Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Family and Children => Topic started by: SeptGurl on March 20, 2013, 01:31:09 PM

Title: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: SeptGurl on March 20, 2013, 01:31:09 PM
This post is sort of an add-on to the one about my Easter dinner quandary: http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=125597.0 (http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=125597.0).

In a nutshell, when he arrives for Easter dinner, my brother intends to surprise my family (DH, DS, and me) with an announcement that he got married a couple of weeks ago.  He told my mother last week. She told me.

My mother informed me that he has been involved with this woman for several months, although we don't know for certain how long. My mother found out last fall from my brother's ex-W that he was living with her. My brother apparently sat on this fact for a while. When he told my mother that he was living with his GF, my mother told him that she already knew and had heard it from his ex-W. He hit the roof and was mad both at my mother and his ex. The irony is that he thought my mother should have told him that she already knew.

We saw my mother and brother at Christmas, and neither he nor my mother said a word to us about him living with his GF or that he even had a GF. The first I heard about her was last week. He e-mailed me and asked if I would set two extra places at the table for Easter dinner. I said I would. He didn't provide me with any other information except to say he'd tell me more later.

My mother isn't remotely happy about this marriage. She is very disappointed that my brother handled it this way. I'm keeping an open mind; however, I'm wondering how I should handle this on Easter when they arrive. I already know the big news, so ...

Should I:

a) Feign surprise on Easter when I meet my brother's wife (and stepson)?

b) Not acknowledge the attempt at surprise at all since I won't really be surprised. In other words, just welcome them to our home, congratulate them, and move on with the dinner plan?

c) Tell my brother now that I already know? Note: If I do this, my brother will be mad at my mother for telling me. He may be mad at me for not telling him sooner that I know. And my mother probably will be mad at me for telling him I already know.

It isn't lost on me that the big news will be announced during a dinner party that involves the couple mentioned in my Easter quandary post. It also won't be lost on this couple that we don't know my brother's wife and will likely be going through the entire getting-to-know-you exercise right there with them. This feels awkward now, and it's still 11 days until Easter.

Ugh. Any thoughts on how to make this less awkward?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: hobish on March 20, 2013, 01:43:03 PM

Ummm...Hmmmm...that is a toughie. How would it go over if you pressed your brother to tell you who is coming? It is your house, after all...?

Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: Coralreef on March 20, 2013, 01:49:36 PM
I would simply let him say his piece, congratulate them on the news and offer more chocolatey dessert goodness.  No need to jump up and down or go through oops.  You don't have to say  you already knew/guessed or that your mother told you.  This may be case of the less said, the better it is, specially if your brother may hit the roof and be angry at your mother for telling.

If he can keep important things from you, you can do the same, specially if it would cause useless conflict. 

Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: Hmmmmm on March 20, 2013, 01:53:07 PM
I'd try to press your brother on who he is bringing.

But I wouldn't let on that you already know about the GF, the living together, or the marriage.
I'd also tell your mother that you weren't planning to let him know you spilled the beans.

I feel so sorry for his new wife though.  How uncomfortable to arrive at a home with your son in tow and "Suprise! I'm your new SIL that your brother didn't want you to know anything about!"

Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: Kaypeep on March 20, 2013, 02:17:50 PM
I'd stay mum and let him spring his surprise.  You can all say Congratulations and wish them well, perhaps offer a toast (using beverages already on the table) and then see what they say.  If they seem willing to talk a bit about the elopement you can ask a few basic questions "When, where, how exciting for you, yada yada" and then carry on with the rest of the dinner.   He shouldn't be allowed to hijack the holiday with his wedding news.  If he wanted all the glory and attention then they should host their own celebratory dinner.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: lowspark on March 20, 2013, 02:18:58 PM
I would have asked who's coming when he called to ask me to set a couple of extra places. But at this point, considering all the potential for people getting mad, I'd probably just suck it up and act surprised. I mean, you don't have to drop your jaw to the floor or faint dead away, just smile broadly and say something like, "Congratulations! That's wonderful! Welcome to the family!" And then continue the conversation as you would naturally have, meeting her for the first time.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: WillyNilly on March 20, 2013, 02:25:10 PM
I would just go with a "oh my goodness, congratulations!" remark. And realize it can be honest while vague - after all you probably are the type of person who would immediately congratulate someone on getting married right?  So waiting several weeks/months is one of those sort of shocking 'I can't believe I haven't congratulated you already' moments. Let that emotion come out honestly. But let them believe its shock due to their news.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: SeptGurl on March 20, 2013, 02:26:41 PM
I'd try to press your brother on who he is bringing.

But I wouldn't let on that you already know about the GF, the living together, or the marriage.
I'd also tell your mother that you weren't planning to let him know you spilled the beans.

I feel so sorry for his new wife though.  How uncomfortable to arrive at a home with your son in tow and "Suprise! I'm your new SIL that your brother didn't want you to know anything about!"

Yes, exactly. I feel for her. I want to reduce the awkwardness for everyone involved, but for her especially.

My mother is so upset, and when I talked to her the other night, she was lashing out at my brother's wife even though there isn't any evidence for blaming her. My brother is an adult, and he is responsible for his own choices. I told my mother that I intend to welcome my brother's wife as a member of his family. That's who she is, and we need to respect that. By the end of the conversation, my mother was repeating the same messages I was saying, so I hope she will carry through on that line of thought on Easter.

I did hint to my brother about being curious about who he is bringing. He wouldn't spill it. I was happy at the thought that he might be seeing someone. I would be happy if he is happy with his new wife. It's just a lot to swallow all at once.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: MindsEye on March 20, 2013, 02:33:42 PM
I would refuse to play this game altogether.

Tell you mother that you are going to tell your brother that you know the big secret.
Tell your brother that you know the big secret.
Tell them both that you don't appreciate all of the petty game-playing about who gets to know what and when.

Honestly, I think that you missed your chance when your brother asked you to set out plates for his 2 mystery guests.  That is where you should have pushed back and told him that you weren't going to set out any extra plates without knowing who they were for.

Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: SeptGurl on March 20, 2013, 03:32:38 PM
I would have asked who's coming when he called to ask me to set a couple of extra places. But at this point, considering all the potential for people getting mad, I'd probably just suck it up and act surprised. I mean, you don't have to drop your jaw to the floor or faint dead away, just smile broadly and say something like, "Congratulations! That's wonderful! Welcome to the family!" And then continue the conversation as you would naturally have, meeting her for the first time.

This is a gracious way to handle it, and it would probably be the most comfortable for everyone.

Honestly, it didn't occur to me to ask who he was bringing. I was thinking GF, and at that point, she was still his GF and not yet his wife. I was excited about the possibility of meeting his new GF. Never in my wildest imagination did I think he would bring a new wife!
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: blarg314 on March 20, 2013, 07:05:16 PM

I really wonder what your brother was expecting for a reaction, if he's planning to introduce his wife and step-son to close family who didn't even know he was dating?  Anyone with even a vague understanding of human nature should expect "What the $@$" vs "Congratulations! I'm so happy! Welcome to the family, um, what was you name again?"

I think you'd be fine with an "Oh.  Congratulations". That's about as good a response as he can really expect.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: lady_disdain on March 20, 2013, 07:09:28 PM
Actually, I am wondering what your new SiL is thinking! Surely she knows that she has never met his family before and suspects that he has not told anyone? And she is going along with this? Personally, I would refuse to be sprung on his family like that.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: Miss Tickle on March 20, 2013, 09:58:11 PM
If your brother asked you to set two extra places for dinner and said nothing else, he either knows you know or he's not nearly as good at surprises as he thinks he is.

edited to add:

Obviously, I vote for B.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: Lindee on March 20, 2013, 10:05:29 PM
He gets married without telling his family, let alone inviting them to his wedding and you are worried about him getting mad at you for knowing about it?  He will be cross you didn't tell him as soon as you knew about his secret marriage but he can keep an apparently serious relationship totally to himself..... Good grief!   If you are willing to entertain, congratulate and be civil to this charmer you will be doing better than I could do.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: strawbabies on March 20, 2013, 10:07:24 PM
That stinks for the new wife!  Is there a reason he's keeping her a secret from his family?  In her shoes, I'd be afraid he was ashamed of me.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: kudeebee on March 20, 2013, 10:16:43 PM
I would refuse to play this game altogether.

Tell you mother that you are going to tell your brother that you know the big secret.
Tell your brother that you know the big secret.
Tell them both that you don't appreciate all of the petty game-playing about who gets to know what and when.

Honestly, I think that you missed your chance when your brother asked you to set out plates for his 2 mystery guests.  That is where you should have pushed back and told him that you weren't going to set out any extra plates without knowing who they were for.

i would do this right away, as in tomorrow.  That way he has time to get mad and hopefully get over it before the Easter dinner.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: bopper on March 21, 2013, 07:21:56 AM
I would just say "How wonderful!  Oooh, tell me the story of how you met."

Why start your relationship with your new SIL with negativity?  There is nothing to prove by saying you already know.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: MrTango on March 21, 2013, 07:57:50 AM
At this point, I'd go with the OP's option B.

When the OP's brother gets miffed that she doesn't seem surprised enough, the OP ought to say something along the lines of "I figured something like this was up when you asked me to include two extra place settings."
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: SeptGurl on March 21, 2013, 08:35:05 AM

I really wonder what your brother was expecting for a reaction, if he's planning to introduce his wife and step-son to close family who didn't even know he was dating?  Anyone with even a vague understanding of human nature should expect "What the $@$" vs "Congratulations! I'm so happy! Welcome to the family, um, what was you name again?"

I think you'd be fine with an "Oh.  Congratulations". That's about as good a response as he can really expect.


DH and I were talking about the situation this morning, and the bolded probably would be my most natural reaction if this news were sprung on me as a surprise. I would be stunned by hearing the news, and in the moment my reaction would probably be rather subdued. After I'd had the opportunity to process it, I would probably be able to come up with, "So, how did you meet," "Tell me about yourself," etc.

I shared everyone's responses in this thread with DH. He sees merit in telling my brother now that I already know. DH suggested his own unique approach: "Look, Slick, we already know the truth. No need to 'surprise' us." Of course, I wouldn't really say that. I believe strongly knowing my brother as I do that if I told him now that I know, it is likely that the whole Easter plan would blow up.

DH is very irritated that my brother is setting us up to host his awkwardness. DH feels it is terribly unfair to us. (I think it's also unfair to my new SIL as well as our other guests.) I told DH that if my mother hadn't spilled the beans, we probably would not be feeling awkward right now. DH agreed with that. And then he pointed out that if this news were sprung on us when they walked in the door, we would be completely shocked. There would be quite a lot of awkwardness.

Yes, I believe he's right. So that brings me back to "Oh. Congratulations." or "Oh my goodness, congratulations!" as WillyNilly suggested.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: lowspark on March 21, 2013, 08:41:55 AM
He gets married without telling his family, let alone inviting them to his wedding and you are worried about him getting mad at you for knowing about it?  He will be cross you didn't tell him as soon as you knew about his secret marriage but he can keep an apparently serious relationship totally to himself..... Good grief!   If you are willing to entertain, congratulate and be civil to this charmer you will be doing better than I could do.

Yeah, I agree, that's pretty crummy. But we don't know all the background of the family dynamics to understand why the brother would do this. And I agree, it's crummy all around -- bad for the mom who knows and is put in the middle, bad for the OP who knows and has to decide whether to say she knows or not, and bad for the new wife who is put in an uncomfortable position at a family holiday dinner.

The potential for a blow up is pretty substantial. So I put myself in the OP's spot. I'm hosting a holiday dinner for my family. Do I want to risk anger and hard feelings before and during or do I just try to go with the flow and try to manage a friendly peaceful dinner?

I'm guessing there are other issues at play here which compelled the brother to choose this way to announce the wedding (probably Mom's displeasure is playing a prominant role in this communication collapse) and they are probably not going to get solved at the dinner, or even in the week before.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: EmmaJ. on March 21, 2013, 08:54:35 AM
I'd try to press your brother on who he is bringing.

But I wouldn't let on that you already know about the GF, the living together, or the marriage.
I'd also tell your mother that you weren't planning to let him know you spilled the beans.

I feel so sorry for his new wife though.  How uncomfortable to arrive at a home with your son in tow and "Suprise! I'm your new SIL that your brother didn't want you to know anything about!"

I was actually wondering if the new wife was the one who wanted to surprise everyone.  The whole situation seems really "off" though. 

Coley, please promise to update us after Easter. 
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: Lynn2000 on March 21, 2013, 10:29:08 AM
I think I would go with B. "Congratulations! Welcome to the family!" but not actually faking surprise--hopefully there will be things to get excited about (how did you meet, cute kid, beautiful ring, etc.) that will make the woman and her son feel welcome and make the meal go smoothly. Actually, much more smoothly than if it had really and truly been a surprise, and you were left stammering and blanking on what to say next, getting angry, etc.. Plus, there will be other guests at this meal for whom it is truly a surprise, right? So if Bro is looking for a jaw-hits-the-table moment, he can get them from other people, while you have prepared in advance to smooth over rough spots.

