Author Topic: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87  (Read 20564 times)

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Jem

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #75 on: March 23, 2013, 09:55:03 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.

JenJay

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #76 on: March 23, 2013, 10:22:10 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."

LEMon

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #77 on: March 23, 2013, 04:16:30 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.

anonymousmac

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #78 on: March 23, 2013, 08:55:10 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."
« Last Edit: March 23, 2013, 09:28:06 PM by anonymousmac »

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #79 on: March 23, 2013, 10:49:52 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.

SPuck

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #80 on: March 23, 2013, 11:05:29 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.

KB

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #81 on: March 23, 2013, 11:23:01 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.

fluffy

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #82 on: March 25, 2013, 12:45:40 PM »
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.

Shoo

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #83 on: March 25, 2013, 12:52:03 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.

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. 

Cami

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #84 on: March 25, 2013, 03:50:41 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.

Eeep!

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #85 on: March 25, 2013, 04:10:37 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!
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

Lynn2000

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #86 on: March 26, 2013, 11:30:12 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.
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Coley

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42
« Reply #87 on: April 01, 2013, 10:54:32 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.

Surianne

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
« Reply #88 on: April 01, 2013, 11:49:42 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.

Lynn2000

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Re: When it isn't really a surprise. UPDATES #23, #42, #87
« Reply #89 on: April 01, 2013, 12:16:31 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?
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