Vacation Expectation

by admin on August 9, 2011

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.

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

The Elf August 9, 2011 at 6:23 am

I see this as a great reason for brother to have a vacation of his own, with his family however he defines the word. 32 people sharing a house? Hell on earth.

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George August 9, 2011 at 6:54 am

I think it’s wrong to exclude ‘non-married’ partners in that way, I under those circumstances I wouldn’t go either.

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Alan August 9, 2011 at 7:04 am

This family vacation tradition is over. It has been compromised and ruined. It is now time for those who like one another to meet and visit at agreeable times. Let the others do the same. The event, if held, is now likely to include disparaging remarks about those not present. This is divisive behavior. Avoid it. The parents must take a nice vacation alone for a start. This will set the tone for the rest. Love one another from a distance. It is easier to do.

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Breanne August 9, 2011 at 7:46 am

Our family has also started renting a cabin for a family vacation time each year. The policy by consensus has always been no boyfriends/girlfriends, only real family. So even though it sounds like there have been some hiccups because your policy wasn’t instituted in the beginning, I would agree with the policy in general. It’s a family vacation, so it makes sense to keep it to family. Right?

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Sarah Jane August 9, 2011 at 8:05 am

“He is only one of two who is divorced and has to deal with girlfriends and step children.”

I have to point out that in this situation, there are no “stepchildren”, as the children’s mother is not married to this man.

Which brings me to my point. My experience as a school counselor has colored my views on this, and my opinions will probably place me in the minority and set me up for criticism, but here goes.

Involving children in their parents’ girlfriend/boyfriend situations must be handled delicately. Personally, I consider it inappropriate for children to be present when their parents room with romantic partners to whom they are not married (not saying that’s happening here, but it’s hard to tell.). Most of all, these children should not be placed in the middle of the family situations of the girlfriend/boyfriend unless there are serious plans to get married. Children can experience significant issues with attachment and family identification that are completely vulnerable to the stability of the romantic relationship. We can already see that these poor children have had to suffer their mother’s “messy breakup” and likely had to be separated from the boyfriend and his family, possibly to their own disappointment and confusion. Certainly not the healthiest situation for them, and Mom should know better.

That being said, she should have been told of the “rules” change before she started making plans.

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lkb August 9, 2011 at 8:10 am

I agree with the Admin — there are too many unanswered questions and probably a lot of backstory.

As the in-law in a family that does a lot of large-group togetherness outings like this, I rather vote for breaking up the groups a bit. It’s murder trying to coordinate “field trips”, pot lucks, who-brings-what and also manage the dynamics (who gets along with who, who doesn’t get along with who etc.) The significant others may find that they actually prefer to be well out of it.

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MellowedOne August 9, 2011 at 8:22 am

One sentence stands out above all the rest:

“Many of the family members do not care for the brother’s girl friend.”

Nobody wants to spend their vacation with someone they don’t like. I sure wouldn’t. However, it seems ‘the family’ took the easy way out…instead of addressing the issue, they made a rule that would keep them from explaining their true feelings.

And Brother knows that too. If his girlfriend had most of the family disgruntled, then I’m sure he was aware of it. Whether or not he agreed with their reasons, he wouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know they would not enjoy spending their precious vacation time in her company.

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Enna August 9, 2011 at 8:31 am

OP – take Admin’s advice, it depends on the relationship the girlfriends/boyfirends have with other members of the family. There is a lot of unkowns about this so it’s hard to make a fair assemessent. If the gf/bf gets on well with most of the family then maybe see if there could be a family conversation about it. Maybe it is best to get 2 or more houses together, 32 is a lot.

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PurplePenguin August 9, 2011 at 8:45 am

Four thoughts crossed my mind:

1. It’s time to look into a block of hotel rooms instead of hosting 32 persons in one house. Good fences and good neighbors and all that.

2. The hosts of these events need to understand the difference between an invitation and a summons. Hosts have the right to dictate their guest list, but invitees have the right to decline the invitation (whether it’s because the girlfriend isn’t invited or some other reason).

3. Surmising about the permanancy of the relationship between the Brother and his girlfriend could possibly be veering off into “interesting assumption” territory.

