Posted by: chlost | March 23, 2011

Marriage as a spectator sport

Ugh-another 6 inches of snow and it is still snowing. The only redeeming factor is that it is March 23rd and it is 27F, so it should melt off pretty quickly. Of course, the flip side of that means that it will also be increasing the flood potential as well.  I can’t think about it. I want to go back to bed.  I am not going to dignify it by talking about it any more. I don’t want to hear about it. Fingers now in my ears……la la la la la.

On to something else.

We have a family wedding coming up in May. Although there are many horror stories about mothers of the bride, in our family it is the father of the bride who is starring in the horror story. This is nothing like Steve Martin’s cute and clueless  dad in the “Father of the Bride” movie.

My brother-in-law. My husband’s brother. He and I  have never had a good relationship, but he is my husband’s brother. I try to put up with him, primarily by ignoring him as much as possible. It is difficult to believe that he and my husband have the same parents.

The brother-in-law’s only daughter is getting married in May. Wonderful young woman. I am so happy for her. I am hosting a wedding shower for her in just a few weeks….but that is irrelevant to my story.  This bil has always been rather oddly interested in our children. He often negatively compares his children to our children. He and his wife have recently taken a particular interest in our son and daughter-in-law’s family—I think they wish that they had grandchildren (understandable).

Anyway…… The invitations for the wedding arrived around the end of February with a return date for RSVP of March 15th.  I received an email on the 16th of March asking about the kid’s  RSVPs. My bil and sil were very anxious to know who was coming so they could bump up the B-list people if the A-list people declined the invitations. They needed time to be able to get invitations out to others. Even though our kids had sent back the RSVP’s, they hadn’t yet been received.

The wedding is on the same day as my son’s childhood friend’s wedding. Our son and dil are expecting their third child in mid-April. So, they agreed to go to our niece’s wedding ceremony, then go to the friend’s wedding. My d-i-l will go to the ceremony for the friend, but then will go home with the baby and the older girls and my son will stay for the friend’s reception. The timing of the weddings will be close, but they think it will work. So, they RSVP’d, to niece,  saying that they would attend the ceremony, but would not be attending the reception.

Yesterday, bil called our dil, and told her how disappointed they are that they received a decline from them for the reception. He told her that their daughter feels very close to dil, and that she also is very disappointed that they will not be staying for the reception. He told her that he and his wife feel that their “little family” is very special and asked what they could do to make them change their minds. When dil explained the plan to go to both weddings, the bil did not back off. He told her that he hoped they would put family first, and that they should reconsider and make the right decision. He told her that if they changed their minds, they would keep spots open for dinner and they could just RSVP a week or so before the wedding.  Too bad for those B-listers, I guess!

For background information, dil has talked to niece for a total of bout 2 hours-ever, and  niece left son and dil’s wedding almost immediately after the service because she had a date.

My dil was in shock. She didn’t know what to say or to do. I was angry. I can’t believe he would do this. Even if he wanted to encourage them to come to the reception, to try to guilt them into it is beyond belief.  Not accepting their explanation is unbelievable. And to call them…why not send an email, which would not have put her on the spot?   If he truly wanted to have them there, his method had the entirely opposite effect. Now there is no way they would go, even if they could.

This wedding could turn out badly. It is going to be very challenging for me to go to this wedding and keep myself out of anything that happens. And I have a feeling that something bad is going to happen. I can’t see my bil getting through this wedding without some sort of issue. He drinks heavily, and when he is stressed, he will likely drink very heavily. The pictures in my mind are not pretty. Even now, he is taking every “decline” of the invitation personally, and this entire wedding is putting him into a tailspin. He was upset that a neighbor didn’t inform him when they received the invitation…..apparently he expected to be thanked for the invitation.

I want to go to my son’s friend’s wedding. We were invited, too.  If I thought I could leave without being noticed, I would. But my husband can’t do that. I understand. I just hope it’s not like watching a train wreck.

For the bride’s sake, I hope I am wrong.



  1. When anyone suggests that they make the “right” decision, they mean, the decision that they (selfishly) want for themselves. Any time intimidation is put on someone, the response should be clear – do not let relatives bully you. I have completely cut off all contact with my sister over such bullshit. The only common thing I share with my sister is DNA, beyond that, nothing! If it feels like intimidation, run the other way.

    • You are absolutely right. I would have nothing to do with this guy (or even his wife, who is not as bad, but enables him), but it is my husband’s only family, and my husband wants to maintain a relationship. My husband has not been able to see how awful his brother has been to him, so he continues the relationship. It is hard to explain. But the “right decision” has already been made for my son and dil-they are going to both weddings. No question.

  2. I really like Robert the Skeptic’s comment. I detest the social norms that push us into rewarding bad behavior and denying what our hearts really want. Ah, but, on the other hand, there’s a powerful pull to family, where we feel like we have to keep trying. Isn’t it interesting how situations such as the one you paint make us respect people who sever unhealthy relationships?

    • It is that powerful pull that keeps my husband in the relationship with his brother. I don’t get it, but my family has always respected each other. I am not sure that I would use respect to describe my feelings about those who sever unhealthy relationships. I feel bad for them that the relationship was so bad that they have had to sever a family member from their life.

  3. “Drinking Heavily” sounds as if he is an alcoholic. Go to both weddings and don’t let him take up space in your head. Hugs.

    • I agree that he is likely alcoholic…at least abuses alcohol if not dependent. Thanks for your support!

  4. Gawd, what a dickwad! He out-manipulates anyone I’ve ever heard of. And, yes, that’s alcoholism’s one-two punch: dependency and co-dependency in one large and ugly glob. Don your lucite shield and know that you’re validated back here at home.

    • Thanks, that made me smile!

  5. Family. You can’t choose them. All you are required to do is make a polite appearance, put on your best smile, and get the hell out as soon as gracefully possible. If your bil should confront you and become nasty (as drunks always do) then calmly turn on your heel and walk out. Engaging him will enable him and hurt you. Shell. Sometimes we must put up our shells. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, but I believe that you’ll make it and help your hubby get through too.

  6. Weddings and funerals seem to bring out the worst in some folks!

  7. A wedding! Sounds like something you should be able to look forward to, though personally I’d rather deal with a snowstorm than with wedding preparations. 🙂 That’s a tough balancing act for your son and his wife, and for you and your husband, too. Life would be so much easier if everyone just eloped or went to a justice-of-the-peace to get married, and put the money saved toward a great honeymoon or a down-payment on a house, or both. But that’s just me, I know. Trying to throw intimidation, manipulation and guilt around takes all the supposed fun and joy out of the occasion… People invest so much time and energy in “the big day” when it would be better spent on the “ever after” part. I feel for you!

    • In some cases, the elopement would be a relief to everyone.

  8. What a difficult situation for you. Instead of looking forward to a happy event you get all frustrated and that is understandable. But as commented above, you need to keep your cool, be polite and get away as quickly as you can, and not talk about it or even think too much about it in advance. Indifference – that is the word, that is the best solution – but I know it’s not easy.

    • I like the indifference approach. We’ll see if I can pull it off!

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