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Help me get over being excluded from a bf's family event.
July 5, 2012 4:38 AM   Subscribe

I wasn't invited to my boyfriend's family function, and I can't seem to get over it. Help me.

I've been dating my boyfriend for three years. He has two siblings - a brother and sister. His sister lives in another state. His sister got engaged recently and came home one a trip with her partner's family to the beach nearby. My boyfriend was invited one night down with his parents to celebrate their engagement. His brother and his partner (= married) were invited down the next night.

I am friendly to his sister. We socialize at all other family events (I am invited to every family event sans this one). Sometimes we chat online. I have even gone, by myself, and stayed with her and her partner in their state while I was there on a work trip. The only issue I've ever had with her came a few months back as she gave some advice to her brother that was taken out of context from another conversation she and I had about finances that was one of the reasons we broke up for a few days.

I can't help but feel excluded. My boyfriend tells me I'm crazy for feeling that way. I'm not happy with him for not "taking my side" on this. He has a tendency to white knight his family even when they do something wrong. Also, I don't know if maybe there's a bigger issue with his sister I should address. I haven't said anything about not being invited and about being hurt from her comments from before. I basically ignored her on the 4th (I get the feeling she ignored me too) when the extended family was all together and felt petty about it all day. Help me find a way to move on from this.
posted by quodlibet to Human Relations (35 answers total)
 
Take the high road. Send a card/other appropriate small gift along with your hearty congratulations. If you and your boyfriend stay together, and especially if relations between you and Sis thaw, you'll be remembered as forgiving and correct. Make the choice you can live with in the long run, rather than the one that satisfies the urge to return pettiness for pettiness.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:44 AM on July 5, 2012 [28 favorites]


My boyfriend tells me I'm crazy for feeling that way.

Th bigger issue to address is not with your boyfriend's sister, it's with your boyfriend. 3 years together and he's ok with his family excluding you from milestone celebrations? It sounds like you and your boyfriend are not viewing your relationship in the same light.
posted by headnsouth at 4:47 AM on July 5, 2012 [39 favorites]


a few months back... we broke up for a few days.

1) It sounds like she may not see this as the steadiest relationship 2) If she wants to celebrate her engagement just with her very closest family, that is 100% her right 3) It is possible she doesn't like you that much, in which case #2 but even moreso.

Totally do what MonkeyToes suggests. It gives you the best long-term odds for peaceful relations.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:55 AM on July 5, 2012


and felt petty about it all day

I am glad you felt that way, becuase really it was a petty thing to do. If you want to pick a fight with his family on this issue, you can easily. But being gracious will serve you better in the long run.

You do not know why you were not invited. What if the issue is with the sister's future mother-in-law? Maybe the sister suggested inviting you, and the future MIL said no. Maybe the sister is the one who made the decision, and now feels bad about it. Maybe the sister is just a jerk.

I also do not think that giving your boy-friend an ultimatum is crazy. Do you you really want to force him to make a choose between you and his sister? Especially when you are not clear about the sister's motivation.

Your feelings being hurt, that is very understandable. I feel for you there, but being bitter and pursuing a fight will not serve anything. Let it go. Be the bigger person. Be centered with yourself, regardless of his sister's problems.
posted by Flood at 4:56 AM on July 5, 2012


Your description makes it sound as though his sister's partner's family (i.e., his sister's future in-laws) did the inviting, not your partner's family. Is this correct? If so, what do you know about them? Even today, some people can be surprisingly conservative when it comes to differentiating between marrieds, engageds and everyone else. More to the point, they might not feel comfortable inviting an unmarried couple to spend the night together. Its also possible that, if the future in-laws did the inviting, they either didn't know your boyfriend had a long-term committed girlfriend, or that they just said something like "we're inviting your siblings and their families." Do you know if you were specifically excluded?

