Sister in Law doesn't come to family events

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-17-2013
Sister in Law doesn't come to family events
Wed, 04-17-2013 - 11:49am

My husband sent an e-mail a Monday to invite my parents and brother and sil out to dinner for my birthday.  It is tradition in my family and we have always done this. 

My husband called my SIL and hour before to see if they were coming so he could make a reservation.  She didn't answer phone, but 1 min later my brother calls him back to say he's going.  What about your wife?  She says in background donno, maybe.  IT's a friggin HOUR away.  Brother says yes she's going.

Low and behold we get to resturant and only Brother is there.  When asked my bro says ya it's my family so she doesn't go, she's home eating corn flakes.  OMG  This isn't the first time it's happened.  I've not said anything to her in the past, but I so want to send and e-mail to her saying I'm disappointed she chose not to attend my b-day dinner.  

Should I just let it be or send the e-mail?






Avatar for tobermory
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-29-2001
Wed, 04-17-2013 - 1:10pm

What are you going to accomplish by sending it? She doesn't want to spend time with your family, I am sure she has reasons. She clearly does not stop her husband from doing things with you, so why is this an issue? Creating more hostility isn't going to help anything. 


iVillage Member
Registered: 04-17-2013
Wed, 04-17-2013 - 2:08pm
To let her know it is very hurtful to myself and my parents that she doesn't participate in family activities. I don't understand how she can think this is acceptable?
Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Thu, 04-18-2013 - 12:07am

I would talk to brother about it. Don't say anything bad about his wife, but ask why she didn't come. You can tell brother that you are hurt and/or your parents are hurt when she doesn't join the family. If he says that SIL doesn't come because of something that somebody did then that person needs to deal directly with her, but brother---as the conduit to his family---should be the one to hear that the family has a problem with her behavior. He can then talk to her about the difficulties she is causing and how it affects him or if he wants her to change.

That said, he might not care if she joins the family or not, and he might not care if relatives' feelings are hurt. In that  case don't expect anything to change. And if she dislikes being around the family then she's probably not very good company and you may be better off without her around. Be careful what you wish for! Like the PP said, as long as she lets your brother join his family maybe its not such a problem.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-19-2008
Thu, 04-18-2013 - 12:12pm

I had a couple of questions regarding your sil.  Does she go to other family events that involve your parents and your family and others?  Is she often missing?  If so, it might not be you so much as she might have an issue with your parents or something else could be going on.  If it is just your bday that she misses, it would seem that she could have an issue with just you.  I think before you say something you might want to understand or at least think about where the problem lies.  If it is an issue with or possibly with others (not necessrily you) you could maybe sit down one on one with her and talk about it. 


If it is just your bday and functions that are more related to you - then it could be that she doesn't want to be there and as difficult as it is, she could just not like you.  That's okay - people don't always have personalities that mix well with other personalities.  After all, she married your brother, not you :). 

I'm not a very big advocate of having someone else talk to her for you.  My thing is that you and her need to talk one on one if it is an issue with you and her.   You could try to invite her to lunch by phone with just her and you and then ask her if there is anything that you'e done that has upset her?

Try to work it out - that's all you can do.  But, if you find that it has something to do with someone else, my advice is to say that you respect her issues and because these are family members you'd be wise to stay neutral and hope that she will think of you as a friend and allow you to have a relationship with her.

I think it is okay to have personality conflicts -  The other day I was at an event on a Saturday which involved kids.  I was sitting next to a lady (never met before ) and we started chatting.  I mentioned something about a child's organization  and she seemed interested so I was telling her more.  Long story short, the demanor of this person (her personality) bugged the heck out of me.  She came across as pompass, opinionated, controlling - okay there was actually a moment in the conversation where I just felt uncomfortable and started to withdraw to go back to a "I don't know you" relationship.  I know this is a first impression, but the truth is, in those 10 minutes I learned and am quite sure this woman and I would mix like oil and water!  She probably thought the exact same thing about me. 


No worries - she's not my sil thankfully but, it can happen.  Try not to ever let her put a damper on your bday. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-06-2012
Thu, 04-18-2013 - 3:14pm

I wouldn't contact her.  If you want to ask your brother for more information on why she doesn't come, that's fine, but to be that hurt about it seems silly and a waste of energy to me.  She didn't marry you and your parents, she married your brother. You don't know why she doesn't show up, maybe she's painfully shy, maybe she's exhausted from a busy work schedule, maybe she hates you, who knows... His nonchalant attitude about her not attending events indicates to me that he doesn't care if she comes along or not, so beyond that, if she's not keeping him from coming, IMO, it's not really your business.  To Summer's point, sometimes people just don't want to spend time with other people, and there's nothing you can do about that.  Your brother forcing her to come if she truly doesn't want to is not going to make things better.  You have to realize that if she doesn't want to be there, she's not going to be good company.

In my family, attendance at family functions is important to me.  I've told my DH as much, and within reason he makes a good effort to attend events.  His family has very few events and he doesn't care if I attend any of them, his sister and I can't stand each other, so I often just send him and the kids. I wouldn't keep DH and my kids away from his family because of my personal issues with his sister, but I'm certainly not going to subject myself to situations that are miserable for me if my DH doesn't care either way.

You should focus on the fact that your brother shows up and enjoys spending time with you.  I would drop this one.

Community Leader
Registered: 01-03-2004
Sat, 04-20-2013 - 6:11am

I had a SIL just like this. If it was her blood relatives, she was there. If it was our side of the family she did the same "that's not MY family" B.S. and would stay away. She came from a very dysfunctional family situation. There was a lot of "us vs. them" in her upbringing.

I say she's doing you a favor by taking herself out of the picture. The few times my SIL did come to events she did everything to make it about HER. I was glad when she stopped coming even though our mother would be upset because "the family" wasn't "all together." She later divorced my brother and I said, "good riddance."

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-2001
Tue, 04-23-2013 - 7:37pm

You've given very little information, so it's really hard to respond without making some assumptions (that could likely be way off base).  Is this a change of bahavior for her?  Does she attend any family functions? etc?

Honestly, I'm a bit surprised to hear how important it was to you to have someone (anyone) attend your bday dinner.  I mean it's just a dinner. . .

My own bro has a long time (20+ year) gf who never seemed comfortable attending our family functions, and when she did she was remote and aloof.  Her "antisocial" behavior seemed to be escalating recently, since she also stopped attending her own family functions (we knew because my parents and hers are neighbors).  

When I talked to my bro about my concern about her escalating "aloffness", he let me know she is dealing with pretty bad depression.  

Since that conversation, she did attend a family function and we gave her a wide berth.  She socialized a bit, but then withdrew to a back bedroom to read and nap - which was perfectly fine with us.

My point being it's hard to judge what's going on without more information.

I personally would lose the attitude that someone missed YOUR bday, and just approach your bro with your concern (not judgement).  Ask him if everything is all right.  Let him know that you would like to have a closer relationship with his wife, but understand it's her choice.  But ask if there is anything, in particular, he knows of that may have caused a wedge between yourself and her.  

If it turns out just to be her personal perference not to be friendly with you . . . oh well. . . it's her choice.  When you do see her be cordial.  That may be the best you can expect from this relationship.

I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.  Put your energy in relationships that are mutual.