Who gets the Thanksgiving invite
November 21, 2021 1:19 AM   Subscribe

My sister makes by brother's girlfriend uncomfortable so my sister isn't being invited to Thanksgiving while the rest of my family is. What are people's thoughts on when this is reasonable?

When planning family Thanksgiving we discussed a few different options and my brother preferred the option where he hosts. I just found out that my sister isn't invited because she makes his girlfriend feel uncomfortable and judged. This conflict wasn't on my radar. My long-term takeaway is to next year make sure I or others host so this can't happen. But for this year I wanted to understand people's thoughts on this kind of situation.

My thinking and experience is that Thanksgiving is a family event with lots of people and so unless there is a really really serious issue you don't exclude specific people even if you don't like them. Instead you invite them and minimize contact. I know others think differently and want to be around people who they feel positive about on the holidays (especially if they're the ones hosting). So I'm interested in understanding all the perspectives on this situation. Hopefully that will help me keep an open mind and be more understanding of the situation.
posted by aaabbbccc to Human Relations (103 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Similar view to yours. Hosting Thanksgiving isn’t just you having your own party at your discretion. It’s providing the agreed gathering place for everyone, and then everyone shows up without being individually invited. Would hope you could say, “c’mon, it’s Thanksgiving” and snap them out of it.
posted by michaelh at 2:10 AM on November 21, 2021 [31 favorites]

Thanksgiving hosting duties should be switched to a neutral location. If someone willingly wants to abstain from the festivities for the sake of their comfort, that's their prerogative. But it eliminates anyone from being disallowed to the dinner. I mean, it's basically in the name of the holiday.
posted by wile e at 2:45 AM on November 21, 2021 [16 favorites]

We don’t do thanksgiving here but have very similar conversations about Christmas.

I have no desire at all to spend time with people who don’t enjoy my company. Over the course of years, it seems that my extended family members have self-sorted into those groups that get on best together. Even if invited, I wouldn’t enjoy some of their gatherings. So we’re really doing each other a favour, even if we don’t look like the families in those TV ads that run at this time of year. Maybe it bothered me years ago, but I’m over it.
posted by rd45 at 2:52 AM on November 21, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Personally I think it's fine to avoid contact with people you don't like on any holiday, BUT, offering to host a traditional family gathering and then excluding a specific single family member who normally always comes is kinda crappy. In that situation you should just not come yourself, rather than co-opting the whole thing for the purposes of excluding someone else.

Of course, human nature being what it is, I would feel differently depending on the nature of the sister-girlfriend disagreement. If I thought sister was being actively unpleasant/ classist / racist / sexist, then I'd probably be a lot more sympathetic to wanting to have a nice family party but without *her*.

It's the most potential-drama choice either way though. And I hate drama.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:03 AM on November 21, 2021 [52 favorites]

I agree with others -- unless something egregious is happening, putting up with a little "I feel like your sister is judging me" is par for the course. (Again, that's assuming nothing abusive is happening.) Hosting is about hosting the group (whatever that group is), not about creating your idiosyncratic invite list.

You didn't ask this, but in addition to adjusting for next year, you could also spend part of the day with your sister, e.g., be with your brother etc. from 10-2 or so and then be with her from 2-6 or so. That way your sister won't feel like you went along with this effort to exclude her.
posted by slidell at 4:04 AM on November 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Years ago I was dating someone long distance and then moved to the same city and workplace with them (we were in grad school together). I was picking up a really nasty attitude from one of the other women in the program - like she had been dating him and I showed up and was the other woman. He told me, and I believe him, that he’d never done anything other than be a friend. He also had no idea what I was talking about in terms of her repeated unpleasantness to me. He wasn’t gaslighting, she did it in a sneaky way so he wouldn’t notice. The other women in the group saw it and we talked about it. My boyfriend started paying careful attention and saw it. I started avoiding her and my boyfriend and the rest of the group started supporting me when they saw things happening.

What I’m getting at here is that something could easily be going on that isn’t on your radar that is really not good. Stuff like this is hard on the outsider, in this case your brother’s girlfriend.

As a member of the family, you can support your brother’s girlfriend. Can you hang out with her and your brother outside of the larger gathered family? Can you get to know her and create a friendship with her before deciding on next year’s holidays?
posted by sciencegeek at 4:09 AM on November 21, 2021 [12 favorites]

Best answer: There's a lot of things unsaid here which could change the answers you're getting: whether your sister is being bigoted, or just mean or unpleasant; how long your brother and his girlfriend have been together and how serious they are; what their own expectations of the holiday are vs. yours, etc.

Personally I think it's questionable (not rude exactly but.. not nice) to disinvite a close family member who is usually invited to the holidays, BUT if the home where the gathering is taking place is your brother and his girlfriend's home (as opposed to your brother's place where the girlfriend stays or something like that) I can understand it. Ultimately they are building their own family unit and it's within their rights to dictate who comes into their home and on what terms, even if it's not widely socially acceptable to freeze out your "in-laws". If your sister coming would make your girlfriend feel uncomfortable in her own home and would ruin the holiday for her, then she's allowed to set that boundary, since she's co-hosting.

You have the right idea in just planning ahead for next year. Stay out of the drama, visit with your sister and check in with her to make sure she's okay/has plans/isn't super upset, and see how things lie next November. When you're hosting you get to set the rules and it's up to everyone else to deal with that.
posted by fight or flight at 4:18 AM on November 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

I just found out that my sister isn't invited because she makes his girlfriend feel uncomfortable and judged. This conflict wasn't on my radar. My long-term takeaway is to next year make sure I or others host so this can't happen. But for this year I wanted to understand people's thoughts on this kind of situation.

Impossible to say for sure unless the specific interactions/actions that make the GF feel uncomfortable and judged are known.

But it sounds like complete and utter bullshit on the part of your GF and brother and the worst way to handle. Because wait until the SiL finds out that the brother and GF removed her from a holiday get together, there's going to be all sorts of judginess going on throughout the family.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:32 AM on November 21, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I don't even know your brother and his girlfriend and I'm judging them right now. This is not just wrong - it is cruel.

I think you need to host Thanksgiving this year. If you can host next year, you can throw something together now - who attends is more important than what the dinner is like. Then they can choose to not come, which is the way they should handle not wanting to be around a family member on a major holiday. At the very least, you should not attend a Thanksgiving dinner set up to exclude one person. As others have pointed out, hosting Thanksgiving is not having a private party.

If your sister has done something truly egregious, this is still not the way to handle it. They are trying to force everyone else to exclude her without knowing the facts. They are pulling you into drama you don't know anything about. And they are doing it by co-opting a major family holiday. Refusing to be around her is OK. This is not.

Also, are your parents living and do they know about this?
posted by FencingGal at 5:07 AM on November 21, 2021 [38 favorites]

Excluding one person from a family gathering seems beyond rude, more like mean.
If I were you, (but I am not, and I can't know the whole story), I would host an alternative Thanksgiving, inviting everyone including your brother and his boyfriend, and perhaps some other people you know who don't have a place to go.

Someone needs to grow up.

That said, my mother has regularly been disinvited from family gatherings, because she drinks and smokes too much, refuses to bathe, and generally makes me hate the whole thing and hide in a cupboard. Last time she stayed two nights at our house, it took me several months to get rid of the stink. So I don't always live by my own rules. I do tell my mother directly, to her face, what the issues are.
posted by mumimor at 5:52 AM on November 21, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: "...you don't exclude specific people even if you don't like them. Instead you invite them and minimize contact."

This is what adults do. Your brother's girlfriend is childish, immature, and the very definition of a mean girl.

I can't tell you what to do, but I would not support this behavior. If this were my situation I would try to convince my brother to invite my sister. If that didn't work, I would not go. I would not be able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner knowing that my sister had been excluded.
posted by Dolley at 5:52 AM on November 21, 2021 [12 favorites]

Best answer: It's totally possible that your sister-in-law is completely reasonable in her desire not to spend Thanksgiving with your sister. Your sister may be a bigot, or she may just be judgemental and unpleasant. People shouldn't be required to spend time with others who make them miserable. But the way that your sister-in-law did this seems to be maximally mean and drama-inducing, and it seems designed to force the rest of the family to take sides in a feud you didn't even realize existed. If she can't abide your sister, she probably shouldn't have volunteered to host in the first place. If she was going to volunteer to host, she needed to make it extremely clear very early on who would be on the guest list, so the rest of the family could decline and come up with alternative arrangements. (That also gives you time to decide to say yes, which might be reasonable if your sister's behavior has been truly egregious. But you needed to have an opportunity to think about it.) Basically, it's fine to decide not to go to Thanksgiving dinner if there's someone you can't deal with, but it's not fine to put everyone else in a position where they're either forced to be your accomplice or to pull out at the last minute.

Does your sister know that this event is going on and she's not invited? Does she have alternative plans?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:44 AM on November 21, 2021 [25 favorites]

Best answer: It's a nuclear bomb.

I don't know enough to say whether it's appropriately used (though based on what you've said, I doubt it).

But your brother needs to fully acknowledge and own his choice to push the button on the bomb, and the fallout that will last for years to come. If he means it? Fine. But it's not just a this-year choice.
posted by Dashy at 6:58 AM on November 21, 2021 [22 favorites]

It seems extremely drastic to me to disinvite a sister for the benefit of a girlfriend (not a wife!) & this would definitely not fly in my family or any group I was a part of.
posted by bleep at 7:10 AM on November 21, 2021 [16 favorites]

I don't care if your sister punches babies. This isn't done.

