Carolyn: I have two grown sons, 34 and 31. The older is married with a 3-year-old. The younger has never married but has two children, 2 and 6 months. They both live nearby and I have a good relationship with both and I adore all of my grandkids. I host most of the family functions and have a pool they all like to use.
The older doesn't like or respect the younger's girlfriend and refuses to come to any family function where she is present. He has put me in a position to have to choose whom to invite for what.
Your eldest has taken a stand, but you put yourself in the position of having to choose.
You also had, and still have, the option of letting this son know you won't rig invitations to suit him; say you'll treat both brothers and partners as family members of equal standing. Because they are.
Family means accepting you won't always like who everyone brings into the fold. Explain that you can't stop him from boycotting but, unless there's more to the story, you won't enable such a divisive choice.
Carolyn: I strongly suspect I will run into my ex-girlfriend at an upcoming party, which promises to be awkward. She basically left me for another man while I was prepping for my board certification exams. She and I haven't spoken in more than a year.
Telling her how badly she acted obviously won't fly in a party setting. Do I ask how her work is going when I really don't care? Should I wish her and her new boyfriend well when I don't mean it? Should I fake that everything is cool between us when it's anything but and she broke my heart big-time and owes me a huge apology? Avoid her altogether?
Avoiding her, faking pleasantries, telling her off - all of these have a significant negative element. Do you really want to be the guy who hides, lies or scolds? You didn't give me the one option I was looking for: Say hello and keep on walking.
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