It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Repeatedly Rejected By Niece,” the woman who was debating whether to attend her niece’s wedding in another state despite their lack of a relationship. Keep reading to see what she decided.
A lot of people commented on me not knowing if she’s busy or not, but I see her spend hours on FB posting old photos and then discussing them with people. To me, that’s something that takes time and, if you are really busy, that stuff goes on the back burner. I’ve had some sleepless nights over this decision, mainly because I don’t want to hurt her feelings or have family retaliate, but I know that I need to weigh everything and not attend anything out of fear.
I never mentioned this because it had slipped my mind, but, when I got married, my niece’s behavior (as an 11-year-old) caused lots of drama, which caused me a lot of tension the day I walked down the aisle. When I came to town to pick out bridesmaids’ and junior bridesmaids’ dresses, she hated every one we went to look at until she eventually liked just one. But then, a month after I got home (after measurements and fittings), she complained it didn’t fit and she needed a regular (not junior) bridesmaid’s dress like her older cousin had. The company we ordered them from said there was no way it couldn’t fit. My sister and mom got mad at me until I finally said that I’d pay for her to go get a regular bridesmaid’s dress, and I sent my sister a check. She ripped it up and said they’d keep the dress they had and she’d wear it like it was. Nobody talked about it again, but I noticed at the wedding and in pictures that it fit her perfectly, not even snugly. She just wanted to feel like she was the same as her cousin although her size fell into the junior bridesmaid category. My sister and mom were very cold to me in the weeks leading up to and on the wedding day. Because of this unnecessary drama, I remember feeling sad and disappointed on what should have been a happy, joyous day. I partially blame myself because I do have a hard time getting over things when I’m hurt, but I’m constantly working on this as part of my personal development.
This event has nothing to do with my decision to go or not to her wedding, but I relate it just to show you the kind of drama my family likes to create. My niece was an only child and her parents divorced and I think my sister felt guilty, so she let her behave however she wanted. There were times my sister would let her ex take my niece out with open liquor in the car, and, when I’d ask her why, she’d say “because he has a right to see his daughter.” Ugh!
Thanks again and I love reading your column!
Wow. Well, I’m happy you reached a decision you feel comfortable with, but I think you already had enough valid reasons without retrieving this nearly 20-year-old story from the depths of your memory about your then-11-year-old niece and your sister and their less-than-ideal behavior around your wedding. Just . . . let it go, and try to extend some compassion and understanding not only to yourself but also to the family members you feel have wronged you so much.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at email@example.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
bittergaymark February 23, 2015, 1:04 pm
Bravo! And how wonderful you aren’t one to hold grudges!
MsMisery February 23, 2015, 1:12 pm
Just more evidence that weddings, your own or otherwise, make people completely insane. LW, you are HYPERFOCUSED on this issue. Go or don’t go. How much time she spends on FB is irrelevant. One can post from an iPhone now, you know? Posting or liking posts is indicative of nothing. If you, specifically, were to look at my FB you’d think I were the busiest person in the world because I haven’t logged in since December. But you know what I’ve been doing since then? Netflix, laundry, and taking catpix (in between going to work). So, not really that busy. I just don’t like social media.
You are offended that you place more value on your relationship than your niece does. Admit it and move on with your life, but stop making lists of perceived slights going back decades.
Portia February 23, 2015, 1:21 pm
Wow. Just, wow.
Stonegypsy February 23, 2015, 1:22 pm
Geezus. She was 11. “The kind of drama my family likes to create”
SHE WAS 11
RedroverRedrover February 23, 2015, 1:26 pm
I think she’s referring to her mom’s and sister’s reactions to the situation, not necessarily to the niece.
Portia February 23, 2015, 1:39 pm
“when I got married, my niece’s behavior (as an 11-year-old) caused lots of drama, which caused me a lot of tension the day I walked down the aisle.” I get that she walked it back a little later on, but honestly it sounds like she’s placing blame on the 11 year old too.
