explanation of what her father said to her brother indicates to me that the father was demanding that his son take his mother’s “side” (I totally hate that word btw) against his brand new wife. I’m sorry that you’re caught in the crossfire LW but that simply is an impossible position for a new husband to take. It sounds like to me that your parents (as loving as they might be) are still trying to triangulate (or turn one against the other) in your brother’s marriage. I’m going to assume that this is pattern of communication for them. If your mother is demanding via your father that your brother take her side against his new wife then I think it’s absolutely necessary that your brother and his wife set firm and clear boundaries to preserve their marriage. I agree with the biblical quote from a commenter above. Also, it seem like your parents may be crossing over boundaries and triangulating further by encouraging you to fix the situation or take sides. My advice would be to examine your parents communication and the way in which you communicate with your brother. Perhaps you are unintentionally sending your brother messages that give him and his wife the impression that you will cross their boundaries.
I would encourage you to really examine your family of origin because patterns that we learn there can affect our personal relationships into our adult life. I will say this. From personal experience, if the two members of my husbands family of origin were to seek therapy and address “us” in a stable and adult manner we would be open to rebuilding the relationship. I think it will help if you reach out to your brother’s wife after some self reflection.
iseeshiny January 25, 2012, 2:37 pm
If you’ve written letters to your brother in the past and never received anything back referencing them, just cards on special occasions, is it possible he’s never seen them? If she stays home all day chances are she’s the one to get the mail. It’s possible she takes letters, etc addressed to him, deposits the checks and throws everything else out. Just a thought.
Anyway, were I in your position, I would try sending one last letter to him (maybe to his work address, too), leaving your parents entirely out of it.
The content, naturally, is entirely up to you, but if I were the one writing it I know it would go along the lines of:
Hello, brother, I’m hurt you’ve never responded to any of my other letters. I’m writing to your work because I’m hoping I’ve had the wrong address all along and maybe this is just a big misunderstanding. If it isn’t a misunderstanding then I’m angry you couldn’t be bothered to tell me you weren’t going to make it to my wedding and have made no effort to get in contact with me. I would love to see you and your wife, the last time I saw you we had a blast, and I’m really bewildered by the lack of any actual contact beyond birthday cards. If I did something wrong, please tell me and I’ll try to make it right, but as it stands right now I have no clue why you aren’t speaking to me. This is the last time I’m going to try to communicate with you because the constant rejection hurts too much. If you want to pursue a relationship with me here is my home phone number, cell phone number, address, email address, facebook name, blog, fax number, pager number, (everything!) but two and a half years of not hearing your voice is enough.
And then I would stop trying. You can’t force someone to pick up the phone.
mirage14 January 25, 2012, 2:47 pm
Agreed completely that the father was out of line – but we don’t have much info on the bride and her family. Is there something that the LW’s father is picking up on? Substance abuse, possible mental disorder, abuse towards the LW’s brother?
Religion, especially in relation to a wedding, can be a very touchy subject. My cousin and his wife did not have a religious ceremony (our family is Catholic, and my great uncle was a priest). His parents were quite upset and offended, but they came to a compromise – my cousin’s father gave a blessing during the dinner in honor of our great uncle (the priest) who passed away, as he would’ve done it himself had he still been alive.
Given what happened at the reception, it would make sense for the LW’s brother and wife to cut themselves off, to an extent. HOWEVER it makes absolutely no sense for the LW’s brother to cut off all his friends on the East Coast, including his best man. This is extremely suspicious, and makes me believe something deeper is going on in the relationship between him and his wife. Something is very off there. And the fact that he’s still depositing the money? That’s low, really, really low, in my opinion.
First Time Commenter January 25, 2012, 3:21 pm
In my personal experience my husband eventually had to cut off his best man from our wedding. He (the best man) would continually try to come in between my husband and myself with emails and FB posts. He passed a personal email that I sent to him around to my In-laws in an attempt to get me excluded from my husbands “family.” My MIL and FIL ignored it because they were used to the best man’s childish antics. My husband’s sisters however took the email and ran with it for over a year.
When everything came to a head (days away from our second wedding anniversary) my husband decided to address his best man and his sisters. The best man sent back the most hateful email telling my husband that he didn’t approve of my husband’s career and that I was just a used up piece of trash and that he should have never been in the wedding. He also said my husband’s sisters agreed with him and that all three of them discussed how unnatural, horrible, and weird our wedding was on the long car ride (in a rented car we paid for btw) back to their home state. What was my husband supposed to do with that? My husband decided to end the friendship, and in the BM’s characteristic fashion he forced everyone within a 50 mile radius to “choose sides.”