4. I feel bad for girlfriend’s kids.

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Angela August 9, 2011 at 8:48 am

My guess is that the family saw the recent reunion after messy breakup of brother and GF could easily lead to spending a week’s vacation with brother and GF bickering and ignoring each other, and that did not sound like a fun week that you want to spend $$$ to attend. But rather than singling out these two people, family decided to impose a blanket rule of “no unmarrieds” so the exclusion didn’t seem personally directed at them.

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Cat August 9, 2011 at 9:04 am

I would think it’s time to thin the thundering herd as the numbers are becoming too difficult to manage once girlfriends, boyfriends, and their assorted children are included. If it’s a “family” vacation, only people related by blood, significant others from long-term/permanent relationships or marriage should be included.

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Margo August 9, 2011 at 9:06 am

I think it depends on the way this is organsied. If one person/couple organsie it and give all of the invitations then they are free to organise it the way they want, and to invite (or not) anyone they chose. The invitees are equally free to accept or decline as they wish.

That said, it seems to me that to invite one half of a couple is pretty rude (assuming that we are talking about people who are living together, and that the invitor know that the party are a couple) and that the brother who chose to turn down the invite and not come at all behaved appropriately.

Sincethe size of the family is getting larger, it might be sensible to suggest a change in venue which could accommodate this, rather than setting up 1st & 2nd class members of a family..
Perhaps OP could suggest that the family consider alternatives – maybe find a motel so that each part of the family could rent their own room(s) while being in the same location.

I helped to organise a big family christmas a few years ago – we ended up renting 3 ‘holiday cottages’ on the same estate – it meant that people could be socialble, but it wans’t too crowded and allowed people to find peace and quiet when they needed it!

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GEna August 9, 2011 at 9:25 am

We have a similar vacation set up in our family, a large number of people, growing each year. My DH and I are the primary funders of this.

We have never excluded anyone – friends, family, etc, however we don’t allow unmarried couples to share a bed (there are no private bedrooms, several people will be in one room with 2 beds), sleeping bags, etc.

As the vacation has gotten larger, we have started requiring “family units” to rent their own cabins. This is usually due to them having smaller children and needing more quiet and privacy.

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Xtina August 9, 2011 at 9:52 am

I think the problem of who can and cannot come could be solved by renting more than one house (32 in one house is too much, even for a very large one!). More room would allow people to bring significant others and there shouldn’t be an issue. I understand that they are also trying to limit this to “family only”, but it is apparent that this rule is causing rifts in the family–to me, it would be more worth it to abolish that rule and rent extra space than cause such bad feelings and destroy the event, even if S/Os aren’t “technically” part of the family–they certainly are important to the person they are with.

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BB77 August 9, 2011 at 9:52 am

Just adding my two bits here.

I can understand where the other posters are coming from when they suggest that the reason for the exclusion may be twofold. 1. Too many “family” members to make the holiday enjoyable, and 2. The family do not like the gf and are looking for an easy way out.

However, I, as an unmarried member of the extended family would feel extremely let down if I was excluded from the family holiday merely because I was not married to their son/cousin/uncle/brother/whatever. I see myself as part of the family (as do my partner’s family), I host dinners, I look after children, I attend funerals and weddings alike, just like any other family member.

If the family is getting too big that it becomes necessary to limit numbers, then it is time to think of another way to get together. Perhaps, using the money spent on the house for 32 (OMG….family overkill :-s), to host a party in a rented hall giving everyone the chance to see ALL family members regardless of status and the chance to book their accommodation should the visit need to be extended for more than one day.

You do not have to be married to be considered family!!

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Kirsten August 9, 2011 at 10:01 am

“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.”

I’m not clear about this. This reads to me as if the poster is talking about two different brothers. And it reads to me as if the second brother and his girlfriend have children together, but the brother is forbidden from bringing her and their children because they’re not married; he’s only allowed to bring his oldest son from a previous relationship because he was married to that woman. If I’m right, then I think it’s appalling to leave out his new partner and their children just because they’re not married.

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Just trying August 9, 2011 at 10:12 am

There are people of the That Piece Of Paper Really Means Something school of thought.

There are those who don’t see a non-blood-related relationship as permanent until there is a marriage. Living together, seriously dating, long-term dating, whatever, IS NOT MARRIAGE. You are not legally related to a girlfriend/boyfriend.

