DEAR AMY: My brother, “Joe,” recently got engaged to his girlfriend of three years. He asked my parents for my address to send a “save the date.” However, Joe and I have not gotten along much over the past two years. I had a fairly major surgery last New Year’s Eve, and instead of spending the time with my parents and me, Joe and his girlfriend decided to spend a night out in the city because, according to her, “New Year’s Eve is for couples.” This has caused feelings of betrayal and distrust, though when I try to broach the subject, I get brushed off and told to get over it. Since then, I have been happier not spending time with my brother, instead focusing on my health, my friends and my career. I would prefer to not go to Joe’s wedding, as I do not feel close to him anymore and I am not supportive of the union. Is it all right for me to decline the invitation, given our history? Or am I being selfish in not planning to be present on his big day?
Estranged in Illinois
DEAR ESTRANGED: You can decline any invitation, but when you ask whether you are “obligated” to attend your brother’s wedding, the answer is yes.
A wedding is not an invitation to the movies. It is a major life-chapter in the story of a family, and because you are the groom’s sibling, you should attend. This wedding is both a family and a social obligation. Your brother is fulfilling his side of this obligation by inviting you.
It is certainly your right not to honor this obligation, but you should be aware of the consequences if you don’t: possible total estrangement from your brother, upsetting and disappointing your parents and other family members and denying the possibility that things might ever be different between you.
Family members deliberately avoid weddings for big and legitimate reasons — abuse, abandonment or the total lack of any family relationship. In your case, your brother didn’t honor your relationship when you wanted him to. You don’t like his fiancee. This doesn’t rise to a level whereby you can legitimately refuse to attend his wedding and blame him for your choice. This occasion could serve as a fresh start for both of you. I hope you’ll reconsider your decision.
DEAR AMY: I just started dating a guy. I did a little background investigating through the internet and found out he has a restraining order on his ex. The restraining order was taken out in another state, but it is recent. His ex lives in the same state we are in, and I am concerned she might be stalking him. If she is stalking him, this places me and my family at risk. I checked local records in our county and did not find anything, but my internet search in his previous state showed a pending case. I’m not sure what to do with this knowledge. What do you think?
DEAR UNSURE: You don’t say what the “pending case” is for, or who might be charged (and with what crime), but the most logical thing to do is to ask this man to answer your questions regarding what your internet search has turned up. If you are savvy enough to do this, you should be open about it.
His involvement in a court case, or swearing out a restraining order on his ex, does not automatically mean that you and your family are in any danger. However, if your search is correct, you have a right to be filled in on all the drama, if you expect to have a long-term relationship with him.
DEAR AMY: Your response to “Dutiful Daughter” was absolutely right on. She should let her mother be independent, and even if she should die at home, that’s preferable to being put in some facility just so that the other children don’t feel guilty. In this society, too many people want to postpone death at all costs. Why? And why shouldn’t the elderly, unless they are senile, be able to make their own choices?
DEAR INDEPENDENT: Letting someone die at home sounds like a binary choice, but it is not. Would you let an elderly person suffer at home through illness or neglect? Would you let your frail parent live alone in unsafe conditions?
Aging in place and dying how you want are rational and relatable goals, but getting there is often messy, confusing and heartbreaking.