Alright, here goes.

Over the weekend I was perusing facebook and discovered my mother and sister had attended the bridal shower of a close family friend. So close a friend, in fact, that she’s considered family. (Her older brother and I are the same age, and have been close since we were 3. That’s 25 years, people.) I hadn’t known about the shower, but that was nothing shocking … I do live on the opposite coast and all.

The thing that hurt was that I didn’t even know she’d set a wedding date … much less one for November 2011.

So, I complained on Twitter, and then called my mother. Who proceeded to let me know everyone else had been invited (sister + fiance, brother + guest, parents, aunt + uncle, grandfather) but me. And then she added, when I explained how hurt I was, “Well, Sarah, you have a NEW family now.”


Can someone explain to me how getting married, and creating your own baby family, meant giving up your birth family? Can someone explain to me how my mother would get this idea in her head?

To be honest, it didn’t start when we got married. It started when I moved out of my parents house for good. College was one thing, because I came back. But once I was out, it was like I didn’t exist. My mother would mention to acquaintances how nice it was to have her “whole family” together for dinner … when I was in my own apartment 50 miles away. When my grandmother was dying I wasn’t contacted AT ALL. I drove up one night to sit with her and be with the family. My mother asked me what I was doing there.

I’m glad I stayed, even with the awkwardness. My grandmother died the next morning, and I’d been able to say goodbye.

Since moving cross-country, and getting married, it’s gotten worse. My grandfather is still holding a grudge from a nasty fight we had 3 days before the wedding. (I spent an hour and a half apologizing (for something that was as much his fault as mine) and laying it all out there, in March. His response was to say “Now it’s up to me whether I forgive you or not. We’ll see how that goes.” He hasn’t spoken to me since. He hasn’t spoken to my husband since the wedding. That’s OVER A YEAR now.) My mother continues to talk about how her whole family is around her. I’ve lived in DC for three years now, and not one member of my family has come visit us … even though they are visiting my cousins in Ohio several times a year.

I’ve thought honestly about it, to see if this is a situation I’ve created. Did I distance myself, and this is their reaction? And each time, I come back to the same answer – no. This is NOT something of my doing. I spend as much energy trying to be a part of their lives (with the exception of my grandfather … that’s just too much hurt) as I do with my father and sister … two people who DO still consider me family. I’m not doing anything differently with them than I am with anyone else.

Apparently it’s just easier to forget I exist.

During that horrid fight with my grandfather I told them all how I felt like I wasn’t a part of their family anymore. And my mother and I discussed it at length later that night. She told me I was being silly. I told her I still felt it, so it was valid. I thought it was sorted out.

I, apparently, was wrong.

This weekend, faced with another slight, I lost it. I cried and cried and cried to my husband. My poor husband … who has no real idea of the “family” I’m looking for … because his own birth family had such a different relationship. He doesn’t know how to help, or how to try and fill the hole in my life.

Is anyone else dealing with this? Have any words of advice? Anything?


* The photo is of my mother’s family (all those who were at the wedding, anyway), just over a year ago. Of the entire group, only 3 have talked to me in the last 6 months, of their own free will. And only 5 of them have talked to us since our wedding.

11 Comments to “Family”

  1. I don’t have much helpful advice, other than to say that I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. As tough as it is, it sounds like the ball is in their court and you’ve done everything right in trying to resolve the situation. I hope things will improve for you with your family.

  2. I have an Aunt and Uncle who like to conveniently pretend I no longer exist, which is very strange considering they helped raise me. Growing up they lived 15 minutes away and I saw them at least three times a week. They were both a huge part of my life right up until I made life decisions that they did not agree with, the biggest being marrying my husband. At that point my Uncle refused to come to my wedding, and can not keep a civil tongue when he is somehow forced to be in my husbands presence, my Aunt pulled her daughters out of our wedding as my flower girls, though she actually came, only to insult my officiant/friend/boss who paid for my wedding, and insult my husband and leave me in hysterical tears. She now pretends like nothing bad happened, but also does a lot of ‘forgetting’ when it comes to us. She ‘forgets’ to add our names to the Christmas gift drawing, she ‘forgets’ to tell me when the twins are in town for a softball tournament, she ‘forgets’ to give the twins gifts I send them or letters I write them. She has not forgotten to tell her friends that I am a ‘godless heathen’ and ‘a sad disappointment’. In her mind I made my choice to be with my husband and be who I am, and she is just going to hope I ‘forget’ her family, the way she would like to forget me.

    I don’t know how to make it better, I don’t even know how to suggest to make things better. In my experience I have come up with two options. Straight out blunt confrontation is the first, but sadly it doesn’t seem to work. Telling your mother straight out that you have not given up one family for another and still want to be an active part of her life and the rest of the families lives is an option. I am not sure how much good it will do. It seems that there is a level of denial that might be willful that can not be overcome. My Aunt refuses to acknowledge what she did at my wedding or that she has cut me out of her life. She says I am paranoid.

    The only other option I have come up with is to let it go, which is really no better. It hurts like hell to be pushed out of the lives of people you love and care for, people who are family. It hurts that they would let go of you that easily. It just isn’t right. Family is not supposed to do that. It is exhausting to keep trying and hoping that it will change when I seem to be the only one who wants to fix it. I have been fighting for 8 years now, and I am not sure I will ever get them to accept me or let me be part of their lives again. I am still civil and polite when we happen to end up in the same place, but I had to come to the decision that if they didn’t want me to be in their lives, then perhaps I didn’t really want them in mine. That is a lot of negativity to saddle yourself with.

