(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)
Advice columnist

Hi, Carolyn: I am the youngest of three grown kids. Our dad passed away a few years ago, and our mom lives in a nursing home. We all live in different places, one on the opposite coast.

A few years ago, the oldest and his wife decided, for reasons unbeknownst to us, that we weren't welcome at their house anymore. There was no fight, no falling-out to precipitate this that I'm aware of, and they had hosted only one gathering there, so they weren't expected to host everything, either. We get along fine, for the most part — except we're just not allowed to come to their house. The wife's brother is welcome anytime. Our other brother is not welcome at the oldest's house, either.

Our house is always open to them, of course, and they visit a couple of times a year.

I have gotten upset and asked why this is, just to get a mumbled response about the house not being presentable and how I don't understand what he has to go through. Of course I don't understand — he won't explain.

I realize there's not much I can do, seeing as they can choose who does or doesn't come over. I just don't understand it and am tired of trying to make sense of it. I would understand if we didn't have a good relationship, or if we were druggies or thieves, or if we expected them to offer up their house for any and all events, but that's just not the case.

It's time for me to get past this, but how? I'm really hurt and struggling with it.

— Hurt

Hurt: It’s as if you’re going through the basement, searching over and over again for something, driving yourself crazy with it — and completely forgetting to look in the attic.

You’re so sure the exclusion is about you! Isn’t it more likely that, given the facts you’ve presented here, the exclusion is about them?

As in, maybe they’re. . . hoarders? Or the wife is controlling and now welcomes her family only. Or they’re poly and don’t want you to know that, and the third partner lives with them. Or they have something in their house they don’t want you to see — say, an heirloom they aren’t supposed to have. Maybe they’re running a sketchy business out of their garage. Maybe they let their pets poop on the rugs.

Maybe the wife’s brother is still welcome because he also hoards/knows already/works in the business/learned his pet-care skills from the same place the wife did.

Those are just a few random examples, but the bigger point is, don’t just assume it’s about you, then jump right to feeling rejected (and right past their continuing to visit you).

Instead, check the “attic” and its stacked and piled-up multitude of reasons a person might refer to his home as “not being presentable,” from the banal to the bizarre.

Then, recognize this couple — not you — is the only common denominator in all those reasons. Whatever it is, he’s going through it.

Then let yourself off the hook, unless and until you receive hard information that puts you back on it.

Then appreciate — please — that you “get along fine” with everyone, especially during a phase that’s famous for straining families, some until they break.

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.