Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My fiance’s brother recently married and I was not included in any family pictures, or otherwise a part of the wedding, despite the fact that my fiance and I are engaged. I feel really hurt because, going through the wedding planning process myself, I know this wasn’t a case of simply forgetting, but rather a purposeful decision to exclude me. So it seems either they don’t think I’m family or they think my fiance and I will break up.
Their wedding wasn’t too long ago, but my hurt feelings are getting in the way of wanting to spend time with them. How can I get past these feelings? I know it should be simple to just move on, but I’m really having trouble with it.
People draw some incredibly stupid lines where being inclusive would be so easy — and rewarding, too, even if it means the “wrong” person winds up in pictures because a relationship didn’t last.
I see your point that the exclusion was likely deliberate; these were wedding pictures, and that means someone was lining people up.
But that also means your fiance was lined up for pictures and didn’t take your hand and pull you in. What’s up with that? To me that’s the bigger question, so if you haven’t spoken to him about it, then that’s where you need to start.
As for dealing with the extended family now, I disagree that it “should be simple,” but here are a few useful paths you can take to forgiveness and forgetness:
• Humility. Your future in-laws acted like idiots in a way you won’t easily forget, yes, but someday you will do something idiotic yourself, because we all do. So, you can treat a decision to let this go as a deposit in your emergency fund of goodwill for that day.
• Low expectations. Anyone who reads this column knows people act like complete idiots around weddings, for reasons modern science is helpless to explain, so it really could just be that they got so knotted up by the idea that pictures were Just Family and you aren’t Officially Family Yet that they temporarily forgot to act like human beings. It certainly happens.
• Perspective. This is a lifelong journey (presumably) and this is merely one incident. Picture yourself as a senior citizen and imagine looking back on the number of events, the number of opportunities for them to treat you as family, the sheer number of years that will write new memories over this one. Now envision yourself giving them these many opportunities to show you they have much bigger, more flexible hearts than they had that wedding day. I’ve read many letters over the years detailing how the dread in-law became a trusted confidant, often because they just wore each other’s defenses down, and the common denominator is someone in your role who makes patience a conscious choice.
Marriage and extended family are basically factories churning out complex feelings and choices, so tackling this is an excellent start on your impending marriage. Love your fiance, plan your wedding with a generous heart, and just keep making choices with them the way you wish they had with you. Even if they never warm to you, you’ll be happier with yourself.
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