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Getting to the truth about 'true family'

Getting to the truth about 'true family'

Q: My brother's daughter is getting married. He called me last night to "get my thoughts" on whether my stepdaughters should be invited to the wedding, because he "didn't want them to feel obligated." I was stunned and my husband was incredulous.

Lots of history here, but I'm going to condense it. I have been happily married to their dad for almost 20 years, and while they didn't live with us, I love my stepdaughters as my own children. When the older daughter married, my brother and all of his adult children attended except one.

We live in a different state and are not close, but have a superficial "friendly" brother/sister relationship that has been contentious at times.

I totally get that wedding guest lists are maddening. But I feel my brother put me on the spot. His "obligation" reasoning sounds more like "Will you give me permission to not invite them?"

Flustered, I told him I thought my stepdaughters' feelings would be hurt if they weren't invited.

I want to tell him that I thought he was insensitive. Or do I let it lie and not create more wedding stress? I can't help feeling that my brother doesn't see my stepdaughters as "true family." Whew. I'm in paralysis here.


A: This is why the print edition is still useful — you can crumple the top page into a bag and breathe into it when you're hyperventilating.

Clearly, there's history. But the surest way to keep half-century-old grudges alive is to make them the lens through which you view everything your brother says or does.

Guest lists for weddings are maddening: Inclusion costs are prohibitive; exclusion costs are wrenching. Exploring whether farther-flung relatives care about being invited is one logical, if not quite mannerly, approach. So, Brother calls Sister to feel out her family's interest.

This, at least, is how someone without your history views your brother's question. And flustered as you were, your response was exactly what the situation demanded: honest and clear. "They care." A successful transaction completed.

Your stepdaughters are your real family, regardless of what (you think) your brother thinks. It may not come naturally to drop your dukes and just take people's words at face value, but that kind of stress reduction is worth practicing until you've got it down.

Brother should do his part for successful partnership

Q: My dear husband, "Tom," co-owns a business with his brother, "Joe." These days, the business is suffering, and Tom has seriously considered leaving it. There is no one in the company who could fill Tom's role.

Tom thinks that if he leaves, then the business would fail, and "all of his family" would "hate" him and blame the company's failure on him. I believe Tom should do what is best for himself, but I leave the decision to him. How do I help him through this fear?


A: Imagine it's your marriage he's itching to leave. Do you still believe Tom should look out only for Tom?

Entering a partnership means assuming a share of responsibility for the others' well-being. If Tom left the business in a lurch and it consequently failed, then it would be Tom's fault.

"Help him through this fear" by agreeing that it's real, and encouraging Tom to work with Joe on a realistic transition.

Getting to the truth about 'true family' 03/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 7:09pm]
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