Dear Advicist, I hope you can help me. Three years a go I got married, and had my sister in law (bro’s wife) as a bridesmaid.
She got very involved (some witnesses described it as ‘domineering’) in the organisation of the event (which we wanted to keep quite low key, and she did not quite see that). She ended up very cross and insulted by our ingratitude and general behaviour.
I am a sane and reasonable person, with friends of many years and good family. I am not perfect at all, but I do my best, and have really tried to work out where we went wrong at this event. Ever since, we have been ‘persona non grata’, if that’s the term.
Seen begrudgingly, invitations to lunch or tea ignored, arrangements made with other family that doesn’t include us. I find it very hurtful, and sad. We were never close friends, but we had an okay relationship as sisters in law.
I sometimes wonder whether it was all my fault, for having her as a bridesmaid in the first place – perhaps that was too much strain on the relationship. I knew, in my heart, that the potential was there for this to go wrong (I do find her domineering, as the witnesses described, but I have always defended her with regards to that, and accepted it about her).
As I write this I realise it is complicated. I cannot say I am desperate to be best friends, and I accept we may be quite different people, but that is fine. I do want to be good family, see each other at birthdays and meet occasionally for tea, in a kind of neutral territory.
At the moment they are making out that quite distant relatives are more important to them than we are. Is it possible that the wedding was used as an excuse to make the break? If I look back over the course of knowing her, she has sometimes caused trouble for me before, speaking against me to my parents (her in-laws) for example, or by being quite judgmental. Perhaps she was never that keen on having us be in their lives? What should I do?
Firstly, let me say I am sorry for you that you don’t have the relationship with her that you envisaged. It sounds like you tried to reach out and create a friendship with her by inviting her to be in your wedding, and, though you knew it was a risky strategy, you are upset it didn’t work out.
That is totally understandable, and I commend you for asking her to be a part of your wedding in the first place. (Brides to Be: let this serve as a warning to listen to your gut when picking your bridal party, however. Nice intentions are good, but be careful).
Unfortunately, you are now in the place where she doesn’t really seem to want a close relationship with you, and you do.
I’m sorry to tell you that you can only have the relationship with someone that they want to have with you. You can’t be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be your friend. You can’t be lovers with someone who isn’t interested. I think you know that.
As for how to proceed, the only thing I can suggest is that you keep reaching out, because a) a relationship with her is obviously important to you b) it’s the right thing to do anyway (and we all know I love the moral highground) c) as the wedding fades from view, she may come around.
So I’d continue to invite her to family events, get in touch on birthdays, send her a text every now and then asking how she’s doing. I’d reach out especially on important milestones in her life (eg. “Happy Wedding anniversary! Remember how we danced to “Don’t Stop Believing'”, or whatever.
I’d go for texts that don’t ask a question or require a response. That way, if you get one, you feel like you are getting somewhere, but you’re not left waiting, hanging on, and wondering why she isn’t replying.
Not much else I can offer, unfortunately. I’m not a fan of begging someone for their friendship, I would be careful not to come across as too desperate, but that probably has more to do with me and my insecurities than decent advice. Keep doing what you’re doing. Hopefully she’ll eventually realise you have a good heart, and any misunderstandings between the two of you are just a difference in personalities, and not a direct attack.
(and for those of you wondering why I am being so nice, it’s because the questioner sounds very self-aware, and has already realised the above about her sister-in-law – she is who she is, she’s not trying to be awkward, she’ s just difficult. Sorry if you only come for the snark. I’ve got some good stuff lined up…).
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