Ultimately my husband did lose some friends over it, and on the surface it might have looked “crazy,” especially if people were only listening to the Best Man. My husband and I did what was best to save our marriage and the Best Man showed his true character. Sadly the entire experience did change the way we interact on FB. We both stopped using the site as often because it only seemed to exacerbate drama and invite it into our lives.
My point is that it just seems to me we only understand the LW, pro-parents, pro Best Man point of view. There could be a valid reason that the brother had to sever ties with his best man that does not indicate the wife is abusive or crazy.
Lamia January 25, 2012, 2:58 pm
My husband has cut off the majority of his family over a fight he had with his mother and sister regarding my relationship with him. Now as he deleted all of his aunts and cousins from his MySpace (yes, this was YEARS ago) I told him that I didn’t think it was fair that he punished all of them for what his mother and sister were saying and doing. His issue was that the majority of his family are/were in his mother’s pockets. He didn’t think he could trust any of them to not report everything to his mother, or worse try and play the sympathy card. I’m not sure if that’s what the LWs brother is thinking, even if its not a financial thing, but a siding thing.
Of course, in their eyes, now I’m the crazy one who has forced him to cut off his family.
And I must implore you, DO NOT ambush him. If my MIL and SIL pulled something like that, I can promise you it would end in a restraining order. That would certainly nix any further attempt to reconcile, at least on somewhat neutral terms. I do agree with trying to reach out to your SIL. She may have no idea how YOU feel, just what your father had to say. Best of luck to you ♥
MiMi January 25, 2012, 7:52 pm
I love the part where the brother has dramatically cut the parents out of his life – except for when he cashes their checks…
Maybe it’s best to leave him alone until he grows up some. You can’t reason with the unreasonable.
Marta January 29, 2012, 3:18 pm
Yes, cut off the checks and I think he will have a change of heart. Her brother is behaving lIke a child. He surely made the mistake to tell his wife what the father said in anger and now lacks the courage to stand up for himself. What a rat to deny his sister and friends!
katie January 25, 2012, 9:20 pm
LW, here is perspective that you might not have thought of…
it seems painfully obvious that your father and your brother are VERY different people. the way your describe your “strict, very catholic” parents sounds kind of like my dad… and then the way that your brother has cut his family out of his life kind of seems what i almost did in my life. i think that the thing you might not have thought of is that your brother may have wanted to do this for YEARS. he may have hated your family, all of them, for whatever reason, and wanted out. everytime any member of your family spoke, in his head, your brother may have completely disagreed and his hate just grew and grew. the wedding may have been the tipping point, after he may have finally experienced what he feels as true love (from a family, not a romantic love) from his now in-laws. he may have finally felt like he could truly be himself, truly express himself without whatever it was that made him hate all of you. i also have a feeling that you, being still on good terms with your parents, agree atleast to some degree with what your family believes -or maybe your brother just thinks that. this may mean that he hates you just for the fact that you stand for everything he hates- which is everything is father/parents stood for.
just a thought. myself and my father think completely different things about the world. it never got to the point where i would want to cut him out of my life, thankfully, but i may have headed there if his judgemental, religious crap he would spit at me day in and day out hadn’t stopped. i feel for your brother, because if this is what happened, i can remember what that feeling of being accepted finally felt like- i can remember feeling “this is what a dad should be like” ect…
i honestly think that the only way that you can try to repair things with your brother is if you completely cut your parents off from that process. do not tell them anything, do not try to be the mediator, dont tell your brother anything about them… ect. you have to come to your brother just as you, not with your family’s baggage.
oldie January 26, 2012, 10:59 am
But LW spent a very happy visit with brother and her now SIL. I doubt her brother hates her. I think he simply thinks she has chosen sides in his argument with his parents. From what she says in the letter, she does strongly take her parents’ side. I was amazed how blithely she brushed off her father’s wedding-day insults to brother’s wife, basically just saying ‘well my father did apologize the next day’. I guarantee you that LW will have a very different mindset if a non-Catholic becomes the love of her life and her father pulls this same crap on her. She really has not put herself in her brother’s or SIL’s shoes. Insults carry lasting pain that an apology does not erase. Knowing that your parents will never accept your spouse must be a severe emotional agony.