If they don't like your sister and don't want her in their home that is their prerogative 100%. But they don't get to co-opt a family event on the false pretense of wanting to host the family, when in fact what they're offering the family is to force everyone to exclude and insult your sister or to be excluded themselves.

And at this point, inviting your sister isn't really even going to solve it, because apparently your brother's gf is so hostile to her that your sister can't really be expected to come to her house.

Your brother needs to give up the idea of hosting. And you need to fill your parents in on the situation so they understand what's going on; you or they can host.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:11 AM on November 21, 2021 [23 favorites]

I would 100% did deeper right now -- today! -- to find out what exactly your sister has done. If it's just a personality conflict, then you should take over hosting duties and invite her. If she's being horrible, then go along with this year's plan and then working on minimizing her horribleness going forward. But there's no way I'd just say "hmm, that's weird" and continue on without knowing what the details are.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:29 AM on November 21, 2021 [36 favorites]

Without know what your sister has done and how your brother and his SO have tried to resolve it, we can't tell you whether this is a consequence of continued bad behavior or pot-stirring on their part.

I don't care if your sister punches babies. This isn't done.

Way to enable abusive behaviors! I have a nasty, judgy aunt who was my mom's good friend whom I no longer see because she's just gotten worse and worse through the years. One reason being that no one in the family stood up to her -- including my mom when she was directly nasty to me. It was an aunt on another side of the family who helped me realize how mean spirited and out of line she is.
posted by JawnBigboote at 7:32 AM on November 21, 2021 [24 favorites]

"...she makes his girlfriend feel uncomfortable and judged."

This is a long way from punching babies, i.e. abusive behavior.
posted by Dolley at 7:35 AM on November 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

Forgot to incude: We all know people are often nasty when no witnesses are around, or try to pass targets off as too sensitive, or claim to have not meant it that way.

We also know that one family's dynamic can be awful for newcomers, and there can be one person in the family who takes it to extremes. For example, a boisterous family where one person can't leave the quite ones in peace; a family that likes a lively debate and one person who sea lions everyone.
posted by JawnBigboote at 7:39 AM on November 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: In this Internet Stranger's opinion, excluding one family member from an always-been-all-family event is an unfamiliar concept to me. Maybe it's because I'm Minnesotan and we're passive-aggressive anyway, but it's practically a Thanksgiving Tradition to set aside your dislike and just be icy and polite as you pass the turkey. Will there be a critical mass of Other People there or would it be a small group, where Sister would be a larger presence?

I suppose I would need to know the nature of Sister's actions that make GF so uncomfortable and feeling judged, and what could be done to resolve it beforehand or deal with it on Thanksgiving itself. Seat them at two different tables, assign Brother to be ready to run interference if Sister starts in on GF, etc? At my current age and level of nostalgia for non-Covid times, I think I'd go to some pretty lengthy lengths to accommodate everyone so that we could all be together on Thanksgiving.
posted by Gray Duck at 7:39 AM on November 21, 2021 [12 favorites]

Yes, this is either a super reasonable response to actions your sister has done (in which case, they should have made it clear while making the offer to host that sister isn't invited) or just personality mismatch where the reaction is too harsh and also they should have made it clear that sister won't be invited.

But wihtout knowing what sister has done, or what they say sister has done, it's absolutely impossible to judge this.

It's also unclear -- did sister know she wouldn't be invited? When did she find out? Why did brother not say this before.
posted by jeather at 7:40 AM on November 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

I just feel like it really doesn't matter what the sister has done, if she's really being a bully or something then that needs to be dealt with some other way than unilaterally cutting her off from her own family.
posted by bleep at 7:43 AM on November 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Not inviting your sister but inviting the rest of the family is making a spectacularly loud statement about who is welcome, liked and part of the group and who is on the outside. It can be the best or right course of action, but it is not consequence free. Barring a few lucky situations, it also probably means that you have to pick a side when you may not feel like there are sides to pick. Without knowing more about what has lead to this and how you feel about it, I'm not sure what else to say. I'd be sorely tempted to make alternative arrangements for my own thanksgiving were that possible.
posted by plonkee at 7:51 AM on November 21, 2021 [14 favorites]

I'd concur with a lot of what's said above that, on the face of it, this appears unreasonable. If your sister has committed a crime against civility or decency serious enough to merit disinvitation from family functions, then it also merits an actual discussion outside the context of family-function invitation. If she hasn't, then your brother should invite her even if he finds doing so awkward or unpleasant.
posted by jackbishop at 7:52 AM on November 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

Because wait until the SiL finds out that the brother and GF removed her from a holiday get together, there's going to be all sorts of judginess going on throughout the family

It's not even about judging throughout the family. Like someone said above, it's basically a nuclear bomb. Will your family from now on have to make these kinds of decisions for every gathering? Will this rift keep going for all time? Are you going to have to keep choosing between siblings, and your parents between their kids? If your brother and his gf have kids, will your sister be cut off from that, and how will that affect things like figuring out who to invite to gatherings, you or your parents wanting to talk about and put up pictures of kids that your sister doesn't get to meet, and so on? How are your parents or other family members going to feel? How much emotional labor is this going to demand from everybody who needs to balance everyone's feelings? A rift in the family affects everyone, not just the people directly involved. So if your brother and his gf have a really justified reason, that's one thing and they should do what they truly need to do. But for something like this, I think there's a high burden of justification.
posted by trig at 8:28 AM on November 21, 2021 [13 favorites]

I have family members who can't be together at holidays right now because they're taking very different approaches to pandemic safety. Could that be a factor in play?
posted by yarntheory at 8:42 AM on November 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

A few side thoughts:

You are a third party to the main conflict. It's possible your brother and gf have had frank discussions with your sister about her behavior, and are just giving vague descriptions of "discomfort" to the extended family to let your sister save face.

Also, how does your sister feel about this? For me, even though Thanksgiving is usually a family affair, I've relished times I've done something nontraditional. If your sister's not upset, I would let it go.

Also, gf may be an ex-gf next year (you could guess better than I), so this may be a one time thing.
posted by sdrawkcaSSAb at 8:58 AM on November 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

Going along with this exclusion and then trying to make it right next year is not, I fear, going to be a winning strategy. This is one of those things that will poison family relationships for a very long time to come. It isn't fair to you that you kind of HAVE to rock the boat here if you want to help your sister (and that is a genuine "if" - I don't know what your relationship with your sister is like), but if I were your sister, I would feel really, really hurt by you, your brother, and other relatives who knew about this plan and went along with it. That hurt would color my interactions with the rest of you for a long time to come - I wouldn't be able to shrug and say that oh well, NEXT year aaabbbccc has my back.

Again, though, this really depends on your specific family's dynamics, and of course this doesn't apply if your sister has been acting in a bigoted way towards the girlfriend (or if your sister is an anti-vaxxer). Assuming garden-level varieties of personality conflict, however, I think the only reasonable thing here is to step in and help find a way that your sister isn't excluded from this year's family gathering.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:10 AM on November 21, 2021 [13 favorites]

It's possible that the girlfriend has very understandable reasons not to want to spend time with your sister. The obvious solution would be to ask your brother to spend Thanksgiving with her family instead of yours or have a friendsgiving with their own friends instead and tend to the relationships with the welcome members of your family by inviting them individually at some other date. If the girlfriend couldn't think of that herself, your brother should have suggested this to her. I can't see any reason to approach this the way they did, unless they feel this is a conflict in need of escalation. In this case however, I would expect a bit more context rather than "she's making me feel judged".

I don't know how much loyality your sister deserves, and how much she would care, but if you think she does deserve loyality and would care, please talk to her and offer to either host yourself or sit this one out as well in solidarity.
posted by sohalt at 9:15 AM on November 21, 2021 [10 favorites]

I agree with the general consensus that if your Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for the family to gather, then it's extremely rude to single out one family member to exclude, unless they've done something really horrible (like, use a racial slur, sexually assault someone, etc.) I say this as someone whose own Thanksgiving growing up included someone who generally made a number of people uncomfortable, but was still always invited, because, you know, it's Thanksgiving.

Of course, the general unpleasantness of some people's families is why Friendsgiving exists - if your brother and his girlfriend want to avoid your sister, that's their prerogative, but then the thing to do is not host a family Thanksgiving but bow out of the family plans and invite their mutual friends.

So, assuming the worst thing your sister has done is to have given off some bad vibes or whatever, I strongly think you should host this year and invite the whole family. If your brother and girlfriend don't want to be a part of that, they shouldn't be judged in the future should they want to rejoin next year - but they don't get to split the family apart.
posted by coffeecat at 9:18 AM on November 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

Nth'ing that there needs to be a better explanation than "makes me uncomfortable". If Sister is judgy about GF's taste or something to the point that GF can't stand to have her in her home making judgy comments or whatever, GF should not be hosting, because the best way to minimize that at a family holiday is to not literally seek out maximum exposure. If Sister is being judgy because GF had an abortion that only Sister knows about - again, don't host, and avoid Sister at whatever gathering takes place. If Sister is making GF uncomfortable because GF is the only one who knows Sister is a human trafficker - tell the rest of the family omg, everyone needs to make their own decisions there.

There's a pretty wide chasm between "this person makes me personally uncomfortable but not in a way that feels unsafe" and "this person is repugnant and I can't civilly share space with them because that would make me as repugnant as they are by association" or "this person is a threat to me and my well-being".

