#878: “My nephews have frozen me out, what can I do about it?”

Hi;

I came across your column when I was looking for guidance as I have nowhere else to turn. I have twin nephews on my husband’s side. His eldest sister was always awkward to me ,and her husband is plain rude, unless he gets a few drinks in him. These two are the nephews’ parents. I have tried and tried over the years to reach out to them, as family is very important.

It is always awkward being in their presence. When one of my nephews was 4, he straight out told me he didn’t like me. That’s OK, he was four. Fast forward to now, the kids are in their early 20s. I reached out over the years to them and my sister in law to get cold and awkward reception. Holiday time is especially uncomfortable at my house when they come over. Last year, one nephew lied and told us their newborn was sick, so they couldn’t make it. They also didn’t bother to thank us for the cards and gifts for the child. I tried reaching out to them on Facebook, and sending them and one of their fiancées a friend request. One by one ,in a matter of minutes, my friend requests were deleted, and their settings were made so that I could not attempt another request. I was deeply hurt.

We were invited to the wedding of one of the nephews, but it was out-of-state, and we were going to be in another state, househunting.my husband sent them a message on Facebook wondering why they did this to me. One of the nephews very coldly said “it’s not something I can discuss on Facebook.” My husband said “you can call me and we’ll discuss it.” One of the nephews willy-nilly said to his mother “it’s just Facebook”.The call never came. Fast forward to last night, I was looking at wedding pictures that mutual friends posted and saw that all three flat out blocked me. I was downright crushed. I really thought family was family. I told my husband I don’t want any of them in my house, and if you wants to see them he can go visit them. I have done nothing wrong to them, but it hurts to be hated so much, that they would oust me like that. And it looks like the twins do everything at the same time-they, along with the now wife, made it impossible for me to friend request, and altogether they blocked me.

At a sister-in-law’s funeral around Thanksgiving last year, the wife went over to hug me and make small talk ,one of the nephews still there smiling while the other nephew sat across the room and ignore me the entire time.my husband shrugged it off and said he’s not losing sleep over it so why should I. Well, he’s not the one that had his feelings hurt. He’s not the one who’s obviously hated and can’t figure out why.he told me no explanation they could give to him would be acceptable, anyway, so just move on. But I am the type of person needs to grieve before I can move on. And I started to heal, and the figurative wound ripped open when I saw that I was blocked last night. I am so embarrassed over this. The nephews blocked me, but not the wife. She just has a shaded so that I couldn’t friend her. I’m wondering if I should just block her. I just felt like venting. Maybe this could help someone,maybe someone has words of wisdom for me.

Thank you,

P.

Dear P.,

I read this book called F*ck Feelings not too long ago, and I think their structure for responding to concerns might work for your letter.

Here’s what you want & cannot have: Freely-given love & social validation & interaction from your nephews and their wives/girlfriends. An apology for the slights you perceive that they’ve given you over the years. To be unblocked on Facebook and to have your schedule considered when they set dates for their weddings* and other big life events. To feel like they share your understanding and values around “Family,” including the enthusiastic celebration of holidays** at your house. Barring that, you’d like an explanation for why it didn’t all work out.

Here’s what you can realistically have and do: Say to yourself “I did the best I could to have the relationship I wanted with them; it just wasn’t meant to be” and then disengage. Grieve if you need to. Say to yourself “They clearly have a different idea about how family works.” Then, DIS. EN. GAGE. Remind yourself that they are adults and can make their own decisions about how they spend holidays and who they connect with on social media. You cannot make them like you, “friend” you, or come to holiday celebrations at your house. Stop sending gifts and cards to them and their kids and trying to create obligations where they feel none. Stop inviting them to holiday dinners. Stop monitoring their Facebook feeds or sending friend requests into the void. Stop putting yourself out there for people who are not making any effort for you. 

*Let’s talk about the wedding date conflict, which is sticking out for me as an example of a situation that was not handled well by you & your husband. Lots of factors go into setting a wedding date and location that have nothing to do with the schedule of one particular guest. They invited you. If you can’t go to a wedding because of an unavoidable schedule conflict, you RSVP “regrets” and send a nice card close to the day. You don’t ask “Why did you do this to me?” The most likely answer is that they didn’t “do this to you” –it wasn’t about you at all. Anyone who asked me that about my wedding would get a “So sorry you can’t be there, that was the date that worked best for us” and a wide berth for the next little while. Can you see why that would be?  Edit: I think I read this wrong, and most probably the “Why would you do this to me” was about the Facebook blocking. Forgive me. The answer to “Why did you unfriend/block me on Facebook” is usually some version of “We don’t really mesh online.” For your nephews, it’s not the medium they would choose for interacting with you. They are the only ones who can say why, but like your husband, I’m not sure there is an explanation that would satisfy or make you feel better.

**Let’s also talk about the “lie” of the sick newborn. Babies are great ruiners of social plans. New parents often have to make sucky decisions to put their kids first. It’s terrible when people cancel plans at the last minute, but are you sure this was a deliberate slight and not a hazardous waste-erupting baby?

If these were meant to be slights, like, they really can’t stand you and don’t want you at their weddings or to hang out with their babies, sadly, your husband is right: What explanation from them could possibly help? A line on a family tree chart alone does not a relationship make. You can’t undo or fix any of it now, so here’s what you can do if you want to have the most positive possible interactions with them going forward:

One, stop trying to get their attention or otherwise work it out. Don’t give them the silent treatment (the silent treatment wants to be noticed and acknowledged), just, stop taking the initiative toward contacting them. Leave them be unless they contact you. You have already tried all the trying that it is possible to try and it hasn’t worked to bring you closer, so, stop trying.

Two, when you run into them/see the nephews at larger family events, say a quick “Hello, nice to see you!” and then go talk to the people you know are glad to see you. Don’t pick at old scabs, conspicuously ignore them, or throw out passive-aggressive “We missed you at the holidays” comments, just, a friendly “Hello! Nice to see you!” and then move on. The less you try, the more they will relax. The more they relax, the more it will be possible to have brief, positive interactions. The more brief, positive interactions you have over time, the more the relationship will thaw. It probably won’t ever be what you want it to be, but it might be possible to grow slowly away from the strong animosity and hurt that characterizes the relationship now.

Three, when you start to feel sad or stressed out by an interaction with them or imagining what could be, remind yourself: “I feel sad, but I know that I did what I could. It just didn’t work out.” Try not to spiral through the entire history of your relationship. It will get easier with time if you can acknowledge the sad feelings with a brief ritual or mantra before actively trying to distract yourself with other things.

I have two further suggestions for you that might help you put this behind you by channeling your energy in other directions.

One, who are the relatives that enthusiastically love you and respond to your overtures? Spend some energy on them. Take a niece to lunch. Visit a great-uncle in the nursing home. Go to a little kid’s ballet recital or the school play and watch them awkwardly say their lines. Offer to babysit. Have some friends and family over for a casual cookout. Pay attention to reciprocity – who invites you back, says thank you, accepts your invitations with enthusiasm? Put your love and time into the people in your life who reflect it back to you. Nurturing those relationships is the best way to take care of yourself around this hurt and lack that you feel.

Two, it sounds like you might be hungry for the company of young people, and you might not have other relatives besides these nephews who have young kids. Maybe you can channel some of that energy into volunteer work (tutoring, mentoring, reading to kids at the local library) where the love and time you have to offer will be better appreciated. It takes a lot of strength to convert hurt and anger into love that you send back out into the world, but I hope you’ll try. You don’t deserve to stay feeling this sad and angry.

 

 

232 comments
  1. Traffic Spiral said:

    This. You can’t make people want to be your friends or spend time with you – even if you’re related. You’ve made efforts, they aren’t interested, so that’s that.

    • Cactus said:

      +1000

  2. Aloot said:

    “But I am the type of person needs to grieve before I can move on. And I started to heal, and the figurative wound ripped open when I saw that I was blocked last night.”

    Don’t sell yourself so short – you are not a flawed human being for having the figurative wound ripped open. Grieving isn’t like a progress bar where you can see how far along you are and then when it’s reached 100%, it’s done and over with. You are allowed to have setbacks, and experience new emotions that may be as strong as the original ones you thought you’d already coped with.

    But the Captain is right, you need to let go and stop chasing a relationship with your nephews, and refocus yourself on your Team You.

  3. Cactus said:

    The less you try, the more they will relax. The more they relax, the more it will be possible to have brief, positive interactions. The more brief, positive interactions you have over time, the more the relationship will thaw. It probably won’t ever be what you want it to be, but it might be possible to grow slowly away from the strong animosity and hurt that characterizes the relationship now.

    This, right here? This is perfect. This is some of the best advice I have ever read.

  4. DisorderedMess said:

    I’ve been there, LW, on both sides of the issue! It’s a sucky thing to be frosted out by family you’d like to be closer to. But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, and not everyone has the same feelings about what it means to be a family.

    And on the other side, someone attempting to force closeness I don’t reciprocate is going to put my shoulders firmly up into my ears. They might be a perfectly lovely person, but I’m not where they want me to be emotionally and that’s extremely awkward and makes me want to avoid them entirely.

    Cap’s advice is spot on: General hello plesantries followed by a polite disengage is where you’re going to live with them.

    • I would just add that if/when they do give a friendly “hello” to the LW, to treat it as just that – a friendly hello,and not as an invitation to open the flood gates. Just keep things light and simple.

  5. Jen M said:

    The same thing happened to me. In my case, it was my step family and even members of my own family. I never understood why EITHER set of “family” members didn’t like me.

    Since both of our parents have died, I have seen nor heard anything from ANY of them, save the occasional information about my mom’s estate. I’m just now, in my mid-40s, saying “fuck it” and trying to heal and move on.

    I have a WONDERFUL Family of Choice, so I focus on them and on THEIR kids and on what THEY are doing. Things are good.

    It is THEIR loss. It always has been. You deserve better. I wish you much peace and healing.

  6. J_Mo said:

    OK. I’ve tried to post a reply twice now, and WordPress keeps telling me to log in, over and over. I will keep it short (like my temper.)

    Capt. Awkward is very much right: This is not about you. It’s about them. YOU can’t fix THEM, but YOU can vow to live the best life possible, and YOU can recognize that you deserve better.

    I have been there, both with my step family and with my own family. It has taken me until now, in my mid-40s, to allow myself to heal and move on. “Fuck ’em.”

    I wish you healing and peace. Focus on the people in your life who DO value you!

  7. Claire said:

    As a new parent I’m aware there are a lot of reasons you might not be up to social occasions with a newborn and saying the baby is sick might be a shorthand for some of the more personal ones.

  8. The wedding thing was so jarring that I almost wonder if the letter was misorganized–like the “why did you do this to her” was about a different part, not the wedding date.

    • I had to read it a couple of times to parse it, but I believe the “why did you do this?” is about the Facebook thing, not the wedding. An organizational glitch, as you say.

      • JenniferP said:

        Okay, that would make more sense than “Why would you schedule your wedding when we can’t be there.” If you ever need the answer to “Why did you block me on Facebook” it’s some version of “I don’t mesh well with everyone online, but I’ll be happy to see you at (Family Event), take care.”

        • PBnoJ said:

          I definitely read it as being about the wedding, which, your original reply about that was spot on.

          Even if it’s actually about Facebook, the advice is good.

          LW, stop Facebook-stalking them. Stop trying to force relationships. Stop sending gifts. It doesn’t mean they are right to limit contact but trying to force it only makes it worse. Make your own family, find the ones who like and value you and put your energy there. THEY AREN’T WORTH YOUR SUFFERING.

          • “It doesn’t mean they are right to limit contact”

            Actually, they are. They would also be right to reach out. They are doing the right thing FOR THEM, and whatever that is, even if it’s not the thing you would like, you must respect it because they get to choose who they are close to.

        • johann7 said:

          I’m pretty sure this IS about the wedding scheduling – the husband sent a message which had to be prompted by something (the Facebook interactions occurred after and were caused by “this”), and the wedding scheduling is the only possible referant for “this”. This also fits perfectly with LW’s sense of entitlement regarding familial relationships and other things ze thinks are about zir when they are not.

        • Klara said:

          I agree with the wording except the “take care” at the end. The recipient can see it’s a rejection and can hopefully live with it and deal with it, but the “take care” part makes me cringe. It’s like it’s trying to cloak the rejection.

        • BigdogLittlecat said:

          Funny, I read it as just the opposite: “why would you block me on Facebook and then invite me to your wedding?!”

  9. sjv1983 said:

    I’m sorry you can’t have the type of relationship you want with your nephews. Grief for what you can’t have and accept that this is the way things are.

  10. Charlene said:

    Please, LW, leave them alone. They don’t want you around them. Respect that.

    • Maggie said:

      Absolutely. They have their reasons, whatever they are, and those reasons are sufficient (because any reason is sufficient). They do not want a relationship with you that goes deeper than perhaps a “Hello, good to see you,” at large family gatherings. You can’t make them want one. You CAN make things deeply unpleasant for them by trying to force a relationship, but that’s going to make them want to be around you even less.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      This. If, after decades of trying, they don’t want to see you, or spend time with you, then it’s (almost certainly) never going to happen.

      Nobody is entitled to the relationship of their choice. That’s true of familial relationships, sexual relationships, and all other permutations of professional and personal relationships. Any situation that involves more than one person is always going to require compromise, mutual understanding, and reciprocation. You can’t force relationships. I’m sorry.

      You can choose your own “family” of loved ones. If you’re from a cultural background that emphasises strong familial bonds, to the point that interaction with family members is a duty, then the idea of opting out of that can be strange, but it’s entirely possible to create your own group of people who will reciprocate your affection and kindness.

      There are children and adults everywhere, who lack close friends and family. Of all the children I’m “Auntie” to, only two are related to me. The same goes for my “sisters”, “aunts” and “uncles”, not sharing DNA means nothing, love, trust and kindness matter far more.

      Direct your energies elsewhere, seek out positive interactions and activities that will help widen your social circle, and hopefully your hurt can be tempered by happiness.

      • A. said:

        This, this, this.

        I’m the bad relative who aggressively avoids half my family. They’re not bad people (mostly); many of them are very good people who behave nicely and do everything right, by societal standards. But they are people I have nothing but a bloodline in common with; they are people who have a very hard time understanding that not everyone functions the same way they do (i.e. I am being “unsociable” or “unfriendly” if I leave a room where many loud conversations are happening, rather than removing myself from the sensory overload before I crack); and they are people who think they’re entitled to my time, attention, and anticipation of their needs and feelings to the point of mind-reading just because my mum gave birth to me, and because they’re willing to give that kind of time and attention to me (when I have never asked for and do not, in fact, want it). And I have never felt like a single one of them valued me for the person I was, or even particularly wanted to *know* the person I was; my value was entirely derived from my being The Niece/The Cousin/The Granddaughter, and all the things that make me most myself were eccentricities, deviations from the script, to be tolerated or indulged because I was Family. The attempts to force closeness on me just because I was Family were usually the things that made me want to run farthest away – not least because there was no effort to acknowledge that we were separate, individual people with different experiences and preferences, some of which conflicted, all of which would need to be discovered and navigated like any other relationship; just a kind of brute-force rallying cry of “but we’re faaaaaamily!” and the suffocating hugs of people who never bothered to account for the fact that I have always hated being touched. I don’t hate any of them (mostly); I don’t think they’re terrible people undeserving of love or attention. But I hate the way I feel around them, I hate the role I feel forced into playing when I’m around them, and I don’t like their ideas of how familial relationships are supposed to work – so I now only participate on occasions that are big enough for my mum to guilt-trip me into (and I spend every minute of it lurking in corners, hating everyone around me undeservedly, and wondering when I’ll be allowed to leave).

        I am very close to the other half of my family, even though they live on another continent. The older I get, the more I realize it’s because they have always treated me like a breathing, thinking human person with ideas and preferences and experiences and interests that are real and valid, and who is also capable of being interested in their lives and experiences; my identity wasn’t just X’s Daughter. They never tried to force or manufacture closeness of any kind; they simply tried to get to know me, to let me get to know them, and made sure that I knew that I, the specific person I am, was welcome with them for my own sake, not just because I was the child of their brother/son/uncle. I have always had a sense of interaction with them – rather than the sense of being stuffed into a Niece/Cousin/Granddaughter-shaped box and told to play my part according to the Family Script that I get from the other half of my family.

        Nobody is entitled to a relationship with anybody else. And I think it’s important not to think of family relationships as some kind of entirely separate beast from relationships of choice; in order to work, they need the same things those other kinds of relationships need in order to function. Your own personal idea – or even the commonly accepted ideas of society in general – of how family is supposed to work isn’t enough to base those relationships on.

        (I agree that closeness with LW’s nephews isn’t likely to happen and polite-but-distant is the best possible outcome, at least at this time. But if the relationships do ever begin to defrost, I’d recommend, instead of thinking about it as “how can I make us closer?”, thinking about it as, “how can I get to know these people?” How can you even know if you *want* to be close to someone if you don’t know what they’re like in the rest of their lives? It seems strange to me that LW still wants to be close to people who are actively and perhaps consciously causing xir pain. I am obviously coming at this from a very different perspective/value set, but if someone treated me as coldly as LW’s nephews treated xir, I’d have come down with a terminal case of the Fuckits years ago.)

        • Anon said:

          Thank you for this comment. This is beautiful and well said.

          I myself am in contact with a grand total of one family member, for abuse and abuse-apologist reasons mostly, but many of the family relationships I trimmed down earlier on were for reasons like this. I have a friend who is also distancing themself from family due to being seen more as a Requisite Family Member than a human being.

        • Heidi Mull said:

          Beautifully written. Thanks for articulating so well what’s been lurking in my head but I never got a good enough look at to identify it.

        • storyranger said:

          Thank you, this is beautiful and articulates a lot of my own experiences perfectly.

        • Old Dan Tucker said:

          Adding my voice to the chorus of people thanking you for articulating the contents of my own brain so clearly. This comment is excellent.

        • zephyr haversack said:

          Perfect. Well said. Hear, hear! Also, I think I must be you, because same thing here.

          It feels bad when people just stick to their family relationship forever, doen’t it? For example, “I’m your aunt and you’re my niece, and this shall defne our relationship dynamics forever.” Also, and alas, blood ties are not enough reason to try to create a relationship, or to make someone want to spend time with you, or to like you.

          Yes, LW is best off leaving the twins be. Perhaps they picked up their dislike of her from their parents, even when they have no personal reasons for it, perhaps it’s just them ‘soaking up’ their family-of-origin culture, but it doesn’t matter.

        • Absolutely. I, too, have virtually no contact with any relatives, including my sister, beyond maybe a Christmas card. Some of it is by deliberate choice, some of it is just that I am a completely different type of person than they are.

          In the spirit of the “Geek Social Fallacies”, I offer some “Family Social Fallacies”:

          1. All relatives must be close and get along well.

          2. Everyone wants to be involved with their family.

          3. Being related excuses a lot of behavior that would be unacceptable in non-family members.

          4. If a family member doesn’t want to be close to their other family members, someone is doing something wrong.

          These are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. For many years, my parents (and almost everyone else) put the blame on me for being “weird” and “temperamental” for why I didn’t get along with my sister. What they didn’t see, mostly due to my Sis not being stupid, was that she regularly gaslighted, demeaned and even beat the crap out of me on a regular basis. Only after we both hit adulthood did the truth start coming out.

          And it doesn’t need to be anywhere that extreme for someone to not want to be around their family. For the LW, it doesn’t really matter why they’re not close to you–they are adults and have made their decision. I hate to say it, but from the sound of things they have indicated multiple times that they don’t want the kind of relationship you’re seeking. And yet, you keep pursuing it. While I understand you have good intentions, try looking at this interaction as if you weren’t related, and say (theoretically) you were just neighbors instead.

          Doesn’t look quite as good, does it?

          There are no special rules for family members with regard to social interactions. There seems to be a presumption of such, but there isn’t and shouldn’t be. Family members do not owe each other a relationship, and being related is not a pass to behave less civilly than you would with a non-member. Trying to force such a relationship never works, just like a co-worker who constantly bugs you at your desk all day does not inspire you to spend time with them outside of work.

          I’m sorry if I seem a little harsh here, but this is one of those things that just pushes my buttons, because I was constantly on the receiving end of it well into adulthood. It took me a long time to get the nerve to tell my mom that no, I wasn’t going to just “put up” with sister’s shitty treatment just because we were sisters. I recall telling her, “I don’t let my enemies treat me that badly. Why should I let [sister]?”

          LW, while persistence in pursuing something is often seen as a positive, I find it equally valuable to know when to quit. At least in the US, quitting is seen as a universal negative. But which is worse: admitting defeat after a while when it’s obvious success will not be happening, or continually putting time & energy into something that will very likely never achieve a positive outcome? Much like what CA said, be a bit selfish, and take that time and energy you’ve been putting into trying to connect with your nephews and spend it on yourself. There’s a whole world out there with millions of unique and exciting things to do and people to meet. Heck, that’s how I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life and gotten to meet some really awesome people. Seriously–without ever intending to, I inadvertently gained a “second mom” in Germany-and my actual family warned me not to go travelling by myself.

          Take a break, LW, and cut yourself some slack. The problem isn’t really on your end, it’s just that your nephews have decided differently than you for whatever reason. It’s less right vs. wrong than it is just a plain difference in personalities and opinions.

          • thetigerhasspoken said:

            Are you me? I have the same issue with my sister and family who claim “you and [sister] have always a had a rocky relationship, you just need to be less selfish/difficult.” Nevermind that my sister is 8 years older, a body builder, and has been abusing me since I was 6 – but somehow her behavior is all my fault.

            I have a minimal relationship with my family and I am seriously considering cutting them off for the same reason as you. And I recently read the geek social fallacies to my husband and we both had huge ah-ha! moments about our families. I’ve found #3 to be the most pernicious and noxious.

          • Eh, I was fortunate in the end. Sis just couldn’t managed everything all the time. A big tip-off happened when sis left for college, only visiting on weekends. Suddenly a lot of the things I regularly got blamed for started happening only on the weekends, and while my parents were many things, blatantly stupid and blind were not among them. Also, as both sis & I grew up and go more independent and made more of our own decisions, again, sis’s true colors began showing more & more.

            My dad died the same year I finished school, so unfortunately neither of us got to enjoy our drastically improved relationship as adults for very long. But there was one very, *very* telling thing right before he died that really showed the change in status.

            He had a certain car that he loved like no tomorrow. I mean verging on obsession. It was something he’d wanted since childhood, and he kept it in museum condition, to the point of rarely driving it for fear it would get damaged in any way. As Mom & Dad were going over things before the surgery that ultimately killed him, he point blank told Mom that if she ever got rid of the car, she should give it to me because I would take care of it. Knowing Dad, the unsaid obvious implication was that he didn’t believe and didn’t trust that sister would. You cannot comprehend how huge a deal that is. Really.

