Every year, my husband and I spend Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with his family. The families live about five hours apart, so we make the drive to his parent’s house early Christmas morning.
Several months ago, he got into an argument with on of his brothers after he failed to invite him to his wedding. They’ve had strained a relationship for years, and now my husband is refusing to show up at his family’s Christmas gathering. He thinks it’ll make everyone uncomfortable, since he’s still not speaking to his brother. The brother, by the way, is also refusing to make amends.
His parents are aging, and I’d hate for him to miss what could be one of their last Christmases together. They’re pretty upset about his decision to skip Christmas, but their pleas for him to come have fallen on deaf ears. I’d really like to convince him to go home for Christmas, but I’m not sure how to go about that. How I can fix this family mess?
— The Mediator
There’s really not much you can do to force your husband and his brother to get along. It sounds like they have some deep-seated issues, and those sorts of matters don’t mend overnight. My grandmother and her sister didn’t speak for years over a family issue, and they’re just now on the mend. Both women are in their 70s.
But it’s not fair that your husband’s parents won’t get to see him for the holidays, especially if they’re getting up there in age. Perhaps you could arrange an alternate Christmas celebration with the rest of his family by finding a date and time either before or after Christmas that would work. If they normally do the cooking for the Christmas Day celebration, offer to handle that part for the alternate gathering. That will mean less stress on their part. Bring or prepare dishes that your husband and his family associate with the holidays, and exchange gifts with the rest of the family on that day.
After the holidays, you should encourage your husband to take the first step toward making amends with his brother. Explain that doing so would make him the bigger person. If you’re patient and persistent, perhaps he’ll make amends before next Christmas. And hopefully, his aging parents will still be around to enjoy a gathering of the whole family.
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