Harrison and Tennyson had an argument over Tennyson not attending his own brother’s wedding, and the lack of congratulations, card, or welcoming me into the family by any means at all. They met up twice to try to resolve things, which only made it worse. Tennyson and his wife believe we owe them an apology, for moving forward with our wedding date without making sure their calendar was clear, as well as for the harsh exchange of words that have taken place over the four years. Tennyson’s children (18 & 21) won’t speak to my husband, and their entire family returns birthday, Christmas, and graduation cards we have sent to them over the past four years without opening them.
My husband’s parents say they are upset over all this and that they’re getting older, don’t have a lot of years left (they’re 83), and want to see their sons get along. They insist they’re not taking sides, but when we schedule an event with his parent months in advance — a concert, a play, a tour of the White House — they end up canceling a day or two before because Tennyson and his family are sick and need help, or they’re having a graduation or birthday party on the same day, or there’s something that they feel they have to be at and that we should understand. Harrison expresses his disappointment to his parents but beyond that feels there isn’t anything he can do.
This year for Christmas their parents told us they were going to Florida to celebrate Christmas with Sullivan, the youngest brother, for the first time in the 23 years since he’s lived there. Upon asking more questions, we found out that his parents coordinated with Tennyson and his family to go to Florida for Christmas as well. My husband and our family are not invited. His parents said they would celebrate Christmas with us when they return. I’m very frustrated and disappointed in my in-laws. My husband doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas with his parents at all now. Our children (three children total) feel very slighted that they don’t get to celebrate Christmas with their grandparents and cousins and that they weren’t invited to Florida like Tennyson and his family were.
We don’t feel we’ve done anything wrong to warrant this exclusion. We got married, we invited Tennyson and Val, and we expressed our disappointment that they did not come and with their lack of a congratulations, card, or gift after we married. We’ve tried to explain our perspective, but Tennyson and his family say they feel slighted by us and are owed an apology, period! They will not get an apology from my husband or me because we have nothing to apologize for. The problem for me is I want my husband to have a good relationship with his parents and it appears now that this will no longer be possible because they excluded us from the Christmas celebration in Florida.
Help, I could use some advice beyond just enjoy my husband and our kids and have a great Christmas in our home. We will do that regardless and make the best of it. But I’m worried about when his parents come home and how my husband will react and/if he and his parents will have a relationship left at all. — Did Nothing Wrong
You say that Tennyson “believes he’s owed an apology because he feels slighted, overlooked, mistreated, ignored, not important,” but why exactly? What was said or done to make him feel that way? Just not being named best man? I guess I don’t understand the hostility over the that. To send gifts back “return to sender” over that, to cut out a brother over that — it just seems too over the top. It’s hard to believe there isn’t more to the story. What were the “hurtful words” that were exchanged?
Yes, bingo – that’s exactly what this is about. You disinvited them to the kids’ birthday party the day after your argument, suggesting — well actually more than suggesting — that you didn’t trust them to not stir drama at the 6-year-old’s birthday party. They were, and still are, completely offended by that, and your husband’s parents are lying that they don’t side with them. They do. I’m not saying that your in-laws are in the right or that there isn’t some blame on both sides. Maybe most of the blame even goes to your in-laws, but the fact is that you and your husband are the ones being excluded and shunned, and you are the one saying you’re worried about your husband’s feelings and his relationship with his parents and his brother. If that’s the case, you and your husband might want to consider apologizing for things you don’t think you need to apologize for, like disinviting them to that party. You could say you’ve been reflecting on the past and can see how that action offended them and you regret that decision. Your husband needs to apologize for the hurtful things he said to his brother. He needs to tell him he misses them, and you both need to say you want to start over. But only do all of this if you feel like it’s worth trying for a better relationship with these people and if it’s worth the possibility of it not working.
Maybe it isn’t worth the risk, and that’s ok. Your husband will have to accept that he will likely never have a relationship with his middle brother again and that his parents may continue choosing sides. It’s sad, but your husband will survive. People have survived worse family estrangements and betrayals.
As for your husband’s parents, I can understand how they’d cancel plans to a concert to attend a grandchild’s graduation or another important event like that. If they’re canceling everything, though, all the time, and for occasions or events that aren’t very important, and without much notice, then they’re being jerks, and maybe having some distance from them, and the obnoxious brother and sister-in-law, isn’t the worst thing in the world…
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.