            As for Mom, she sadly learned too what her elder child really was, particularly in the last 4 years of her life when she was in a nursing home due to her advanced Parkinson’s and dementia. When the neighbor called us to tell us that Mom couldn’t manage any more, my sister’s response was to randomly pick a nursing home where she was and basically dump her there, sight unseen.

            The neighbor called on Wednesday. Sis called me on Thursday. Friday night I flew down to Florida, packed up Mom as best I could in 2 suitcases, and on Sunday flew back to my home where I moved her in with me for 6 months until I could find a decent nursing home nearby.

            I spent nearly every other weekend for the next 4 years visiting Mom & taking care of her.

            My sister visited once, got her nose bent out of joint that Mom wouldn’t pay all her travel expenses (mind you, sis made very good money, and although she lived in a very expensive place, made more in a year than my salary & Mom’s retirement benefits *combined*), and never came back, even at the end when Mom was in hospice for 2 weeks until she died.

            I don’t blame my parents. They were very much products of their upbringings, and I know how very, very good sis was at covering things up. Mainly, I feel horrible about how Mom came to realize those last 4 years that her adored elder daughter that she loved was an immature selfish brat. Honestly? I probably could’ve eventually gotten past everything she did to me and at least tolerated her. But I will *never* forgive her for what she did to Mom. Sis didn’t burn that bridge, she nuked that sucker into oblivion.

        • I love this comment so much.

          Both my husband and I come from families who subscribe to the “but family” fallacy with HUGE expectations of us that we are constantly failing because of a lot of reasons (abusive family members, enablers, busy personal lives, healing from trauma and avoiding being triggered by our families, different priorities and values of what we devote our time and energy to). So we end up avoiding them, which makes our families more upset and more prone to prod us into seeing/talking to them more, and then we feel ashamed about hurting them and what bad daughter/son/sibling/aunt/uncles we are so we end up avoiding even more and then whole cycle just keeps repeating. Needless to say – this sucks for everyone.

          This it the Dance of Family Expectations. And you know what, it doesn’t even feel like it’s about either of us. It’s about THEM and what our lack of desired involvement says ABOUT THEM. Neither of our families know anything specific and personal about either of us. My mother was shocked to learn I love musicals, even though I had the entire score to every Rogers and Hammerstein production memorized by age 10. My husband’s family has no idea that he loves brass bands and plays soccer almost every night. Why? Because to them, we aren’t Humans with Personalities, Needs, and Lives. We are [insert family role here] who must do [insert family expectation here] or we are being mean/cold/selfish etc. Even if you LW, aren’t involved in a dysfunctional and abusive family like I am, it still sounds like you are subscribing to The Dance and taking it personally when others are opting out.

          So LW, who are these nephews? What do they like? What are their personalities, hobbies, goals, interests, passions, worries, fears etc? What qualities of theirs enriches your life? Please don’t stalk them to answer those questions, I am asking them for you to reflect on. Are you grieving not having these particular humans in your life because you miss Zed’s jokes and Zer’s positive outlook? Or are you obsessing over a rejection that is really hurting right now and possibly poking at some internal shame? The way you talk about this reminds me of me when I lost a friend group – since we weren’t friends anymore and no one would tell me WHY, I would obsess over it. I felt like it MEANT something that we weren’t friends anymore and the meaning was: I am a Bad Person. When really, we just didn’t click anymore and I couldn’t see that because my FEELINGS and brain weasels were telling me what an unlovable asshole I am.

      • anon said:

        OT – as someone that doesn’t want kids, I’ve always wanted to find a way to put into words WHY the idea of parenthood makes my skin crawl. Your post really nails it for me! Choosing to create and raise a new life is the best example of one side forcing a relationship I can think of!

        • Only if the relationship is forced. Granted, there must be some “relationship” during the early years, when the parents are actually raising the child.

          However, while some people look forward to having a “mini-me,” and are shocked, hurt, outraged, and follow that with abusive when the child does not become a mini-me, there are those parents who look at a baby as a new PERSON, and wonder who that person will be. They realize that they have to create a relationship, by getting to know the new person, and what works and does not work with that person.

          I think that those are the ideal upon which the whole “But it’s faaaaaaaamily” gets founded. We see those excellent relationships, and believe that all familial relationships should be/must be/ARE like that, and try to force people into the roles we see in other families. Just because other families are functional does NOT mean that our own would be functional if everyone took up a corresponding role, however, because people are individuals, and those roles must be individualized (or just ignored. It’s OK to ignore a role, and just be whoever you happen to be).

          Of course, if you don’t see the individuality in babies, right from the start (and I mean day 1), then you’re probably going to think of them more as lumps of clay to be molded, and if you don’t like molding clay, then it’s fine. Don’t mold clay. And by all means, discourage other clay-molders from producing clay, because CHILDREN ARE NOT CLAY!

          Some people make excellent parents, some people should NOT be parents. I think most people fall on a spectrum in between. Either way, I don’t believe anyone should be badgered about being a parent if they don’t want it. If they don’t want children, it’s for very good reason (even if that reason is simply “meh.” No child should be raised with “meh.” “Meh” is almost as bad as a beataing, IMO).

          So, good for you for knowing what you want, and what you don’t want, and don’t let anyone badger you, trick you, or otherwise force you into having children you don’t want. And if you have one of those doctors who says “You’re too young to know what you want,” and refuses to give you permanent birth control, then find a new doctor who respects you as an adult who knows better.

    • MelloStello said:

      And respect yourself too! Just like the captain said, don’t throw away your precious energy on people who have repeatedly demonstrated that, for whatever reason, they do not/will not reciprocate.

      • K. said:

        Yes! I have a couple of relatives who don’t seem to want to spend much time together, for whatever reason. We’re better off not investing too much energy in these things. 🙂

  11. Sandra said:

    Hmm, I didn’t get the sense that the “why did they do this to me” was about the wedding date, but about the being blocked on Facebook. I thought the letter writer mentioned the wedding-date thing because they were concerned that they may have been frozen out of the nephews’ lives after the perceived slight of missing the wedding. (Of course, missing a wedding is not a slight, but I get the feeling that that’s where the writer’s thoughts were headed.)

    LW, I further the suggestion that you devote your valuable love and energy to people who show gratitude and welcome to your presence in their lives. Family is who we choose.

    • JenniferP said:

      I think you’re correct, and I’ve slightly edited the post to reflect that.

    • zephyr haversack said:

      Missing a wedding is delightful, imho. 🙂

  12. Taltos said:

    LW, I’ve absolutely been (and in some cases, still am) that nephew and cousin. I am sorry you have to experience a sense of loss around these relationships you clearly value, even as I recognize I’ve probably caused some of those same feelings. I offer this comment not to suggest you’ve done a single thing wrong, but to illustrate the mindset on the other side of the issue – the one that would rather just not talk about it.

    I loved my aunts when I was a child, but when I grew up I discovered they did not share many values with me. They didn’t really understand why I went to college for what I did, and shamed me a lot for skipping family events to maintain my scholarships. I got harangued for not keeping touch with them regularly when I only saw my own mother once every few months. When I attended dinners at their houses, I felt uncomfortable – like I was still expected to be the quiet kid at the end of the table without any opinions. They are a dinners & phone calls & thank you cards family who like to repeat a lot of stories, while I am an emails and Twitter pings person who values creating new things. They left weirdly personal comments on FB, as if every open thread was a 1:1 phone call – it was easier to simply block them from there so I could enjoy my personal life with my chosen family. I didn’t invite them all to my wedding or give some of them extra +1s for dates or kids, because we had limited space other people there I wanted to see more.

    (There are other issues, but none that are relevant here – I could write my own SERIES of letters to CA, trust me 😉

    Again, I am not trying to project that behavior on you or accuse you of doing any of those things. You are quite possibly the best and most-loving aunt that has ever walked the planet. You clearly care a lot about your family and have a lot to offer them!

    However, note that none of my aunts’ actions were done maliciously or for lack of love. They’re being the kind of loving family they know how to be and there’s nothing wrong with that! We simply grew apart. My perception of the gap in our values was amplified by my now-wife’s observation that interacting with them clearly made me unhappy or uncomfortable.

    Now, I make my tacit appearance at two holidays a year, do the hugs and hellos, and then slink out. I politely decline all other invitations. I avoid letting them interact with my child. It wouldn’t be constructive to tell them I find them boring or uncouth. I have no reason to actively hurt them, although I realize I might be doing so passively.

    Speaking from the other side of the divide, the thing I would enjoy the most from them would be engaging me on my terms when I happen to be around them. A hug and a smile and genuinely asking me if I’m happy or telling me something that recently cheered them up would be refreshing. If I felt like that went positively for a few times, I might volunteer to open up some other channel of discussion – or, maybe I wouldn’t, but at least our limited engagements would be on positive terms.

    I hope that the Captain’s advice is helpful to you, and that you can find a way both to find some resolution with your nephews and to refocus your energy on relationships that will reciprocate with the same kind of love that you are contributing to them.

    • EmilyRoland said:

      I am also that niece/cousin for some of my relatives, although I don’t think they’re as actively distressed about it as the OP. We have very little in common and every time I made an effort I felt like I was the only one doing so. Not to mention the physical travel disparity; they always expected that I would come to them, because they still live where they grew up, but it was not even my hometown nor anywhere near where I live now. I know it disappoints my parents that we don’t have the Hallmark-esque ‘Facebook friends, send gifts for holidays, see each other for weddings and christenings and funerals’ kind of extended family relationship, but honestly if they got to know the real me they’d just decide I’m a sinful deviant who needs to be prayed for, and it’s not worth it to me to engage in that kind of moral combat with people who I just happen to be genetically related to.

      Also, as the comment just below says, some people are “if you give them an inch they’ll take a mile” about this sort of thing and you can know, even if it’s subconsciously, that if you engage with someone positively they’ll then never leave you alone. Especially when you’re a teenager and young adult and figuring out how to interact with your family of origin as an adult, and establish your own boundaries and priorities, sometimes avoidance is the easiest approach even if it’s a little unkind to the person you’re avoiding.

    • MK said:

      Well, my experience has been the opposite of yours. I remain very fond of my extended family, they have been very supportive of my choices, even though they sometimes clashed with my family’s fairly conservative outlook, we share a lot of values and we respect each other even over the matters we disagree. My interactions with them, when we happen to meet, are warm and familial and lovely. And you know what?

      I still don’t have with them the kind of relationship the LW seems to expect from her nephews, with whom she has never been close. I don’t call them all the time. If I was on Facebook I wouldn’t want to interact with them there. I sometimes refuse invitations to their homes because I want to spent the holiday with my friends or because I am not in the mood for family. I would love them to attend my wedding, but I wouldn’t choose the date to make that happen. I hope I would never omit thanking them for a present, but I am glad they don’t shower me with them, because then I would feel I have to reciprocate in some way and frankly it would be a hassle for me. AND I come from a culture that certainly goes by Family Is Important, but no one seems to think there is anything off about my behavior, which is similar to everyone’s in my generation with people of my parents’ generation.

      Frankly, I think the LW has unrealistic expectations about the relationship of adult nephews with an aunt-by-marriage. Sure, I suppose there are some who are very close, but a casual friendly acquaintance is by far more usual.

    • fiendish said:

      YES! I also related to the nephew side of this. I avoid interaction with certain members of my extended family. I have little in common with them, politically/socially/culturally. For as long as I can remember I’ve felt out-of-place and awkward whenever I was around them (perhaps because they are much wealthier and seem to exist in a different world). I accepted their facebook friend requests but adjusted my privacy settings so they can’t see anything I post. They often try to invite me to things, to bring me into the circle out of family obligation, but… it’s just too late. I have my life, they have theirs. We see each other at holidays and are polite, but I don’t go out of my way to talk with them, and I would frankly be relieved if they stopped sending me letters or trying to meet up with me! It’s horrible to admit this, but it’s true.

      I also have another relative who does not have kids. She wanted to draw me in as her surrogate kid. I reacted negatively — just felt smothered — and have put distance between us since the time I was a teenager.

      I wonder if there is perhaps a class divide in your family? Or a political divide?

      Or maybe the nephews were wary of becoming child-figures for you (assuming you don’t have other kids)? The parents might also have picked up on this, if this were the case.

    • I am that niece/grandchild/cousin and now child. There were two main reasons I ended up cutting the cord virtually completely with essentially my entire family:

      1. Some would not tolerate any kind of relationship that respected *my* boundaries, *my* need for space and privacy, *my* values, *my* choices, and in some cases *my* safety. I couldn’t be myself around them. I couldn’t ask them to moderate their behaviour around me. I couldn’t ask them to be as tolerant of my differences, or at least to shut up about them, because to be different from them was obviously to be wrong. But I also couldn’t be their distant, slightly wayward relation they only spoke to every so often, or they only interacted with in neutral settings unlikely to result in friction, because faaaaamily. It had to be all in or all out. So I chose to be all out.

      2. Some I actually liked, got on well with, and wanted to be “close enough” to for your “normal” familial relationships. That turned out to be impossible. Firstly, saying something to them was roughly the equivalent of writing it on the side of a bus; either they felt that my need or obligation to connect to other relatives was more important than any issues of confidence, or those other relatives emotionally blackmailed them into blabbing my private business. Also, doing anything with them ended up being treated as a slight to everyone else by all involved. So, for instance, I couldn’t go and visit the aunt I got on with without getting a lecture afterwards about how cruel I was for not visiting the aunt with whom I’d invariably end up having a screaming fight. In order to be friendly with anyone, I had to be equally friendly with everyone. So, again, I chose to be all out.

      You can’t force a relationship. In fact, trying to force a relationship, or trying to force a greater closeness in a relationship than the other person is willing to allow, is almost guaranteed to destroy it. I’m sorry this sucks for you, and I’m sorry if you feel you’re missing out, but you can’t make people love you or like you, and trying to push for that is likely to stop them even tolerating you. I’m immensely sorry that the concept of “consent” is now associated so tightly with sexual matters, because it is the underpinning of a vast amount of interpersonal interactions. Trying to force consent, regardless of the settings and the underlying motivations, is not the path towards closeness.

      • godsbastard said: “I’m immensely sorry that the concept of “consent” is now associated so tightly with sexual matters, because it is the underpinning of a vast amount of interpersonal interactions. Trying to force consent, regardless of the settings and the underlying motivations, is not the path towards closeness.”

        Consent is so important in all things! And it’s vital to teach our children that they have the right to consent. When we teach our children that “an adult said so, and so you must obey, no questions asked, so there, pbbtbttbt!” then they wind up being suckered into anything anyone in a position of authority decides to sucker them into. Yes, sexual assault is a big problem, if children grow up thinking they are not allowed to say “No,” or thinking that they can say it, but why bother, since it won’t be respected? But sex isn’t the only thing.

        My oldest nephew has always been an enthusiastic hugger to me. My youngest nephew was not. He said “No!” to hugs. At first, I insisted, but then I thought about it, and said to myself that I do not want him to learn that lesson. So, I changed from, “Give your aunt a hug,” to “May I have a hug, please?” He said “No,” and I said, “Fine. I love you! See you on X-day!” and left it at that. Now, he almost never refuses (I can’t remember the last time he refused – at least 2 years), and sometimes even initiates the hug. He feels respected, and I feel more confident in his future safety, because he knows how to say “No.”

        • TootsNYC said:

          This concept of “consent” is so huge! It applies in business transactions, work & employment matters, everything.

          The person who wants the least is the person who wins. You cannot force more on someone.

    • Modern Culture said:

      Taltos, I totally understand your sentiments. The only thing you said that made me cringe was “and then slink out.” You do yourself a disservice! Change that to “leave on my own terms/when I’m ready” and I’m in perfect agreement with you. Best wishes!

  13. Amy said:

    I am a niece to an aunt whom I dislike. Her anxiety and depression combine with her belief that Family Must Always Love You to fuck with my anxiety and depression in exactly the wrong way. I obviously have no idea if the root of LW’s situation is similar, but the symptoms are exactly the same: As a young child, before learning manners, I would straight-up tell Aunt I didn’t like her; throughout my life I’ve always avoided Aunt at family events, even ones at her place; when Aunt made a Facebook account and sent me a friend request a few months ago I blocked her in seconds. The reason I have to fully disengage like this is that she won’t accept a less personal relationship. I could handle occasional brief greetings and polite small talk. I cannot handle her aggressive hugs, nicknames she thinks are cute but I find demeaning, lengthy and emotional conversations about everything that’s wrong in her life, or her constant assumption that as a “kid” (I’m actually 22, but since she’s 63 I will likely always be a kid to her) I have nothing but free time to come over and help her with things for free. Again, I have no idea if LW has done any of these specific things to cause the nephew situation, but if Aunt took the Captain’s advice of allowing a polite but distant relationship to form, I’d be very happy. Which is all to say: LW, as someone on the other side of a similar situation, I think the Captain has given you excellent advice.

    • Chessie said:

      I love this response for the way it illustrates so well how a person doesn’t have to be a bad person to be someone you really don’t get along with. Someone can be actively trying to be your friend and still everything they do rubs you the wrong way, and that’s no one’s fault.

      We don’t know why the LW’s relatives are avoiding her. But I think it’s a good idea to acknowledge that it’s not necessarily because she’s a bad person or has done something to them that they feel was really awful; it’s quite possible that you just don’t get along with each other. And that’s sad, but it’s no one’s fault.

    • manybellsdown said:

      I’ve got an aunt who thinks (or maybe thought) that she was my *very favorite* and coolest aunt. Only, I realized, when I finally was able to visit her that we don’t get along at ALL. Her beliefs are aggressively in opposition to mine. I ended up having to unfriend her on Facebook finally because her posts were so awful.

  14. Phira said:

    LW, I sympathize a lot with your situation. I have a sister-in-law who sounds like your nephews. Please take the Captain’s advice!

    I also suggest … not making up rules for yourself. When people say things like, “I’m the type of person who …” or “as family is very important,” it makes me wonder about your motivations. Because you say you’re the type of person who has to grieve before you move on, but you say it as justification for why you need to figure out a way to get these very specific people to talk to you. You’ve made it part of your identity as a way of requiring a particular outcome for your own peace of mind. And the thing is, you’re not going to get that from them. The more “I want this” becomes “This is who I am,” the harder it’s going to be to deal with this situation.

    And “Family is very important” is something that, well … as anyone who’s estranged from members of their family can tell you, “family is important!!” as a rule doesn’t always work. “I have to get them to be nice to me because we’re family!” might be a reasonable desire, but it’s not a reasonable requirement. For whatever mysterious reason, these people are unkind to you and do not wish to have a relationship with you; that you are related is irrelevant. You can care about family and believe family is important while simultaneously letting go of this particular set of relationships.

    • A. said:

      “You’ve made it part of your identity as a way of requiring a particular outcome for your own peace of mind[…] The more “I want this” becomes “This is who I am,” the harder it’s going to be to deal with this situation.” Wow. Yes. YES. Thank you for articulating this so neatly.

      (I just realized I do a terrible version of this when my brainweasels are acting up. Bad thing happens to me –> suddenly my identity is Person Bad Things Happen To Because I Am Fundamentally Broken And Awful. And my required outcome is either “somehow the bad thing un-happens” or “an all-knowing being descends from the heavens to assure me with immaculate objectivity that I am not a garbage person made of garbage.” Which is not possible on either count. Which is part of why I get stuck for as long as I do. Reading this just gave me a moment of brick-to-the-brainpan clarity.)

      • [blockquote]The more “I want this” becomes “This is who I am,” the harder it’s going to be to deal with this situation.[/blockquote]

        [blockquote](I just realized I do a terrible version of this when my brainweasels are acting up. Bad thing happens to me –> suddenly my identity is Person Bad Things Happen To Because I Am Fundamentally Broken And Awful.[/blockquote]

        Oh my god thank you both so much this has been a much-needed crowbar of enlightenment.

    • BigdogLittlecat said:

      “The more “I want this” becomes “This is who I am,” the harder it’s going to be to deal with this situation.”
      QFT.
      This is so applicable to so many situations.

    • Phira said: “I also suggest … not making up rules for yourself.”

      YES! Never underestimate the power and value of acting out of character! You might discover hidden facets of yourself that you never knew were always there.

  15. Somniorum said:

    My mother’s side of the family is lousy with judgmental, holier-than-thou Catholics. My mother married and had children with a man who was biracial, and my grandfather didn’t visit any of us until two of the three of us turned out white looking. Then, when my mother divorced my bio-father, everybody judged her because they, in their religion-blamed narrow sightedness, look down on divorce. When my mother eventually came out as gay and stopped attending the churches that told her she was bad for her sexuality, roughly half the family cut her out. The rest followed suit when she met and then married her now-wife.

    Throughout all this, various aunts and great-aunts offered their very conditional love and support to me and my siblings. And I have rejected these motions each and every time, because I hate how they treated my mother, and nothing short of an apology *to her* will ever inspire me to bother with any of them.

    From their end, I imagine they feel a lot like you, LW, even with the likelihood that you are not also a capital-B Bigot. From their end, we kids were the victims of my mother’s ~life of sinful sin~. They wanted to see if we were worth saving, never mind if we were willing. It was all very obvious. Eventually, as I got older and didn’t do what I was supposed to do (which was join the Girl Scouts, be active in The Church, remain a pure virginal virgin of Pure Heterosexual virginity, join the army immediately upon graduating high school, go to school for something “useful,” get married to the first pious man I could find, and have as many babies as our respective genitals could handle), they gave up on me.

    My brother, however, did one thing “right” and had the most adorable baby girl in his early 20s. She is now an amazing Kindergartener, and my mother’s siblings are like rabid hyenas chasing after my brother on various social media sites because none of their kids have procreated yet. And they ~just can’t understand~ why my brother doesn’t want hateful bigots in his child’s life.

    I once received an email from an aunt that was a lot like your letter to the Captain. I’m sure you’re not a religious right jerkbag. But it ultimately doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what their reasons are, they don’t want you in their life. And your attempts to force/guilt your way into their lives isn’t going to win you any points, and in fact will likely serve as evidence for why you’re not in their lives in the first place.

    But the main reason why your letter struck a chord that reminded me of The Song of My Mom’s Jerk Family, was your comment that you “thought family was family.”

    I have had the fact that I am blood related to the people who went out of their way to make my mother feel like an abomination thrown in my face multiple times throughout my life. Like the shared blood between us should overrule reasons like “I don’t like, like, any of you,” or “y’all were actively abusive to my mother, your sister/daughter/niece, when she needed the love and support of her ~*~*~*~faaaaaaaamily~*~*~*~.”

    I’m the asshole, as far as they’re concerned.

    Nobody is obligated to feel anything for you. They don’t have to like you, and they don’t have to share their reasons why, and even if they did, what would you use them for? What positivity would it bring? What reason would be “good enough” for you to respect their wishes to be left alone?

    I get that feeling left out and ignored is awful, and I get that you’re hurt and just want to know why. But in the end, none of that matters, because their behavior remains the same.

    Let them go, LW, follow literally all of the Captain’s advice. I say this as somebody from the other side.