Skyblossom February 23, 2015, 1:38 pm
I’m guessing but I think what she is trying to say is that this kind of drama has been going on for decades in the family. Even though she volunteered to buy a second, unneeded, dress and mailed a check for it her mom and sister were angry with her for weeks. It sounds like an angry family that gets upset by the trivial.
Stonegypsy February 23, 2015, 1:54 pm
Even if the drama has been going on with the family for decades, she’s still in this instance either placing blame for the drama or for her sister/mom’s shitty behavior on her then-11-year-old niece.
ktfran February 23, 2015, 1:50 pm
I agree that the FB thing does not indicate how busy someone is. I have friends who are super busy and post things all the time. I have other friends that aren’t that busy but don’t post a lot. What’s busy anyway?
It’s so easy to flip through FB on your phone. You don’t need a computer. Anyway, I think you need to get over the FB thing.
Portia February 23, 2015, 2:08 pm
Agreed. I post way more when I’m busy anyway. I just looked through my history and confirmed that I posted more on facebook in the month leading up to my dissertation defense (when I had a part time job) than I have in like 2 months of unemployment.
mylaray February 23, 2015, 2:24 pm
Nearly everyone is “so busy” all the time, but who are you to be the busy police?
MsMisery February 23, 2015, 3:10 pm
*Wonders if the Busy Police is a division of the Internet Police &&*
tbrucemom February 23, 2015, 2:43 pm
Honestly this LW sounds incredibly needy and that SHE is the one creating unnecessary drama. I think she likes the idea that in her mind if she doesn’t show up at the niece’s wedding that it will some how effect her wedding like her 11 YEAR OLD niece supposedly did hers, which I highly doubt was the case and if it was she has even more issues than you can detect from her letter. The niece probably keeps up enough of a relationship to appease everyone but doesn’t particularly want a close relationship with the LW which based on this letter I can’t say that I blame her. It’ll probably be a relief for the niece that she doesn’t go and won’t ruin her day AT ALL.
julesoola February 23, 2015, 2:45 pm
A story about a pre-teen girl being huffy over a dress is the best example of “family drama” you can dredge up after 20 years? It’s completely bananas that you are even bringing this story up. This story and the fact that you are still this hurt over completely normal teenage girl behavior after so long is probably better used as an example of why you don’t have the relationship with your niece that you feel you should have. Might be time to put down the grudge and pick up a mirror.
Miss MJ February 23, 2015, 3:15 pm
“Might be time to put down the grudge and pick up a mirror.”
This exactly! You know what, LW, your niece likely isn’t going to care all that much whether or not you go to her wedding. Know why? Because it’s not about you. It’s about her getting married to the person of her choice and celebrating that day with all of the people who are there. This is ridiculous. It really is. If you really want a good relationship with your niece, you will go to the wedding, be on your best behavior, wish her well and then respect the boundaries she’s set up for herself and enjoy the relationship you do have. And, honestly, if you’re not speaking to nearly everyone in your family, the common denominator is you. So, think about that, too, because if this is how you act with all of them, it’s no wonder you all don’t get on.
julesoola February 23, 2015, 3:19 pm
“The common denominator is you” YUP!
Reminds me of a line from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: “Everybody’s lost but me!”
captainswife February 23, 2015, 3:55 pm
I dunno about this as a conclusion, because my parents use that one with me. You know why? Because they’ve triangulated between me and my sister for YEARS. I’m the one who sets boundaries, they don’t like it and get mad. Then they blame our porr relationship on me, using exactly those words: “We get along with your sister. She gets along with us. The only problem is YOU!”
I agree that the LW clearly has family problems and dredging up the old story seems a bit out of place. Sometimes family stories…even really old ones…in our mind epitomize the problems. I think she was thinking of her mom and sister’s reactions to the niece’s behavior, but that was obviously only one interpretation.
In either case, LW, I’m sure that just making the decision (one way or another) is a relief. And (obviously) refuse in such a way as to leave the door open for a relationship down the road in case circumstances change. This is just generally good policy, of course!
