Wedding Woes

You can't circumvent your sister to have a relationship with her kid.

Dear Prudence,

My sister and her wife have just announced to the family that my sister is pregnant. A happy occasion, sure, but I’ve been trying to ease out of contact with my sister for several years now, mostly due to abuse she put me through in my teenage years, and I’m not entirely sure how to handle this. Am I obligated to have a relationship with my new niece or nephew if it forces me into contact with my sister, and thus into memories of my past? Is it selfish of me to even be asking this question? Should I just keep my mouth shut and be the good aunt they’re probably expecting me to be?

—Estrangement for Two

Re: You can't circumvent your sister to have a relationship with her kid.

  • You can’t have a relationship with a baby without having some contact with their mothers. If you want to mend fences this could be the opening, but if you don’t that’s fine too. But I can’t see how you have a relationship with the kid and be no contact with their parents. 
  • LW the answer is 'no', you don't have to do shit.  You can continue to 'ease' out of contact with your sister.  You have no obligation to a child that you didn't create.  And self-preservation isn't selfish. 

    IDK, DH and I had a long conversation last night about a lot of things...but one of those items was how siblings from the same family view their childhood.  BIL has a different view of his formative years than DH and SIL.  My aunt swears my grandparents were way worse than my mom ever remembered.  FIL's siblings are a shitshow when it comes to their childhood and memories from it.  Weirdly, my sisters and I generally agree on memories and events from growing up. 

    I say all that to say, it sounds like LW's sister doesn't even see an issue with their upbringing or relationship.  LW seems to feel her sister was this monster.  It's interesting.  I wonder about their relationship today.  I mean LW says they're trying to extricate themselves from their sister's life, but like...does sister have ANY idea? 
  • I find this letter a little confusing also.  Because it isn't that the LW is actually estranged from their sister.  They have been "easing out of contact", which implies they are still in contact.  Maybe just not that often.

    Unless they are rethinking that because now they want to be more in contact because of the baby (not my impression), then they can keep doing what they are doing.

    Reading between the lines, it sounds like they have gone minimal contact so as not to have a confrontation or upset their parents.  If that is the case, they can continue that even with a new niece/nephew.  Send a congratulations card.  If they sometimes see their sister at their parents house, they can meet the baby at that time.

    Maybe they are worried they will feel forced to have more contact because of the child?  I don't think that's necessarily true.  Continue to stay the course, it might just be a little more awkward.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta member
    Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I feel this one in my soul. There's so much guilt and anxiety around pulling away from family relationships, especially when there are others who don't really know or understand the history. LW probably has other relatives that don't understand the teenage abuse and will fault LW for pulling away, especially during a milestone period like pregnancy and birth. 

    LW, it's ok to continue to give yourself the space you need. Sibling relationships don't have to be BFF or no contact. You don't owe your sister, your nibling, or any other family anything.
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