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  1. #1
    basil is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    Default can this relationship be saved?

    I'll try to condense here, but as with most family stuff there is a lot of backstory.

    I have a cousin, Jane. Jane and I grew up seeing each other frequently, but hard to say that we ever really got along. She's 4 years older than me. Jane's mom, Sue, was an alcoholic. I don't think I was particularly aware of this as a young child, but now realize this was very tough for Jane. Jane's father, Bob, is a good guy but maybe didn't protect Jane enough from the effects of Sue's alcoholism.

    My grandmother (Bob's mother and my mother's mother) always preferred me to Jane. She didn't like Sue, for obvious reasons, and I think that transferred to Jane. Jane went through a rebellious period in her late teens, early 20s. She got tattoos, dyed her hair, dropped out of college, maybe there were drugs involved not really sure. Grandmother really was hard on Jane during this time. I was a dorky kid in medical school and never got in trouble, and my grandmother liked this. Jane started taking this out on me and would go through long periods of not talking to me, back then. Jane got things together though, and got married, has a successful sales career, a very talented and sweet daughter, and a lot of hobbies she's really good at.

    About 5 years ago, Sue committed suicide, which was traumatic for both Jane and Bob. Jane and I went through a period where she was probably trying to create more of a relationship with me. Admittedly, I wasn't too interested in a friend/sister relationship with Jane, and tried to distance myself a bit, while still being civil. Jane can be very intense when she's being nice, and maybe my inability to cope with this was one of the reasons she and I never really got along even as kids.

    Since then, Jane will again go through long periods of refusing to speak to me. Won't acknowledge my texts no matter how innocuous. Misses my kids' birthdays, etc. Then she'll go back to being normal. This seemed to only occur with me. Jane has always been close to my mother (her aunt), and my brother. So she'll regularly communicate with them (and invite them over) and shut me out, for reasons I can never quite figure out and (because she's not talking to me) she never explains.

    In June, my grandmother fell and ended up in the hospital. I left work and went there to meet my mother thinking I would help get her into the building and find my grandmother's room. Jane happened to come at the same time (neither me nor my mother knew she would be there). The 3 of us waited in a long line to get in during visiting hours, then we were told only 1 person could go at a time and my mother essentially pushed me in first. I think she was thinking my medical background would be useful to understand what was happening. It wasn't pre-planned and in retrospect maybe wasn't the best decision but we were all stressed.

    Jane got really mad at both of us. She refused to speak/text/acknowledge my mother for 4 months. This was really hard for my mom. She didn't speak to me either but I am used to it. Jane did not show up for a birthday party we had in August for my son and my brother's daughter. She sent lots of texts and presents to my brother/SIL, and didn't acknowledge the fact that my mom and I sent her daughter presents for her birthday. She didn't send a gift, card, or any acknowledgement of my son's birthday around the same time.

    My mom tried to talk to her brother, Bob, Jane's father...he kind of just shrugged and said "she's like that sometimes".

    Anyway, last weekend my grandmother unfortunately passed away. I think Jane is speaking to my mom again now...but not me still. And in fact she seems to be refusing to come to any sort of family get together/memorial service that includes me, while posting a lot on facebook about how she misses my brother's daughters, etc.

    At this point, I am pretty close to done putting any effort into this. I love Jane's daughter and I am sad that my kids apparently can't grow up knowing her or Jane. I think that's a loss. But I don't really understand why I am the constant scapegoat for all that is wrong. I get pretty angry when I think about the way that Jane is apparently including my children in her dislike of me. The rest of my family didn't really believe that Jane was actually freezing me out until this last episode that involved my mother. Now they believe me, but don't have any insight or suggestion, other than "that's just the way she is sometimes".

    I don't really know where to go from here. Clearly this is still bothering me because I'm spending time stewing on this and writing this. I would apologize but I don't even know what she's mad about, really. She hasn't spoken/texted/otherwise communicated with me since November - when she shot down my idea of having an outdoor Thanksgiving, which in retrospect, we really should have done
    DS- 8/11
    DD- 5/14

  2. #2
    gatorsmom is offline Pink Diamond level (15,000+ posts)
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    The reason she treats you like this is because you were the favorite. You were the preferred child, your mother wasn’t a mean drunk, and she saw you received more love than she did. I know from personal experience that this stays with a person. I have a cousin who treats me in a very similar way. She’s 59 and I’m 49. This has gone on since I was a baby. She still calls me a mean childhood nickname. She bullies me when she doesn’t get her way but is overly sweet when she wants something.

    When you do something she doesn’t like (go into the hospital room first or present an idea she doesn’t like (outdoor thanksgiving), her anger with you flares up again. Right now she is really distraught with your grandmother’s passing and so all her anger is amplified. And if you do something she doesn’t like, her anger will you be amplified too.