Setting the situation up the way they did with the implication that it's the first thing but putting up sharp boundaries that imply the second or third thing is going to implode the family as people try to figure out what the hell is going on are forced to take "sides" whether they want to or not.
posted by current resident at 9:51 AM on November 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

No big Thanksgiving table will be without its little dramas and frictions. Even after Girlfriend and Brother get married, Previously-Girlfriend still won't have a connection as strong as Sister-Brother. Being perceived as 'judgy' is a mighty petty peeve, IMO; if that is indeed Sister's only crime. Sorry, Girlfriend; but if you want to join this family you better figure out how to get along, starting this Thursday.

And looking at this from another perspective, I'm wondering if Girlfriend makes any other family members feel uncomfortable.
posted by Rash at 9:53 AM on November 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

This is one of those questions that seems impossible to answer without further details, but what it comes down to for me is that this is a boatload of drama and the only way out is to not participate, ie no gossip or coaxing or convincing. Your bro and GF can invite whoever they want to their home. You decline going, and calmly say "I'm not really OK attending a gathering without Sister." That's all. Invite sister to your house if you want, but don't make a big sweeping announcement that you're hosting a "competing" Tgiving. If any other family tries to pull you in, you just say "I decided not to go, but that's up to you.'
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:59 AM on November 21, 2021 [9 favorites]

My thinking and experience is that Thanksgiving is a family event with lots of people and so unless there is a really really serious issue you don't exclude specific people even if you don't like them.

This is usually my feeling. But! A lot of things can affect this determination. Like, is it a big event or a small event? Have your brother and his gf been together a long time, or is she a more recent addition? Is your brother hosting because of this conflict (i.e. his gf said she wouldn't be coming if your sister was there no matter where it was and this was the weird compromise) or is it a coincidence? Did they try to resolve things with your sister or was this out of left field? Does your brother have an opinion on this? Do you get along with gf? With sister?

It's really tricky. I am a person who used to do small-family Thanksgiving until my mother started inviting a person I couldn't get along with and when I balked she basically said "Tough shit he's coming" and so I stopped coming. We did not have really big Thanksgivings, small family, so I was actually happier with my mom kind of showing her ass in this way but people feel differently about these things. I feel like ostracizing someone at an event like this is one of those things that better have a good reason (i.e. sister is transphobe or racist or has said some pretty vile shit or won't abide by COVID guidelines) and it's okay if ostracization has consequences (i.e. maybe you and sister both don't do family thanksgiving and start your own tradition).

Agree with nakedmolerats. This is Starting Some Drama (tho it's possible sister started it, without knowing more) and you can decide what to do about that.
posted by jessamyn at 10:00 AM on November 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Some extra details:
- It is being hosted at GFs house with her family as well so will be a decently sized event. She already has kids before the relationship. In hindsight having it together with GF's family was a bad idea but brother and GF proposed it and at the time I thought it would make it easier for them logistically (wasn't aware of any conflicts at the time).
- My brother isn't the best communicator so it's definitely possible things have been lost in translation as I have been talking to him and not GF for all Thanksgiving plans.
- It is in another city so everyone is traveling to their location.
- I am close to both of them.
- My sister talked to both my brother and GF about the underlying issue. She thought those convos went decently. But evidently not decently enough.
- I'm a 3rd party to their conflict but I know most of the details (at least from my sister's perspective). My sister feels supported by me and is interpreting this as GF's decision. So I don't think this will cause a rift between sister and rest of the family. Just further the rift between the two of them.
- My parents and others in the family don't know yet that this has occurred. They will definitely have OPINIONS when they find out. My family is also not very good at keeping things low drama. But maybe they'll be able to not stir things up more after this.

My goal is to reduce the drama level and give people more time to adjust to the situation (my brother and GF just had a baby) and get to know each other. I am wondering if it makes sense for my sister to push back and tell my brother that Thanksgiving is a family holiday and since the rest of the family is invited it would really feel better if she could come to and that she'll promise to make GF as comfortable as possible. If not, I am wondering if it makes sense for me to share my discomfort with him that they didn't invite her. He mentioned to me weeks ago that this was being discussed and I said "I hope you guys talk through it and figure it out. It would really be nice for everyone to be able to attend". I wasn't too direct because I assumed there was no way this would actually result in them not inviting sister. Now that this has happened I definitely feel a strong urge to talk to him and at least convey how uncool it was to handle it in this way.
posted by aaabbbccc at 10:09 AM on November 21, 2021 [9 favorites]

I am guessing that the reason your brother wanted to host was about disinviting your sister. Hosting is the only way he can have this leverage over the guest list.

I would have a conversation with your brother and ask precisely what it was the sister did that makes the girlfriend uncomfortable, and tell him flat out that unless he says that there was abuse suitable for the rest of you to ostracize your sister excluding her means that he is not holding the family Thanksgiving gathering. If your sister is not being excluded by common consensus, then it's not a family event. If it is not a family event then it doesn't have to be your main Thanksgiving celebration.

If he doesn't give you information about egregious behaviour bad enough for you to also want to snub your sister hereafter, then I would contact your sister and ask her what she is doing for Thanksgiving and can the two of you celebrate together.

Your brother is not wrong to go with his partner over his sister. His future is (presumably) with the girlfriend; in forty years there may be masses of grand-kids from his line and his sister be only a vaguely remember person he grew up with. Siblings' lives do separate, and this is not a bad thing. It's a natural thing. Maybe it is time for that with your brother.

But even if your brother is preparing to make his natal family his secondary family, you are not. You've reached that stage where the family has to make decisions about who they gather with on holidays. Looking at it as a long term thing, the family doesn't disperse you'll end up having to spend holidays rushing to multiple locations, your partner's family, your parents', your brother's family with his in-laws, your sister's family with her in-laws... it becomes overwhelming. In the long run you have to pick between people who have behaved well, who love you, and who will miss you and may even feel bereft when they lose you. Yet it's not reasonable to invite everyone.

It is very possible that the girl friend wants to spend Thanksgiving with her family and with her boy friend, and this is her best solution - but for example she has a trans sibling and does not trust your sister not to go into an anti-trans rant. It's also possible it's just a power struggle, that your sister is dominant and confident, and she says the sweet potato pie has to have marshmallows and your brother's girl friend loathes marshmallows in the sweet potato pie, and is working to cut out your sister so that she is not constantly being squelched and left unable to get things to happen in a way she is comfortable with.

This is not actually unreasonable behaviour for your sister's girl friend. If the turkey stuffing is not the turkey stuffing from my childhood I'd rather not deal with the ordeal of being with other people in a crowded room. I do love the holidays, but they are difficult enough that if I don't have some control over them, I will have a miserable time and a migraine. It is perfectly possible that your brother's girl friend is a lovely person and your sister is a lovely person and they should not be having a holiday together. A firm, "But we MUST say grace together before we eat!" can destroy the holiday for someone who is triggered by memories of another abusive person who once always demanded that grace be said.

You need to figure out where your sister is at in this situation. If she would rather eat ground glass in the stuffing that go to a gathering that includes the brother's girlfriend and is happily planning a round of bars to hit with her best girl friend, your course of action will be easy. But if she is baffled, hurt and furious and feels the family has been enticed away from her (and your brother cannot justify excluding her for horrible behaviour) your course of action is whatever will best support the family unit. In fact that is always your best course of action.

You probably will handle this best by doing two Thanksgivings, one with the brother and one with the sister. It is totally unfair for your brother to have put you in this situation. He probably didn't mean to put you in this situation, and is either wondering how you could not know that she was excluded, or wonder how the hell he got stuck in the middle of this. Without evidence of malice or harm being done by your sister, it is much too late to change your plan of connecting with her. We gather at holidays to keep the bonds of kinship strong. Waiting until next year to include her will weaken that bond, as will drama and resentment over the whole issue. You are in the position of having to choose between your brother and your sister. You need to choose both. That means you have to find a way of spending the holiday with both of them separately.

Find out when your brother is serving the meal. If it is midday, can you go see your sister in the evening? If it is evening, can you go see your sister in the morning? Can you host a second gathering for your sister to make logistics easier and show her that she is essential to you? Can you spend the day after Thanksgiving with your sister? Can you get any other family members to come to an alternate gathering with you that includes your sister? Can you take her to a spa weekend or spend a weekend helping her put up gyproc in her basement? Tit for tat means that right now she needs evidence that your bond with her has not weakened. Unless she punched a baby, in which case she needs you to let her know that it was not okay.

It looks like it is time to change your holiday traditions. Reach out to your sister to strengthen the kinship bond. Don't get angry at your brother, try to figure out how to accommodate his new need. Treat it, for the moment, as you would a food allergy - non negotiable, not a cause for drama, simply a question of logistics.