Seriously? Seriously! February 23, 2015, 3:15 pm
The story seems to be that an 11 year old wanted to be like the grown up cousins and wear the “grown up dress”, so her mom made up an excuse about it “not fitting” to see if it was ok with the bride, but then the bride had a very strong negative reaction, so the mother took the statement back and made the 11 year old wear her dress as planned. The bride was clearly having an emotional couple of weeks before the wedding, but after at first floating the idea of a different dress, the mother kept repeating to her sister that the kid would wear the right dress, don’t worry about it, don’t send a check, you don’t need to spend this money, we’ll do it the way you wanted, no really, no need for a check, sorry we said anything, no really, im tearing up your check because this is unnecessary, i’m really sorry I said anything, please, let it go, ok, ill talk to you later. On the day of the wedding, although the 11 year old wasn’t super happy about it, manners and normal ettiquette ruled the day and everyone wore what the bride had wanted everyone to wear . Of course the dress fit just fine. It’s a bit strange that the LW mentioned that (or that she checked) when it was obviously an excuse, but a perfectly benign excuse. I can’t really understand why you were mad at them for NOT switching the dress, when you didn’t want her to wear the bridesmaid dress.
LW, you are trying to punish your niece by not attending. You want her to notice and be hurt that you didn’t come, just like you were hurt on your wedding, and like you’re hurt by how she spends her time now. This is fine, (as there is no real need for you to attend) but own it. And be ready to be disappointed when she isn’t as hurt by your non-attendance as you want her to be.
SpaceySteph February 23, 2015, 3:49 pm
I think this is very astute: ” You want her to notice and be hurt that you didn’t come, just like you were hurt on your wedding, and like you’re hurt by how she spends her time now.”
I also agree that the niece is probably not going to care as much as the LW wants her to. It goes by so fast and there’s already never time to really visit with anyone (unless you have a very small wedding like less than 20 people) that unless something very bad or very good occurs, a lot of things are just a blur. Sorry to say, LW, but it seems that the only way you’re going to be that memorable is if you start drama… and then it’s better for everyone if you stay home.
mertlej February 23, 2015, 4:17 pm
I wonder if the LW would be hurt either way – I can picture a scenario where she attends the wedding and the bride doesn’t spend enough time talking to her/visiting with her/making her feel like a special guest and oh hey! Her feelings are hurt.
captainswife February 23, 2015, 3:58 pm
Very interesting interpretation, and absolutely plausible from that direction.
Not sure that the LW wants the niece to be hurt if she doesn’t show. I didn’t get that impression at all from the original letter, or even this follow-up. (shrug) Possible, though.
Seriously? Seriously! February 23, 2015, 4:26 pm
From all of her comments, you can see the hurt that she feels from the perceived slights from the niece. Unlike Steph, I don’t think that the niece is sending any explicit signals that she doesn’t want a close relationship; I think that she just sees her aunt as a familial obligation and does the bare minimum to “placate” her aunt, while having all the familial love for her aunt that she has for all extended family members: not close enough to have a “friend”-affection, but absolutely the opposite of ill-will; stronger positive than indifference, but doesn’t actually have a good time when they spend time together. I bet she has no idea the extent of her aunt’s bitterness towards her and her mother.
I bet she wants her aunt to come to the wedding and will be bummed when she doesn’t, and confused if she realizes that the aunt didn’t come out of spite. I bet she genuinely appreciates all the reaching out her aunt does, but that she considers it overkill and a little annoying, and that she absolutely has no idea how her aunt has interpreted and anaylzed all of her actions and responses. But her aunt won’t get the reaction that she wants — the niece will not get it, and think, wow, how could i be so self-centered, I should have made more time for her, I deserve this. She’ll just think that her passive aggressive aunt has struck again and made more drama.
SpaceySteph February 23, 2015, 5:27 pm
Maybe I’m projecting some of my own messed up family associations on the LW, but I do feel like the niece probably perceives all the scrutiny and senses that her aunt feels slighted. I have totally been on the receiving end of stuff like the LW said in her first letter about how she comes to the same state but doesn’t visit… even if they don’t say it to your face, you can usually tell this stuff is being said. It seems like the niece is purposefully limiting the relationship.