    In my opinion, don’t expect anything from her and you won’t be disappointed. Don’t expect birthday cards for your birthday or gifts for your kids. Even when you buy them for her kids. That way, when one turns up- hey, look what aunt Jane sent!! I suspect the next few months are going to cause more problems between you two as you both process your grief. I wouldn’t push her away because it sounds like she doesn’t have as much live in her life as you do. But don’t let her little dogs get to you. She’s still sore about passed hurts
    "People are made for happiness. Rightly then, you thirst for happiness. Christ has the answer to this desire of yours. But he asks you to trust him." -St. John Paul II

  3. #3
    Philly Mom is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by gatorsmom View Post
    The reason she treats you like this is because you were the favorite. You were the preferred child, your mother wasnít a mean drunk, and she saw you received more love than she did. I know from personal experience that this stays with a person. I have a cousin who treats me in a very similar way. Sheís 59 and Iím 49. This has gone on since I was a baby. She still calls me a mean childhood nickname. She bullies me when she doesnít get her way but is overly sweet when she wants something.

    When you do something she doesnít like (go into the hospital room first or present an idea she doesnít like (outdoor thanksgiving), her anger with you flares up again. Right now she is really distraught with your grandmotherís passing and so all her anger is amplified. And if you do something she doesnít like, her anger will you be amplified too.

    In my opinion, donít expect anything from her and you wonít be disappointed. Donít expect birthday cards for your birthday or gifts for your kids. Even when you buy them for her kids. That way, when one turns up- hey, look what aunt Jane sent!! I suspect the next few months are going to cause more problems between you two as you both process your grief. I wouldnít push her away because it sounds like she doesnít have as much live in her life as you do. But donít let her little dogs get to you. Sheís still sore about passed hurts
    This is excellent and sound analysis and advice.


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  4. #4
    California is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    Iím sure you know this isnít really about you, but that doesnít make it any easier or make it hurt less. My guess is that seeing and hearing about you is triggering for her. It takes her back to painful times in her past and sheís reacting from that place- not from the present moment or who you both are today.

    The best healing for me is to think about things from the other personís point of view and to try, and try, and try again to think of them compassionately. Itís never immediate, yet it always works if I keep at it. Itís a much more peaceful place to be at mentally when I can wish someone them while accepting that our relationship may not be what I want it to be.

    I have an aunt who is bipolar and refused help. My cousins to this day tell me ďyou got the good mom!Ē But over time theyíve had a chance to put up healthy boundaries and really dig into the work of building a good relationship with their mom. Your cousin has had that door closed to her. She can still work things through on her own, but she canít actively get to a healthy relationship with her living mom. And even if Grandma wasnít great, she was still another maternal presence. Hopefully your cousin can keep healing and get to a place where she can see you and stay present with you.

  5. #5
    dogmom is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    So, everything I'm about to say is NOT criticism of you, so please remember that. I absolutely understand your feelings are hurt, and most people's would be in this situation, but I think there is a path forward.

    Here's the thing, both you and Jane have been ambivalent about your relationship over the years from the sound of it. Yes, she has been hot and cold on you, but by your own admission there are times you weren't exactly making a ton effort either. You are cousins, not close siblings, that is fine. You can certainly have a cousin relationship that makes small talk at family gatherings but does not go out of it's way to seek out one to one contact. Yeah! Big win. If you grandmother clearly favored you over her that is pretty good. Even if Jane knows you were a kid also and it's not your fault, that doesn't mean that it doesn't trigger her and make her feel like crap when she sees you sometimes. It would absolutely bring back a feeling most children of alcoholics have "if I was better then my parent wouldn't drink." One of the reasons they act out as teens is because it gives them a sense of control. It's better to do bad things and have a drunk, non-caring parent than try and try and still have a drunk, non-caring parent. So you were probably the living embodiment of what a good daughter should be to her.

    All of her feelings towards her mom, her grandmother, the family for not doing anything about it, is 100% legitimate. Just as how she wants to deal with it, like not dealing with you at times. I mean, she shouldn't be outright abusive to you, call you names, tell lies, undermine you with the family, but past that she's entitled to do what she wants. Do not make this about your kids and her kids. She needs to parent her kids. If it's hard to see you it might be harder to parent her kids. It sounds like she has got a good life now, that must have taken a lot of work on her part, do not underestimate how hard that is. Besides, how did your grandmother treat her kids vs. your kids? Was there any favoritism there? She might just be wanting to protect her kids.

    In the end it would be best to acknowledge you got the better deal of the family dynamics than Jane did. That she has a right to deal with it as she sees fit, and that might mean not having much of relationship with you. Your mom can take care of herself, don't hold grudges on her behalf. Don't hold grudges on your kids behalf. When they get older be honest with them about your extended family dynamics. You would be giving a great gift of understanding and love to model acceptance of your cousin.