Riki Rouge November 30, 2012, 6:40 am
My brother has written off our family too.
Rift #1 – My brother and sister are on the East Coast, another sister in the US and me and Mum on the West Coast. My brother who is in his 50’s is the life of the party, fun, witty and generous. Naturally people gravitate toward him and my sister’s best friend and husband started to drop over to his home to become closer friends with brother J and his wife. They became a fast foursome at my sister’s expense. She went into a depression. When everyone got together everyone drank too much and hostilities arose. Then my father died. At the memorial my sister apparently upset my brother. When Mum went out to visit sister D and brother J the following Christmas, J got insulted because they forgot a luncheon date. He did not see Mum the rest of the visit. I called J when Mum got home to try to patch up the rift and got an earful with him calling D evil and intent on sabotaging the family. I tried to talk reason to him but he wanted nothing to do with her again. I avoided the real crux of the matter (which I know he knows) that is his betrayal of D by taking up with her best friends and treating her like yesterday’s news.
Rift #2 The next summer he and his wife came out to the West Coast and I was thrilled to know that Mum could have her only son back again. When we were all together he drank and proceeded to berate me and Mum and became enraged yet again about the forgotten luncheon date of the previous Christmas visit. We were so stunned and hurt. He said terrible things, especially to Mum. We parted and he and his wife flew back East on an earlier flight. He called a month later and drunkenly said he had ‘screwed up’. Mum wrote him a letter and at least I was relieved for Mum.
Rift #3 Mum went for a visit East and stayed with sister and went to visit sister M in the US. Then she stayed with brother J. On the very first night they went out for dinner with his family and no one really spoke to Mum. Later after the usual few drinks J became verbally abusive to Mum and told her he ‘hated the whole fucking family’ before going to bed. Mum stayed up all night and in the morning he offered her a cup of tea like nothing had happened and she replied that she wanted to just get a drive back to sister D. He told her to go and never come back. This was in May 2012.
So it started with an insensitive act on his part – becoming bosom buddies with sister D’s friends, leaving her out and then slagging her to the rest of the family. On her part, she tried to act normal but the stress of the humiliation caused her to not attend functions where the betraying friends were. She still tried to keep a semblance of family by inviting brother and wife for dinners, but she could see that they were there by duty and kept an eye on their watches waiting to go.
I have been sad for years now, cry regularly. We had such a great, close family. My family was my rock. Now I feel lost and strange. I can deal with losing Dad because he’s gone but can’t reconcile losing my brother J because he is still on this earth.
bittergaymark December 3, 2012, 12:29 am
Eh… Honestly, you can’t blame your brother for the fact that your other sister — who sounds very much like a wet blanket — was once best friends with somebody who eventually became better friends with him. I mean, seriously. It happens. Let it go. It seems to me that this one event — which — frankly — strikes me as insignificant is the crux of the problem. That ANY of you chose to take sides here was fucking stupid. It just was. Worse, it’s beyond petty that so many of you still are angry about this… Friendships come and go. People change. Maybe your sister wouldn’t have been so dropped had she simply — I dunno — been more fun.
That said, why you chose to involve yourself in this matter. Or even have an opinion on it remains a mystery to me. It certainly didn’t help matters much, did it?
Moreover, what exactly did your sister DO at the memorial… Your lack of details here is rather telling. Surely, if she was super innocent — you’d have explained how… And PS: blowing somebody off for a lunch date is something that I would admit would totally get my goat.
Honestly, from the outside, the problem doesn’t appear to be your brother at all — but your sister. Seriously. Time and time again she has done all she can to create a rift and then proceeded to drag the rest of your family into it. She’s just as much to blame — if not more than your much maligned brother… At least that’s how it reads to me.
FireStar December 3, 2012, 8:22 am
I agree with you that people come and go in life and no one can ‘steal’ your friends away from you and the drama surrounding the loss of the sister’s friendship was blown out of proportion…but the brother was way out of line. A forgotten lunch date is not something you carry like a blood feud with your own mother. It happens. Someone says sorry and you move on. The brother sounds like he just was waiting for an excuse to torment people – why would you berate your mother and sister a year later over a missed lunch date? And then on another visit you cuss at your mother over it again? Get the f-ck over it. Particularly since he expects the sister to suck up her lost friendship – which she should really – then he can certainly suck up a missed lunch and stop using it as a stick to beat his own mother up with. Your brother sounds like he has always gotten his way his entire life and whenever anyone crosses him – even over something trivial – years ago – then he acts like he is involved in a death match. Sorry, LW, your brother is just a bully. It sucks. I hope your mom can find some peace but it’s important you understand your tears won’t fix anything – you have to understand you can only control your behaviour and are responsible for the consequences of your own actions – your brother will have to live with his.
