My Niece Excluded Us From Her Wedding and Ignored My Gift—What Should I Do?

Dear Newsweek, I've got a baffling family dilemma. Recently my niece got married and everybody in the family was invited except my husband and me.

We recently moved across the country, away from many family members which could be part of the reason we weren't invited, but we haven't had an explanation.

In spite of this, she's still family and I sent her and her new husband a card and cheque for $100. I have still not received a thank you note, or any acknowledgment.

I am really hurt at both not being invited to the wedding with no explanation, and that my gift has gone unrecognized and ignored. Am I wrong to expect a response?

Casey, Unknown

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Unhappy woman
An upset aunt. Stock image. A woman has written to Newsweek for advice after her niece failed to invite her to her wedding and ignored her gift. Getty Images/tommaso79

No Need To Escalate a Conflict Unnecessarily But...

Dr. Chloe Carmichael is a clinical psychologist and the author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety as well as Dr. Chloe's 10 Commandments of Dating. Her approach is goal-oriented and emphasizes reaching one's fullest potential through a strengths-based approach.

I applaud you for being thoughtful about your niece's wedding and considering various factors that might have been behind your missing invitation. It was generous and kind of you to send a cheque despite your hurt feelings over not being invited.

You mentioned that no explanation was given about the missing wedding invitation, and that your gift was not acknowledged at all. I can understand why you're baffled. It would make sense for you to wonder if there is something wrong, or if she's just been exceedingly busy (a wedding could certainly make someone busy).

If the check hasn't cleared yet, you might phone her and say, "Hi, I hope you're well! Do you have a minute to talk? (if she says yes, then proceed) I sent a gift, but just wanted to call to express how happy I am for your wedding. I know how busy you must be as a newlywed, but I just wanted to confirm if you received the cheque I sent as a wedding gift. It hasn't been cashed yet, so I wanted to confirm." Even if the check has cleared, you can still phone and say something similar.

Either way, her response to your question will be telling. Hopefully, she'll express gratitude in a warm and friendly way, and offer an apology for having been distant due to preoccupation with the wedding. That's your chance to realize that your missing invitation was probably nothing personal. Nevertheless, you might still follow up with, "I also just wanted to confirm if you have my correct address since we moved across country (then provide your address)". She might actually respond to tell you she's so sorry that she actually had the wrong address since you recently moved, and then you'll understand why your invitation never arrived. On the other hand, if she confirms that she did have your correct address, you'll have to make a judgment call: does she seem icy, or does she seem friendly? If she seems friendly, you might just assume that everything is fine, and not worry too much about not being invited—instead, be thankful that you picked up the telephone to connect and discovered this was likely nothing more than a busy and perhaps slightly self-absorbed bride.

On the other hand, if she seems icy to your question about the check or the address, you might gently do what psychologists call, "narrating your experience." This is just a fancy way of saying that you put your thoughts and feelings into spoken words so that she understands how you feel. For example, you might say, "You know, I've always loved being your aunt. I could be wrong, but somehow I get the feeling I may have upset you. You sound a little distant. Is everything ok?" This will create an opportunity for her to share if something was driving her decision to not invite you, and/or to be icy. No need to escalate a conflict unnecessarily, but perhaps just stop emotionally investing in the relationship if she seems unable or unwilling to connect despite your very best efforts at courtesy and heartfelt conversation.

Explain How Your Hurt Feelings Are Connected With the Fact That You Value Them

Gary Schuller is a marriage and family therapist based in London.

Of course, an acknowledgment of your gift would be a mature way to respond. It seems to me, and one doesn't have to be a therapist to recognize this, that your hurt feelings for having been ignored are also valid.

I am firm believer that there really is no such thing as "wrong feelings." Whenever we feel something, whether positive or negative, it is connected to needs we have, either met or unmet. I expect your feelings in response to not having been included in the wedding celebrations are connected to a need to feel connected, valued, and respected, both inside and outside your family, all very valid core needs.

Perhaps you can share with your niece your experience of hurt and explain how your hurt feelings are connected with the fact that you value them and the family and wish to be included and valued as a part of the family. You have no control over how they might respond, however, perhaps sharing your experience in a nonjudgmental manner with them might help you heal from the hurt.