We are supposed to see these family members soon. I want to go and try to enjoy the day, but I’m fearful that I might slip. What should I do?
Stressed-Out Son: You’re right; your wife made an elegant save. Unleashing the raw emotions of your discovery would probably have made things worse.
Now that you’ve had time to collect yourself, though, you can figure out your next move by gauging whether you’ll be able to get past this. No doubt you are hurt; that’s a given. The question is whether this pain is out of proportion to your other feelings about your sister and mom.
One way to approach it is to consider things you’ve said to your mom about your sister, to your sister about your mom, and to your wife about both of them. Imagine what would happen if these conversations ever fell into the wrong hands.
In other words, if you’ve had conversations similar to the one you intercepted, and you’ve just never been busted, then I would use that to remind yourself that exchanges intended to be in confidence aren’t always pretty. As long as they aren’t motivated by spite, they can help friends and family understand each other, work through grievances and even warn each other when something is amiss. If the email could be considered well-meaning, by even the most elastic of stretches, then you have grounds for a conscious decision to let go.
If, on the other hand, there’s no room to interpret the message as anything but mean-spirited, or letting go requires too big a stretch, then you might reasonably expect the injuries won’t heal on their own. If so, you owe it to yourself to say, calmly, to your mom (or sister, if you’re closer to her) that you received the email. Let her know, then let her speak her piece.
That represents your best chance at eliciting context and remorse, the two most healing quantities they can supply at this point. You obviously aren’t planning to estrange yourself from the family, so that leaves you with two plain, if difficult, choices: Make peace with them, or with yourself.
Dear Carolyn: What are your thoughts on weddings in which the bride has a close male friend stand among the bridesmaids and/or the groom has a close female friend with his half of the wedding party? Let’s add the twist that bride/groom was previously involved with this wedding-party member. If they now have a healthy, mature friendship, could such an arrangement be considered appropriate?
Strictly Platonic: If any of the three is uncomfortable with it, then it’s not appropriate.
If all three are okay with it, then I don’t consider it appropriate for anyone else to weigh in on the appropriateness of the arrangement. How’s that?