Dear Annie: My husband’s brother and family are somewhat estranged from our family due to one family being “anti-vax” and the other “pro-vax.” Even before COVID-19, we had become more distant because of our opposite political views — one family supporting the former president and one family not. We used to see each other several times a year, but things got strained starting in 2016 and much worse since the pandemic.
Their children are college-aged and older. Ours are in elementary, middle and high school. One of their daughters (who used to be my favorite of their kids while growing up) has lived two miles away from us for the past two years but has never made an effort to see us. I had reached out a couple of times to invite her to my kids’ sporting events and other activities. When my sister-in-law called us to wish one of our children a belated happy birthday a couple of months ago, I mentioned — awkwardly — that we have been trying to get in touch with their daughter nearby. My sister-in-law was extremely dismissive, saying something like, “No, she’s way too busy with her work and her international skiing trip with her father.” I interpreted her response to mean that she thinks her daughter is too good to spend time with us. I have always sensed that they think they are superior, but this helped confirm it.
They recently extended an invitation for us to join them on Father’s Day, and my husband would like for our family to go. I have zero interest in seeing them. I never really cared for my stiff brother-in-law, who always looked down on my husband, it seems, until their father passed away seven years ago. My husband never cared for his brother’s wife, always referring to her as “controlling” his brother, and he blames her for his brother following her lead in their vaccination status.
My husband thinks we should go spend a few hours with them on Father’s Day. I don’t see how I can go and be fake friendly. They have a swimming pool, which my husband thinks our kids will enjoy, but I can’t help worrying about keeping our family safe from COVID-19, and this whole idea stresses me out. If they were friends and not family, I would not go. I would say that I don’t feel comfortable doing “social gatherings.” It will probably cause a problem in our marriage if I tell him to take the kids and go without me. In addition, I will stress about the kids swimming in the pool without me to oversee their safety. My husband is a devoted father but won’t think anything of stepping away for 10 minutes to smoke while the kids are unattended in the pool.
Please advise what you think I should do. I really don’t like these people, and from my view, they don’t care much for us either. Do we really have to suck it up and pretend to enjoy each other’s company on Father’s Day just because we are related? By the way, my husband and his brother golf together occasionally, so they spend time together; can that be sufficient?
— Trying to Weed Negativity Out of Our Lives
Dear Trying to Weed Negativity Out: Your letter is filled with judgments and preconceived opinions about certain things your sister-in-law said. The fact that her daughter is busy with work and skiing does not mean that she thinks her daughter is too good to spend time with you.
Do you think her daughter is too good to spend time with you? Sometimes, when we feel insecure, we can project our negative feelings about ourselves onto others. And sometimes, people are stuck up and look down their noses at others. The truth of the matter will never be sorted out unless you tell your sister-in-law how you feel. Say, “That comment hurt my feelings and felt dismissive,” and maybe she had no idea and will apologize, opening up a dialogue of communication, understanding and love.
As far as your politics and COVID-safe policies are concerned, just don’t bring politics up, and don’t do anything that would make you or your family not feel safe around COVID-19.
The only way you will be fake is if you don’t let your brother and sister-in-law know how you’re feeling.
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