  6. #6
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    AnnieW625 is online now Black Diamond level (25,000+ posts)
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    I very much agree with what Dogmom said. If she doesnít go to Grandmaís funeral then that is on her and she may regret it in the long run, but she needs to make that choice. Continue to do what you do and maybe she will come around.


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    WOHM to two wonderful little girls born in April
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  7. #7
    basil is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    Thanks, guys.

    Yeah, I would love a relationship where we could be cool at Christmas and then go on with life. I've never asked for anything more. "thanks" and "happy birthday" and "merry Christmas" would be great. It's pretty much the relationship I have with the 6 cousins on my dad's side of the family, and never had any drama there.

    Grandmother was fine with her kid/my kids (very proud of all), but was very critical of Jane's parenting skills. Unjustifiably, IMO, and I told grandmother this on multiple occasions but of course she didn't listen. Unclear to me how much of this was said to Jane's face, but knowing my grandmother...she didn't hold back that much, especially when she was >95 yo.

    Maybe I got a better deal than she did...but I didn't ask for it or cause it. It's no fault of mine what her mom/dad did or didn't do. It's not my fault what my grandmother did or didn't do - and actually I would usually try to purposely make sure I did less for grandmother than she did (in terms of phone calls/visits/etc in the last ~5 years) to make sure Jane thought I wasn't trying to curry favor.

    I've been ignoring Jane's shut outs for 20 years now, cheerfully pretending I didn't notice, and just keep hoping she'll eventually come around. But every time they get longer and more drastic, and I just feel like she's probably not coming around this time.

    And - I have a brother who has the same parents and same advantages vs her that I had. Yet, he is not the subject of this treatment at all. So it must be me
    DS- 8/11
    DD- 5/14

  8. #8
    California is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by basil View Post
    And - I have a brother who has the same parents and same advantages vs her that I had. Yet, he is not the subject of this treatment at all. So it must be me
    When I wrote my post (at work and rushed), I started with, "I hope you know it's not really about you," and then I thought that most likely you know that. But it sounds like this feels very intensely personal to you, and obviously it hurts. As an outsider, to me it truly doesn't appear to really about you- who you are, your personality, etc. It's about what you represent. In her mind, you represent a lot of painful memories, and she's reacting to those memories. We can be grown up and still get kicked back to those painful childhood moments so easily. Your brother was a boy. It's just going to be different. She probably wasn't compared to him all the time like she was to you.

  9. #9
    firstbaby is offline Platinum level (1000+ posts)
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    I agree with PPs and their analysis for how this may have felt for Jane. It sounds like Jane has had periods of really opening up to you and being vulnerable and you haven’t been able to go there or meet her there. And it sounds like now, you want it “to be cool at Christmas and go on with your life.” but that is hurtful to Jane and it might not be realistic that a relationship with her is just on your terms. I read it as Jane goes through intense periods of withdrawal because it’s self preservation for her.

  10. #10
    ♥ms.pacman♥ is offline Red Diamond level (10,000+ posts)
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    i agree with everything that dogmom said. this isn't about you. it's about what you represent in her mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by California View Post
    When I wrote my post (at work and rushed), I started with, "I hope you know it's not really about you," and then I thought that most likely you know that. But it sounds like this feels very intensely personal to you, and obviously it hurts. As an outsider, to me it truly doesn't appear to really about you- who you are, your personality, etc. It's about what you represent. In her mind, you represent a lot of painful memories, and she's reacting to those memories. We can be grown up and still get kicked back to those painful childhood moments so easily. Your brother was a boy. It's just going to be different. She probably wasn't compared to him all the time like she was to you.
    your brother was a boy, and thus he likely didn't draw comparisons to her from your grandma. there is inevitably going to be many more comparisons with cousins of same gender, at least for people our age (i grew up in 80s/90s). when i was a kid, i could definitey feel comparisons from parents & older relatives between me and my female cousins. i would get totally jealous when my mom would point out that my (female) cousin knew how to do x, y, z but i didn't. i would get jealous when another girl in class got recognized by a teacher for something i wanted or felt i deserved. not when it was a boy though. for me as a kid, boys were like in a completely different universe. i think that is pretty common at least back then.

    i don't think there is really anything you can do other than understand this is likely part of her dealing with her personal grief/unresolved childhood issues. i dont know what it's like growing up with a parent with substance abuse issues. yes, you did nothing to "deserve" this, that is for sure. just trying to provide a different perspective for her behavior. not saying you have to be ok with it, but just some reasoning for it. hugs to you.
    Last edited by ♥ms.pacman♥; 10-15-2021 at 10:45 PM.

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