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The Changing Face of Relationships: Advice on Friends, Sisters, Lovers and SATC

Updated on August 18, 2011

Friends vs Relatives

I received this comment on my HUB She's Not a Bridesmaid in Her Sister's Wedding - Family Advice

I understand how hurt Ashley must have felt. I'm glad it all worked out okay. My situation is a little different, but I just got the news that my sister is engaged and there was no delay in finding out that I am not included in the wedding party.

Background: She is 12 years younger than me, actually is my half sister (but we have always been very close despite the age difference and different mothers). However, she has always had lots of friends and I don't feel like I am as close with her, on a "friend level," as her friends. Naturally that would be the case since they are the same age, generation "Y's", and I am at the end of generation X.

She didn't say the words, "you aren't in it," she just didn't ask me, and was quick to say that her best friend is the Maid of Honor and then mentioned about bridesmaids, with me not being included. I overheard her talking on the phone with my sister-in-law (our brother's wife) and she said she wanted her children (ages 6 and 9) to be in the wedding. I have a 3 year old daughter, and she also said after that that she would probably have my daughter and the groom-to-be's niece in the wedding too (like an after-thought, or like they might not be old enough). Not sure what the hesitation was there. I do understand not wanting very young children in a wedding party, however. By the time the wedding rolls around, they will be 4 years old, which should be fine. ???

Anyways, she was a junior bridesmaid in MY wedding, and not the Maid of Honor, because she was 12 years old, but she always gave me a hard time that I didn't make her my Maid of Honor. I explained that she was too young to be the Maid of Honor, but I wanted her to be a bridesmaid. At least she was in my wedding. I think that is understandable.

I have mixed feelings and feel a little let down that she didn't ask me, and really hasn't officially asked my daughter to be in it. I am trying to not be offended. I have justified it by saying, well, if I was in it, she would also have to ask our 2 older brothers and their wives (all in our 30's and she is early 20's). But a friend of mine just said, yeah, but you are her sister. She wouldn't have to ask the sis-in-laws or brothers. I am her only sister...

Advice on how to feel? Maybe she thinks I wouldn't care to be in it... I don't know.

Ginger Goodwin

Timing is Everything

Ginger, your comment inspired a lot of thoughts that I'd like to share. I hope you'll stay with me here while I weave through them.

Your sister is hanging on to being 12, and feeling left out of the best friend title.

At different times in our lives we gravitate towards and appreciate different people for different reasons. The odds are very good that the "best friend" you had in elementary school changed a couple of times. And that in high school it was someone different. It's also likely that your best friend in college or the workplace is not the best friend you have, at the same time, that you go on vacation with. As you grow older friendships complicate. It isn't as simple as a buddy bracelet and a bbf vow on the playground. You have your friends you go out and hunt for dates with. You have your friends you can count on to bail you out and lend a shoulder. It becomes possible to maintain more than one very good friendship at once.

And sadly, some friendships do not stand the test of time. Different events in your life, from what school you're transferring to, to where you're moving for your first real job, to not wanting to club anymore because you're in a serious relationship, to getting married, to having kids... all directly create the space around you that friends can fill. When you and your friends move in different directions, physically or mentally, often the friendships fade into the background.

On a social networking site (such as Facebook, but not Facebook) I have reconnected with people I've held close friendships with. Some I haven't even seen for 30 years, and now boom there they are, with their lives, and their mobile uploads. We say hi, we catch up a bit, we say "If you're ever in NY..." And I appreciate this very much. But the fact remains, as pleasant as these people are and as wonderful as my memories of them are, we are no longer best friends.

I believe this is the phenomenon of Sex and the City. Fans looked the other way when the writing was horrific, when the plotlines were stupid and when the heroine Carrie fucked over the same sweet Aidan, not once but twice. Fans continue to embrace the show, not because it's good and certainly not because Carrie is, but because of the four friends. That dynamic is not something most of us will experience. We are lucky if we land one life long best friend. And as time passes, miles accumulate, and lives change, we grow to really miss the BFF's of our past. Maybe not the person in particular, but we miss that feeling. That someone has your back, no matter what, someone knows who you really are deep down and loves you.

The same is true of dating. My friend mkmoose once Tweeted: The way ppls relationships are determined by their relationship status on FB is quite sad. You're either together or not..make up your mind

This is of course another aspect of social networks that isn't a parallel to reconnection. It's more of a perpendicular to severance. If you don't use the right term, like dating, or in a relationship, you run the risk of alienating that person. And technically, Ginger, that's what happened with your 12 year old sister when you married.

The Big Chill Effect

In the movie The Big Chill, college friends gather for a week after the loss of one of the group to suicide. The movie is a wonderful portrayal of true friendships, standing the test of time, but changing. Shifting. The same bonds don't apply across the board, just in some places and with some people who still happen to be on the same page of life, like having children. It doesn't mean anyone did anything wrong, it doesn't mean anything bad. It just means people change. That's all. And while it is wonderful if friendships endure, those friendships shift in nature and importance. 

One of the actors in The Big Chill gives a wonderfully written speech about the nature of closeness. About, how when we are in our early 20's, life is not that complicated. We have the room, and time, and energy, and ability, and the inclination to form lifelong friendships. As we get older and life becomes more complex, careers become consuming, we start our own families, we worry about money and taxes and death, we just don't have that kind of time and energy anymore, to form those kinds of friendships. 

I happen to agree with that in theory. I think the friendships I made earlier in life are stronger than the ones I make now. I'm sad about that, and I try very hard to make it not so.

Ginger, you didn't mention how old your sister is now, but I have the feeling she's in her 20's, in the deepest point of appreciation and ability to bond, with those strong friendships. If she has always been someone to have lots of close friends, she is blessed, and I envy her.