Stacey December 2, 2012, 4:02 am
To think that this estrangement was over one event is naive. Sorry. I have been estranged from my siblings for several years. I have asked them to not send money to me or my children. My one brother does, so I let my kids make the call. Of course they cash the checks. They are kids.
Our estrangement is borne from growing up in a family with rampant abuse and blatant parental favoritism. My siblings would probably point to a few specific events as the reasons that I no longer wanted contact with them, but that would simply be untrue.
I am truly happiest when I am not in relationship with them…with all the unhealthy dishonest communication…with all the lies and manipulation that I too can fall into when I am with them. Sometimes life is too short to *stay* in relationship. It’s the way we were taught to be with each other.
Anne December 7, 2012, 2:54 pm
There are 3 sides to every story. You can’t believe everything you read online. Especially if the person telling the story wasn’t even present at the time. I can relate completely with this story. I am becoming estranged from my toxic sister. I recently found out that my sister was posting questions online about me. In her questions she would completely rearrange the story, making me seem as if I was some sort of head case who decided one day to cut her off. What she doesn’t realize is that this didn’t happen over night. Becoming estranged is a process. It’s like trying to leave an abusive husband. There will be manipulation and guilt ( coming from the family that you may still talk to). That’s why you sometimes may have to ignore everyone in your family even though you just had a falling out with one. Nobody is going to understand because they don’t realize that there are people in this world that are strong enough to walk away from flesh and blood that has tormented them. It takes courage to put your foot down and become estranged. Also I want to say that you only have one life to live. You and only you can decide who you want to share your life with. That goes for your friends. Family is something that is earned and anybody can gain it or lose it.
wendykh December 13, 2012, 12:41 am
I’m gonna choose a different tactic… I don’t think this guy has “cut them off” since he still sends cards and cashes checks and replies minimally. I think he has simply put up very strict boundaries on them. He’s not interested in having a big close relationship. He doesn’t really care that dad apologized. I relate to this totally. My adoptive mother has apologized more than once for various since and I still haven’t spoken to her more than basic courtesy a handful of times over the last 22 years. She would say I “cut her off.” No. I just have no desire to spend any time with her beyond the absolute most bare minimum (anytime my brother puts her on the phone, a funeral, a wedding). Yes yes she’s apologized for plenty. But I had enough years to know if I forgive her some more bullshit will just show up the next week and it will happen again. I’m just totally not interested.
What I find bizarre is that the MIL was not equally admonished. I find her mouth just as grevious as the dad in this situation. She’s the idiot who started all the drama. Then mom, instead of saying “wtf ever lady, screw off” and blowing it off acts like a drama queen and pouts, and then dad feels put up to “do something” so he talks to sonny (another error. he should have told mom not to worry and relax) and then expects Sonny to do something I mean wtf… I guess he thought they were going to control their kids after the wedding too?
Bookcase February 6, 2013, 9:54 am
We have exactly the same problem with exactly the same family set-up. My parents are also very Catholic, strict but very supportive and caring. My brother got married to a girl who came from a broken family where she was the only child. During the period that they dated she slowly started cutting him off from our family.
At last, 1 year after their marriage and when they were expecting their first child she manufactured a fight about absolutely nothing. She made my brother fight with my mother for telling my fathers side of the family that my brothers wife was expecting (after having told us that they had already broken the news that she was expecting). When my parents tried to speak to my brother about his disrespectful behaviour he got up and walked out of the house and now has nothing to do with his parents or his siblings. Her family is constantly running around their house.
We all thought that my brothers wife cut us off because we were to Catholic for her (she hates the Church and has a weakness towards witchcraft and mediums). My mother started going for therapy about this problem and her psychologist said it was not because of our faith or anything my parents had done in the past; rather it was an influence problem. The girl had psychological problems with her mother, who practically abandoned her at the age of two. The reasoning goes that the girl wants to have revenge on her mother by showing her that she can raise the child perfectly without any help (and no outside influence, especially from my family). Also, with a family to rely on my brother is not as easily manipulated by her and stays emotionally independent.
Money and gifts sent to them are however taken, no questions asked, but we never get anything back from them, not even messages to say they have received the packages. My mother always has to send an sms to ask my brother if he received the parcels safely then she just gets a terse yes and thank you.
A friend of my sisters also has the same problem with her brother, just switch the names and you have her story instead of ours. The only difference is that this is an atheist family so religion or specific events on the part of the parents in the past don’t seem to count. These are all used as excuses to break the victim away from his support network so that the emotional and financial manipulation can be complete.
Karen September 10, 2013, 3:23 pm
I don’t have a problem with the son cashing the checks. The sister’s slotting that in there actually looks quite hostile to her brother.
I am FLABBERGASTED that the father criticized the bride and her family at the wedding. While he was STAYING AT THE SON’S HOUSE? Unbelievable, really unbelievable. Makes me wonder what kind of insults the brother swallowed before this pushed him over the edge. When you criticize your son’s new family, you are really asking him to choose, Her or Us. The man chose his wife. Can’t fault him for that.
I think the sister should write a thoughtful letter to the brother asking why he cut off the parents and her. Ask in the spirit of inquiry, not a judgemental angry attack. It’s entirely possible there’s more to this than the sister realizes. Why not find out what it is?
Then leave things in the brother’s court.
Dina June 4, 2014, 7:54 am
This is terrible advice. As someone who has estranged herself from family to preserve her mental health, I can tell you, ambush will result in a restraining order, not more closeness. Even a sibling doesn’t know the full history of another’s sibling’s relationship with parents. He is keeping some measure of connection up with the cards. Continue on his terms, and don’t send checks if it’s an issue, but don’t corner him. He’ll come back if he’s ready, and if not, that’s his boundary to set.
Samesit March 5, 2017, 10:20 pm
The father was wrong to say or do anything at the wedding, but why is it that his feelings are getting undermined?
I have a brother that has been dating his gf for 3 years and has accomplished big lie changes with her. She is not nice. I could not keep it in for one more second and I told her she was rude and nasty. My entire family attacked me said she was justified in coming at me (she almost hit me). I had warned my brother I was feeling like this and was hoping he could give insight in to why she treats me and my family rude. Next thing she’s texting my mom saying what I did was unforgivable. Mom asked brother if we had talked and he said she can wait. I called him and said wait say it now and we can call it a day. Never made up, still talk, on the phone/text nice but in person acts just like her. I mean why not they live together that happens. I know he wants nothing to do with me any more and after seeing him in person and he is rude to my family(kid) like she was. I don’t want to see him again. Bigger problem is I am super close with my parents and they were devastated and relieved when we started talking again. From why I think, my parents have already separated our lives. I just don’t understand all this over a girlfriend of three years. He hates me.
hoodaticus July 7, 2017, 4:40 pm
Three years is almost as long as the average marriage. Trying to come between a man and woman is like trying to come between a mama bear and her cub: if you DON’T get mauled with that happens, frankly the mama bear (your brother) would be pathetic and unworthy.
JMM October 22, 2017, 11:35 am
I know this is VERY late; but I have to say one thing.
My parents were ‘never cruel’ to my brother’s wife’ – is really, REALLY setting the bar low for expectations. “Not being cruel” is sort of the baseline for how people should behave.
And what does that mean? They didn’t spit in her face when trashing her?
Lynz November 2, 2017, 3:45 pm
I’m on the other end of this right now. I’m 33 and married. Parents never liked my husband, he’s reserved and quiet which is the opposite of my family. She takes it as he doesn’t like her which I told her that isn’t the case but she refuses to believe me. There would be civility on the holidays but then my mom would call me up and rant about him hating them and on and on. Then more passive aggressive comments to me about him. Then eye rolls and such. She would get upset if I was with her and he called or texted me so I have to keep my phone on silent. Then started the “Don’t let him take you away from us” and ” he’s never wanted us in your life. All completely untrue. He’s never spoken a bad word about them and even has picked my son up from school a few times just so I could hang out with her longer. I finally told her that I wouldn’t tolerate any more talk about my SO like that. She flipped out and said that our relationship can never come back from this.. She refuses to speak to me now, 4 weeks so far. And my Dad is ghosting me, too, and sees nothing wrong with anything my mom is doing.
DeborahT January 27, 2018, 9:28 am
I have recently cut my sister out of my life- or, more correctly, we have had a mutual dropping of contact. Sometimes there is just too much hurt and anger and pain to get back to any reasonable relationship. Perhaps it might be worth respecting your brother’s choices. But personally I’d stop sending cheques.
Bryan Brun July 23, 2018, 10:10 pm
Family can be abusive without even knowing it. It certainly doesn’t always come in physical form. Move on.
Kate August 9, 2018, 12:19 pm
This is almost exactly what is happening in my family. We have had issues with my brother’s wife, have tried to reconcile, but always feel like there’s a target on our back. Especially when her family is clearly so much more loved. It breaks my heart. My parents and I haven’t slept well over it, and I cry over the loss of my brother once a week at least. He used to be my best friend.
Alana October 7, 2018, 7:07 am
Ignore the advice above that suggest showing up at an estranged family member’s home uninvited. No one who is sane does that.
Anon March 24, 2019, 1:43 pm
You all seem so on the side of the parents. Sorry, but refusing contact with a family member who is not a dependent is NOT abuse and is perfectly within the son’s rights. How many other times was the father verbally abusive to the son besides this incident? How many times did he yell at his son? Maybe the breaking point was when the father yelled at his son’s wife. He might’ve been more willing to defend his wife than himself for all those years. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author of this letter was a golden child, completely unsympathetic to their scapegoated brother because they’ve been shielded from the true scope of the abuse for all these years. As for taking the money who cares? It’s just money. Money can’t heal a relationship. Money was sent to him, he deposited it. Again, well within his rights. Maybe the parents shouldn’t send hollow gifts of money when they really need to address the real problems in the relationship.
Ginger December 31, 2020, 12:02 pm
This is a pretty old post I see, but a similar thing happened to us as well. My parents were never strict, abusive or anything, they were pretty much supportive with all of us kids (I have an older half-brother, a younger sister and a younger brother) and (it seemed) that everyone had a good relationship with each other. My younger brother was around 19 when he left us from one day to the other (in 2013). He had a girlfriend who lived in another town and she was clearly manipulative/emotionally abusive to my brother, he was miserable so we never liked the girl but tried to accept her and be supportive. We are not religious but he became a Catholic like the girl (or maybe he joined a cult, I will probably never know, on the surface it looked Catholic) and he spent more and more time with her. Eventually he ended up moving to the same town where she lived just so she would stop the emotional abuse. I’m not sure what happened between them after that but after a while my brother stopped communicating with us. Blocked the whole family on facebook, cousins, aunts, uncles included and almost all of his childhood friends as well. He came back once for some of his stuff and replied to the emails of my dad. For a while my dad sent him money but when he stopped, the emails stopped too. He changed his phone number (the girl too), When we found it somewhere and one of us (my parents, my siblings or I) called/messaged him, he changed the number again. Eventually he changed his name legally too. They broke up with the girl but got back together after a while, the only way we can see some info about them is through a fake fb profile that’s not blocked. It’s been almost 8 years since he left and since we know little to nothing about him. He missed weddings, funerals, graduations, babies born in the family etc. I can’t imagine what’s in his head, why he would do this. He loved us and he had a good relationship with especially our mom. My parents are heartbroken (they quickly looked visibly older when he left), they couldn’t sleep for months. My sister saw him and his girlfriend once in a nearby city a couple years ago, she went there to say hi, and ask about them, they said hi then left her. I don’t even remember what I said to him last time. I probably just left for work and said bye or something. We tried to contact him for a couple years but eventually we gave up. My dad still tries to message him or the girl once a year but hardly ever receives a reply. I try not to think about him anymore but I’m sad when I imagine that my parents will most likely die without ever seeing him again.
Elaine October 12, 2021, 12:59 pm
The similarities between the initial post, this comment and my family’s dilemma with my brother are so astounding! Its going on 6yrs since my brother picked up his things with his wife and moved away without a goodbye, explanation NOTHING! Clearly these individuals have pride issues and on top of that, a strong possibility that their significant other is of little to no help. Misery loves company.
We miss him everyday. Feels like we mourn him. We’ve reached out several times and even in times of worry, but last time we did, his wife simply replied “I’m sorry, but he does not want to talk to them.”
Communication is so important in every aspect of our lives. He cut off family, friends, cousins, etc….with absolutely NO reason. Mind blowing how cold hearted some can be. We grew up in a loving home. There is no excuse. None.