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Family Balance Amidst Changing Relationships (or “It’s Time To Let Go”)

I am looking for perspective and hoping all of you can help. Recently I traveled across the country to attend my brother’s (John) graduation. I am very proud of him and excited about the next stage in his life. However, his new career means he is moving quite a distance from home and it is unlikely I or my family will see him much for the next five years. He has been married for 2 years and his wife (Allison) will be moving with him and for her, it means dropping her career to support his and leaving her family behind. I fully appreciate the sacrifice she is making for him. At his graduation, my parents, myself and her parents traveled to see him. She went as well as she lived at home while he was training and awaiting his posting.

Here is the question I have, there seems to be a near constant struggle for them to balance the interests between our families. I feel as though my family has tried numerous times to reach out to hers and they have made it clear that they want zero relationship with us. Allison has also made it clear that she wants to separate our family from hers and is outwardly indifferent when she does visit us. There has been no joint celebrations since the wedding. The wedding itself was super bizarre and a long story so I won’t put it here but it was clear they have little interest in John or his family. I was very surprised her parents even came to the graduation but it was nice to see them support him. We all stayed at the same hotel. My mother and I arrive a day before Allison and her parents and we took my brother out for dinner just the three of us on the first night. On the second night, they arrived and decided to have dinner with him alone leaving my mom and I in the hotel. First, does anyone else find this strange? Had the situation been reversed and we arrived secondly, we would have invited them to join us for dinner. Instead they spent the evening together while mom and I waited in the hotel alone. The rest of the weekend was spent in similar fashion with my brother dividing his time between us and them while any attempts to spent time as a group was treated as a massive inconvenience for them and they could barely hide their discontent.

My second question is that John and Allison will have 3 days at home before having to relocate to his posting. For two of those days, they have obligations involving packing, movers and appointments. Her family lives in the same small town as they do and my family lives a few hours away. When speaking with with Allison, she explains to me that they intend to spend the third day with her family and plan to stop in for a brief visit with my mother before they leave. Would it not make sense for them to spend time with her family while they are all in the same time together and give the entire third day for my family? Especially as Allison has been here for the last year while my brother has been away in training and we haven’t not seen him in a year. Allison was very offended that I even suggested this. What do you think? Am I out of line? Anyone else have suggestions on how to maintain the balance between the families without putting my brother between his family and his wife. Should his wife not make an effort to at least have a polite relationship with our family?

Thank you for your thoughts. I am very close to my brother and I am worried that with the physical distance ahead and her apparent need to keep us away, that we will lose our relationship with him, her and any children they may have one day. And before it is suggested, I know the obvious solution is to speak with him, I have and he is aware of our concerns. My brother is a wonderful person but he is not without his flaws, he hates conflict and to be put on the spot. He won’t get in the middle and just expects us to accept things as they are and he will deal with it in time. I suspect we will just have to accept this for many years to come so I am more hoping for your thoughts on her family’s behavior and if we are expecting too much. Also, how you might find the balance between the families.  0921-16

The relationships we have with other persons was never meant to be the same  but is always changing, either for the better as we invest time and heart in building deeper connections and trust or the relationship diminishes, sometimes to the point of extinction.   Rarely do relationships stay the same for years thus becoming stagnant.   In other words, change of often good when it comes to relationships.

In a family, there is a long track record of relating to each other over a period of years as the children mature into adulthood.   And then the first child gets married and the family apple cart gets over turned as the relationships must, by necessity, change to accommodate the addition of a new person to the family which involves the dynamics of including that person’s family relationships into overlapping into yours.  Speaking from experience, I can say that this transition is challenging.   You’ve been relating to a child the same way for 20+ years and now there is this new person who you don’t know well who marries your child. Their relationship must, to be healthy, keep getting stronger while yours must, by necessity, diminish.   My 20+years of parenting must now change to a different role.   If you are fortunate, your child marries into a generous, gracious family who want to meet you and get to know the “other grandparents” of future grandchildren we all will be sharing someday.

But even with kind in-laws who happily include our family, there is still not an expectation among us that either family is expected to host every family get-together and inviting the in-laws to come.    Nope,  they have a life and so do we.   You open your hand and let go of your expectations of your child relating to you the same way they did as children and you let them live their lives choosing their own relationships.

And if you are unfortunate to have your child’s in-laws be the type that are extremely insular and wants nothing whatsoever to do with you, my advice is still the same.   Let go and trust that your kid will not abandon years of having built a good relationship with you.

Dear OP, if your brother despises conflict, my advice would be to become an oasis of love, acceptance, peace and calm.   A very wise friend advised me to do this recently.   My friend does this with all of her sons-in-law and daughters-in-law.    She does not criticize, she accepts unconditionally, provides a safe home,  speaks love.  She purposely makes her home and the time with their family a positive experience of kindness and an oasis among other family drama.   Her adult kids and their spouses adore her.    Your brother is not stupid and he’ll know which family has his back, he knows the issue and whining to him isn’t going to instill in him a perception that going home to see mom and sis is a wonderful thing.   When he thinks of you, it should be with pleasant thoughts that whisper to him, “Call them, see them.”   Let him go to become the man he’s supposed to be, i.e. married with a responsibility first to his wife and his own future family.   The added benefit may be that Allison grows to love you as well.


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  • Just4Kicks October 3, 2016, 7:11 am

    My parents and my in laws couldn’t STAND each other….lots of blame to go around on both sides, if I’m honest.
    During my wedding shower, my late mil complained about EVERYTHING, to the point that my dear grandma leaned over to my mom at point and whispered “Oh, dear!!! Does she (meaning me) know what’s she’s getting herself into”?!?
    My mom was in the bathroom stall at my wedding and heard my mil say when she stepped in to blow her nose from crying “Happy tears?!? You think these are HAPPY tears?!? My son has ruined his life! He could’ve done SO MUCH BETTER!!!”
    Just a few examples, and again my folks are not without blame in fueling a few fires themselves, but I found it much easier and less stressful to have “separate” holidays and celebrations.
    The stress of a major fight breaking out was just too much.
    Best of luck to you, OP…..I know exactly where you are coming from.

    • Goldie October 3, 2016, 11:25 am

      Oh. My. God. So sorry. Must be very difficult to juggle the two families! Not to mention it must be difficult to relate to MIL after that!

      I consider myself lucky. When ex-husband and I got married, our families lived a thousand miles from one another. And then my parents and my family moved to the US, leaving the in-laws across the ocean. We had a very quiet wedding in my home town, with only eight people present not counting the two of us. Neither we, nor my parents, nor my in-laws could afford a large wedding with both sides of the family present. The end result of it is that my parents and my in-laws never met. And it is probably a good thing. My in-laws accepted me right away and I never had any problems with them in the 20+ years I dated and was married to their son. My parents could barely bring themselves to accept me, and most definitely did not approve of my marriage. My mom would’ve probably embarrassed me in the same ways your MIL did. Additionally, my parents were proud of being college-educated professionals and I’m not sure if my in-laws even finished high school. I got along with them great and respected them nonetheless. But I shudder to think what could’ve happened if my parents had met them face to face. They had no way of snubbing my husband, because he and I had met in college and had the exact same degree in the exact same major, and worked in the same field. But I suspect they would’ve snubbed the, um, heck out of my in-laws, and that the in-laws would’ve responded accordingly. Now that we’re no longer married, both our fathers have passed away, and our mothers are too old to travel, none of that is any longer an issue. But, like you, I can relate. And one thing I want to add is, these things usually happen for the better. I suspect that, had OP’s family and her brother’s in-laws gotten together, nothing good would’ve come out of it. As long as OP’s brother and his wife figure out a way to spend enough quality time with both sides of the family, I’d leave the in-laws be.