Also, you don't say how old you are. There is, for better or worse and for many people, a difference between "20 year olds who have dating for three years of college" and, say, "34 year olds who have been dating for three years."
posted by slkinsey at 5:08 AM on July 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is a pretty deliberate exclusion and I would be really hurt, too. But before you do or say anything your boyfriend should recognize how awful it is for you to be excluded, and be working to defuse the tension between you and his sister. This could escalate, and I'm sure he doesn't want that.

Is his family okay with you being left out, or are they just not getting involved? It could be that when you guys broke up, though briefly, his family started to see your relationship as less "permanent", and/or took his sister's side in whatever caused the dispute. As a result they may be less inclined to automatically include you in family events. Totally impolite and not okay, but that could be a cause. Again, if this is the case your boyfriend needs to be working hard to ensure that you are accepted as an important part of his life.

Seriously though, if he continues to dismiss your views and feelings as "crazy", and is okay with you not being around for family stuff, you need to re-examine your relationship beyond this current situation.
posted by sundaydriver at 5:08 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but I think you might be going a tiny bit overboard on this. It sounds like it was a purely 'family' gathering to celebrate new (permanent) family ties.

If you and your boyfriend were yourselves engaged to be married, I bet you WOULD have been invited: the married sibling brought their apparently-permanent SO, the engaged sibling brought their about-to-be-permanent SO, but the 'dating' sibling (your boyfriend) did not bring a person who might (or might not!) become a permanent family member.

If you'd been dating for, say, twenty years instead of three, then they'd probably have classified you as 'permanent' and invited you to this 'FAMILY ONLY!' gathering.
posted by easily confused at 5:10 AM on July 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Ask the sister. Seriously. And say something like "did I do something to offend you? I was surprised and a little hurt that I wasn't invited."

Sometimes just your willingness to ask is enough to smooth things over without having to have a big conversation about it if the answer is yes.

My other thought is: how do you know you weren't invited? Was this communicated to you directly by the sister? Did you read the invite?
posted by vitabellosi at 5:17 AM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Are you sure the sister did the non-inviting and not your boyfriend? Is it possible he wanted some alone time and made an excuse to his sister as to why you couldn't be there.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:18 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify - yes, the sister did the inviting.

I appreciate the advice. I definitely need perspective outside my own head on this one.
posted by quodlibet at 5:21 AM on July 5, 2012


I agree with a previous poster that your age would be helpful to know for the purposes of this conversation - particularly for how seriously a non-engaged couple would be taken.

Also: do you live together? Has there been any talk of living together/getting engaged in the future? Is it clear that Boyfriend sees this as a permanent partnership? You mention that you broke up briefly - what happened there? I agree with previous posters that family-only gatherings generally tend to be for family and people who are about to be family or are considered as family.
posted by corb at 5:23 AM on July 5, 2012


Late 20s.

We lived together but when we broke up - he moved out and moved home. We have plans to move in together soon, when we are both ready.
posted by quodlibet at 5:25 AM on July 5, 2012


We lived together but when we broke up - he moved out and moved home. We have plans to move in together soon, when we are both ready.

I think this makes more sense now; everyone invited is either direct family or married in. You guys don't really qualify, as you took a recent step back in your relationship and it sounds like there might still be unresolved tension over the issues involved. I can understand how, on one's special day, if it's "family only" you weren't invited.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 5:33 AM on July 5, 2012 [21 favorites]


You say the sister did the inviting, but whose party was it?

As someone has already mentioned, whoever actually issued the invitations, it sounds like these gatherings were hosted by your boyfriend's sister's fiance's parents. (If her in-laws' whole family is there and she came with them, it seems like it's really their event, no?) Maybe they told her to invite her brother and she didn't pipe up. I understand that in some situations, the boyfriend's sister would say, "Oh, you know, it would be great to also invite quodlibet, my brother's girlfriend," and that would be great if she did it, but ... I mean, that constitutes taking it upon yourself to invite someone to a dinner being hosted by your future in-laws. If his sister wasn't comfortable doing that, I'm not sure I can really blame her without knowing more about it than this.

