Dear Captain Awkward:
Please help captain! (I really struggled getting my letter to around 400words – there is a lot more detail if you need it )
My brother-in-law ‘Hector’ is 36 and ‘Agnes’ is his first ‘girlfriend’. I’d known Agnes for a few years before setting her up with Hector– she’s now 40 and her only previous relationship was when she was a teenager.
Over the years I’ve known her she had displayed a lot of questionable behaviour e.g. stalking guys she was interested in, obsessively stalking old friends on social media and do things like go through people’s drawers and medicine cabinets and take photos which she’d share with her mother. I’d overlooked these things as she was fun company (apart from the strangeness) and I don’t have that many friends.
So basically I set my dysfunctional brother in law up with my dysfunctional friend and now I’m suffering consequences, and now it’s affecting Christmas.
My husband and I alternated Christmas – one year at my parents and the next at his. Agnes now refuses to spend Christmas day at his parents’ as she ‘has a niece’ (her ‘weapon’) and so spends every Christmas day with her family. She hates my in-laws – she refuses to let them into her house whilst she is there, and sulks whenever she is in a room with them.
So, 2 years ago my husband and I decided to host Christmas, either on Christmas Eve, or Boxing Day (thereby letting her spend Christmas day with her family). This worked well. However, this must have been going too well (as Agnes lives off drama) and so when I asked about Christmas (at this point we were relatively close and messaged each other every day) she told me that it was all arranged and that she and Hector were spending Christmas Eve with her family and that they had made arrangements to go to the in-laws on 23rd December.
I replied saying that I was upset that my husband and I were not asked. Since then I have not heard from her (this was back in August).
My husband and I have since decided to go ahead as we would have done, and are hosting on Christmas Eve –we invited Hector and Agnes, and the invitation was declined. However, I’m still upset and brooding about this. If she’d have just said ‘oh my sister has invited us to a meal on Christmas Eve’ I’d have given options and worked around her on the dates – but the fact that they’d just arranged it all without us… just hurts.
I was hoping for a script or some advice on how to handle this difficult relationship going forward?
Thanks for your letter. I don’t actually need any more details about Hector and Agnes and their relationship because here is what is happening:
A) You’ve invited them to do Christmas with you this year and they’ve said no.
B) They have not been cool about inviting you to their celebrations or working with you on alternative plans.
Ergo, you probably won’t see them or have to deal with them this Christmas, and you also have permission to “Invite once, listen to the answer, and then do your own thing that works for you” for all future holidays while they are a couple. You tried, you made a ton of effort to include them, and it failed. So, stop trying.
Agnes & Hector’s relationship is not your fault or your problem, and you are 100% not the ambassador between them and your in-laws. You are also not responsible for enforcing some kind of “But we’re all together at Christmas” family rules this year or any other. It’s actually okay for adults to change up how holidays are celebrated or to bow out of events. They did it rudely and without good communication, but they did it, and it’s done. Your in-laws are perfectly capable of saying “No, the 23 doesn’t work for us” or “We want to celebrate all together on Christmas Eve like we normally do.” They did not, but that doesn’t make it your job to fix. Learn the words “We invited them but they won’t make it” and “Huh, you’ll have to ask Hector about that” and “You’ll have to ask [Spouse] about that” or “You’ll have to ask Agnes about that” and say them as freely and as often as you say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. See also: “Whatever you want, Agnes” or “I don’t really care about scheduling around Agnes anymore, what do you suggest, Spouse?”
Now, Agnes is not behaving like your friend right now. It sounds like you are making a lot of effort to include her and schedule around her and getting none in return. You could spend a lot of time chasing her and trying to get her to behave, but you have a lifetime of evidence of how she behaves in conflict situations (not great!). You’ve already told her how you feel and what you wish would happen, and she didn’t respond well (or at all?) to any of it. So, maybe when all the holiday hubbub dies down in January it’s time for you to spend some time looking for new people to hang out with. People who don’t stalk their crushes, people who understand the RSVP. I think it’s time you mentally reclassify her from “my friend” to “Hector’s girlfriend, a person it’s fun to trade the odd meme or message with” and rock on with a holiday that works for you.
Sometimes annoying and inconsiderate people accidentally give you the gift of permission to stop considering their convenience and planning around them. Happy Christmas!