Post Wedding: What to do? (Sorry, v. long)

AutumnBrideJuly 19, 2004

I got married last Oct (I can't believe it has already been 9 months!), and there was a very big incident that happened at the wedding reception that involved my DH's sister and her BF. My DH's sister was a BM - I made special efforts to make her feel apart of the wedding, but also didn't force her to do any tasks/things so that she felt like she was working too hard (she had mentioned several times that she had to be the Bride's slave for one particular wedding, and I didn't want her to have a negative experience for her DB's wedding). I bought her a v. nice gift for being in the wedding (a gorgeous Swarovski crystal bracelet and earrings) and treated her a few time to one on one lunches with just her and me just to talk about her life and work - no wedding-related stuff unless she asked.

Well, DH's sister didn't really participant at all - she showed up late and left early from every single event - sometimes didn't attend at all. We invited her BF (who we know and had socialize with in the past - they have been together for longer than DH and I have been and live together), but he didn't want to come to anything, so he didn't. At the bachelorette party (that she volunteered to help plan - My BF and MOH told me that she basically said she was going to help and insisted that she was going to plan several things and didn't do them at all) she came late and was very rude to me and the other people at the party (she actually had a guy come up and kiss me on the mouth, after I had told everyone several times that I was game for pretty much anything except strippers or being kissed by guys other than my FH - she merely laughed and thought it was funny that I was so upset about the situation).

What happened next was the real kicker - her BF arrived at the reception drunk, which really wouldn't be so bad except for the following: He stole a bottle of alcohol from the bar, the police came b/c of the theft, he tried to start a fight with an usher, spat beer all over one of the tables and the food (spoiling 10 people's dinners), swore and yelled at my DH's Dad (his GF's father!), and had to be escorted out by my brother and brother-in-law. This all happened before the first dance, cake cutting, dancing, or even the end of the dinner (DH's sister and BF left the reception after all of this - thankfully). The worst part is that he has yet to call to apologize or even try to talk to me or my DH. My DH's sister hasn't tried to call or talk to me either. She hasn't even apologized to her own brother about anything that happened. She didn't even want to talk about it with her DB, but he brought it up and asked her (twice) to call me and talk about it, she never did.

We do not like her BF and don't want anything to do with him, but it has been 9 months now and we don't talk to DH's sister. This really saddens me. I think family is very important. DH's sister (Jenhy) doesn't see things that way though - she really doesn't talk to anyone but their Mom, and their Mom can't really talk to her about what is going on b/c she is afraid Jenny won't talk to her anymore too! Jenny doesn't even talk or visit her own Grandparents. She told my DH that she would be fine if she never spoke or saw either of their parents again! It is so strange b/c her Dad paid for her college, supported her, and never abused or mistreated her. Their Mom is very needy and makes excuses for Jenny's behavior - for instance: Jenny didn't attend my shower b/c she hates her Step-Grandma, Jenny didn't ask for anyone's help at the reception b/c she hates her Step-Dad, Jenny hates her Dad's girlfriend so she won't attend her Grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary party or see them at is crazy! I've never heard of anyone hating so many people! I don't think I hate anyone - it is such a strong word and such a waste of energy!

Jenny is 28, her BF is 32. The reason I am writing is b/c I feel really torn. I don't think we ought to write-off his sister as a lost cause, but they make it v. difficult to have any sort of relationship. I am tempted every so often to call her, but I also think that I shouldn't. Both me and DH would be there for Jenny if she wanted/needed us, but she has isolated herself from everyone. Her BF is v. controlling (I don't think he abuses her, but I think that he is extremely manupulative and the dominate personality). It is also hard, b/c I don't know what I would even say to her if I did try to talk to her - I am still hurt by what happened at the wedding reception and her attitude towards us. I am mostly hurt on behalf of my DH - he was really sad and hurt that his sister and her BF were so rude, disrespectful, and didn't even try to apologize to anyone.

I would be grateful for anyone's advice.

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Oh, my! What a story. You have got SOME sister-in-law there. And her boyfriend is ten times worse.

Actually I think you are already doing the right thing: "I don't think we ought to write-off his sister as a lost cause, but they make it v. difficult to have any sort of relationship." That's right: don't write her off. She is your husband's sister, after all. Family loyalty (even to really impossible relatives) is really important, in my opinion. I'd hang in there as long as you possibly can.

The main thing I would say is that this is really your husband's issue. How sad that she makes it impossible for the two of them to have a nice relationship. But although this certainly affects you a great deal (and if she and you someday have kids, it will affect those cousins, too), it's just naturally more of a deep issue for him than for you. So I think the best thing you can do -- and it's important -- is to be supportive of him. Let him deal with her, and you listen to his feelings and be in his corner. Let him decide if you all will visit with or call his sister. Probably you will be spending at least some time with her/them over the years; you may not enjoy it, but you can stand it.