      • Just4Kicks October 4, 2016, 6:30 pm

        My mil passed quite a few years ago, and we get on well with my husband’s only living brother and do invite him to family functions, so we don’t have to do two of everything any longer.
        He also comes to our sons important baseball games, which is lovely.
        Both of our sons were in a very close game for the district title that their uncle came to with us, and my oldest son hit a bomb resulting in a three run home run.
        His uncle jumped higher and yelled louder than my husband and I and our kids.
        I will remember that moment for the rest of my life, and am so glad he was there to share it with us.

  • stacey October 3, 2016, 7:16 am

    It is really hard to relate to in-laws who isolate your sibling. The sibling must allow it, however, so it’s no use to complain. Admin’s advice here is really, REALLY good. Take it and save yourself an enormous amount of heartache.

  • flora October 3, 2016, 7:49 am

    Considering that the OP doesn’t site examples of any specific blunders or etiquette fau paux, (sp?) I’m going to go out on a limb and say I don’t think anyone here is in the wrong. I think different families have different dynamics with different expectations.
    My husband’s family doesn’t activly socialize with mine. Growing up it was fairly rare to have family gatherings with my mother’s side and my father’s side of the family. Not everyone believes “the more the merrier”. And that’s A-ok with me. Smaller gatherings means I can have an intellectual discussion with my father in law about issue Y without Uncle bob butting in. It also means I don’t feel as overwhealmed or exhausted when I get home.
    I think ehelldame gave wonderful advice. If I were to add anything I’d say keep an open mind and invite them to some of your parties once in a while, something causual like a Christmas open house or a summer bbq (something that wouldn’t require a huge commitment) Be patient and show love.

    • Jazzgirl205 October 3, 2016, 11:11 am

      My families didn’t socialize either. Daddy’s family was Irish Catholic and believed anything joyful was probably a sin. Mama’s Greek/Mexican Catholic family believed anything joyful was a gift from God and the angels were probably present. They even toasted the Saints at family dinners.

    • Chigrrl October 3, 2016, 11:59 am

      Agreed. I see no rudeness. I wonder if OP’s perception of being slighted is coloring the wife’s interactions with her and making her even less inclined to want to engage with the family. If her HUSBAND takes issue with the respective time they spend with the two families, it’s up to him to address that with his wife and should really be no one elses’ concern as they appear to be making reasonable effort to spend some time with both families.

    • lakey October 3, 2016, 4:36 pm

      I agree. In my family there isn’t much socializing between both sets of in laws. What is described in the post is the norm for us.

      OP suggesting to her brother’s wife that she not spend day 3 with her family may have been a mistake. She is leaving her home, her job, her family, and pretty much everything she knows for OP’s brother. I’m not surprised that she wants to spend as much time as possible with her family. I don’t blame OP for feeling hurt, but in the long run it would probably have been better to not say anything.

      These people may simply be the type who don’t care to socialize with people they aren’t close to. Accept it, and in the future plan your own visits and activities with Brother.

  • MotB October 3, 2016, 7:52 am

    It is a little strange that your brother’s inlaws are so standoffish; however, they are his family, not yours. As an example, my daughter married two years ago. Her inlaws are nice enough people and once in a while I accept an invitation to join them for some family event. But, I don’t feel any strong need to get to know them better. I am hoping that some day, we’ll all be grandparents to the same child/children, and then we will naturally spend more time together at kid type events. In the meantime, I am actively resisting getting sucked into their (much larger) family because I know I will want to spend time by myself (or with my extended family) with her, with them as a couple, and with any future grandchildren, and I don’t want to create an expectation that I will be a tagalong to their family events as my primary way to spend time with her/them. My time doesn’t have to be equal but I would like at least some of it to be separate.
    This isn’t much help for your situation and I think you will need to continue to encourage your brother to carve out some visiting time for himself and his side of the family. (These days, as they say, we have the technology! It is not as if they were setting out in a wagon train and you will never hear from them again, or not until the train rails are completed.) But, it might give you some perspective. The inlaws, like me, may not see you as part of their family and they may have their own reasons….nothing to do with rudeness or disliking you…for not wanting to spend all their family moments including you. (Although, yes, it still seems strange considering they were there for your brother’s graduation. Would you have even gone if it were your daughter-in-law’s graduation? For me, if it were my son-in-law graduating, I would have attended the event if it were nearby but I would not have travelled to a destination for it. So it sounds like they are fully accepting your brother as part of their family, just not all his other family.)
    P.S. One of the little “silver linings” of being a single parent, I have found, is not having inlaws. I’ve never had to negotiate the “other side” of the family myself. After all these years of not having a mother-in-law, it’s been surprising to now be one myself.

  • Susan. Haverland October 3, 2016, 8:16 am

    I can certainly understand your desire to spend time with him
    Before he leaves . Why did your mom
    And yourself stay in the hotel by yourselfs. Any town has something to go see and Hindi it .!Another points if they are spending 2 days packing it us not the same as visiting for the 2. Days . She is a young wife and will miss her family
    . Give her some room . I think you expect to much . He has a life to to be happy . Let him . Plenty of time later to share life’s with .

    • Ernie October 3, 2016, 7:19 pm

      Yeah, you can be left alone as an adult, but you aren’t made to stare at a wall or a tv. Go find a restaurant or a movie theatre, you can make your own fun.

    • OP October 4, 2016, 6:11 pm

      We didnt stare at the wall, we had a nice evening. It just felt strange and had the situation been reversed, we would have invited them to join us. She is a young wife but he is a young husband and will also miss his family. I think he is well within his right request time with his family as well.

      • Lerah99 October 5, 2016, 12:04 pm

        But it doesn’t seem that he’s requesting time with his family.

        If this letter had been from your brother saying “I want to spend more time with my mom and sister but it upsets my wife” we’d all be having a very different conversation.

        But it’s not. This is a letter from you stating you want to see your brother more and feel your sister-in-law is unfairly monopolizing their time as a couple to spend with her family instead of yours.

  • Anna October 3, 2016, 8:18 am

    Some people just don’t like getting to know new people. This is one of my own faults–I just hate it. I’d rather do anything than increase the number of people at the dinner table to include everyone. I try to grin and bear it when it is necessary, but it’s not something that is natural for everyone. Since you barely know the in-laws, try not to take it personally. That is just probably just who they are, for better or worse, and there’s not much you can do to change it.

    Your brother is now starting his own family and he should be free to navigate his own relationships as he sees fit. Your opinions on how much time he owes you really don’t matter at this point in his life. You have a right to have your own feelings about it of course, but anything beyond saying “Brother, I’m disappointed we won’t get more time together. I miss you,” in a kind tone is likely to be counterproductive. Continue to be people he wants to see–that is the best way to get people to prioritize you in their lives. Welcome him when he is able to see you, and spend time together showing him you are happy to see him. When you become the person who thinks it is fair to lay out your version of familial obligations to others and become offended when they do not measure up to what you have in mind, there is a lot of tension in the relationship that undermines your cause.

  • abby October 3, 2016, 8:29 am

    I would advise you, OP, to try and see things from Allison’s perspective. I am sorry she hasn’t been more friendly, but some people just aren’t. It might not be anything personal.

    For the dinner, Allison had been separated from him for some time while he was in training. She knew you and your mother had spent the previous evening with him. She wanted a private dinner with him and her parents because these are the people she’s closest to and where she’s most comfortable.

    It sounds like Allison is super close to her parents. Maybe too close, but that’s not what you asked. From her perspective, John has already adjusted to life being geographically distant from his immediate family. She has not, and wants to cram in all the time she can with her own parents. I can understand her feelings.

    “Would it not make sense for them to spend time with her family while they are all in the same time together and give the entire third day for my family? Especially as Allison has been here for the last year while my brother has been away in training and we haven’t not seen him in a year. Allison seemed very offended that I even suggested this. What do you think? Am I out of line?”

    Yeah, I think you kind of were out of line. You’re criticizing a plan she made and indirectly accusing her of being unfair. That probably put her hackles up.

    I think you’re just going to have to keep reaching out to Allison and your brother if you want to maintain a relationship. And definitely don’t put him in a position where you’re criticizing his wife and he has to defend her. If you criticize or complain about Allison, you’re essentially criticizing his choice in life partners. That puts them both against you. If Allison makes your brother happy, then she’s already done right by you.