You don't have to tell Bro it was Mom who told you (I would bet he could figure it out), and if he chooses to get mad that you didn't faint dead away with shock and make the entire dinner extremely awkward, then so be it. I just think his behavior is rather silly; maybe you could try to elicit what he thought would happen if it was a total surprise to everyone, and then paint a more realistic picture for him of what would have happened, if you hadn't been in the know.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: BeagleMommy on March 21, 2013, 11:18:02 AM
I would go with the more natural "Oh. Congratulations.".  If you know he'll get angry that Mom told you, why invite discord to your home on a holiday.  Some things are just not worth it.  Coley, let us know how things go.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: SeptGurl on March 22, 2013, 06:54:48 AM
UPDATE: My brother still has not told me his big news; however, he posted photos of their big day on Facebook. So the cat is out of the bag as of last night. I learned about it at the same time as his other 700 Facebook friends.

My mother e-mailed me last night to say that she expects this big meeting on Easter will be uncomfortable, and she wants my ideas on how to handle that. She also asked if I thought we should acknowledge the marriage in some way. I told her that as far as I'm concerned, my brother still hasn't told me. Am I still supposed to be surprised? Should we purchase a gift? I have no idea.

I guess I could comment on his photos with "Congratulations" to acknowledge that I am aware of his marriage.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: JenJay on March 22, 2013, 07:03:03 AM
UPDATE: My brother still has not told me his big news; however, he posted photos of their big day on Facebook. So the cat is out of the bag as of last night. I learned about it at the same time as his other 700 Facebook friends.

My mother e-mailed me last night to say that she expects this big meeting on Easter will be uncomfortable, and she wants my ideas on how to handle that. She also asked if I thought we should acknowledge the marriage in some way. I told her that as far as I'm concerned, my brother still hasn't told me. Am I still supposed to be surprised? Should we purchase a gift? I have no idea.

I guess I could comment on his photos with "Congratulations" to acknowledge that I am aware of his marriage.

That is exactly what I would do and that is all I would do. If he wanted a party and gifts he should have invited people to celebrate his marriage. The message he sent was "We want this small, quiet and private." so let him have what he wanted.  ;)
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: cheyne on March 22, 2013, 07:23:40 AM
If Bro posted photos on Facebook, you're in the clear.  Write "Congratulations" as a response to his photos, and set the 2 extra places for dinner.  No need to do anything more except warmly welcome and congratulate them when they arrive.

I have to ask though, why is your mother dreading the dinner?  Is there something about the new wife she doesn't like?  Is your mom wishing that Bro and exwife were still together?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: RubyCat on March 22, 2013, 07:48:21 AM
I can understand if you're hurt by your brother posting his marriage on Facebook before letting you know. I certainly would be.

As far as Easter dinner goes, you may (or may not) want to do what my in laws did for dh and me.  Our situation is different because dh & I had been dating for quite a while & the family knew me. They also knew that we would be getting married & that we were just going to go see the justice of the peace and would let them know afterwards - which we did.

At the next holiday gathering, we were shocked to find that they had decided to give us small wedding presents and to toast us. While the gifts were very thoughtful and appreciated, the toast congratulating us and welcoming me to the family touched me so deeply that I still tear up over it.

Now that you know that you're supposed to know ;) maybe taking a moment to toast the happy couple and welcome your new sister in law to the family would be a nice gesture that would help smooth over some of the awkwardness.  (Though if you wanted to limit your congratulations to Facebook, I could hardly blame you)
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: Winterlight on March 22, 2013, 08:03:53 AM
If Bro posted photos on Facebook, you're in the clear.  Write "Congratulations" as a response to his photos, and set the 2 extra places for dinner.  No need to do anything more except warmly welcome and congratulate them when they arrive.

I have to ask though, why is your mother dreading the dinner?  Is there something about the new wife she doesn't like?  Is your mom wishing that Bro and exwife were still together?

This. I don't think this is an event where making a fuss over their wedding would be a good idea.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: gingerzing on March 22, 2013, 08:12:58 AM
UPDATE: My brother still has not told me his big news; however, he posted photos of their big day on Facebook. So the cat is out of the bag as of last night. I learned about it at the same time as his other 700 Facebook friends.

My mother e-mailed me last night to say that she expects this big meeting on Easter will be uncomfortable, and she wants my ideas on how to handle that. She also asked if I thought we should acknowledge the marriage in some way. I told her that as far as I'm concerned, my brother still hasn't told me. Am I still supposed to be surprised? Should we purchase a gift? I have no idea.

I guess I could comment on his photos with "Congratulations" to acknowledge that I am aware of his marriage.

No gift.  Just no.  You weren't told of him even having a GF, let alone that he got married.  So no gift required. 

Still with the plan B of "oh congratulations and welcome to the family" and leave it at that.   Or maybe a comment later about seeing something on his facebook page.
I am not even sure I would have a toast for the couple - not out of spite but that this isn't really the time nor dinner for that. 

Oh and if he gets mad at whatever your reaction - and he might no matter how you react - I think I would be very tempted to calmly raise and eyebrow and say "But you are the one who negleted to mention your lovely <wifename> even existed." 
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: audrey1962 on March 22, 2013, 08:18:30 AM
Why does your mom think the Easter meeting will be uncomfortable?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: *inviteseller on March 22, 2013, 08:19:01 AM
I would send Bro a private message congratulating him, then saying "Well, now that I know those 2 places I am setting are for your new wide and step son, is there anything I should now about dietary issues or anything we can do to make our first meeting go smoothly?"  This way, you are not only acknowledging it but making sure there are no surprises come Easter when you are already stressed from putting together this dinner.  Also, as hard as it is, keep redirecting you mom's shock, anger, surprise whatever over your bros wedding.   
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: LadyL on March 22, 2013, 08:29:59 AM
Why does your mom think the Easter meeting will be uncomfortable?

Speaking from the perspective of someone reasonably close to my mother - my mom would have been absolutely heartbroken if I left her out of a major life event like my wedding. It would just be a huge snub. She could probably deal with an elopement, but not with never being told I was seriously dating someone, never meeting my spouse, and being given no notice of the engagement/wedding.

If the mom here wants her son to be happy she may feel torn between her own hurt feelings and wanting to be supportive of him, and not wanting to come across as overly disapproving but also wanting to be honest about how it has affected their relationship.

Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: Margo on March 22, 2013, 08:32:35 AM
I would definitely congratulate him by posting comments to a couple of the photos on facebook - maybe also something complimentary about his new wife, as she is presumably his friend on facebook, and it may hep her to feel more welcomed to the family.

Also, if he's posted on facebook, and you've posted in response, then he has no grounds for grumpiness if you or other family members knew ahead of the Easter dinner. He told you himself, so no backlash at your mother.

I think that a toast during the meal would be a nice gesture - and if any other family members have had any significant events then you could toast them, too.

You do not have to get a gift. (unless of course you specifically want to) In your place I might follow up the facebook congratulations with a card through the mail, that way your congratulations and recognition of the marriage are done before you see him at Easter, and again, it's a welcoming gesture to your new SiL.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: bopper on March 22, 2013, 08:34:38 AM
You can decide to

1) Participate in his drama
2) Not participate

If you participate, you are letting his "surprises" affect you.  You would be saying "Yes, I already know" or "Why did I have to find out on facebook".

If you do not participate, you say "I see on Facebook that you got married. Congratulations.  Look foward to meeting your wife at Easter.

He must get something emotionally from all these surprises and hiding stuff...but no need to get that from you.

Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: SeptGurl on March 22, 2013, 08:51:36 AM
Why does your mom think the Easter meeting will be uncomfortable?

Speaking from the perspective of someone reasonably close to my mother - my mom would have been absolutely heartbroken if I left her out of a major life event like my wedding. It would just be a huge snub. She could probably deal with an elopement, but not with never being told I was seriously dating someone, never meeting my spouse, and being given no notice of the engagement/wedding.

If the mom here wants her son to be happy she may feel torn between her own hurt feelings and wanting to be supportive of him, and not wanting to come across as overly disapproving but also wanting to be honest about how it has affected their relationship.

Yes, my mother is feeling very snubbed. I know she is hurt. She has never met my brother's wife, although she was aware of her previously. For PPs who have asked why my mother is feeling uncomfortable, just know that for my mother, appearances are everything. She does not handle discomfort well, and she is not good at camouflaging her feelings. She will struggle with getting through this first meeting. Given that another couple from outside the family will be here for Easter, this will add to the pressure my mother will feel about keeping up appearances.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: Hmmmmm on March 22, 2013, 10:03:08 AM
Why does your mom think the Easter meeting will be uncomfortable?

Speaking from the perspective of someone reasonably close to my mother - my mom would have been absolutely heartbroken if I left her out of a major life event like my wedding. It would just be a huge snub. She could probably deal with an elopement, but not with never being told I was seriously dating someone, never meeting my spouse, and being given no notice of the engagement/wedding.

If the mom here wants her son to be happy she may feel torn between her own hurt feelings and wanting to be supportive of him, and not wanting to come across as overly disapproving but also wanting to be honest about how it has affected their relationship.

Yes, my mother is feeling very snubbed. I know she is hurt. She has never met my brother's wife, although she was aware of her previously. For PPs who have asked why my mother is feeling uncomfortable, just know that for my mother, appearances are everything. She does not handle discomfort well, and she is not good at camouflaging her feelings. She will struggle with getting through this first meeting. Given that another couple from outside the family will be here for Easter, this will add to the pressure my mother will feel about keeping up appearances.

I can so understand why your mom is feeling uncomfortable and feels snubbed.

If I were you, I'd send a PM to your brother congratulating him and saying you can't wait to meet his new wife and their son and to let you know if there are any specific dietary or other needs for Easter. Then I'd post a public congratulations on this Facebook. Prep your family to put on their most pleasent smiles for Easter and pretend it is the most natural thing in the world to meet new family members in this manner.

I wouldn't offer a wedding gift. Eloping is one thing. Announcing your marriage to your family via Facebook is a direct snub.

After the holiday, you and your family can then determine how you want your relationship with your brother and his new family to proceed.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: weeblewobble on March 22, 2013, 10:11:05 AM
UPDATE: My brother still has not told me his big news; however, he posted photos of their big day on Facebook. So the cat is out of the bag as of last night. I learned about it at the same time as his other 700 Facebook friends.

My mother e-mailed me last night to say that she expects this big meeting on Easter will be uncomfortable, and she wants my ideas on how to handle that. She also asked if I thought we should acknowledge the marriage in some way. I told her that as far as I'm concerned, my brother still hasn't told me. Am I still supposed to be surprised? Should we purchase a gift? I have no idea.

I guess I could comment on his photos with "Congratulations" to acknowledge that I am aware of his marriage.

Considering your mom's history with you, I think you should maybe consider that Mom may be setting you up to be a scapegoat/fall guy for whatever drama she may be planning for Easter.  Example: She goes to your brother and says, "Coley is SO UPSET about you getting married and not telling her.  She has plans to confront you about it at Easter.  I just don't understand why she doesn't want you to be happy. First she doesn't appreciate her Christmas gifts, and now this!  Why can't she just let us have a nice holiday?"

I would post a "Congrats.  I'm so happy for you!" on the Facebook pictures and head this off at the pass.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: Miss Tickle on March 22, 2013, 10:21:11 AM
Your brother sounds charming.  ::)

Is he the type to use his facebook post as leverage? Once he realized it wasn't a surprise, is he the type to expect you to surprise them and celebrate his marriage? The most I'd do is post a congrats and get them a card. It's more consideration than they gave your family. I would NOT ask about dietary restrictions or anything of the sort.  That's on your brother to communicate.

What do you want to do?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: EmmaJ. on March 22, 2013, 10:35:44 AM
I am curious about the wedding itself.  Was it a big elaborate affair with hundreds of guests - and i was not invited? I would be hurt beyond measure.  Was it a small simple ceremony with 10 guests? I would still be upset about being excluded.

If it was an elopement with only the 2 of them, i could understand and accept much easier than the other scenarios.  Can you tell from the Facebook photos?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise.
Post by: SeptGurl on March 22, 2013, 11:31:07 AM
UPDATE: My brother still has not told me his big news; however, he posted photos of their big day on Facebook. So the cat is out of the bag as of last night. I learned about it at the same time as his other 700 Facebook friends.

My mother e-mailed me last night to say that she expects this big meeting on Easter will be uncomfortable, and she wants my ideas on how to handle that. She also asked if I thought we should acknowledge the marriage in some way. I told her that as far as I'm concerned, my brother still hasn't told me. Am I still supposed to be surprised? Should we purchase a gift? I have no idea.

I guess I could comment on his photos with "Congratulations" to acknowledge that I am aware of his marriage.

Considering your mom's history with you, I think you should maybe consider that Mom may be setting you up to be a scapegoat/fall guy for whatever drama she may be planning for Easter.  Example: She goes to your brother and says, "Coley is SO UPSET about you getting married and not telling her.  She has plans to confront you about it at Easter.  I just don't understand why she doesn't want you to be happy. First she doesn't appreciate her Christmas gifts, and now this!  Why can't she just let us have a nice holiday?"

I would post a "Congrats.  I'm so happy for you!" on the Facebook pictures and head this off at the pass.

