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.
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.