My brother and I (both mid-30s) have always been very close.
We live on opposite sides of the country, but always saw each other once or twice yearly.
His wife and I have never gotten along well. She treats my visits as a major inconvenience.
They now have a toddler with whom I want to have a relationship.
They live in the same area as my sister-in-law’s family, which meant I haven't spent Christmas or any holiday with them for seven years.
I find Christmas extremely depressing as a result.
This year I offered to pay for accommodations elsewhere (they refuse to host family at their house, citing family-related craziness) so I could visit at Christmas.
My brother said no, he didn't want to deal with the tension between his wife and me.
I wonder what’s wrong with me that my only sibling would refuse my visit.
Spending holidays apart signals the disintegration of a relationship that’s central to my life. Do I have a right to be upset? I'm willing to seek counselling.
Sinking into depression and self-doubts would be harmful to you, as well as the relationship with your brother.
So yes, get counselling yourself first, to talk out how to handle this kind of (not uncommon) in-law divide.
Your SIL comes from a family with “anxieties.” She may resent her husband’s closeness with you, and he may have difficulties with her that he doesn’t want to express.
Give Christmas a chance at home. Gather any friends and colleagues and plan some festive get-togethers - lunches, dinners, movies, etc. Join community celebrations.
Send your niece a Christmas gift, then phone your brother and also ask to talk to the child. Slowly build an “auntie” connection.
Keep contact with your brother and invite him to visit you any time.
You may be able, in time, to visit his city, stay nearby and see him (and, hopefully, his family) without it being the big issue that it seems regarding this Christmas.
We’re four couples who’ve been friends for many years.
The wives met through the husbands’ friendship, and we’ve stayed close while raising our young children.
Now the first Sweet Sixteen is taking place in a few months and I fear that the current differences in our circumstances will present a problem.
Two of the couples are very well off (inheritances) and the third’s business is thriving.
But my husband and I are currently struggling.
He was laid off a well-paid job six months ago and hasn’t been able to find another job in his field.
I’ve already heard talk of the country club party for the girl turning 16. The dress code will be “formal” and I’m sure many of the gifts will be extravagant.
I’m considering saying we have to be out of town for our daughter’s hockey team commitments (true, but I’m sure the others would expect us to make an exception).
True friends understand. And children learn from parents’ reactions.
Your family should attend with your heads held high.
Wear what you own or check out some Vintage stores where you can find wonderful bargains, which even wealthy people love to score.
Choose a meaningful gift that’s not expensive, e.g. make a photo album of some of the happy family times you all shared together with your children.
Your husband’s going through a difficult time in his work life, and he, you, and the children need family support and optimism, not a hide-in-the hills mentality.
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Tip of the day:
Major family tensions call for a slow, steady approach, helped by professional guidance.