Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Can my children forgive my brother for his secret marriage?

We have three adult children. The son among us planned to get married last November, but due to the epidemic the marriage was postponed for a year. Recently we met him, his fiancé and his future in-laws in Florida, where the couple surprised us with a small beach wedding – just parents and a best friend. Trying to be inclusive, I sent a picture of the ceremony to my other two children. But, instead of feeling happy for his brother, he was angry at being thrown out and unaware of the wedding. (They both live thousands of miles apart, and the big wedding has been postponed until this November!) Further discussion has only led to more anger. The newlyweds are hurt that my other children will not greet them, and I feel guilty for instigating the problem with the picture. How can I mediate peace?


You are absolved by the power inherent in me (not really by anyone)! You did nothing wrong in sending a surprise wedding picture to your adult children. (The marriage was unlikely to remain secret for long.) Still, this may be an opportune moment for you to separate as an intermediary and settle your conflict with your children as (perceived) adults. Send them this column instead of further advocacy.

I sympathize with all parties. On the one hand, after a miserable year there was a happy wedding and a delicious surprise prepared by a groom and bride. On the other hand, the groom’s siblings have understandably hurt feelings when they are out of a big family event (or at least not being told about it in advance).

I hope the couple was sympathetic enough to apologize for the injury they had inadvertently caused. I get his behavior, though: after a tense, open-ended delay, he sees a golden opportunity and catches it! Sadly, he neglected to inform the siblings. If they have not yet apologized, they should. And if your other children have not accepted the apology, their autism is on them.

I grew up in a Muslim Arab-American family, which always supported the Palestinian issue. My best friend of 10 years is a Jew and has family ties with Israel. We have always held opposing views about conflicts in the Middle East, but we have been able to discuss them respectfully. This time, however, conflict is putting a great pressure on our relationship. Our social media activism has created distance and awkwardness between us. I love my friend and do not want to hurt our relationship. But this is a subject on which we do not look face to face. How should we handle it?


I have a suggestion, although you might not like it. From your own account, the issue that is creating distance between you and thwarting respectful communication, unlike before, is your “social media activism” – which I interpret as unilaterally posting punches that only those Appeals to people who already agree with you and make more nuanced discussion almost impossible.

I suggest you stop it. Now, don’t get me wrong: I like the catharsis of an angry post as much as the next person. But activism that closes the conversation, as you (and your friend’s) did, is not of much value. I will return to honorable mode for a hasty retreat, and I would encourage your bestie to do the same.

I play in a band. All bandmates are on group text chat. One of our members – a man who has been in the band for more than 10 years – has stopped responding to texts about practices, gigs, and more. When pressured about his behavior, he retreats even further. How do we handle this ghostly situation? We don’t want to just give him the boot.


Sometimes, when people have personal difficulties, it is uncomfortable to broadcast them on a group chat. If you haven’t yet, call your bandmate directly and ask how he is doing. It has been a difficult year. He may have had a personal explanation for his non-accountability, or he may have calmed down on the band after a decade. It would be easy to find out who this is face to face.

My boyfriend’s brother is very bad at taking loans. For example, when we go out to dinner, he will pay with a credit card and tell us that once he finds out what we owe, he will send a Venmo request. Because of this, I do not thank him. Then weeks pass without Venmo request. My boyfriend likes that his elder brother is forgetful and refuses to remind him. But I do not like giving loans to people. Please help!

Accidental Mouchers

How is it really accidental? After a few days, it seems quite intentional to me. As long as Bhai’s Venmo story is merely a play to pick up dinner tabs without argument, both of you are taking advantage of his absence.

I suggest sending him the message: “What do we want to give you for dinner?” Just like that, he will probably tell you, and you can pay! And next time, work on what you have on the table. It really is not so hard.

To help with your awkward situation, send a question to Philip Galanes on Facebook, at SocialQ@nytimes.com or @SocialQPhilip On twitter

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