Yes, the possibility that I might be used to add to the drama has crossed my mind. I did say in an e-mail to my mother this morning that my brother posted about his marriage on Facebook, but he didn't tell me directly. She replied to my e-mail with regard to another topic but did not address the part of my message about the Facebook announcement. It's hard to know how to read that.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: SeptGurl on March 22, 2013, 11:33:56 AM
I am curious about the wedding itself.  Was it a big elaborate affair with hundreds of guests - and i was not invited? I would be hurt beyond measure.  Was it a small simple ceremony with 10 guests? I would still be upset about being excluded.

If it was an elopement with only the 2 of them, i could understand and accept much easier than the other scenarios.  Can you tell from the Facebook photos?

I can't tell much from the photos. I know it was a civil ceremony. It does look like some planning went into it because their attire was obviously coordinated.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: Arrynne on March 22, 2013, 11:40:21 AM
I would send Bro a private message congratulating him, then saying "Well, now that I know those 2 places I am setting are for your new wide and step son, is there anything I should now about dietary issues or anything we can do to make our first meeting go smoothly?"  This way, you are not only acknowledging it but making sure there are no surprises come Easter when you are already stressed from putting together this dinner.  Also, as hard as it is, keep redirecting you mom's shock, anger, surprise whatever over your bros wedding.

I really like this.  I might phrase it as "Congratulations! I'm looking forward to meeting your new family at Easter.  Please let me know if your wife and son have any allergies or food restrictions so I can plan ahead."
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATE #23
Post by: SeptGurl on March 22, 2013, 11:42:57 AM
Okay, I posted "Congrats" to his change in rel@tionship status. Four minutes later, he "liked" my comment and responded with, "I guess you know who's coming for Easter. LOL"

Yes, I guess I do. Is there a benefit in replying to that comment? I don't know.

Miss Tickle asked what I want to do. I honestly don't know. I do appreciate everyone's ideas and comments very much. I am considering everything that has been suggested. I'm just floored right now.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: magicdomino on March 22, 2013, 12:52:45 PM
Both of my brothers eloped without notice.  This was back in the days when if a gentleman got a lady with child, he married her, so exact wedding dates may or may not have been fudged.   ;)  Times have changed, so I doubt this is the situation with your brother.  Come to think of it, my sister eloped for her first marriage, too. 

While reading this thread, I've been trying to remember how these announcements went over.  I will say that a big reason for keeping our mother out of the loop is that she would have disapproved of my siblings' marriages, if not of the new in-laws (sister was too young, one brother had just started college, other brother was perceived as irresponsible).  No hysterics, but there would have been some stern lectures.  If your mother is into appearances, my guess is that your brother fears that the woman he loves might not measure up. 

While my sister's marriage didn't last, both brothers have been happily married for many years, and I have to say that their wives were good for them.  So, please keep an open mind when you meet your new sister-in-law.  At least your brother made the announcement via Facebook rather than a snarky postcard, or an introduction at a funeral.   ::)
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: turnip on March 22, 2013, 01:20:10 PM
I think it's worth mentioning that a small ceremony followed by a larger announcement is not technically 'rude'.  I believe I've seen the very thing suggested several times on this board, for couples who want to get married but are concerned about family members taking over the event.

I get that your mom is hurt, I get that you are surprised, but I don't know that we have any reason to think that your brother or his bride have done something wrong.   They may have had any number of good and valid reasons for doing what they did.

I'd buy them a gift, personally, assuming that I'm fond of my brother.   But I buy a gift for most things. ( see various 2nd shower threads currently posted )
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: Steve on March 22, 2013, 01:20:31 PM
Coley I know how you feel.
My brother and I were very very close. When he eloped this lead to some drama, feelings were hurt, mostly mine and my DH's. At some point I was so hurt I could not see straight so I sat down and tried to reason my way out of the situation. I realised this could really hurt my relation with my brother (which I count on to be there untill the end of time because he is younger).

I decided to try and put it behind me. I expressed my hurt and then I (conciously) got over it. I decided it WOULD NOT carry on for years, and I got to know my SIL. My SIL rocks. She is the best thing that could have happened to my brother. I found out I really really like her.

Now I know this will not be how every situation turns out, your SIL may be EHell incarnate. Or she may be as close to wonderfull as my SIL.... give her a fair chance. It will help your relationship with your brother, and it may gain you something as valuable as I have gotten with my SIL. My advice is to be your brothers champion, be the go-between, smooth things over.....
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: SeptGurl on March 22, 2013, 01:57:16 PM
Coley I know how you feel.
My brother and I were very very close. When he eloped this lead to some drama, feelings were hurt, mostly mine and my DH's. At some point I was so hurt I could not see straight so I sat down and tried to reason my way out of the situation. I realised this could really hurt my relation with my brother (which I count on to be there untill the end of time because he is younger).

I decided to try and put it behind me. I expressed my hurt and then I (conciously) got over it. I decided it WOULD NOT carry on for years, and I got to know my SIL. My SIL rocks. She is the best thing that could have happened to my brother. I found out I really really like her.

Now I know this will not be how every situation turns out, your SIL may be EHell incarnate. Or she may be as close to wonderfull as my SIL.... give her a fair chance. It will help your relationship with your brother, and it may gain you something as valuable as I have gotten with my SIL. My advice is to be your brothers champion, be the go-between, smooth things over.....

Thank you. There is a lot of wisdom in your experience, and I'm grateful that you shared this with me. I'm glad to know that you were able to think through the situation and develop a good rel@tionship with your SIL.

To those who are concerned about me keeping an open mind, I do want to clarify that this has been my intention all along as I stated in a PP. My concern is not about who my brother married or how he got married. It's really about the way the information has been presented.

It seems I thought incorrectly that he might tell me before he informed the rest of the world. I'd been hoping that he might e-mail me sometime before Easter and tell me about his marriage. That's the part that I'm finding hurtful today. His "LOL" response when I posted my congratulations also isn't sitting well with me right now. However, because I'm feeling hurt I would fully admit that it's possible I'm reading more into that than is necessary. I am seriously considering that possibility.

I don't know my brother's wife, so I believe that I am obligated to give her the benefit of the doubt. I don't know anything about her, so I can't form an impression of her right now. To be fair to her, I have to have an open mind. As I told my mother last week, I plan to approach his wife objectively.

I do know my brother, and that's where it becomes more difficult for me to give the benefit of the doubt. Yesterday, when I first posted about this situation, I was trying hard not to ascribe motives to his decision-making process. I'm still trying to do that, but I admit that it's harder for me since he has made his Facebook announcement. My hurt feelings are getting in the way. Regardless, the truth is that I don't know why he did what he did, so it's probably not a good use of my time to worry about it.

I told my mother last week that what's done is done. This is the route my brother took. It seems that all we can do from here is move on.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: bloo on March 22, 2013, 02:13:20 PM
I think it's worth mentioning that a small ceremony followed by a larger announcement is not technically 'rude'.  I believe I've seen the very thing suggested several times on this board, for couples who want to get married but are concerned about family members taking over the event.

I get that your mom is hurt, I get that you are surprised, but I don't know that we have any reason to think that your brother or his bride have done something wrong.   They may have had any number of good and valid reasons for doing what they did.
I'd buy them a gift, personally, assuming that I'm fond of my brother.   But I buy a gift for most things. ( see various 2nd shower threads currently posted )

I don't agree with this, at least, not yet (with the bolded).

The only good and valid reason I can think of for Coley's brother to behave this way about his wedding, is if Coley and her mother are, to him, toxic relatives.

I'm going to assume Coley & maybe her mom are not toxic so I can't really see his behavior as anything but selfish, manipulative and drama-inducing.

I glean from one of Coley's posts that her brother might have gotten pleasure of surprising them at dinner with a brand-spanking-new wife (who does that?) although I may have read that wrong.

So, no snark intended, could you or other e-hellions enlighten me on what would be good reasons to do this with family - barring toxicity?

Coley, I'm very sorry for your resultant hurt feelings and I'm afraid I can't quite understand or comprehend this behavior. But PP's have given excellent advice: no gift, extra place settings, congrats, no toast, open mind about new SIL. Don't make a big deal about the wedding because they clearly didn't want it to be, at least with you. If they're so rude as to yak endlessly on about the soiree and honeymoon and gifts and yada yada, just bean dip.

Sounds like Steve has excellent insight into your situation. Best wishes on working through your feelings.

Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: turnip on March 22, 2013, 02:37:39 PM
I think it's worth mentioning that a small ceremony followed by a larger announcement is not technically 'rude'.  I believe I've seen the very thing suggested several times on this board, for couples who want to get married but are concerned about family members taking over the event.

I get that your mom is hurt, I get that you are surprised, but I don't know that we have any reason to think that your brother or his bride have done something wrong.   They may have had any number of good and valid reasons for doing what they did.
I'd buy them a gift, personally, assuming that I'm fond of my brother.   But I buy a gift for most things. ( see various 2nd shower threads currently posted )

I don't agree with this, at least, not yet (with the bolded).

The only good and valid reason I can think of for Coley's brother to behave this way about his wedding, is if Coley and her mother are, to him, toxic relatives.

I'm going to assume Coley & maybe her mom are not toxic so I can't really see his behavior as anything but selfish, manipulative and drama-inducing.

I glean from one of Coley's posts that her brother might have gotten pleasure of surprising them at dinner with a brand-spanking-new wife (who does that?) although I may have read that wrong.

So, no snark intended, could you or other e-hellions enlighten me on what would be good reasons to do this with family - barring toxicity?

Coley, I'm very sorry for your resultant hurt feelings and I'm afraid I can't quite understand or comprehend this behavior. But PP's have given excellent advice: no gift, extra place settings, congrats, no toast, open mind about new SIL. Don't make a big deal about the wedding because they clearly didn't want it to be, at least with you. If they're so rude as to yak endlessly on about the soiree and honeymoon and gifts and yada yada, just bean dip.

Sounds like Steve has excellent insight into your situation. Best wishes on working through your feelings.


Some reasons I have seen for having a private, relative-free ceremony....

1 - budget - no ability to feed or host even a small number of guests, and a feeling that it might be rude to just invite them to see you at city hall, then leave
2 - extreme shyness/stage-fright for one or both halves of the couple.
3 - _some_ toxic relatives, and a desire not to cause drama by inviting, for example, his mom but not hers.

I imagine there are more.  I also think sometimes people don't realize how important their wedding is to relatives around them - this couple may genuinely be surprised that his mom and sister are hurt, they may not care for weddings themselves and figure they have relieved everyone of the obligation to attend one.   
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: magicdomino on March 22, 2013, 02:39:38 PM
So, no snark intended, could you or other e-hellions enlighten me on what would be good reasons to do this with family - barring toxicity?


As I posted before, my siblings all eloped.  Our mother wasn't toxic, but she did tend to fuss, mostly about fiscal responsibility.  The entire time between announcement and wedding would have been filled with scolding and complaint.  Worse, those scoldings and complaints would have lasted years after the marriage.  Who wants to hear about how much money was wasted on the wedding flowers when it's your 20th anniversary?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: audrey1962 on March 22, 2013, 02:43:39 PM
My mother encouraged me, and all my siblings, to elope. She believes it's low-stress and low-cost. She's already confident in her relationship with us and doesn't think of it as a snub or something only reserved for toxic relatives.

I admit, I have some difficulty understanding why eloping is seen as wrong. (I'm assuming the brother eloped and didn't have a huge party and invite everyone but his mother and sister - that would be rude).
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: MrTango on March 22, 2013, 02:44:32 PM
I feel the need to seperate Coley's brother's actions and deal with each one individually. (numbered only to help my organize my thoughts)

1) I'd like to think that as an adult, Coley's brother is free to make a decision on his own and without any burden to notify anyone not directly involved in the decision.  Eloping in itself is not rude and he does not need to justify his decision to do so to anyone except himself and his new wife. I understand that Coley and her mother are upset about the fact that her brother eloped, but just because they are upset by it doesn't mean the action itself is rude.

2) Also, I don't think making the announcement on FB is rude.  It's Coley's brother's (and his wife's) decision how and when they want to spread the news of their marriage.  Again, I understand family and friends being upset at not having been told personally, but their upset doesn't make Coley's brother's decision rude.

3) Creating drama by asking Coley to host two mystery guests for a family meal, and getting upset that news of his marriage has reached his mother before he deigned to tell her is rude.

4) I also think the plan of "surprising everyone" is rude.  It's fine that he wants to surprise people, but if that's the case, he should host his own event and drop the big surprise at that event.  I'm thinking that the rudeness of his "surprise" is that he is presuming to hijack a family event that Coley is hosting.

ETA: Coley's Brother's actions 1 & 2 above clearly upset both Coley and her mother.  Neither Coley or her mother are wrong to be upset about the situation, and it is absolutely not rude for Coley or her mother to re-evaluate what kind of relationship they want to have with Coley's brother based on his actions.  Just because those particular actions were not (at least in my opinion) rude, doesn't mean that he is immune to having to suffer the fallout from them.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: audrey1962 on March 22, 2013, 02:46:37 PM
4) I also think the plan of "surprising everyone" is rude.  It's fine that he wants to surprise people, but if that's the case, he should host his own event and drop the big surprise at that event.  I'm thinking that the rudeness of his "surprise" is that he is presuming to hijack a family event that Coley is hosting.

Excellent point. I agree with this.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: WillyNilly on March 22, 2013, 02:51:30 PM
So, no snark intended, could you or other e-hellions enlighten me on what would be good reasons to do this with family - barring toxicity?


