Q A few months ago, I married the man of my dreams. It was a beautiful wedding, and I had so much support from family and friends who came to wish us well and be there for us as we exchanged vows. 

My brother, however, decided not to come at the last minute because he was uncomfortable attending. I recently found out he was a groomsman for the wedding of one of his friends just a week after my wedding. Seeing him in the pictures of this other wedding party upset me, and I am having a hard time getting over it. 

My brother and I were close growing up, and I had grown up expecting he would be my best man. He claimed to be OK with things when I came out of the closet three years ago, and he more recently assured me he would come to my wedding even though it was against his religious principles. 

I later found out that he had not been OK with my coming out or engagement, but that he felt pressured into saying he was because he didn’t want to damage our relationship. I appreciate that he initially hid his discomfort from me because it demonstrates how much he valued our relationship. 

Does backing out in the end mean that he now values that relationship less? And does participating in his friend’s wedding mean that he cares more about this friend than me? 

More importantly, what I can do to build a better relationship with my brother despite his absence at the most important day of my life?

A Congratulations on your wedding! It is very unfortunate that your brother skipped out on such an important day, especially because you were so close. I deferred to a couple of experts to help you with your questions to guide you through working out your feelings with and toward your brother: 

Dr. Ken Maguire, a psychologist at the Council for Relationships in Pennsylvania says, “Weddings are very emotional and powerful moments in our lives. They signal the end of an old way of living and the beginning of a new life joined with someone else. We often feel as if they are the single most important day in our lives, forgetting in that moment all the wonderful things to come. As a result, the behavior of other people about our wedding, like your brother, impacts us strongly. Because our weddings are so important to us, we also feel the effects long after the day is over.” 

Dr. Maguire points out that “this is where you have to choose: Will your brother’s behavior on one day of your life erase the loving relationship you had before you came out and the rest of your life after your wedding? You are probably right in thinking that he hid his discomfort with your being gay because he didn’t want to hurt you. Over time, it seems, his lack of talking about it led to a lot of thoughts and feelings he didn’t know what to do with and he backed out of your wedding party. That doesn’t mean that he values your relationship less. It probably means he just didn’t know how to talk to you and maybe wasn’t talking to anyone who could give him good advice on how to talk to you. He probably still needs to talk to you.” 

So are you ready to talk to your brother? “In the end, you need to ask yourself ‘Do I want to build a relationship with my brother after what happened?,’ says Dr. Maguire. “While your wedding may feel like the most important day you have ever had and now will ever have, there are many days to come that you can share with your brother. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to be hurt by what he did. You are hurt and given your relationship with your brother, he should know that. People respond better when they are confronted that they hurt someone than when they are told they made someone angry. And, truth be told, usually it’s sadness underneath the anger we need to share. So if I were in your shoes—get on the phone and call your brother and find a time to talk with him in person. Be honest with yourself about how hurt you are, and tell him. Be prepared for the fact that he needs to say things to you too, which may be hard to hear. But, in the end, your relationship will be more open and honest than it is now. Given the strong foundation your have with him going into talking to him, I think things will go better than you fear.” 

Dr. Richard Buggs, a psychologist and dean of alumni at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco, weighs in on your final question: What can you do to build a better relationship with your brother despite his absence at the most important day of your life? 

“Be prepared to be very patient with your brother and his process of adjusting to your being gay,” says Dr. Buggs. “He has had a mere three years to come to terms with your news and has the added complication of ‘religious principles,’ which undoubtedly require him to choose between his brother and God. He has disappointed you on your special day and your pain is understandable, but I also bet your brother is feeling a fair amount of distress over his decision to miss your wedding. 

“It is admirable that you want a better relationship with your brother, but be prepared to do the bulk of the heavy lifting (including forgiving him for hurting you). For most gay people, coming out is necessary in order to live authentic, integrated and healthy lives. Coming out is also a lifelong process that never really ends. Family members may also go through a similar (though less painful process) in coming out about having a gay family member. Your brother is clearly conflicted about this situation as evidenced in his unpredictable behavior. It may take years—or a lifetime—for him to accept you as being gay. 

“You can let him know that he was missed at your wedding and that you are trying your best to understand him and what happened. Be open and try to find empathy for him. Let him know the door is always open to having a dialogue and that you’re not giving up on having a better relationship with him.” 

Dr. Buggs also recommends being prepared to offer your brother resources in his area should he ever be interested. You can find assistance at local LGBT organizations, as well as books such as “Now That You Know: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding Their Gay and Lesbian Children” by Betty Fairchild or “Loving Someone Gay” by Don Clark, both of which he says have helped many family members.

Kirsten Ott Palladino is the co-founder and editor in chief of Equally Wed. Follow her on Twitter @kirs10palladino. Chat with her on Facebook at facebook.com/kirsten.palladino. Email her with your gay wedding questions at askkirsten@equallywed.com. If she can’t answer it, she’ll find another expert who can!