My brother, “Peter,” recently got married for the second time, to a woman named “Valerie.” As his elder brother, I was quite happy for him that he had found someone to spend his life with.
The problem is with Valerie. She has never been particularly nice to me or our extended family. I really do not care whether she likes me, as long as my brother is happy, and I have ignored things she has done that one would consider insulting. I have always addressed her appropriately and have kept quiet when around her.
Recently, we were at a family event. Everyone had a great time, or so I thought. As we were all leaving, Peter pulled me aside and told me how I had insulted Valerie because I did not speak with her during the evening.
Well, I feel Valerie could have talked to me, just as I could have talked more to her. In reality, there is very little to say to her because she cannot hold a conversation. I was not insulted that she did not talk to me, as I don’t care.
But when Peter got home, he wrote me an email listing how I had insulted Valerie on every occasion we’d been together since he started dating Valerie. Needless to say, I was not happy with the email.
Here is an example of how I have insulted Valerie: When we went out for Peter’s bachelor party with about 20 friends, Peter forgot to kiss Valerie goodbye. We were already on our way, and I did not turn around so he could say goodbye to her.
Also, Valerie’s mother passed away two months before the wedding. I did not attend the funeral or pay respects after the funeral. Valerie was deeply insulted by that. I was sick and did not say anything to her because my brother was saying how she was constantly crying. I did not say anything because I did not want her to start crying in front of me and the family (in a public place). Interesting to note, when my father-in-law died six months prior, I never received any condolences from her, nor did she attend the funeral. Both my wife and I did not care and never thought anything of her behavior.
Needless to say, Valerie has caused a lot of trouble. My wife and I no longer want to be around this woman. This has destroyed my relationship with my brother. Any suggestions on how to fix this? It is obvious that no matter what I do, this woman will be insulted.
— Family Dynamics
I’ll grant you this: Valerie sounds demanding, dramatic and more than a little self-involved. That said, I think you could have been more empathetic to her after her mother died. There’s nothing wrong with a person’s persistently crying after losing a loved one. Your fear of tears shouldn’t have stopped you from being there for a woman who was practically — and now is — family. Perhaps if you reach out to Valerie, apologize and tell her you’re sorry for her loss, things will smooth over enough for you and your wife to continue having a cordial relationship with them. If for no other reason, try it for your brother’s sake.
I think you could have been more empathetic to her after her mother died. There’s nothing wrong with a person’s persistently crying after losing a loved one.