Maybe her family is toxic but for some reason she is unable to fully cut ties so they decided together to invite no family from either side to keep things even and more low key.
Maybe new SIL has major anxiety issues about being the center of attention/being fussed over (or had very bad experiences with prior IL's and is gun shy) and that's why they were planning to announce their marriage at another event (Easter) so they would have something to keep changing the subject back to away from her. (This could also explain why they decided to announce it via Facebook instead of personally.)
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: magicdomino on March 22, 2013, 03:04:29 PM
So, no snark intended, could you or other e-hellions enlighten me on what would be good reasons to do this with family - barring toxicity?


Maybe her family is toxic but for some reason she is unable to fully cut ties so they decided together to invite no family from either side to keep things even and more low key.
Maybe new SIL has major anxiety issues about being the center of attention/being fussed over (or had very bad experiences with prior IL's and is gun shy) and that's why they were planning to announce their marriage at another event (Easter) so they would have something to keep changing the subject back to away from her. (This could also explain why they decided to announce it via Facebook instead of personally.)

Excellent point.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: camlan on March 22, 2013, 03:10:48 PM
I pretty much agree with MrTango. People have the right to get married when and where and how they want to. And their families have the right to be upset that they weren't included/informed ahead of time.

People who elope (or do any other big life event) without informing their families aren't rude. But they might also not be considering how their actions affect the rest of their family. I have several brothers and I can assure you that all of them have made similar moves in their past. And they been faced with an upset mother, and a father who is angry because Mom is upset. And they learned a lesson.

I'd be upset too. One of my brothers was so into surprising the family with a surprise announcement of his engagement that he overthought things and managed to miss the three days that every one was home for Christmas, and he "surprised" only half the family. I didn't find out for a month about the engagement. (Although I suspected something was up, based on a few things my now-SIL said.)

He was so caught up in "Let's surprise the family!" that he overlooked that he missed telling half of us.  ::) I think some people get caught up in the fun! exciting! atmosphere of the Surprise! that they overlook the real goal, which is to let family and friends know of a big, important event in your life.

In the OP's shoes, I'd be upset. But I would also want as good a relationship with my new SIL as possible. So I'd rant a bit in private. And then I would put on my company face and greet the new family members at the door with a smile. I'd have a bottle of champagne on ice for a toast. I'd try to find out the age of the child and maybe have a small "welcome to the family" gift for him--it's not his fault that the grown-ups he's related to are acting this way. I'd send a card. And I would have a small gift that I'd probably give to them as they leave, so as not to make too big a deal of things at the Easter dinner.

Because just as the OP's brother's choices have affected the OP's family, so will her choices affect her relationship with her brother and his new wife. Unless there is a toxic background, I'd err on the side of "doing the right thing" and trying to create a good relationship.

Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: SeptGurl on March 22, 2013, 03:12:40 PM
I feel the need to seperate Coley's brother's actions and deal with each one individually. (numbered only to help my organize my thoughts)

1) I'd like to think that as an adult, Coley's brother is free to make a decision on his own and without any burden to notify anyone not directly involved in the decision.  Eloping in itself is not rude and he does not need to justify his decision to do so to anyone except himself and his new wife. I understand that Coley and her mother are upset about the fact that her brother eloped, but just because they are upset by it doesn't mean the action itself is rude.

2) Also, I don't think making the announcement on FB is rude.  It's Coley's brother's (and his wife's) decision how and when they want to spread the news of their marriage.  Again, I understand family and friends being upset at not having been told personally, but their upset doesn't make Coley's brother's decision rude.

3) Creating drama by asking Coley to host two mystery guests for a family meal, and getting upset that news of his marriage has reached his mother before he deigned to tell her is rude.

4) I also think the plan of "surprising everyone" is rude.  It's fine that he wants to surprise people, but if that's the case, he should host his own event and drop the big surprise at that event.  I'm thinking that the rudeness of his "surprise" is that he is presuming to hijack a family event that Coley is hosting.

ETA: Coley's Brother's actions 1 & 2 above clearly upset both Coley and her mother.  Neither Coley or her mother are wrong to be upset about the situation, and it is absolutely not rude for Coley or her mother to re-evaluate what kind of relationship they want to have with Coley's brother based on his actions.  Just because those particular actions were not (at least in my opinion) rude, doesn't mean that he is immune to having to suffer the fallout from them.

Just to clarify for the first bolded item, I don't think eloping is rude in general, and I don't think my brother and his wife are rude for having eloped. My mother is very upset about the elopement itself. She feels snubbed because they eloped.

For the second bolded item, when my brother asked me to set the two extra places for dinner, he specifically told me that he would explain more later. He didn't say anything more directly to me about it. Instead, it was posted on Facebook. That's one reason why I'm feeling hurt. I'm also hurt that I didn't know anything about this rel@tionship before he got married. I'm trying not to take it personally, but wow, that's hard.

I'm definitely in agreement about #3 and #4. And I also think that actions can have consequences regardless of whether rudeness was involved. Given that, I recognize that the way I handle this situation also will have repercussions -- positive or negative. That is something for me to think about.

P.S. I'd prefer not to speculate on why my brother and his wife handled their marriage and the announcement this way. There are so many possible reasons, and only they know the answer to that.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: Kaypeep on March 22, 2013, 03:28:14 PM
Coley, I think everything you feel is justified.  The only advice/suggestion I have is that I'd call your brother and ask him to tell you about his new wife and stepson.  I'd tell him that he really caught me off guard and it would really help make you more comfortable for the Easter dinner if he could give some background on them so that you know a bit about them first.   There's already enough stress in hosting a family dinner, having to play 20 questions with surprise guests who turn out to be family members now is really just too much.  So, if he could give you some backstory you'd appreciate it because while I'm sure he's filled in his wife about his side of the family, you are at a disadvantage because you don't know anything about her or her son at all.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: GrammarNerd on March 22, 2013, 04:47:39 PM
I get you being upset, Coley, or at least miffed.  And, having had a relative that would frequently do things similar to this to direct the attention to herself or to create drama, I have to wonder if this is your brother's way to do this.  Maybe when he asked you to set two extra places, he expected more questioning from you (attention).  And then when he didn't get it, he announced everything on FB, now expecting you to give him some of the attention that he didn't get before. 

I'm thinking that he's going to expect *something* at the Easter dinner....a gift, a toast, some fawning...something.  So I would just be prepared for that, and have some ways to redirect the conversation if you don't feel like doing the expected fawning.

(In this situation, my relative would be all smiley and happy when she showed up for Easter, and would keep directing the conversation around to her secret wedding.  If I didn't fawn over her, hang on her every word, ask a thousand questions and change the entire focus of the gathering to her and her new marriage, we would hear about it later; she would whine and complain to someone else about how rude I was, how I hated her, etc.  Never mind the fact that she created the drama (or lack thereof) herself by how she handled informing close family members about an important life event.)
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: bloo on March 22, 2013, 05:05:12 PM
I get you being upset, Coley, or at least miffed.  And, having had a relative that would frequently do things similar to this to direct the attention to herself or to create drama, I have to wonder if this is your brother's way to do this.  Maybe when he asked you to set two extra places, he expected more questioning from you (attention).  And then when he didn't get it, he announced everything on FB, now expecting you to give him some of the attention that he didn't get before. 

I'm thinking that he's going to expect *something* at the Easter dinner....a gift, a toast, some fawning...something.  So I would just be prepared for that, and have some ways to redirect the conversation if you don't feel like doing the expected fawning.

(In this situation, my relative would be all smiley and happy when she showed up for Easter, and would keep directing the conversation around to her secret wedding.  If I didn't fawn over her, hang on her every word, ask a thousand questions and change the entire focus of the gathering to her and her new marriage, we would hear about it later; she would whine and complain to someone else about how rude I was, how I hated her, etc.  Never mind the fact that she created the drama (or lack thereof) herself by how she handled informing close family members about an important life event.)

Yeah, I gotta admit, GrammarNerd, my nasty, suspicious mind thinks that Bro &/or SIL will angle for some fawning. Which Coley may choose to fawn - nothing wrong with that I suppose - but I myself would end up making a game of beandipping every angling for it if I felt like it.

Thanks, Turnip, and everyone else for answering my question. I'm still having a hard time wrapping my brain around this.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: *inviteseller on March 22, 2013, 05:48:14 PM
I would not feed into any drama...mom or bro.  The shame is, you decided to have everyone at your house for Easter and now this!  I would congratulate them and welcome them, but there would be no toasts, gifts, or actually, talk of the actual wedding.  Bro and Sil decided to keep this to themselves and then play little games about letting you and your mom know, so I would stay in that mode with them.  You chose not to include us in it?  Fine, congratulations, so how do you think our favorite baseball team will do this year?  You can be very pleasant and welcoming to the new members while still keeping a tight rein on YOUR hosted holiday.  If they want everyone to fall over themselves about their marriage, they can host a party themselves at another time.  And while your mom may be concerned with appearances and how things are done, your brother and Sil are adults, so she is not responsible anymore for their perceived etiquette faux pas and she is only responsible about how she acts in this.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: turnip on March 22, 2013, 06:55:39 PM
Do posters really want this to be the Easter dinner where the OP frostily held her new SIL at arm's length?   They eloped and posted an announcement on facebook, they didn't rob a bank for Pete's sake.    She's a new member of the OP's family -  I would welcome her, talk to her, and ask her about herself, their wedding, their relationship.   In my family we aren't so full of urgent Easter topics ( baseball? ) that it's like other important conversations might be missed if we let ourselves be distracted by our brother's wedding.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: camlan on March 22, 2013, 07:24:48 PM
Do posters really want this to be the Easter dinner where the OP frostily held her new SIL at arm's length?   They eloped and posted an announcement on facebook, they didn't rob a bank for Pete's sake.    She's a new member of the OP's family -  I would welcome her, talk to her, and ask her about herself, their wedding, their relationship.   In my family we aren't so full of urgent Easter topics ( baseball? ) that it's like other important conversations might be missed if we let ourselves be distracted by our brother's wedding.

I agree.

One of the messages we send here on EHell is that you are free to do what you want in a lot of cases, as the brother has done here. But when you depart from accepted social customs, you need to expect some fallout from family and friends.

I don't think the brother is handling the elopement well. If I were the OP, I'd want to have a good, long talk with him at some point about how his attitude and the way he announced the marriage affected me, and our mother.

But I don't think that the event where the new spouse and her child are introduced to the family is the place to do that.

This Easter dinner, for better or worse, is when the family meets the new spouse and step-child and the new spouse and step-child meet the extended family. They just got married. To *not* acknowledge the marriage in some way is doing exactly what the brother has just done--not following accepted social protocols. And it most likely will affect the way the new wife and child view the extended family for quite some time. And not in a good way.

I'm not saying make the entire dinner about the newly-weds. And I think that having a specific point where you acknowledge the marriage publicly, and offer a toast to the couple or a public welcome to the new wife will help to contain the wedding talk to a small portion of the day. Put the spotlight on the newly-weds for 10 minutes or so, and then move on with the usual Easter dinner events.

The way I see it, there's the opportunity to welcome a new family member and give them an impression of a family willing to invite her in. Or there's the chance to do the exact opposite. Both choices will have long-reaching repercussions. "Punishing" the brother by refusing to acknowledge his marriage will most likely upset both brother and wife. How long do you want this to continue?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: sammycat on March 22, 2013, 07:26:31 PM
I would not feed into any drama...mom or bro.  The shame is, you decided to have everyone at your house for Easter and now this!  I would congratulate them and welcome them, but there would be no toasts, gifts, or actually, talk of the actual wedding.  Bro and Sil decided to keep this to themselves and then play little games about letting you and your mom know, so I would stay in that mode with them.  You chose not to include us in it?  Fine, congratulations, so how do you think our favorite baseball team will do this year?  You can be very pleasant and welcoming to the new members while still keeping a tight rein on YOUR hosted holiday.  If they want everyone to fall over themselves about their marriage, they can host a party themselves at another time.  And while your mom may be concerned with appearances and how things are done, your brother and Sil are adults, so she is not responsible anymore for their perceived etiquette faux pas and she is only responsible about how she acts in this.

I agree. 

Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: snowdragon on March 22, 2013, 07:42:58 PM
I would not feed into any drama...mom or bro.  The shame is, you decided to have everyone at your house for Easter and now this!  I would congratulate them and welcome them, but there would be no toasts, gifts, or actually, talk of the actual wedding.  Bro and Sil decided to keep this to themselves and then play little games about letting you and your mom know, so I would stay in that mode with them.  You chose not to include us in it?  Fine, congratulations, so how do you think our favorite baseball team will do this year?  You can be very pleasant and welcoming to the new members while still keeping a tight rein on YOUR hosted holiday.  If they want everyone to fall over themselves about their marriage, they can host a party themselves at another time.  And while your mom may be concerned with appearances and how things are done, your brother and Sil are adults, so she is not responsible anymore for their perceived etiquette faux pas and she is only responsible about how she acts in this.