    • Ernie October 3, 2016, 5:54 pm

      I respect that the OP feels like they are in a tough spot here, but I agree with everything you said Abby. I tend to get annoyed and put off when people start suggesting how I should use my time, especially when they do so after I have already made plans.

    • OP October 4, 2016, 6:09 pm

      I completely see where you are coming from and you are not entirely off about Allie. My issue is that not only has she married my brother, she has joined another family. And while they will never be to her what her own family is, she should at least try to make an effort. If only for Johns sake. Her refusal to make any effort to get to know her in laws has cause stress between her and John and between John and his parents.

      • abby October 5, 2016, 9:56 am

        “Her refusal to make any effort to get to know her in laws has cause stress between her and John and between John and his parents.”

        That is unfortunate, but that is still an issue between her and John to work out. There is nothing you can do as an outsider to help. You can listen to John and offer support, but John needs to be the one to have the discussion with her about balance between families. John needs to be the one who explains that it’s hurtful to him when she is dismissive of his family.

      • oregonbird October 10, 2016, 2:20 pm

        Your brother and Allie have *created* a family by marrying. He didn’t join hers, and she hasn’t joined his. They are now a family, complete and separate. If you continue to avoid this truth, set all blame for *family* decisions on Allie and turn John into a battleground, the alliance you desire with *their* family will be strained and unwilling. You’ll need to revise your entire idea of family — you are now only FOO — extended, rather than direct family. You’ve quite rightly moved far down the line of communication and expectation, as your brother now has his own family.

  • Huh October 3, 2016, 8:32 am

    As near as I can tell, his wife DOES have a polite relationship with your family. Not especially close, but polite.

    OP, I was raised in a family where both sets of my grandparents came over for the holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter – and my birthday. However, that doesn’t mean anytime I saw one set, the other was invited along too. I remember we used to spend Sundays at lunch with one, and at dinner with the other. Christmas Eve we’d have dinner with one, and then stop by and have dessert with the other. My dad’s parents also split holidays between my dad and my aunt – they’d have lunch at our house for Thanksgiving/Christmas, and dinner at my aunt’s. I remember that my mom told me when my parents were dating and/or first married, they’d travel sometimes with my dad’s parents, but not with hers. (My mom HATED traveling with her parents, LOL.) And I have barely met any of my cousins’ other set of grandparents, only super special occasions, like my cousins’ graduations/weddings.

    I’ve read your submission several times and I’m not really sure what you’re wanting, OP. You had dinner with your brother with just you and your mom, then the next day his wife and her parents came in and they all had dinner together. That seems reasonable to me. You had one on one time with him, then he had one on one time with the in-laws. On the last day your brother/SIL are in their small town, they are going to spend time with her parents (which since they live in the same town I am going to presume they’ve spent a lot of time together in the past) and then they are at some point, going to drive a couple of hours to visit with your mom. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me either. They are spending time with each set once again. It’s easier to get together with people that live in the same town as you versus people that live a couple of hours away.

  • Anon for This October 3, 2016, 8:37 am

    OP, sometimes these things can be a blessing in disguise. I’m a regular reader who submitted 2 stories last year about my brother “Steve” and his wife “Missy”. Missy invites all of her adult children, their spouses, her grandchildren, her cousin, cousin’s husband and another niece to EVERYTHING.

    The three times that stand out and were mentioned in my submissions is the time my mom & sister went to visit my dad (who was in a rehab/nursing home) and they invited Steve, Missy and Steve’s daughter from his first marriage, “Madison”, out to eat. When they arrived at the restaurant, Steve & Missy had picked up an additional nine folks and my sister had to pay a restaurant bill for 12 (my sister’s son was also there). Then when my father passed, Missy brought all those folks to my father’s funeral and they sat in the fellowship hall during the service and went out to eat with us afterwards. The third was when I invited Steve, Missy and Madison to my son’s graduation and specified that only those 3 were invited because I didn’t have accommodations for the rest of the group and it seemed they had listened, until we returned from the ceremony and there sat the whole group in my driveway, ready to attend the neighborhood party some of us parents had organized since we had so many graduating at the same time. That didn’t end too well but I did get to talk to my brother about the situation and found out that it had been that way since they got married and he had gotten use to it, it didn’t bother him and he didn’t realize that while I was fine including her family sometimes, I also wanted to visit with just him, Missy and Madison sometimes. And Missy never wanted Steve to see us alone and she even listened in to our phone conversations. Just hope your SIL/IL’s are not like that!

    Is your SIL an only child? In my experience when only children marry, they expect the spouse to be absorbed into their family almost to the exclusion of the spouse’s original nuclear family. **Of course, this is not true of all single children families and is just my personal theory**

    I think Admin’s advice is spot on, as usual. Just let your brother know he and his wife are welcome anytime they want to visit. Don’t try to push the issue too much. I know it’s hard when you are close to your siblings but he may be perfectly OK with it and if he is, you have to learn to be OK with it, too.

    • Amanda H. October 3, 2016, 8:16 pm

      I remember your submissions about Missy. Does she still do that?

      • Anon for this October 4, 2016, 8:25 am

        Yes, she still invites/brings all of those people everywhere they go. My mother & her siblings recently went on a vacation to the mountains. Steve, Missy & her group just happened to be there the same weekend, in the same town, renting a cabin from the same company*. The whole gang was with them (except for Steve’s daughter, Madison, who lives with her mother) and Missy’s daughter recently had another child, so they have a new family member for their trips. It’s like they never go anywhere alone, as a couple. Missy was in usual form, making sure she was glued to Steve’s side and he never got a single moment along to just visit with mother, which is sad since we rarely get to see him. But Steve’s ok with it so we have to be ok with it.

        *I think one of my aunts actually orchestrated the whole being in the same place at the same time because she and my brother became friends on Facebook last year. I think she wanted mother to see Steve but she underestimated how closely Missy surveils Steve’s activities.

    • Maria October 4, 2016, 10:59 am

      I remember these submissions as well. I hope things have improved and Missy gives you space to at least maintain/build your relationship with Madison. I felt so annoyed on your behalf.

      • Anon for this October 5, 2016, 12:10 pm

        Maria- I cut Missy out of the equation in regards to Madison. I started dealing directly with Madison’s mom (“Amy”/brother’s 1st wife) and Madison has visited with me/my family twice since then. We get her a airline ticket directly from her home state to ours (no layover or changing flights) and make the arrangements with the airline since she is 15 (now) and flying alone. So far, so good. We have strengthened our relationship with Madison and she loves getting a couple of days of “vacation” from home. My sister and I both had boys, so she’s the only granddaughter in our family, so we tend to spoil her a little bit. She loves hanging out with her cousins (my boys/sister’s boy) because they treat her like a little sister and she gets to do fun things with us/them.

  • NostalgicGal October 3, 2016, 8:39 am

    Family dynamic shifting can take decades. My side is still having some issues with I have HIS side and have to balance stuff between, or when I come up to visit I have other relatives other than them to visit with and stay with also.

    It does sound like there’s some stiffness with the other side of the family, but no. I don’t see where the three days and moving is a problem. Sounds like the OP wants more time with her brother than her brother has available. Time will show whether the gulf narrows or widens… so give it five more years. And there is technology that allows closer contact, make use of it, but by the same issue don’t be a pest. If that becomes seriously curtailed then worry.