Finally, after this make sure you know the plans for all future holidays in advance, so that your family can adapt to the inevitable changes. Holidays change and it hurts, but you can do a lot to reduce the pain so that it becomes no worse than a sweet nostalgia for the past.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:13 AM on November 21, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I would ask your sister how she wants you to handle it (especially: does she want to be invited?) but either way I'd express your discomfort to your brother since you're uncomfortable. I can understand them wanting to host now that I understand the extended family dynamics and new baby situation, but I still think that it is pretty uncool.
posted by slidell at 10:48 AM on November 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

My parents and others in the family don't know yet that this has occurred. They will definitely have OPINIONS when they find out. My family is also not very good at keeping things low drama.

my brother and GF just had a baby

Yikes. I think you need to tell the whole family now - the time for them to find out is not on Thanksgiving, in the home of someone who recently gave birth and is likely feeling out of sorts for reasons entirely beyond her control! That's just a recipe for disaster. Then, as a family (sans brother), you get to decide - do you do your own family Thanksgiving, sister included, and accept that your brother as started his own family now and is spending the day with them (totally normal) or do you go as planned, with your sister's blessing. Either option is fine.
posted by coffeecat at 10:54 AM on November 21, 2021 [11 favorites]

I am not normally a shit-stirrer but if this really is just two women with a personality clash (and I have seen a fair share of situations where one party "felt judged" because she was kind of an asshole and someone else wouldn't indulge it) I would have a conversation with my brother today and say "Bud, y'all have one last chance to be adults and not make this choice or I'm going to speak to the whole family about not attending, since you will have made your position pretty plain. This is not how you fix the problem."

In reality, I don't know if that'll actually work because there are new grandparents involved, but this is for sure not how you fix the problem.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:07 AM on November 21, 2021 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I would call your brother, tell him you are worried about drama and hurt feelings and ask him if there is anyway you can help this work out better. Paint a vivid picture what drama is likely to look like in your family and (if relevant) how uncomfortable it would be for GF and her family. Let him know that you can't keep it secret and once they find out he can expect calls from other relatives.

Then since you know something the issue, suggest ways that you might be able to diffuse it (keep sister away from GF, jump if sister starts to talk about x, let sister know that she shouldn't expect to hold new baby). It won't work if it is something like sister refusing to be vaccinated when visiting a newborn but hopefully there will be some reasonable options you can propose.

I'm sure he doesn't want the conflict involved in reopening this with his GF - the goal is to make him feel like he can have a reasonable plan that won't upset her too much while create a big win for family harmony with the rest of you.
posted by metahawk at 11:13 AM on November 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Your update indicates that your sister and brother have talked about the situation and she at least knows what is going on and why. The fact that dinner will be hosted in another city by the GF in the GF's home, with her other family there, and that the GF has just had a baby also makes me wonder how your sister would feel about going even if she were invited--maybe she sees it as a lot of hassle and is deciding to be gracious for now. Still, I think anything you can do to reach out to her would be kind. As others have suggested, maybe you can spend time together some other way.

I'm definitely on team "unless she did something really, actively horrible, and it has been discussed clearly and directly, and she has refused to apologize or change the behaviour" then excluding her is cruel. It's also going to make things worse rather than better between the sister and the GF, and will generally create drama throughout the family.

At a minimum, everybody who attends that dinner needs to know that they are actively participating in the exclusion of one family member after a long period when Covid prevented people from getting together. Also, I have never and will never meet the GF, but your description of this situation has led me to a number of conclusions about her as a person, none of which are flattering or would lead me to trust her if she joined my family. Now that you know who this person is, you'd be wise to keep your guard up.
posted by rpfields at 11:27 AM on November 21, 2021 [12 favorites]

If there is going to be a decent sized crowd at GFs house, I would just go have Thanksgiving with your sister. I believe in "my home my rules" so if GF doesn't want sister there, that's fine, but that's no reason for sister to be alone on Thanksgiving.

This coming from someone who is hosting thanksgiving dinner and has invited all siblings and their families despite one clearly being the odd one out, one who is stressful to have around, and who for sure makes feel judged. If she misbehaves in the house, my husband will kick her out.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:29 AM on November 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

My sister makes by brother's girlfriend uncomfortable so my sister isn't being invited to Thanksgiving while the rest of my family is. What are people's thoughts on when this is reasonable?

Despite more details, the situation still sounds crappy and dramatic for no discernible reason, with the brother and GF dragging both of their families into it.

At this point, I personally would skip the family gathering unless my sister was allowed to join and probably go have dinner with her. There will be other family gatherings and there's no need to leave the sister out unless it's something truly horrible. But because the GF feels judged? Hello, there's always going to be someone in the family judging you.

If this issue persists, where the sister is excluded, I would just carpool to the family gathering with her. 'Cause if someone is going to exclude a family member for what seems like petty reasons, then there's no way in hell I'm helping do that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:33 PM on November 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

The brother and GF just had a baby is absolutely relevant details; in which case she could not be excluded from a family Thanksgiving either. I wonder if the issue is that Sister was judgmental about GF and her previous kids/pregnancy? The fact that Brother said that he hopes it gets worked out implies there’s an actual issue here larger than personality clash.
posted by corb at 1:43 PM on November 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Ok, with the new information, I think where the GF really went wrong is in not being clear about who was invited when she issued the initial invitation. If she had said "I'm hosting Thanksgiving for Brother, New Baby, and my side of the family, and I'd love it if you were there. You probably know that I'm having some issues with Sister, and I won't be inviting her this year. If you'd still like to come, I'd love to have you." And then you and your parents could have politely declined the invitation and figured out someone else to host Thanksgiving for your side of the family. She isn't required to invite your sister, but it's real shitty to basically trick you and your parents into excluding your sister from your family celebration.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:59 PM on November 21, 2021 [17 favorites]

This is not actually your problem to solve. You get to decide if you are going to Thanksgiving as planned or if you want to do something with your sister instead or split the time between the two households but you’re not hosting Thanksgiving. Do you know the serenity prayer? God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

You’re not in charge of those people. You’re not in charge of their behavior or their feelings. I say, focus on your feelings and your behavior. You already told your brother that you hoped things would get worked out. But you were not involved in the dispute and you cannot work them out. So based on what you know and how you feel, decide how you want to spend your Thanksgiving. Let everybody else fend for themselves; not your circus, not your monkeys. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 2:41 PM on November 21, 2021 [9 favorites]

After asking your sister what she wants to do, and assuming she does not want to be excluded by the whole family for Thanksgiving: Tell your brother you will spend Thanksgiving with your sister, and it's up to him whether that's at his house or not. You will also make sure that your parents and others have the information needed to make this choice consciously: you will not decide for them, or let him decide for them.

Get all of this sorted today. It's too close to the event to be fucking around with secret guest lists.
posted by bashing rocks together at 2:53 PM on November 21, 2021 [10 favorites]

I don't know why solving this should fall in your lap. Your brother needs to man up. I wouldn't attend a gathering if my sister was treated this way.
posted by crw at 4:15 PM on November 21, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: my brother and GF just had a baby

So, look, a lot of parents, particularly birthing parents, can be really super protective when they have a newborn, and it can sometimes look like this kind of thing. I would suggest not making it a thing because it may really be a kind of passing sensitivity, of not wanting someone who seems a bit hostile in your house in a really delicate moment for you and your new family.

This can sometimes even be a PPD or PPA thing if it goes too far, and that may not be something your brother is comfortable sharing with you.

Yes, it would have been better to not host, but as a blended family especially it can be really difficult to navigate all of the different desires everyone has for the holiday. I don't think the right decisions were made, but I also don't think it's something where taking sides about who is "right" or "wrong" will be helpful to anyone.

I urge you to be compassionate while at the same time not endorsing this behavior. Acknowledge to your sister that this is hurtful to your sister, and it's okay for her to be hurt and want an explanation and some kind of reassurance that she will be able to have a genuine apology of some kind for her hurt in the future.

At the same time, acknowledge that your brother's girlfriend is in a particularly delicate time and that maybe this is a decision borne out of some very real stressors that she is dealing with. She may not be doing so gracefully, but this is the kind of time in someone's life where many people are not quite themselves, and giving them some grace, some time to get out of the weeds of new parenthood, and say "wow, that must have sucked, I am sorry about that."

In other words, there aren't any sides here, just people. If two years from now, brother's girlfriend is doing similar things, this is a different story. But "SIL was judgy and I feel uncomfortable having her over when I'm newly postpartum" is honestly within range of new parent stuff.

Not that it is great or okay, but it's a time when many people make decisions that are not really in character for them, so it's a time to be particularly willing to let things go when you can. Sort of like when a friend has a parent die (for example), it doesn't make it okay for them to be pissy at you, but it's also not the time you're going to call them to the carpet for it, either.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:21 PM on November 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

The brother and GF just had a baby is absolutely relevant details; in which case she could not be excluded from a family Thanksgiving either. I wonder if the issue is that Sister was judgmental about GF and her previous kids/pregnancy? The fact that Brother said that he hopes it gets worked out implies there’s an actual issue here larger than personality clash.

Right, I had similar suspicions. When I was first dating after my divorce, my boyfriend's family member made a jab about the fact that I was having my first Christmas without my son, in front of tons of people, on Christmas day. Yes, it was one judgmental comment, but OUCH. That is the kind of thing that can be really hard to get over even if there's a conversation about it, because it feels like an attack about the fact that you had your existing kid(s).
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:27 PM on November 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Your brother's girlfriend makes herself uncomfortable. She is an adult, her feels can't run the whole family, and exclude real, blood family members, as she is just a girlfriend. She has to get over herself, regardless.
posted by Oyéah at 6:28 PM on November 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer:
She is an adult, her feels can't run the whole family, and exclude real, blood family members, as she is just a girlfriend.
I *really* disagree with this, for what it's worth. She's not "just" an anything. She's not behaving well, but it's not because she and her partner lack a piece of paper that would validate their relationship.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:36 PM on November 21, 2021 [15 favorites]

My take is that the girlfriend and her family are the hosts, which means that whether it's appropriate or not for your sister to be invited is actually not your call. I have opinions about how holidays should be handled (regardless of whether there is conflict) but I just feel like this is not really your problem to manage or resolve. I'm not suggesting that you can't share your feelings about it with your brother but more that it is not your responsibility to reduce drama.
posted by sm1tten at 7:35 PM on November 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

There's an element of unkindness that really bothers me. I hope you and other family members will make plans with sister on the day. It's just really hurtful to be excluded in this very pointed way. I'm not big on making other people choose; too much drama. Brother and GF have made a stand. Other family can choose not to participate.
posted by theora55 at 7:39 PM on November 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

But "SIL was judgy and I feel uncomfortable having her over when I'm newly postpartum" is honestly within range of new parent stuff.