This.  but I would talk to bro first and see what he wants. He may not want a fuss made. If he does, perhaps the family can have a welcome party after Easter

I agree.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: KB on March 22, 2013, 08:12:25 PM
I would suggest having a list of other topics that can be discussed during the meal and which have no connection at all to Brother/SIL because, regardless of rights and wrongs, I think there will be lots of moments of awkward silence during the meal. These also have the benefit of providing lots of bean-dip should there be anger or other unpleasantness on display.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: Drunken Housewife on March 22, 2013, 08:27:10 PM
Quote
This Easter dinner, for better or worse, is when the family meets the new spouse and step-child and the new spouse and step-child meet the extended family. They just got married. To *not* acknowledge the marriage in some way is doing exactly what the brother has just done--not following accepted social protocols. And it most likely will affect the way the new wife and child view the extended family for quite some time. And not in a good way.

I'm agreeing with Camlan.  Yes, the brother hurt the OP and their mother's feelings, and yes, he should have known better.  Eloping isn't rude (I did it once myself), but it was not handled well in this case (when I eloped, everyone knew my fiance, and we called everyone on the same day to inform them that we'd run down to City Hall).  But when it comes down to it, there is an innocent child here, as well as a new sister-in-law, and if the OP wants her relationship with her brother to be close again, this is a moment to proceed carefully.  I would recommend being warm and friendly, having a toast for the newlyweds, and making sure the new SIl and child feel welcome. 

This does NOT mean making the meal about them; it doesn't mean running out to get a wedding cake.  It just means trying to get past the ill feelings understandably generated by the turn of events and being warm and welcoming to new members of the family, despite the brother's faux pas.  Later you can tell the brother that he hurt your feelings.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: GrammarNerd on March 22, 2013, 08:41:30 PM
By all means, I wouldn't condone being frosty to the SIL or the step-nephew.  Be gracious and welcoming.  Try to get to know her and the stepson as much as you can.

But for the thoughts that I had regarding my personal take from my own relative, I would entertain the possibility that gracious and welcoming might not be enough for this brother who would get married in secret and then announce it to a close family member via Facebook (when he certainly had the opportunity to come clean when he asked OP to set two more places for dinner).  I could imagine my relative, in this case, asking several times throughout the course of the dinner things like, "Were you surprised?", "What do you think of the news?", "What did you think when you read it on FB?".  And each question would be asked ad nauseum.  And any attempt to redirect the conversation would be viewed as being rude and unsupportive.  It's all meant to create drama.

Now, I'm not saying that OP's brother is like this, but I would be prepared for this.  Having lived through many situations like this, it's where my mind goes.  And forewarned is forearmed. 

(Said relative of mine was once in a car accident and was unconscious for several days, during which we didn't know what was going on or when she might wake up.  No explanation, transferred to a major hospital...etc.  So when relative finally woke up, she didn't really ask much about the accident, or how her kids were taking it, or anything like that.  She kept asking if we notified this friend or that friend that she was unconscious, that she'd been intubated.  She was more concerned with the drama and the attention that she got from being unconscious and intubated than with anything else about her accident or her health.  And this was par for the course with her.)
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: ClaireC79 on March 23, 2013, 03:44:59 AM
Is it possible the brother expected the mother to tell the OP? In some families communication goes like that - it often does with my brother and I - some goes direct to each other, others go via mum
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: Steve on March 23, 2013, 03:52:00 AM
The way you respond now will greatly influence your future relationship with DB and SIL. If you decide you want it to be good I would suggest you meet your DB alone before easter and explain to him how this has made you feel. Bring him a weddinggift at this occasion and wish him all the best in his marriage.  I would conclude with a statement that you are honored though that he has picked your house and hosting for his announcement and you will try to make it as memorable for him as you can, so you guys can start (re) building your relationship from this.

He will get enough flak from your family-members and he will need a champion. Your new SIL will definately need a champion for her on this occasion. If you can find it in your heart to be that for them it will be easier and better in the future. It is what I now wish I could have done (even if you do not feel all the grace yet, trust it will come).
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: SeptGurl on March 23, 2013, 07:20:51 AM
I get you being upset, Coley, or at least miffed.  And, having had a relative that would frequently do things similar to this to direct the attention to herself or to create drama, I have to wonder if this is your brother's way to do this.  Maybe when he asked you to set two extra places, he expected more questioning from you (attention).  And then when he didn't get it, he announced everything on FB, now expecting you to give him some of the attention that he didn't get before. 

I'm thinking that he's going to expect *something* at the Easter dinner....a gift, a toast, some fawning...something.  So I would just be prepared for that, and have some ways to redirect the conversation if you don't feel like doing the expected fawning.

(In this situation, my relative would be all smiley and happy when she showed up for Easter, and would keep directing the conversation around to her secret wedding.  If I didn't fawn over her, hang on her every word, ask a thousand questions and change the entire focus of the gathering to her and her new marriage, we would hear about it later; she would whine and complain to someone else about how rude I was, how I hated her, etc.  Never mind the fact that she created the drama (or lack thereof) herself by how she handled informing close family members about an important life event.)

There is a strong possibility that the bolded could be on the mark. It is very likely that he told my mother ahead of time because he knew she wouldn't react well either to the elopement itself or being surprised by it. It is possible that he attempted to maintain the element of surprise with me because the odds were better that he'd get the reaction he wanted (read: attention and celebration) from me. It's also possible that he is hoping I will be the one to smooth this over for him. The dynamics in our family are complicated at best. A PP in this thread made the suggestion that I not play the game. Not playing the game has been my M.O. with my family for about six years. They don't like that I don't go along anymore. What that means for my mother and brother is that I don't involve myself in their nonsense. They have to deal with each other directly. They don't like that I'm not the go-between. I am typically very firm about this boundary.

Right now, I am feeling as if I'm being dragged into the nonsense, which I strongly dislike. It seems difficult for me to enforce my boundaries in this particular situation because this is a new marriage, which in polite society should be a cause for congratulations and celebration. I'm trying to sort that part out and be logical about it.

Of course, I say all of the above fully aware that I have no idea what was going through my brother's head, and I can't assume his motivations or how family dynamics played into them.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: SeptGurl on March 23, 2013, 07:48:47 AM
I would not feed into any drama...mom or bro.  The shame is, you decided to have everyone at your house for Easter and now this!  I would congratulate them and welcome them, but there would be no toasts, gifts, or actually, talk of the actual wedding.  Bro and Sil decided to keep this to themselves and then play little games about letting you and your mom know, so I would stay in that mode with them.  You chose not to include us in it?  Fine, congratulations, so how do you think our favorite baseball team will do this year?  You can be very pleasant and welcoming to the new members while still keeping a tight rein on YOUR hosted holiday.  If they want everyone to fall over themselves about their marriage, they can host a party themselves at another time.  And while your mom may be concerned with appearances and how things are done, your brother and Sil are adults, so she is not responsible anymore for their perceived etiquette faux pas and she is only responsible about how she acts in this.

DH is very unhappy about all of this. Yesterday, he said that we are now in the position of holding a dinner party that could easily become awkward and unpleasant not because we would be poor hosts but because we can't control the behavior of the other people who are attending. We've had unpleasant family get-togethers over issues that were much less significant than an elopement. I honestly don't know whether my mother will be able to keep it together. And by "keep it together," I mean that I am very worried that my mother could dissolve into tears or throw a tantrum or both. My brother is very well aware of this possibility because he has been there before when it has happened. In addition, he may (or may not) be expecting that he and his wife will be lavished with attention. I can't be sure of how he will react if my mother behaves poorly or if he doesn't get the reaction he wants from us.

On one hand, it seems PA to deliberately bypass discussion about their elopement. On the other hand, it seems that we would be feeding the attention-seeking beast if we entertain that discussion throughout the meal.

It seems safer to have some element of celebration but to keep in confined in some way so that it doesn't hijack the dinner party or become an elephant in the room.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: SeptGurl on March 23, 2013, 08:03:28 AM
... snip ... I'm not saying make the entire dinner about the newly-weds. And I think that having a specific point where you acknowledge the marriage publicly, and offer a toast to the couple or a public welcome to the new wife will help to contain the wedding talk to a small portion of the day. Put the spotlight on the newly-weds for 10 minutes or so, and then move on with the usual Easter dinner events.

The way I see it, there's the opportunity to welcome a new family member and give them an impression of a family willing to invite her in. Or there's the chance to do the exact opposite. Both choices will have long-reaching repercussions. "Punishing" the brother by refusing to acknowledge his marriage will most likely upset both brother and wife. How long do you want this to continue?

It does feel "punishing" to me (or at least PA) to refuse to acknowledge the marriage, and I'm not comfortable taking that route. The idea of giving them a few minutes in the spotlight seems like a reasonable middle ground. I had planned to serve mimosas after everyone arrives, so maybe we can give them a semi-champagne toast that way and then move on with the day.

GrammarNerd's point that it may not be enough is well taken. My brother can be prone to that sort of thing, but I don't know for certain that he's leaning that way about his elopement. I don't think he would explode at the dinner party if he didn't get the attention he wanted, but it is possible that he would explode later in a phone call or e-mail. I have been on the receiving end of that before.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: SeptGurl on March 23, 2013, 08:14:42 AM
The way you respond now will greatly influence your future relationship with DB and SIL. If you decide you want it to be good I would suggest you meet your DB alone before easter and explain to him how this has made you feel. Bring him a weddinggift at this occasion and wish him all the best in his marriage.  I would conclude with a statement that you are honored though that he has picked your house and hosting for his announcement and you will try to make it as memorable for him as you can, so you guys can start (re) building your relationship from this.

He will get enough flak from your family-members and he will need a champion. Your new SIL will definately need a champion for her on this occasion. If you can find it in your heart to be that for them it will be easier and better in the future. It is what I now wish I could have done (even if you do not feel all the grace yet, trust it will come).

I am a person who serves frequently as advocates for others both professionally and personally. Taking the advocate role is natural for me. If anyone is going to champion the cause of the underdog, it is usually me. My ability and natural inclination to advocate for others comes from the environment in my FOO: I have overdeveloped inclinations toward empathy and fairness. I have learned that I have to protect those inclinations and ensure I am a good self-advocate as well.

In this situation, acting as my new SIL's champion right now is probably the highest road that could be taken. I find myself not ready to take on that role with her yet. The difference for me at present is that I don't know her. Once I know her, I might have a better idea of how to advocate for her or even if she needs my advocacy at all. Maybe that grace will come with time and an understanding of who she is.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: *inviteseller on March 23, 2013, 08:33:10 AM
It should be acknowledged, but if they want to turn your dinner into a wedding celebration, I would not let them.  It is nice you feel charitable towards a person you have never met or know anything about.  I would take my cues from both of them before deciding on what course of action to take.  She may be a sweet quiet woman who wants no fuss...she may be a drama queen who is looking for an audience. But, she has to know the game that your bro is playing.    From your updates though, it sounds like your mom and bro have issues between themselves that they want to drag you into.  If your family is like mine, you will constantly be cornered by one of them trying to get you to their 'side'.  I would talk to him before he shows up just to schuss out what he is thinking.  Don't interrogate him, just ask some basic questions about the new wife and see where he goes with it. 
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: Jem on March 23, 2013, 08:55:03 AM
I eloped quietly a couple of years ago and we didn't let our families know for a couple of months.  There were reasons why we did what we did.  Financially, we didn't want to put ourselves into a hole for just one day's celebration, plus neither of us liked being the center of attention.  My stepdaughter was getting married that same year and we didn't want to take any shine off of her.  And, yes, there was that small bit of toxic that I just didn't feel like dealing with.

Did I do it to hurt my family?  Not at all.  But I am an adult and I made the best decision I could for my little family.  Were my sibling hurt?  I'm sure they were (they love a good party).  They, though, warmly embraced my husband and they both think he's the perfect person for me. 

They are married.  Celebrate that fact with your brother, whom you love.  Share that happiest with him.  I didn't witness my sister giving birth and I still celebrated it with her.  Whether or not you witnessed the act, he still did something that he's happy about so why not be happy with him?  Have a small cake out.  If you have a prayer before your meal, mention a blessing for the marriage. 

Believe me, they want you to be happy for them.  I'm thrilled that my family didn't try to guilt me into something that just wouldn't have worked for me.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: JenJay on March 23, 2013, 09:22:10 AM
I don't think he would explode at the dinner party if he didn't get the attention he wanted, but it is possible that he would explode later in a phone call or e-mail. I have been on the receiving end of that before.

To which you reply "I'm confused. You didn't want anyone at your marriage, and you didn't want a reception or any type of party after you were married, but you wanted me to turn Easter dinner into a last minute surprise party to celebrate your marriage? When originally you didn't even want me to know that you had been married? That's ridiculous."
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: LEMon on March 23, 2013, 03:16:30 PM
Whatever you decide to do to honor your brother and his new wife, you might want to consider if you should tell your mom just what your plan is.  I haven't quite figured out if she would do better if she knew before hand or not.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: anonymousmac on March 23, 2013, 07:55:10 PM
If I were in Coley's shoes, I would be hurt not because my brother eloped per se, but because apparently there is someone in his life so important to him that he chose to marry her, and yet he felt so little closeness to me that he's never introduced me to her before this, or even mentioned her at all.

The brother had zero interest in sharing with Coley something really important in his life, to the point where he doesn't even bother telling her about this woman or that he's married her, and she finds out through a Facebook blast to hundreds of people.

And yet it sounds like he expects Coley to react with the joy and fuss of someone close to him.  He wants to be treated as if his milestone is really important to her, and yet he's treating her like someone who isn't at all important to him.