    I am not really suggesting you give up on your family, I mean they are your family. I am simply sharing what I have gone through. I am lucky enough that it is only one Aunt and Uncle, but considering what a huge part of my life they were it was a huge loss. You just have to keep trying to get through to your mother that you feel like she has basically abandoned you, try to come at it from another angle if needs be. She will hopefully understand eventually and take steps to change.

    I hope some of that helped at least a little.
    I sincerely hope you find a way to make your family whole, old and new.

  3. That’s so hard. I’m really sorry.

    I grew up in a really close extended family. Then I chose to go to college on the opposite coast, I was excited about the school I chose but I was also excited to establish some independence. They allowed me this and seemed mostly understanding. For grad school, I came closer to home but stuff in my immediate family was unraveling (pregnant younger sister, dad’s alcoholism, mom’s denial) so I mostly stayed away.

    We moved to Idaho because we wanted to. And stuff’s been hard. My mom and I are still trying to sort out our relationship, she doesn’t always understand my life or the choices I’ve made (funny, the way my parents raised me was to make my own choices) and the negotiation isn’t always easy. Opposite of you, I’m forever trying to explain that I have my own family and will have to play the balancing game. It isn’t easy to explain why I won’t make the 1000 mile round trip from my house to my hometown all the time.

    Unfortunately, all I can say, is that your parents and family are flawed adults, just like we are. I hope your mom can understand that she’s still your family and that you still want to be involved, even if you’re not local anymore. Hang in there, girl.

  4. When you first posted on Twitter, I had no idea that this was such a long-standing, far-ranging issue. I am so, so sorry, Sarah, that you’re having to deal with this.

    I had something similar, but on a waaaaay smaller scale, happen when Jason and I first got engaged. My mom had what I felt was the strangest reaction to the prospect of me getting married – she’d make really snide remarks about lots of things (my dress, my ring, our venue, etc.) or act really nonchalant about the whole thing (I was in tears after we went to try on dresses together because she spent the entire appointment on her cell phone/telling me I looked fat in every gown). I had to confront her several times before she finally admitted that she was upset because the wedding meant that she was “losing her daughter.” To me, that was a really preposterous notion because a) I’d been really independent from my parents all through high school, college, and working adulthood so in my mind I’d already fully left home and b) like you, I don’t see marriage in that light. To me, marriage means we expand our families, not leave them. But I realized that my mom had a LOT of cultural baggage when it came to this issue (in Chinese culture especially all the rhetoric about daughters is that one day they get married and they become someone else’s daughter, ick) and it took us awhile to work through it. I’m not sure if maybe something similar is happening with your mom? She’s worried that you’ll “leave” and so her reaction is to try to preemptively push you away?

  5. I wish I had something to say that was helpful. A lot of my extended family didn’t even come to my wedding. Hell, most of them didn’t even bother to rsvp. I have no idea why. It seems like since I became an adult, none of my dad’s side wanted anything to do with me. It really sucks, and it hurts. I can’t imagine how much harder it is when members of your immediate family are also treating you this. Hugs to you lady.

  6. Argh, it sounds maddening. I don’t really have any wise words to say at all, because I’m not sure if I’d be more pissed off than anything else. I did wonder, though, if it’s happened to anyone else in your family once they “left the nest” or is it just you?

  7. That’s awful – I’m so sorry. And I have no idea where your mom got the idea that being married somehow justifies you not being invited to a family wedding. That is incredibly hurtful and I can’t imagine what they were thinking to make that all right in their heads. I really hope your family comes around – and until then, or even if they never do, I guess all you can do is make sure your new baby family never treats people this way.

  8. Oh Sarah, I am so sorry. I had something similar happen… when my mom finally went on facebook she uploaded this photo of my dad, my brother, my sister and her, and named it “family”. When I kind of jokingly asked her to put another one with me in it… she was like well you don’t live here do you ? And I kind of felt like that.
    I dunno, I guess families get used to the idea that we left, and getting married makes it permanent. I agree with Sharon, that your family gets bigger, not smaller.
    Anyway, sending you hugs. I really am sorry .

  9. This is horrible. And I hate them on your behalf. And it’s INSANE that your mom would say that. I’m really proud of you for being so honest about it all and knowing that it isn’t right, and that it’s totally bullshit. Rock on sister.

  10. Oh man, I’m so sorry to hear that they’re being… immature? self-centered? unclear about their feelings? crazy? all of the above? It just plain sucks. It’s easy to *say* that you shouldn’t put up with it (or them), but I know it’s more complicated because they’re your family, and not having a relationship is decidedly not the goal, I’m guessing. Big hugs to you!

  11. Boy do I ever feel you. EVER.

    My family struggles when someone gets married because they figure that means they drop off the earth–that’s how my older sisters did marriage. That’s not how I do marriage, and it was so hard on me when my family started treating me that way. I had to get sobby and in my mom’s face.

    I want to punch your grandfather. Defensively, of course. I don’t just go around hitting older men.

    It’s so horrible to feel like you moved far away, away from all of your security and roots and history, and to have that ripped away and discredited. It’s awful that people aren’t thinking of how facebook statuses like that can come across. The people we love the most can be the biggest assholes.

    Giant hugs. Just huge ones. I so identify with this.

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