Relative reaches out to resentful cousin
Dear Amy: I’m in my early 20s. Since we were little kids, two of my cousins and I have been very close. My grandmother babysat all of us. We lived five minutes away from each other, rode the school bus together and, when we were teenagers, after the loss of their mother, they spent every night at my house.
Recently, another cousin contacted us after seeing a photo of the three of us online. He said he’s sick of feeling left out.
We all responded, saying that we did not know he felt this way and that we were so close because we were basically raised together. We told him we would want to hang out with him more now and also in the future.
He accepted that, but then started saying things like the rest of the family doesn’t ever want him around. We told him that this isn’t true and that everyone loves him, and we are sorry that someone told him that because that’s horrible.
He then kept responding about how badly he is treated. This conversation continued on and off for three days via text messaging, until finally I told him that it had gone on too long and I would like to end the discussion. He responded with sarcasm and expletives and then blocked all of us on social media.
I feel like the discussion should have been in person. I don’t want the family broken up. We have always gotten along, and our family gathers frequently. I love all my family members, but I don’t feel that I should have to censor my relationships I’ve developed with certain family because it may offend someone else. I would be willing to forgive and forget to have peace between us.
Should I feel guilty for forming a closer relationship with my other cousins? How should we resolve this falling out?
Concerned Cousin: You are closer to your cousins because you were raised together, like siblings.
Your other cousin was trying to be honest with you, and that’s a good thing. However, it sounds as if he has let a lifetime of resentment build up, and trying to express and resolve this through text message is simply not possible.
You could relieve your guilt by trying to contact him, perhaps through a letter, to say, “I was shocked to learn how excluded you have felt. Thank you for being honest about it. I’d like to have a closer relationship, but we’ll never resolve these things unless we talk about it.”
Dear Amy: I am shocked at how often couples who are getting married decide to exclude a family member. Family is family, especially during a wedding.
Shocked: Families are complex and challenging. There are definitely legitimate reasons to exclude, but there would probably be less exclusion if people could simply accept that their families are not perfect.