    (I have an ongoing war with one of my DH’s sisters that has hated me since I started dating him, we’re nearing our 40th and I still haven’t gone away… and I wish I had a dollar for every time she accused me of limiting access to her brother… finally he changed phone numbers and didn’t give her the new one for over a year. She finally called me and tried to ream me a new one, and I had it on speakerphone and he finally spoke up to tell her HE didn’t want her to have the new number. He’s left it that way and she’d rather die than call me again (she only has my cell#) and it’s been a lot less stressful and DH likes it that way)

    • Just4Kicks October 4, 2016, 2:06 am

      My husband’s only sister and he haven’t spoken in many years.
      While he (and I) certainly aren’t perfect, she was and still is a hard core alcoholic/drug user.
      She claimed to be running late for a family function because she “was at an AA meeting” then show up.falling down drunk or higher than a kite.
      We cut off all ties permanently about six years ago when she called my then college age step daughter high on drugs and said she just heard my husband, (my step daughters dad) just got killed in a car crash and just how sorry she was!!!
      My step daughter called me absolutely hysterical, and my husband had to leave a very important business meeting to go find her and show her he was fine.
      To.this day, we have no freaking idea what prompted that, and once my husband found our daughter and calmed her down, called his sister and told her to stay the hell away from his family and God help her if she ever contacted any of us again.
      The last we heard, we was a yoga instructor who got fired on the spot one day for showing up at a SUNRISE session falling down drunk.

  • Miss-E October 3, 2016, 8:57 am

    I’m sorry for the unfortunate situation you and your mom find yourselves in OP but I think Admin is right – all you can do is be loving and open. I can understand your frustrations but it doesn’t sound like the in-laws really did all that much wrong. They wanted to have dinner alone with your brother just as you and your mom were able to the night before. There was no reason for you and your mom to wait alone in the hotel, nobody was stopping you from going out and exploring for yourselves.

    As for telling Allison how they should spend those few days, yes, that was rude. It is not up to you to dictate how they spend their time and as you said, a lot of that time will be spent packing. They probably can’t spend time with the in-laws in days one or two and it isn’t really your business to tell them they should.

    • OP October 4, 2016, 6:04 pm

      Just to clarify, they have to be in that town to sign some paper relating to the move and his posting etc but they themselves will not be packing. As it turned out, all the packing was done and the truck on its way before these three days even arrived. Their obligations took no more then 3 hours and the rest was time for them to say good bye to their families/friends. Her initial plan was to spend that almost entirely with her family and maybe stop in for an hour with his. That felt unfair.

      • stacey October 7, 2016, 8:40 am

        It sounds unfair. But trying to monitor her plans and vet them for fairness is a losing battle. Your brother chose your sil as his partner. Odds are you won’t find resolution of your concerns about time with your brother by complaining. You might find some relief by Skype, letters etc….

  • Lara October 3, 2016, 9:07 am

    I think one thing to remember here is the Allison is moving across country for her husband, and for his career. She’s obviously close to her family, and she’s giving up living near them for his sake. Yes, he’s also giving up living near your family, but that was his decision, for his goals and dreams. Allison is making the same sacrifice, but for his sake. So give her some slack if she wants a little extra time with her parents before they leave. Time spent packing isn’t quite the same as time spent in some favorite activity, or just talking. They do plan to include your mother and see her too, so she’s not being completely ignored.

    As the admin says, you should focus on maintaining your relationship with your brother, through calling, texting, maybe occasional facetime, etc, while also being warm and friendly to Allison. Your feelings of being treated unfairly may be translating to your attitude when you interact with her, which will not help your brother or you. Instead, give them every reason to want to spend time with you, and try not to take it personally that she favors her own family over ours, and that your brother wants to please his wife who’s moving across country for him.

  • Writer of Wrongs October 3, 2016, 9:30 am

    I’m curious why OP is so desirous that the families spend time together. I’ve been married for almost 20 years. My family and my husband’s family have met four times: our wedding, and three funerals on his side of the family (my family came to support my DH). We all like it that way, because frankly, our families are nothing alike and would be sheer annoyance to each other. (I know many families DO merge the entire family, but it’s also common to NOT do so.)

    Admin is exactly right. DH is fairly distant from his dad, both geographically and emotionally. And when his dad leaves guilt-trippy voice mails about “you never come to see me” and “you never call me,” it makes DH even less inclined to improve that relationship. OP, give your brother space to develop his relationship with his in-laws, his marriage and his career. Keep your communication with him upbeat and focused on wishing him well. Make sure he knows you love him and are always there for him. It’s even fine to let him know you miss him, provided it doesn’t become a guilt trip. Keep it positive.

  • lkb October 3, 2016, 9:37 am

    Three days is not a whole lot of time to prepare for a cross-country move. Based on what we know, it does seem a bit unreasonable to expect the husband’s family to have an entire day of the only three available.

    It also seems natural that the wife’s family would have more time during those three days — they are in the same community while the husband’s are several hours away. Perhaps if the husband’s family offered to help with the packing….?

  • Shalamar October 3, 2016, 9:45 am

    This is definitely a case of OP having to accept that John is no longer just her brother and their parents’ son. And the harder she pushes to maintain the status quo, the more she’ll push John away.

  • technobabble October 3, 2016, 10:31 am

    Can I just say that I don’t see anything wrong with in-laws not spending time together. I have been married to a wonderful man for the past 3 years, and he has wonderful parents and siblings. We spend a lot of time with my family and his family, but very rarely is everybody in the same place at the same time. I chose this second family – my parents didn’t, and they have not obligation to have to join together and become best friends. The last time both whole families were in the same room together was our wedding. Now that we have a baby on the way, I would imagine that everyone will come together again for showers, the birth, etc. and maybe they’ll see each other once a year at my child’s birthday party and whatnot, but other than that, there is no need for them to include each other in their own family celebrations.

    I would urge OP to look at the situation from Allison’s viewpoint – she is going to be moving away from her family for the next 5 years as well. It sounds like your brother is in the military, so he is going to have a full-time job and probably be pretty busy during the days. She is leaving her job and her family and everybody she knows to move somewhere very far away where she will be a stranger. If that were me in the situation, I would want to cling very tightly to my own family for as long as I could, and I think my parents would feel the same. I do not feel like anybody is actively trying to hurt anybody else’s feelings. I think this is a stressful and major life change that everybody is trying to cope with differently.

  • Devin October 3, 2016, 10:45 am

    To directly answer your questions; I think having dinner one night with his side and one night with her side was the equitable way to divide graduation dinners. I also think saying that packing days count towards ‘quality time with the family’ is unfair. I would wager that day 3 will entail more packing than family time, and is a way to give themselves a buffer in case they are delayed. Planning an executing a long move is stressful and it is kinder of them to give you a realistic expectation of how much time they will have to spend with you.
    Your story also sounds like your brother and his wife haven’t spent much of their married life together, and I’m sure they are wanting to have some time to enjoy each other,without either family, in the short time they have before relocating.
    The admin is spot on, be a source of support and love to your brother and his wife. Don’t speak ill of her family or her to him. And when possible, continue making the effort to visit him, since it sounds like he will have less flexibility to visit you and your mother.

  • viviennebzb October 3, 2016, 10:46 am

    “Be an oasis of love, acceptance, peace, and calm”. This is excellent advice, and I’m going to remember it! A brilliant strategy for many relationships. Nobody is eager to hug a cactus.

    • Vandalia October 4, 2016, 11:55 am

      I’m going to splice together Admin’s quote and yours, so it reads: “Be an oasis of love, acceptance, peace, and calm. Nobody is eager to hug a cactus.” Love it!

  • Tabitha October 3, 2016, 11:03 am

    I really dislike socializing, especially with family. But were my daughter to be marrying someone, and we were visiting my daughter and her fiance, or husband, in a different town, with the husbands parents, I would at the very least have dinner with both the kids and the other parents, whether I wanted to or not. I think I would owe that to my daughter.
    I think that making my “discontent” obvious to my daughters husband and his parents would not at all be speaking love. I know the speaking love advice was for the OP, but clearly, it’s a whole different language in which Allison and her family have no interest.
    Having one dinner together, while both families are out of town together would not mean a lifetime of intermingling. I see that particular part of the story as a snubb, and rude behaviour in general.
    I hated my ex’s parents, they were generally horrible, negative people. But I did my best to sit through the family events necessary because when you chose a partner, you need to accept the family at least at some level. Unless the partner themselves rejects them completely.

