My spouse’s family going on a family vacation every year for one week. There are around 32 people sharing a house. The eight siblings and parents are the main invites. Since the family, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and spouses are steadily increasing, the family has decided not to invite any unmarried family members. (To clarify for readers, the LW means girlfriends, boyfriends of family members. – Admin)
Now, the brother is invited but not his girlfriend and her children. They also do not include these people in their gift exchange at Xmas. This year they forbid one of their brothers to bring his girl friend and two sons. They felt he should come alone with only his son from his first marriage. He had already told his girlfriend about the vacation and she had gone on the vacation before. She had arranged to take the week off before the family made the new rule. Keep in mind that they had a messy break up last year and have recently gotten back together. Many of the family members do not care for the brother’s girl friend. Because of the bad feelings caused by this “Rule Change” the brother did not come at all. This brother had never missed a vacation prior to the new rule. He is only one of two who is divorced and has to deal with girlfriends and step children. I think this is very heartless and selfish of the family. The brothers and sisters are in their 40’s and 50”s.
What is the etiquette in this situation?
The larger the group of people, the greater the potential for misunderstandings and ugly relationship dynamics. I suspect there is a whole lot more background to this story than is being given in one paragraph. There is just not enough information as to how the decision was made (did everyone vote?), who pays for the rental, whether the main invitees knew the GF had already been making plans to attend based on the prior year’s attendance, what the opinions of other family members were about having someone there who was the reason for some serious awkwardness, etc….. I’m not sure I can adjudicate these situation accurately with so little information.
My first thought is that no one is entitled to someone else’s vacation. If a family vacation has been the tradition for years, one can get on some pretty shaky ground having an assumption that a dating relationship is an entry ticket to all of the family events. Particularly if there was an ugly, messy breakup at some point. Believe what you will but you don’t just break up or divorce the spouse, you end up breaking up with the entire family, in varying degrees. I and my husband fund the annual family vacation which is a very treasured, high priority family time. It ranks up right behind Christmas Eve. I’m not sure I would want someone not knit into our family sharing that precious family time in a way that taints it. In other words, I think we’d need time to trust that this relationship was going to last before opening up the guest list, our home, our hearts. As you wrote, Brother and GF only “recently” got back together after being apart since last year….I’m betting the rest of the family hasn’t processed this new development yet.
How was this decision reached? Group consensus? Parental command? At minimum, there should have been some courtesy given to the girlfriend to inform her before her plans were made. And what of the dynamic between Brother’s son and his girlfriend’s two sons? Is that healthy? Could the rest of the family be seeing something the Brother refuses to see and are taking steps to protect the grandson/nephew? Too many loose ends here to make any determination. I hesitate to make a definitive statement lest it be done in ignorance of the total family dynamics and my words used inappropriately to justify one behavior over another.
And btw, at 32 people sharing one house, I think it is time to rent two houses side by side. Most of my friends with large families who do the annual or semi annual family vacation end up renting two houses side by side when numbers get big. It works out great in that you can put the geezers in one house and have the youngsters in another, people can be housed with members they are closest to or away from those that irritate them.