I can see the parents’ point of view here. Their son has an on-again, off-again relationship. They don’t consider this on-again, off-again girlfriend (complete with messy breakup) to be welcome into a large family vacation, and frankly I don’t blame them. Rather than focus on her (“We don’t YOU there.”) they came up with a general rule, applicable to all. Blood and marriage relations only.

Want the benefits of marriage? Get married.

I would absolutely make an exception for same-sex couples living in an area where legal marriage is not possible. If the same-sex couple is living together as if married, then I would consider them married for the purposes of The Rule.

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Wink-n-Smile August 9, 2011 at 10:56 am

Unless this is a mansion with many rooms, I’d say it’s time to book a block of rooms in a hotel, and let all the adults pay the way for themselves and their children. Hotels, being public establishments, like restaurants, mean that anyone who wants to come can come, so long as they pay their own way. Anyone who wants solitude can have solitude, and anyone who wants to hang out with dear Aunt Josephine may make arrangements to do so, either in a hotel room, the lobby, the pool, whatever.

Depending on the hotel you choose, it may or may not be more expensive than renting a house. It will certainly be more comfortable. With that many personalities together, there WILL be conflict about sleep schedules, cleanliness, and hobbies. Separate rooms allow for that, without the annoyance. Plus, you don’t have the hassle of figuring out how to split the rental bill. The adults in a room split it amongst themselves, however they see fit, and it is paid for, room by room. No arguments about how much water/electricity one person used, versus a couple who are sharing a small bed, and so using less space per capita, yadda yadda yadda.

And girlfriends, pseudo-step-children, and significant others of indeterminate status can be there, too, so long as they pay their own way.

If this is too costly for the family, then choose a cheaper alternative such as blocks of rooms in a motel near some nice public facilities, or even a campground. With large enough groups, it’s possible to rent tents, and for shorter excursions, it’s possible to buy some inexpensive tents. They won’t last for years, but they’ll do the job for the trip.

Girlfriends on rocky ground can buy a cheap tent, and if they marry-in, they can then upgrade to a sturdy, long-lasting model.

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Lilac August 9, 2011 at 11:13 am

It would be relevant to know if the boyfriend/girlfriend act as a family unit during the rest of the year. Do they live together? Spend holidays, birthdays, and other vacation time together? Plan most outings such as movies, shopping trips, week-end activities, etc. together? Does the boyfriend have a close relationship with the girlfriend’s children? If they do act as family unit for most activities then I I think it’s unreasonable to expect the boyfriend to spend a week of vacation time away from what are now the most important people in his life. Most people only get 2-3 weeks of vacation a year and expecting someone to spend 1/3 of that time away from their closest relationships doesn’t seem right– particularly if the boyfriend wants these people to be an integral part of his private life. Explaining that to the kids involved would certainly be a challenge too. If they are used to doing things as a group, there could be some hurt feelings and misunderstanding. I can understand family members not bringing a “date.” For such an extended period of time though, a significant other should be welcomed.

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Wink-n-Smile August 9, 2011 at 11:14 am

Just Trying – I agree with you to some degree. If you are taking the moral stand that anything less than marriage doesn’t hack it, then that should be the situation for all the vacations. This rule should have been in place as long as the hosts (parents) held that moral stand. Of course, they’d have to recognize *engaged* couples, inviting the fiances, and simply setting up separate sleeping arrangements.

As for the gay couples, many people who have the “only marriage counts” rule don’t recognize gays. If they do, however, then they should ask the couple just how serious they are. “If marriage were an option, would you be married?” If so, then treat them as an engaged couple. While they have no legal right (in their particular area) to marry, there is nothing stopping them from having a committment ceremony, to show their friends and family that they mean business and are to be considered socially as a couple.

If this stand is not about morals, then they need to consider it very carefully. If they are concerned about the stability of the children’s relationships, and they don’t want kids to get too attached to someone who will be gone in 3 months, then the policy also makes sense. Married or engaged to be married, and you’re in. If you’re not to that point yet, well, maybe next year.

However, if morals and stability are not the issue, but they are just using it to weed out uncomfortable interactions with a significant other they don’t currently like, they need to consider the possibility of a future relationship about whom they will be all gung-ho, and the fact that they’ll be forced to exclude the person, or make a HUGE stink by bending the rules *just for her*. That would be bad.

