I come from a very close Midwestern family. I have one sister, two brothers and great parents. Every other year, we would take a family trip to the lake. As we’ve gotten older, the tradition has stayed and grown to include new family members. We all meet up, bringing our spouses and kids. The problem herein lies with my elder sister and her husband.
When I first met my brother-in-law, he was so nice and friendly to our family. He is an Aussie, and we were charmed by him. He raved about how much he loved the great outdoors and looked forward to keeping up our family tradition. After they got married, everything changed. The first year, my sister and her new husband said they couldn’t make the trip because of his work (even with two years’ notice). The second time around, it was yet again because he had to work.
They just seem to make every excuse in the book not to go. I am the one whom she always calls to break the news. I can hear the real disappointment in her voice as she says they won’t be making it yet again.
Since the wedding, we pretty much have never seen him and rarely have seen her. My brother-inlaw never comes to any family functions and makes no effort to have a relationship with my parents.
I’ve talked to my brothers about this, and they think that because our brother-in-law’s parents live in Australia and he rarely gets to see them, he is jealous that our sister lives so close to her family. Is there anything that I can do to make him come around and want to come on our family trips? My elder sister was always the leader in our family, but now our fearless leader has turned into a cowardly black sheep.
— Black Sheep’s Sibling
It sounds as if your brother-in-law’s true colors came out after the wedding, and they’re sickening shades of green. He is consumed by envy. If he can’t have family, then she can’t have family. This certainly does not seem like a loving marriage.
Her husband sounds — let’s put it kindly — less than perfect, but the real question is why your sister would allow this to go on. I would try talking to her one-on-one to see whether she can reach a compromise with her husband. Maybe propose that they start alternating years — spending vacation at the lake with you one year and in Australia the next. Also make an effort to reach out to your brother-in-law sometimes just to see how he’s doing so he feels that he’s important to you. If he would embrace your family, it might help him feel less homesick.
In a recent column, you printed a letter from a man who didn’t like the friends of a woman he started seeing recently. You said: “If you don’t like this girl’s friends, then my guess is that when you get to know her better, you won’t like her.”
Well, maybe, maybe not. The situation you describe may be an evolving process, and she may well change for the better or worse. It is a hard call at this point. I have seen some remarkable people evolve out of an environment of wacky friends because some significant other happens upon the scene and the person finally comes to her/his senses. And the wacky friends disappear.
— Don D.
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Her husband sounds — let’s put it kindly — less than perfect, but the real question is why your sister would allow this to go on.