Dear Savvy Auntie,

My sister and her husband are expecting their first child in December. When she first found out she was pregnant, she emailed me a picture of her positive pregnancy test. I was so excited. We lived in the same town and were working on improving our relationship (things have always been a little rocky). We lived about 10 minutes from each other and hardly ever saw each other but talked over email quite a bit.

Basically, she can't stand my fiancé, and I'm not a huge fan of her husband; however, I have always made the effort to find the good in him for her sake.

Anyway, about a month ago, I had a falling out with a friend, and that friend decided to spread some very vicious and false rumors about me and my fiancé, and my sister believed the rumors even after I explained to her that this "friend" was not to be trusted. In the meantime, I reached my breaking point, and my fiancé and I moved about 5 hours away to start a new life. I have a wonderful job that I love, and we are about to move into a beautiful house.

The last time my sister and I spoke was over email about a month ago, and she told me that I would never have anything to do with her, her husband, or their children. I am heartbroken. I asked my mom when the baby shower is, and she said it is next weekend, and I'm not invited. I don't even know the name of my unborn nephew. I have tried to tell my parents how hurt I am, but my dad is convinced my sister will get over it and will let me be an aunt. My mom is stuck in the middle. I will be going home for the holidays to see my best friend and her newborn son, but I am very uneasy about seeing my family. What do I do?

Not So Much an Aunt

Dear Not So Much an Aunt,

I am sorry to hear of your situation even before your nephew is born. However, there is always the possibility that your sister will soften once he is born; babies are known to have that effect.

In the meantime, continue your email communication, and gradually increase its frequency and length; also, vary the content to include jokes, fashion deals, baby gear ads, etc. This is meant to build up a repertoire of shared “experiences” that can serve as a foundation for easier connections later on.

The very best way to improve relationships is to take a thorough inventory of what you have contributed. Often, it has to do with expectations, biases, and rigidity. Take stock and minimize the aspects of yourself that may be getting in the way. This is difficult but very rewarding work and may shed new light on a longstanding uneasy relationship.

Keep in mind that many women when they become pregnant are influenced by their altered hormones, and try to cut your sister some slack. Also, your parents are in a delicate position; they don’t want to alienate her for fear of losing out on their forthcoming grandson. So, even if they agree with you, she has the power right now.

I wish you the best of luck,

Natalie Robinson Garfield


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