We have three adult children. Our middle son planned to be married last November, but the wedding was postponed for a year because of the pandemic. Recently we met him, his fiancée and his future in-laws in Florida, where the couple surprised us with a tiny beach wedding — just parents and one best friend. Trying to be inclusive, I sent a picture of the ceremony to my other two children. Rather than feeling joy for their brother, though, they were angry at being excluded and unaware of the wedding. (They both live thousands of miles away, and the large wedding postponed until this November is still on!) Further discussion has only led to more anger. The newlyweds are hurt that my other children won’t congratulate them, and I feel guilty for instigating the problem with the picture. How can I mediate peace?
By the power vested in me (by no one, actually) you are hereby absolved! You did nothing wrong in sending a picture of the surprise wedding to your adult children. (The marriage was not likely to stay secret for long.) Still, this may be an opportune moment for you to step aside as mediator and let your children settle their conflict as (purported) adults. Instead of further advocacy, send them this column.
I sympathize with all parties. On one side, there was a joyful wedding after a miserable year and a delicious surprise concocted by a bride and groom. On the other, there are the understandably hurt feelings of the groom’s siblings at being excluded from a big family event (or at least not being told about it in advance).
I hope the couple was empathetic enough to apologize for the hurt they caused inadvertently. I get their behavior, though: After a stressful, open-ended delay, they saw a golden opportunity and grabbed it! Sadly, they neglected to inform the siblings. If they haven’t apologized yet, they should. And if your other children haven’t accepted the apology, their self-centeredness is on them.
The Strain of Slacktivism
I grew up in a Muslim Arab-American family that always supported the Palestinian cause. My best friend of 10 years is Jewish with family ties to Israel. We have always held opposing views about the conflict in the Middle East, but we’ve been able to discuss them respectfully. This time around, though, the conflict is putting a big strain on our relationship. Our social media activism has created distance and awkwardness between us. I love my friend and don’t want to hurt our relationship. But this is a subject on which we don’t see eye-to-eye. How should we handle it?
I have a suggestion, though you may not like it. By your own account, the issue that’s creating distance between you and thwarting respectful communication, unlike before, is your “social media activism” — which I interpret as posting one-sided screeds that appeal only to people who already agree with you and make more nuanced discussion nearly impossible.
I suggest you stop it. Now, don’t get me wrong: I like the catharsis of an angry post as much as the next person. But activism that shuts down conversation, as yours (and your friend’s) seems to have done, is not worth much. I’d beat a hasty retreat back to respectful mode, and I’d encourage your bestie to do the same.
Dude, Where’s My Bandmate?
I play in a band. All of the bandmates are on a group text chat. One of our members — a guy who has been in the band for more than 10 years — has stopped responding to texts about practices, gigs, etc. When pressed about his behavior, he retreats even further. How do we handle this ghosting situation? We don’t want to just give him the boot.
Sometimes, when people have personal difficulties, broadcasting them over group chat is uncomfortable. If you haven’t yet, call your bandmate directly and ask how he’s doing. It’s been a rough year. He may have a private explanation for his unresponsiveness, or he may simply have cooled on the band after a decade. It will be easier to figure out which it is one-on-one.
I’ll Venmo You Later …
My boyfriend’s brother is really bad at collecting debts. When we go out to dinner, for instance, he will pay with a credit card and tell us that he’ll send Venmo requests once he figures out what we owe. Because of this, I don’t thank him. Then weeks go by without a Venmo request. My boyfriend likes that his older brother is forgetful and refuses to remind him. But I don’t like owing people. Please help!
How exactly is this mooching accidental? After a few days, it seems quite intentional to me. Unless the brother’s Venmo story is merely a charade to pick up dinner tabs without argument, you’re both taking advantage of his absent-mindedness.
I suggest texting him: “What do we owe you for dinner?” Just like that, he will probably tell you, and you can pay up! And next time, work out what you owe at the table. It’s really not that hard.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.