You can be cold to the sister (which it sounds like you're kind of already doing), which I think stands very little chance of improving the situation and every chance of making it worse. You can insist that your boyfriend confront his sister on your behalf, which I think is an absolutely terrible idea in this particular situation. Or you can take the high road, as already suggested, and send her a lovely note congratulating her and keep in mind that you don't really have to care whether you get to go to your boyfriend's sister's fiance's parents' house.

Give them the benefit of the doubt that it's not personal. When you're not living together as the result of a previous breakup and you haven't decided you're ready to move back in together, not treating you the same as a spouse isn't necessarily about you personally, particularly since your boyfriend's sister wasn't even doing the hosting. Make yourself happy; don't fixate on a slight that may not even be one. With luck, you're going to have your BF's sister in your life a long time. Stay on good terms.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:34 AM on July 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was writing an answer but your latest update changes things. From your boyfriend's sister's point of view, it may look like you had been a committed couple (when living together), then you broke up and have not yet recommitted to one another in the same way (because you're still living apart). I can imagine that someone who has just taken the step of getting engaged might not want both of you there, and might even think it would be uncomfortable for you to be celebrating a life-long commitment (in theory...) when you and your boyfriend have just taken a step backwards from such a commitment--that is, she might have felt that if you and your boyfriend were both there, you'd feel upset about the fact that she was engaged and you two were still living apart.

The bigger issue, though, is that you and your boyfriend disagree seriously about how you should feel, and more generally, how to deal with his family. That's something you'll need to work out before you're ready to make a commitment (whether that be engagement, moving back in together, or something else).
posted by brianogilvie at 5:38 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


It makes sense to me why his sister then would not invite you. He's not too far removed from having a public break-up that caused him to move home and his sister was involved even in a tangental way. I'd want to avoid that drama if I were her, too...even if the chance of drama was low. (And if you avoided her all day yesterday...I'd say that it might still be uncomfortable. It's certainly not the "friendly" as you initially described it)

He should be supportive of you, yes, but you have to communicate exactly why you were hurt. He has no power to dictate who they invite to their functions, of course, but he can be supportive of you and listen to what you have to say.

What you do is you send a nice, heartfelt note to his sister congratulating her on her engagement and invite her to lunch in an attempt to try to come to some middle ground to repair your rift.
posted by inturnaround at 5:39 AM on July 5, 2012


I can't help but feel excluded.

That seems to be the fundamental issue – you feel left out. Everything else is a distraction. @monkeytoes has great advice on how to handle that aspect above.

My boyfriend tells me I'm crazy for feeling that way.

A different issue seems to be that your boyfriend is diminishing your feelings.

I'm not happy with him for not "taking my side" on this. He has a tendency to white knight his family even when they do something wrong.

Three years is about the right time for this conflict. It's very natural. We must make decisions between our families and our partners. The 2011 Ed Burns film Newlyweds offers a good take on this.

What happened: you were not invited to a family function.
What it means to you: your boyfriend does not weight your needs on the same level as those of his family.

I basically ignored her on the 4th (I get the feeling she ignored me too) when the extended family was all together and felt petty about it all day. Help me find a way to move on from this.

You may well be reacting to the wrong problem – the sister's (lack of invite) – and making a new situation out of it, when the real conflict you have seems to be your standing in your boyfriend's life related to the family.
posted by nickrussell at 5:40 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just wondering just how clearly the non invite was. I know my family in law would just say to my husband, hey are you coming to the beach house for so and so's engagement and it could be read as just him but they mean both of us. Or was it clearly we just want you don't bring her.

I know that I am the sort of person that would just have turned up anyway assuming that I was invited if my partner was, but I am completely oblivious when people are mad at me and often need it pointing out.

If the invite was very clearly bf only, then I'd take the highroad, for all you know the Sister was pressured by her family/mother to not invite you. Heck it could be as simple as you aren't living together yet so they assumed you'd want your own room and they didn't have enough space.