Not when you're hosting a family event it isn't. It's in the range of straight-up-the-walls lunatic "take off your striped shirt in my house because research says seeing stripes reduces creativity in pre-schoolers, here is a sack I have for you to wear instead" new parent stuff.
posted by bashing rocks together at 7:45 PM on November 21, 2021 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Whether it's my responsibility or not, Thanksgiving is three days away, it's a delicate situation and I don't feel comfortable not being involved. I talked to my sister and I have at least a worst-case plan that feels tolerable. My sister will still travel to my brother's city and meet all of us. We're going to be there for a few days and my family is staying together. So we'll have lots of fun and hang out and enjoy each other's company. She likely won't come to Thanksgiving but feels good about our overall plan and can accept that (especially since she's also feeling quite stressed about the tension).

I talked to my brother. They are not interested in ignoring their feelings and inviting her. I didn't push this as he doesn't sound receptive to "swallowing their feelings for other people's comfort". Him and his GF really want an apology for my sister's previous behavior which they feel was quite egregious. He wants me to be a part of that conversation which I'm happy to do. But I'm skeptical that this is realistic under the pressure of the next three days. Given the situation (unlikely possible resolution in my mind) I suggested we focus on improving the situation long term and not try to cram through a resolution under duress.

It's definitely not ideal and I disagree strongly with my brother's philosophical approach to this. But, I feel decent about our alternative plan. My sister feels good about being included in everything except the Thanksgiving itself. And this is a new situation so I feel better about being compromising on this event and keeping it in mind for ways to plan things better going forward.

Thanks everyone for their insights! It was helpful to feel validated for how shitty this situation is.
posted by aaabbbccc at 9:33 PM on November 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

If I were you, I would prepare myself to implement the worst-case scenario: Everyone in your family travels to Brother's City and hangs out, and everyone in your family except Sister has Thanksgiving dinner at the home of the Brother + Brother's GF.

So Brother + Brother's GF will get what they want -- as long as that means hosting the big family meal, not having to travel with a newborn and other children, and not having to host Sister, who makes GF "feel uncomfortable and judged."

What is unreasonable is for Brother + Brother's GF to expect an apology from Sister by Thanksgiving. As you eloquently put it, this is an effort to "cram through a resolution under duress."

(I don't know your family; is having everyone together for the Thanksgiving meal so important that Brother was expecting the family to pressure Sister into apologizing by Wednesday in order to keep the peace?)

Anyway ... In the name of clarity and long-term fence-mending, please encourage people who have issues with one another to communicate with one another, even if you have to do some mediating from the sidelines. You say, "My brother isn't the best communicator." If he wants to resolve the conflict between himself + GF and Sister, he's going to have to meet everyone else halfway as far as communicating goes.

And try to avoid texting. Tone is so hard to grasp in print, and texts that are meant to be matter-of-fact or funny can be so easily misinterpreted as dismissive or grumpy.
posted by virago at 10:47 PM on November 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

My sister will still travel to my brother's city and meet all of us. We're going to be there for a few days and my family is staying together. So we'll have lots of fun and hang out and enjoy each other's company.

I love this solution. I hope you and your family - including you sister - can have the family togetherness you all want. Your brother and his gf should certainly be included but if his girlfriend doesn’t want to come that is her decision and won’t dictate your family Thanksgiving.
posted by bendy at 11:17 PM on November 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I’m glad you have a workable solution BUT someone has to tell your parents this is happening before they actually show up at brother’s/GF’s house on Thursday.

You said they are high(er) drama. Being ambushed with this as a fait accompli is… probably at best going to result in passive aggressiveness at the actual dinner. At best. Because if “feeling judged” was the problem, GF is about to feel VERY judged, especially if your parents have no time to get comfortable with you and your sister’s solution.
posted by lydhre at 11:32 PM on November 21, 2021 [14 favorites]

I don't really know how anyone can know what's happening here without knowing what was said or done to hurt your brother and his partner's feelings or when it was said, or done but it sounds like they asked your sister for an apology and she doesn't want to offer an apology. An apology to your family member for saying or doing something hurtful is easy to offer, let's say in the spirit of the holidays. If your sister isn't able to apologize, she should be the one to let your parents know what the situation is.

Family drama is pretty exhausting so I hope it works out for all of you for a peaceful holiday.
posted by katinka-katinka at 1:21 AM on November 22, 2021 [7 favorites]

I didn't push this as he doesn't sound receptive to "swallowing their feelings for other people's comfort".

So he's basically decided he doesn't need to act like a grown-up. Because that's what grown-ups do sometimes. Swallow their feelings for other people's comfort.

In any case, I hope he doesn't complain if your parents decide not to swallow their feelings and give him and the girlfriend hell. (And if she's dealing with postpartum issues and wants to control her space, fine, but then you don't offer to host Thanksgiving. Having a baby merits some understanding, but it's not a social get out of jail free card.)

I hope your plan works out well for you and your sister and that things get resolved in a better way in time for Christmas.
posted by FencingGal at 4:03 AM on November 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Please consider yourself validated! This is a shitty situation.

What's shitty is for your brother and sister-in-law to offer to host Thanksgiving without saying up-front to everyone, well in advance, that they would not be inviting your sister. It's okay for them to offer to host, and it's okay for them to exclude your sister. What's not okay is them not making the terms clear to everyone, i.e., that your sister isn't invited. Because if they had made it clear, then you and your parents would have had the option to say no, and to have created your own gathering where your sister was welcome. You might not have done that (for your own reasons, whatever they might have been), but you would have had the option to do it.

As it stands now, you and your parents are participating in the exclusion of your sister from the family Thanksgiving. Your sister may be more-or-less okay with that. Maybe she doesn't care much about Thanksgiving. If so, that is lucky for you and your parents. But it doesn't mean your brother and sister-in-law aren't behaving egregiously by roping you (unwillingly/unknowingly) into their plan. They are behaving egregiously.
posted by Susan PG at 4:56 AM on November 22, 2021 [7 favorites]

If the sister won't even apologize for whatever she did that hurt the GF, why are we questioning the GF's inability to suck it up and be an adult?

Honestly, it sounds to me like brother and GF are having Thanksgiving with her family and you guys {minus your sister} are, I guess, sorta welcome to join them if you want to see the new baby in Thanksgiving, but that this is not really them hosting your family Thanksgiving in their minds.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:18 AM on November 22, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: We don't really know enough details to make all these calls -- did your brother offer to host Thanksgiving and then your sister upset him and his partner? It seems like it was small thing to you but a big thing to him.

It sounds like family is very important to your brother and his partner or they wouldn't have offered to host at all. I also give him credit for trying to resolve this without involving everyone else in the family until now. Merging families of any sort be really stressful and if he just invited someone who was rude to his partner and told her to deal with it, that's not cool either.

His girlfriend is his family and now they have a baby and they are both part of your family now -- I think it says a lot about his character that he tried to resolve this but doesn't want his partner and baby to be around someone who he believed was upsetting or said or did something mean and won't apologize.

I'm really not with all the people in this thread who believe spending holidays is about inviting everyone even if they are mean or you don't get along with them or whatever. You don't have to do that! Inviting people who don't like you to a holiday celebration doesn't make you a grownup, it makes the holidays even more stressful. You are allowed to surround yourself with people who love and support you and sometimes apologize because you are family.
posted by katinka-katinka at 5:59 AM on November 22, 2021 [8 favorites]

Sounds like you have a good plan moving forward, but damn it's shitty to offer to host a family Thanksgiving and then not invite the whole family.

Now, they are within their rights of course, to invite whoever they want to a gathering, but it's the framing of it -- "family, oh wait, but not you" that sucks.

hopefully you can host next year.
posted by gaspode at 6:07 AM on November 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hey OP, glad to hear there's some sort of solution for Thanksgiving, and plans to deal with the larger issue going forward. Hope you and yours have an enjoyable time together for the holidays and that future gatherings are less stressful!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:22 AM on November 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I would urge SOMEBODY to let your parents know sooner rather than later. In shoes I would be pretty upset to have traveled and then found this out.
posted by jeoc at 7:00 AM on November 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Jesus H.

Number one, why do they want to pack the house full of people from all over everywhere when they just had a baby who is a only a little tiny just-born baby and is thus vulnerable to disease and there's currently a raging pandemic that has killed 793,659 people in the country so far and that is beginning to heat up again? Not to mention flu and everything else that stalks newborn babies?

Number two, if we all agree to pretend there's no pandemic, what we see is still a couple of people making a decision that could make future life harder for somebody who is just a little tiny baby person. This move is highly likely to blow up or at least chill relations with this baby's father's family. That's bad for a baby. Even if the baby would be better off without that one judgey aunt, what about the rest of its aunts/uncles/cousins/grandparents on its father's side?

