Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mend fences: Life's too short

Dear Ella,
At every major holiday or family event, I encounter the same problem, and this Passover was no exception. My two nieces don’t speak to one another.
I have not taken sides in their feud, but have expressed my opinion about it. Although I agreed with Deborah, the younger of the two sisters, that the events that started this feud were handled improperly, I said I would not exclude Daliah, her sister, from family functions. But Daliah would not attend any gathering if Deborah was going to be there.
After 10 years, Daliah finally concluded that she had missed out on enough family functions and accepted my invitation for Passover this year. When Deborah found out, she called the night before the seder to tell me that she and her family would not be attending.
I later heard from their brother, Richard, that Deborah felt that “I had made my choice,” and I believe she is angry with me now.
I refuse to be put in the middle of this war and don’t want a repeat of this stress every holiday. It takes years off my life. How should I handle this?
Frustrated Auntie

Dear Frustrated Auntie,
Sometimes people get so caught up in their grudges and pride that they can’t see past it and how it affects their children, spouses and extended families. Life is too short to hang on to this kind of animosity for more than 10 years, but this should not be your problem. This feud belongs to Deborah and Daliah, and if they can’t see, or don’t care, what it’s doing to the rest of the family, I think you need to stop caring, too. Next time there’s a family gathering, you’re not going to be the one to choose between them. You need to drop the ball squarely in their court and let the chips fall where they may.
For your next gathering, send both of these gals an e-mail, and make sure to use both their names in the “send to” line.
It should read something like this:
Dear Deborah and Daliah,
On [insert date] we are having an [insert event]. I have invited the whole family.
First let me say that I love you both. In the past, you have made it very uncomfortable, forcing me to choose between the two of you, and I can’t do it any longer. It would be very meaningful to me if you could put aside your differences and enjoy this important day with us. I know it would mean the world to the rest of the family as well.
I hope you give this some thought before you answer out of anger. Please let me know by [insert date] how many in your family will be attending. Once you get past the first five minutes, I promise you will enjoy catching up with everyone. Please don’t let pride stand in your way. Life is too short. I hope more than anything to see you both on this special occasion.
Love [insert name]
Then sit back and wait for the reply. This isn’t your problem. You didn’t create it, and you shouldn’t be in the middle of it. Go ahead and plan your event. If they can’t get past this, unfortunately you’ll have to get used to moving on without them. It will be their loss if they choose not to attend.

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