Q. Rather than any juicy drama going on between my fiance and me, my dilemma lies with his family, specifically his sister. We’ll call my fiance Alex and his sister Jen.
Alex and I recently got engaged after dating for five years. We’re planning a very small wedding (less than 20 guests), just close friends and family. Jen’s wedding is a bit more of a production. Every time we see her, it feels like we’ve purchased two tickets to the Jen Show . . . starring Jen, Jen, and more Jen. It does hurt to not have our plans involved in the conversation, and whether inadvertent or not, that makes our celebration feel inferior. Side note: She is the family’s princess. In fact, at nearly 30 years old, they still call her one (affectionately) . . . she absolutely loves that and is visibly uncomfortable when the spotlight isn’t on her.
My friends have been known to say that I’m a golden retriever stuck in a human body because I like to be buddy-buddy with everyone, or at least be on good terms. So I’ve put a lot of effort into really, really trying over the years. Whether it’s asking about Jen’s job, her upcoming wedding, complimenting her, whatever. I just think it’s so much easier to be friendly than not, especially with family, since they’re pretty permanent.
Rarely do I leave a night out with her, though, where I feel good about myself. For a concrete example, she bought me a magazine subscription to Martha Stewart’s Weddings for Christmas and after I opened it she said, “So now you don’t have to have that small, backyard wedding.” But this is 100 percent my dream wedding just as much as hers is! Alex and I both have tried to explain this, but really, no one in his family seems to get it. As you can imagine, I cried quite a bit that night.
Alex is surprisingly the polar opposite of his sister, and I have no worries about him being the one. I think I could write her off if Alex didn’t want her in our lives, but he really does (she actually has a huge place in her heart for him, she’s just very competitive with most women). So how can I make this work with her without letting it get between my relationship? I’d settle for getting to a place where we both at least understand that we don’t understand each other and kind of let it be, so to speak. But how can I talk to her about this when all of our conversations are about her pure awesomeness?
A. This is Love Letters, so I’m thinking about how this problem affects your relationship with Alex. The best thing to do for you and Alex is to ride out these weddings. Sure, Jen has always been the princess of the family, but her attention-seeking behavior is probably worse right now because she’s planning a big party. The wedding episode of the Jen Show has to be huge.
You guys seem to be fairly polite to each other in person. Your trouble involves coping with how she makes you feel. You must get to a place where you can laugh at her behavior and forgive her for saying the wrong thing. You have to be so confident about your own taste that when she makes suggestions and judgments, you can just shrug and say, “I like what I like.”
You’re probably not going to understand each other so don’t try. There’s no need to have a big talk. Just be gracious at family gatherings and remember to smile. Alex is the one who’s supposed to get where you’re coming from. And he does, right? Focus on that when you’re all together.
I’m pretty sure that you’re a minor character on the Jen Show, so try to keep your perspective in check. And please, don’t put this on Alex. Just deal and let it go.
Treat her like you would any spoiled child — just ignore her.
I got great advice about dealing with in-laws years ago that I will pass on to you now — who cares? You only have to see them periodically, so when you do, just smile and nod and then when it’s over, go on about living the rest of your life until you see them next. You don’t have to like them, agree with them, bond with them — just be civil and move along.
She only sees the world through her own eyes. She may one day open her eyes, but don’t count on it. Instead, pat her on the head (figuratively) and reward each try, no matter how insulting. It’s better to assume stupidity rather than malicious intent.
Does Alex know how much this bothers/affects you? Hopefully he does. Just play your game. Mere was right in the fact that you should be confident when explaining or defending your positions. Also, politely avoid her in most situations (why aggravate the situation, right?). Good luck with your small wedding!
I mean, I know wedding planning can be stressful, but if something as mundane as someone not liking your wedding ideas makes you cry then you could probably use some therapy to work on your self-esteem.
Just remember that inside Jen, this is a very, very, very insecure little girl. Happy people don’t have a problem with other people when there’s no reason involved.
Been there, done that. For more years than I care to recall. Thankfully everyone wised up to my princess and finally see her for the drama queen . . . that she is. I hope this happens for you and soon.
Like Mere said, you’re just a minor character in the Jen
Show so the best you can really do is suck it up and be polite or completely ignore her.
A wise person once told me the only way to deal with unreasonable people is to keep being reasonable yourself and hope that someday they’ll be capable of it, too.
Watch Amy Adams in “The Wedding Date.” All will be revealed.