Nobody in this is upset about the right things. This little bitty tiny helpless brand new baby is best off with all possible family members available to provide love and care and support and maybe take over parenting in the since-March-2020-much-more-likely event of its (proven not great decision makers) parents being killed or incapacitated. It is not good to contemplate an action that might leave the baby with half an extended family. Not ever, but for sure not now.

If I were in your position, I would start immediately to play 3D family drama chess. I would suddenly develop a sore throat and tell the entire family and brother's girlfriend you're devastated but you're not going to be able to come to family Thanksgiving because you're afraid you could get the baby sick. Then I'd tell your sister the real story and spend Thanksgiving with her at Taco the hell Bell. That way your sister saves face--she can either also have a sore throat or be so sad at the thought of you all alone and sick on Thanksgiving that she voluntarily foregoes the big party to keep you company. Best of all, your parents and the rest of your family remain innocent and don't start hating your brother's girlfriend, who may not be actually evil, just not thinking this through well, and who may after all, have pretty legit reasons to not like your sister--though not legit reasons to offer to host a family do and then ostracize one family member, as everyone's been saying.

This move saves everybody from the looming dramabomb because with both you and your sister absent for an already-declared and undramatic reason, in order for your brother's girlfriend to set off the bomb, she'd have to announce the real reason out loud over the turkey and stuffing, which would be ridiculously preteen behavior that would make her look petty and mean, so she presumably wouldn't say anything. If she actually did have the gall to call you both liars, well, then she's beyond saving and you did all you could for her and for the newest little family member.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:26 AM on November 22, 2021 [10 favorites]

with your update it sounds to me like the gf just wants to celebrate with her family and her baby and didn't want to travel with a newborn, so she decided to host her family at her home, with your family permitted as an afterthought (maybe she thought it would be ruder not to invite your family at all.) So far so good, and understandable.

And then she felt like having your sister there was a step too far. Which, I suppose, it might be. Her being a new mom changes my calculus. I don't know what went down between your sister and the gf, but new moms get the benefit of the doubt in my book, always. If you haven't been a new mom struggling with stuff postpartum then you shouldn't weigh in on this.

I still think she shouldn't have done what she did. What she should have done was tell your brother honestly that she wasn't up for having her in-laws be part of the mix this year, and have him kindly and discreetly communicate to your family that this year you guys should do your own thing. THIS IS SOMETHING YOU CAN DO NOW. Tell your parents and your sister to come to your place instead because gf is clearly overwhelmed. Now you are being kind and thoughtful instead of insulted, and everyone saves face.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:39 AM on November 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Him and his GF really want an apology for my sister's previous behavior which they feel was quite egregious.

Well, yeah. To me it sounds like there is a distinct possibility that the main issue is that brother's girlfriend isn't going along with the "family gets to treat you like shit because that's what family means" thing, that you're enabling your sister, and that you all have been ignoring or unwilling to listen to basic boundary setting that has already gone on because you don't believe anyone really has a right to just opt out of this kind of intensely unhealthy and overly enmeshed family shit.

I could be wrong, but families break up permanently because of this kind of minimization, so please get some outside perspectives from people who actually know what happened rather than from people to whom you've failed to give basic information.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:35 AM on November 22, 2021 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Him and his GF really want an apology for my sister's previous behavior which they feel was quite egregious

Your brother AND the GF believing this, and your not providing the details of the behavior even though you are aware of it, suggests that the behavior was in fact pretty egregious in a way that would have a lot of people agreeing your sister should apologize, which is why it has been left out of the equation and Ask here.

I agree with an above poster that apologies are so, so easy, and the fact that your sister is unwilling to provide one for her previous behavior suggests that she is actually the drama creator rather than the GF. Because here’s the thing: sure, sister says she’ll try not to be awful at Thanksgiving, but if she’s already doubling down to the point of refusing to apologize, I highly doubt she can be trusted not to make snarky or passive aggressive comments.
posted by corb at 10:11 AM on November 22, 2021 [14 favorites]

This is complicated, as it's not clear if your brother wanted to host in order to not invite your sister. In your place, I'd consider having Thanksgiving with your sister. But, I'd also want to find out more about the nature of the conflict first, if your sister was somehow being cruel or unkind.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:34 AM on November 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Without knowing the source of the conflict between sister and brother/girlfriend, it's not actually possible to give advice.

It seems weird to not give such a vital piece of information, but still want advice.
posted by champers at 10:43 AM on November 22, 2021 [13 favorites]

Does this have to do with COVID beliefs at all? I remember your comment from a previous thread that you had had an argument with one of your sisters around COVID and vaccines and Joe Rogan, and that although your sisters are vaccinated now, they had both been vaccine hesitant.

I am not asking to try to catch you out or anything like that. Rather, it’s because I’m dealing with similar family dynamics and if it is something like that, I want to point out it is so, so stressful to interact with a family member who wants to argue about COVID from an uninformed position.

If your sister got into an argument with your brother and sister in law about COVID vaccines and used Joe Rogan talking points, said something insulting and would not apologize…I am not sure they are the villains here.

I come from a family (both sides) where no one wants to exclude family members. That is usually good, except when said family members are running roughshod over everyone else. This year is literally the first year a majority of us have put our collective feet down over someone’s non-prosocial behaviour, and it’s taken COVID issues for it to finally happen.

It’s true, this could be about something else. But as a data point, I will say that if this is about anti-science, pro-Joe Rogan COVID crap, I would want an apology too. And I would not be happy about being told I should “suck up my feelings” about it.

If this isn’t what it’s about, ignore my comment. But if it is at all related to bad behaviour on your sister’s part around anti-science COVID beliefs, think hard about how judgmental you and the rest of your family should be of your brother and sister in law setting a pretty simple boundary: that your sister can attend but has to apologize first.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:14 AM on November 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I don't think it should be assumed that the person who demands an apology is in the right. Let's say, for example, that this is about COVID. It's also possible that girlfriend feels judged because the sister thinks she should get vaccinated and that sister won't apologize because she thinks girlfriend is wrong to think the vaccines are dangerous or worthless.

Judging isn't always bad. If my own sister thinks I'm judging her for not getting vaccinated, she's completely right about that. If I said something to her about getting vaccinated and she wanted me to apologize, I would probably go with "I'm sorry you feel hurt," which she might not count as enough of an apology.

I'm not saying this COVID scenario is likely, just that I've certainly seen people even on this site being told to apologize to family members when it's perfectly clear they did nothing wrong.

The OP has chosen not to tell us what this is about, so we really can't know whether the girlfriend deserves the apology she wants.
posted by FencingGal at 11:27 AM on November 22, 2021

Response by poster: Small clarifications: no covid issues at play here (everyone is vaccinated), my parents are informed and won't cause any issues.

Alright at popular request I'll describe the conflict. I didn't want to go into detail because I knew that would become the focus and until I talked to my brother it wasn't clear to me that the apology was what was missing. The conflict happened when my sister went to visit them and the newborn earlier in the year.

Everyone agrees my sister was not friendly and welcoming to GF when she visited. She fucked up and feels bad about this and knows this can't happen again. I think she has apologized for this or at least expressed deep remorse.

Part of this is that during the visit there was a specific incident. If I described it I'm pretty confident you would say something between "that's mean and needs an apology" and "not tactful but not really a big deal". Here's the issue! GF and my sister just completely disagree on whether this specific incident happened at all. It's weird as it's the least problematic thing my sister did when visiting. It's unclear to me, but somewhat sounds like my brother wasn't there for this incident either. Otherwise it would be clearly my sister being in denial.

Rather than focusing on the visit as a whole (which my sister unquestionably needs to be apologizing for if she hasn't already) the focus seems to be on the one incident and how my sister is invalidating GF's lived experience.

Confusing things:
- My brother's GF is a strong direct person who is not shy about speaking her mind but all of these conversations have been going through my brother except one conversation recently.
- My brother didn't want my sister to have a 1-1 convo with GF and wanted to be there for it because he wanted to know what was said and not have there be secrets.
- My sister thought her 1-1 convo with GF went decently and she was able to hear her. Evidently this is wildly inaccurate as it has made my brother and GF even more upset.
- When my sister talked to my brother he felt good about their conversation and was excited for her to come to Thanksgiving and for everyone to move forward and have a good time.

My preference is to focus on the parts everyone agrees on: that my sister fucked up and wasn't kind and welcoming. My sister obviously needs to apologize for that and then we move forward. I don't know how to resolve a need for an apology about a specific incident which she is positive didn't happen.
posted by aaabbbccc at 11:28 AM on November 22, 2021

Best answer: I am feeling that this is still confusing. Apparently your sister traveled (yes?) to visit brother and GF and newborn and was, by everyone's account, not cool to GF. She has (maybe) not apologized for this in general but there was a minor incident that GF would like specific apology for that sister doesn't even remember or think happened. And by your account it was one of the least problematic things of the problematic things she did, things she may have also not apologized for.

You are not clear what she's apologized for in general but you know she hasn't apologized for this thing because she doesn't think it happened. Your sister and GF seem to have quite different reporting of not just that one incident but also their discussion about that one incident. To the GF it was a big deal and worth not being invited to T'giving about, to your sister it "went well."

And it sounds like Thanksgiving will be the next time they would all see each other? And the GF has put her foot down and said "Not until she apologizes?"

