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posted: 10/1/2013 12:17 PM

Don't be so quick to brush off sister's request

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Q. My boyfriend and I decided on a wedding date that was convenient and would have great romantic meaning. The wedding is abroad and we traveled to make arrangements. We reserved the church, reception venue, musicians, photographer, almost everything.

My older sister has been trying for over a year now to get pregnant, and she is undergoing medical treatment. She said she was almost sure she was pregnant (it turned out she wasn't) and asked us to change the date. I didn't even think much when I said no because we had already paid deposits and I like the date.

She is very upset and she thinks I am wrong and selfish. I think the same about her request. She gave me a big wedding gift (so I can help pay for the wedding), so I think she thinks I must change the date.

But I have a date, she doesn't; how can I know when would be a good time for her to have my wedding? Both things are important for each one. I hope she gets pregnant, but I also want to enjoy my wedding and the planning process, which is now ruined by this fight.

We have always been very close, but this is creating a really deep crack in our relationship. How can we move past this?


A. We in the advice wing of the newsroom don't often get to say this, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts: Follow the money.

When your sister thought she had a long-hoped-for due date that conflicted with your wedding date, your response to the very person who apparently made your wedding-abroad-on-a-date-of-great-romantic-meaning possible was "Tough." In so many words.

The fact that she's actually not pregnant does not, as you suggest, prove the wisdom of your brushoff. It only makes it sound even more tone-deaf.

Would it even have been possible to change your date to accommodate your sister? Maybe not; maybe the change fees would have been so prohibitive that "Tough" was the only practical answer.

However, for a sister who gave generously and is probably teeming with extra hormones and the stress of a hesitant womb, the loving response would have been, "I so want you there. Let me make some calls."

Even if checking it out produced the same outcome, the act of checking would have told your sister you had your priorities straight. As in: family; gratitude for gift; (lots and lots of other stuff); romantic wedding date.

That you "didn't even think much" apparently told her your priority was you.

Now, maybe what you thought you were saying was something strictly pragmatic, that you already knew the cost of changing was prohibitive. But how else do fights start except for such gaps in perception?

And how do they end except for efforts to fix those gaps?

Please recognize, and admit to your sister, that you were too quick to dismiss the idea of rescheduling the wedding because, of course, her presence meant more than a symbolic date ... yesss?

Then ask her (assuming there's still no due date coming, though I hope there is) what, in a perfect world, she wants of you. Then, again, hear her out and don't "no" her out-of-hand, even if you end up not changing a thing.

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2013 The Washington Post

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