Right now she is at the apex of tight, true, real relationships: finding her forever-love, and celebrating that with what she sees as her forever-friends. That part of her, that part that defines friendships and relationships, is still the part of her that was 12 and mis-understood your junior bridesmaid invitation. She is still that 12 year old that as a child, heard only, "You are not my best friend."

Today. And, Tomorrow.

There is no magical advice I can give that will help her heal that wound of being 12, and there is no soothing thing I can really say that will make this wrong a right for you. But let me lend some insight into how the future is going to unfold.

Your sister is going to get married, and maybe have children. And be an aunt to yours, and your siblings', and have Christmases or Birthdays or holidays together with the family. No matter who moves where, no matter who gets what job, or loses a house, or goes through whatever tragedies, this is what will be. The family will get together and continue to support one another.

And as your sister matures, and has a family of her own, her friendships will take a backseat. Best friends will still hopefully be best friends. But that girl she texts 15 times a day, will move for a career change, or a will have triplets, or will at some point just not have this kind of time, to text and maintain the closeness that they have now. God, this sounds so negative, but it's not. It's a celebration of the life you create. There are only 24 hours in a day, and you choose to spend them how you want to. And eventually those choices will change. There is nothing wrong with that. When you're raising babies, you are close to your friends that are raising babies. When you move to a new city, you build some friendships in that new city. When you want to hit the bars and pick up guys 2 or 3 nights a week, you tend to hang with friends that want to do that too. Real friendships will absolutely stand the test of time. However, 99% of your friendships will fall into a functional and realistic place in both your lives, as you grow and change and prioritize. But no matter what, your sister is your sister.

I would have argued this logic right up until I was about 40, 41 years old, when I realized how much closer the sisters I know are, than any of the friendships I see. I was always content to be an only child, until then. Now I wish I had what the sisters I see have. Of course there are exceptions. I know a couple people that barely speak to their siblings. I know a couple people that have BFF's that redefine the term. But for most of us, friendships change and shift, life goes on, and relationships continue to redefine themselves.

Yeah, but what about the wedding?

Ginger, I know the last thing you wanted to hear from me was let this go, eventually you and your sister, by design, will be closer and closer, and the friendships she has right now will be different 20 years from now. You want to hear something a little more applicable to right now, and the wedding.

So here's a couple nuggets for ya. One is, whatever you do, please remember it's her wedding. It's not about you. It's not about fixing a hurt feeling, it's not about explaining to a 12 year old something she didn't comprehend. It's not about you, in any way. It's her day. And anything you do that takes away from it being her day, is not a good thing. We all get one of these. You had yours. Like I said in the other hub, this is the one time in your life where what you say goes. Let her have that, unchallenged.

And here's one more nugget. In a very very non-confrontational way, ask her maid of honor if you can be involved in throwing the bachelorette party. The shower is hers to throw, don't rain on it by trying to do too much. But making the offer to help her with the bachelorette is something completely different. Depending on her reaction, you could even offer to just handle it, since she is already doing so much with the shower and everything else. Tell her it could be your gift to your sister, you'll pay for all of it or as much of it as you can. Don't argue, though. If she says, no I am doing the bachelorette, say ok that's great, please let me help you. Please tell me exactly what I can do.

Let her tell your sister, or not. Just do this, unselfishly. Inevitably your sister will find out this was all yours, for her. If your sister doesn't want to do some traditional down-and-dirty male revue strip joint, do something else, like a limo to a dance club, or a show. In NYC we have these booze cruises. Maybe you have a lake or beach area where you could through a ladies luau. Maybe there's a really cool ladies clothing boutique where you could throw an afterhours private cocktail party, ala The Real Housewives of New York at Saks but on a normal person's budget, or do it in a beauty salon like Jerseylicious, where all the girls can get pedicures and massages, or a practice run of their hair styles for the big day, while enjoying a cocktail and some music.

Showing respect to the maid of honor will not only help you pull it off, it will show your sister how a lady of class behaves.

During the bachelorette you may be able to choose a moment. A champagne toast, a private a hug, where you can say to your sister, "It's really not just about getting a title and walking up an aisle. There is so much that goes into everything before the wedding. I really hope now that it's you, you see why I couldn't have a 12 year old be my maid of honor even though she really really was my best friend." But please don't stake the whole night out as a hunt for that moment. Don't make the evening an "I told you so." Make it an, "I really want you to know how I feel about you, then and now."


Submit a Comment
  • sheila b. profile image

    sheila b. 

    8 years ago

    Really, really good advice, in my opinion.

  • Earth Angel profile image

    Earth Angel 

    8 years ago

    That was so kind of you Veronica to take the time to offer sound and loving advice to someone struggling with hurt feelings!! You are a jewel!!

    When ever my heart-strings feel a little (or big) pull of disappointment, I look to see where my "expectations" have not been met!

    We all have expectations; it seems to be a part of the human condition! Sometimes we don't even know we have them, until disappointment (or heartache) of some kind reveals our hidden expectations!

    I try to replace my expectations with appreciation! Appreciation for the connections that are there! Appreciation for the health and being alive and included at all! Appreciation for living where I do that even allows for such loving events!

    I also try to remember that I only have a snapshot of a situation! What if, unbeknownst to anyone else accept the bride, the choosen bridesmaid has been given a terminal diagnosis!? It would make perfect sense then to choose her over her sister! (I know that is a bit dramatic but you get the point!?) We never have the whole picture!

    If we never have the whole picture, it is senseless to feel disappointed and hurt by unmet expectations! It is senseless to have expectations at all!

    We "expect" the sun to rise tomorrow and as such we take it for granted; but how much better it feels to "appreciate" the sun rising and look each day upon its face with a fresh perspective!

    Blessings always, Earth Angel!


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