I mean everyone draws their lines differently but it seems like this would all be over if your sister apologized for a thing that (while she doesn't think it happened the way GF is saying) seems to be a part of a visit which she, by her own admission, behaved poorly? If I were you I'd steer clear of getting any more enmeshed in all of this, make sure your folks know what is what, and try to make some reasonable decisions that line up with your own values.

To my mind, and this is a thing on which reasonable people disagree, I feel like GFs boundary is okay here.
posted by jessamyn at 11:52 AM on November 22, 2021 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Can you clarify what the incident was? This is a whole lot of beating around the bush and if this is how communication goes down in your family in general I'm increasingly convinced that the GF may have a reasonable stance. It's maddening to be gaslighted by someone, let alone by an in-law as a new mom, and that's exactly what this is.

Otherwise this feels like a lot of avoidance and minimization that's making what could be a relatively simple situation--commit social faux pas, apologize, move on--needlessly stressful, hurtful, and complicated.

This whole thread was frustrating to read and I have a sneaking suspicion that you're on your sister's side here and you don't want us to know what she did (or may have done) because it would make people side with the girlfriend instead. Of course, picking sides isn't ideal, but we're all humans and it's natural to look at a conflict and think that one person over the other is right. The fact that this situation occurred with a newborn during a pandemic has me even more concerned.

I think people have been way too harsh to judge the girlfriend without all of the pertinent details. The fact that your sister has just accepted what happened and is okay with not going to thanksgiving dinner tells me that she too may realize that she really fucked up here. If my frustration reading this is any indication, your brother's girlfriend may really be at her wit's end here and none of us can offer any guidance or informed opinions because you are deliberately leaving details out. You can't give us one side and refuse to give details of the other and expect unbiased responses.
posted by Amy93 at 12:58 PM on November 22, 2021 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: I didn't want to say the specific incident to avoid identifying details but I think that ship has sailed.

This is the incident which my sister denies she would have ever said:
Someone: "GF do your kids have cellphones?"
GF: "Yes"
My sister: "ewww"
posted by aaabbbccc at 1:00 PM on November 22, 2021

Wow. And your sister is more invested in being correct about not having said that, rather than just saying "sorry you got that impression, you're a good parent even if I disagree with you"? Especially since she acknowledges she was shitty in other ways?

I can see why the girlfriend wouldn't be happy with non-apologies, and not want to deal with your sister at her family dinner.
posted by sagc at 1:13 PM on November 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: So your sister went into her home, and had Unsolicited Condescending Opinions on how she's raising her children, and doubled down and didn't apologize?

Among other inappropriate behavior?

I wouldn't be eager to spend time with your sister, either.

Being a mom is hard enough and involves a lot of being nitpicked and judged, without the extra layer of being hassled in your own home *while you recover from birth.*

Your sister was out of line.

Your sister is being weirdly stubborn and should have apologized as soon as it happened.

I have in-laws who behaved similarly to your sister in the weeks after our daughter's birth, and it definitely caused a rupturing of relationships that are just now healing.

You do not go into someone's home and burble forth with your opinions on how their children are being raised.

You need to stop minimizing this, it was a level four boundary stomping.
posted by champers at 1:26 PM on November 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I have a rule of thumb in family conflict that unless the person impacted is a child/teen or a frail senior, I try not to be more visibly upset than the principal people involved.

I think I understand from your follow ups that your sister is okay with the plan to do other things with family around the big event, and not attend the big event. So I think if your sister is okay with it, you and your parents should be too. There's no need to escalate on her behalf.

From the comment you shared, I think your brother's girlfriend established boundaries because she doesn't want her parenting critiqued at an extended family event, while also dealing with a newborn. I think if I were presented with her side of the story I would say that's a reasonable boundary.

But that doesn't mean your sister and your family don't get to have feelings about it. I think it's reasonable to be sad about the circumstances. Setting boundaries doesn't mean being free of the awkwardness of holding them.

I think the plan you've described covers the bases as best as possible, and from there everyone would ideally behave graciously. Your sister could send an apology note after Thanksgiving (not before) and say she hopes they can move past this year and enjoy future holidays together. You and your parents should be gracious guests and then yes, host next year.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:32 PM on November 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Being a mom is hard enough and involves a lot of being nitpicked and judged, without the extra layer of being hassled in your own home *while you recover from birth.*

Yeah. Visiting someone's home and criticizing them while they have a tiny little baby is incredibly shitty behavior and if you want a relationship with your brother, you'll stay out of the issue with your sister except to say "I know, that was awful, but I feel awkward talking too much about it since she's not here." You will not pass information along about the girlfriend, and you will especially not participate in criticizing the girlfriend behind her back.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:03 PM on November 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

My biggest problem here is Brother's use of Nuclear Option to redefine family as excluding Sister.

If Brother and GF feel that this infraction was enough for them to draw a boundary where they don't want to see Sister, fine, their choice.

I disagree, but that's not what you asked us about.

Brother and GF are trying to leverage your parents into squeezing your sister out of the family. That is not a choice that they should put onto other people; they should never put Parents, or you, into enforcing their boundary. That's a sucky but real part of boundaries: you can't make them for, or force them onto, other people. They're not a Get Out of Jail Free magic wand.

Brother is in the wrong here.
posted by Dashy at 2:56 PM on November 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If you’ve never been in a situation where someone invents Bad, Evil things you said and demands you apologize for them in an attempt to manipulate the group, I envy you. Abusive people famously do this, love to DARVO, etc. Again, despite my comment getting deleted, having a child does not make you Mary Mother of God. Shitty, manipulative people have babies too. All the time! The girlfriend and new mother may very well be an absolute terror with an axe to grind. Or she might be Mary fucking Poppins.

Which is to say: The reality is no one on the Internet (or in real life, frankly) can tell you who is right and who is wrong. This is a messy, complicated situation that you’re in the middle of; it sounds like you want to opt out of having an opinion and I don’t blame you. But your family is fracturing, which is outside of your control— ultimately you just have to do what you think is the right thing.

It will be hard to thread the needle between brother and sister if you want a relationship with both of them. Eventually the relationships may begin to feel so forced you’ll wonder if it’s even worth it to carry on sham family relationships just to avoid taking sides. So don’t feel that you have to be Switzerland for the rest of your life.

If you think you sister is being immature, judgmental and stubborn, so be it. If you think your brother’s girlfriend is an obnoxious control freak, oh well. Feelings aren’t going to kill anyone. You’re putting yourself in “I’ve gotta save my family” mode; at some point you may have developed a belief that your role is family mediator and you have some kind of soft power over these people. Very likely you can’t do much and it won’t be a lot of fun. Feel free to just not care, spend time with who you want to spend time with and slowly let go of the need for everyone to be in the same room together.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:58 PM on November 22, 2021 [17 favorites]

For what it’s worth, I agree with Dashy on the object level. It’s absolutely fine for brother and girlfriend to want nothing to do with your sister; it’s completely not fine to power grab the holiday, not tell you or your parents what’s going on and decide for everyone else that your sister is on the outs. That’s you and your parents’ decision to make, not theirs. “Secretly kick sister out of family without telling anyone” is not a real option in life.

“Manipulate everyone into ostracizing sister without their knowledge, making it a bloodless coup” is an option, though, and it’s the one they’ve chosen. Which kind of shows you what type of people they are. Sneaky.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:05 PM on November 22, 2021 [8 favorites]

aaabbbccc, you are being a Good guy. Please tell your sister I appreciate her flexibility and willingness to let the drama flow by her. Unless she did something dreadful, which I suspect not, this is way out of proportion. Hugs to you both.
posted by theora55 at 3:10 PM on November 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Having a newborn (and from previous questions it sounds like this kid is almost six months old, so really stretching the definition there) is a get out of jail free card for things like *refusing to host or attend thanksgiving*. Not for voluntarily hosting thanksgiving and being a complete screwup and drama queen about it. It sounds like you and your sister have a plan to manage it as smoothly as possible, so my advice for the future would be to try and avoid letting brother+girlfriend be in charge of any future plans. They can't host, they can't book a group vacation or restaurant dinner, unless they can include everyone that is expected to be included. Make it so they can be part of all the family time they want, but they can't try this kind of silent veto bullshit - they can just come or not come.

My aunt and uncle spent some time Demanding Apologies from my mother because I, an adult, had blocked their son, a teenager, on facebook. A couple being united in their demands is not evidence that those demands are reasonable.
posted by bashing rocks together at 4:18 PM on November 22, 2021 [9 favorites]

I feel like your second update changes things. It's not that your sister wasn't "welcoming" to the GF: she was rude to the mother of a new baby in her own home! I can understand how that would leave a mark.

I still think it's mean to host a family gathering and invite everybody but one person, though. It sounds like you have come up with a solution that will work for this event, and beyond that, it's up to the parties involved to decide how important it is for them to have a relationship.

Next year, do the holidays on neutral ground and let both "sides" decide whether they want to be there or not. It's out of your control.
posted by rpfields at 4:29 PM on November 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

(I realized that I was misread a post about a friend's girlfriend being pregnant as your brother's girlfriend , so ignore that bit!)
posted by bashing rocks together at 4:34 PM on November 22, 2021

Best answer: Your sister was rude and out of line. Your brother and his girlfriend are taking a low blow by effectively making a decision that will divide the family in order to deal with it. She should have apologized but they didn't need to go nuclear and they did, and during the holidays nonetheless.