    • +1 to the whole faaaaaaaaamily thing. I’ve spent almost my whole life trying to explain to people that just because someone is a parent does not make them a good person and i don’t have to like someone who’s spent my entire life abusing me just because she happens to be my mother. I end up having to do this because people get SO SHOCKED when they find out I don’t like her (my best friend’s mother is so in denial about this that she asks how my mother is every time I see her, and acts shocked every time i respond, “I’m sure she’s fine but we don’t really talk these days.”).

      The really funny thing is that the biggest proponent of the BUT FAAAAAAAAAMILY thing is my mother herself, and *she* last saw her own father several years before I was born (he died when i was 22).

      The thing is, even though she didn’t want a relationship with her father, she just can’t see that it’s not compulsory for me to have one with her. And it’s like we’re on two separate boats side by side on a lake: the more she pushes me, the further apart we drift, but if she left my boat alone, it might end up floating across her path from time to time.

      I’m not suggesting for one moment that you’re abusive like my mother, LW. But I know that people should not force relationships just because they’re related to each other. Forced relationships are all kinds of awkward and horrible.

      I also know it can be hard to analyse a relationship like this from within it, because you are so emotionally invested that you’ll end up projecting your own feelings onto them and making all sorts of assumptions based on your own gut feelings. Stop trying to analyse it because you won’t do yourself any good, trust me.

    • Even more anon this time said:

      Nobody is obligated to feel anything for you. They don’t have to like you, and they don’t have to share their reasons why, and even if they did, what would you use them for? What positivity would it bring? What reason would be “good enough” for you to respect their wishes to be left alone?

      Yeah. I am in that position with one of my in-laws rn. I do not want to interact with them on social media. We used to be Facebook friends; but we aren’t now. They cannot message me. They can’t send me any (more) friend requests. I haven’t blocked them yet, but if they tag me in 1 more thing, I probably will. I’m not going to go into what happened, but things got real intense, their behavior was problematic, and it was hella triggering…and all of their needy pleading for talking things out, asking me what went wrong, etc–just over not being my FB friend–made it worse.

      I’m not saying the LW is the same. But I think the Captain’s advice is strong. I think what most of the commenters here are saying is good. And the best thing LW can do is work this out on her own, with team her, away from nephews.

      • Anon for this said:

        all of their needy pleading for talking things out, asking me what went wrong, etc–just over not being my FB friend–made it worse.

        +1 to this and the comments about faaaaaaamily. Like amberbexi, johann7 and others my shoulders went up around my ears because it sounded so much like something my mother could have written (it’s not). Growing up (and even as an adult) everything I said or did or thought or preferred was somehow all about her. I’m sympathetic because it must suck to be that vulnerable, but it made her toxic for me to be around. As an adult I’ve distanced myself, setting up boundaries and keeping our conversations strictly superficial. It mostly works, but sometimes she’ll say something hurtful and I can’t talk to her about it as I would any other friend because I know, just under the surface, she’s ready to pull out her miles-long list of Everything You’ve Ever Done Ever That Was Done Specifically To Hurt Me Whyyyyyyy Meeeeee? That need to “talk things out” (which really means “criticize you for everything you’ve done to hurt me since you were an infant”) is always there, and that more than anything keeps me far away.

        LW, I don’t know you, and I’m definitely not saying you’re toxic like my mother! But you describe a set of grievances that you’re carrying around and want explanations for, which is totally understandable! Yet as long as people believe you might spring these grievances on them at any time and ask for explanations, they’re probably going to stay farther away from you. The sooner you can grieve your losses then begin to let them go, the more comfortable you will be with them and, hopefully eventually, they will be with you.

        • I have tried to improve things with my mother, but she expects me to do all of the work and it’s exhausting. One time I sent her a very polite and sensitively worded email suggesting ways we could improve our relationship, like “if the other person says something that makes us angry, we both tend to react quickly and strongly. We could maybe try harder to take a moment to think about what the other person’s said before concluding that they are trying to hurt us.”

          Her reply? Did not address or acknowledge a single one of the points or suggestions I made. It started with “Your email hurt my feeeeeeeeeeelings!!!1!1!” and continued over 5 paragraphs about how I’d upset her by bringing up things she did that hurt me.

          I’m not saying this because I think the LW is like that. More as an illustration of the sad fact that if someone doesn’t want to improve their relationship with you, then they just… won’t.

          • manybellsdown said:

            Oh, hello, does my mother have another secret child? Because you just described mine!

          • Everything You’ve Ever Done Ever That Was Done Specifically To Hurt Me Whyyyyyyy Meeeeee?

            Again, my inlaws! The repeated trips to The Vault of All the Bad Things Golddigger Has Ever Done!

            Is there a seminar these people go to to learn to be difficult?

          • My mum came to visit me in my (then) new house… which has an extension which could have been convertible as living quarters… and started to talk about how she would be able to move in… Bear in mind that I moved out of her house at 14, and have avoided her as much as physically possible ever since.

            I told her it was not going to happen. We are not going to be living together. She asked whyyyyyyyy. I told her that we don’t get on. So she refused to speak or eat for two days, hanging around me looking like a kicked dog. Because that’s gonna show me that I’m wrong, and we get on so well, right?

          • Urrrrgghhh shoulders up around ears just from reading that!

      • I blocked my husband’s mother on fb. I wanted nothing to do with them. She and her husband, before they died, would threaten to disinherit my husband if he did not “get me in line.” They hated that I would not grovel to them and that I would not fill what they considered the traditional wife role – that is, the wife of their son – which I found highly ironic as they were very liberal. I guess they were liberal for themselves but everyone else was supposed to conform to traditional gender roles. (They were furious when I did not change my name upon marrying their son.)

    • Jamethiel said:

      Absolutely seconding the “but ~*~*~*~faaaaaaaamily~*~*~*~.” thing. I had an uncle who was an alcoholic, with a lot of health issues including mental health issues. He would call me up at 11pm at night, wanting me to drive out there for an hour, spend an unspecified amount of time helping him through a panic attack, and then drive back for another hour.

      I had to be at work at 6am.

      I felt incredibly guilty, but I had to say “no.” and change my number. I could not provide him with the support he needed and keep my job, which I needed to support myself.

      LW, you may want something that for whatever reason is beyond their capacity. It would be nice if you knew what it was, but being real, is there any answer that you’d accept? Also, sometimes the answer is “I don’t like them.” or “I don’t want to.”

      Accept the soft no. Don’t force a big confrontation. The Captain is right: you cannot change their feelings. It’s not your fault, but it’s also not your decision. Accept that they seem to want to “peace out” and let them do that gracefully. Divert your contact onto people who show signs of reciprocity.

      I hope that you feel less sad soon.

  16. johann7 said:

    Wow, I wrote my thoughts before any other comments posted, and I apparently had a VERY different interpretation of the dynamic here than several of the commenters. LW, I don’t know you, and I could be way off base and wildly misinterpreting your communication style, but there are a number of things in your letter that alarm me, and I will let my original thoughts stand.

    ——————–

    LW, The Captain was very measured in her response, I think because you are clearly hurting and you are reaching out to ask for advice. That’s why they pay her the big bucks (i.e. fractions of a cent for every ad view). I’m going to be more blunt in case the soft-touch approach doesn’t clue you in to what I see going on here: your letter made my skin crawl and shoulders hunch up over my ears. You are the nightmare family member about whom many people write in to this very advice site. You are harassing your family members, to a degree that’s skirting the line of stalking (closely monitoring social media behavior, sending unsolicited and unreciprocated gifts), and you are interpreting all of their behaviors as though they are all about you (as The Captain noted, nobody is planning their wedding at you).

    You need to stop. Immediately. The Captain framed this in a positive light – back off, they may relax, and you may wind up with a closer relationship in the end – and I’ll give you the negative framing: your harassing, boundary-violating behaviors are almost certainly why your family members haven’t wanted closer relationships with you in the first place. You’re not necessarily doing this to yourself – you may well have internalized toxic ideas about family and relationships in general if those were what the people around you normalized, and you can’t really be blamed for that. You are still responsible for your own behaviors, for not replicating and perpetuating harm that was visited upon you.

    Genetic similarity does not obligate anyone to have a relationship with you, and, more generally, people with whom you do have relationships are not obligated to behave in exactly the way you want or to conduct those relationships on your preferred terms without consideration for their own wants and needs.

    One more thing: we do not diagnose mental illness over the internet, and I don’t think you necessarily have a mental illness. I strongly suggest that you seek mental health counseling nonetheless. Whether or not you have a defined clinical illness, you likely could benefit from some coping techniques a therapist could teach you and an outside perspective on the things that bother you. I hope you are able to take the advice here to heart, and I hope you are able to begin to feel better about your relationships, both for your own sake and the sake of your family, because right now this dynamic is clearly not working well for anyone involved.

    • It wasn’t just you.

      • Cactus said:

        It wasn’t even remotely just you.

        • Amphelise said:

          My shoulders are still up there TBH.

    • Absolutely agreed. In this brave new world, adults get to consent or not consent to relationships as they will.

    • thelittlepakeha said:

      From the title I’d thought that they’d recently frozen her out after a generally decent relationship and she couldn’t figure out why. This has literally been going on their whole lives! They’re not going to suddenly change their minds, especially if she keeps pushing.

      • onyx said:

        Same, I was ready to get an emotion gut-punch from this letter based on the title because I am in a situation where my nephews (also twins!) were essentially stolen and cut off from my side of the family despite having very close, positive relationships with us. (Their mother absconded to the other side of the country without warning and monitors all their communication so we have no way of knowing if they have cut us off themselves, or if she has forced them. Either way, they’re gone, probably forever.)

        This though… there never was a relationship.

        • Anon said:

          If it’s any consolation, onyx, when I was very young I was in a similar situation where Parent A restricted my access to and frequently badmouthed Parent B, watching over my shoulder to read our chats and tell me lies about how terrible B was. It was easier at the time to cut Parent B out just to shut Parent A up, although I felt uneasy about it. I was too young to really parse the situation.

          But 10 years later I was beginning to gain a broader perspective, and I realized that I had always had a stronger relationship with Parent B and that Parent A was insufferable, abusive, and lied/gaslit many other topics. I ended up reuniting with Parent B and we have a very strong relationship today. I don’t speak to Parent A at all.

          It’s entirely possible that you’ll get to see your nephews again, is what I’m saying. It just might take a lot of patience.

          • Anon is right. Keep hope, because kids who are cut off during childhood can grow into adults who Figure Things Out For Themselves, and with our technology making it easier and easier to track down old friends and acquaintances, I’d say the odds are in your favor of at least forming a connection in the future, when they are out from under her thumb.

            Jedi hugs to onyx, and hope for the future!

    • Chessie said:

      This comment is pretty mean and it talks down to the LW in a way that’s really not helpful. Yes, the LW’s boundary-pushing behaviour is way out of line and that’s something that they should stop doing immediately. Yes, this is a social skill that they need to work on in a major way. Yes, they could use a therapist, to help them sort out how to behave better and also to help them process some of what they’re feeling. But speculating about the LW’s past is not constructive, and neither is bringing up the topic of their mental health. This is a sensitive topic for a real live flesh-and-blood person who wrote to this community for advice and who in all likelihood is willing to learn to behave better. Please think more carefully before you post comments like this one.

      • isabeausuro said:

        I think the mental health thing was “Therapy can be useful even if you don’t have mental issues – I’m suggesting it because useful, not as a way to insult you”. At least that’s how I read it.

        • johann7 said:

          That was indeed my intent.

      • Molly said:

        I also thought that comment was mean and the mental-health thing was out of line. And actually I don’t even see much evidence of “boundary pushing behavior” on the LW’s part. I mean, clearly she has a lot of feelings about this situation. But the only action that was mentioned was that her husband asked the nephews why they blocked her on Facebook. Which I’m sure was an awkward conversation but is not some huge violation. Plus, c’mon, they had to know that would be upsetting to the LW. The stalking/harassment stuff seems like pure projection on the commenter’s part.

        • Okay, as a person with toxic family, I’m going to disagree with you here. “her husband asked the nephews why they blocked her on Facebook” is not even remotely what happened. He DEMANDED that they discuss the issue with him in a phone call, and demanded that they call him. That’s domineering and abusive, IMO. It’s controlling at the very least.

        • thathat said:

          Honestly? Asking someone with whom you’ve never had a good relationship WHY they have blocked you online –or even worse, sending a third-party to do it because they’ve effectively blocked you– IS boundary-crossing. Badly. Actually DEMANDING a full explanation and not taking the soft no of “not something I can talk about here” is even worse.

          Speaking of “Soft No” the nephews have been giving LW that their whole lives apparently. She knows it, she sees it, and yes she’s understandably hurt by it, but when someone makes it clear that they do t want to spend time with you, repeatedly trying to spend time with them is crossing some boundaries.

          There are a tiny handful of situations I can imagine asking someone why they blocked/unfriended me. All of them involving having had a good relationship with them beforehand. And when it comes to family? I have NEVER accepted a friend request from the older generation if my family. Its a rule with me, and even the most in-your-business aunts have never demanded an explanation.

          To me, its beyond rude. Because the answer is simple: I do not want to be facebook friends with this person. There are all sorts of things that can contribute to this, but if you’re not actually on good terms with that person, they’re all likely to be reasons that are hurtful. And not being 4 anymore, maybe they don’t want to straight up say “I don’t like you.” Having the husband try to force the issue is rude.

          More than rude. It kind if freaks me out? Because it sort of implies that you have to justify why you don’t want someone on your fb wall. Keeping someone off your facebook isn’t and act of aggression that needs to be defended. We wind up “seeing” our fb friends nearly every day.

          Finally, though its a comment up, I’m baffled and a little unsettled by the idea that bringing up mental health is “not constructive” or is “out of line.” Therapy is not shameful. LW has a lot of unhappiness about this situation, and a therapist that she can talk to about it could help her process it and grieve –especially since she’s been dealing with this hurt for ~twenty years now.

          • Molly said:

            @ Temperance and Thatthat : I didn’t read it as demanding. It seemed to me that the husband reached out on Facebook, the nephew said he didn’t want to discuss things on Facebook, so the husband said “You can call me,” the nephew didn’t call and that was that. It didn’t read to me like LW’s husband was all that worked up about this. If he really did get all fist-shakingly irate at the nephews, then I would agree that was boundary-crossing.

            I also think it’s relevant that the nephews didn’t just not return LW’s friend request, they actively blocked her so that she couldn’t even look at the photos to a wedding she was invited to. I mean, if I did that to a family member (especially one whom I visit on holidays and see at family functions regularly), I would expect there to be drama because it’s a dramatic move. It’s unnessesarily hostile when – again, unless she’s omitted some highly relevant information – she’s done nothing to warrant their hostility.

            The nephews apparently do have enough of a relationship with the LW that they go to her home for holidays regularly, and it sounds like they see each other at family events somewhat frequently. In that circumstance, I do think they should give her a bare minimum of kindness and consideration. They don’t have to be her friends (in Facebook or real life), but try to cushion the blow a little – I would personally say something self-deprecating about not wanted to subject relatives/co-workers to my online inanity – thank her for her hospitality/gifts, etc. It would not just be good manners but would spare them from having to deal with the fallout of hurting her feelings. Instead it seems like they are going out of their way to be hurtful – so it’s understandable for her to be hurt. (Though clearly not productive at this point.)

            On the therapy thing – I am personally all about therapy! I’ve benefitted from it myself and recommended it to friends – hopefully in a supportive way – but context/delivery is everything. You can verbally take someone to the woodshed, call them a “nightmare,” accuse them of borderline illegal activity, etc., *OR* you can kindly and helpfully suggest they seek therapy, but you can’t do both in the same comment.

          • thathat said:

            Okay, the thing is, to me, it’s still WILDLY inappropriate to confront someone over why they have defriended or blocked you on facebook. Because there’s really only one reason–they don’t want to interact with you via facebook. Putting someone on the spot, the way LW had her husband do, IS demanding, especially since it pushed past the “soft no.” He may have done it very politely, but cheese and crackers, what a thing to do!

            Imagine being confronted by someone who asks, point blank, “Why don’t you like me?” There’s no good answer to that! You may have actual concrete reasons that you don’t want to say outright because no good would come of it, or you may have so many nebulous, nibbled-by-ducks reasons that it’s hard to even articulate, or the answer might be as simple as: “I just do.” Either way, you’re on the spot, so you say, “I’m not comfortable talking about that.” The “On facebook” is the same thing as the “right now” in “I’m not looking to be in a relationship right now”–it really means “With YOU.” Especially, again, in this context where they have NEVER been friendly with LW.

            “they actively blocked her so that she couldn’t even look at the photos to a wedding she was invited to. I mean, if I did that to a family member (especially one whom I visit on holidays and see at family functions regularly), I would expect there to be drama because it’s a dramatic move. It’s unnessesarily hostile when”

            And here’s where we start having some miscommunications. Blocking someone isn’t inherently hostile. It’s unfortunate that you and LW see it as that, but it’s not hostile. I have my facebook on private, and I don’t friend any of my older family–I’ve deleted their friends request. My sibling has straight up blocked older family too. Not out of hostility or anger, but because we want to keep our facebook separate from our family interactions. I don’t want my parents or my aunts and uncles seeing my facebook. Even the ones who are probably more or less “safe.” Heck, I don’t want to see their facebook posts either. I added my best friend’s mom awhile back, and kind of regret it a lot, especially when a person who is in my personal experience, one of the sweetest people ever, posts a lot of awful anti-Obama memes full of misinformation. Sure, LW might not do that. But for a lot of the 30-and-under crowd, we’d just rather not take that chance with out older relatives. Facebook is where we hang out with our peers.

            Also, it’s my understanding that LW could still see the wedding pictures? Just not theirs specifically.

            “The nephews apparently do have enough of a relationship with the LW that they go to her home for holidays regularly, and it sounds like they see each other at family events somewhat frequently. “

            That’s…really not all that much of a relationship? Especially in a larger family. If somebody plays host to the family gatherings, then the options are go to that person’s house, or miss out on the family gatherings. Although it’s possible that they don’t want even that much interaction, given the fact that one of them didn’t go. I’m not sure how LW knows that they were lying about a sick newborn, or if she just assumes it. Because newborns get sick very easily. And even if the baby isn’t hospital-time sick, I’ll let newborn parents get away with a little-white-lie of “the baby is sick” when they just don’t have the energy to Go Somewhere, especially to a Big Holiday Gathering. That happens.

            At any rate, they’re not under any obligation to soften the blow. If they didn’t ask for gifts, but LW sent them anyway, it would be nice, I suppose, to say thank you, but it’s also likely that they feel uncomfortable at having gotten an unasked for gift–again–from a person that they are not on good terms with. I’ve had not-good-friends suddenly give me elaborate gifts when I was really trying to pull away from them, and it really just made things kinda worse. Unasked-for gifts may come from good intentions, but they’re not always welcome. They’re certainly not under any obligation to “say something self-deprecating.”

            The thing is, this isn’t a mystery. From what I understand, they don’t like LW, and LW knows they don’t like her and has known that for a very long time. LW isn’t on good terms with either of their parents, and they’re not LW’s blood relations either. All that combined makes the nephews’ behavior very understandable to me. And with that background, I can see them being kinda confused about why LW is making such a big deal out of being blocked on facebook.

            And I’ll be honest…this post put my shoulders up around my ears. There are lots of little things that make LW seem unreliable…not so much that they’re lying, just that their perception of the situation seems skewed. I mean, folks have already talked about how A doesn’t equal A for everyone and always expecting it to is going to lead to trouble, but there’s a few things like this:

            “One of the nephews very coldly said “it’s not something I can discuss on Facebook.” My husband said “you can call me and we’ll discuss it.” One of the nephews willy-nilly said to his mother “it’s just Facebook”.”

            The descriptors are weird. The nephew said something “very coldly?” But…it’s on Facebook. So how does LW know the manner in qhich he said it. Unless the simple statement: “It’s not something I can discuss on Facebook” is inherently “very cold.” Which…it’s not? And then the other nephew says something “willy-nilly?” I mean, “It’s just Facebook” doesn’t sound “willy-nilly” to me. It sounds like an honest expression of that nephew’s frustration and confusion with why LW is making such a big deal out of this. To LW this really feels like a big deal, but I think to the nephews it IS “just Facebook” and they legitimately don’t understand why it would be a big deal to anyone.

            It says to me that LW has gotten to the point where she reads malice into every interaction (or lack thereof) with the nephews at this point. The baby’s not really sick his dad’s just lying, LW is deliberately being ignored at a family funeral, one of the nephews is “sitting there smiling” (I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean or why it was included). Even the bit about the wedding–I’m…pretty sure that LW doesn’t mean that her husband was talking about the wedding, but in that case..why include the wedding at all? What does it have to do with anything?

            At this point, there is no answer the nephews could give LW that would satisfy her other that basically apologizing for their feelings and for trying to set boundaries and suddenly becoming warm and open people with her. That’s not going to happen.

            I think the suggestions was done with kindness and in a helpful way. It wasn’t an accusation, just a suggestion that therapy could help with coping techniques that could help the LW. There was accusation in that comment at the top, but frankly…LW has been behaving kind of inappropriately, and I’m all for bluntness. There’s nothing quite as inappropriate as forcing more of yourself on someone than they want to.

            And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if someone, family member or random dude on OKC, makes a big deal out of me not wanting to engage with them…then I feel like I made the right decision disengaging.

          • Molly said:

            “And even if the baby isn’t hospital-time sick, I’ll let newborn parents get away with a little-white-lie of “the baby is sick” when they just don’t have the energy to Go Somewhere, especially to a Big Holiday Gathering. That happens.”

            Bless you for that. 🙂 I have a one-year-old, and I’m still not over that first Christmas when I had a weeks-old baby, was barely recovering from a bout of mastitis *and* a back injury, (because breastfeeding is my body’s idea of extreme sports, apparently), and *still* got crap for being “so horribly late” to the annual family shindig. Not only that, but I barely thanked a single person, friend or family, for the gifts they sent right after my daughter was born because by the time I had the mental/physical energy to even start, I had no memory of who had sent what. In fact, those first few months are basically a blur of bodily fluids and tears (mine and the baby’s). So yeah, I am all about cutting new parents slack in basically every respect!

            Although I only recently aged out of “the thirty and under crowd,” :), I agree that the Facebook thing is the root of the difference here. To me, since it’s so easy to adjust your settings so that you barely have to interact with even people you have friended – let alone those you haven’t friended but haven’t blocked – the only reason I can imagine for blocking someone is To Send A Message. (The only person I’ve ever blocked was a long-ago ex who wasn’t getting said Message, and I’ve never been blocked as far as I know.) Other people clearly see it differently and that’s valid, but it looks like the LW sees it more like I do and so I can understand why she reacted as she did. If someone goes out of their way to say “I don’t like you,” it’s not unreasonable to say “But why not? What did I do?”

          • Mel Reams said:

            @Molly, “the only reason I can imagine for blocking someone is To Send A Message. …. If someone goes out of their way to say “I don’t like you,” it’s not unreasonable to say “But why not? What did I do?””