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8daysaweek August 9, 2011 at 11:16 am

I think that they are perfectly within their rights to determine a “rule” about who can come – but they have to accept that doing so might mean the brother won’t come and that it will no longer be an everyone-in-the-family vacation. If you want everyone to come, you need to invite their definition of their family, whatever that is, within reason. If brother only has the time off or money for one vacation a year, I don’t really blame him for not wanting it to be a vacation where he is separated from his partner and her children.

I also think that it’s wrong for other people to determine the seriousness of another’s relationship and that’s essentially what this is. What if one of the siblings were gay and unable to legally marry their partner? Would that person never be invited?

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bunnyface August 9, 2011 at 11:23 am

I agree with Just Trying. Being ‘practically’ married, or ‘almost’ married, or shacking up like you’re married is NOT MARRIED. Big difference.

That being said, whoever does the inviting can invite whoever they want, for any reason, on their vacation. If some invitees don’t like it, they don’t have to go. They can have their own vacation and invite whoever they want to, as well. Problem solved.

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danielle August 9, 2011 at 11:27 am

My family (of 42 at last count) does the family trip every other year and we have all done the one house with surprisingly few issues but we never limit who can come or not for us it has always been the more the merrier.

I dont understand how a family can limit who is invited to a family event if the person in the non=married relationship wants there SO at the family vaca maybe its a hint to the family that this person may be the one.

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Louise August 9, 2011 at 11:41 am

I think I’d go mad if I had to share a house with 31 other people.

I think the family matriarch/patriarch should have sit down with the brother (brothers? I found this submission a bit confusing.) and said the messy breakup hurt the whole family and, even if he’s sure about his girlfriend this time, the family would rather wait a bit before inviting her back into the fold. It’s neither an easy thing to say or an easy thing to hear, but it draws the boundary of, “No, not this year,” while leaving open the possibility of next year — if that’s what the family wants.

If the brother chooses to skip the vacation, so be it. Considering his girlfriend has already taken the time off for a vacation she’s no welcome at, I don’t really fault him.

I wonder how the “no unmarrieds” rule affects the girlfriend of the other brother? If I got along well with my boyfriend’s family and had been welcome before, I would be very hurt to be excluded suddenly because my boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend played up.

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ellesee August 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Given the age of the brothers and sisters, their kids could be in the teen years. I think it’s also applicable to them to not bring their bf/gf. Just a thought.
But I think the family has the right to say who goes and who doesn’t–it sounds like there were miscommunications and assumptions. Did they know that the brother got back with the girlfriend? Did the girlfriend assumed she was invited even after a messy breakup? Honestly, does anybody want to be around a couple who is on and off on vacation? That’s a potential can of unneccessary drama. Perhaps they are also not ready to welcome her back into the family. It’s hard to say with little to no backstory. As for the kids….well it sucks, but I think they would be better off not going than to feel unwelcomed.
Also, they could be renting a mansion that can accomodate everybody nicely. The rooms (or floors) could easily be divided into geezers and younguns. But, it’s really not our place to tell them where they should be staying at.

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PNJ August 9, 2011 at 12:11 pm

My husband’s family does the annual vacation that his parents foot the rental bill for. When we were first dating (almost a year by that time) I only started planning to attend when I was specifically invited. That being said, I did attend every year after that (but there was no breakup in between like in this case). I can understand the GF expecting to go since she had already been. It seems odd to decide to exclude GFs and BFs that were included in the past, even if the reason (of too many people) makes sense.

I agree with moving to two houses. Besides the size of the family, you can avoid conflicts. Our family separates into two and it works out well for us. DH and I have very different parenting methods from BIL and wife, so separating the kids is necessary. My daughter has rules and a schedule. Her very young cousin has no bedtime and eats ice cream for lunch. The division helps keep harmony during the week for the whole family.

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Serenity S. August 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I agree with Kirsten’s comment. I read this passage in the same way.

“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.”

It does sound like they are talking about two separate brothers, one who’s girlfriend has children, and one who has three children by two different women. I feel that it is very hurtful of the family to exclude two of the children when they are actually related to the family. If I was the brother who was told I could only bring one of my children I would not attend either. I think that if all three children were his, it is very poor etiquette on the part of the family group who did not invite all the children.

