Issue with Brother and His Girl Friend

Updated on May 26, 2017
J.G. asks from Chicago, IL
14 answers

My brother left his wife of 20 years for his HS sweetheart about 6 years ago. His girlfriend and I did not get off to a very good start --she felt the need to lecture me about homeschooling my children. In any case, in the last year, I've worked really hard to build a quality relationship with her.

In any case, about 4 months ago, my mother called and said my cousin was coming into town and wanted to know if we were throwing my dad an 80th bday party. I said, i guess. let me talk to my husband and brother about it. So we decided to throw them a party.

My brother and his wife visited my parents while my parents were in Florida in March. When my mom got back home, she said she had the guest list ready. I of course just said great, when you get it to me, i'll order invites.

The day I ordered the invites, I learned that I put the wrong address on the invites for the party. I guess my mother and brother had conversations about the party while away and changed the location and didn't bother to tell me. In any case, I was ticked off that I was left out. This has been the story of my life: my mother and brother makes plans and then just tell me what they are, never asking me my opinion. At this point, I'm not really involved in the party planning at all. My brother took it over, and I'm to bring appetizers and a salad. This isn't what I wanted. I had other ideas for the party, but like I said, no one asked us.

A little while ago, my brother's gfriend (she is live in, btw) called and said she has some projects for the kids to do for my dad for the party. Last weekend my parents took my kids and my brother and his GF joined them for dinner. While at dinner, the GF helped my oldest write a poem for my dad, and they decided my youngest could paint him a picture, etc. So she called and asked if she could drop off the supplies.

I'm PMSing and really feeling upset that this woman has even planned what my kids will be giving to my dad for his bday. Am I overreacting, or is this just over the top?

What can I do next?

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More Answers

J.S.

answers from St. Louis on

Yes, totally overreacting. They are handling it, giving you a break, you don't have to control everything.

Make an appetizer and a salad and enjoy yourself.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

Based on what you've written, I don't see that your issue is really with your brother's girlfriend. Yes, he left his wife, but he's been with this woman for 6 years, and they live together, so it's not a new incursion into your life. She disagrees on homeschooling, but that was years ago, so let it go. Perhaps calling her "this woman" is off-putting to her (even if you don't call her that, she may feel your disdain). So, unless there's more that you haven't written here, that part of the birthday party planning is irrelevant.

Your problem is with your brother and your mother, making plans and excluding you. Maybe one of them assumed the other would clue you in on a change in the location, or maybe they're totally passive-aggressive about being in control of things and hanging you out to dry.

On a good day, you might see that his girlfriend took the burden off you to help plan a "family" event, without regard to whose kids are whose. Would this have bothered you as much if you'd been involved in the party? Is it possible that your kids were actually more cooperative with someone besides you, the way kids will do more for their teachers or Scout leaders while ignoring their parents? Is it possible she thought she was helping you out, with the kids in a good mood and she just struck while the iron was hot? Maybe (being optimistic) she thought she was helping you by taking the job with your kids off your plate. Even if she's not this generous, she's certainly following your brother's lead her, so you can't focus on her.

So, let it go. Now, what can YOU do for your dad that is unique and special? Can you make a photo collage to display at the party, or make a video out of photos and older videos that can be put on an endless loop on a laptop at the party? Do you have another talent - making a quilt out of photos or with the kids writing on some fabric squares with fabric paint? Write a song parody to another familiar tune and put in words about your dad? Focus on what you CAN control and what you're really good at, and just skip the part about informing anyone else of what you have done. If you have something to display at the party, just contact the manager of the hall (or wherever it's being held) a few days before and say you need a small table (or whatever you need, including access to an electrical outlet if applicable), or take your own table or an easel to the event. Just say it's a surprise and not to bother mentioning it to Mom and Brother.

Now, going forward, if you're asked to plan a party, say, "No thanks, not this time. Have fun doing it, though!" If pressed, just say your ideas haven't been appreciated, you wasted money on invitations when the party address was changed, etc. Your brother isn't going to change, and your mother is not going to stand up to him. Either make the appetizers/salad or have a caterer or good supermarket do it so you don't get all worked up about it.

Use all your creative party ideas for your own family where you have control. Don't waste them on people who don't appreciate what you have to offer. If your father is 80, you want to make these years pleasant and have your kids around him as much as possible. What you really want to avoid, of course, is being so ticked off that you're in a huff at this special milestone birthday, instead of being the bigger person here and rising above it. Your kids will need to learn that skill from you, since they'll be seeing a lot of grandstanding from uncle and aunt going forward, which will be more obvious as they get older.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

I think if someone called me and asked if I was throwing a party - and my sibling is always making the plans - I'd have said "No, I thought Tony was taking care of it. Better talk to him about it." and then sit back and wait for my invite.
Just learn to bow out at an early stage - let them plan it AND execute what ever they decide to do.
You do what ever you want with what ever your kids are giving your Dad - and no one else has any say so in what that is.
As for appetizers and salad for this shindig - go buy something pre made.
Make this as easy for yourself as you can.

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D.D.

answers from Boston on

You are letting your mom's and brother's close relationship cloud your thinking. My thinking is if they want to plan everything then let them do the heavy lifting. You can make something with your kids to give Grandpa (because I know my grandkids would be happy to make a dozen birthday cards and crafts if their moms let them) and just show up with your food and call it a day. You tried to insert yourself into the process and ended up with invites with the wrong address. Seriously girl let them do everything and just go and enjoy the party.

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D..

answers from Miami on

You should not worry about the poem. At all. This is a "bonding experience" with their uncle's girlfriend. It's that simple. That is ALL that it is. Leave it there.