And count yourself LUCKY that she didn't involve herself more with your wedding -- can you just imagine what she might have come up with?! -- and especially that they haven't called to apologize for their behavior at the reception! Good grief, what could you possibly have said?!

I hope it helped to vent here. It's a good idea not to complain about his family publicly: if it leaks back to them, even if you're right, you're wrong, and anyway it's pretty disloyal to your husband. That's what private talks with your best girlfriend are for!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2004 at 8:07PM
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I agree, this is really NOT your issue as much as it is your husband's and his side of the family. Don't get caught up in it, just be low key and follow their lead. Too bad about their boorish behavior at your wedding, but I'm sure it made for exciting gossip the next day. At least you've got her number from day one, no?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 3:30AM
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Oh my, what a wedding day you had! Hopefully you have a lot of good memories too.

I've got a sister that hasn't spoken to any of the family except my older sister & my adult son for about 4 years. My sister stopped talking to me when I cancelled for a function at her house. She had her boyfriends kids in her house, one had the flu- plus we had work going on in our house. I have seen my nephew 1 time (last year) in this time. When we did see him, we weren't allowed to upset him (he's autistic) for fear that he would go back & tell my sister. I've told my older sister that altho I miss my nephew, I am thankful he is autistic & probably doesn't realize how long it's been since he's seen us. She told me he is fully aware of it and misses seeing us. My older son is the world to him- he went from seeing us 5+ times a year to seeing only my son at Christmas.

I now find out that it may all be due to sister's BF that she is not speaking to any of us. She's sold her house, told him he needs to find another place to live & will be moving down by me. I hope this is a good sign, that I will be able to have a relationship with my nephew finally.

Hang in there- hopefully she too will come around. It doesn't make it hurt any less, but there may be hope if she can get away from him.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 7:15AM
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What an unfortunate scene at your reception. A gold star to you for keeping your priorities straight in what is really important. I agree to that this is your DH's issue and you sound very supportive.
It is probably unrealistic to think she is ever going to apologize, come around, have a relationship with you because she is the same with everyone in her family. She is just being consistent. I think your MIL not wanting to confront her only enables the behavior which is really sad. I'm not a Dr. Phil know it all, but he does say that you teach people how to treat you. Be there in case she ever gets in trouble and really needs you, otherwise, I would accept the fact that this is not going to be a warm fuzzy relationship and keeping a certain amount of distance is probably a good idea.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 7:28AM
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It's also you're issue, because you are married to her brother.....she is now your family as well.
I will bet she is in an abusive relationship with an alcholic and doesn't know how to get out.
I think I would give her a call and say you haven't heard from her in so long that you just wondered how she is doing?
You can't tell her to leave the relationship....but you can leave the door open for her to call you if he is beating her up in the middle of the night.
Have you talked with your DH about the situation?
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 10:32AM
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well, I have no authority bcs I've never actually been in a family drama like this.

But I think if I were, I'd have feelings similar to yours--I wouldn't want the difficulty, but I wouldn't want to write them off.

I think I'd let things stay cool. Send birthday and Christmas cards the way you would to a cousin who lives across the country. Basically leave the door open. If she shows signs of getting more stable, invite her for some family event, or just her.

And what I wouldn't do is insist on an apology. In the first place, the one who needs to apologize the most is her BF, and I'm not a fan of holding someone responsible for the behavior of someone else. Your SIL didn't get drunk and spit beer everywhere. So while perhaps she's chosen a bad mate, she doesn't need to apologize as if his sins were hers.

She has her own offenses, but they're not AS big. They DO indicate some hostility toward you, though, and I think that's a message you should heed.

She hates a lot of people--she must be very sad and lonely. But she also surrounds herself with negativity--you don't need to wallow in it, too. So while you don't want to sever ties, you also need to realize that you probably shouldn't (and CAN'T) have CLOSE ties with her.

The thing is, a lot of us idealize the brother-sister-family relationships. But it is OK to have a distant relationship w/ a sibling or parent. It's sort of sad, since when those relationships are close, they're very enriching. But if they're not gonna be enriching but are actually a source of negative, then they're better off distanct or matter-of-fact.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 12:03PM
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I thought I would address some of your inquiries - My husband and I most definitely talked/talk about this. We both feel very similarly about the situation, but I think he is more angry because it he felt it was embarrassing and disrespectful. I have let him take the lead in the situation. The last time he spoke to her was over a month ago. I actually encourage he to talk with his sister, but she has been slowly cutting him and the rest of the family off - she changed her cell and home phone numbers and email address and didn't tell anyone. Their grandparents were in a serious car accident a couple of months ago and no one knew how to get a hold of her.