Do I have that right?  If so, I completely sympathize, Coley.  I'm not sure what I would do in your shoes.  I'd probably go ahead and say congratulations and be happy for them, and kindly try to get to know his new wife and step-son, but I wouldn't make a huge fuss or be all excited.  I might try to have a heart to heart later with my brother about how to break out of the old drama filled roles and relate to each other more closely and respectfully.

(edited to add)  If he were to get upset, a phrase I might use is "You didn't seem to think this would be a big deal to me."
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: --- on March 23, 2013, 09:49:52 PM
^Pod to this.

Personally, if my brother had eloped I would have been hurt but not that much if I had known the bride and her family beforehand. If it were someone that I didn't even know was in a relationship prior to the elopement? I would make sure that the roommate understands fully that brother and his new family would not be welcomed in our home for a VERY long time. And both sisters and parents would feel the same way.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: SPuck on March 23, 2013, 10:05:29 PM
It sounds like Coley has everything on track. She can be a gracious, cordial host, lead the conversation in her house, and try to diffuse any awkwardness. On the other hand if she thinks the situation could be bad she should just call her brother, explain that he is putting her in an awkward situation, and then react on how things go from there.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: KB on March 23, 2013, 10:23:01 PM
Is there any chance you could contact SIL through Facebook and tentatively find out her expectations of the event? She may be anticipating a huge, happy response from her 'people-in-law' and, if you want to work on a r'ship there, rather than with your mother or brother, that could be an avenue to consider. Talking to her in advance would also have the benefit of taking some of the sheen off the Easter dinner, which might also play into your hands regarding your brother if you spend your time talking to your new SIL rather than him. Perhaps your mother could do the same.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: fluffy on March 25, 2013, 11:45:40 AM
Coley, based on a few posts from you, your mom sounds... difficult. Is it possible that your brother eloped to avoid drama from her? And is now handling things badly?

My MIL is... difficult. One of my SILs eloped, because she knew her mom would just make things miserable. There was some fallout from it, but things eventually smoothed out.

If you have a decent relationship with your brother, I think you should take the high road. Don't make Easter dinner all about him and his new wife, but I would probably have a bottle of champagne or prosecco to toast with during dessert. You can say something pleasant but non-committal, and welcome your new SIL and her son to the family.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: Shoo on March 25, 2013, 11:52:03 AM
I would not feed into any drama...mom or bro.  The shame is, you decided to have everyone at your house for Easter and now this!  I would congratulate them and welcome them, but there would be no toasts, gifts, or actually, talk of the actual wedding.  Bro and Sil decided to keep this to themselves and then play little games about letting you and your mom know, so I would stay in that mode with them.  You chose not to include us in it?  Fine, congratulations, so how do you think our favorite baseball team will do this year?  You can be very pleasant and welcoming to the new members while still keeping a tight rein on YOUR hosted holiday.  If they want everyone to fall over themselves about their marriage, they can host a party themselves at another time.  And while your mom may be concerned with appearances and how things are done, your brother and Sil are adults, so she is not responsible anymore for their perceived etiquette faux pas and she is only responsible about how she acts in this.

DH is very unhappy about all of this. Yesterday, he said that we are now in the position of holding a dinner party that could easily become awkward and unpleasant not because we would be poor hosts but because we can't control the behavior of the other people who are attending. We've had unpleasant family get-togethers over issues that were much less significant than an elopement. I honestly don't know whether my mother will be able to keep it together. And by "keep it together," I mean that I am very worried that my mother could dissolve into tears or throw a tantrum or both. My brother is very well aware of this possibility because he has been there before when it has happened. In addition, he may (or may not) be expecting that he and his wife will be lavished with attention. I can't be sure of how he will react if my mother behaves poorly or if he doesn't get the reaction he wants from us.

On one hand, it seems PA to deliberately bypass discussion about their elopement. On the other hand, it seems that we would be feeding the attention-seeking beast if we entertain that discussion throughout the meal.

It seems safer to have some element of celebration but to keep in confined in some way so that it doesn't hijack the dinner party or become an elephant in the room.

Have a "Congratulations on your Marriage" cake for dessert.  Acknowledge the event and wish them well.  Above all else, make your brother's new wife and child feel welcome in the family. 
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: Cami on March 25, 2013, 02:50:41 PM
My mother encouraged me, and all my siblings, to elope. She believes it's low-stress and low-cost. She's already confident in her relationship with us and doesn't think of it as a snub or something only reserved for toxic relatives.

I admit, I have some difficulty understanding why eloping is seen as wrong. (I'm assuming the brother eloped and didn't have a huge party and invite everyone but his mother and sister - that would be rude).
A person can be quite confident in their relationship with another and still feel hurt at being excluded from a major life event.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: Eeep! on March 25, 2013, 03:10:37 PM
If I were in Coley's shoes, I would be hurt not because my brother eloped per se, but because apparently there is someone in his life so important to him that he chose to marry her, and yet he felt so little closeness to me that he's never introduced me to her before this, or even mentioned her at all.

The brother had zero interest in sharing with Coley something really important in his life, to the point where he doesn't even bother telling her about this woman or that he's married her, and she finds out through a Facebook blast to hundreds of people.

And yet it sounds like he expects Coley to react with the joy and fuss of someone close to him.  He wants to be treated as if his milestone is really important to her, and yet he's treating her like someone who isn't at all important to him.

Do I have that right?  If so, I completely sympathize, Coley.  I'm not sure what I would do in your shoes.  I'd probably go ahead and say congratulations and be happy for them, and kindly try to get to know his new wife and step-son, but I wouldn't make a huge fuss or be all excited.  I might try to have a heart to heart later with my brother about how to break out of the old drama filled roles and relate to each other more closely and respectfully.

(edited to add)  If he were to get upset, a phrase I might use is "You didn't seem to think this would be a big deal to me."

This - particularly the bolded - sums up my thoughts exact. Thanks!
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: Lynn2000 on March 26, 2013, 10:30:12 AM
I'm impressed with the OP's thoughts on the situation, it seems like she's really determined to be gracious and welcoming to her new family members--that's really the only course one could take and be polite, I think, no matter how hurt one is. But, exactly what actions constitute "gracious and welcoming" vary from person to person, so I think the OP should just try to go with the flow of the meal. Plan for the worst--have a bunch of topics of conversation you can beandip to if Bro or SIL start getting attention-hoggy, practice asking your mom to help you with something in another room if you see her start to get worked up in front of everyone. But maybe you will be pleasantly surprised.

I understand what the OP means about being caught in the middle of their games, but as hostess she does have some power to direct the conversation and even the guests. Maybe think of it more as having peace in your home at your holiday gathering--it doesn't matter if it's Bro, Mom, or Uncle Milton stirring up trouble, you are ready to redirect them, physically if necessary ("Oh, Uncle Milton, before I forget, let me show you something in the garage real quick. Everyone, please continue eating... Uncle, cool it with the racist jokes, or I will ask you to leave.")

Not sure if it would help or not, but you could try contacting your mom beforehand and warning her that you won't tolerate any dramatics at your meal. You're not saying Bro was right, but you ARE saying that YOUR holiday meal is not the place for her to throw a temper tantrum in front of the guests. If she feels like she can't keep it together, she is to go to the bedroom and chill; and if she doesn't do it on her own, you will gladly help her get there.

Personally I wouldn't have a cake or do a toast or anything like that. The marriage/wedding wouldn't be a forbidden topic, but I would assume that given how low-key the wedding was (relative to the rest of the family), Bro and SIL wouldn't want a big fuss made about it now. That's the reasoning that makes the most sense to me, just in the abstract without actually knowing Bro.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: SeptGurl on April 01, 2013, 09:54:32 AM
Update:

I'm still trying to process the meeting with my new SIL, so these are just my initial thoughts and impressions. My brother, SIL, his four children, and her son arrived for Easter dinner just a few minutes before we planned to serve. The first surprise was that my SIL's son is not 3 years old, as my mother stated. He's 8 years old. The initial introductions were somewhat awkward. My brother did not immediately introduce us to his new wife; rather, I introduced myself as did my DH, and we welcomed them into our home, where we had a few hors d'oeuvres ready to serve. I offered everyone beverages. DH had to tell my SIL his name several times before she remembered it.

When everyone had a drink in hand, DH made a toast to my brother and SIL and in celebration of Easter. That was the only specific reference we made to their marriage for the duration of the afternoon.

Throughout the afternoon, much of the talk seemed to surround my brother and SIL -- not about their marriage but sort of in a "getting to know you" way, although not exactly. I felt uncomfortable because it felt as if the topics seemed to steer back around to my brother and SIL despite efforts to steer the conversation in other directions. DH had the sense that my brother was trying to cover for my SIL on some topics, such as what she does for a living. When DH asked her this question, she gave an evasive response to which my brother also made an evasive comment and changed the subject. From that we surmised the topic of her employment is off limits and dropped it. This happened several times. A routine question would be asked to get to know her, and she and my brother would look at each other, and we'd get an evasive or vague response. I noted that they seemed to make what I'd call inside jokes or inside references. They were hinting types of comments that only the two of them would fully understand, such as about my SIL's religion (which she brought up) or her employment. After making these evasive comments, they would look at each other and chuckle. It felt like a game, so it was hard to know if we should have probed in more depth about the hinting or changed the subject. We seemed to be changing the subject with some frequency.

It's hard for me to know from this experience whether they wanted us to get to know her yesterday. They seemed to be controlling the information flow pretty tightly. I don't know if she has family, where she is from, if she is employed, or any other routine things one might expect to learn when meeting someone new. I would describe the afternoon as being pleasant but awkward, if that makes sense. There was a polite superficiality to it. Everyone seemed to mind their manners during dinner.

My mother was fairly well behaved overall. I observed that she did not seem to speak directly to my SIL. This is a common behavior for her when she isn't sure whether she thinks the other person is worth knowing. She doesn't outright ignore the other person, but she doesn't go out of her way to converse with them either. I view it as a PA behavior. It has the result of making other people work harder at making conversation because she refuses to have any. One thing my mother did consistently throughout the day was bring up the fact that one of my aunts is ill. No matter where I was or what I was doing, my mother wanted to talk about it. It was not a good time to discuss the illness with other people present or when I was trying to put the final touches on the meal or serve dessert. I couldn't stop my hosting duties to have that conversation with her. Saying something along the lines of "we can discuss this later" doesn't work with her. My mother is narcissistic, so it is difficult to know whether she was expressing genuine concern (about my aunt) or if she was creating drama to shift the focus of the day to herself. She also brought up several times that one of my nieces will be celebrating a religious milestone in a few weeks. Evidently, my mother has been invited to attend this event with my brother's family, but we have not. This was the first I'd heard about this religious milestone occurring.

My brother brought some paperwork for my mother to review and sign for a major joint purchase they are making. He first mentioned the paperwork to my mother (in front of everyone) shortly after they arrived, and he made it clear that they had to discuss it so he could get my mother's signature. He brought up the paperwork several times during the afternoon. They didn't get to it until after dessert. After they discussed the paperwork with my mother, my brother and SIL were ready to leave. DH observed the same.

As they were leaving, my SIL told me that they had planned to arrive earlier, but it didn't work out that way. I will be hopeful that we may get to know her better over time and that my first impressions of her were due to the awkwardness of the situation.

Thanks again to everyone for weighing in with their thoughts on how to handle this event. The input helped me so much.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Surianne on April 01, 2013, 10:49:42 AM
Glad to hear it went reasonably well, and that everyone was polite, other than your mother.  From the way you speak of her I can definitely see why your brother and new sister-in-law might have eloped, and why they're trying to control how much information they give out.  It sounds like she was pretty unwelcoming and rude.  I think you handled the situation as well as you could.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Lynn2000 on April 01, 2013, 11:16:31 AM
Glad there was no big drama! Sometimes "pleasant but awkward" is the best possible outcome. It seems weird that Bro and SIL were so evasive, but--as Surianne says--maybe they were trying to control information flow to your mother. Now that you've all been introduced, would it be possible to contact Bro on your own and talk to him about this whole thing? Or, go to lunch with him and SIL, and see if they're more forthcoming with you?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: *inviteseller on April 01, 2013, 12:06:47 PM
I see it from the opposite side of Surianne...they came to this meal for purpose of getting the papers signed, and they played games with their hosts as far an basic info on new SIL.  It doesn't sound like they were putting her under a light and interrogating her, just asking basic 'getting to know you' questions and they were evasive, yet when the hosts attempted to take the conversation into a neutral territory, they turned it back to themselves.  And, while Mom may be narcissistic (would she like to meet my dad?  They'd make a great pair :P) she probably wanted to talk about your aunt because that is something she did know and was frustrated on the cat & mouse game Bro and SIL were playing.  I am glad to hear you made it through ok, and that you want to get to know your SIL better, but it doesn't sound like she's interested in being a part of your family right now.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Surianne on April 01, 2013, 12:11:42 PM
I see it from the opposite side of Surianne...they came to this meal for purpose of getting the papers signed, and they played games with their hosts as far an basic info on new SIL. 

