Miss Manners: Man in the middle should try to reconcile both sides

June 7, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am having trouble with my sister, Caroline, and my fiancee, Emily. Caroline is my twin, and she is married and has a 9-month-old baby girl.

Caroline has done nothing to endear herself to Emily. Emily has tried to be friends, and Caroline rebuffs every attempt. She has declined dinner and party invitations, and has not been any help in the wedding planning at all. We had asked her to be a bridesmaid, which makes Emily think that Caroline should be more helpful and enthusiastic.

Even worse, my Emily wanted the wedding to be adults only, but Caroline simply told her that the baby was part of the family and would be coming. This has upset Emily greatly — not just the part about bringing the baby, but also the rude way it was done.

Caroline has now responded to a bachelorette party invitation by first saying she would come for one day, and now saying that it is too far to drive. She says she “may” meet them at a winery, but we all know that is a lie.

Emily wants me to say something. I actually understand why Caroline wouldn’t want to go to the bachelorette party — she does not know anyone else there and would be uncomfortable. She also has a baby.

I think Emily may be a little oversensitive about this. Also, I didn’t go to my brother-in-law’s weekend bachelor party (partly because I didn’t know anyone, partly because of work, and partly because I didn’t want to make anyone feel like they had to be on their best behavior).

As for the baby at the wedding — she is my niece, and I don’t see what the big deal is in having her. All the baby will do is be a part of the photos and then sit in a high chair at the dinner. Yes, Caroline may leave early with the baby, but it doesn’t hurt my feelings at all.

Naturally, Emily thinks I should be supporting her more. Who is right? Who is wrong? Do I have to be in the middle, or should Emily call Caroline and tell her how she feels?

GENTLE READER: You are in the middle, and you will be living there ever after if you don’t settle this now.

The worst thing you could do would be to take sides. These are not combatants; they are, or soon will be, your family. The successful diplomat leaves everyone thinking that he sympathizes with her.

Therefore, you do not tell Caroline that she should be participating more in the wedding, that she should understand that her baby is not welcome, or anything of the sort. Rather, you say: “Emily wants so much to be friends with you, which would also mean a lot to me, and she is afraid that she might have inadvertently offended you. I don’t think she understands how busy you are with the baby. We wish Zinnia were a bit older so that she could be a flower girl, but of course we want her at the wedding.”

And how do you explain this to Emily? You do not tell her that she has to compromise. Rather, you say: “You know I will always be supportive of you, in every way. I’m sorry Caroline is being standoffish and snippy, but I think we can bring her around. It may be that she is just frazzled with the baby, so letting her bring her would help. Besides, Zinnia will be your niece, and I know you feel as I do that family is important. But let’s not make an issue about the bachelorette party, because Caroline could throw it in my face that I didn’t go to Josh’s. If I’d had you to advise me then, I would have behaved better.”

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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