I absolutely do not talk about this publicly, however I do talk with my close friends and immediate family - my husband knows what I say and to whom regarding his sister. He does not mind and understands.

I don't expect her to apologize for her BF's behavior. I think it would have been nice if she had said that she was sorry that she had to leave the reception so early and that she missed such a special day in her only brother's life. I am over the lack of apology and have been for months.

I think that it is really difficult to say that this is only my DH's issue, b/c I am apart of the family now. But, I most definitely differ to my DH's wishes re: what to do in handling his sister. Except I do insist on the following: we send her a Christmas card from us.

I have talked to DH about my suspicions about her being in a borderline abusive relationship. They really have all the telltale signs (isolation, withdrawl, dominate personality with strong machoistic tendancies, etc.). We don't believe he is physically abusing her (yet), but we know about the signs. I think we will continue to follow her lead on the direction of the relationship, but we are most definitely vocal about the fact that we care about her and would like nothing more to at least be civil.

BTW, I had a wonderful time at my wedding and reception. I didn't realize half of the things that happened were going on until after the honeymoon. My brother, DH's BM and ushers, and other loved ones worked at handling everything discreetly. I think most guests didn't even know that these things happened too. I know my Grandmothers had/have no clue.

I guess we will just continue to send cards to her for her birthday and holidays, for now. I guess I just wanted to check to see if DH and I should be doing more. DH and I are extremely close to my family, and it pains me that we can't establish a good relationship with his sister. But, I think I just need to come to terms with the fact that it isn't my fault - she doesn't understand how to have a relationship with anyone in her own family. She actually makes her own Mom cry when they talk by telling their Mom that she is fat and needs to loose weight and criticises her about her hair, clothes, etc. It is awful. Jenny is really mean and horrid to all of these people who love her so much. I truly do not understand her. My DH thinks that there is something broken in his sister - they are sooo different. It is amazing that they are siblings. I believe that she has a predisposition to be mean, but that she has also attached herself to a person (her BF) who is like poison. BF has the attitude that you should only have to do what you want to do no matter what, that he and Jenny are right, if anyone disgrees "F@#! them" - sorry for the language, but I've actually heard his say this before about several people.

Sigh! Well, thank you for letting me vent. I wish that there was a solution to making the situation better, but there doesn't seem to be a magic bullet. I just have to let go of the idea that all siblings and families relationships work in a particular way when certain criteria are met - it just isn't so. I wish there was an explaination for her behavior - it just doesn't make any sense to me. Yes, her Mom and Dad aren't perfect, but I think there is something really wrong and illogical to her behavior.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 2:18PM
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We don't believe he is physically abusing her (yet), but we know about the signs.

Please keep your eyes open if you think it will come to this. I was in a relationship (if you can call it that) where I was emotionally abused for years. One day the hitting started. Thankfully, I was at a point in my life where I was not going to take it- went to an attorney, who told me to take pics of my bruises (I did). I then got a restraining order and had him removed while I shopped with the kids.

She may not think that she will have a place to go if she leaves him. She may also think she deserves it. Is it possible for you two to go shopping? Perhaps drop some hints that she is not alone?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 8:45AM
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AutumnBride, I commend you for your patience and compassion in this situation. You're doing the right thing. It sounds like you also realize that DSIL's behaviour and lack of respect has nothing to do with you and everything to do with her. Kudos for not taking this personally.

I agree that it's your DH who has to communicate with his sister, but that doesn't mean that you can't be standing by him as a team (which you're doing). While it's true that you are a part of the family now, the final decision rests with your DH (as I'm sure you've already stated).

Definitely continue to send cards... I haven't spoken to my father in over 2 years but we still exchange birthday and Christmas cards.

And never give up hope that sometime in the future all of this will be resolved. Best of luck to you.