If they have always been nice to you before, and are still nice to you in other ways and you are planning on being with your bf for a while, give everyone the benefit of the doubt on this one, if it ends up being a typical behaviour once you 2 are back to living together again then I'd start to worry.
posted by wwax at 5:40 AM on July 5, 2012


Try to think of it as a lucky break - that you didn't have to spend time at a tedious family function.

It's not your boyfriends's family you're in love with, after all: you get on with them for his sake when required but otherwise who cares?
posted by Segundus at 5:59 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, your boyfriend's sister dissed you. That's her. It's family stuff. If you and your boyfriend were living together, engaged, etc, then it might mean more that you weren't invited. But you're not there yet. Maybe she knows something you don't?

It's possible that she doesn't like you and chooses not to spend time with you. That's her perogative. It sucks to be excluded, but you shrug your shoulders and move on. Not everyone is going to like you, you aren't going to be invited to everything.

The take-away from this is that your boyfriend's sister does not view you as family. Your boyfriend didn't even seem to be overly concerned that you were excluded, or that your feelings were hurt.

I really hate to say this, but if your boyfriend felt even remotely strongly about this, he would have asked you to come. Hell, he would have assumed you were invited! So, you were specifically NOT invited or it didn't even occur to him to ask if he could bring you when you weren't included in the invitation.

Since you broke up temporarily, and have backed down from living together, you may want to seriously address where you are in your relationship. I think that it's possible that he's distancing himself from you, and you are just not picking up on the clues.

Don't do anything childish or passive aggressive, but start getting a support system and a contingency plan together. Start paying attention to what he's saying and NOT saying.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:16 AM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I really think that trying to make nice and taking the high road is going to be the best way to move on from this.

I also wonder if feeling insecure in your relationship is a factor. In that case, it might also help to have a conversation with your boyfriend about where you stand and where he sees things going.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:24 AM on July 5, 2012


We lived together but when we broke up - he moved out and moved home. We have plans to move in together soon, when we are both ready.

With this update, I actually think it does make sense why you would not have been invited. When you said "we broke up for a few days," I thought it might have been a small spat which was quickly resolved. But this sounds more serious - you broke up, he moved home, and even though you got back together, he did not move back in with you. The relationship has definitely taken a major, major step back. It is quite probable that he's also been discussing this relationship and its step back with his sister, which another reason why she doesn't feel you're permanent enough to be invited to family only gatherings.

The issue of who invited you is a red herring. If you were considered as a permanent part of Boyfriend's life, he would have insisted to his sister, who would have then insisted to whoever was doing the inviting. "No, no, you forgot quodlibet! Quodlibet absolutely must be there!"

I think you are being hurt rightfully, but over the wrong thing. The thing to be hurt about (and maybe even the thing you are really hurt about) is the feeling of being transitioned to a different stage in Boyfriend's life. That's something that can only be resolved by having relationship conversations with Boyfriend about where you are.
posted by corb at 6:52 AM on July 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


Three thoughts:

1) His sister might perceive that your relationship with her brother is winding down.
2) What is your boyfriend's explanation for the exclusion? He surely would have had a conversation with his sister about her excluding you. What did he say?
3) You giving snubbing his sister all day on the 4th might have reinforced what contributed to her decision to exclude you.

Also, go with monkeytoes suggestion about sending a card. Do it.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:55 AM on July 5, 2012


What did your boyfriend say when you asked him about it?
posted by KogeLiz at 6:57 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right. So... you're in your 20s. You have dated your boyfriend for three years, during which time you presumably lived apart in the beginning, then together for some unspecified amount of time, then broke up to the extent that he moved out. You have not moved back in together as yet and there don't seem to be any tangible plans to move back in or deepen the commitment level of the relationship level in the foreseeable future. Getting engaged and eventually married doesn't seem to be on the table right now.