            Preventing someone from contacting you by blocking them means “Leave Me Alone.” It’s totally possible for that to be some kind of passive-aggressive silent-treatment dickery but no matter why they did it, ignoring that boundary only proves they were right to block you. It is totally reasonable to feel hurt and slighted and left out, but it’s just not okay to contact someone who told you not to.

            I’ve been harassed and stalked by someone who thought being blocked on one social network meant he should continue to harass me on another site, so I have some feelings about this that aren’t related to you. That still doesn’t make it okay to see someone’s very clear signal to leave them alone and trample over it because you want to know why they don’t want to talk to you.

          • caraway said:

            Out of nesting depth, I was also struck by what @thathat mentioned about the writing: the way the LW adds in a “very coldly” descriptor (to a textual message?) and similar instances. Painting-in little dabs of emotional color.

            I don’t know if the LW does this in in-person conversation! but I have known people who do, and OMG it drives me up the wall and I do not talk to them. Because like five times every minute with a quick dab they imply something that is unfair or just awry, and it’s completely out-of-scale for me to raise my hand and argue five times every minute “but she didn’t — no it wasn’t –“. Either I put up with it, or go out-of-line socially to blow it up, or try to have a meta conversation that never ever works, or… just stay away. Which feels like my jerk move, because I actually don’t think they’re doing it on purpose, it’s more a transmission of what they read in the world.

            (Oh huh, you know what commonality I just clicked to? When I’ve seen this, it’s always been painting negativity towards the painter. Probably why this reminded me.)

            Here I get a step more speculative, on “lied and told us their newborn was sick” — what struck me is it doesn’t feel any need for support of the assertion, even as subtle as “told us their newborn was sick, but afterwards we found out she wasn’t” much less detail like “but we saw their party pictures”. It’s statement of conclusion without even statement that evidence for conclusion exists much less presentation of evidence. Long story short, it made me wonder whether this is an example of “painting in” another person’s state of mind that ended up painting in a fact. Painting state-of-mind doesn’t call for much evidentiary support, nobody will usually argue with you (as above!), but doing a fact makes people say wait a minute. If you are accustomed to doing the one, you may not change gears when you accidentally do the other. n.b. All that said, I acknowledge it could be I’m reading way too much into text that got cut down to fit the length limit. p.s. But dang it is an odd statement to make like that, leaving the reader wondering how on earth would you know the status of their newborn if they didn’t come.

          • The Awe Ritual said:

            “Because there’s really only one reason–they don’t want to interact with you via Facebook. ”

            Depends on the timeline. About eleven years back, Facebook went through a phase of randomly unfriending and blocking a group of about five of my friends for me. If one of them hadn’t said, “Wait, what gives?”, I might have assumed they were unfriending ME.. and the same when Darth Ex II hacked my account and did the same.

            Now, if my friend had been hostile or bullying about it, or had HER Darth, who would certainly have been attacking and swollen with righteous fury, that might have been a different story…

          • @Molly, “the only reason I can imagine for blocking someone is To Send A Message”

            I’ve got another good one: my grown-ass stepbrother would go through my facebook updates and give my father and stepmother (who were not on facebook at the time) the condensed-for-the-worse version of all info. Or, if no updates were available, he would worry them into calling me because “there had been some terrible storms in my area and he hadn’t heard from me since.” The last straw was when he called them up at 11pm to tell them that there’d been a fire at my house but he didn’t know any more about it, and couldn’t get ahold of me (just… so not what happened, but whatever.) I started posting all updates to exclude him, but he could still comment on things that had me tagged, and could still see when friends tagged me, because we were friends. Plus, the lack of updates gave him fodder to tell his mother that I “seemed depressed lately” so eventually I just blocked him. To him, it looks like I deleted my facebook account, since we don’t have any mutual friends, and this way my stepmother can preserve the fiction that all the “kids” get along. It’s important to her, and because I love her I want her to have that fiction. This was just the easiest way, for me.

        • I, as a person who comes from a pretty dire family of origin on both sides, saw a lot of framing and coded language in the LW’s statements about her nephews’ behaviour. I suspect that the people who are reacting strongly read the same coded language I did, and that you probably didn’t. Maybe you haven’t had a lot of experience with toxic family patterns, which is awesome and I’m glad for you, but for pete’s sake, how is sending multiple unreciprocated and unacknowledged gifts and cards not boundary-pushing behaviour? How is pushing at someone for a visible FB relationship that is clearly not wanted not boundary-pushing behaviour? If your answer involves the word “family”…

          • Molly said:

            My family has its toxic patterns. 🙂 Though admittedly they more take the shape of sudden and unexplained silent treatment for reasons that are never ultimately explained than of people trying for force unwanted relationships. A close relative of mine was abruptly cut off from her part of her family for years because of a stray comment along the lines of “actually I do like spicy food” that was taken the wrong way. So I bring my own baggage just like everyone else – Facebook did not exist in those days but if it had, I am sure she would have been blocked on it, and I can see her heartbrokenly writing to Captain Awkward about it. (And I’ve flaked on writing thank-you notes often enough with no ill-intent that it honestly wouldn’t occur to me that continuing to send gifts was a boundary violation…)

          • thathat said:

            @Molly Oh, ugh, I see where you’re coming from. I also really don’t like it when people are Suddenly Quiet at me for reasons, but at the same time, having come from a family where I get a lot of overbearing “BE MORE INVOLVED” from both sides, I think I’m one of those people who read certain phrases LW used and just NOPED out, y’know.

            But yeah, I’m a total flake about Thank You cards. I’d like to be better, but honestly, 1-on-1 correspondence gives me massive anxiety at the best of times, so…yeah. (Currently I have a big thank-you letter to my family that both my sibs and half my cousins have beat me to, and now it just feels like, “Yeah, here’s a month-late thank you” is even worse, and WILL get me picked-on/fussed at just as much as as not doing it at this point.) I don’t think sending gifts after not getting a Thank You card is inherently boundary pushing, but again, in the context of this letter, I can’t see it as anything else.

            Because again, the thing that stands out to me is that LW does not, and more importantly, never has had a good relationship with her nephews. That’s unfortunate, but it’s true. She’s not oblivious of the fact either. The silence she is getting isn’t a new thing, a sudden change from a formerly warm relationship. If I forget to send a Thank You letter to someone that I’m close to and they send a gift for my birthday, etc, they’re not pushing a boundary. But if someone that I don’t know well, or don’t like much, someone I don’t voluntarily spend time with, etc keeps sending gifts…it can be a little unsettling.

            And I get that from LW’s perspective, she’s just doing what Family Should Do. Trust me, my Dad’s side of the family still has lots of lingering Sicilian attitudes, for better or worse, regarding How Family Works. I’ve been there.

            But from her nephew’s PoV, it’s probably more like… like a girl who’s just not interested in a guy. She doesn’t hate him, maybe, but she doesn’t want to date him, or even really be friends with him. But that guy keeps trying to be friends with her. In that context, it would be pretty obvious that if he kept sending her birthday/Christmas gifts that she didn’t acknowledge, that he was crossing a boundary. If you’re particularly paranoid, like I am, it can feel like Favor-Sharking, whether it is or not. And if he put her on the spot and asked her “why don’t you like me,” it would be very unpleasant.

            I do think for the most part, LW has good intentions. But good intentions don’t mean a lot if they’re making the other person uncomfortable.

            It sucks to not know why people don’t like us. But honestly, it sucks just as much to know why, in a different way. Trying to make friends with people who hate you, or even make sense of it…that’s just a waste of your time, your energy, and your peace of mind. I hope LW has good family and friends she can surround herself with to remind herself that she is lovable.

      • winter said:

        We recommend therapy on this website all the time because it helps people develop healthy coping strategies, irregardless of any mental health problems they might (not) have. As such, the suggestion was actually helpful and kind.

      • ProbablySharks said:

        Blunt I’d say and not necessarily likely to be taken well. Mean? Eh. I was surprised at the number of measured comments myself and had the same visceral emotional response to the letter.

        There is a narrative in this letter about perceived slights starting *at age 4*. Then later talking about needing to grieve and becoming re-activated due to another perceived slight from people LW *doesn’t have a relationship with*. Or–generously –not that kind of relationship. They’re in their early 20s now. That is at least 16 years of pushing and not accepting more measured responses such as those from husband.

        I have an aunt who does this–constructs narratives and holds childhood behavior over my head. It’s score keeping behavior I have no interest in listening to. She’s so put upon and a victim. I’ve been a b forever and it starts with my mother. Sound familiar?

        • Molly said:

          Johann7 calls the LW, “that nightmare family member,” accuses them of “stalking,” “harassing,” and tells them “you need to stop. Immediately.” I’ve re-read the letter and am not sure what exactly the LW is supposed to “stop,” since she hasn’t actually *done* anything except … Be a person with feelings. Her feelings about her nephews’ rejection may not be entirely rational or reasonable, but that just makes her a human being in need of advice, not berating. I stand by calling it “mean.” That’s not even getting into the “I’m not calling you crazy, I’m just totally calling you crazy,” part.

          I’ve noticed a few responses to the LW in the vein of “Family member X did horrible things x,y, and z which caused me to cut them out of my life, your nephews have pushed you (mostly) out of their lives, ergo you must have done something to deserve it LW, let me give you a piece of my mind.” But sometimes shitty people draw boundaries for shitty reasons , i.e. Not Our Class Dear. And they still get to draw those boundaries! The advice to the LW doesn’t change in that she can’t fix her newphews and would be happier and better off just accepting that. But I’d rather give her the benefit of the doubt than excoriate her for things we have zero evidence she’s ever done.

          • hrovitnir said:

            Honestly, while I wasn’t going to touch this because I didn’t think it would be productive to contribute to a potential pile-on, I actually do see a lot of boundary pushing in this letter.

            I think it’s potentially very off-putting for the LW so I didn’t think it was useful to focus on but many of the harsher comments on here are not saying anything much different to the Captain, just with less benefit of the doubt (and benefit of the doubt is a good thing!) Whether or not the nephews want minimal contact for a “good” reason, it’s very clear they do and things like feelingsmail about Facebook will really, really not help.

            Basically I agree that whether or not we see behaviour that would make us uncomfortable it’s more helpful to respond without reading between the lines. However I disagree she’s doing nothing but having feelings: she is pushing people for more contact than they want complete with being upset at them when they reject it. That is what she should stop.

            Also, while it probably won’t be read well, I don’t like the idea that mentioning mental illness = *accusing* someone of having a mental illness. I wish we could say “therapy is good! Regardless of if you have a mental illness! And it’s OK (though potentially hard for you) if you do!” and not have it be a smear.

      • human said:

        Chessie is right. This comment was definitely mean. I’ve noticed over time the comment section here has sadly been getting meaner in this specific way. The Captain and her co-bloggers are almost always very kind and generous to the letter writers even when they believe the letter writers are wrong. And that’s the right way to approach this stuff, because you know what? We are ALL human and we are ALL wrong sometimes and when we are, it’s much more helpful if people tell us so kindly rather than meanly.

        The mental illness comment was out of line. It even acknowledges the site rule about not diagnosing strangers over the internet… as a way to not-so-subtly hint the letter writer maybe has a mental illness! And no, saying that’s not what you’re saying doesn’t get you off the hook when anyone who reads it knows what’s what you’re really implying.

        Let’s be kinder to each other, shall we? And if we read something on here that pushes all our emotional buttons due to stuff other people have done to us in the past, let’s not type out an angry comment directed at an internet-stranger who is almost certainly not the same person who hurt us. I really wish the comments section of this site would get back to that, because it used to be so warm and supportive and… not rage-y.

        • johann7 said:

          The mental illness comment was out of line. It even acknowledges the site rule about not diagnosing strangers over the internet… as a way to not-so-subtly hint the letter writer maybe has a mental illness!

          I meant what I said quite literally. I included the mental illness rule to make it clear that I was not trying to diagnose a mental illness and was instead suggesting therapy whether or not LW has a mental illness becasue it can be useful even for mentally healthy people to learn the coping techniques therapists can teach. Which I explicitly said. I have several mental illnesses (or divergent neurological functioning) and no desire to perpetuate social stigmata against people like myself, and I also know that the coping techniques I learned in therapy can be and are more generally applied by people without mental illnesses or by people with mental illnesses to cope with difficulties they encounter that are not actually related to their illnesses.

    • The “I’ve done nothing wrong” part rang some alarm bells for me because of how it reminded ne of this http://the-toast.net/2015/01/14/talking-estrangement/ , particularly because of the refusal to accept the rejection. I could definitely be reading too much into that and the LW may well have been rejected for no reason, but even in that case ‘whyyyyy don’t you want to have a relationship with me what did I do’ is unhelpful to everyone. My condolences to the LW though, being rejected can be really painful and upsetting, and that sucks

      • Cactus said:

        Yeah, I feel a lot of sympathy for LW, even if her letter is setting off alarm bells and I’ve mostly seen things from the nephews’ perspective in my own life. But it’s not something she can really work through with the nephews, at least not right now. She could work through it with a therapist, though, which is why I think johann7 made a great suggestion with that.

      • Obstreperous B said:

        YES THIS. Obviously we have no way of knowing what the nephews’ perspective on this is or whether or not there’s information being left out of this letter, but the *tone* immediately put me in mind of those forums for “estranged” (abusive) parents who get together to reinforce each other’s narratives about how pointlessly spiteful and selfish their children are for cutting off contact with them.

        That being said, either that’s a coincidence, in which case this is not useful information, or it sounds similar for a very good reason, in which case it’s still not useful, because an inability to admit that the situation could have been caused by their own bad behavior is part and parcel of the phenomenon.

        • manybellsdown said:

          Seconding your recommendation because that site was amazing and put a LOT of things into perspective for me.

        • Jen said:

          Thirding it. That’s what I think of, as well, when I hear that someone doesn’t have a clue why they’re being shut out of another person’s life.

        • johann7 said:

          This is super interesting; thanks for the link!

    • zephyr haversack said:

      Ditto. I got all up in a twist, reading that letter. Got kinda upset that LW saw herself as the wronged one …

    • roramich said:

      definitely not just you!

    • Alice_Fraggle said:

      I’m gonna +1 therapy. It’s not just for crazies anymore. (That’s a joke! I despise the term “crazy”.)

  17. alwaysanswerb said:

    LW, I would like to address the Facebook issue. The Captain says that if you were to get an explanation from your nephews why they blocked you, it would probably be something to do with online interaction not being their preferred medium for interacting with you. I want to strongly echo this, and offer more detail.

    I do not have an antagonistic relationship with any of my family members, and I do not intentionally freeze out any of my aunts or uncles. I am, actually, friends with most of them on Facebook. But I deeply, deeply, wish I were not. In a perfect world, where I wasn’t concerned about hurting feelings, I would probably block most of my family.

    It has nothing to do with them as people. I do not dislike them. But I am someone who “grew up” using Facebook, from the time it first started, and as the service grew and changed, it went from a platform where my friends and I could communicate freely with one another to one where everyone is expected to be “friends” with everyone, and that results in an awkward intermingling of previously separate social circles. It’s common sense in life that one comports oneself differently around, say, their coworkers or extended family, than they do around their closest friends or immediate family. Being friends with everyone means I have to show one online “self” to everyone I know, so I have to be very careful about that person that I present. Eventually, I chose to stop using Facebook in the way that I previously used it, when I felt more free to share content with my friends and peers who I knew would appreciate that content. Whether it was that I used more profanity, or expressed sentiments that I knew my family would disagree with (politically or otherwise,) there were certain things I was no longer comfortable doing on Facebook when I knew my family was watching. Part of me resents that, because I don’t want to have to censor myself for an aunt who I only see twice a year. It doesn’t matter that she’s a nice person and I like her, because there are just certain things I don’t need her to see or know about my life. I could block her, but then she’d probably be writing your letter too, and it’s easier just to pull back and interact with my friends on a different social media platform.

    It’s possible that your nephews just don’t like you (as you suggest) or it’s possible that they just chose differently than I did when faced with a similar set of options, and that it wasn’t actually personal. Like the Captain says, the reason still doesn’t actually matter. It will benefit you, moving forward, to stop trying to figure out what the reason is, and just take at face value the relationship that is being offered. You said at a recent gathering that one of their wives went out of her way to talk with you, and one of your nephews smilingly participated (the other, you say, ignored you, but it was also a funeral; maybe he was just upset and not feeling up to socializing?) It sounds like they are offering friendly in-person interaction, which is probably more meaningful than the kind you’d get on Facebook anyway. Stop worrying about the online “friendship.” They’ll probably be more comfortable around you at family gatherings if they don’t feel like you are constantly trying to weigh your relationship via arbitrary standards like Facebook friendship. You’ll all get along better if you can spend time with one another free of the burden of hurt feelings.

    • “I am, actually, friends with most of them on Facebook. But I deeply, deeply, wish I were not.”

      I held out against Facebook until a few years ago, and fortunately, I learned this lesson quick enough not to friend the entire family. However, it was a terrible mistake to accept the requests I received. I have had to unfriend two relatives because of rude comments made towards me, my friends and closer family (which they probably consider deeply oversensitive on my part – as Taltos say above, there are differences in what we think is an acceptable way to behave) and the others I regularly filter out of my status updates. If any of the others made friend requests, I wouldn’t take them on.

      Another lesson about the different ways people use Facebook – I know folks who would never dream of unfriending someone who hadn’t actually murdered someone, while others who block folks they happen to find merely mildly annoying that day. I think there’s a big risk in this stuff of thinking, “This person has blocked me – how badly would I have to regard a person before I blocked them?” because these actions do not have a universally understood social implication.

      • Same. I have been on FB less than a year, and I started out super cautious, and I have been really happy about that.

        I’m 100% sure I have an aunt who is mad at me for not friending her, but I have no interest in her having any more access to my life than she already has through my sister.

    • Totally. Facebook friendship is… different from real life relationships. You’ll probably be able to relate to this: my mother harangued me for ages as I desperately resisted being Facebook friends with her. I knew she wouldn’t like a lot of what I posted; for example, even mild expletives send her into a blistering rage and I like to say what i really think on FB. Also i like to discuss pretty deep issues and I know from experience that doesn’t mix well with the relationship I have with my mother. But she badgered and bullied me until, with a heavy heart, I accepted her millionth friend request because I just couldn’t take the bullying and snide remarks any more (like, every time I mentioned literally anyone I knew: “Oh. I bet you’re friends with HER on Facebook”).

      I had to completely change my posting style and how I responded to things. I was so uncomfortable. I had to be the timid, walking on eggshells person I am around her in person. She MASSIVELY rubbed me up the wrong way, as I knew she would. She’d comment on almost everything I posted, nasty, belittling little things to make me look stupid. She’d tell me I was too sensitive when I asked her to stop. She’d argue with all of my comments on mutual friends’ posts. And when pages I viewed popped up in her news feed, she’d find ways of picking at them that sometimes hurt people, like when she waded into a safe space for LGBTQIA people and started lecturing them about how their use of they/them as a singular pronoun was WRONG and they should stop it because it annoyed her. Not only that but she believed literally everything she read on the internet and constantly shared ridiculous scaremongering shit that a child could see was complete nonsense.

      First I unfollowed her, then it just got too much and I had to unfriend her. She threw a massive tantrum and tried to guilt me into adding her again (like, “I feel SO hurt when I see ALL MY FRIENDS posting loving messages to their families. Why can’t I have that? What did I ever do?”). I tried to make her believe it was nothing personal by saying stuff like, “I feel like the amount of communicating we do over Facebook means we’re losing the nicer exchanges we used to have over email and I don’t want to lose those” and “I’m just changing the way I use Facebook” which is true as now I can Be Myself, but she probed and probed, apparently trying to get me to say “why yes, you’re right, I do hate you” to help her justify her anger or something. It’s been well over a year and she STILL brings it up whenever I speak to her and makes passive-aggressive comments about it.

      And I’m sorry to say this, really I am, but the LW reminds me a bit of how she’s behaved around Facebook.

      • alwaysanswerb said:

        Oh, do I EVER relate! From the “Why aren’t we Facebook friends?” to the “Why would you post that?” and the “I really don’t like what you post” and finally the “Why can’t I see what you post anymore?”

        Well, do you want to see it, or not? Be careful what you wish for, pearl-clutching family members!

        • My mother once told me to change my profile picture (a very, very slightly suggestive image of me in cosplay, wearing a business suit and vampire fangs). I unfriended her and said, “Now you don’t have to look at it any more.” You’ve never heard such whining.

        • Lol! This! I have to say, I personally enjoy the “restricted” setting for certain faaaaaaaamily members, especially ones who have been nasty to me bc of my opinions and beliefs. It’s great. I don’t see their Farmville requests, they don’t see my biz, and they are technically not blocked. I’ve never been asked why my stuff isn’t on their feed, but if they ever did ask, I’d just play dumb. “Hmmm. I dunno why. Weird (shrug).”

          • Jenesis said:

            I make extensive use of the “restricted” setting for this purpose. Sometimes it’s more expedient to add someone and slot them away somewhere I never have to look at them again. It doesn’t necessarily mean I dislike them, either, just that I don’t want to see their political/religious/overly personal stuff on my feed.

          • roramich said:

            that’s exactly what I do, too.

      • e271828 said:

        I have a good friend who has had to do exactly this with a family member, and who is getting a nearly-identical song and dance of passive-aggressive, whiny pushback on whyyyyy aren’t they Facebook friends. (Right down to the “All my friends…” line, which is SO EVOCATIVE of that classic Mom retort, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”)

        I think this must happen a lot.

        It is enough to drive a person right off Facebook.

        • My extended family whom I love enough to want to send a supportive note when they are going through hard times, but don’t have anything in common with and actually find kind of stressful? They are a big part of the reason I have never joined Facebook in the first place.

          If I’m going to visit them, as I did when their son died, I need to arrange to talk or text with a buddy at home for some amount of time every day of my visit, to blow off enough steam in order to interact from a place of care, rather than from a place of discomfort and anxiety.

          And I fully support anyone whose calculus where family is concerned involves not spending time around the person or people they find stressful or anxious-making.

          • I can totally relate to the buddy thing, to the point that i now refuse to even see my mother without my husband present.

      • Alexis said:

        Facebook relatives are the worst, and this election season is bringing out the crazy racist anti-LGBTQ xenophobe that lurks in seemingly sane aunties everywhere. I have had to unfollow half my family to keep from screaming at the computer or writing replies that will make Thanksgiving super awkward. Seriously, no one should have to friend relatives on Facebook if they don’t want to.

    • olivia0330 said:

      My grandmother desperately wanted to be my facebook friend, but I had seen her scold an adult cousin for using a swear and I DID NOT WANT THAT. Also, I knew she would insert herself n my friendships the way she did when I was living with her, comment, “isn’t God’s creation WONDERFUL?!” on any science article I shared, and ask me why I didn’t “like” every single one of her posts. She took my refusal to add her as a personal insult. She brought it up constantly. I gray-rocked and mumbled about not using facebook very often, while turning my privacy settings up to 11. She made a fake account under a false name trying to convince me she was someone I went to high school with, in an attempt to get me to add her/the fake account. *shakes head*

      The day facebook became No Longer Fun for me was the day my mother in law added me, and I felt like I couldn’t say no because reasons.

