Thursday, February 28, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: Ice Monster for a (Soon-to-Be) In-law

by Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

I recently became engaged to a man I've been dating since college (about 7 years). Everything was perfect save one thing: his younger sister (about 18 months younger), hasn't acknowledged the engagement yet. No phone call, email, text message, facebook post, or verbal congratulations to either of us. The rest of his family, including an even younger sister, was thrilled for us and let that be known.

Since the beginning of our relationship, she's been cold and standoffish towards me. It got better for a few years, but again in the last year -- since the appearance of her own serious boyfriend -- she's been equally nasty towards me and her brother.

Going forward, I want to be diplomatic --I'm starting a lifelong relationship with his family too-- but at the same time I want her to know that this was deeply hurtful and not acceptable. While we're engaged, I don't feel I have the standing yet to approach her directly. Advice on how to proceed would be helpful.

No Sisterly Love

Dear No Sisterly Love,

Congratulations on your engagement! For the most part, it seems like your fiance’s family has welcomed you into the family with open arms. Don’t let one sister with her arms firmly crossed distract from the bigger picture here.

First of all, every family has at least one person with a permanent scowl on his or her face. Whether it’s a sibling, a cousin, a parent or some far-flung uncle, no reunion is complete without a little drama. It sounds like little sis fits the part --cold and standoffish-- without reason, purposefully flouting customs like congratulating siblings for huge life changes. If anything, this sister’s treatment of you might make you even more of a member of the family.

You don’t mention what kind of relationship your soon-to-be sister-in-law has with your fiance or with the rest of the family. Because the bottom line is, what is acceptable to you here is irrelevant. How does your man feel about this? If he’s so hurt by the lack of congratulations, he ought to speak with her about it. Even when you’ve got the ring on your finger, it will still be your husband’s job to deal with his side of the family. They’ll always be his blood, so it makes sense to have him do more of the heavy lifting regarding his sisters and parents.

I wonder why you so keenly crave this woman’s congratulations. At this point, it doesn’t really mean anything for her to say “Welcome to the family.” And it’s not as though this action comes out of nowhere. The lack of congratulations just fits in a larger pattern of icy behavior.

I’m not trying to diminish your hurt here. This sister sounds mean. It would only take a moment for her to wish you both well, thereby preventing this whole mess of hurt, but she doesn’t seem like the most considerate of people. You can’t change her. The sooner you realize that, the happier you’ll be as a part of your fiance’s family.

All the best,

Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or advice @  

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