God bless you and good speed.
posted by Amy93 at 6:22 PM on November 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah, insulting a postpartum mom about their parenting, in their own home, is pretty shitty. And since there was a third person there, presumably this is not just a she-said, she-said situation? (Though ultimately, since your sister agrees she was rude somehow, it doesn't seem worth getting hung up on every detail of how she was rude).

In any case, I don't think the time to solve this is when one of the involved parties is almost assuredly sleep-deprived and maybe dealing with PPD. Unless your sister is willing to just give an unconditional apology for the sake of putting this to rest (which yeah, really would be easy). It also sounds like there is some serious miscommunication going on - without knowing any of the people involved, it's hard to say who is at fault (and of course, totally possible both sides are complicit), so I think the idea of having a sit down at some point as a group is probably smart.

And in good holiday spirt, I'd try to be extra nice and complimentary to the GF on Thanksgiving. People tend to be more forgiving/willing to give the benefit of the doubt when they feel welcomed and appreciated.
posted by coffeecat at 6:25 PM on November 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is the kind of stuff that starts decades-long feuds. My mother wouldn't talk to her cousin for 10 years after refusing to invite my sister and I (who were 17 and 14) to her daughter's wedding because they had a "no kids" policy, even though we spent every Christmas together. They resumed talking after my mother no longer was mad about it.
What I'm saying is your parents are likely more livid about all of this than you are. I like the fake illness idea myself, might be able to get the parents to participate. Your sister might have behaved unkindly, but the GF is the truly bad one here.
Thanksgiving is only the start of these hostilities and future holidays will not be pleasant. I hope your brother is not too sad about this inevitable estrangement.
posted by greatalleycat at 8:42 PM on November 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

you invite whoever you wish to invite into your own home. this is the GF's home. and her children's home. and she is inviting into it whom she wishes to see and whom she believes to be pleasant company for her children and herself. your brother is standing in full support of her. he may change his mind, though I can't see why he would, but it does not then & therefore become his home or the guest list under his control.

it is not mandatory anywhere in this terrible country to invite each and every blood relative you may or may not be close to into your home for each and every holiday unless you both desperately want to and have a very large home. everyone with any married relatives at all must sooner or later spend a "family" holiday with some family members but not others, it's perfectly fine. it is not strange or oppressive for two or more people, who are all related to each other, to each invite a separate slate of family guests to their own respective homes for the same holiday. anyone who can't stand to be apart from your sister or doesn't want her to feel left out is free to spend the day with her instead.

I am wondering if it makes sense for my sister to push back and tell my brother that Thanksgiving is a family holiday and since the rest of the family is invited it would really feel better if she could come to and that she'll promise to make GF as comfortable as possible.

you try to make someone comfortable or you invite yourself into their home when you already know they don't want you there. but you don't do both.

you also never ever invite yourself into someone else's home.

you also don't dictate other people's observation of a made-up minor holiday and tell them what it means to them, when they very clearly disagree.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:45 PM on November 22, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: If you’ve never been in a situation where someone invents Bad, Evil things you said and demands you apologize for them in an attempt to manipulate the group, I envy you. Abusive people famously do this, love to DARVO, etc. Again, despite my comment getting deleted, having a child does not make you Mary Mother of God. Shitty, manipulative people have babies too. All the time! The girlfriend and new mother may very well be an absolute terror with an axe to grind. Or she might be Mary fucking Poppins.

I've dealt with a ton of abuse and appreciate this perspective. Still, I think that this thread has had a ton of aggressive piling-onto someone who is in a notoriously challenging situation (new parenthood) and who isn't here to give their perspective. If she's an asshole, that will out. But if she's not, demonizing her could easily be a mistake that costs OP years, or even a lifetime, of a relationship with their brother and niece/nephew, over something petty and out of character.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:19 PM on November 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I grew up in an abusive household, and I understand and appreciate the perspective all too clearly.

If the girlfriend is engaging in abusive behavior, that will become apparent.

I think a turkey dinner is beside the point. It's one day.

What I do see is that Girlfriend came into this family with history and children of her own, then Girlfriend and Brother had a baby. They're establishing a household and traditions. They're getting their sea legs and becoming a cohesive, blended family. All of this is extremely hard stuff. And they're doing it in a pandemic.

Sister came into their home, while things were fragile and overwhelming, and threw grenades. If you're visiting new parents, you run laundry and talk about how beautiful the baby is. You don't criticize. You stay in your lane.

Like I said, relationships in my life blew up because of family overstepping during the terrifying tiny baby phase.

I'm left wondering if Brother and Girlfriend have expressed their hurt feelings and tried to set boundaries in the past. And the outcome was to have poor behavior minimized, or for the conversations to go nowhere.

We didn't even know the meat of the conflict between Sister and Brother/Girlfriend until something like eighty comments had passed, and it was certainly not about being "unwelcoming." It was about Sister overstepping in a fragile situation.

This is Sister's problem to solve, for the most part. OP can't fix problems between adults.

My advice to OP is to keep your head down, don't participate in any sessions of Girlfriend-bashing, and be supportive of the family your brother has built.

That's where his primary loyalty lies, and he will be setting more boundaries as the years pass. We can like or dislike boundaries, we can even be hurt or angered by them.

We don't, however, get to rewrite history as to why those boundaries exist.

Brother and Girlfriend set a boundary with Sister because she behaved poorly at a delicate time, and disrespected Girlfriend as a parent. She wasn't unwelcoming or invalidating of a lived experience.
posted by champers at 4:35 AM on November 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: demonizing her could easily be a mistake
Demonizing either of the hers involved will be a mistake. Look how pissed off everybody in this thread is at one or the other of these people, and we don't know either of them and have collectively less than no idea what actually happened. Now imagine people with actual first-hand and first-responder levels of knowledge of the instigating events PLUS naturally far more intense partisanship borne of decades-long family ties and love. Everybody, whether assembled around the table or hovering outside in the cold, will have the aforementioned OPINIONS.


The people at the children's table--the new baby and the poor kids who were apparently the topic of the problematic conversation--will be the primary casualties.

Why is this asinine holiday even legal?
posted by Don Pepino at 4:39 AM on November 23, 2021 [10 favorites]

From the OP's final description, the major bone of dispute is a third party asking the GF if her kids have cell phones, she responds "yes" and the sister says "eww". That's the specific situation brother and GF want an apology on, yet the sister says it never happened. Sooo, what does the third party person say happened?

Sister doesn't seem to broken up about it, brother and GF are holding their ground, so just chalk this family gathering to "eh, it's happening this way" and everyone enjoy themselves doing their thing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:53 AM on November 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Sounds like the sister has to either 1) initiate a discussion with brother and girlfriend or 2) be ok with not coming to Thanksgiving. By “discussion”, I don’t mean the sort of forced playground apology that kids make when they’re not truly sorry. I mean that if sister wants to repair this relationship, she should go into the discussion with good faith and no defensiveness, listen genuinely to girlfriend’s concerns, and have empathy for someone who is likely feeling put-upon and stressed. And in response, the girlfriend needs to fully believe that the sister is there to rebuild the relationship, in good faith, and the girlfriend should also go into the discussion without defensiveness, and with empathy. It’s also a good idea to include a truly neutral third party who sister and girlfriend both trust, who can also be an impartial witness to whether both sides are truly there to rebuild the relationship.

Otherwise, sister has to be ok with not coming to Thanksgiving this year. Whether or not this is how you would handle this situation, you can’t force others to invite specific people into their home. For the future, I’d hope that both sides could find some empathy for the other.
posted by be11e at 8:16 AM on November 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! I really appreciated getting perspectives from all different angles to help put myself in the different shoes here. We had a group call today: me, sister, brother and GF and it went well. Everyone felt heard and more at ease after and GF feels welcomed now and excited to have Thanksgiving together. There are already new hiccups developing but I am prematurely declaring crisis averted.

Lots of lessons learned. Lots of people who need to hear some hard truths after the holidays are over. But happy that we'll be able to spend it together and that the major rift seems to have healed for now.

Best holiday wishes to everyone! I appreciated the comment "why is this asinine holiday even legal" :P
posted by aaabbbccc at 9:34 PM on November 23, 2021 [13 favorites]

So how did it go?? (If you would like to share.)
posted by slidell at 4:41 PM on November 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Compared to expectations when I asked this question it was a resounding success! From my perspective everyone got along decently. My nephew is adorable so nothing like a cute baby to bring people together. People were able to chat with each other, make small talk and interact in small groups. From hints and conversations afterwards I gather the underlying tension hasn't completely gone away. But if everyone can tolerate each other enough to exist in the same space then that's 90% of the battle in my book. I'm sure the saga between my sister and brother/GF will continue. But with the lessons learned from this I feel optimistic that we can plan better in the future to not create such a difficult setup. And more importantly as time goes on hopefully everyone gets more used to the situation and each other.

Turns out an angle to the situation which was completely unknown to anyone until very recently is that my brother and GF were planning to stay with us so we could spend more time together. So that was an additional difficulty which ended up working out after some brainstorming and last minute changes. The communication is tragically lacking at times and can become a broken game of telephone. I'm tempted in the future to plan directly with GF as she is actually a very clear communicator and we get along well.
posted by aaabbbccc at 1:16 AM on November 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The communication is tragically lacking at times and can become a broken game of telephone. I'm tempted in the future to plan directly with GF as she is actually a very clear communicator and we get along well.

This is the emotional labor that many women end up taking on for their partners, even with the partners' family. But, yeah, it might make it easier. I'd suggest a group chat with the three of you, so she's always part of the planning discussions too.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:59 AM on November 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

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