      • Kacienna said:

        Are you my cousin? Probably not, but I have an aunt that I’m Facebook friended to who scolded me for sharing a post that included the f-word. (I didn’t even type it myself, it was just part of the funny post that someone else wrote!) Thanks to much reading of CA, after venting to my mom I was able to respond with something like “I can’t promise not to use language you disapprove of; if you need to unfollow/unfriend me, I understand.” She never replied and stayed friended to me, but her daughter and my mom both “liked” my response 🙂

        • Ha, my mother lectured me because I liked (didn’t even share) a page from “I fucking love science.” She was Very Upset that they “feel the need to use That Word,” which she felt was completely gratuitous and unnecessary. I feel “I love science” would be a bit tame 🙂

    • Cactus said:

      What you say about Facebook is so true, and so annoying. I am friends with many relatives on there (though not my mother; we’ve reached an agreement on that), and most of them are on my “acquaintance” list. So are: various former classmates who I disagree with politically on one of several issues, some former co-workers from a particularly contentious workplace of ever-shifting alliances…you get the picture. Most of these “acquaintances” have little in common (for example, all of the former co-workers are pro-choice; many of the former classmates and a few relatives are not). So there are times when I’ll post somewhere to “friends except acquaintances” because I don’t want to start a giant argument with College Pro-Life Girl #1, but I’m fine with my SIL seeing it, but I don’t want to spend the time filtering out College and Writing Workshop Pro-Life People #1-27…so my SIL and former co-workers never see it.

      I just wish Facebook didn’t have to be such a big DEAL. But to a lot of people (even me, admittedly, sometimes), it is. I don’t want to hurt feelings. I also don’t want constant anxiety-provoking arguments on everything I post. It’s an annoying compromise, when everyone has access to everything.

      • Rana said:

        “Friends except acquaintances” is my default these days. Occasionally I’ll toss a bland post to the more general “friends” feed to appease the acquaintances who might think they’re missing something, but I’m a big fan of filtered posting on FB. I also have several smaller friend circles for discussions that I’d rather not family and other well-meaning but prone to Excessive Concern friends be privy to.

        I unfollow most of said Acquaintances too; some of them post things that are just too aggravating to have in my feed every day, but it’s nice being able to check in on them when milestones happen, etc.

    • Perlandra said:

      You can filter people by different groups, without blocking or de-friending them. My hobby-forum friends see different stuff from my dance friends, who see different things from my gaming friends, etc.

      • Cactus said:

        Yeah, I need to try doing that at some point.

      • alwaysanswerb said:

        I do that, but it still adds up to me having to do a bunch of work (emotional labor) to protect the sensibilities of people who I don’t think about 95% of the year. I’d rather just retreat.

      • Saturngrl said:

        But can you filter who sees which things you Like or comment on? Because I often want my close circle of friends to get to see a political thingy but don’t think it merits a full Share, but afaik I am then blasting my conservative relatives too?

        • alwaysanswerb said:

          THIS is the big problem. You are correct: my likes and comments get blasted to all of my friends regardless of my default restriction settings. Resulting in, for instance, the passive “liking” of the most politically-neutral NYT article ever earning me a several paragraph diatribe via Facebook PM from my mother over how disappointing it is that I’m being brainwashed by the liberal media.

          • Yikes, I had to unfriend my mother because of stuff like this. She used to look at what I liked or commented on and then make rude comments on those pages. Like, one time she told off a group of trans people for using “their” as a singular pronoun, then told them “there is no such creature as a pregnant man” and argued with them when they presented data to the contrary. This was meant to be a safe space. I was so glad I’d changed my name when I got married, and this is exactly why i did that. She also used to skim read my blog posts and then mock me for saying stuff I’d never actually said (which she’d know if she actually read them properly).

            The approximately monthly guilt-trips and lectures I get for having unfriended her a year ago are worth it, on balance.

  18. TootsNYC said:

    I look at nieces and nephews, my own now-grown children, other people in general, as cats.

    They will like you if they want to. And if they don’t want to, you can’t make them.

    It isn’t respectful to the cat to keep insisting that it must like you, and it’s really disrespectful to keep encroaching on the distance it’s maintaining.

    You don’t pick up and snuggle a cat that doesn’t like it. That’s rude.

    It’s also counterproductive. The more you interfere with a cat that doesn’t like you, the less it will like you.

    Everybody knows that the best way to get a cat to NEED to be on your lap is to be allergic. (Maybe you’re the cat, and they’re the allergic person.)
    The 2nd best way is to IGNORE them.

    And to amp that up, be doing something interesting while you’re ignoring them.

    Maybe that cat will never be friendly with you. But at least you can say you’ve been **respectful** of the cat.

    • kddomingue said:

      Lol! You gave me the giggles with your response. I had a sister in-law who absolutely despised cats and wasn’t overly fond of me. I had a 22 pound Maine Coon cat named Bailey that had been abandoned as a kitten, too young to have been weaned yet. So, I carried him around in my shirt and bottle fed him until he was big enough to be”weaned”. Naturally, he imprinted on me and considered me to be his “mama”. Normally Bailey ignored anyone outside of myself, the hubs and my two kids (his “siblings”). But whenever this sister inlaw would come to the house, Bailey made it his business to strope her ankles and jump up in her lap and rub all over her. Then he would give her a dismissive tail flick and jump down. She always remarked on how much the cat “liked” her and never realized that Bailey was doing it because he DISLIKED her and knew it would aggravate her! Cats.

  19. Apple said:

    LW, you’re a great person and you have a lot of love to give to family. I respect that!

    These nephews have openly disliked you since they were toddlers. They blocked you on Facebook. I’m one thousand percent unsure as to why you keep bashing your head against the wall trying to change that. You’re not breaking down the wall; you’re breaking your head.

    This sucks. No one is saying it doesn’t suck. Sometimes people just don’t like you.

    There doesn’t have to be a reason. They don’t have to justify it to you. Could they have played the part of pretending to like you at family events? Totally. But they didn’t. And, frankly, as awesome as you are, they shouldn’t have to.

    Do you even want to hang out and correspond with people who would treat you like that, for any reason? What would you say to them? What would y’all even do together?

    I think you should treat this like a breakup, LW. I think you should grieve for this relationship you want, and you should write angry letter and burn them, and cry if you need to, and, ultimately, move on.

    You’re so caring, and you deserve better than to continually try to be where you’re not wanted. Go be where you’re wanted! Go hang out with your husband, or your friends, or your side of the family. Join a club, learn to ride a unicycle. Start collecting cool hats. Love yourself.

    Do things you can control, because you cannot, and you will never be able to, control how your nephews feel about you.

  20. efmather2006 said:

    I am wondering how well you really know your nephews as people, since you mention that most of your interactions with them over the years have been “awkward,” and it’s uncomfortable to have them at your house – the same might go for their parents, perhaps? If it’s possible for you to separate the symbolic nature of their relationship as family and their hurtful actions toward you as a family member….would you like them as people and want to be around them? The impression I get is that what they represent is you is very important (family, which is completely understandable), but that you don’t have much to say about who they are other than cold and rejecting towards you. I mention this because I used to try to reach out more to my extended family, and when I finally spent significant time around them, realized exactly why we didn’t have much of a relationship. That helped me let go of a lot of those feelings.

  21. Karen said:

    LW, I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who is the “nephew” side of the equation.

    My husband has an aunt who, in my opinion, treated him in a staggeringly callous manner before we met, possibly without realizing it. That alone gave me reservations, but I wanted to be on reasonably friendly terms, because we were now family. At some point, this aunt began aggressively pursuing a friendship with me. The more I demurred and gave soft “no” ‘s, the more persistently she followed up with social invitations.

    While I’m sure she meant well, and thought she was being friendly, it felt boundary-crossing and intrusive. It was the friendship equivalent of a Nice Guy.

    Letter Writer, people don’t owe you the relationship you want to have with them. Trying to make a relationship happen doesn’t feel friendly – it feels possessive and suffocating.

    If this aunt had backed off and been casually friendly at holiday gatherings, the friendship might have been salvageable. The Captain is right; if you want to have good family relationships in the future, the best thing going you can do is step back and let relationships happen as they happen. Your current behavior is, frankly, creepy.

  22. Manattee said:

    LW, in case it helps you to feel better, I love my aunties and uncles dearly, but when I was in my 20s I absolutely did not want to be friends with any of them on facebook and didn’t make any special effort to keep in touch with them outside of chatting at large family gatherings, sending thank you notes if they sent me gifts, and occasionally remembering to send Christmas cards. It’s not that I didn’t care about them, I was just very busy doing my own thing; keeping in close contact with anyone outside my immediate family just wasn’t on my radar as a priority. In particular, facebook was a place for keeping up with friends my own age, for testing out new political ideas, for being silly and flirty, for putting up pictures of me getting drunk at parties, and I would have felt super uncomfortable about having family members on there.

  23. Syddle said:

    Unlike a lot of other commenters, the thing that jumped out to me was that you’ve always had a strained relationship with these boys’ mother, combined with the one nephew’s childhood comment that he didn’t like you. In combination, this makes me wonder if some of what’s going on here is related to your relationship with the childrens’ mother. Kids by their nature take their cues about what’s okay and who’s a safe person from their parents. While as kids grow up, they of course start to develop their own opinions and likes and dislikes, they also retain a lot of the behaviors and preferences that were developed as a result of their closeness with their parents/siblings/other frequent housemates.

    If you’re really interested in a strong relationship with your nephews going forward, you might start by trying to strengthen your relationship with your sister-in-law and (if applicable) the kids’ other parent(s). Obviously, these kids are adults now and aren’t taking all of their cues about life from their mom anymore, but if they never really saw you as “family” as kids because of a strained relationship with their mom/other caregiver(s), it stands to reason that they may begin to think of you more as “family” if they see you interacting with their immediate family unit, i.e. their mom/other close family members, like “family.”

    I don’t know why your relationship with your sister-in-law has always been distant, but I’d encourage you look at that relationship and see if there’s anything that you (or she, or maybe even your husband) did when it was first beginning that caused tension. Obviously, it’s been quite a while, but if it was something that either you or your husband did–or something she did that was very embarrassing–a late apology can be very meaningful (or a late forgiveness, if the fault was hers).

    Personal anecdotes:

    My mom had a very strained relationship with my grandmother when I was young. My mom was leaving the Catholic faith, and my grandmother was… not super cool with that. I loved hanging out with my aunt, who lived with my grandmother. I’d beg to go to my aunt’s to play and hang out as a kid. When only my aunt would be home, my mom would stay to hang out too–but when my grandmother would be around, or when she would get home mid-visit from bridge club, my mom always found a reason to leave and come pick me up later. I never really liked my grandmother, and really only liked to play with my aunt–when my grandmother was around, I’d ask to play two-player games, but when she wasn’t I’d play 2+ games and try to include my grandad, who I was quite fond of. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mother was actively avoiding interacting with my grandmother, and I was picking up on that. When my grandmother became very ill and was dying, my mom’s relationship with her strengthened, and I started to like her a lot more as well. (Of course, I was still 12 at the time and much more susceptible to being influenced by my parents’ behavior, but I think I still would have had a similar warming if this had happened now).

    • kat said:

      …i respect your good intentions, but this reads like you’re telling lw to get close to the mom to get to the kids. that is creepy. and manipulative. when it happens organically, like it did with your family, that’s different. plotting to fix a relationship purely to get to someone else is …not advisable.

      the bad relationship very well may be because of the mother, but that doesn’t actually matter. what matters is that the nephews have demonstrated their boundaries quite clearly. the best thing lw can do, for both parties, (in my opinion) is just respect that. stop trying to force a relationship, stop investing so much emotional and mental energy on this. focus on the relationships that are good and healthy and mutual.

      lw, i’m sorry your feelings are hurt. i really am. but at this point the person getting your feelings hurt, sadly, is you. you are running repeatedly at a wall, and acting suprised when your face smacks into it. stop running at the wall.

      • Cactus said:

        +1
        (And you’ve made my Paranoid Brain start running in circles…thank God I believe in my own mother’s sharpness.)

    • jaynn said:

      I agree with kat that getting closer to the mother to foster a relationship with the nephews is probably a bad idea, and ultimately it DOES come back to being unable to force a relationship. What I did read out of that element is confusion. As much as people rant again faaaaamily dynamics here (justifiably!), I have a certain default that I expect out of people to start with that it sounds like was totally skipped over here, and the nephews jumped right to estrangement, so–and I realise I’m probably reading a lot into it at this point–it feels like “why won’t you at least give me a chance?” especially now that they’re adults. At this point there may well be more on the nephew’s end that the LW isn’t seeing, including possibly her own pushiness, but that there was never even the attempt at a relationship from their end…

      LW, you need to do your best to leave this alone and accept the situation as it is. Your hurt is understandable, but looking for them to alleviate it is a recipe for more pain.

      • At this point there may well be more on the nephew’s end that the LW isn’t seeing, including possibly her own pushiness, but that there was never even the attempt at a relationship from their end…
        They’ve known her at least since they were four. If they’re now in their early twenties, that’s plenty of time to get to know someone and decide how you feel about them. Sometimes things change from childhood or adolescence to when we become adults – and sometimes, the relative you hated visiting when you were tiny continues to be someone you dislike or just don’t want to be close to when you’re fully grown.

  24. Ellen Fremedon said:

    LW, do you even *like* your nephews? However they would characterize your relationship, from your perspective they have both spent their lives, from early childhood, being coldly distant to you at best, and at worst, actively shunning you or telling you flat out they dislike you. So why are you still so eager to have these people in your life? Have they ever done anything kind to you? Ever offered you help, or sought your advice? Ever had a real conversation?

    In your letter, the *only* reason you offer for wanting a closer relationship is because you’re related. Is there any other reason? Are they funny, smart, charming? Are they good hosts? Is the one nephew’s baby cute? What are you hoping to get out of a relationship with them–with these particular people, not with some idealized younger relatives that don’t exist outside your head?

    I’m just baffled at why you want these people to like you so much when you don’t actually appear to like them back. That’s okay. You can all keep disliking each other from a distance.

  25. Paulina said:

    If you want people to want to have any sort of a relationship with you, you need to respect their boundaries — even if you don’t agree with those boundaries. You can’t reason someone into being comfortable with you, whether that reason is “but family” or anything else, and the more you try the more you give them reasons to be uncomfortable with you. Especially if how you act about the relationship makes it look as though it is far more important to you than they feel is appropriate.

    • “If you want people to want to have any sort of a relationship with you, you need to respect their boundaries — even if you don’t agree with those boundaries. You can’t reason someone into being comfortable with you, whether that reason is “but family” or anything else, and the more you try the more you give them reasons to be uncomfortable with you.”

      YES THIS.

      Thank you so much for putting this so clearly Paulina, especially about respecting people’s boundaries even if you don’t like those boundaries.

    • 3Fluffies said:

      Amen to this. With all that checking Facebook to determine when/whether she’s blocked, keeping tabs on them, LW is essentially stalking her nephews! I’d be creeped out and running the other way too! LW can protest about “family family family” and “love love love” until the end of the world, but the nephews have set boundaries, and since they were little, she has stampeded right over them DEMANDING closeness. She doesn’t seem to see them as individual people, only as reflections of her own worth, and their feelings or lack thereof simply don’t matter to her. She needs to stop. And no, not stop in the hope that then they will come around and reward her for stopping. Just stop. Leave the guys alone! If her entire self-worth is wrapped up in whether other people like her, there’s therapy for that. It’s not her nephews and their parents’ job to make her like herself.

      I adore Cap, but I think she missed it this time. LW is 100% in the wrong here and needs to be told that.

      • Alice_Fraggle said:

        “She doesn’t seem to see them as individual people, only as reflections of her own worth, and their feelings or lack thereof simply don’t matter to her.”

        I don’t know about her only seeing them as reflections of her own worth, but I do agree that she doesn’t see them as individual people or as adults. It sounds like she’s stuck on them being 4 and saying they don’t like her. They’ve grown up and they get to decide whom they want to spend time / energy on. At 4 you can say you don’t like someone, but your parents control if you have to spend time with them. They’ve grown up, and their opinions don’t seem to have changed. I think the LW needs to accept that.

  26. Plenty of people have said what I would have said, LW, so I want to add one more thing:
    I recommend pursuing counseling, since counseling is not just about mental illness. Counseling also works for grief, and talking to someone who is completely outside this dynamic, and doing so on a regular basis, can help you make peace with your loss.

    • Vicki said:

      Yes. I think you would benefit from talking to someone who doesn’t think “I’m not losing sleep over this, so you shouldn’t either” is a valid argument. Even if what your husband means is closer to “If you can’t just ignore this, I have no other advice for you, and am the wrong person to be talking to about this,” rather than “everyone should have the same reaction to things, and when we don’t, mine is right,” that’s a reason to talk to someone who isn’t him, and doesn’t know your nephews or your sister-in-law.

  27. Don't Shoot The Messenger said:

    LW, the Captain’s advice is 100 percent correct. I would just like to add my voice to the chorus. When my best friend was in a similar situation with her in-laws, I told her, “Stop auditioning for the approval of people who don’t want to like you,” When she finally took that to heart and stopped trying for force a relationship where none was possible, she was able to relax, grieve for what she couldn’t have, and move on. Be gentle with yourself, and trust your husband that no explanation would make sense to you anyway. Let this go and use that emotional energy to be excellent to yourself and concentrate more on relationships with those who reciprocate your feelings and values. Best of luck to you!

    • ““Stop auditioning for the approval of people who don’t want to like you” is something I (and others I know) could seriously do with having on a poster.

  28. Jackalope said:

    As someone who also believes that family is important, and who cares deeply about my niece and nephews, I am so sorry that you are in this situation. It’s so hard not to have the close relationship that you want and believe should be right. Sending you Jedi hugs should you want them.

    I would also chime in with what the Captain said about backing off helping to heal the relationship. I’ve had a number of relationships that I left alone in my life for one reason or another; maybe we weren’t getting along too well at the time, maybe I was busy, maybe I reached out a few times and they were busy, whatever. I’ve found that with some of those I never go back to them, but with others the break is healthy and fruitful and we find that we can get renewed joy out of our relationship. I don’t know if that will happen with your nephews, but taking a break may get you to a better place with them (and may also get them to a point where they’re more available for a relationship; I know from my personal experience that many people with newborns have a few *years* until they’re ready to be anything resembling social again, especially if they have a couple of kids close together).

    If you are still interested in having a relationship with them, I would recommend following the Captain’s excellent advice about investing in OTHER people for awhile (kids you love, volunteering, friends from work or if you’re religious, from your worship place, etc.). Maybe even for a couple of years. And then when the ache is less actively painful, and you’re feeling emotionally stable and like you’re in a good place to try it, maybe do something low stakes. Maybe have a barbeque at your place and invite a number of people, including them. Or send them an email saying, “Hey, they’re having The Thing at our local park, and I know a lot of kids that are your child’s age who love it; wonder if you might like to come?” Or something like that. I would recommend that you go for something low key (so they don’t feel lots of pressure), and that’s NOT going to be just with them (so you don’t have the huge disappointment if they don’t come, since other cool people will be there too!). Make sure you wait until you’re emotionally at the point that you’re okay with them coming or not, and that if they come you’re feeling up to avoiding trying to bring up past emotional garbage (which can be hard!). This may or may not work, but I’ve seen a certain amount of success with this strategy. And if they don’t come, then maybe wait another year or two and invite them again if you’re still interested.

    Maybe you’ll never have a close relationship with these nephews. That’s hard, and sad, but it may be the case. On the other hand, I know that while I’ve always had a more or less healthy/good relationship with my aunts and uncles, I didn’t start growing closer to them as an adult until I was in my 30s. So if you can back off and give them space, things may be better further down the road.

    • AndTheRest said:

      I think inviting them to a low-key group event is a great idea! The only thing I would add is to not get emotionally invested in the outcome, especially if they do not attend. Try to look at it as nice if it happens, but it’s still a good time without them.

      • Jackalope said:

        Thank you! I’ve found that low-key group events are great for relationships that are a bit weird or awkward, but I still want to invest in, so I don’t get all emotionally worked up about it and can accept the way things go even if it’s not what I want. Also, it tends to be less strained when we do get together (if they come). If they don’t come, then I can look at the way they don’t come (do they say, “Oh, that sounds lovely but I’m busy; what if we do next Friday instead?” or do they say they’ll come but just not bother showing up? or ignore me? or give me a polite refusal?) and use that as information about continuing the relationship or not.

  29. FelineGlorificus said:

    I started disowning family when I was 19; that was my half sister. I’ve continued to do so over the years. My stepfather’s family, isn’t my family. My husband’s family, isn’t my family. I disowned all my bio cousins. Last year I disowned my little brother, that one hurt the most but it was necessary for my own mental well being.
    Reasons ranging from “well you tried to kill me one too many times to I have nothing in common with you besides dna to wow you’re being really pushy about wanting me to sign on hundreds of people I don’t know as family to eventually you are going to go to jail and I don’t need to be here for this BS.”
    Every decision I have made about who I will accept as family has made me happier and my life easier. Y’know what; I’m sure that some of my cousins/steps/in laws are fine people but accepting them as family would mean accepting people I just cannot have in my life because FAMILY most of these people see you accept one of us means all of us and I don’t.
    LW let these people go. It might well have nothing to do with you although constantly pushing to be part of their life might be why they don’t want you in their lives. I don’t have one relative as a facebook friend, and that will stay that way.

  30. Shine said:

    My question would be why she was invited to the wedding of someone who has her blocked on social media.

    • Megan M. said:

      I’m guessing it was out of obligation only. People tend to get very “but we have to invite so-and-so” about weddings where normally they wouldn’t.

      • Tia said:

        Old fashioned etiquette says if you invite one member of a married (or these days permanently partnered) couple to a formal ‘couples’ event, you have to invite the other. By those rules if they wanted their uncle they had to invite the aunt.

    • zaracat said:

      That’s a fairly naive question. Blocking someone on a particular social media site doesn’t necessarily mean that you never want to interact with that person again. It just means you don’t want to interact in that particular way, and blocking is the only way to achieve that within the limits of the social media site settings.

      It’s nothing like the LW’s situation, but to give an example: I’ve had to not only unfriend but block a number of people (including one to whose wedding I was subsequently invited) because I was bullied within a very large but close-knit hobby group where the sheer amount of social media activity meant that it was very difficult to get away from if I wanted to maintain real-world friendships with people in the group. I blocked the nastiest of the bullies on social media, but was still monitored and harassed via third parties, and found that a lot of the posts – even when not directed at me personally – were upsetting and triggering. In the end it was easier to just block anyone whose settings allowed this type of activity, even if they were not so bad themselves. I did not give specific reasons for blocking genuine friends as I thought that they would merely see it as a hurtful criticism – they liked to think of themselves as kind and supportive but continued their close friendships with some of the people directly responsible for the bullying, and could never wrap their heads around the idea that my response to the bullying was not just “being a bit too sensitive” but PTSD severe enough to make me feel suicidal. I simply said that I still considered them friends and gave them alternate means of keeping in touch.