Having been in your shoes once upon a time, I know it can feel like people aren't respecting your relationship, etc. But from the perspective of a decade+ more years, having seen plenty of relationships (marriage and otherwise) come and go among my friends over the years, I can begin to understand their position. This gathering was for family. And from all outward appearances, your relationship doesn't even qualify you as prospective future family. I'm guessing that if you had been living together for three years in a solid relationship and showed all the hallmarks of a couple that seriously contemplated a lifelong commitment, you might very well have been invited. But as it is, the relationship has the appearance of being casually engaged at the moment and somewhat tenuous overall. Are you younger, older or similar age compared to the sister and other players in this? I'm not in your shoes, so I can't say how it feels from the inside. But I can say how it appears from the outside. 20somethings who don't seem to be contemplating talking marriage after three years in a relationship (especially if there has been a recent breakup & moveout) aren't likely to be considered an established "committed adult couple" that would mandate a joint invitation. If I were inviting people to a family gathering celebrating my engagement, I might have made a similar decision.
posted by slkinsey at 7:18 AM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Could it possibly come down to the practical matter of staying the night? It's not clear if his parents/family have allowed you guys to spend the night together with them before (or if this was even an overnight visit you weren't invited to), but sometimes people are uncomfortable with unmarried couples spending the night together.
posted by juliplease at 7:29 AM on July 5, 2012


Are you upset about this exclusion or about bigger issues with your relationship with your bf? Meaning, do you feel a little insecure or rocky about that relationship and this is a concrete thing to be upset about?

Either way, I think you take the high road and send a card and move on. You're not going to have a better relationship with her if you react angrily or retaliate. At the moment, I might chalk this up to her potential uncertainty about the status of your relationship with bf and an unwillingness to have to deal with that during a celebration. If you need to talk to her to move on, do it without accusing or being angry and just focus on explaining to her how you feel and that you want to move on from it.

I would encourage you to not think of your bf as needing to choose a side - being in between family and significant other is a terrible place to be, and my feeling is that in that situation a person should listen to and respect feelings on both sides. He can't be responsible for what his family does or how you feel about it.
posted by mrs. taters at 7:39 AM on July 5, 2012


No spending the night involved - just a day trip (maybe that makes me even sillier for getting so worked up?)

I think y'all are right that this relates to the bigger issue of my insecurities of the status of my relationship with my boyfriend and less to do with his sister and this party. A relationship talk is in order - but I think I need some time/space from this current event before launching into that.
posted by quodlibet at 7:41 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you were considered as a permanent part of Boyfriend's life, he would have insisted to his sister, who would have then insisted to whoever was doing the inviting. "No, no, you forgot quodlibet! Quodlibet absolutely must be there!"

Even if it's at someone else's house or vacation house or whatever? Not in any family I have ever heard of. If the fiance's parents are hosting -- if they said, "Why don't you invite your parents and your brother over to have dinner with us and celebrate!" -- the boyfriend upon being invited has absolutely no power to insist they also invite his girlfriend, and if his girlfriend tries to "insist," that's going to go pretty badly for her also. That's why I am so concerned about encouraging her to take it personally.

Quod, I'm super-glad you're chalking it up to relationship stuff and not this one thing, because I really don't think this one thing in a vacuum would be an issue. You have lots of reasons to feel kind of unsteady about the relationship, and it's totally logical that this would pick at all your scabs, but really -- if you can work the other stuff out, don't let this become a sticking point. It's one dinner, and the family obviously accepts you in general (you saw the extended family on the 4th!). Give yourself and your boyfriend a break and think about the big picture, no?
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:44 AM on July 5, 2012


Some people feel that a family gathering is just for family, and if there is no engagement ring on your finger, you are not technically part of their family.

