She says: Jason’s brother doesn’t seem to like me
Jason’s brother doesn’t seem to like me, for no reason that I’m aware of. It’s uncomfortable for me to see him at family get-togethers, so I’d rather not attend if he’s there.
He says: Can’t she just deal with him?
I don’t want Rachel to miss family gatherings, and I’m not going to boycott them. Can’t she just be the bigger person and try to deal with him?
Since Jason doesn’t dispute Rachel’s assessment, let’s assume it’s at least somewhat accurate. So what’s going on with this brother-in-law? Since neither seems to know, the best way, which unfortunately is also the hardest way, is just to ask him. Ideally, Rachel should do it with Jason by her side, at least morally.
Lead with weakness: “I apologize if I’m getting this all wrong, or if I’m being over-sensitive, but it seems like there’s some kind of bad vibe between us. Does it seem that way to you, too? Anyway, if I’ve done something to offend you, please let me know.” Here are three possible outcomes:
1) A happy ending: He denies said feelings, but acknowledges that he doesn’t always send clear social signals. You thank him for telling you this, you empathize with him and you kindly shake hands.
2) A somewhat less happy ending: He says that you did indeed offend him and the two of you talk about it. You may or may not work your way through it, but at least you will have shown him that you want to improve it. At that point it would be your call, Rachel, and yours alone, whether you’re comfortable enough to socialize with him. And, Jason, this is not a matter of her being a “bigger” or a “smaller” person, but a matter of knowing her limitations.
3) An unhappy ending, but still a good one: He denies any such bad feelings, cuts off the conversation and then continues to send the same vibes – or even amps them up as payback for having “antagonized” him.
How is this a good ending? Rachel would have shown to all parties of good will that she wants to live by Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
While she should forgive her brother-in-law for his animosity, still, neither she nor Jason should consider her bound to attend any family gatherings where he is present. If she feels called to make a sacrifice by spending time with him, that’s one thing, but no one should expect it of her. Indeed, avoiding this man could be the most loving thing to do for him.