Seriously? Seriously! February 23, 2015, 5:44 pm
ha, I get that. maybe i’m projecting mine, but when I don’t see my relatives when I’m in the area, it’s because it’s a pain, and I’d rather be doing whatever it is that I wind up doing. But it isn’t to like, distance myself from my relatives; it’s just that I’d rather do the other things. My relatives lay on the guilt, so I know that they noticed, but I wouldn’t have thought that they are taking it as distancing myself, relationally speaking, rather than just kind of being selfish and choosing to do more fun things.
SpaceySteph February 23, 2015, 5:59 pm
I guess I don’t get the difference? Like if maintaining a relationship was a priority, then I would go out of my way to see the person. But by choosing not to, I am choosing a less-close relationship.
I totally get the being selfish and using limited vacation time and budget for doing things you truly want to do, but if you truly care about the relationship, you’ll make the time. At least occasionally. The LW senses that the relationship isn’t as close as it could be, because it isn’t.
That said, I have to travel to visit all my family and most of my friends because they are all out of state and I do get the guilt. I definitely wish relatives would be more reasonable that every time I come home I don’t have hours to devote to them (like the time I flew back for literally 18 hours for the express purpose of going bridesmaid dress shopping with my best friend and my grandparents were mad I didn’t ask them to lunch while I was there)…but if I’m continually avoiding on multiple trips, its more than just not having time.
Seriously? Seriously! February 23, 2015, 6:12 pm
See, I never thought about it as “avoiding it.” With my extended family, I never equated “time spent visiting” as related to “[desired] closeness of relationship.” That might sound crazy, but your take just imbues the visit (or not visiting) with so much more …weight … than I ever thought about. I’m not saying that it’s wrong, just that it has so much more purpose attributed to her actions than she might have meant. I visited my Aunt once socially in the 6 years I lived in the same state as her. (grad school then 3 years of a really high obligation job). I realize now that that makes me sound like shit, and maybe I was. But I did go to the hospital (for several days, like stinkts) at least 3 or 4 times in that time when she or one of her kids were sick, when it was important. And we saw them at family events. And there was always an open invitation, that I never took her up on. But I never thought of it as conveying a level of how close I wanted the relationship to be, because whenever we all were together, the closeness was there.
All I’m saying is that I could easily be the niece, and wouldn’t have meant to “distance myself” from my aunt whom I was close to when I was little. I wouldn’t have meant to convey that and I’d certainly hope she’d come to my wedding, because I love her very much.
Portia February 23, 2015, 6:30 pm
I’m with you, Seriously. I’ve had friends and family come to my area and not visit me, and I don’t attribute extra meaning to it. Nor am I going to make them explain themselves to me. Life happens, trips have other purposes and people have things going on that you don’t see on their social media.
SpaceySteph February 23, 2015, 3:57 pm
The LW kinda reminds me of my great aunt, my grandfather’s sister. There was a big family falling out years before I was born and my grandfather and one sister were estranged from his other 2 sisters and their parents. When the parents died, when I was a young girl, they all pseudo-reconciled temporarily and my great aunt tried to have a relationship with us. I felt loyalty to my grandfather (and there was lots of judgement about religiousness, which caused the rift in the first place) and no particular attachment to her, so it was easy to pick a side.
I didn’t even invite her to my wedding, I don’t want a close relationship with her. Anyways, I think the LW seems like the same situation. Like you wanted a close relationship with the girl and it’s nice that you’ve tried, but I think it’s pretty obvious that she doesn’t feel the same. Whether its you personally or just a loyalty thing with you being estranged from much of your family, she doesn’t want to be close with you. Time to move on and spend your energies on people and things that want you around.
wobster109 February 25, 2015, 3:50 pm
I’m going to say the same thing as last time. Quit holding your sister’s behavior against your niece. She was 11 at the time. How can you pin adult blame on an 11-year-old child?