    In terms of the packing and visiting, their plan is their plan and there’s not much to do about that. Your brother will be away for five years, and if you notice that he and his partner visit his in-laws a lot more than they visit you, the best way to handle that is ask if you can come and visit them. You may have to stay at a hotel and only see brother briefly for outings and dinners while Alison begs off, but he’s the one your love, and you do what you need to do to keep the relationships that are important in your life going. His wife and her parents can opt out of the relationship with you (which I agree is cold, realistically would it mean seeing them once a year or every two years? Their time must be worth the price of space travel) but you do what you can to keep your relationship with your brother.

    • OP October 4, 2016, 5:58 pm

      Thank you, I appreciate this thoughtful response.

  • Mustard October 3, 2016, 11:17 am

    I think it all boils down to the fact that you and your parents are going to have to learn to share your brother with other people. Good luck!

    • OP October 4, 2016, 5:57 pm

      Thank you but I think we have made efforts to “share” and the push back isnt coming from us but Allison.

  • Dee October 3, 2016, 11:23 am

    Is it possible John and Allison are living so far away from your family, OP, on purpose? Because you sound like a very pushy family to me, one that does not respect boundaries. John and Allison visited with you and your mom and they are visiting with you again before they move to their new home but that’s not good enough for you and you want to dictate how much visiting time you get vs. the in-laws. You sound exhausting to be around.

    I have in-laws that insist they are wonderful people. They can be wonderful but they are also quite annoying and critical and bossy. We don’t like visiting with them. We turn down their invitations and they keep pushing really, really hard for us to visit. This has been going on for years now but they just don’t seem to get it. It’s as if they have a suit of armor when it comes to relationship cues and nothing penetrates; actually, it’s likely they simply don’t care how we feel vs. how they feel. Is this what’s happening with your family, OP? You would do well to take your cues from John and Allison if you want to see them at all in the years to come.

    • Tabitha October 3, 2016, 5:05 pm

      Wow! That first statement stung and I’m not even the OP!

      • abby October 4, 2016, 8:52 am

        The whole, pretending to move away for work when really it’s to avoid OP’s family may have been a little harsh, but I don’t think Dee is wrong to glean from this submission that OP’s family *is* pushy.

        From the submission:

        -I feel as though my family has tried numerous times to reach out to hers and they have made it clear that they want zero relationship with us

        – any attempts to spent time as a group was treated as a massive inconvenience for them and they could barely hide their discontent.

        -Instead they spent the evening together while mom and I waited in the hotel alone.

        -Would it not make sense for them to spend time with her family while they are all in the same time together and give the entire third day for my family? Especially as Allison has been here for the last year while my brother has been away in training and we haven’t not seen him in a year. Allison was very offended that I even suggested this.

        So, just from the paragraphs above, we see that OP’s family does not take non verbal cues that their overtures are unwelcome, or take the cues and keep making the overtures anyways, that when they were not invited to dinner they sat at the hotel and pouted instead of going out and making their own fun, and that OP feels how Allison and John spend their time should be decision made via committee.

        Yeah, that sounds pushy to me. And seeing how Allison appears to be the one in charge, OP might want to try and reign that in instead of alienating Allison.

    • Shalamar October 3, 2016, 7:09 pm

      This is my situation. My inlaws moved from their city to ours a few years ago. Cue complaints about how “we thought we’d see you more often now that we live here”. I thought “Dunno where you got THAT idea from.”

    • OP October 3, 2016, 8:57 pm

      Well, that’s pretty harsh and judgmental.

      • Dee October 4, 2016, 1:10 pm

        OP – Well, aren’t you being openly judgmental of how John and Allison spend their free time? And how Allison’s family spends their time? If I felt that kind of judgment from family I would avoid them, so it seems logical that that’s possibly what John and Allison are doing. And if you and your family have always been this pushy then that could really influence John and Allison’s decisions. If you won’t listen to them then what choice to do they have but to avoid you?

        • OP October 4, 2016, 5:32 pm

          Hi – you have all given me a lot to digest and I do think that the admin has given some good advise. I think there are a few things that I feel the need to clarify. Perhaps I was a little too vague in my story in an effort to be brief and not paint my SIL in a certain way. First, John and I are very close and speak almost every day. I do have a good relationship with Alison and we speak fairly regularly as well. In many ways, I am relaying this story on behalf of John as he also has concerns about how Allie and her family treat his.
          We don’t expect to have a particularly strong with her family. We are not crazy stalkers. In the five years that Allie has been in his life, we first met her family at the wedding, inviting them to a bday party for John that they did not attend and this time for John’s graduation in which we all traveled a great distance to celebrate with him. Knowing that Allie is very close to her family, we thought it would be helpful for them in dividing time to show we are open to joint celebrations. They’ve made it very clear they do not. This has not been done subtly, its been with death stares, eye rolling, outward hostility and underhanded hurtful remarks. Before this, John and Allison see her parents and siblings 2-3 weeks while John visited ours once a month and she maybe joined 3 times a year. If we went to visit them, she would often leave and go elsewhere. She and I get along quite well but I find her hostility towards my parents difficult to take as does John. They have had numerous fights about it. It isn’t my place to get into it but I have observed it often.
          At his graduation, the dinner was an example of the weekend as a whole. We would have a meal while they waited then he would go and join them. He would visit in our hotel room then he would go across the hall to visit them. At the graduation itself, they sat in one side of the room while we sat on the other. For simplicity sake for John, we found it rude they wouldn’t for just one weekend even try to be friendly with us. You are correct, we are adults and we had a perfectly lovely time while he was with them. It just seemed silly to have to divide such a short time between us.
          As for the discussion between Allison and I about the 3 days they spent at home before moving, I cut this conversation down quite a bit. The move has been in progress for more then 2 years and during those three days, their stuff was already packed and on the truck before they got there. They stayed with her parents, had a family party and their obligations took no more then 3 hours in that 3 day period to complete. When she explained to me how they were spending those three days, I asked when they were stopping in to see our family as John said they were but she didnt. She said to me “over my dead body” then said maybe they would stop in for an hour as they passed through. When I expressed that it would be nice for my parents to see John for more then an hour, then she got annoyed with me. In the end, John did put his foot down and they did spend the third day with his family.
          Many of you expressed that I need to try and see things from her perspective and believe me, I have. I would ask you to try and see things from Johns perspective. His family is equally important to him as hers are to her. Her family isnt very pleasant but he makes an effort out of respect for his wife. I don’t think is wrong for me or him or my parents to be hurt but the blatantly disrespectful behavior coming from them. I have tried to be supportive but it is getting harder and with this new move taking them so far away, I worry that it will get worst. My question here is how do you balance these relationships and it seems like the response from most of you, is to cut one out. Thank you for your answer. I will consider them.

          • oregonbird October 10, 2016, 2:33 pm

            I honestly don’t think you can legitimately claim to be your brother’s voice. That is simply looking for validation of your position where it doesn’t exist. Allie, being his wife, has the legal and social standing to be his voice; attempting to take that role away from her… does not bolster any sense that you offer her the respect she deserves as your brother’s SO. That is unfortunate, as *he* will take such disrespect into account when making future plans to visit.

        • OP October 4, 2016, 5:55 pm

          Dee, I suspect you are projecting something from your own life here. I made it clear they are moving for a career change and I have a very close relationship with my brother and even Allison.

          • Dee October 4, 2016, 10:22 pm

            OP, your posting here clarifies the dynamics better than your original submission. However, I still don’t understand why you are trying to have a relationship with Allison and her family. They clearly don’t want to be close with you or your family. There’s nothing for you to do about that and trying to change that is not your business. If they plain just don’t like your family that is their right, and they can absolutely choose to not spend time with any of you. Your wanting to change that comes off as pushy and would make anyone feel uncomfortable.

