I am looking for perspective and hoping all of you can help. Recently I traveled across the country to attend my brother’s (John) graduation. I am very proud of him and excited about the next stage in his life. However, his new career means he is moving quite a distance from home and it is unlikely I or my family will see him much for the next five years. He has been married for 2 years and his wife (Allison) will be moving with him and for her, it means dropping her career to support his and leaving her family behind. I fully appreciate the sacrifice she is making for him. At his graduation, my parents, myself and her parents traveled to see him. She went as well as she lived at home while he was training and awaiting his posting.
Here is the question I have, there seems to be a near constant struggle for them to balance the interests between our families. I feel as though my family has tried numerous times to reach out to hers and they have made it clear that they want zero relationship with us. Allison has also made it clear that she wants to separate our family from hers and is outwardly indifferent when she does visit us. There has been no joint celebrations since the wedding. The wedding itself was super bizarre and a long story so I won’t put it here but it was clear they have little interest in John or his family. I was very surprised her parents even came to the graduation but it was nice to see them support him. We all stayed at the same hotel. My mother and I arrive a day before Allison and her parents and we took my brother out for dinner just the three of us on the first night. On the second night, they arrived and decided to have dinner with him alone leaving my mom and I in the hotel. First, does anyone else find this strange? Had the situation been reversed and we arrived secondly, we would have invited them to join us for dinner. Instead they spent the evening together while mom and I waited in the hotel alone. The rest of the weekend was spent in similar fashion with my brother dividing his time between us and them while any attempts to spent time as a group was treated as a massive inconvenience for them and they could barely hide their discontent.
My second question is that John and Allison will have 3 days at home before having to relocate to his posting. For two of those days, they have obligations involving packing, movers and appointments. Her family lives in the same small town as they do and my family lives a few hours away. When speaking with with Allison, she explains to me that they intend to spend the third day with her family and plan to stop in for a brief visit with my mother before they leave. Would it not make sense for them to spend time with her family while they are all in the same time together and give the entire third day for my family? Especially as Allison has been here for the last year while my brother has been away in training and we haven’t not seen him in a year. Allison was very offended that I even suggested this. What do you think? Am I out of line? Anyone else have suggestions on how to maintain the balance between the families without putting my brother between his family and his wife. Should his wife not make an effort to at least have a polite relationship with our family?
Thank you for your thoughts. I am very close to my brother and I am worried that with the physical distance ahead and her apparent need to keep us away, that we will lose our relationship with him, her and any children they may have one day. And before it is suggested, I know the obvious solution is to speak with him, I have and he is aware of our concerns. My brother is a wonderful person but he is not without his flaws, he hates conflict and to be put on the spot. He won’t get in the middle and just expects us to accept things as they are and he will deal with it in time. I suspect we will just have to accept this for many years to come so I am more hoping for your thoughts on her family’s behavior and if we are expecting too much. Also, how you might find the balance between the families. 0921-16
The relationships we have with other persons was never meant to be the same but is always changing, either for the better as we invest time and heart in building deeper connections and trust or the relationship diminishes, sometimes to the point of extinction. Rarely do relationships stay the same for years thus becoming stagnant. In other words, change of often good when it comes to relationships.
In a family, there is a long track record of relating to each other over a period of years as the children mature into adulthood. And then the first child gets married and the family apple cart gets over turned as the relationships must, by necessity, change to accommodate the addition of a new person to the family which involves the dynamics of including that person’s family relationships into overlapping into yours. Speaking from experience, I can say that this transition is challenging. You’ve been relating to a child the same way for 20+ years and now there is this new person who you don’t know well who marries your child. Their relationship must, to be healthy, keep getting stronger while yours must, by necessity, diminish. My 20+years of parenting must now change to a different role. If you are fortunate, your child marries into a generous, gracious family who want to meet you and get to know the “other grandparents” of future grandchildren we all will be sharing someday.
But even with kind in-laws who happily include our family, there is still not an expectation among us that either family is expected to host every family get-together and inviting the in-laws to come. Nope, they have a life and so do we. You open your hand and let go of your expectations of your child relating to you the same way they did as children and you let them live their lives choosing their own relationships.
And if you are unfortunate to have your child’s in-laws be the type that are extremely insular and wants nothing whatsoever to do with you, my advice is still the same. Let go and trust that your kid will not abandon years of having built a good relationship with you.
Dear OP, if your brother despises conflict, my advice would be to become an oasis of love, acceptance, peace and calm. A very wise friend advised me to do this recently. My friend does this with all of her sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. She does not criticize, she accepts unconditionally, provides a safe home, speaks love. She purposely makes her home and the time with their family a positive experience of kindness and an oasis among other family drama. Her adult kids and their spouses adore her. Your brother is not stupid and he’ll know which family has his back, he knows the issue and whining to him isn’t going to instill in him a perception that going home to see mom and sis is a wonderful thing. When he thinks of you, it should be with pleasant thoughts that whisper to him, “Call them, see them.” Let him go to become the man he’s supposed to be, i.e. married with a responsibility first to his wife and his own future family. The added benefit may be that Allison grows to love you as well.