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Sister’s loyalty not measured in miles

Dear Carolyn:

A couple of years ago, when my two nieces married, I organized my two sons and flew cross-country to attend their weddings.

This year, my son is getting married and my sister is blowing it off. She said she’s too busy with her job as a teacher, but I note they’ve taken midyear golf vacations.

Should I guilt my sister into coming, or realize that our family isn’t as tight as I once thought?

– R.

When you offer up “guilt (someone) into (something)” as one of only two choices, then you make mine the easiest job ever.

This is not an either-or question, though. Families are too complicated for that.

Just for starters, while it’s wonderful and important that you and your boys rallied for these weddings – and while I completely get your hurt feelings – it’s not fair to unilaterally set “travel cross-country for weddings” as the bar your sister must clear to prove her family devotion.

Then there’s the fact that you can’t fully know what her circumstances are, nor can you extrapolate from those golf vacations. Maybe they’re broke now. Maybe she never expected you to rally for her girls’ weddings. Maybe you and she have different ideas of how important wedding attendance is.

Then there’s the fact that guilt drives people apart faster than just about any emotional choice you can make. If it’s so important to have your sister there, or if you found her “no” dismissive, then call her to talk with, not lecture, her. Isn’t it your “family duty” not to draw hasty conclusions, but instead to share your feelings (without blaming her for them!) and open your mind to hers?

If her answer is still “no” after further discussion, then decide which befits a “tight” family – to judge or punish her for it, or to choose not to. My advice? Keep the door propped open. Family priorities have a way of shifting with time.