      • zaracat said:

        to clarify, I should have said “blocking someone on a particular social media site *by itself* doesn’t necessarily mean that you never want to interact with that person again”. Blocking needs to be read in the context of your other interactions with that person.

    • K. said:

      I don’t think blocking someone on social media is necessarily a relationship-ender, unless I’m a huge asshole who doesn’t realize she’s been burning bridges.

      I like spending time with most of my relatives. But I’m not friends with any family members on social media.

      It’s partially because I’m queer and not out to everyone and also I don’t want to inadvertently let relatives loose on LGBT friends. It’s partially because some people act inappropriately and, while I’m okay with hanging out with them, I don’t want to provide an arena.

    • hummingbear said:

      I’m friends with exactly zero of my family members on social media, because they are very conservative about things like sex and profanity and I don’t want to self-censor to that degree. They were all invited to my wedding, though.

      For me, on Facebook the decision basically comes down to 1) would this person get offended with me writing ‘fuck’ a lot? 2) are they going to flip out or ‘out’ me if they see alternative sexuality stuff posted? If the answers are no, I accept the friend request; if not, I don’t. There are quite a few people I like and value who don’t pass this test.

  31. Having family other than maybe sibs on facebook is most of my friends worst nightmare. Not just those of us with boundary-pushing or antagonistic family members but also those of us with loving caring families who they love and get on well with.

    Why?
    Because the relationship between adults and the adults-who-knew-them-as-children are often best maintained with a lot of privacy and deliberate selectivity in what each shares of their lives with the other.
    While we are growing into our own adulthood, we’re going to do and say things that the people who watched us play tea party and finger-paint and do homework would not want us to do and we are afraid of their comments. We are going to be vulnerable and hurt and not want to turn to someone parent-like but to our peers and we are afraid of our elders trying to fix things for us when we’re trying to learn how to fix our own messes.
    We are afraid of their reactions to our unfiltered life even when we are happy to share some part of it with them. I know people who meet with extended family members fairly regularly or exchange letters or emails and gifts happily, who attend family events and actively want to be with those people and share their news with them… who would never want to “friend” those people on facebook or similar.

    LW, I know your letter wasn’t just about facebook. But it’s common among people I know (early twenties to early thirties, grown up online) to pre-emptively block certain relatives before the friend request can be sent, to leave the request unanswered, or to set up additional family-facing facebook accounts or use privacy settings to keep almost all their posts out of sight of parents and uncles and aunts. For some people this is necessary to maintain friendly relationships with family. It seems that your nephews may not want that and that is sad for you but it is their right to decide who is in their life and how much. If they change their minds, they know how to get in touch but until and unless that happens please just stop trying. Wait for them to come to you and accept that they maybe never will and that’s okay*.

    *I’m not trying to give the LW false hope but I have known people to discover as adults well into their 20s that their relatives are not such bad people as their parents told them or are not bad people in the way their parents told them but are nonetheless ill-suited as potential friends for the now-adult child. Just mentioning this as the LW first mentioned the nephews’ *parents’* behaviour as less than welcoming and I know in my own early 20s I still had a lot of opinions about people I’d straight up copied from my parents and not yet examined.

  32. Tanya said:

    You glossed over the fact that you and your sister-in-law don’t get along. I suspect that this is the root of their antipathy toward you; for many people, no relationship with parents = no relationship with kids. And honestly, given your behavior as you’ve described it, and I can see why they’d want to keep you at a distance.

    You can’t force this. Let it go and move on.

  33. twomoogles said:

    I notice that a lot of people who are on the nephews’ side of things in their experience give reasons as to why the freeze/dislike of relatives. I hope, OP, that you don’t see that and think “well, I didn’t do any of those things so therefore it’s a different situation”. I get it if you do, because if you can’t think of any reason for them to not like you, it must seem incredibly unfair. But, my guess is that most of the frozen-out relatives of the posters who give reasons would also not see themselves as having done anything wrong.

    And at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter whether somebody has done something objectively wrong, because you can’t convince someone otherwise, in either direction. What’s obviously unacceptable boundary-violation to one person is loving concern to somebody else, and there’s no objective authority to say which one is right and which is wrong.

    So yes, it is possible that it is “something you did” and it is painful as hell to not know what! It’s natural to think “but if they just told me, I could apologise for that one thing I did and it would all be fine” but it’s rarely so simple. If somebody chooses not to say “Hey, I really didn’t like how you talked to my new baby dragon that time, please don’t do that anymore” and instead just cuts you off, there’s probably reasons, which could be anything from it’s the last straw and they realize they aren’t your biggest fan, to they are a massive overreactor who cuts people off for minor things, to the fact that to them speaking rudely to a dragon is the absolute worst thing a person can do so nothing you do could make it better. And it sucks to not know which; it’s normal to want to know what we did so we can fix it. But there’s no way to get that, and any way to try to get answers are likely to just drive the person farther away.

    • Responding to your last paragraph- another reason for not explaining could be because you don’t have the trust built up to make that safe and possible. If you’re constantly running over someone’s boundaries and not listening or respecting how their needs are different, or constructing narratives of how they’re horribly insensitive, then it becomes really hard to make yourself vulnerable to even more of that by trying to explain what is bothering you.

      • Cactus said:

        Concur.
        I have cut, or drastically limited, contact with some people because they have made rape jokes. I am a rape survivor. Many people do not know this, because I don’t trust most people (…because I’m a rape survivor–it’s all very circular). If they then get mad at me and demand the “real reason” for my lessened contact/new boundaries/being distant…it’s not going to happen. Because the trust isn’t there, they’re not safe, and I’m not going to show even a bit of vulnerability.

  34. olivia0330 said:

    I feel for you so much, letter writer.

    I have two adorable, funny, sweet adult twins in my family who I would love to be closer to, but they just aren’t interested. In my case, they are my half brothers. When I was nine, my dad and stepmother had beautiful bouncing baby twin boys, and they were so loving and devoted to them. My dad was the proudest dad who ever lived. Never was a dad prouder! However, forging a relationship between me and my half brothers was never on anyone’s priority list. Mom and dad absolutely hated each other. They could not co-parent together. Mom didn’t like for me to say kind things about Dad or Stepmom or half brothers in the house. Stepmother was super awkward about Dad having a kid with someone else. She wasn’t ever unkind to me, but my existence really weirded her out. Dad was a kind, affectionate man, but he loathed confrontation. He wouldn’t stand (for me) up to either women if he could at all help it.

    I don’t blame any of the adults here. I feel like they all did the best that they could. But I just know that if I was given a chance, I’d be a great big sister! I mean, I’m delightful! And so full of love! I’d give advice! I’d read to my little brothers! I’d stand up to bullies! They’d call me “Sissy”. When I could drive, I’d take them to Disney movies and live action Sesame Street shows! EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO BE GREAT!

    Well, none of that happened. But, when I was 32 and my half bros were 23, our dad passed away. Suddenly, we were in contact over funeral arrangements. There were some mumbling about getting to know me better, which I took literally. I reached out a few times, and nada. Oh, it stung. I tried one last time when I found out one bro loved a movie I also loved. I posted a pic of my then-baby dressed as the main character of the movie for Halloween. Cricket chirps. I cried.

    BUT! As I grieved for my brothers-in-dna-only, I had to accept that I was really grieving for the death of the fantasy of The Awesome Big Sister If Someone Would Let Me Be. I don’t know my half brothers at all. They don’t know me, and while I don’t think they actively dislike me, I’m just an older distant relative trying to get all up in their lives. They didn’t grow up with the “if-only”s. They had a complete family unit.

    So, maybe this isn’t about your nephews as much as it is about you being The Aunt. Well, can you point your Loving Aunt energy elsewhere, where it could be appreciated?

    • B. said:

      I think your comment is very kind and very helpful, hope the LW sees it 🙂

  35. BiancaSnoozes said:

    I’m so sorry that you haven’t been able to have the kind of relationship with these members of your family that you want to have. But there isn’t anything you can actively do to change this. These people have, over and over again, shown that they do not want to relate to you the way you would like them to relate to you. They haven’t been inconsistent. Their minds are made up. You can assume, with certainty, that they are not interested in the relationship you would like to offer.

    I think it is sometimes easier to look at the small things that they do to show you this big picture, and look at them as small actions. Like lying about the baby being sick or blocking you on facebook or the 100 other things I’m sure they’ve done over the years. Each one is like a little needle into your feelings, and it is so easy to look at each one and feel surprised and hurt over and over again, and ask yourself, why did they have to go and do that? Couldn’t they just be nice and show up for Christmas, or just be my friend on facebook? How hard is it to just go along and then we could all have a nice time as a family? Each little thing feels like they’ve gone just a little bit out of their way to hurt you, but focusing on them is easier than focusing on the bigger picture–that they really and truly do not want a positive relationship with you, and on their end, they are exercising their boundaries and their right to say “Sorry, can’t this time” to shape the relationship that they are comfortable with. Your husband is right that any “explanation” will not be sufficient for you to put it behind you, similarly to how when one is dumped, it doesn’t usually make it better to beg for a reason why. And the more you try to create the relationship that you want, the more frequently they are going to have to exercise their boundary-making, and therefore the more frequently you will get your feelings hurt. That is an exhausting and sad way to use your energy.

    Your question can’t be “How can I make them like me?” It has to be “How do I relieve myself from the pain of this?” and the Captain’s advice is excellent in that capacity.

  36. wixen_poetic said:

    So, I’ve been lurking forever but this is my first comment. It really seems like the LW is trying to “win” at something here, and not “winning” is part of what’s causing them so much frustration and hurt. It also seems that this is somewhat about the LW’s pride being hurt. It seems really important that LW accept that this isn’t a situation that can be won. They may have to learn to live with their bruised pride until they can also learn to follow the Captain’s excellent advice and develop proper boundaries around their nephews.

  37. Molly said:

    Lw, I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sounds like your sister and brother-in-law basically have treated you rudely since you married your husband, and your nephews have unfortunately inherited their shabby behavior. I’ve seen this dynamic play out in my own family and it sucks. I think you’re well within your rights not to want to host them anymore and I hope your husband will support you in that. He can have his own, separate relationship with them if he wants to, which frankly if I were him I wouldn’t.

    I differ from a few of the commenters in that I do think that, assuming you’re not leaving out a whole lot of relevant information, your nephews’ behavior is unnecessarily hostile and passive-aggressive. (Except for the sick newborn thing; parents of newborns should be cut all the slack. But the Facebook shunning is so Mean Girls.) You have a right to feel hurt! It’s true that no one owes anyone anything, but assuming there’s no abuse and we’re just talking about a case of ‘Aunt Milly isn’t really my cup of tea,” kind people will make an effort to be kind. But your nephews are clearly *not* kind people and you can’t fix that. Stop casting your pearls before swine. 😉

  38. vass said:

    LW, what jumped out at me about your letter is that holidays are always uncomfortable when they attend, but you’re angry with them when they don’t attend. You’re reminding me of the old complaint “this meal is disgusting! inedible! and the portions are so small!” If you don’t enjoy their presence, why does it matter to them if they aren’t present?

    It sounds like family is your most important value, and that loving and being loved are paramount to you. That’s understandable. Laudable. I suspect that you’re probably uncomfortable and unhappy a lot of the time yourself, that you sacrifice yourself a lot to keep the peace, in the name of family, to make holidays work for everyone, etc. And you’re also under a lot of pressure to make it perfect and magical and special. Is that correct?

    And you do that because it’s important to you, family is family, and you hope that other people know that you’re doing that? and that they will do the same? And that if you’re uncomfortable and unhappy and making sacrifices, why are they complaining or refusing when you ask them to also be uncomfortable and make sacrifices?

    Have you ever read O. Henry’s classic Christmas short story, ‘The Gift of the Magi’? Where the husband sells his heirloom watch to buy combs for his wife’s beautiful hair, and the wife sells her beautiful hair to buy a chain for her husband’s heirloom watch? Does that sort of sacrifice resonate with you?

    That’s understandable, but here’s the thing: you can’t expect that sort of sacrifice. You can’t cut off your hair to buy a chain in the hope that they’ll sell their watch to buy combs. It doesn’t work that way. And if they don’t buy you combs, it doesn’t mean they’re doing gift-giving wrong.

    Family and love and holidays do not have to be about sacrifice and discomfort. It sounds like that’s been your experience of family for a long time, probably all your life, something you were taught to do. A lot of people are, particularly women. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    It sounds to me like your nephews and niece have decided they don’t want it to be that way. Could you try thinking of it like this: “As a host, I want to make my guests comfortable. If my nephews decline my invitation, then as a host I can best make them comfortable by accepting that gracefully. Because family is my most important value, I want my family to be comfortable and have what they need. My nephews don’t feel comfortable interacting with me on Facebook. So I will give them that space, because they are my family and that is what they need from me.”

    And then, just as important, “I am also a member of my family and a guest in my own home. I want to make myself comfortable and fulfill my own needs, so I will…” and do something for yourself. I suspect that what you might really like is for someone else to take care of you for a bit, so maybe book a spa day or a massage? Or ask your husband if you and he can have a date night where you do something that’s one of your favourite activities, and next time it can be one of his?

    • This is a lovely comment 🙂

    • johann7 said:

      I love your re-framing around holidays and accepting a declined invitation with grace as an active way to be a good host!

  39. song of storms said:

    LW, you seem to want to get an answer to why your nephews behave this way towards you, perhaps because you think that if you only knew what they think you did “wrong”, then you could change that or apologize or whatever and then they’ll like you. But what if the answer was “you just rub me the wrong way”? What if there was nothing you could do to “fix” the situation? Sometimes people just don’t get along, and it’s not because either of them did anything wrong – they’re just not compatible. It’s possible that’s the case here.

    I’m saying this because I’m another person who is on the “nephew” side of this, and that’s kind of how it is for me. I have an aunt whom I disliked for, frankly, petty reasons when I was younger. She never did anything WRONG; I just found her annoying. Now that I’m older, I’ve grown to be hugely appreciative of how much she does for our family… but I’m still not close to her and wouldn’t really want to be. And I’m afraid that if she started pushing for us to be closer, it would only make me pull away from her more. I’m just not interested in having a close relationship with her. There’s not a good reason for it; I’m just not.

    More generally, my extended family are (almost) all perfectly nice and lovely people, but I’m very happy to keep most of them firmly in the “see one-to-three times a year at family gatherings but otherwise never interact” category. I love them, but I just don’t have much in common with them and therefore don’t have much to say to them. A big factor in my decision not to even HAVE a Facebook is that the idea of interacting with my huge extended family on a regular basis exhausts me. That’s my deal. It’s not because any of them did anything wrong; it’s because of how I am and how I prefer to manage my interpersonal relationships.

    Different people see “family” in different ways; they use Facebook in different ways; they interact with people in different ways. And if you’re someone who would prefer a closer relationship with someone who doesn’t seem to want that, that can hurt, and that’s understandable. But there’s not much you can do about it except respect their boundaries and hope that they come to respect you as well in their own way, even if those ways aren’t the ways you would prefer.

  40. AndTheRest said:

    LW, I imagine that the Captain’s advice and the additional advice in the comments is hard for you to take, but it is truly good advice. The best thing you can do is to give them distance, let go of the idea of the relationships with them you wish you had, and put your energy, time, and caring toward yourself and others who appreciate the effort.

    I noticed that the focus of your letter is about how these people are treating you (or not treating you). I understand your hurt, because I used to look at things the same way… until I figured out that I learned to look at things that way from my own mother. Still to this day, she sees other people’s actions as being towards her, especially if she feels excluded or forgotten by family members. She often perceives slights where none was intended — LW, is it possible that you have been doing the same? I don’t doubt that you are not as close to these family members as you would like, but keeping a tally* of these negative experiences isn’t doing you or them any good, especially if no hurt or bad feelings was ever intended. Likewise, your actions toward them that you intended to be positive may not have been perceived or experienced as such. Or vice versa with their actions. From your letter, I would not interpret these events as them obviously hating you. If anything, I would say that they are simply not nearly as focused on you as you want them to be.

    As one commenter asked, how well do you know these nephews and their families? But along with that, what do you talk about when you see them? Are you genuinely interested in what is going on in their lives (not just because you are obliged to as family)? Are you willing to listen with an open mind about their opinions? My own immediate family doesn’t do either of those with me. I don’t know if they feel an awkwardness at the holidays, but I feel miserable going through the ritualistic motions of “family” with these people I’m related to who aren’t really interested in what I’m doing and do not want to hear my opinions on anything. If they would take an interest in me as a person, ask about my life beyond the polite “How are things going?”, and actually just LISTEN to what I have to say, I would not only enjoy the holidays more, but I would want to spend more time around them. I don’t know if your nephews are experiencing something similar? Maybe not only with you, but with other family members also?

    Only other thing I would add: don’t take Facebook so seriously. Being (or not being) someone’s Facebook friend is not a referendum on a person’s worthiness as a human being or the quality of a relationship between people. Your one nephew is right: “it’s just Facebook.” Don’t let it take on more importance than it deserves. If nothing else, please try to let go of the hurt you feel over the Facebook things. As other commenters have described, connecting with family on Facebook can be more trouble than it’s worth, even among family members with good relationships. Odds are, blocking you wasn’t about you personally, but about how they choose to use Facebook.

    *As someone who has kept tallies of the negative in the past and created my own misery from it, I am not a fan of the practice. However, I still find such a tally useful for being on guard when safety or trust is an issue.

  41. Heidi Mull said:

    In my life, I’ve noticed that whenever I have the temptation to flounce out of someone’s life or do silent treatment to gain the attention I crave, the best course of action is to simply, functionally, give space. Sometimes that’s ceasing initiation, as CA suggests. Other times if it’s a group then usually a short post mentioning I might not be around for a while as I figure out some stuff seems to work well.

    Once I have space from the situation, it feels really sucky at first, then after the feelings have processed and life has moved on it all comes into functional perspective. And then I’m human again.

  42. MelloStello said:

    Dear LW,
    I do want to address the first part of the second paragaph of your letter. The part where you talk about that one time 20ish+ years ago where your nephew said he hated you. It’s true that you immediately acknowledged that he was a child and he didn’t mean it it etc. But by virtue of its very inclusion it kind of reads to me like you were trying to make a point that the parents either poisoned him against you or so poorly hid their distaste that he picked up on it and articulated it.

    In the first case I can totally understand how that would feel unfair! You never had a chance to develope the relationship with the chill tiny human beings that you wanted because someone else doesn’t like you and there is definitely an element of tragedy implicit in that. However! Life is sometimes unfair and the only thing you can actually control is how you respond to it. And also, let’s assume that the patents really dislike you for absolutely no good reason, I still find it totally understandable that the nephews choose to side with their primary relationship with their parents then to maybe add stress to it for the sake of a secondary relationship with an aunt. (Even after they grew up and inevitably came into the knowledge that sometimes parents are totally wrong and also jerks!)

    The second point I want to make is that holding the way your nephew acted when he was four (which, you say it’s okay because he was a kid, but you also told the internet about as the first in a series of details in a brief summary of the problem. So maybe its still emotionally relevant if not strictly fair.) against him as another example if how he never liked you is a dynamic that has colored the relationship. Maybe not! But I guess the main point I’m trying to make is that we aren’t entitled to relationships and acting as though we are is one of the surest ways to undermine that goal.

  43. Sheelzebub said:

    LW, you cannot make these people like you. Someone not liking you is not a referendum on you as a person. Maybe you don’t mesh well online. Who knows? I know its painful but focusing on them and their behavior towards you is taking up way more energy and time than it deserves. I’m positive you have family and friends who are welcoming, who enjoy your company, and who treat you politely. Take the time and energy you’re using on worrying over these two nephews and their parents, and use it on the people who want a relationship with you and who have a relationship with you.

    Maybe one nephew’s baby was sick. Maybe they weren’t. Maybe the kid was very cranky. Maybe the nephew wanted to play Minecraft in his boxer shorts and roll around in Cheetos and used his child as an excuse. Who knows? It doesn’t matter. Issuing invitations require that you accept regrets or cancellations with grace. (I mean, it beats NO response, which is a personal pet peeve of mine.)

    And as far as Facebook goes, there are people who I am good friends with whom I cannot actually stand on FB or Twitter. I took them off my feed but haven’t blocked them. There are others who I did defriend because we just didn’t get on in that medium. And there are relatives who defriended me (I found out long after the fact). Online has a different feel to it than meatspace, and everyone has been blocked and/or defriended by family or friends, and many have done this themselves. Including me.

    So: Stop reaching out. They know where you are, if they change their minds, they know how to get in touch. Stop sending gifts. It’s a lovely gesture but they don’t appear to want them. Use your money for other things. When you see them at family events, offer a distant smile, say “Hello” and then keep moving. Or if you have to talk to them, keep it as brief as possible and say “Excuse me, I need to go say hello to [other relative].”

    “Family is important” is a phrase that makes me roll my eyes all the way around. Trying to have good relationships with your family and being there for them is important (exceptions made for abusive situations, etc.). That doesn’t mean we all have to be friends or that relatives have to be close and spend time together. I’m not close with several relatives–some by my preference, some by theirs–but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be there if they needed me. It means that on an everyday level, we don’t really relate and that’s okay. I have other family members I see and that I’m close to. I have friends I see. I’m busy and I am not going to waste my time on anyone who isn’t into spending time with me.

    • BessMarvin said:

      “Trying to have good relationships with your family and being there for them is important.”

      I don’t know about that. IS it important? It’s actually not that important to me personally.

      “Try to have a good relationship with an individual” and “be there for an individual” is only important if both people agree it’s important. That’s the case whether you’re genetically related to the person or not.

      “Being there for” or “trying to have a relationship with” someone who does not WANT it is not important. It’s often regarded as intrusive and unwanted.

      I think that’s the very issue at the heart of LW’s problem. The nephews DON’T think it’s important, at least it’s not important to them as regards this particular aunt.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        Well then I guess we’re in agreement. Though my definition of “trying to have good relationships with your family” also means respecting their boundaries and not pushing ones self on them. Pushing yourself on them when they don’t want it is damaging, which is what I said.

  44. RSVP said:

    Weddings usually need to be planned at least 6 months ahead of time. In fact, most weddings need even more advance planning to get the venue, arrange the dresses/flowers/photographer/baker/etc. So it isn’t really realistic to expect people to change their wedding date so that you can look at houses. Real estate agents are eager for sales, they’ll reschedule if need be. Just saying that you could have taken a week off house hunting if you’d really wanted to. Ask yourself if you preferred to pick at the scab of hurt feelings.

    • MK said:

      Not all weddings are huge productions involving venues, flowers, photographers and catering. It’s perfectly possible to organize one in a couple of weeks, if you don’t want anything fancy and are prepared to take what you can find at short notice.

