Q:While looking for information about graduate school graduation days for my nephew, I came across engagement links—and then on Facebook, 226 wedding pictures posted by his wife. Ten months after his wedding. In total, it was after one year of dating, one year of engagement, and ten months of marriage. Prior to that, at Christmas, my sister-in-law sent along a nice and newsy Christmas card (as usual), a nice Christmas check, and mentioned that nephew and “Lisa” were a “cute pair.” I thought my twenty-six-year-old nephew had a girlfriend. Anyway, I got a Christmas card from said nephew thanking me for my Christmas money gift, and talked about his dogs and his truck and how he was working hard getting through graduate school. He was married by then, and I didn’t know it. He never said “we” in his news. He never mentioned a wife. I asked him to keep in touch about his graduation date, as I’d like to recognize his accomplishment. And when the future rolled around, I hadn’t heard from him, so I wrote his mom (they are in the same town). I didn’t hear anything from her either, so I looked up the university, and in the process discovered the marriage.
So at 3 a.m., after discovering this whole thing, I think I was in total shock and a state of disbelief. I had gotten as far as the engagement site when I emailed his mom saying, in one line, something like, “What is this?” and sent the link. And, “You know, I can’t help but feel a bit insulted I didn’t know.” In about twenty minutes, I found the Facebook page with the 226 pictures of a full-blown wedding, and I burst into tears. I sent the link to my nephew’s mom, saying “???? WTF. Why didn’t I know? You know I would have at least sent a card or something?” In my state, I wrote two other one-line emails, and then I stopped. I was soooo upset.
About an hour later, my blood brother and father of nephew interjected, saying, “That’s it! You’ve crossed the line by attacking my wife!” I defended myself briefly by asking how he would feel, saying I’m not attacking anyone, and that’s not fair! He said two other things in the emails, the last being “Back OFF!”
After a week and talking with friends and family, I wrote a nice letter. It was addressed to the whole family—my brother, his wife, the oldest son (twenty-eight), and the married nephew (twenty-six). I figured the parents wouldn’t circulate it, so I emailed it to the oldest boy. (The married one I texted for his email address, and he never responded.) I asked the oldest to share the letter, and don’t know if he did or not. In any case, the married nephew has never responded to any inquiries. The oldest emailed me back almost immediately—he had no idea I didn’t know. Couldn’t even begin to offer an explanation. (He was in the wedding party.) That’s all I have.
Making this harder is that my brother is executor of our estate. Until now, and for a long, long time, he’s been just wonderful about everything. Of course I can no longer consider this an option. His sons were my heirs. I don’t want to even consider this now, and will soon make other arrangements.
My thoughts are going more and more toward disconnection. Maybe they have already done that to me—I don’t know. We are waiting on some legal things to finalize, then I can advise my brother simply and without inflammation that he’s no longer executor of our estate. After that, the next step for me is nothing. I realize he may be having difficulties at his work, but still, even if he were to eventually apologize and offer repair, I don’t think I’ll ever be the same. Am I overreacting? I don’t think that after this, I can ever put serious issues in his care again. I need someone who can realistically appraise a situation and make a good decision(s), and not behave as I’ve seen.
Any input would be good to hear. From what I read on situations like this, my reactions are normal and my strategy for solution just fine, and now perhaps it’s a matter of personal choice on when to simply walk away.
A: Dear UU,
Whew. Okay. This sucks, and you’re not wrong to feel emotional about it. But let’s step back for a second.
A good thing to remember about guest list decisions is that they probably have nothing to do with you at all. Wedding planning can be strange like that (with sometimes poor results). I know, when you find out that an entire elaborate wedding happened without your knowledge, it’s easy to take that very personally. You feel that even if you weren’t invited, you should’ve at least known about it. And I understand that. But sometimes, especially when we’re talking weddings, hurtful decisions are made without a specific intention to hurt.
There are a bunch of possibilities—and I’ll be frank, none of them are great—but it might not be as bad as you think. The most likely scenario, to me, is that your nephew or his wife were weird about the invitation list and it put his family in an uncomfortable position. Maybe your nephew doesn’t see you as a super close aunt, but instead someone he only hears from at Christmas. Maybe his partner wanted to limit the number of family members present. Instead of all of them conspiring together to exclude and hurt you, the family might have been respecting some really odd, unintentionally rude wishes from your nephew and his spouse. It’s possible there was even some tension in the family because of this wedding and the way the guest list was handled (making it understandable that your nephew’s mom would be really upset by your accusatory emails).
The point being: Until we know otherwise, this is your nephew’s problem. It was 3 a.m. and you were caught off-guard, but you shouldn’t have yelled at his mom. I’m sure you’re close to her and you feel betrayed that she didn’t let you know. But this was your nephew’s error, primarily (and if hers at all, only by extension).
(And as a mom, I’ve gotta say, why not contact your brother? Why’s it always gotta be the mom’s fault?)
This also shouldn’t be happening over email. I know, some folks say they communicate best that way. But the more nonverbal cues we can send, the better for everyone. I’m betting that your brother reacted so strongly not just because it was 3 a.m., not just because you were contacting his wife instead of the more obvious nephew or himself, but because your emails read as more angry and intense than you intended.
All that to say, sure. You very well might want to drop him from the inheritance. But have some conversations first, so you know why you’re doing it. It sounds like your nephew isn’t responding when you try to reach out (what is this dude’s deal, anyway?), but you also should talk to your brother and his wife. It was the middle of the night and you were all pretty emotional last time you spoke. I’m not sure what was in your letter, but if you haven’t already said it, now would be a good time to call and say, “Hey, sorry I reacted the way I did, but it was pretty early in the morning and I was really very hurt when I saw that a wedding happened and I hadn’t known.” And then I’d try to find out what happened. Your gut instinct (that they all intentionally hid it from you), very well may be correct. But like I said, it could also be some other sort of oversight or weirdness, and this will give them a chance to apologize for it.
Maybe this conversation will straighten everything out. Or they might not respond well at all. Either way, you’ll have your answer for what you should do about that estate.
Lastly, if this election season has taught me anything, it’s to stay off Facebook at 3 a.m. No good social media-ing happens in the middle of the night.
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