Andrea :o)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 10:19AM
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AutumnBride, I agree with the others that you are handling this just beautifully. Everyone gave you good advice, too -- Talley Sue, I thought your post was especially well thought out and written.
Hang in there. I am so glad that this didn't upset you at your wedding -- it was really a perfect one, as I recall!
There's one in every family, isn't there? I guess just be glad it isn't YOU! :-)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 1:16PM
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I think you are handling it right, too. For what it's worth, I would actually be glad that she's not interacting with me or my family. She sounds like a destructive personality and a troublemaker and who need that!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2004 at 8:43PM
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Roselvr, we really aren't able to keep our eyes open to Jenny's relationship with her BF - they have separated themselves from the rest of the family. I cannot force her to have a relationship with us. She does talk with her Mom, but her Mom lives in a different state. I know she visited with her about 6 months ago, and everything went just "fine" according to their Mom.
You are right that she could feel that she deserves this or that she has no where to go. I have known people who were in unhealthy relationships, and unfortunately it seems like the person being abused/mistreated has to make the decision to leave or change. No one else can do it for them. It is much like being an alcoholic, addict, etc. - the person in the situation has to be resolved in his or her mind that this isn't what he or she wants.
At this point I don't think it is possible for us to go shopping - we don't even talk or email. She knows where I am, and I have always been nothing but friendly and tried to extend the branch of friendship to her many dozen times. I really don't know what more I could do. At this point I am so hurt by the situation I would rather not deal with her. She has been disrespectful and has proven that her family isn't very important to her.
She may not believe that she deserves something more, but I am not that weak. I am not the type of person who will intentionally subject myself to pain and hurt. I have too much self-respect and self-esteem. I realize that she is probably very sad and lonely, but I think the only happiness she gets is when she makes others miserable too.
I am sorry if I sound cold and unfeeling - that isn't the case. I actually care for her very much. I hope that she is well and happy. If anyone had any suggestions of things that I could do to make this situation better, I would definitely consider any options. But, at this point I just don't think I could call her out of the blue and pretend that nothing is wrong. I'm not a very good liar. I would be willing to talk to her, but I have a feeling that Tally Sue is correct - Jenny is hostile towards me - she is hostile to everyone, so I try not to take this personally, so it is probably best to keep her at arms length and let her make the first moves, let her know that we are thinking about her with cards, and encourage my DH to keep in contact with her so she knows she is not alone.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2004 at 6:13PM
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Well, it sounds like her boyfriend is a pretty big jerk, but maybe you are stressing out too much about her. It is possible that she just doesn't like her family all that much. It happens. It doesn't necessarily mean that she has problems or that her family has problems - some people just plain don't mix, regardless of biological relation. So maybe she just isn't interested because her family doesn't do it for her.

Not to say that I am right and you are wrong about this, just that it's another perspective to consider.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2004 at 6:38PM
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Normally I just lurk here, but your post compels me to respond.

There is already abuse in the relationship. The BF's behavior in public is the tip of the iceberg as far as indicating his behavior in private. He behaved abusively at your wedding; this wasn't simply a matter of being obnoxiously drunk.

People don't just "dislike" their family. There are always reasons. Jenny has some psychological issues, among them lack of self-esteem and an inappropriate sense of entitlement (as evident in accepting nice gifts and luncheons without a thought of returning the favor by at least doing her share as a BM). My guess is that even though she might have a college education, she doesn't have a fulfilling career or has trouble sticking to one thing.

I suspect the wedding brought up commitment issues within her own relationship, and having to be involved was a sort of "in her face" thing. The bf likely doesn't want marriage, and was distinctly uncomfortable at the thought of going to the wedding at all. I suspect they had quite a few arguments about attending the wedding and about their own relationship around that time.

While some who posted here say they haven't seen this sort of drama, I've seen it again and again. I really suggest cutting off contact. No more birthday or holiday greetings, no gifts. You're sending her the message that her behavior is fine with you. But it's not fine; it hangs over your head and is a recurrent topic of conversation in your marriage.

If she's in pain, she'll eventually come around when she realizes that the way she's acting isn't conducive to a healthy family relationship. Nothing you do will make her think/feel/act otherwise, so do nothing.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2004 at 9:52PM
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I agree with those who suggested maintaining contact, but not close. If she is in an abusive relationship (and, like Pinkfire, I've seen hundreds - some professionally, others not.

I disagree with Pinkfire that maintaining relationship shows you approve of her relationship. It doesn't speak to her relationship with her boyfriend so much as it says that you care about her and want to be a part of her life, albeit distantly. Plus, if she ever needs help to get out of the relationship, you'll be there.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2004 at 10:01PM
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To clarify, I suggested that continuing contact suggests that AutumnBride is okay with Jenny's behavior, not her relationship.

AutumnBride, or any reasonable, impartial third party would see continuing contact as caring, a desire to be involved, and a "statement" that she'll be there for her.

However, that's likely not the way Jenny sees it. Who knows what she thinks. Maybe she sees the "reaching out" as guilt-tripping and an obligation. Maybe she feels pestered. Whatever it is, I didn't see AutumnBride mention any ways she at least shows she appreciates it.

I suggested cutting off contact, and to let Jenny reach out when she's ready. I didn't suggest that AutumnBride ignore her. I said "If she's (Jenny) in pain, she'll eventually come around when she realizes that the way she's acting isn't conducive to a healthy family relationship. Nothing you do will make her think/feel/act otherwise, so do nothing." To continue this one-sided "contact" will eventually take a toll.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2004 at 1:52PM
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