It doesn't sound like they were rude about it, simply that she wasn't comfortable answering specific questions and they deflected.  No one is required to give out information about their job simply because someone asks that question.  It's possible she does something that has to be kept secret (government work), or works in a controversial field (cigarette company, oil company, sex work, etc.), or perhaps because this was her first meeting with the family, she wasn't comfortable going there until she gets to know them better.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: ilrag on April 01, 2013, 01:16:48 PM

It doesn't sound like they were rude about it, simply that she wasn't comfortable answering specific questions and they deflected.  No one is required to give out information about their job simply because someone asks that question.  It's possible she does something that has to be kept secret (government work), or works in a controversial field (cigarette company, oil company, sex work, etc.), or perhaps because this was her first meeting with the family, she wasn't comfortable going there until she gets to know them better.

This is a reasonable assumption and the new SIL might have had other reasons to not want to talk about her family - maybe there's drama she feels awkward discussing until she knows some of you better.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Snooks on April 01, 2013, 01:38:00 PM
I may have missed this but did they actually tell you they were married?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Eeep! on April 01, 2013, 01:50:03 PM
I see it from the opposite side of Surianne...they came to this meal for purpose of getting the papers signed, and they played games with their hosts as far an basic info on new SIL.  It doesn't sound like they were putting her under a light and interrogating her, just asking basic 'getting to know you' questions and they were evasive, yet when the hosts attempted to take the conversation into a neutral territory, they turned it back to themselves.  And, while Mom may be narcissistic (would she like to meet my dad?  They'd make a great pair :P) she probably wanted to talk about your aunt because that is something she did know and was frustrated on the cat & mouse game Bro and SIL were playing.  I am glad to hear you made it through ok, and that you want to get to know your SIL better, but it doesn't sound like she's interested in being a part of your family right now.

This was kinda the impression I got as well.  If they were really just deflecting from subjects that they didn't want to talk about, they could have brought up other ones. It sounds like they didn't really and instead exchanged looks/snickers with each other. But that's just how I took it based on the update.

Regardless, I'm glad it was fairly drama free.

But I too want to know - if he didn't even introduce her as his wife, did they even officially tell you about the wedding? Guess they figured the FB was enough.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: SeptGurl on April 01, 2013, 01:59:07 PM
I may have missed this but did they actually tell you they were married?

Technically, no. I found out because they posted the photos from their ceremony on Facebook a week or so ago. I'm trying to remember if my brother said anything like, "This is my wife," when they arrived yesterday. If he said something along those lines, either he didn't say it directly to me or I was busy greeting other people at that moment and didn't hear it.

When DH did the toast shortly after they arrived, my SIL had sort of a sheepish, uncomfortable look on her face. A few minutes later she walked across the room to my mother and made a point of clinking glasses with her. I said, "Cheers," after DH finished the toast.

That was the only element of the day that related to their marriage. There was no additional discussion about it.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: SeptGurl on April 01, 2013, 02:18:19 PM
Glad there was no big drama! Sometimes "pleasant but awkward" is the best possible outcome. It seems weird that Bro and SIL were so evasive, but--as Surianne says--maybe they were trying to control information flow to your mother. Now that you've all been introduced, would it be possible to contact Bro on your own and talk to him about this whole thing? Or, go to lunch with him and SIL, and see if they're more forthcoming with you?

Well, they live two hours from me, so going to lunch would be a bit of a challenge. :) This is part of the reason that I'm feeling disappointed we didn't know about my niece's upcoming religious milestone. It would be a natural opportunity to spend some more time with my SIL to get to know her as well as celebrate my niece's event.

I can see the possibility that they might feel uncomfortable around my mother, so that could have played a factor in the limited information they were willing to share yesterday. Still, they invited my mother to attend my niece's event, but they did not invite us, so I'm not sure what message to take from that. They're even less comfortable with us? I don't know about that because I do think my SIL was being sincere when she told me that she wished they had arrived earlier yesterday. She looked me in the eyes and made a point of telling me that. It wasn't something she had to say even to be polite. My brother also seemed very happy that we decided to host Easter at our house. It's very difficult for me to read the dynamics.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Eden on April 01, 2013, 02:47:04 PM
Coley, I just want to say that I'm thoroughly impressed by your levelheaded and reasoned thought process through this whole thing. You felt and acknowledged some very real and understandable emotions and then worked on from there. Really commendable.

The inside joking feeling reminds me so much of my brother and SIL, especially early on in their relationship. I've found them to be a rather codependent couple but also a lot of it is due to her social awkwardness and I think him trying to make her feel comfortable by sharing knowing looks and inside jokes. It's still annoying but knowing it's coming more from a place of insecurity rather than superiority helps me ignore it a little easier.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Eeep! on April 01, 2013, 03:03:02 PM
Coley, I just want to say that I'm thoroughly impressed by your levelheaded and reasoned thought process through this whole thing. You felt and acknowledged some very real and understandable emotions and then worked on from there. Really commendable.

The inside joking feeling reminds me so much of my brother and SIL, especially early on in their relationship. I've found them to be a rather codependent couple but also a lot of it is due to her social awkwardness and I think him trying to make her feel comfortable by sharing knowing looks and inside jokes. It's still annoying but knowing it's coming more from a place of insecurity rather than superiority helps me ignore it a little easier.

I hadn't thought of this - that is a nice way to think of it!
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Salvage3 on April 01, 2013, 03:54:25 PM
I also applaud the way you and your husband handled this.

However, even though it is none of my/our business, I can think of only a few things that would involve your mother signing papers, and all involve money in some sense --whether outright or a release or........  If that was the case, as least your mother would have a right to know what SIL does in general.  I also don't find it a rude question to ask someone, and it can usually be answered with a very simple "I'm in the retain/banking/construction/whatever field" or simply "I'm not working at the moment to stay home with and enjoy the children".  It does not have to ever be asked for specific details nor answered with specific details.

That being said, I'm glad you were able to enjoy your Easter dinner.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: sammycat on April 01, 2013, 10:34:27 PM
I see it from the opposite side of Surianne...they came to this meal for purpose of getting the papers signed, and they played games with their hosts as far an basic info on new SIL.  It doesn't sound like they were putting her under a light and interrogating her, just asking basic 'getting to know you' questions and they were evasive, yet when the hosts attempted to take the conversation into a neutral territory, they turned it back to themselves.  And, while Mom may be narcissistic (would she like to meet my dad?  They'd make a great pair :P) she probably wanted to talk about your aunt because that is something she did know and was frustrated on the cat & mouse game Bro and SIL were playing.  I am glad to hear you made it through ok, and that you want to get to know your SIL better, but it doesn't sound like she's interested in being a part of your family right now.

I agree with inviteseller.

SIL and DB came across as rather rude to me, with their constant inside references etc. Sounds like they're made for each other.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Otterpop on April 02, 2013, 08:49:36 AM
Good update OP.  One word of caution:  If your mother is a narcissist, your brother may have picked up the trait.  One thing they do well is to play "both ends against the middle."  That way they maintain control.  Be friendly and polite but don't get emotional about anything they do.  Focus on your immediate family and remain interested but dispassionate about the others.  I see a major power play between your brother and mother in the future.  Don't get caught up in it. 
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: postalslave on April 02, 2013, 11:00:59 AM
What a weird Easter that must have been.


Have you Googled your SIL? The not talking about your job is a huge flag for me. Why? What do you do that you wouldn't want to discus it? Innocent postalslave hopes SIL is a secret agent but jaded postalslave wouldn't be surprised if she does pr0n or sells drooooogs.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: geekette on April 02, 2013, 03:41:40 PM
The not talking about your job is a huge flag for me.

Honestly, my first assumption was that she worked in an unpopular field, like taxation.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Girly on April 02, 2013, 04:00:46 PM
What a weird Easter that must have been.

  • Refusal to discus job
  • Refusal to discus family
  • The unknown financial papers

Have you Googled your SIL? The not talking about your job is a huge flag for me. Why? What do you do that you wouldn't want to discus it? Innocent postalslave hopes SIL is a secret agent but jaded postalslave wouldn't be surprised if she does pr0n or sells drooooogs.

Wow, I would probably not want to discuss anything with someone if they would do some sort of search like the above on me, or make wild assumptions like that.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Yvaine on April 02, 2013, 04:03:25 PM
What a weird Easter that must have been.

  • Refusal to discus job
  • Refusal to discus family
  • The unknown financial papers

Have you Googled your SIL? The not talking about your job is a huge flag for me. Why? What do you do that you wouldn't want to discus it? Innocent postalslave hopes SIL is a secret agent but jaded postalslave wouldn't be surprised if she does pr0n or sells drooooogs.

Wow, I would probably not want to discuss anything with someone if they would do some sort of search like the above on me, or make wild assumptions like that.

This. Porn? Drugs?  :o I agree that it's more likely she's in a controversial field, or maybe that she is unemployed and embarrassed about it.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Moray on April 02, 2013, 04:07:57 PM
What a weird Easter that must have been.

  • Refusal to discus job
  • Refusal to discus family
  • The unknown financial papers

Have you Googled your SIL? The not talking about your job is a huge flag for me. Why? What do you do that you wouldn't want to discus it? Innocent postalslave hopes SIL is a secret agent but jaded postalslave wouldn't be surprised if she does pr0n or sells drooooogs.

Wow, I would probably not want to discuss anything with someone if they would do some sort of search like the above on me, or make wild assumptions like that.

This. Porn? Drugs?  :o I agree that it's more likely she's in a controversial field, or maybe that she is unemployed and embarrassed about it.

 ??? Woah. We've seen some stretches that defy logic, but this sets logic on fire and stamps out the smoldering embers for good measure. I agree with other posters that the reason is probably much more mundane.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: TurtleDove on April 02, 2013, 04:14:06 PM
Somewhat off topic, but I thought it was somewhat standard to at least google people whom you just met but either have to be connected with or are thinking about forging some sort of relationship with.  I am a lawyer and I routinely google opposing counsel, litigants, judges.......
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: RubyCat on April 02, 2013, 04:14:48 PM
I see it from the opposite side of Surianne...they came to this meal for purpose of getting the papers signed, and they played games with their hosts as far an basic info on new SIL.  It doesn't sound like they were putting her under a light and interrogating her, just asking basic 'getting to know you' questions and they were evasive, yet when the hosts attempted to take the conversation into a neutral territory, they turned it back to themselves.  And, while Mom may be narcissistic (would she like to meet my dad?  They'd make a great pair :P) she probably wanted to talk about your aunt because that is something she did know and was frustrated on the cat & mouse game Bro and SIL were playing.  I am glad to hear you made it through ok, and that you want to get to know your SIL better, but it doesn't sound like she's interested in being a part of your family right now.

I agree with inviteseller.

SIL and DB came across as rather rude to me, with their constant inside references etc. Sounds like they're made for each other.

I agree as well. Kudos to you and your husband for taking the high road and shame on bother and SIL. I don't care if your mother is a narcissist or not. They were rude. They are guests in *your* home.  The excuse offered by some that they may not have felt they could be themselves due to mother's presence is very charitable but if it was such a big issue, they should have declined the invitation and met with you another time.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Yvaine on April 02, 2013, 04:37:51 PM
Somewhat off topic, but I thought it was somewhat standard to at least google people whom you just met but either have to be connected with or are thinking about forging some sort of relationship with.  I am a lawyer and I routinely google opposing counsel, litigants, judges.......

I don't think it's all that weird, necessarily, just to google someone, at least out of curiosity (though I also don't think it would be weird not to). I'm mostly taking exception to the wild speculations about the SIL's profession.

ETA: I also think there'd be more cause to google in a situation like you describe, TurtleDove, where you are going into a trial where you will "compete" in a way, and so it can make sense to size up the opposition and get an idea of this lawyer's usual strategies or how that judge has ruled in other cases, etc. That's business and different from social matters. I will say that I've sometimes googled people in social situations but I always felt a little wrong about it. I don't think it's unusual these days, though, and again my bigger objection is about the drugs/porn assumption.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: TurtleDove on April 02, 2013, 04:48:51 PM
Yvaine, agreed. I was just noting that doing a mini-"background check" doesn't strike me as rude or out of bounds.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Girly on April 02, 2013, 05:33:14 PM
Somewhat off topic, but I thought it was somewhat standard to at least google people whom you just met but either have to be connected with or are thinking about forging some sort of relationship with.  I am a lawyer and I routinely google opposing counsel, litigants, judges.......

I don't think it's all that weird, necessarily, just to google someone, at least out of curiosity (though I also don't think it would be weird not to). I'm mostly taking exception to the wild speculations about the SIL's profession.

ETA: I also think there'd be more cause to google in a situation like you describe, TurtleDove, where you are going into a trial where you will "compete" in a way, and so it can make sense to size up the opposition and get an idea of this lawyer's usual strategies or how that judge has ruled in other cases, etc. That's business and different from social matters. I will say that I've sometimes googled people in social situations but I always felt a little wrong about it. I don't think it's unusual these days, though, and again my bigger objection is about the drugs/porn assumption.

Let's say my brother is dating a girl I hardly knew beyond her name, and I googled her. Let's also say there is more than one person by that name, and most of the results are of 'Jane Doe2' instead of my brother's girlfriend 'Jane Doe1', but how am I to know that? Unless it has her picture with every story or her Facebook/Twitter/whatever other Social Media is open, I would feel like I was snooping in on her, and it might not even be 'her' I was looking at, but 'Jane Doe2'.

