Post # 1
my mid-30s neice is marrying, and i have received both a save the date (which makes me suspect an invitation will follow) as well as a shower invitation. My relationship with this neice has never been particularly close, however over the past year she has cut me off altogether (aside from the two items above, I have had no communication with her). She actually de-friended me on social media, and when I approached her to ask what I had done and let her know how hurt I was, she indicated she was defriending anyone who didn’t comment enough on her posts. Social media was the only contact I really ever had with her, to know what was happening in her life, as she didn’t really keep in touch otherwise.
Her mother (my sister), and her sisters have been equally out of touch for a year. Both of her sisters married prior to this estrangement, and I attended both weddings and gifted generously (mostly to honor my sister, as none of her daughters were particularly close to me). Must I do the same for this niece, to keep things balanced, despite her actively turning her back on me?
Is it wrong for me to think I am only invited because she wants a gift? I feel as if she wanted to repair our relationship, some form of real communication to indicate as much would be warranted. I feel uncomfortable attending either event, given the state of my relationship with all of them. Should I just send a gift? To both events or just to the wedding? Or just decline both events, without a gift?
My inclination is to send my regrets at being unable to attend, a note of polite congratulations and good wishes, and a small gift to both – though deep inside I’d like to send a letter explaining why I’m not coming, and not giving her any gifts. BUT, I don’t want to forever damage an already dysfunctional family relationship.Do I need to just pretend they haven’t really hurt me over the past year of complete exile?
Post # 2
You said she defriended you on Facebook – is that all that made you think you were estranged? I suppose I’m confused. I don’t feel estranged from family I haven’t spoken to in a year or more, we just lead busy lives and don’t have time to chat. But I don’t have many family members on social media, I typically add only friends. And I also unfriend anyone who hasn’t talked to me in a while. There’s just no point in bothering them with my life if they don’t want to know about it, and that’s how I’d interpret silence.
I would talk to your sister and find out if it was intentional. If it wasn’t, go and enjoy yourself after the misunderstanding has been cleared up.
Post # 3
ugh… It’s a huge long story. I will try to abridge.
so, my sister and I have had a relationship that swings between absent and tense for years. My mother was upset by it, but indirectly contributed to it by comparing our weaknesses and shortcomings to each other. (“Why can’t you be more like your sister? She’s so popular.” to me. And “Why can’t you be more like your sister? She’s so studious and focused on her future.” to her). Mom knew how to find the vulnerable spots and really poke at them cruelly.
When mom died, I was designated executer – and there was a conflict between my sister and brother over an item (of minimal worth beyond sentiment). I was assigned the job of settling the dispute. My sister was unhappy with my decision (which I agonized over and really tried to do what I thought my mother would have done).
Since then, she and her daughters have completely shunned me. It’s been heartbreaking. i have no other local family. So the avoidance isn’t unintentional or a matter of misunderstanding. It’s meant to exile me.
Now the dilemma is: do I choke back my hurt and pretend all is fine and go, OR do the minimal polite thing (gift and note, but not attend – which I am leaning toward) OR decline and not send gift (which the hurt and angry part of me wants to do, but suspects that will only worsen the family dysfunction)???
sorry for the novel😢
Post # 4
It kinda sounds like you’re taking your issues with your sister out on your niece. Not to say your niece is being a dream to you or anything, but you guys don’t really have to do all that to be loving and have a fine aunt-niece relationship.
Post # 5
Ahhhh, I’m sorry OP! That sounds much more serious than it sounded in the original post.
Personally, I’d go the gift and note route. I think that the niece is probably influenced by what her mom says, and you are correct that not sending a gift would make it worse. It’s difficult to be the bigger person. But you can and should do it in the interest of keeping the peace. Attending might be painful for you and awkward for them, and you’ll probably walk away feeling like they didn’t spend much time with you because they’ll be busy. Perhaps the best thing would be to say you can’t make it, but send a note saying you’d like to go out to eat or have them over for dinner to celebrate instead…and follow up with an invitation after the shower or wedding, when things calm down for them. I hope things work out for you! It sounds like a mess.
Post # 6
If you’ve given the niece’s siblings gifts, you should do something of similar value.
The invitation may be an attempt at building a bridge. Maybe go to the shower and if it goes well and you feel welcomed, also attend the wedding but if you aren’t treated warmly at the shower, send your regrets for the wedding?
Post # 7
It sounds like you really do not want to go. Personally, give them a call to express your concerns and try to mend the bridge. If it is not worth it then do not go and do not give your generous gift. If you feel like it is worth it then skip the shower, go to the wedding and give a smaller gift
Post # 8
Thank you everyone. Your responses are thoughtful, helpful, and very much appreciated. I have a month before the shower and 3 before the wedding, so hopefully enough time to gather my emotions and set them aside to do the right thing. If I didn’t care so much about them all, their collective banishment wouldn’t be so painful.
Post # 9
So…I have to just say this and hope I don’t offend you: what is the age difference between you and your niece? Because in my experience, younger people (and not even THAT much younger–like as little as 5 years!) have a very different relationship to FB and social media than people who are older. My younger cousins in their early twenties would feel it’s nothing personal to “streamline” their FB pages and purge people that they don’t have a lot of contact with on FB, whereas I could see my older aunts, uncles, and parents feel that the same act is a true social snub. And in general, the same age difference holds true when it comes to expectations of social contact–sometimes younger people feel like it’s not a big deal to go for long periods of time without talking to family members (and this is very true if they’re somewhere around college age and sort of wrapped up in getting to set their wings and live their own lives). Then again, I don’t know what kind of relationship you had with your niece to begin with and whether this is truly a freeze-out for you.
I agree with most responses above–I think that at the very least, you should send her a gift and a card, even if you end up not attending, because she’s family. I would lean towards attending for the same reason in that I don’t think a wedding is the best event to use to express your social discontent with a family member–if you don’t feel welcomed, then you can gracefully wish her well in her marriage and concentrate on other more important people in your life. But I put that bit above just to give you a little different perspective, in case it helps.
Post # 10
I am older than her by roughly 13 years. Her mother – my sister – and I have the same age difference. I’m sure she thinks I’m old, but she’s an adult woman in her late 30s. So not exactly a kid.
My niece and I were never close – but not unfriendly either. The FB cut off came immediately on the heels of the conflict I had with her mom. All the usual family gatherings – birthdays, holidays, events – I’ve been excluded from for over a year. These are RITUALS in our family. I am certain I’m not misreading the snub.
And that is why an invite to her shower and wedding are particularly stinging to me. She could have sent a note saying “hey, I’m sorry for what happened. Let’s put it in the past.” But she didn’t. Just an invite and a registry list.
My guess is she couldn’t care less if I go or not – she just wants a gift. My sister *may* be upset if I don’t go, but going almost certainly won’t improve our relationship. Nothing ever has.