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Louise August 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I think the married/nonmarried distinction is a red herring. I the way I interpret it, the problem isn’t that the brother and his girlfriend aren’t married, it’s that the family doesn’t welcome her after the “messy” break-up and the rule about marital status is a way to exclude her without having to address that problem. If the brother and the girlfriend get married next month, I’m guessing the family’s feelings about her won’t change; she’ll be eligible to go on the holiday, but there’ll still be friction.

But there’s so much background missing from this story that I could be way off base.

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Another Alice August 9, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I kind of have to raise an eyebrow at the idea that just because a couple isn’t married, the non-blood family member is excluded. This comes across as a totally “easy way out” excuse to not include them. Frankly, nobody else in the family has any idea how important/not important a couple’s relationship is, because they are not in that couple. Also, the situation can get sticky: My grandfather has been with a woman as long as I can remember. They’re not married, but are in their 80s. Would anyone really sit there and say it’s inappropriate for her to be included?

I suppose some families are just different. Whenever there’s a boyfriend/girlfriend of one of the younger folks in my family, they get presents at Christmas from the blood relative’s parents, and sometimes even their aunts and uncles. We don’t sit around and analyze whether the relationship will last. That person is important to the family’s grand/son/daughter, and that is enough “proof” for us that they should be included. My mom gives small gifts to her sister’s nieces that aren’t any actual relation to her.

I think what I am picturing here is a family that, married or not, is visible at most get-togethers. I can’t imagine seeing someone throughout the year, and then for the big vacation, be told they’re not welcome. Same as with Christmas gifts. Yes, I know that etiquette dictates we are not obligated to give people gifts, and we are not obligated to invite people to events we don’t wish them to attend. But you know what? I believe it says much more about the hosts than the guests in situations such as these. These are grown adults, not teenagers with a fly-by-night relationship. (When I read the “no boyfriend/girlfriend” rule, I assumed it was meant for teenagers/young people, not adults.) Maybe they did break up, but it’s really no one’s business. For me, it’s strange for a family to deny the growing of said family – that’s life. Unless the girlfriend is actually dangerous or engages is unhealthy behaviors such as drugs/excessive alcohol, not inviting her and her family is just sour grapes.

Oh, and 32 people in a house? Blech. Why not just say, “Here is our family vacation, from June 24th – August 3rd, in X place. Here is a travel agent who will arrange a block of condos/rooms for us. If you wish to share with a particular family group, make arrangements with them. See you all there!”

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Erich E. August 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm

One problem with excluding unmarried partners is that you may be placing a higher “value” on a married relationship in which the two just met a year ago versus a 10 year unmarried relationship. I’m not sure if I read this correctly or not but the brother who was told to bring only his son from his first marriage…was he the father of the two other boys with the girlfriend? If so that really heightens the wrongness of the situation. That said, if those who are paying make the rules then whomever is offended should either boycott or get their own accommodations.

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livvy August 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm

What a mess. Normally, these kinds of situations seem to spring up when people are not honest about their reasons, or up front about the roll-out of changes. I don’t necessarily think it’s unreasonable for the hosts to create criteria for their invites, but since this was a CHANGE from the previous criteria, they should explain WHY they felt the need to change, and COMMUNICATE well with all interested parties. (of course this assumes that the parents are truly hosting.)
If this is a reunion-type event, with everyone contributing, then a joint decision should have been made. (Perhaps with the multiple rentals, etc.)
Deciding who qualifies as “family” is pretty tricky, and includes multiple factors, of blood, time, and tenderness. My Husbands’ family treated me like family the second we started dating! My own were more reserved, and probably wouldn’t have thought of him as “family” until we were married. (not for any religious reasons, etc., just conservative in terms of how they would define family.)

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Lily G August 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm

They need 2 houses no matter who comes on the vacation! 32 people, indeed. We used to divide up as House 1: families with small children, House 2: families without small children and Guesthouse 3: elderly family members who wanted to go to bed at 8:30 and get up at 5. That way, everyone got enough sleep and could eat on their own schedule.

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IzzyforRealz August 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm

We really don’t have enough information to judge with certainty why the “Rule” was implemented.

On another note, my dad is from a large family, and his family regularly gathers for New Year’s Eve at a single house and often there are more than thirty-two people occupying the same space for several days. I have no problem with this. I’m an extrovert (I love a party with lots of people) and it’s how I was raised. On the other hand, my fiancee is an introvert whose own family is somewhat estranged. I brought him to New Year’s and he just about had a heart attack. It really depends on what you’re used to, and the dynamic of the family.