      • Amtelope said:

        That is true, but it’s still very ordinary for people to have weddings that involve booking a church and/or somewhere to have a wedding reception, hiring a caterer, ordering flowers and a cake, and getting dresses fitted. Someone who’s gotten far enough into that process to send out invitations isn’t going to be able to change the date for any one person’s convenience without wasting money and potentially postponing the wedding for some time, to a date when — inevitably, if they invite enough people — someone else won’t be able to make it.

        It’s certainly possible to have a small wedding that doesn’t involve those things! That is a perfectly fine choice! But that choice is up to the people getting married, not the LW, and I don’t think “our wedding date is fixed, we hope most people can make it but we’re not going to reschedule because one person has a conflict” is an unreasonable thing to say.

      • JenniferP said:

        Sure, it’s possible, but not necessarily usual, and not actually all that relevant here.

      • TheImplication said:

        Is this really the time to start the “my wedding was super cheap and my dress was homemade out of lentils” conversation? RSVP’s point was that it is very likely that this wedding date was chosen well before the couple was aware of the aunt’s conflict, and that changing their date would have been a much bigger hassle than her changing hers. The fact that some people have a different kind of wedding is not really relevant.

        • Ellie said:

          Oh, it’s always the time! My wedding was a $5 foot long, sweatpants and a homeless man officiated. We had our cats pee on our hands instead of rings. So there! I win!

          • JenniferP said:

            The smell of cat pee is indeed forever!

        • Mel Reams said:

          Totally off topic but “my dress was homemade out of lentils” is delightful 🙂

          • I’m having all kinds of fun mentally picturing that lentil-dress. It sounds like the beginning of a very weird Russian folktale, and I am HERE FOR IT.

          • SarahTheEntwife said:

            Out of comments-nesting, but +1 Would Read That Folktale 😉

  45. Aurora S said:

    I was reminded of Phaedra Starling’s sentiment:

    Your -desire- to have a relationship with your nephews doesn’t trump their -right- to be left alone.

    Whatever their reasons may be, they’re not comfortable with the level of contact you want with them. They’re not actually obligated to indulge you, even if they are faaaaamily. Nobody gets to choose their relatives. Many people are brought up with the idea that blood is thicker than personality conflicts, and that you must force a relationship where none would occur naturally. This social norm is the punchline of many a sitcom and makes lives miserable the world over. Shit, half the advice on this blog is rooted in that very premise–someone along the family tree believes that being family means never being able to say “no” and is putting up a fight.

    You really need to come to terms with the fact that your nephews are autonomous people with agency who are allowed to define their own boundaries. You’re not required to agree with those boundaries, but you have to respect them. This is a situation over which you have no control, and that is ok.

    • Kfish said:

      Exactly. The tone of this letter is that LW’s vision of ‘family’ is the right one, and the relatives are hurting her and wronging her by not subscribing to her vision of family. All of her letter is about how wrong the nephews are for not wanting the same relationship that she does. If someone tried to tell me that I was being hurtful and wrong by not being closer to them, that would not make me want to be closer to them!

      Also: This is exactly why I don’t have a Facebook account. I don’t want to share every detail of my life with everyone who feels entitled to see it, and I don’t want to have to justify my privacy settings to someone who sees them as some kind of vote on their personal worth.

    • toniprufrock said:

      “The punchline of many a sitcom”
      URGH absolutely. I physically did it difficult to watch ‘everyone loves Raymond’ because of that godawful family dynamic, like, how is this -funny- they’re treating Deborah (and others) like shit all the time!

      But yes. In reality you do get to choose, even if the outcome is a sad one. Don’t be Raymond’s mother. Ever.

  46. Lindeseig said:

    I’m picking up on a combination of things here…first off, if LW and husband were never close to the nephews’ parents, or (though I could be inferring this from the letter), if the relations between families were strained or difficult, that may have shaped the nephews opinions of the LW based around comments parents may have made, or observing tense interactions between them. I’ve seen this dynamic at play in my own family and others, and it can cause estrangement, at times wrongfully so.

    With that said, I do get where the nephews are coming from with regard to cutting ties. My father’s sister said something unforgivable to me after my mother died, and I severed ties with her and her husband over it. On the rare, rare, occasions we’re forced to interact, it’s polite small talk and move on to talk to someone else. Perhaps the LW said or did something – however unintentionally and without malice – that brought their nephews to the point of cutting ties altogether. The point is that they have made their desires to be left alone clear, and I’m with everyone else who feels LW needs to spend time on the family and friends who do care and want them around.

  47. Billyboy said:

    It stinks they want to play this little passive-aggressive power game with you. They know they’re hurting you because unfortunately you allowed them to see it. People like this play rough and it’s just not your game. They may have a little more respect and come around if you just STOP reacting to them. Good luck, I’ve been there…

    • Leonine said:

      There’s no evidence that this is a power game on the nephews’ part. Calling it that is dismissive and self-serving, and indulging in that kind of speculation is an unhealthy distraction. They have the right to decline invitations, including social media invitations. An invitation is not an obligation. Their reasons for declining are irrelevant. Digging into motives is pointless. The only information the LW needs, she has: they have declined, over and over. It sucks, but it is what it is. The LW doesn’t need to spin implausible, self-centered scenarios. She needs to let it go.

  48. This struck me the most: “I have tried and tried over the years to reach out to them, as family is very important.”

    It may be very important *to you*. That doesn’t necessarily make it very important *to them*. If you are expecting or trying to force behaviours based on values they do not share, that’s not likely to go terribly well.

  49. andyl said:

    When they’re in their teens, most parents seem to insist that their kids can’t have social media sites without their parents overseeing the whole thing. And then the kids hit 18, and it seems like the kids really want their social media sites to be where they connect to their peers. They seem to consider that anyone who’s not one of their school or work friends is trespassing and butting in. So any posts or interest shown by family members may get some pretty rude pushback, attitude and comments. I can understand that… at that age, I would have been pretty mortified if my parents and other adults were participating in my conversations with my peers. People seem to want to use Faceb00k sideways and down their social groups… with people their own age or younger, not with people a lot older than they are. Anyone of the next generation up, or more, tends to be unwelcome, and things those older relatives post can come across as judgemental and scolding, rather than just a difference of opinion one adult to the other.

    I know Moms and Dads and Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents want to keep in touch, but a lot of adult family back and forth can feel a lot like butting in to people in their late teens, 20’s and 30’s, who are still working on creating their adult selves separate from their families. Not a question of right or wrong, exactly, but my friends who have kids report that it’s a rampant attitude among the teen/early 20’s set. The parents tend to eavesdrop, as it were, rather than posting unless invited and that seems to unruffle the feathers. Dealing with freshly hatched adults can be daunting!

    You just have to try to compartmentalize the social groups separate from the family groups, which means blocking someone from seeing certain types of posts. Which can rankle when some other family member mentions, casually, that “Dylan just posted pictures of their engagement party/family trip/ Oswald’s first day of school and I blah blah blah”. The realization that family members are sharing way more details with Other People can feel like a slap in the face, when it’s more the reality that they don’t really want their Mom/Dad/Aunt/Grandfather telling them how to live their life. Telling a casual friend or acquaintance to buzz off causes small ripples. Telling Mom or Grandpa that they’re out of line usually causes a tsunami.

    I’ve seen so many advice column and advice blog posts about, “My Mom keeps butting into my Faceb00k page, and it’s so embarrassing! I really want to use it for talking with my friends/work networking / hobby, and it’s soooo embarrassing to have my parents in my private life!” And it’s not just teens… I’ve seen posts from women in their mid-30’s wishing they could limit their social media to certain groups. Sure, you can block people from some posts, but unless you then post a bunch of harmless things for wider distribution to keep the family looky-loos happy, it can get pretty annoying to have to keep your fake family friendly posts and the what you really think and do posts separate. Who’s got time to make up “safe for family small talk” posts so family rubber-neckers don’t get their panties in a wad?

    It all makes me really, really glad I don’t have social media pages. It’s all just way too fraught for me.

    The fact that you don’t actually seem to like or get along with their parents may be a bigger factor than the Faceb00k you seem to have latched onto as the problem here. If someone of my parents’ generation in the family didn’t get along with my folks, I wouldn’t go out of my way to cultivate a separate relationship. Also, I barely have time to keep in touch with my folks… building deep, meaningful relationships with their siblings and cousins, separate from them, just isn’t going to happen.

  50. McStabbity said:

    It sounds like something I’ve been on both sides of.

    As the niece, I cautiously reached out in my thirties to an aunt who’d been excluded from the family. I quickly pulled back because she was using me as a stand-in to work out all of her feelings about various family members. I’m sorry that she feels bad about that, but her troubles with other people are not my burden to take on. We didn’t have the kind of relationship that could bear up under her intensity; that has to be built over time.

    As a hated in-law — you know, some families make up stories about people to hate. There’s a core group in my husband’s family who pick on women who’ve married in. I took a double-barrelled blast from the Shotgun of Random Hate myself, and it took me a long time to understand that it wasn’t personal. These people swap mean lies with each other as some kind of weird bonding ritual. Some of their kids grow up to hate us out of sheer loyalty. In their twenties, they figure out that their parents are full of it, but paradoxically hate us even more. In their mid-thirties, they’ve processed their feelings and have learned to deal with their discomfort more responsibly, and we can get along just fine.

    You might find out in ten years that your situation with your nephews is different. They don’t owe you a relationship, but maybe you’ll be lucky. If so, will you be ready to receive the change with grace? Or will you be like my aunt, full of psychological burdens that she couldn’t wait to offload? Chill out. Sounds like those holiday gatherings are unpleasant, so stop hosting them. Send boring Christmas cards with boring gift cards inside and don’t expect any reply. Find some help working out your feelings about all this so you can be at peace. Direct your energy elsewhere.

    • I think the point about relationships needing to be built over time is a really important one in this particular scenario. LW is sad that they don’t have the relationship they want, and their letter suggests that they’ve basically tried acting like they do have that relationship without going through the intermediate stages of building and nurturing. The end result of that approach is that the nephews see their overtures as something way beyond appropriate to the relationship they actually have, and they run a mile.

      So LW needs to stop doing that, as others have said, to avoid unintentionally pushing these guys ever further away.

      Another story about my mother: after 30+ years of emotionally abusing me with calculated, targeted put-downs and veiled insults, one day she sat up straight after I’d reacted to one of those comments in my usual deadpan way and said, “I was just joking! Your trouble is that you can’t take a joke. I find it really unfair that we can’t have a friendly, jokey relationship like other mothers and daughters, because you refuse to see my jokes as what they are.” Bear in mind that in the past these “jokes” had been delivered in an angry shout in the middle of our very frequent arguments. What she was asking me to do was to suddenly have a completely new relationship with her, where every interaction was taken in a completely different context and I was expected to forget my entire life up to that point, including all the emotional damage she’d inflicted on me.

      It doesn’t work that way.

      So if you’ve always had a distant relationship with your nephews and they didn’t like you as kids, you can’t just forget that and expect them to suddenly accept a brand new relationship where you socialise and exchange gifts. It is very sad and very difficult to come to terms with. I have always longed for that happy, jokey relationship with my mother but we can’t just suddenly decide after all these years that we do have it after all.

      • Leonine said:

        Thank you for articulating this.

  51. resili0 said:

    Lw, do you have children of your own? I wonder what your family of origin is like and how you came to define what family means to you. You don’t say much about this.

    From my own perspective, that longing to belong and be loved by family is powerful. People who have always had a functioning family unit can’t always relate to how big a pain exists when you long for what you cannot have. Logically, you cannot make these relatives reciprocate what you seek. I think you know that on some level.

    I can tell you that if you can find a safe place to talk about these emotions and your experiences, the pain loosens. Whatever is happening in your family, if you can explore what is going on inside yourself, there is peace to be found. If you are grieving a loss from the past or this situation is a mirror for your own desire to have children, then it is possible to find healing. I have finished therapy for the wounds from my childhood and my relationship with my in laws has vastly improved.

    What if – no matter what hub or nephews think – you took your pain seriously and sought help from a counselor or trusted friend? What if this was a jumping off point to do some work on your own life?

    Family do provide love and belonging but also challenges and pain. Use that energy you are putting into chasing your ideal of family to invest in you.

  52. I think LW is suffering, partially, from general worry about people not liking them. This is a hard thing to learn, and it comes to people in different stages in their adult life because adults tend to be good at hiding dislike. Maybe the LW has never felt disliked before. But I think a very important thing that I learned in my early reading of CA was ‘not everyone has to like you’. It sounds obvious, but there’s a reason it needs to be said, because it’s actually NOT obvious. Someone not liking you is not a referendum on you as a person, but that has to be learned.

    I get that a lot of people here have had to disown family and that is awful, but phrases like ‘family is important’ are relatively innocuous, on their own. They are also things that people internalise (perhaps because of background or societal messages) and also have to unlearn when something like what happened to the LW happens. It doesn’t sound like the LW has ever had this happen with a family member before. And not everyone is familiar with the concept of ‘chosen family’, and even if they were, not everyone HAS a chosen family (in this case meaning ‘outside immediate nuclear family’, especially unrelated close friends). That doesn’t mean people don’t have the right to choose the family members they want to stay in touch with, of course. I agree with the Captain’s advice for how LW should proceed, this comment is mainly addressing people who didn’t seem to think the Captain had been harsh enough.

    LW, your emotions about this are not wrong (though the way you deal with them can be but I think others have gone over that plenty), and I hope you will be able to grieve and be on the way towards moving on before too long. Be kind to yourself, especially after reading these comments. Good luck.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      “LW, your emotions about this are not wrong … and I hope you will be able to grieve and be on the way towards moving on before too long”

      Isn’t multiple decades long enough? If someone doesn’t like you, you can’t force it. If you try and force it for more than twenty years, and admit to actively trying to win their affections for so long (to no avail), that’s gone beyond saying “I’m sad [person] won’t give me a chance” and devolved into screaming “WHY WON’T YOU LOVE MEEEEE?”.

      It’s been mentioned that LW may be from a background that emphasises family above everything else, hence the confusion at marrying into a family that does not but, again, is twenty years not enough? Surely it’s long enough to grasp that wasting energy, time, money and resources into desperately trying to be in somebody else’s life, against their wishes, is never going to work?

      She’s coming off as the filial version of the Nice Guy™. That’s why people are disturbed by it.

      • Give LW a chance. They may have been in this same situation for many years, but they wrote to CA for a reason. This is very likely the first time they are hearing anyone say some of the things being said here. Reading CA’s response and some of the comments might be the catalyst they need to move to the next stage of the grieving process and get on with life.

      • Ok.

      • Just realised that ‘your emotions about this are not wrong’ may not have fully got across what I meant. I mean that if someone has an emotion inside them, that is not ever expressed to the person is relates to or the circle of people around the person, then that emotion is not doing anything wrong. If that emotion is distressing the person who is dealing with it, it will not help that person get over the emotion to be told that they are wrong to have that emotion at all. I know the LW has been inappropriately expressing this emotion, and it is definitely time for them to stop contacting the nephews and their families. And I hope they will after reading the advice and comments. But if the LW was to say to a therapist ‘I’ve been wanting a relationship with my nephews for 20 years and I know now I can’t have one but I’m really sad about it’- that’s fine. That emotion can be expressed safely and confidentially without it hurting anyone. That’s what I meant by ‘not wrong’.

        Hell, I don’t care if a Nice Guy TM wants to tell a therapist how a girl he likes doesn’t want him even though he is sooooo niiiice….as long as he leaves her and all her friends the hell alone and doesn’t bother her with his feelings, then fine. Keep those feelings where they can’t hurt anyone!

    • Big Pink Box said:

      “LW, your emotions about this are not wrong … and I hope you will be able to grieve and be on the way towards moving on before too long”

      Isn’t multiple decades long enough? If someone doesn’t like you, you can’t force it. If you try and force it for more than twenty years, and admit to actively trying to win their affections for so long (to no avail), that’s gone beyond saying “I’m sad [person] won’t give me a chance” and devolved into screaming “WHY WON’T YOU LOVE MEEEEE?”.

      It’s been mentioned that LW may be from a background that emphasises family above everything else, hence the confusion at marrying into a family that does not but, again, is twenty years not enough? Surely it’s long enough to grasp that wasting energy, time, money and resources into desperately trying to be in somebody else’s life, against their wishes, is never going to work?

      She’s coming off as the filial version of the Nice Guy™. That’s why people are disturbed by it.

  53. I am exactly like these nephews! My aunts and uncles want to have a close family relationship with me and I am not interested. I am kind and polite to them in person but I don’t want to be Facebook friends with them because it is awkward to mix my young, offbeat friends with my conservative middle aged relatives. I do not want to call them regularly because it feels like a huge and unrewarding emotional commitment. Family is not especially important to me, and I want to spend my energy nuturing my connection with my spouse and my friends. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I’m not about to change how I live my life to cater to 20 people I really barely know, just because they are siblings of my parents.

    Letter writer, if your nephews explained thier behaviour to you and their answers sounded like my comment here, would you feel any better? I bet not. They probably don’t want to hurt you. Stop breaking your hands trying to tear down their their walls. I wish you the best.

  54. monologue said:

    I don’t see this addressed at all upthread. LW, I think the other commenters are right that you should probably stop monitoring your nephews’ behaviour online and stop sending them stuff and contacting them.

    But, I really don’t think this is a case of someone stalking someone who has clearly asked for no contact. LW, if you are expected by your husband’s family to host holiday events that include these nephews, please please feel free to stop inviting them. If you are asked about it, you can let people know that they’ve made it clear they don’t want a relationship with you. Sure you might run into them still at larger family events like funerals, but absolutely stop hosting them. I think this will go a long way towards healing because you won’t feel like you’re trying your best but getting rebuked and then have to still invite them over anyway. If they want no relationship from their side, go ahead and follow through from your side. It sounds like from your letter that you may have done this already since you let your husband know you don’t want them in your house anymore. Hopefully that can be the beginning of healing from this for you.

  55. Raptor said:

    LW, I don’t really think I see all that much evidence that they do in fact hate you.

    As previously discussed, there are many reasons not to want to be Facebook friends with extended family. I’ve had to unfriend some aunt/uncles-in-law. Although if they’d noticed and asked me, I would have actually told them I found their posts offensive.

    I was wondering if you’ve considered at all how that family culture is. Not your husband’s entire multigenerational family, but that specific part of it. In my family, my mom is very different from her siblings, and her siblings are very different from each other, and all of the cousins are overall similar to their parents. My aunt and her daughters are all very extroverted and self-assured, and my sister and I are introverted awkward folks.

    Of course, because I was used to my awkward, mostly introverted, and emotionally cool as a cucumber family, being introduced to the husband’s family was a little awkward for everyone. Many of them are loud, extroverted, and sometimes bouncing off the walls. My husband has been terrified that they think I don’t like them, when I do in fact like most of them. I think the dust has settled, and they have accepted that I am quiet and I will disappear from crowds. The ones I actually don’t like? The really pushy ones who get in my space when I just want to wander off to the kitchen or the yard for a minute.

  56. LW, as the person in your nephew’s shoes, I have to say that you need to stand down, and your husband needs to stand down x 1000. My father is known for demanding things, like phone conversations to explain why you made a choice he didn’t like, visits with my sister’s kids, us to properly “honor” our mother on Mother’s Day, etc. It doesn’t give him the power he wants, it just makes us all avoid him even more. My mother keeps demanding a “close” relationship, when she is personality disordered and made my life a living hell as a kid.

    If my family would take a step back and allow me some peace, I might think about participating. But right now, all I can do is avoid.

  57. Mel Reams said:

    LW, I think you might get a lot out of a book called The Usual Error (it’s available for free on that website and you can buy a paperback copy if you like those better). Full disclosure: I haven’t read all of it myself, but I think the central idea of the book is really useful:

    The usual error is assuming that other people are just like you.

    The usual error manifests in many forms, often subtly. We assume that others’ boundaries are the same as ours. We assume that others’ communication styles and personality types are the same as ours. We assume that others can know what we’re thinking and know what we need without us having to ask. We assume that others’ definitions for words are the same as ours and we judge the intent behind their words based on our own assumptions.

    Like others have said, I don’t think your nephews or sister in law hate you. What I see in their actions is indifference with a side of “ugh, why won’t Aunt LW give it a rest?” not hate. My guess here is that you would never block a family member on facebook unless they did something terrible that made you hate them, so you see hate in their blocking you. I can’t imagine that’s a lot more pleasant for you than thinking they hate you, so I recommend having a chat with someone who is better at sympathy than your husband – his saying you shouldn’t lose sleep over it because he doesn’t is thoroughly unhelpful. It hurts to be rejected and to feel like people hate you, you’re allowed to feel sad and hurt and want someone to validate your feelings.

    If you’re not a regular reader here or haven’t spent a lot of time in the archives, the many commentors here getting their shoulders up around their ears about your letter might not make a lot of sense. A wander through the family and families tags here may help with that. Many of us have had bad experiences with family members who thought that being biologically related meant it was somehow okay to treat us terribly and trample all over our boundaries.

    Speaking of boundaries, LW, you’ve got to start respecting your nephews’ and your in-laws’. Pushing to have the relationship you want and ignoring that they don’t want the same thing is rude and it’s only going to push them farther away. At this point it doesn’t really matter whether you ever did do something they didn’t like or whether you just don’t mesh with them, the only thing that’s going to help is giving them space.

    They don’t have to be your best friends for you to be a good person. I think you’re putting an unfair (to yourself) weight on their lack of interest in you – it doesn’t mean you’re a bad family member, it doesn’t mean you’re terrible and unloveable, it doesn’t mean the rest of your family secretly doesn’t like you either and hides it better, it just means those particular people don’t mesh with you.

    I wonder if you mesh with them, too. That is, I didn’t see anything in your letter about the nephews or other in-laws being kind/funny/interesting people you wish you knew better. It sounds to me like you think you should be close just because you’re related, which is really offputting for a lot of people. Oh! I wonder if you’re an opt-out “closeness with family” person and your nephews/sister in-law are “opt-in.” That is, you seem to default to “family should be close unless they did something awful” and your nephews default to “no thanks unless we have something in common.”

    • kddomingue said:

      Very well said and simply stated.

  58. Angel said:

    Yup. I’m this niece. My mom is the eldest of three girls – she grew up with one sister and the other was born when she was thirteen. I’m great friends with the younger of my aunts, and cannot stand the other. Partially, this is not her fault. She lives far away so I don’t see her as often, and our personalities are very different.

    But partially it IS her fault. Because I didn’t get to see her much growing up, she always tries too hard and is too insistently exuberant when she visits and I get overwhelmed. When I was younger she bought me extremely girly gifts that were… fine. As far as I was concerned. Honestly, I’ve thrown out almost all of them only in the last year after finally admitting to myself that I just don’t like them. (In her defense though, the time she took me to Sephora and bought me two small eyeshadow palettes and a brush is one of my favorites because I still use all those things regularly.)

