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Dear Captain Awkward,
My family has managed to kill the buzz of new marital bliss…or at least I’m allowing them to in my mind.
After a decade-plus long marriage, children, and lots of misery, I divorced, and later married a long time friend. We have a very solid relationship, my children adore him, and life is as good as it can be with our hectic schedules. Other than my parents, there was no wedding for my family to attend. Because this was my new husband’s first marriage, and he lives out of state, we were married there so that his family could all be present. My family was aware that we were getting married, and explanations were made regarding the wedding location. Our wedding happened, and life moved on. The problem is, I haven’t….at least not in my mind.
Many families are “quirky”, and mine is no exception. Heck, Hollywood seems to have a whole film genre for uncomfortable family comedies. It’s all fun and games until it’s your own, though. Since our marriage, exactly one family member (in my sizable family) has called to wish us congratulations. Not a single card. Lest you say this is sour grapes over not receiving money or gifts, or some obnoxious etiquette whinge…Maybe deep, deeep down there is a bit of truth to that. I can’t imagine not giving my own sibling/niece/grandchild a wedding gift. It is my second marriage, and there was no wedding for them to come to, so it is understandable. My greatest concern is (in addition to the fact that his family now thinks mine must be pure evil and worries about what he has married into), my husband feels hurt and jilted, when he has moved away from his EXTREMELY, UNBEARABLY close-knit family to be here. He has inferiority issues regarding my first husband. He makes less than half of what the Ex made, he is missing the 15+ years of family history my ex had with us, etc. He could use some friends here, or at least acknowledgement that he exists.
No one has reached out, invited us over, or has tried to get to know him in any way. In fact, I was told by my sister not to bring him with me (during our engagement) when I visited her out of the country, “because it would be like having a stranger in her house.” That trip to see her was taken at the cost of our honeymoon. (It was all the money I could save in two years, and all of my PTO from work.) I thought that was the final straw, until no one even acknowledged that I had gotten married at all.
My family does not still seem to be grieving for my previous marriage or Ex. Our divorce was very friendly, amicable, and we still raise the kids together exceptionally well. My divorce did not inconvenience the extended family in any way (not even so much as a babysitting request), so I just can’t wrap my head around what is going on here. Yes, some cards of gifts for our wedding would have been nice, but having them welcome the man I love into the family would have been the best gift of all. Too bad none of them can bother.
Can’t wait for Thanksgiving
Dear Can’t Wait:
Throw a party. Invite all the friends and family who are local to you, and invite all of your family who are not local to you. Get some nice invitations and send them in the mail. My family lives in Massachusetts, and I am in Illinois, and I cannot fly home for every wedding, baby shower, christening, bridal shower, etc., but it’s nice to be invited. An invitation isn’t a command. The people sending them know that I almost certainly can’t come and there’s no pressure attached. But they still send them, because an invitation is a message that I am included. Send them the message that they are included. Model the behavior that you’d like to see from them.
You said your family was aware that you were getting married. “Aware” is not the same as “invited.” Maybe that is the root of this trouble, maybe not. It’s so tempting to try to figure out what went wrong here, but since you can’t change it, what matters is what you want to happen now. Do you want your husband to get to know your family, and vice versa? Do you want to rebuild a connection? If they won’t do the inviting, you do it. See who shows up.
“But it’s their job to invite us over,” I can hear you are saying. Sure. But “they” haven’t. And you’re an adult, and maybe the lines of who usually does the inviting have gone all blurry. This is a little bit like the case of the person who feels excluded from a former friend group— Maybe the group doesn’t hold together as an entity anymore, but some of the individuals in the group are still reachable. “Divide and conquer” isn’t quite the right phrase, but, “Connect to the people who you love best, who you most want to introduce to your husband” is a decent strategy here.
It can be a casual party, like an open-house. Make or otherwise obtain some food, put out some plates and napkins, put some drinks in a cooler, and throw your doors open. Don’t try to replicate a wedding or even refer to a wedding. “It’s fall, come eat chili with us.” Definitely seed the crowd with a few dependable friends, and maybe some friends of your kids, so you know there will be at least someone who shows up and so you can all have a good time no matter what happens.
The people who come will get to know your husband. It won’t be everyone. It won’t be your sister, for instance. But it will be a start.
P.S. Your husband is used to being surrounded by a close-knit group of people, so this is a big adjustment, to be sure, and he will have to make an effort to make friends and find people who share his interests. You can support that, but you can’t do that work for him, and I don’t think it’s realistic to expect your family to fill in that space even if y’all do establish some kind of friendly relations. Your husband needs to go to Meetups, games nights, sports things, the gym, classes, etc. as if he’s starting from scratch in building a community for himself where you live. Family can be part of that, but they won’t be all of it, especially if they are being doinks about getting to know him. This, this, and this are applicable, especially some of the discussions in the comments. It takes time and sustained effort. I wish him the best with it.