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Gloria Shiner August 9, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Why in the world would anyone want to stay in a house with 30+ other people to begin with?

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Jess August 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I also agree with Kirsten #16 and Serenity S #27 – I read the post thinking that one brother had three children – one from a previous marriage, and two with his girlfriend. If this is the case, it is awful and unacceptable that one child is considered acceptable to the family just because they are “legitimate”!

It would also be a difficult situation if the children are not the brother’s, but the three children have lived together for so long that they consider themselves siblings.

I think that if the brother and his girlfriend are living together, that can be considered a social unit on the same standing as a married couple, and should be treated as such.

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Kirsten August 9, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I’m shocked by how many people would exclude a long term partner on the grounds the couple weren’t married. There are plenty of long term unmarried couples who have longer lasting relationships than some marriages.

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Wim August 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm

My boyfiend and I recently got engaged and will marry next year. However, we have been together in a serious, committed relationship for over three years, living together for over a year, and there have been numerous social occasions in both our families during this time. I can fortunately say that my parents have welcomed my boyfriend into the family from the beginning and included him in all social occasions and celebrations, and I have equally been considered as part of my boyfriend’s family as well.

I would have found it very hurtful to have been excluded, or for my boyfriend to have been excluded, merely for not having made any wedding plans up till now. Whether or not a couple decide to marry is entirely up to them, and not doing so – or for many same-sex couples being prohibited to do so – should not make any difference to the couple’s relationship being treated as serious. Excluding non-married partners comes down to downgrading them to “second class” relatives, and can put an unnecessary and easily avoidable strain on relationships.

If a member of our family is in a serious relationship, even if they are still young or have not been going out all that long, the significant other is treated as part of the family from the moment he or she is first introduced.

For instance, my cousin is only 16, but she has been dating a boy her age for over a year now. Last Easter, she asked if he could come to a family get-together at one of my other cousins’ place, because she wanted him to meet her aunts, uncles and other relatives. We all welcomed this boy into the family that day, and he turned out to be a very nice, polite young man. At their tender age, no-one can predict if the relationship will last, and wedding bells are still very far away indeed, but since they are obviously in love and serious about each other, our family respects and treats their relationship as such, and the boyfriend has been attending every family celebration and get-together since. Which, in my opinion, is as it should be…

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PBandJ August 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm

For realz?? Strike me down now if I ever have to spend a vacay in a house with 30 people. And I’m trying to decide if those 30 people being family makes it better or worse…

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Noodle August 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

“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.”

I also read this as meaning that he had two other sons by the girlfriend and the third was from a marriage. While I understand not allowing people that aren’t married into the family, excluding those two children that are presumably also his because he is not married to the mother goes too far. The children are his and therefore also family. I hope the brother did not go along with this.

I’m tempted to think the family is trying to make a statement that they not only disapprove of the girlfriend, but they disapprove of him having children outside of marriage as well. There is a lot missing in the post but that was a very strong impression I got.

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Katy August 9, 2011 at 5:37 pm

32 people in the same house would make me long for the vacation of getting back to work.
I think the idea that few are fond of the girlfriend played into the decision no keep boyfriends/girlfriends out. However unless they’re renting a super-mansion this house is probably crowded, and adding a few more heads might be difficult. However putting it off is not putting the matter to rest entirely because girlfriend might become wife and then they’re going to have to invite her along.
We used to do this every year until the addition of spouses and children started to make things uncomfortable… especially when a wailing baby can wake up several rooms. After that we picked a campground and agreed to meet there for a week, bring your own equipment so some brought RVs, others had tents, and while campsites are adjacent they aren’t too close so you can feel like you get away. Plus the campground is huge with lots of activities, so you don’t feel like there’s forced family bonding.