    The biggest thing she did, though, and here’s the key: was to my mother. When my grandfather was dying of cancer, all his daughters pulled together to help for 7 months. My mom and younger aunt live in the area and understood his life and respected his wishes. This aunt flew in from out of state and just took over by force. She was hyperactive and pushy. My grandmother got sucked into this force and got exhausted and overwhelmed. Aunt was cruel to my mom and younger aunt, and I remember my mother crying over it. My mom isn’t a crier, and that really shook me. If you ask her now, she says her sister stole the last few months of her dad’s life.

    I was 19. I saw everything. And I decided you know what? That aunt isn’t worth my time. It’s possible your nephews saw something when they were young that has chilled their affection. It’s also possible that your personalities just don’t mesh and they will never really like you even if they do stop “freezing you out” (also true of me and my aunt).

    • Paulina said:

      It’s also possible that they just don’t like the feeling of obligation, and this sense has perpetuated. Duty visits can be very off-putting to a young kid, especially at the holidays when they often occur; they want to do something fun, perhaps with their friends, and instead they get carted off to see Uncle X and Aunt Y, in whom they have no interest and in whose place they don’t feel comfortable. (All the worse if they can tell their parents don’t really want to be there either.) And that feeling wouldn’t have anything much to do with Aunt Y, who they don’t really know — it’s the obligation, perhaps especially with respect to someone who they don’t really know and have no sense of comfort or connection with, that can be a problem all by itself.

      • Temperance said:

        YES. My parents put us through “duty visits” as a kid, and for some reason, even knowing how much we hated them, assumed that it would develop into a habit once we had our own kids. My sister refuses to schedule the weekly “duty visits” (which would involve her bringing her two little kids to my parents’ home, because RESPECT YOUR ELDERS), and my parents were flabbergasted because they “raised” us to do that.

        My sister holds firm, and tells them that it was their choice to take us on duty visits, and it’s her choice to do family time instead.

  59. ” The less you try, the more they will relax. The more they relax, the more it will be possible to have brief, positive interactions. ”

    It’s really counter-intuitive to stop pushing. “Do Nothing” is practically anti-American! (Happy 4th July, Americans!) But piling on the pressure causes the other person to build their wall higher and higher. If you stop pressing, the wall might come down on its own.

    And it might not. And that’s not a sign to turn the pressure back up.

    Whatever the twins heard from their parents, they are not going to unlearn in in the blink of an eye, so backing off -with patience- is key here.

  60. Roxie said:

    This comment thread is full of gems and so many good insights. I don’t know if I can add anything useful but here goes.

    I too am the ‘bad’ family member who hurts people’s feelings by not jumping through hoops to drop everything and see them when they happen to be in town for other reasons. For closing down my Facebook entirely rather than interact with them and try to balance what they can see versus what people I actually want in my life can read and see.

    I am the family member who used a call blocker app to block some of their phone numbers from calling me (they now hear doo-doo-doo this number has been disconnected). And I refuse to give my work phone number or email address to others. Yet I am the bad guy.

    Regardless of the fact that when I don’t answer my cell phone for one of the people who still has the number, I’ll get calls on my work line, with their number undisclosed, or they will call via the receptionist so I can’t see the caller, and I end up picking up the phone, just to be launched into a conversation demanding to know why I’m not talking to them. Invariably while my boss just walked in my office, or while I’m in the middle of a big project.

    Either way, it’s completely impossible to have an emotionally laden conversation in an office environment.

    These are ‘gotchas’ and demand and interpersonal violence, not a relationship.

    LW, back off your nephews. Even if you’re not calling them at their jobs demanding to know why they won’t have a relationship with you (god I hope not). Even if it’s not that bad, they may feel this same sense of anxiety, offense, frustration, and exasperation with you for other reasons. As so many have said, we cannot force others to be in a relationship with us.

    I had to learn the hard way that I cannot make others be in my life.

    Despite everything I just laid out above, I used to have an obsession that “I’m frieeeends with allll my exes!” And (as a poster upthread said) I made this a rule in my life and used it to define who I am, instead of just a preference or a wish. Once it was a rule, then I had a weird compulsion to force former boyfriends to follow it. I would call, reach out, email, friend people on social media, and track them on LinkedIn. Only to watch them disappear, block me, close down the view where I could even find them, and not respond. Which in some cases made me more frantic to reach out, invariably in cheerful, chatty, terrible little emails or hellos. I bet it was all so very creepy from their point of view.

    It took a verrrry goood therapist and several years of work to make me realize that I had NO RIGHT to determine for others who they would or would not have in their life. **Just as I am the sole arbiter of who is in my life, I must accord that same grace and respect to others, or I am a hypocrite.**

    When I realized my own massive hypocrisy, I stopped. I saw the log in my eye instead of just the speck in other peoples eyes. It was very humbling, but also very freeing.

    Now when I feel the urge to reach out to This Ex or That Very Important Former Lover, I stop. I remind myself that they and they alone have the right to determine who is in their life. And that if I have any ability to continue to offer them kindness or mutual respect, it comes in giving them this gift or respecting their wishes, just as I would wish others to give it to me. And the urge passes.

    Be kind to yourself. Love your nephews by leaving them alone. They are communicating this is what they need from you. With grace and fortitude and from a place of generosity, freely give them what they are asking you for.

    This quote from the Dear Sugar website has helped me many times through the years:

    “I know the pain of watching my family cluster…while shunning me. … – I’ve been where you are and I don’t condemn you or minimize your pain at all. Here’s the thing – forgiveness is not condoning the wrong or giving up the truth and reality of your past. Just the opposite. Forgiveness puts all the power into your hands as the wronged party. It gives you the power to say, “What you did was WRONG! It was evil and it hurt me. And now I will let it go. I will wipe out the debt between us, because you cannot pay it. I forgive you, so that I can be free.” (Notice I didn’t say forget.) Hanging on to your anger feels powerful – believe me, there were years when anger was the only thing strong enough to get me out of bed. But eventually your anger will eat you from the inside out and you will find that your [family] still has all the power because you’re giving it to him. You cannot get your [family] to undo what [they] did. You can’t make the past unreal and, as you know, you can’t make it not matter. But you can be healed and happy. You can reach a point where you remember your [family] without the impotent rage …. You can turn all those reasons to be bitter (and you do have real reasons) into beauty by forgiving the person who hurt you. Don’t forgive the way your family wants you to forgive – by minimizing reality. Forgive like a god – like someone so powerful, so rich inside that you can be merciful to those who completely don’t deserve it and walk away all the richer for it.”

    Forgive like a god, LW. Not the way others want you to forgive. Not for anyone else. But from a place of immense generosity and kindness and lack of neediness. I can tell you, when this kind of forgiveness is reached, it’s incredibly powerful. There’s nothing else like it.

    You also can’t force it, or be harassed or shamed or blamed into forgiving. Please don’t let me be someone trying to shame-blame you into ‘forgiving.’ That’s not my intention. In my own story, I’m able to forgive some people in this way, but not others, not yet. It will come when it comes. With it comes and incredible freedom. That is my hope for you. And for me too.

    • Mel Reams said:

      For anyone else struggling with the idea of forgiveness (disclaimer: I despise that word and all the awful “having emotions about being harmed means you’re a bad person” bullshit it so often stands for), here’s the only article about forgiveness I’ve ever read that wasn’t profoundly useless:
      http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_is_forgiveness

      To quote some of that article
      “The first step is to fully acknowledge the harm done, whether by you or somebody else, and to own the fact that you’ve lost something—that you didn’t get something you wanted, and it hurts”

      “The second step of the grief process is to experience the feelings normally associated with the negative experience. It’s not enough just to have someone say, “Hey, I was beaten for 12 years and I want to get over it” if they’ve never been miserable about their suffering. They’re going to have to be miserable before they let it go. I’ve never met anyone who suffered real loss and didn’t suffer at some level.”

      “The third and final step is that what you’re grieving can’t be a secret. I try not to let people forgive stuff that they haven’t shared with others because there’s such good research on resilience showing that people who go through harmful experiences and don’t tell anybody have much worse consequences than people who do tell others.”

      If someone wants to “forgive” a hurt, I would counter-intuitively advise them *not* to try to forgive. Accept that things suck, feel the hell out of your feelings, and talk about it with a trusted friend/counselor/support group and “forgiveness” if you can tolerate that word, comes naturally. Personally I prefer the word acceptance because it doesn’t imply that I’ve decided what happened to me was okay.

      Thinking about it more, I have a theory that LW is having such a hard time with her lack of relationship with her nephews is that she’s hanging on to a (sadly false) hope that it can be fixed. False hope is agonizing because it means your wounds get ripped open over and over and over. I’m struggling with that myself with my mother, LW, so don’t feel like you’re the only one who isn’t good at stopping hoping that something that will never happen might one day happen. In some ways I think I cling to my anger because it’s my last thread of connection with my mother. Is your pain your last thread of connection with your nephews?

  61. Hi, I mostly lurk here, because this is the best comment section in the world and I normally feel I have nothing to add to all the brilliance contained herein. And I love the Captain’s response to this. But some of the comments here have me scratching my head a little.

    When the LW said, “I have reached out to them time and time again,” I was under the impression she meant her husband’s sister and BIL, not the nephews. And I don’t see anything here resembling any inappropriate (let alone illegal) behavior by the LW. The husband left the door open for his side of the family to discuss it with him, they refused, he dropped it. She made friend requests but didn’t badger them to accept.

    This is a different situation from someone blocking you and wanting nothing to do with you, ever; the nephews come to holiday events at her home, willingly, as adults, and male adults at that, who (at least from the information given here) do not live under a constant threat of violence just from politely refusing social invitations. It’s not, I don’t think, unreasonable to ask, just once, “If you are willing to come to my house, why can’t I see the photos from the wedding you invited me to?”

    Now, that doesn’t mean they’re obliged to have a huge discussion with her about it; that’s a separate issue. They’re allowed to say, “None of your business, and don’t ever bring it up again.” But I do think it’s possible that their dislike of her stems from things other people (like their mother) have told them about her, which might or might not be true or fair. Someone upthread brought up “not our class, dear,” which could certainly be a possibility. But I do find it strange that they would block her and then continue to reopen that wound by showing up at her house every year, when they don’t have to. They don’t need to have any kind of relationship with her because faaaaaamily or anything, but if they want out of her life, let them get all the way out. I can understand why someone would be confused and hurt under these circumstances.

    • They’re allowed to say, “None of your business, and don’t ever bring it up again.”

      I’m pretty sure they are saying it though.

      I’m sorry, I know facebook etiquette varies from person to person, but it seems massively rude to me to put someone on the spot by asking why they won’t friend you/defriended you/blocked you. Also, embarrassing and uncomfortable.

      (Also, I think framing it as “why can’t I see the photos from the wedding you invited me to” is very disingenuous and if that’s even remotely how the question was put to me, I would find it incredibly manipulative. Because they didn’t actively try to keep her away from the wedding photos. They want her not on their facebook. It’s a shame if that’s the only place the wedding photos are, but the wedding photos aren’t really the issue. I’m sure other people were at the wedding who are also not on their friends list.)

      Showing up at someone’s house for holidays once a year doesn’t really come with any obligations other than “be polite at that house.” I didn’t get the impression that it’s just the boys going to LW’s house. If that’s where The Whole Family is doing Christmas Dinner, then that’s where they’ll go, willingly, as adults. I daresay that a lot of the married-into-the-family aunts and uncles didn’t much like my Maw-Maw. Heck, come to that, I know for a fact that some of my aunts and uncles don’t much care for my stepmother either. But Dad’s got the house that’s best suited to large gatherings, so that’s where it is.

      I’ve said upthread though that I find LW to be a kind of unreliable narrator. I’m sure the boys have been cold to her before, but she provides descriptors that don’t make sense (saying that one nephew responded “very coldly” on facebook…and giving the quote which…isn’t very cold), and automatically assumes the worst (that a parent of a newborn was LYING to her when he said the baby was sick and he couldn’t make Christmas).

      And I mean, can they even just Not Go to the Holidays at her house without it also being drama? Since apparently one of them didn’t, but is now being painted as a liar. And I mean…maybe he was fibbing? I’ve had to fib to my mom too, when I just Did Not Have The Energy, but knew that my mom doesn’t accept that (she called me very distraught the other week, because when she asked my brother if he wanted to do something if he had a day off this week, he said he did have some time off, but that he would be busy)–when you have a pushy relative who is easily hurt by not always responding with warmth, you learn to make up something plausible to just stave off the drama.

      Someone else said something upthread that I think might be the difference between everyone who’s responding to this with our shoulders around our ears, and those who are scratching their heads at our reaction–some of us grew up with one or more pushy relatives, or something like this. This letter…echoes, I guess, in a very uncomfortable way that’s hard to put my finger exactly on, but is still there.

      I have no doubt LW means well, I really don’t. My mom has the absolute best intentions and is always shocked and hurt when we have absolutely enough and tell her “that’s manipulative.” She doesn’t mean to be pushy and manipulative. She’s just trying to show her love for us as best she can, and since she often refuses to listen to our soft-no’s or to respect our boundaries (or actual diagnosis in some cases), she often winds up pushing us to the part where we blow up. And it’s always a hurtful shock to her. She literally can’t understand why.

      • If it were me, I’d find it a lot less bothersome for a family member to just not come to my house because they don’t want to be around me, than it would to have them come over and chafe about it the entire time and have to grit their teeth to be polite to me. If you hate me, fine, but then don’t come to my house and eat my food. But then, I’m autistic, so I guess what was burning my antennae is this whole idea that “you are just supposed to KNOW” that you did something for which you can’t ever be forgiven, even if it was decades ago, without anyone telling you what it is — and not only that, you’re supposed to smile at them and everyone else in the room and pretend everything is just fine. I don’t think I’d be very good at keeping it buttoned under those circumstances.

        And maybe family is “important” to the LW now, but once she figures out that half of her blood relations have decided that she’s the Jerk Eating Crackers Like She Owns the Place, maybe it’ll dawn on her that blood ties ain’t all that.

        • efmather2006 said:

          Time to put this post to bed, but….one other underlying factor at play in the LW”s “family is important” line is that perhaps that sense of grief and pain is motivated by some other losses, in addition to possible family culture. If the LW is at least 20 years older than the nephew, they are at the age where a lot of people have had close relatives die, or significant relationships end, or friends-who-are-family become estranged, sometimes without good reason. There are some comments touching on Facebook and the generation gap, but a family of your choosing, close friends and community…all that can all change a lot between your 20s and your 40s or 50s. Mileage obviously varies, but throwing out there that LW might be motivated to some pushy behavior out of something like that kind of grief. Definitely agree with the advice though.

        • AnnaStheticOnThe WrongComputer said:

          ‘If it were me, I’d find it a lot less bothersome for a family member to just not come to my house because they don’t want to be around me’

          I think that the disconnect here is that there’s a lot of ‘me’ and ‘my’ and ‘I’ in that sentence – the nephews aren’t necessarily coming to the house as ‘LW’s House’, they’re coming to it as ‘The House Where The Entire Family Is Meeting (which coincidentally belongs to someone we don’t really like)’. You’re looking at their experience of being in the house as centred around their dislike of the LW.

          And it’s not necessarily that the LW did anything wrong – I think the idea that a person has to have done A Wrong Thing for another person to be allowed not to want to be friends with them is kind of antithetical to consent culture. Not everybody in families likes each other. Sometimes there aren’t concrete reasons for that. All you can do is sort of rub along together when you have to for the sake of wider harmony, and if you’re signing up to be the Host of the House Where The Entire Family Is Meeting, that sometimes means smiling neutrally and making conversation about the weather.

        • thathat said:

          Well, I mean, one of them DID choose not to come over. And THAT upset the LW too, so…*shrug* If it’s a family holiday gathering, it’s…it’s a little different than just having someone over to your house for dinner. When my family hosts the big Easter crawfish boil, there’s still a good chance that my aunts will spend all of two minutes talking to my stepmother. It doesn’t become a big issue because there’s also, like, thirty or so people there, and everyone brings food, etc.

          this whole idea that “you are just supposed to KNOW” that you did something for which you can’t ever be forgiven, even if it was decades ago, without anyone telling you what it is

          But that’s not really what anyone is saying. At all. It’s entirely possible, likely even, that even the nephews don’t feel that LW has done “something for which she can never be forgiven.” That’s kind of the whole issue–sometimes people just don’t like you. And that’s okay. I mean, it kind of sucks, but it’s okay. LW isn’t supposed to somehow KNOW whatever it is she may or may not have done, because it doesn’t matter. This isn’t an issue of LW “not being forgiven.” Forgiveness has nothing to do with this.

          The only thing LW should KNOW, at this point (and for years prior really) is that her nephews do not want to be close to her. They have told her as much, and their actions further indicate that. It doesn’t really matter why.

          Framing it as a matter of forgiveness puts my hackles up too, because it reminds me of guys pursuing girls that are Just Not Interested In Them–often the guys will also assume that they must’ve Done Something. And if only the girl would just Tell Them Why, they could Fix That Thing, or apologize and ask for forgiveness, and Then Things Would Be Different. But the girl won’t just Tell Them Why, and that’s because Females Play Mind-Games, etc etc. When the answer is really just as simple as: “I do not want to spend time with you. I do not want a friendship or a relationship with you. It’s nothing you’ve done. I just don’t like you.” There aren’t always Big Important Reasons.

          And maybe family is “important” to the LW now, but once she figures out that half of her blood relations have decided that she’s the Jerk Eating Crackers Like She Owns the Place, maybe it’ll dawn on her that blood ties ain’t all that.

          Well, firstly, they’re not actually her blood relations. Which is part of why I’m a bit baffled that she’s forcing this closeness. My family is pretty tight, but I’m not /close/ to any of my aunt/uncles-by-marriage. I don’t dislike them, but I’d be weirded out if they tried to friend me on facebook and the like.

          But secondly…funny you should mention the Jerk Eating Crackers, because honestly? I think LW has kind of gotten into that mindset about her nephews too.

          I mean, don’t get me wrong. I am sure that they actually do not want to be close to her, and that they probably have behaved unkindly to her as well.

          But she keeps ascribing malice to things that aren’t necessarily malicious? “One of the nephews very coldly said ‘it’s not something I can discuss on Facebook.'”–there’s nothing cold about that statement, and since this was a Facebook exchange, there’s no way of knowing his tone or facial expression. Same goes with the odd “willy-nilly” description of the other nephew. She’s upset that one nephew didn’t pay attention to her at a funeral, and that the other one was “still there smiling” (?) while his wife made small talk. She accuses them of lying about a newborn baby being sick during the Christmas holidays, and takes it personally, when Occam’s Razor says: “Newborns get sick very easily and new parents are always worried about that,” and/or “Parents of newborns are often exhausted and do not have the energy to do Big Holiday Things.”

          Heck, she takes her friend-request being deleted very personally. (And possibly even takes not being able to go to the wedding personally, but it’s hard to tell.)

          The nephews certainly are not reaching out, being warm, or trying to include her in their lives. But LW has also gotten herself to a point where everything they do that isn’t warm-reaching-out comes off has deliberately cold and hurtful.

          LW needs some distance, and probably a counselor she can talk to about all the details to help her process her feelings on this. Because grief at not being able to have the family she wants is understandable (and I very much know that feeling), but she can’t let it eat her up like this.

  62. Estranged uncle said:

    I have a bad relationship with my siblings, and unfortunately that means that I don’t see my niece and nephew either.

    I think that’s regrettable, but there’s nothing I can do about it and what I have to do is remind myself _they aren’t my children_. The letter makes me wonder if LW has any children of their own.

    There’s nothing wrong with having a good relationship with an aunt/uncle – my mother’s sister was my favorite relative on that side of the family, and I always gave her a call when I was near where she lives – but it’s not a relationship you can push if there’s no response on the other side.

  63. I read this as the LW was wondering why these twins were raised to hate her, in the first place. It seems that their mother hated LW, from the beginning, never explained why, and taught her sons to hate LW, too. And LW wants to know why.

    That’s understandable that you want to know why, LW. You may feel that you have been slandered by their mother, and that she has lied about you and poisoned her sons against you. And that may very well be exactly what happened. It’s also possible that someone slandered you to HER, in the first place. Maybe someone told your sister-in-law that you were having an affair with her husband, and she believed it and hated you, ever since.

    Gossip is insidious like that.

    You don’t know. You may never know.

    One thing you do know: Sister-in-law, twins, and twin’s fiancee are not open to a relationship with you, and never have been. It’s within the realms of possibility that this may change at some future date, but it’s unlikely. And if they do come to you, wanting a relationship, you’ll be faced with the choice to either accept them, after all the years of pain, or else turn it around, and block them. Tough choice.

    So, you can’t force them to love you. If they ever do want you, it won’t be because of anything you’re doing now. It will be out of guilt, because they blocked you all those years, based on bad information that they chose to believe, without proof or confirmation, and without even confronting you, to give you a chance to defend yourself. And good people feel guilty when they discover they’ve done that to a person.

    Do you really want them to come to you out of guilt? Or do you want them to actually WANT you, for you? If it’s the former, well, all you can do is wait for it to happen. If it’s the latter, I’m afraid you’re going to have to accept that if you were the flavor of person they wanted, they would have come to you, already. Maybe you’re the most delicious chocolate in the world, but they like strawberry, and that’s OK. They’re allowed to like what they like, and you’re allowed to be what you are, and sometimes, you just have to say, “I want you to be happy, so go eat your strawberries somewhere else, and enjoy.”

    And now I’m really hungry, so it’s a good thing it’s dinner time.

    Jedi hugs to you, LW! I know it sucks to want a relationship that you can’t have, and everyone telling you to just accept it an move on is hard. I hope that you find comfort soon, perhaps in new friendships, or perhaps in old ones growing ever stronger.

  64. It’s interesting how many different reasons there could be for the nephews to avoid LW. Based on the comments, it could be anything from sheer hatred to pure indifference.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter the reason. The end result is the same.

    Take the Captains’ advice, and move on.

  65. RSVP said:

    “…her husband is plain rude, unless he gets a few drinks in him.”
    I missed that statement the first time around. What is he like when he gets a few drinks into him? Overly “friendly”? That could explain the cold reaction of your sister in law. Many women prefer to blame the women their husband is “friendly” to because otherwise they’d have to face the fact that they’ve married an embarrassing horn-dog.
    If he merely becomes comatose and stops reacting at all, then the explanation is still up in the air.

  66. Will I Am said:

    This thread has me confused, as I swear I answered already and I can’t find what I wrote. To the lady whose nephews freeze her out at every turn, then f/b unfriend her – that one… think pretty much everybody saying the same thing: you can’t make somebody like you. You’re gonna have to find a different way if you want to know what is up. First though maybe you could work on your self-esteem issues which I believe is probably the root of all this. I don’t know you so I won’t presume to know what “working” on your self-esteem entails. Google it. Seriously. Once you’re to the point you feel good about yourself you won’t give a rat’s ass why they don’t want you in their life. It’s a good position to be in and of this advice I speak from personal experience. Have a great summer – hope this reaches you😃

%d bloggers like this: