In answer to this letter in the forums:
Well, I can tell you are a better person than I am because had I called the venue to see whether my brother was lying about its (un)availability and I discovered that he and his fiancée hadn’t even booked it yet for the weekend we were fighting over, I would have reserved it myself for my 40th birthday and sent out the invitations the next day. (Ok, I probably would not have done this for real, but I would have been really, really tempted to!)
All your feelings of hurt and anger and betrayal are understandable, and I think the root of all of this is that you feel abandoned by your brother when you need his support the most. I’m sorry for that. How crappy to go through something like cancer — all the treatments and unpleasant side effects, the fear, the fight, the changes in your body — and not have someone whom you’ve been closest to your whole life there beside you helping you through it. He has disappointed you, and you are right to feel hurt.
But what I wouldn’t do, no matter how obviously tempted you are, is project all this pain you’re feeling on a date on the calendar — one that is somewhat arbitrary anyway. We’re talking about a date here that isn’t your actual birthday. (Which, come on, let’s be honest, even if it WERE your birthday, who cares? You’re 40, not 6. A birthday is NOT as important as a wedding, no matter how many health issues you might be fighting.) So if you’re going to celebrate what you say is not just your 40th birthday but also your successful response to cancer treatment and how far you’ve come since your diagnosis — would it not still be as special in, say, February? You’d have distance from the holidays, from your brother’s wedding, from school summer break. It wouldn’t be any less fun or meaningful.
I celebrated my 40th birthday two weeks early on a weekend getaway with my husband because my actual 40th birthday fell on my son’s first day of kindergarten and I thought the weekends before and after should be spent helping him adjust to such a big transition. I still had a great birthday celebration despite it being two weeks before my actual birthday. When I turned 30 ten years earlier, my now-husband (then long-distance boyfriend) didn’t fly out to see me because his first nephew was born the day before and he wanted to visit him in the hospital. (And, yes, the nephew and I will share birthday weekends forever – his 10th fell the day before my 40th and so on, and I seriously don’t care because I am not a 3-year-old). Anyway, I think you could also have a wonderful celebration of your life and your fight against cancer a few weeks after your 40th birthday.
But… your letter isn’t so much about when to celebrate your birthday as it is about how to mend your relationship with your brother. The answer here is a simple one. It’s so simple that it almost feels like a cop-out as an advice columnist to share it with you. It’s simple — though maybe not easy — and I think it’s your best shot at not only salvaging a relationship with your brother but also finding some peace in your heart and not letting the anger and pain you feel eat away at you like another cancer: Forgive him.
Forgive your brother for seemingly being more loyal to his fiancée than to you. Forgive him for being selfish, for lying to you, for putting his needs before yours, for stealing your special day, for loving you imperfectly, for not being there for you the way you think you’d be there for him if the tables were reversed. Forgive your brother for not being better, for disappointing you, for making you sad and angry and hurt. Just… forgive him. You don’t even have to tell him you’re forgiving him, but if you feel like that’s appropriate, you can. Basically, you really need to tell yourself you forgive him. You need to feel it in your heart and let this go. Because this incident does not define your relationship with your brother any more than having cancer defines you. It is something that has happened to you that you would have preferred hadn’t happened, but I bet it’s made you stronger and more confident in your ability to face immense challenge. You are a survivor, a warrior.
Look at everything you’ve been through and you are stronger than ever. You’re going to let a dispute over a date and some lying from your brother ruin your relationship with him? Come on, you’re stronger than that.
Forgive him, go to his wedding, support him even though he hasn’t supported you the way you would have liked, and then throw yourself one kick-ass party in February. Celebrate being 40 and being in charge of your life, your health, and your relationships. Celebrate being alive and everything that means, including, but not limited to, overcoming set-backs with grace and dignity.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.