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AMC August 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Another Alice- You took the words right out of my mouth! The family doesn’t have to invite the girlfriend if they don’t want to, but the whole “no marrieds allowed” rule seems like a bad excuse to exclude someone they don’t care for. It reminds me of a situation I encountered a few years ago. I was a bridesmaid for a long-time friend, and she didn’t care very much for my boyfriend (who is now my husband). One day when she had the entire bridal party together, she announced that because of limited space at the reception, none of our partners were invited, unless we were married or engaged. Guess who was the only one who didn’t fall into either of those categories? Yours truly. I gently pointed this out to her afterward. It was pretty obvious that she knew exactly what she was doing. I told her it was okay, and if she didn’t want him there, I wouldn’t bring him. A bride certainly has the right to invite whoever she wants to her wedding, but I resented my friend for expecting that I wouldn’t notice the deliberate exclusion, instead of just being honest with me.

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Krista August 9, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I have to add something, wasn’t going to but I can’t stay out of this one.
This is disgusting. I have been that kid, the one whose parents aren’t “really” married and therefore the one to be shunned at family events and Christmas gatherings. My father and step-mother met when I was very small. Over 20 years later, they are still not “really” married, and have no intention to ever be so.
My step- sister and I dropped the ‘step’ designation years ago and just call each other sisters. My step-mother is the first person I call with good news and cooking disasters. Yet every year, from my fifth year on, I was left out of Christmas gift giving with Stepmoms family, left out of fireworks night, goodies from Nan, etc.. Looking back, I realise that this was not my step-mother’s doing, that after a while we stopped attending these events altogether and made our own holiday traditions. I would NEVER exclude a child, simply because he or she is not ‘blood related’ as kids don’t understand the nuance, just that they aren’t welcome. You can’t expect a kid to watch all the other children opening their gifts without feeling extremely worthless and low. If you can’t afford the trip without excluding these kids then change the trip. You are causing untold heartache. For the sake of these children, suck it up and buy them a Christmas present!

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Ellen CA August 9, 2011 at 7:23 pm

I am silently thanking God that neither my family or my husband’s has ever suggested an ANNUAL family vacation!

Just for grins, here is an example of another type of married/unmarried division: My friend’s parents rented a house at the beach for a week to have a family vacation with their children and grandchildren. The parents had their own room, as did each of the two sons and their wives. The unmarried daughter (at 40, also the eldest) was expected to share a room her two young nieces (4 and 6). She rebelled and refused to share the “children’s room” and her family simply couldn’t understand what her problem was. Since there was no other room, she chose not go on the vacation and engendered a lot of resentment from her brothers.

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stephanie August 9, 2011 at 7:26 pm

I couldn’t think of a worse way to spend a holiday than to spend it with 32 members of my own family or my partner’s family. I’m also shocked that there are those who think that excluding a person from a “family” event is acceptable if that person isn’t married to the brother/sister/aunt etc. I will never marry but I’ve been in a defacto relationship for 11 years and have three children. I couldn’t imagine not being “allowed” to share a bed with my partner or attend a family event just because I’m not legally married to my partner (although, fortunately in Australia there isn’t such a stigma about not being married and a defacto couple have the same legal rights as a married couple do).

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badkitty August 9, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Quite aside from the “no boyfriends/girlfriends” rule, which is absolutely within the rights of the organizers, I’m surprised by the number of people on here telling the OP that the solution is to change the arrangements of the vacation. It’s been working for them, and supposedly they like the single house arrangement just fine, so leave it be! Why is it okay to tell someone that their vacation house is not good enough but not okay to suggest that a couple with a rocky history might not be the best idea in such close quarters?

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saucygirl August 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm

i really have to believe that the op meant that the two children are the girlfriends children. and while it is still wrong to exclude pseudo step-grandchildren (although as many people have pointed out, we really are missing a lot of story here), it would be outright evil to exclude your own grandchild from a family gathering. if this was my family, and my parents told my brother that his kids couldn’t go because a piece of paper was missing, i would also be boycotting the vacation and encouraging all other siblings to do so as well.

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Amy August 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I’m reading something differently than several posters. When they were talking about excluding two children, I don’t think those are actually the brother’s children. They are his girlfriend’s children from a previous marriage/relationship. I understood it that he only has one biological child and that’s the one that is welcome. I did not interpret it that the two other children are his with his current girlfriend. If they were married, these would be his stepchildren.