            Your family has the right to ask John to spend time with them. If he would rather appease his wife then there’s nothing you can do about it. If he is finding that he is being made to choose between his family and his wife then he has to work that out for himself. These are his choices and his alone. His life, the people in it, and the choices he makes (yes, letting his wife dictate whether he associates with his family is a choice HE is making) are all within his domain, and all out of yours. Sometimes people say that they want something but then do nothing to make that happen. If John says he wants to see his family but then capitulates to his wife’s wishes one has to wonder how much he really is opposed to her view. Actions speak louder than words. In any case, it’s his business only.

  • Jazzgirl205 October 3, 2016, 11:25 am

    While you brother is away, send him a weekly email. Make it as cheery and entertaining as possible. Don’t whine or complain about anything – if you do make it as hilarious as possible. Make these emails so pleasant that he will look forward to reading them and sharing them with his wife. These emails will endear you to him and make him want to see you.
    This really works! A few years ago, I had to be away from my job for 2 months. I was so afraid that it would not be there when I got back. While I was away, I send weekly letters to the asst. manager about what I was doing, the people I had met, and any funny moment of culture shock in my strange new environment. She shared these letters with the manager and everyone else. They looked forward to them and they did everything they could to make sure I was able to come back.

  • Vic October 3, 2016, 11:25 am

    I agree with the Admin. I’m an introvert, as are my parents. I tried blending families for the first few years of my marriage, and it was exhausting – for me and my parents. My Inlaws were gregarious, outgoing people and, while I loved them, spending time in their company always made feel like I needed a day to myself afterwards. They tended to dominate any gathering they attended – not in an obnoxious way. They were just fun loving people. My parents always spoke fondly of my Inlaws, but they preferred calmer get-together. So, except for special occasions, we socialized with each side of the family separately. Each side got one-on-one time with us and no one was resentful.

    As for you “suggesting” how they should spend their last 3 days at home, yes you were out of line. You’re looking at it as each side should get equal time. But, Allison is moving far away from her family and she needs this last little bit of time with them so she can move own with her husband and, hopefully, happily embrace their new life together. You owe her an apology, unless your goal was to push her even farther away.

    • OP October 4, 2016, 5:37 pm

      I would argue that John family is also important to him and that he needs time with his family before he move on as well and it isn’t unreasonable that they try to divide that time a little more equally. Particularly as she has been with her family for the whole of the last year and John has not.

      • Vic October 5, 2016, 12:02 pm

        I read your previous posts where you responded to other comments and provided clarification. Frankly, you left a lot out of your original post, and you can’t blame the commenters for not seeing the whole picture. Your original post didn’t indicate that John had any issues with the way their time was being divided. You made it sound like the only people who had a problem with this was your family. That being said, it’s still between John and Allison, and by criticizing Allison, you’re putting more pressure on your brother. I don’t mean to dump on you. I really do feel your pain. But, the best thing you can do for John is be a judgment-free refuge. It really is up to him to decide whether or not he wants to stand up to Allison and assert his own needs. If you keep pushing, you may end up pushing them both away.

  • Becca October 3, 2016, 12:46 pm

    Growing up my mom had her family, my dad had his. Dad would visit Mom’s family, Mom would visit Dad’s. However my grandparents never spent time together, my aunts and uncles on one side didn’t hangout with the other side either.

    I do think it’s strange in the term of a graduation though that they’d still be separate, don’t get me wrong there. When I graduated or had a birthday party, then yes, both sides did mingle a bit because I was the center of attention. Granted my mom’s side of the family was distant in that way that they were either out of town or otherwise preoccupied most of my life, so yeah, there was still no reason to be together.

    The idea of a huge joint holiday makes me shiver, all those dynamic personalities would have clashed in so many ways.

    As someone who is best friends with her brother, I can’t even imagine your pain in the changes going on in your relationship with yours. My brother and I however keep our relationships very incredibly private, we talk to one another about them once in awhile but to be honest, he hasn’t even met my dearest BF because it just doesn’t shake out to happen at this rate. He has had many girlfriends over the years I didn’t even know existed honestly enough.

    You should work on your relationship with him, stay close and happy without trying to spread out and involve his wife and her family. I know why you’d want to include them and you should still stay warm and welcoming but seriously, you should only truly care about your brother.

  • Cora October 3, 2016, 12:59 pm

    I think your expectations are a little too much. He is married now. His time is going to go to his wife more than anything else.

    Also, I wouldn’t assume that this is Forever How It Will Be. This is still a fairly new marriage. Okay, he;s moving away now — does that mean he’ll never move close again? The in-laws are a little stiff now — does that mean they’ll never, ever try? Maybe if you stop pressing so hard, they’d open up. Or not. But you can’t take the current situation as how it will always be. Take admin’s advice and be patient and kind. That tends to be much more successful over time.

  • Adereterial October 3, 2016, 1:22 pm

    Why on earth would you expect to have a relationship with your brother’s in-laws? My parents & my sister and her family met my in-laws at our wedding, but that’s it. I would no more expect my parents to invite my in-laws to anything, and vice-versa. They’re my family (much as I wish they weren’t sometimes), not theirs, just the same as your brother’s in laws are his family, not yours.

    As for the amount of time your brother spends with his natural family… That’s up to him, I’m afraid.

    • OP October 4, 2016, 5:40 pm

      I agree, the only reason we are trying to have a relationship of any kind with them is in hopes that it would keep John from having to choose between us. We wanted to show we are open to joint celebrations if that made it easier for them. In 5 years, we have seen them twice. I dont think that particularly overbearing.

  • Karen L October 3, 2016, 2:08 pm

    I agree with Admin. If you constantly “keep score” then you will constantly be unhappy.

  • Lisa Marie October 3, 2016, 2:22 pm

    When children marry, you have to share your child with another family whether you like it or not. How you behave impacts this new relationship. No you don’t have to get along with your child (or siblings) family but you do have to get along with the new family member. When they realize that you accept them, they will want to spend more time with you.

  • ddwwylm October 3, 2016, 3:07 pm

    I think it’s important to realize that Allison and John are their own family now, and you as well as the other IL are now extended family. Allison and John make their own decisions as to how they spend their time. The post came off to me very much like the expectation was that the couple were like a toy to be shared equally between the 2 families. A&J now have a commitment to each other, and like a pp pointed out, A has been without her husband for over a year now. It’s time for them to be a couple and make decisions as a couple as to where they want to spend their time.

    If the OP wants to keep up a relationship with her brother, she should call him and invite him and his wife over for events, but the expectation that every time the IL see the couple then her side of the family should have equal time needs to stop. A&J would be well within their rights to spend all holidays from here forward just the 2 of them if that is what they wish for their family.
    It’s rough when family dynamics change, and what you’ve become accustomed to for visitations and holidays changes, but everyone needs to adapt as children leave the nuclear family and create new families of their own.

  • Cat October 3, 2016, 4:30 pm

    The fastest way to destroy a relationship is for everyone to take a limb of the person you are trying to influence and to all pull in opposite directions.
    There is no more difficult position than to find yourself having to choose between different groups of relatives who want you to do as they wish.
    If there is no willingness to compromise, try to realize that no perfect solution is possible. You cannot satisfy everyone. Invite everyone and happily accept those who are willing to come.

  • Ernie October 3, 2016, 6:40 pm

    I can’t help but feel a familiar twinge of what it is like to have to get a lot of things done on a very busy and compressed timeline, with family members requesting that I make time to see them due to proximity/ convenience reasons. In reading the letter, it kind of seems like OP is trying to cram in a lot of visiting time into a very stressful and busy time for her brother and SIL.

    I’m not saying that what the SIL and OP’s brother’s descriptions of their plans are untrue, but I could absolutely see someone telling a white lie about alternate dinner/visit plans in order to not be overwhelmed, and not appear as flaky or uninterested. Though this site has taught me about not Jadeing or making up fake excuses, not all people are as equipped to do that, and my feel like saying “Oh sorry, we already have plans with SIL’s parents that afternoon” is easier to say than “We’re trying to move, get a change of address in, coordinate trucks, etc… We don’t want to add another thing”.

