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Sister-in-law feels left out

DEAR AMY: My husband is the youngest of three brothers, and we were married last of the bunch. My older sisters-in-law have become close friends over the years. They have a lot in common -- both are teachers (I work in finance), both are of Swedish decent (I'm Greek), and both have two sons (I have three daughters). We all live in different parts of the country, but spend Christmas in our husbands' hometown. I have tried very hard over the years not to feel like the third wheel, but it's hard when they have so much in common and I can't relate to many of their conversations. I have tried to connect with them individually between Christmases, but I'm always the initiator -- they never reach out to me. I know they maintain close contact with one another, but I rarely hear from them. I hesitate to bring up that I'm feeling left out because I want them to be in a relationship with me by choice, not make the effort out of obligation. Also, once when I indicated that I felt a bit left out, one of them got very offended and I felt I had to apologize for feeling that way. How can I be fair to them (not force them to read my mind), not come off as whiny or needy, and still form a genuine connection with them when there doesn't seem to be room for me?

-- Third Wheel Sister

DEAR THIRD WHEEL: Your narrative gives every justification for these women to be closer to one another than to you -- primarily, aside from all they have in common, they have known one another longer.

I think you are putting a lot of pressure on this relationship by insisting it be a friendship. The fact is you are in-laws. The main thing you have in common with these two women is the fact that you are married to brothers. If they aren't deliberately excluding you, and if your in-laws are amiable enough when you are together, that might be the best you can do -- and that's a lot!

Contact them only if you want to, not because you are hoping for a particular response. If you relax into this, you will enjoy the relationship more.

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