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Anon August 9, 2011 at 10:36 pm

There is a lot of information missing from the original post. Too much for me to judge that situation because I have so many questions!
*The one brother who is allowed to bring one child, but not “the girlfriend and 2 sons”—are they the brother’s sons or her sons or?????
*Are they dating or living together? There is a difference. Dating would mean the children (assuming they don’t share the same father/different mother) have met each other, might or might not get along, but don’t necessarily have a familial bond. If Brother, girlfriend and all 3 children live together, on a regular basis, then they are a family unit–marriage or not. The children will be bonded to both adults and each other and splitting them up because *some* are not blood related or born into marriage rubs me the wrong way. It’s exclusionary behavior that can cause immeasurable pain.
*Why can’t the family just talk it out? Making up flaky rules to keep out just a few is pathetic and I am dismayed that so many agree its okay based solely on etiquette rules. Yes, of course, the hosts can invite who they choose, but when they start making up BS lies/rules/excuses to cover the real reason I think etiquette falls by the wayside. It may not be polite to tell the one brother that his chosen significant other is not welcome at the family vacation, but honesty is better than making up some bogus rule in the hopes the brother will not figure out the *real* reason.
My questions aside, I have a different perspective on including “family” than a lot of other people do. I have a grandmother who was all inclusive. Boyfriends, girlfriends, gay lovers, the neighbor down the street, the ex-whatever/back together/maybe breaking up again, step-grands, half sibs, illegitimates, wives, husbands, friends, etc. Everyone was welcome, invited, shown love, and got the same gift for exchanges no matter what status they were. I was raised to accept all and behave in a fair manner. If they were gone 3 months later, never to be seen again, at least they felt the love of our family, while they were “in” it. This was my example growing up and I thought it was normal.
Cue my marriage into the most hateful bunch of fools to walk the earth. If you are not “blood” you are nothing. My in-laws absolutely hate every single “out” law to marry into the family. It took DH and me many years to recognize that the ones who were constantly picked apart were the ones who were not blood related to MIL and FIL. Their siblings’ spouses were hated. Their children’s spouses–hated. Even the grandchildren got heat because they were half the hated evil outlaw and half the beloved blood relative. MIL would be the sort of person to shove the bride out of the picture because she only wants a family picture and the bride isn’t part of the family, just the groom.
So I look at this from the perspective of someone who is not wanted at family gatherings or on family vacations. I know how that girlfriend feels and I can only imagine the pain those children feel being told they are unwelcome because mommy isn’t married to “dad.” I am married to my husband for more than 2 decades, but I am still not considered “family.” I have seen the damage this sort of exclusionary attitude can have on all involved. Of those 32 family members I am sure there will be more than a few “out” laws who start thinking….”Hmmmm, if they have the ‘no girlfriend’ rule, now, how long before they say ‘no spouses’ or ‘no children’ …how long before I, or my children, are pushed out of this longstanding family tradition simply because we are not ‘blood’?” When the outlaws start wondering when the axe will fall on them, I can guarantee the traditional family vacation will get smaller and smaller and smaller, because people typically jump ship before they are shoved overboard, especially when they see someone of similar *status* in the “family” being treated as *less than* everyone else. In my opinion, showing favoritism, in any manner, shouldn’t be applauded or hidden under the guise of etiquette rules being honored by saying “The host can invite who they choose.” Just because you can do something, doesn’t always mean you should. It’s okay to invite who you choose, but to be exclusionary and dishonest, about the reason why, doesn’t seem appropriate to me.

Naturally I see this from a different perspective than many here because I have been on the “excluded” list and seen the pain it caused my husband and children. If the LW does an update and says the girlfriend is a raving lunatic on drugs, or whatever would be considered horrible enough to warrant being dis-invited, then I would agree with the exclusion, but ONLY if the hosts told the brother the REAL reason. I guess it’s the arbitrary* new* rule that gets my hackles up.

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Izzy August 9, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I hope the brother not being there didn’t ruin the vacation: That’s his choice and both parties have their reasons. I think it turned out for the best, had brother gone to the vacation he might have been missing his girlfriend the entire time and casting an air of gloom over the holiday, and the family would be able to relax a bit more without worrying about stepping on brother’s toes.
In other news there’s another izzy on this site O_o

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Amanda Kate August 9, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I think it’s perfectly acceptable for this person to decide not to go. I’m not saying the other family was in the wrong for not inviting his girlfriend, because they can invite whomever they want. But there’s nothing wrong with declining an invitation. I’m not sure I would want to go on a vacation with 32 people, myself.

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