However, the circumstances TurtleDove describes above I think are different, and I would certainly do Google and whatever other searches I could to find out anything I can!!
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: thedudeabides on April 02, 2013, 05:53:47 PM
I wouldn't jump to drugs or porn just because someone wasn't open about what kind of work they do.  I don't talk much about my job because it's technical and explaining what I do either forces me to break it down into tiny words that sound condescending or use technobabble that also sounds condescending.  And I'd be hesitant about taking anything I found online about someone, going by name only, for the reasons Girly mentioned -- it's entirely too easy to find negative information about the wrong person and run with that.

As for Easter dinner, it sounds like a giant fail all around.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Yvaine on April 02, 2013, 06:08:15 PM
I wouldn't jump to drugs or porn just because someone wasn't open about what kind of work they do.  I don't talk much about my job because it's technical and explaining what I do either forces me to break it down into tiny words that sound condescending or use technobabble that also sounds condescending.  And I'd be hesitant about taking anything I found online about someone, going by name only, for the reasons Girly mentioned -- it's entirely too easy to find negative information about the wrong person and run with that.

Or positive information.  ;D Googling me used to bring up my book reviews. All fine and good. Then someone with my same name hit college this past year. She's a beautiful cheerleader somewhere in Texas. It's amazing how good-looking I've become, according to Google, in the last year...
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: LadyClaire on April 03, 2013, 07:08:45 AM
Somewhat off topic, but I thought it was somewhat standard to at least google people whom you just met but either have to be connected with or are thinking about forging some sort of relationship with.  I am a lawyer and I routinely google opposing counsel, litigants, judges.......

I don't think it's all that weird, necessarily, just to google someone, at least out of curiosity (though I also don't think it would be weird not to). I'm mostly taking exception to the wild speculations about the SIL's profession.

ETA: I also think there'd be more cause to google in a situation like you describe, TurtleDove, where you are going into a trial where you will "compete" in a way, and so it can make sense to size up the opposition and get an idea of this lawyer's usual strategies or how that judge has ruled in other cases, etc. That's business and different from social matters. I will say that I've sometimes googled people in social situations but I always felt a little wrong about it. I don't think it's unusual these days, though, and again my bigger objection is about the drugs/porn assumption.

Let's say my brother is dating a girl I hardly knew beyond her name, and I googled her. Let's also say there is more than one person by that name, and most of the results are of 'Jane Doe2' instead of my brother's girlfriend 'Jane Doe1', but how am I to know that? Unless it has her picture with every story or her Facebook/Twitter/whatever other Social Media is open, I would feel like I was snooping in on her, and it might not even be 'her' I was looking at, but 'Jane Doe2'.

Or it could be like me. My first name/maiden name combination brings up a bunch of random crime websites/reports on missing people because my first and maiden name are both commonly used words in the legal system. Other than that, for actual people it brings up a few who are not me. My married name brings up dozens of women who are not me.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: LadyClaire on April 03, 2013, 07:15:00 AM
I'm also inclined to think that she is either unemployed or does something that tends to be seen in a negative way by people. All it takes is a few people saying "Ugh, how can you stand to DO that?" before someone would get reluctant to disclose what they do for a living, even when it's a completely normal occupation that does not involve drugs/porn.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: audrey1962 on April 03, 2013, 09:05:30 AM
Or she's just unhappy in her job and doesn't want to discuss it. I was like that for a while.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Lynn2000 on April 03, 2013, 09:27:26 AM
I think there's lots of fairly innocent reasons why one common topic, such as a job, would get vague responses. But if I interpreted the update correctly, it seems like almost all inquiries about SIL received vague responses. That seems weird to me. Why attend a gathering, at which you will be introduced to many new in-laws, if you aren't prepared to say anything at all about yourself?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: mandycorn on April 03, 2013, 09:52:00 AM
I think it's fine to have some subjects where a person wants to be vague, but I think it behooves them to come up with alternate topics to suggest in those cases to help move the conversation along (beandip anyone?) and not go back to the original topic, especially not to make veiled references or inside jokes.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: SeptGurl on April 03, 2013, 11:21:03 AM
Given what little I do know, I tend to lean toward the likelihood that my SIL may be unemployed or perhaps she is underemployed and embarrassed about it.

During dinner, she asked me what I do. I told her. It was a pretty straightforward dialogue. If the topic of her employment is off limits, then I'm not sure why she asked about mine.

If I had responded to her questions about my employment in the way she responded to DH's question, it would have been something like, "I'm aspiring to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, and I'm retired from raising Sea Monkeys." DH was genuinely trying to get to know her, and he felt her response was dismissive.

DH has much stronger feelings than I do about our interactions that day with my brother and SIL. He believes they were downright rude the whole afternoon. I'm so confused by the whole situation that I'm not sure what to believe.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Surianne on April 03, 2013, 11:24:30 AM
If I had responded to her questions about my employment in the way she responded to DH's question, it would have been something like, "I'm aspiring to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, and I'm retired from raising Sea Monkeys." DH was genuinely trying to get to know her, and he felt her response was dismissive.

I'm a little confused by this -- is that what she said?  Like a joking reply?
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Two Ravens on April 03, 2013, 11:39:30 AM
If I had responded to her questions about my employment in the way she responded to DH's question, it would have been something like, "I'm aspiring to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, and I'm retired from raising Sea Monkeys." DH was genuinely trying to get to know her, and he felt her response was dismissive.

I'm a little confused by this -- is that what she said?  Like a joking reply?

Yes, I am a bit confused too. Was it a completely flippant response or did she say something like, "I am trying to start a non-profit to stress the importance of music education and I used to breed rabbits" or something like that?

I would still respond with something like, "Oh, do you enjoy singing?" or "Sea Monkeys! What are they like?"
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: SeptGurl on April 03, 2013, 11:43:54 AM
If I had responded to her questions about my employment in the way she responded to DH's question, it would have been something like, "I'm aspiring to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, and I'm retired from raising Sea Monkeys." DH was genuinely trying to get to know her, and he felt her response was dismissive.

I'm a little confused by this -- is that what she said?  Like a joking reply?

Yes, I am a bit confused too. Was it a completely flippant response or did she say something like, "I am trying to start a non-profit to stress the importance of music education and I used to breed rabbits" or something like that?

I would still respond with something like, "Oh, do you enjoy singing?" or "Sea Monkeys! What are they like?"

Yes, it was flippant. Before DH could say anything else, my brother jumped in with another evasive comment about her employment and changed the subject, so DH dropped it.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: LadyL on April 03, 2013, 12:14:06 PM
I apologize if this speculation is crass, but am I the only one wondering if this is a "mail order bride" type situation? Or a green card/visa inspired marriage? The evasive answers and nervous looks exchanged between the couple when SIL was asked personal questions makes me wonder if they don't know each other very well and are trying to hide that fact.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: zyrs on April 03, 2013, 05:39:29 PM
The feeling I picked up was that for whatever reason your brother and SIL went to the Easter dinner with chips on their shoulders expecting there to be problems.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: *inviteseller on April 03, 2013, 06:22:24 PM
With your updates, I am truly sticking by my assessment that they came for the purpose of a free meal and the papers being signed.  Your brother and his new wife had absolutely no desire to play getting to know you, and it seems not like a case of social anxiety or shyness, but they don't want you to know something.  What is her son like?  If your brother has full custody of his kids, I would be googling her so quick to find out anything just for the sake of them to make sure she is not hiding something, but if not, I would wash my hands of them as they are not exactly welcoming you and your family in.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Otterpop on April 03, 2013, 06:43:41 PM
Thank you for the update.  I'm with you husband on this.  I think they were totally rude, especially as this was an "introductory" visit.  Your brother seems to enjoy holding all the cards.  I urge you and DH not to play.  "Oh you're a unicorn rancher?  How nice.  Pass the peas please.  Yes, I did see the wedding pictures on FB, they're lovely.  How about those Rangers!"  If you no longer value the thing they're witholding (information, inclusion), then they can't pull your strings or create drama.  "Polite but distant" is the best attitude to assume when dealing with manipulators.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
Post by: TootsNYC on April 03, 2013, 06:44:42 PM
If I were in Coley's shoes, I would be hurt not because my brother eloped per se, but because apparently there is someone in his life so important to him that he chose to marry her, and yet he felt so little closeness to me that he's never introduced me to her before this, or even mentioned her at all.


And I think this is the thing I would find a way to say to my brother. In private, and AFTER I had welcomed his wife and new stepson. And not in a whiny way, but in a "I think you ought to know about my reaction. Maybe it will influence what you do in the future."

(now I have to go find the update)
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: sammycat on April 03, 2013, 07:55:01 PM
Thank you for the update.  I'm with you husband on this.  I think they were totally rude, especially as this was an "introductory" visit.  Your brother seems to enjoy holding all the cards.  I urge you and DH not to play.  "Oh you're a unicorn rancher?  How nice.  Pass the peas please.  Yes, I did see the wedding pictures on FB, they're lovely.  How about those Rangers!"  If you no longer value the thing they're witholding (information, inclusion), then they can't pull your strings or create drama.  "Polite but distant" is the best attitude to assume when dealing with manipulators.

I'm with the DH and Otterpop. Bro and SIL sound excruciating rude and self absorbed.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: sammycat on April 03, 2013, 07:55:28 PM
The feeling I picked up was that for whatever reason your brother and SIL went to the Easter dinner with chips on their shoulders expecting there to be problems.

That's the feeling I got too.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Danika on April 03, 2013, 08:50:25 PM
DH has much stronger feelings than I do about our interactions that day with my brother and SIL. He believes they were downright rude the whole afternoon. I'm so confused by the whole situation that I'm not sure what to believe.

I'm with your DH on this. I think based on previous threads and comments you've made in this thread, you're accustomed to being treated poorly and dismissively by your mother and your brother.

You sound very gracious, charitable and willing to extend an olive branch. I think you've done more than enough.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: postalslave on April 04, 2013, 08:28:06 AM
I apologize if this speculation is crass, but am I the only one wondering if this is a "mail order bride" type situation? Or a green card/visa inspired marriage? The evasive answers and nervous looks exchanged between the couple when SIL was asked personal questions makes me wonder if they don't know each other very well and are trying to hide that fact.

Agreed, very suspect.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Eeep! on April 04, 2013, 11:16:52 AM
Thank you for the update.  I'm with you husband on this.  I think they were totally rude, especially as this was an "introductory" visit.  Your brother seems to enjoy holding all the cards.  I urge you and DH not to play.  "Oh you're a unicorn rancher?  How nice.  Pass the peas please.  Yes, I did see the wedding pictures on FB, they're lovely.  How about those Rangers!"  If you no longer value the thing they're witholding (information, inclusion), then they can't pull your strings or create drama.  "Polite but distant" is the best attitude to assume when dealing with manipulators.

I'm with the DH and Otterpop. Bro and SIL sound excruciating rude and self absorbed.

The more I read, the more I'm falling fully into this camp. At the very least, it seems like brother and SIL like to feel they are holding the information cards. (Brother not saying who his extra guests were, not answering questions that they are more than willing to ask of others, etc.)
And I also think that spouses tend to be better observers of rude in-law behavior. My husband is way more sensitive to things on my behalf in regards to my family than I am, because I have just become accustomed to the way things are. Regardless of if it is a healthy way or not.  (Even though it has been a source of many fights in our marriage, I have come to appreciate his insight and am striving to establish better/healthier boundaries with the family members in question.)

And I do think the fact that they needed something signed makes it more suspect.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: SeptGurl on April 04, 2013, 12:37:41 PM
Thank you for the update.  I'm with you husband on this.  I think they were totally rude, especially as this was an "introductory" visit.  Your brother seems to enjoy holding all the cards.  I urge you and DH not to play.  "Oh you're a unicorn rancher?  How nice.  Pass the peas please.  Yes, I did see the wedding pictures on FB, they're lovely.  How about those Rangers!"  If you no longer value the thing they're witholding (information, inclusion), then they can't pull your strings or create drama.  "Polite but distant" is the best attitude to assume when dealing with manipulators.

That is my typical M.O. when dealing with both my mother and my brother, but I become flummoxed when it comes to how to address the withholding of information and exclusive behavior. I really like your suggestion. I think it could work with both my brother and my mother, who are most excellent at manipulating and withholding information. Your suggestion gets me out of the tug of war and lets me drop the rope. Thank you.  :)
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Twik on April 04, 2013, 01:29:30 PM
My own impression of the behaviour is that New Wife's job is something they consider "naughty," and they are having a grand time thinking "OOOH, wouldn't the grownups be shocked if they knew what she REALLY does! Teehee!"

A pretty juvenile approach, and the best response, as with most juvenile humour, is to ignore it. In fact, the more juvenile they behave, the less likely it is that the job is anything particularly shocking to anyone who's actually an adult about things.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: ladyknight1 on April 04, 2013, 07:08:06 PM
Coley, I have read all of your posts in this thread and think this is a bizarre situation. I hope you are able to have a decent relationship with your new SIL.
Title: Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
Post by: Otterpop on April 04, 2013, 07:26:46 PM
That is my hope too Coley, that you can find some way to relate to SIL and bro in a healthy way.

If you decide to opt out of the family dysfunctional dance, relapsing (getting emotionally caught up) is part of recovery (reacting in an assertive way).  Also remember, it is easy for family to push your buttons because they are the ones who installed them.  Be aware of the game playing and avoid getting involved.  It gets easier with practice.