You and your husband figure out what your family is giving your dad for his birthday. Work on that now since you have plenty of time, unfettered from the birthday party plans that other people foolishly took over. Don't do ANYTHING but the appetizers and a salad. Enjoy the party, talk to everyone, be a social butterfly. Sit with your dad. Lots. DON'T you dare wash dishes!!! Let your brother and his girlfriend do it.

Make lemonade out of lemons. You have to. And no washing dishes!

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

She called and said she had some projects for the kids for the party, and you said OK. So, she asked your permission to do this, and you agreed (maybe you didn't know what you were agreeing to, but apparently you didn't ask, so that's on you.) I don't see that she did anything wrong.

I think you are redirecting your frustration with your brother and your mom at the GF.

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E.B.

answers from Honolulu on

My brother left his wife after 15 years of marriage, and then launched on a series of affairs with several married women. My dad was in a nursing home at the time, nearing the end of his days on earth, and his birthday was coming up.

Without even telling me, my brother had the girlfriend-of-the-week plan a party (he let her do all the planning).

They didn't even tell me about the party, but they told my kids (because this woman planned to have all the grandchildren sing a song) who then told me. Yeah, I was pretty livid.

It took me awhile to realize that even though the party planning was stolen from me, what they couldn't take was my relationship with my dad, the memories, the lifetime of love.

So, as others have said, it's your brother and your mother who are shoving you out of the picture, but they can never take the fact that you are your father's daughter. Give your dad a framed photo of you and him on a special occasion or doing a favorite activity from when you were a kid (fishing? him holding you as a baby? etc).

I went to the party, and to be honest, I enjoyed realizing that this new girl in my brother's life didn't know my dad's favorite ice cream flavor, or where he grew up, etc. I spent some time with my dad talking over old times, and it ended up being a nice day. Dad felt celebrated, and I got to show up to his party having spent my time and energy planning a nice gift for him from my husband, my kids and me.

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K.F.

answers from New York on

Oh dear. I'm feeling your pain. You have played second fiddle all your life. The only person you can control is you. I absolutely loved B's answer and It's Me Again's answer. Read them again and apply it to your life.

Life is too short to have so much baggage. Forgive them and let them be themselves and you get to say yes to what you can and no to the things they do that overstep your boundaries.

This isn't so much about the girlfriend as it is about your history with your mother and brother.

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Ditto J. S.
And if you want to do a gift/project with your kids what's stopping you? I assume there's not a limit on presents for Grandpa, so go for it!

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

You need to have a calm and clear conversation with your mother and brother that does not include his girlfriend. Explain that if they don't want you help with planning don't ask, and don't just give you busy work without even checking to see if you have ideas. And they were way out of line involving your kids without your consent, make that clear. Let them know that in the future they can ASK if a project is okay with you before presenting it to the children.

Growing up it was always about my sister, and when we had children of our own it became clear that it was still all about her. I finally confronted my mother about it and only than did things begin to change. But when you talk to them be calm and controlled, it is when we let our emotions take over that we say things we don't mean.

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S.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

I do think that you should try talking to them and explaining that it is your father too and that you feel left out. Communication is the only thing that will change anything. As for your brother's girlfriend and her planning stuff with your kids, I think that she is just trying to build a relationship with your children. They are kind of family now, and a lot of children sometimes resent new family members like her. I think that you should be and normally would be happy for your children for building a relationship with your brothers girlfriend, but your OWN resentment is getting in the way of that.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

Hm. If it were me I would be unhappy with my mother and brother for changing the location and not telling me. I would talk to them about how they should have told me bc I spent money on invitations that now have the wrong address. I would go about planning my own meaningful gift for Dad and helping my kids plan something as well. I wouldn't really care if my brother's girlfriend is also helping to plan something else from the kids bc there is no limit to gifts that can be given. I'd be happy she was including my kids and not leaving them out. Does your brother often take over things like this? Tell him your party ideas and talk to him about it. Talk to your mom about how she asked you to plan a party but then she switched and began planning things with your brother instead. You should not be mad at your brother's girlfriend. Honestly, if it were me I'd be happy to let someone else do the planning.

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X.Y.

answers from Chicago on

The real problem is with your brother and mother.
Did you plan on having your kids give/make something for your dad? If no, then are you more upset that you didn't think of it? If yes, then simply state you already have something and your daughter won't have the time to do the painting.

Time to have a talk with your brother and mother instead of holding it in.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

The part that might annoy me is if I had gone to the bother to do up invites, and then find out that the plans had changed. I don't like wasting my time. However, for you, it's dragging up all kinds of emotions likely from childhood where you felt either excluded or not as important to your mom as say your brother is. That's what I'm getting from reading this.

That's a long time issue - you can address that with them (probably your mother) if needs be. Sometimes parents are clueless that they are doing something to annoy you. My mother has been clueless at times, and I'm sure I am clueless at times.

As for the girlfriend, if she's lectured you in the past .. that's annoying. It sounds like your brother, your brother's girlfriend and your mother don't respect you or something. Stand up for yourself.

For the party though - I'd let all this go. This is about your dad - his 80th. Just do what is meaningful to you and your kids, and keep it simple.

On a personal note, my sister often organizes family functions for our family - and I assist. That's just the pattern and our roles. I have one sister who often feels left out. It's not intentional. It's just it's easy how we communicate well (my organizer sister and I). When we offer to have her get involved, it gets complicated. So yes, we probably don't always involve her as much as we should. It takes effort. People tend to do what is easiest. So maybe your brother and mother communicate very well and are on the same page. Sometimes that is the dynamic. You don't always need to take it personally.

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