I would act as if everything is fine around his family. The last thing you want is to do anything which would make his family think less of you, because when you do become part of the family, you don't want to be the person everyone complains about because of one thing you said (or didn't say) years earlier.
posted by markblasco at 7:52 AM on July 5, 2012


Some people feel that a family gathering is just for family, and if there is no engagement wedding ring on your finger, you are not technically part of their family.

FTFY (based on personal experience)
posted by tilde at 8:02 AM on July 5, 2012


Even today, some people can be surprisingly conservative when it comes to differentiating between marrieds, engageds and everyone else. More to the point, they might not feel comfortable inviting an unmarried couple to spend the night together.

This is a thing. My partner and I still have to sometimes be proactive about exclusive invitations, and quell the OH NOES YOU CAN'T SLEEP IN THE SAME ROOM by pointing out that we're in our thirties, and it ain't no thang, and we live together, anyhow...

We lived together but when we broke up - he moved out and moved home.

Hm. Looks like you don't live together. This may be an issue with the family, and your boyfriend may or may not want to be proactive about that, depending on his relationship with this family. That may or may not be an issue in your relationship, but it is impossible to say at this point, with this information. Some people are more conservative than other, and some people are more likely to stand up to their family than others.

I basically ignored her on the 4th (I get the feeling she ignored me too) when the extended family was all together.

Yeah. Don't do this. Unless you guys have a rift rooted in the time she physically assaulted you, tried to embezzle money, or some other Grade-A Dramz, I don't see how this is going to turn out well for you in the long run, or ever.
posted by vivid postcard at 10:16 AM on July 5, 2012


I would definitely send her a card, even go as far as sending her a congratulatory gift. And stop with the "ignoring" thing.

It is possible that she is feeling protective of her brother a little bit. I know it sounds very strange, but when I had very bad break-up in my past with a boyfriend that my family knew VERY well (and we weren't living together), my sisters and mom confessed to me that it felt like they were breaking up with him too (they felt angry on my behalf, but also felt a loss). Which was really strange and annoying at the time when I was 24 and thought, "THIS IS SO NOT ABOUT YOU!" But looking back on it with more experience and maturity, well, sure. This was someone that they were very fond of at one time, who spent a lot of time with our family. They didn't have the benefit of "last talks" or closure. He was just...gone. If we had gotten back together, my family would have had conflicted feelings and would probably have protected themselves emotionally until they knew that he was actually staying around.

I applaud you for seeing that this is more about the status of your relationship with your boyfriend and less about his sister. And to put this event aside and focus on that relationship before you worry too much about his family.
posted by jeanmari at 7:25 AM on July 6, 2012


quodlibet: "I think y'all are right that this relates to the bigger issue of my insecurities of the status of my relationship with my boyfriend and less to do with his sister and this party. A relationship talk is in order - but I think I need some time/space from this current event before launching into that."

This sounds like one of the most healthy resolutions to a relationship AskMe I have seen yet, Yay!
posted by Blasdelb at 3:36 AM on July 10, 2012


Just an update for anyone who reads this later: I sent a card but it has still been weird ever since. Sister has now convinced his mother that I am terribly jealous of the wedding. I've now been disinvited to three other family events (another exclusive family engagement party and then two non-wedding related family outings). Boyfriend has recognized what family is doing and been angry for it but has not stood up for me (hasn't said "No Quodlibet should be at our outing to the fall festival. It is not fair to disinvite her."). For the last disinvite, he did not go to event either because of it. However, we haven't moved back in together (due to partly his finances and partly the status of our relationship). We have additional larger relationship issues probably warranting another askmefi post some day (I'm moving in May '13- not sure if he'll move with me...). I have a feeling, as some of the posters suggested, that this problem with family and boyfriend's reaction is just part of a larger problem in my slowly winding down relationship. My advice to anyone facing situation is just to smile, pretend to be excited about wedding, and not say a word critical. Expect your significant other to stand up for you when appropriate (i.e. group outings, not necessarily engagement celebrations). And if they don't - seriously question why.
posted by quodlibet at 2:43 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


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