    As far as the split dinners goes, I see that as being not all that odd. When I am in front of my In-laws to be, I have fun and they are perfectly nice people, but I most certainly feel like I have to be “On” in front of them, if you know what I mean. If the SIL needed some time to spend just with her husband or her husband and people that she knows, that should be respected.

    The best way to maintain a healthy relationship with people is to make time for them in ways that are good for everyone, not asking for time to keep the “score” even regardless of context.

  • Bast October 3, 2016, 8:56 pm

    I’ve been John in two different relationships. The one…well, it’s been a few years but I’ve come to terms that it was an abusive one, and that was part of his control over me. All his family, none of mine. And I’m very much NOT suggesting that this is the case.

    The second, though, involved me moving far away from my family and close to his. And just like I wasn’t comfortable with his family, he wasn’t comfortable with mine. We tried to keep a balance, truly, but in the end it was spending every holiday with his family and none with mine. I finally had to put my foot down and say that we were taking a week each summer to see my family, in a location that was neutral territory and allowed my ex-DH to hide away from everything. We did that once, then it was back to the status quo of all his, not mine.

    I know that there were imbalances in the amount of time spent with his family and with mine. I wanted to keep the peace, so I didn’t argue too much, but the sheer amount felt staggering to me and I did feel guilty at times.

    And I’ll admit, my family’s reaction was what admin is suggesting. They were there for me. They kept me up to date on the big news, and the not-so-big news. When I needed them, truly needed them, they were there for me, and outside of a few grumbles about never seeing me in person, they let it go. And that was the best response that I could’ve had. Ex-DH didn’t like the idea of them paying for us to visit them, and the few times that they came to us he was working and didn’t take off. “Couldn’t get off” was the usual response from him. And I was okay with that, because if he was going to grumble and mope then I didn’t want to see or hear it. My parents reached out to my ex-ILs – flowers on Christmas, that sort of thing – and never had a response. They weren’t pleased, no, but it has never come back to hang over my head.

    So, as another John, just be there for him. Don’t pull out a calendar and mark out how much time each family spends with him and Allison; it’ll just make everybody upset in the end. Send him a text every once in a while, call him on major holidays. Put the invitations out there, but don’t get upset if the answer comes back as one that you didn’t want to hear. Be a support to his new life, and realize that things will keep on changing as he gets settled into his new career and his new location. (And since it sounds like he’s military, he didn’t have as much of a choice as one would think as to his posting. He’ll have submitted a list, but the needs of the military will always come first.)

    Good luck, OP!

  • Mags October 3, 2016, 9:09 pm

    Maybe this is a guy thing? We see my family more than my husband’s family. My family is physically closer, for one thing. But also, if I need help with something, I’m calling my mom, not my MIL. And my mom makes a point of putting on family things and inviting us all over, whereas my MIL apparently also puts on family things but won’t actually invite people — you are just supposed to know and show up.

    If we are invited to a family event, I ask my husband if he wants to go, and I don’t pressure him to say yes or no, just to make a decision so I can tell my mom (or whoever) whether he will be there or not. And if he wants to take the kids to his family, I think that’s good for them. However, it seems that my husband has the idea that it’s MY responsibility to make sure his family sees our kids, whereas I think it is HIS responsibility to make plans with his family, and so it rarely happens.

    • Huh October 4, 2016, 12:41 pm

      I think there may be something to that – guys just may not think, “Oh I should go visit mom/dad” beyond big reasons, holidays/birthdays/etc. And a lot of guys I know seem to rely on wives/SOs to keep the social calendar.

      • OP October 4, 2016, 5:44 pm

        I suspect you are right which is why we have attempted to reach out to her to make plans. It hasn’t work.

    • Willynilly October 5, 2016, 8:43 pm

      There is an old saying “a daughter is a daughter the whole of her life, a son is son until he takes a wife.”

  • SadieMae October 3, 2016, 9:11 pm

    Admin, this is a wonderful answer. My mother-in-law accepts her four children and their spouses and kids unconditionally. She’s happy to see us when we’re there and doesn’t guilt us when we can’t be there. It takes so much of the stress and guilt out of the parent/adult child relationship!

  • Miriam October 4, 2016, 6:41 am

    I may have missed if another poster has quoted the old saying: “your son’s your son till he gains a wife; your daughter’s your daughter for the rest of her life”. It’s not a rule, but it’s a pretty good rule-of-thumb.

    My view is that you can’t *push* people to yourself; you can either push, or you can bring/lure people to yourself, but the more pushing a person does the further away their loved one becomes…

    I’m a bit worried about the keeping tally of who spends how much time with John & Allison: presumably John was raised to make his own decisions, I think you have to accept it when he does so. The poster who advised sending a weekly chatty email [instead of keeping score], has a brilliant plan – you will reinforce in his mind that you are loving and supporting, rather than planting the idea in his head that petty differences in “who gets what time” matter to you the most.

    • Huh October 4, 2016, 12:38 pm

      Perhaps women are socialized more often to be more family oriented or to be the family social calendars? I’ve heard that saying before and always bristled because I did nothing to keep my ex away from his family, in fact, the only times we saw them was from my saying, “It’s the holidays, shouldn’t we go see your family? Isn’t your family having that dinner this weekend?” etc. And he would whine and complain about having to go. As Mags above said, her husband has the idea that it’s HER responsibility to do all of the family social planning, but she thinks it is HIS responsibility to make plans with his family, and it doesn’t happen a lot because he just doesn’t do it.

  • helen-louise October 4, 2016, 10:31 am

    I am confused by the OP’s desire for “joint celebrations”. I understand that you miss your brother and may be concerned that his wife’s family don’t include you. But I have absolutely no experience of families merging in this way. Both of my parents have large families, with lots of siblings, and I can count on one hand the number of times in 40 years that any of us have seen a relative’s partner’s family outside of a wedding or funeral. And there’s not a physical distance issue – the relatives all live in the same county of the UK, about an hour apart.

    I have been with my husband for 19 years, and our respective sets of parents have met three times. My parents have never met his sister at all. We do things with his family or my family, but never both. If we go to see his family, we want to spend the time with THEM renewing the strong relationship we have, not trying to force a new superficial relationship between his family and mine. It’s difficult enough for us to spend time with my two parents together since they are such different people who have little in common other than me – I can’t imagine bringing anyone else into that dynamic. If we tried to go out with my mum and dad and his dad and stepmum, we’d be reduced to talking about the weather because our interests and opinions would otherwise clash. Frankly, it seems politer NOT to force chalk and cheese together.

    The OP doesn’t mention whether they have a spouse themselves, but if so, that’s a third family again. If you and John were to host an anniversary party for your parents, would you invite Allison’s parents? AND your spouse’s parents? Wouldn’t that be weird, having John’s in-laws and your in-laws both present for a celebration of your parents, when neither of those families have a natural connection at all and don’t know each other at all? The more siblings you have, the more families are involved, and this is why most people stick to spending time with “one side” at a time.

    It might be useful if you could talk a little more about why you’ve expected some sort of merging of the families, because many of us are finding this difficult to relate to (no pun intended).

    • Kiara October 4, 2016, 11:54 am

      This. My grandparents lived in the same *town*, and when we went to visit, there was never socializing with both families all at the same time. We stayed with mom’s parents, visited one or two nights for dinner with dad’s, and that was it. Not even for Thanksgiving – that was always mom’s parents, and inviting dad’s was never even thought of.

      OP, could Alison’s family have been raised like this? I always think it’s so odd when these stories come up because it’s not the way I was raised. Families don’t completely merge where every visit or every event is one big family gathering. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    • Shalamar October 4, 2016, 2:10 pm

      My mother-in-law is not a warm or particularly nice person. On one of the very few times that my in-laws and my parents got together, Dad told MIL an amusing anecdote, and when he was done, he waited for a reaction. MIL turned to my husband and said “Oh, I forgot to tell you – I ran into (so-and-so) at the store the other day.” That was it. Dad’s face was a sight to behold.

      After that, whenever the subject of getting together came up (which wasn’t often – Mum and Dad live in a different part of the country), Mum told me in confidence “Your dad doesn’t care much for (MIL), so we’ll sit this one out, thanks.”

      • OP October 4, 2016, 5:51 pm

        We arent really expecting to have many joint celebrations together. This came up after John expressed difficulty in making time to visit his family for holidays, etc. She would cry and complain and they would fight. We thought it would help to start inviting her family as well as they seem to do everything together. We thought it would give us an opportunity to see him while not pulling her away from hers and prevent an argument between John and Allie.

        • Vic October 5, 2016, 12:57 pm

          Allison sounds very immature. John needs to grow a backbone and tell her to grow up. For all my ex’s faults, he was very family-oriented and never balked at spending as much time with my family as we did with his. I wish there was something you could do to help him see the light and start standing up to her. Unfortunately, this is all on him if he really does want to change this dynamic. Good luck.

        • Goldie October 5, 2016, 3:21 pm

          What??? That is terrible. She’d cry and fight until he agrees to not visit his family? Does she realize this is the same as if he were yelling at her and starting fights each time she’d try to visit her family? Unacceptable. 🙁 I agree with the commenters that said that John needs to start scheduling time to visit his family on his own, since neither Allison nor her family seem to want to join him. Otherwise they are holding him hostage and not letting him see his own family.

  • PWH October 4, 2016, 1:42 pm

    Hi OP, it sounds like your brother is doing his best to balance life with his wife, her family and his family (you and your mother). I’m lucky enough that my in-laws and my Mom, Step-Dad and my Dad get along well. My Dad lives half a country away, but whenever he is in town, my in-laws invite him over for dinner. My in-laws also visit with my Mom and Step-Dad when we aren’t around 🙂 It sounds like I may be against the norm here.
    Balancing life as an adult with your siblings and their families can be tough. It is even harder when they live far away (All three of my younger siblings live a minimum of a three hour drive away from me). Take the initiative to stay in touch. Send emails, call or text. Try to extend an olive branch to your SIL too, it will only help your relationship with your brother. I know it’s tough, but your brother is at the stage in his life where he will have to alternate visits with each family. This will be cemented further when he and his wife have their own family and, on occasion, they may want to spend holidays just with their kids. Try to be excited for the new stage of life your brother is embarking on, be supportive and don’t always leave it up to him to visit in the future. Good luck!

  • SebbyGrrl October 4, 2016, 10:09 pm

    After reading all of OP’s updates the situation seems very different.

    John has complained to his sister (OP) that Allison throws a hissy if he suggests spending ANY time with his family.

    John has directly asked his sis to see if she can help solve this problem…but OP it’s because he’s abdicating his responsibility to himself. That’s why you can’t solve this. And that’s ok, you are supporting him emotionally.

    You can be conflict averse all you want – but the conflict is still there.

    John has to make a decision and stick to it – if his choice is to spend equal time with both families, he needs to declare that directly to his wife and in direct conflict with her previous stance..

    “Going forward we will spend an equal amount of time with my family as yours. You don’t have to join mine every time, but there will be no more meltdowns or tears when I make these plans and stick to them. If you can’t agree with that we need to start therapy as soon as we get to new location or …”
    what ever consequence he can live with.

    OP, you can’t solve this for him and you can’t buffer him from it. He’s an adult, he needs to start practicing this stuff now. If she won’t go to therapy he goes alone, no excuses about cost (if he is in the military and feels it’s best kept private he has to take the steps to ensure he will follow through).

    After all his other achievements and hard work, welcome him to the new level of grown up – one who stands equal with partner and is not bullied into behaving only one way – the one that makes his wife not cry…that nagging, crying, haranguging him not to spend time with his folks is unbalanced control, not good for any marriage.

    Send them lots of neat little things – actual snail mail, when I was in the military, far from home letters and packages could save my whole month! – while they are gone.

    Be their non-judgemental relative.

    Most important to express to John now – if he doesn’t start successfully negotiating this it’s is only going to get worse and how about when they have kids? Does he still want to be doing this dance then?

    • Huh October 5, 2016, 8:41 am

      All of this so much.

      Also – OP, I honestly am trying to help, not beat up on you, please believe that – Complaining to him or her about them not spending enough time or equal time with you and your parents is irritating. Even if you are right, it is irritating. It is not going to make them come see you more, it might make it worse. You may just be venting to us about it, and that’s fine, vent away to a friend or the internet, but do not complain to them about it. As Sebby said, be the non-judgemental relative.

      I say this as someone whose ex had relatives that did this. I hated going to see his Relative A because they would spend the entire visit complaining about how we didn’t visit them often enough. OK, but we’re here now, can we please enjoy it? On the flip side, he had Relative B that we saw as much as Relative A (or maybe even less) and they were always thrilled to see us, ready to fill us in on what’s been going on with them and find out what had been going on with us. If we could see them for an hour, they were going to make the most of that hour. Relative B would invite us to things and wouldn’t complain if we couldn’t come, or if only one of us could come. Relative A would throw a fit if we couldn’t come, or would complain loudly to the one person would could come about why the other didn’t, and the next time we visited, we got to hear about it all over again.

      We divorced. I was glad to see the back of Relative A. I still call and visit Relative B.

    • Writer of Wrongs October 5, 2016, 8:48 am

      ^This. He can’t control Allison’s actions/reactions, but he CAN control how he reacts, and whether he lets that dissuade him from having a relationship with his own family. From the updates, there are problems between John and Allison, but only John can fix *this part* of those problems. And it starts with deciding what he wants, what he’s willing to risk/give up, and then acting on it. “Live your boundaries,” as is often said here – that’s the lesson John must learn and start acting on now.

    • abby October 5, 2016, 10:50 am

      “John has directly asked his sis to see if she can help solve this problem…but OP it’s because he’s abdicating his responsibility to himself”

      I so agree with this. It is a little like the boss complaining about one of his underling’s poor work performance to another underling. What is the underling he is venting to supposed to do about it? The Boss is the one that needs to handle it. Allison isn’t going to listen to OP and any attempt by OP to insert herself into the situation is just going to cause resentment and further strife.

      I am confused about one thing though. OP’s follow up *does* suggest John has asked her for help, but her original post said this- “He won’t get in the middle and just expects us to accept things as they are and he will deal with it in time”- this to me suggests John does *not* want his sister involved and actually has told her to stay out of it. So I think the original post and the follow up are saying conflicting things. To me, it sounds more like John has vented to his sister (without actually asking her to get involved) and the OP has decided to try to help the situation on her own. But it doesn’t really matter either way, whether John wants OP’s help or not, he has to handle this himself.

      • oregonbird October 10, 2016, 2:42 pm

        “He asked me to get in the middle of his relationship with his wife.” /side eye/

    • helen-louise October 5, 2016, 1:11 pm

      Yes, I agree – this is a very different story than what was originally posted. This is “my brother’s new wife doesn’t want to spend time with his side of the family”, which is A LOT more concerning than “my brother’s in-laws don’t want to spend any time with us”.

      Frankly, if your brother’s wife doesn’t want to see you guys, then he needs to come without her. He needs to make it clear that he refuses to be cut off from his family by her behaviour. If she doesn’t want to come, that’s her problem.

      It’s worryingly immature behaviour on her part, though.

  • Hallie October 7, 2016, 11:23 am

    I have been married 23 years. My mother & my in-laws have never met. Same goes for BIL, & SIL There’s no hard feelings or anything. No one dislikes each other, we just aren’t that kind of family. Your in-laws may also not be that kind of family. It’s nothing personal.

  • Bellini October 10, 2016, 3:35 pm

    At least this “Allison” and her family are showing you how they are now. My sister in law was very friendly and kind before she married my brother, and then the mask came off. It’s been thirty years of her, my brother and their children doing everything they can to destroy my family of origin (and it worked, my father went to his grave cursing my sister-in-law’s name.) If I could change one thing about my family, it would be to have kept my sister-in-law the same after the wedding as before.