Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Skip My Cousin’s Wedding?”

Growing up, I was very close with my cousins. I was especially close with my cousin Annie because we were around the same age. When we were 9 or so our parents shipped us all off to summer camp. When we returned, we discovered that her parents had divorced. Her mother had thrown my uncle out of their house and moved her boyfriend in. She also let my uncle take the kids and all of them moved in with us for a while where my parents ended up raising them, for the most part.

My uncle suffered from severe alcoholism, which I assume was the underlying cause of the divorce. Things got very messy: death threats from my ex-aunt’s new boyfriend; kidnapping; physical altercations, etc. After the dust settled, things went south for my uncle, who lost all of his jobs and his house because he couldn’t stop drinking. My cousins moved out of state to live with their mother. He eventually drank himself to death. I haven’t seen any of them since his funeral five years ago.

Now, Annie is getting married! I couldn’t be happier for her, and I am so excited to see all of my cousins and catch up with them. I miss them so much. However, I am not looking forward to seeing her mom, and that’s where things get awkward.

My ex-aunt has tried to friend me on Facebook several times and also sends me messages to the tune of “I would love to see you some time.” Not only have I not seen this woman since I was a child, but my last memories of her were not very rosy. I don’t mean to be cold, but I do not consider her family and I am not interested in having any kind of relationship with her. I was planning on being cordial and nice during the wedding, but the frequency and content of her Facebook messages (none of which I respond to) have made me feel like she might keep pushing some kind of reconnection. However, I understand that the wedding is about Annie, so I wouldn’t want to seem like I was disrespecting her mom.

The invites haven’t been sent out yet. Should I just RSVP “no” to avoid any chance of upsetting Annie and her family? Should I lie and say “Sure, I’ll visit one day” with no intention of ever doing so? — Potentially Awkward

RSVPing “no” to an invite to avoid upsetting Annie would do just the opposite, don’t you think? You said you haven’t seen that part of the family in years and you’re excited to see your cousins and catch up with them (in a much happier situation than at their father’s funeral, the last time you saw them). Don’t let your ex-aunt’s weirdness or what may very well be her own awkward attempt at trying to avoid a painful run-in at the wedding deter you from going.

If you’re sick of the Facebook stalking, block your aunt. Or, friend her just to shut her up and then hide her on your newsfeed. This really doesn’t have to be a big deal. I get that there’s a long history of STUFF here with your family and that your childhood memories of your ex-aunt aren’t the best, but if you can let the benefit of distance be your friend, I think you’ll find that an interaction at the wedding can be brief and cordial without opening old wounds. A polite “Good to see you” and an air kiss could go a long way. And if it seems this woman won’t just let it go and keeps pushing a relationship on you — as much of a relationship as you can have catching up at one wedding — keep excusing yourself to fill your glass or powder your nose or go say “hi” to Cousin Gertrude over there.

Honestly, this is one of those things you’ll regret if you don’t do. Go to the wedding. Celebrate a happy occasion in the lives of people who have experienced their fair share of unhappy occasions. Catch up with people you miss. Don’t let a very human and flawed woman who spent years raising a family with a severe alcoholic and who likely had burdens and demons you can’t imagine keep you from such a happy event. Life’s too short for that.

***************

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77 comments… add one
  • avatar

    MMcG September 19, 2013, 10:05 am

    WWS. Go, support your cousin. be civil to her mom… if she pressures you… which I have a hard time believing would happen as she is the MOB… avoid/ignore.

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  • theattack

    theattack September 19, 2013, 10:10 am

    The mother of the bride really won’t have time to just sit and catch up with you all night anyway. Go, be cordial, and have fun. Don’t be cold to her either because that is not the time or the place for your unfounded grudge to come out.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph September 19, 2013, 5:31 pm

      Yeah that’s basically what I came to say. Even if she wants to corner you and convince you to be her bff, she will not have time at the wedding to do that.

      The wedding is actually a great chance, actually, to see her but not get into anything deeper. Any other time you’d visit she would definitely have more time to bug you.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna September 19, 2013, 10:16 am

    So, how do you think you’ll react to seeing your aunt at the wedding? What do you mean by being afraid of appearing to disrespect Annies’ mom? As long as you don’t blow up at her, I don’t think it will be a problem. If you can manage to be cordial, go.

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  • avatar

    bethany September 19, 2013, 10:25 am

    WWS.

    Go to the wedding. If you are invited with a guest, bring one, and make sure they know about the situation with your ex-aunt, and instruct them to be on alert. If they see her cornering you or something, have them come over and pull you away.
    Chances are that your ex-aunt will be so busy with all her friends and family that she wont’ have to time/energy to have some sort of big discussion with you anyway.

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  • avatar

    GatorGirl September 19, 2013, 10:30 am

    Go. Her mother is going to be SO busy it’s likely you won’t spend more than 5 minutes exchanging pleasantries with her. Annie will remember forever if you don’t attend.

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    • avatar

      GatorGirl September 19, 2013, 10:42 am

      Also, I know there is a long history with you and the ex-aunt, and you don’t have to justify why you don’t want a relationship with her to anyone, but I personally would cut her a little slack. This stuff happened YEARS ago, and it’s possible that she is remorseful for her actions, had some other things going on that as a child you weren’t privy to or understood, etc. I’m not trying to say rush back into a relationship with this woman, but skipping your favorite cousins wedding because you don’t want to even say hello to her? Nuts.

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      • kare

        kare September 19, 2013, 11:08 am

        I agree. We definitely don’t know the details, but people in relationships with those that suffer from substance abuse don’t always make the most rational decisions. It can take years to see things normally again.

        Honestly, the ex-aunt will be busy and it will be a lot of fun to see your cousins in a happier gathering. Please don’t be one of those families that only sees each other at funerals. Life is too short.

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      • katie

        katie September 19, 2013, 11:22 am

        i absolutely agree. this LW is clearly has a bias towards her uncle, which i get- but her uncle could have been a terrible, terrible person who made this woman’s life hell and im sure the LW would have not known about it, being a child, like you said.

        LW, you dont know the whole story. you know the biased story from your family’s point of view. thats not necessarily the truth, you have to keep that in mind.

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      • avatar

        GatorGirl September 19, 2013, 11:31 am

        katie and kare- I totally agree with both of the points you’ve made. LW has only gotten one side of the story, and people in situations with abuse (be it a persons substance abuse or emotional/mental/physical abuse) often make decisions that seem irrational to the outsie world. It sounds like the cousin has forgiven, or at least isn’t holding a huge grudge against mom anymore so perhaps there really is a lot more to this story than we know.

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  • avatar

    Liquid Luck September 19, 2013, 10:32 am

    Your aunt has reached out to you politely, hoping to start a fresh relationship. You are perfectly within your rights to turn her down, but you’re making way too much drama out of seeing her that it’s grossly disproportionate. You even say you haven’t seen her since you were a child, which I’m assuming was a decade ago. Since then she’s apparently rekindled her relationship with her children (your cousins), they’ve lived with her again, and they seem to have no qualms about inviting her to a wedding. It sounds like they’ve forgiven her and moved on, yet you’ve decided that even being in her presence (along with many other people) for just a few hours of one day would be too difficult to bear!

    This is not a Shakespearean drama. Go to the wedding, be polite to your aunt if you come across her (maybe even entertain the idea of speaking to her for a minute instead of just assuming it will be awful and she’s still a terrible person after all this time), and stop letting bad experiences from the past dictate the way you live your life now.

    As for the facebook issue, simply respond to one of your aunt’s messages. Seriously, just tell her that at the moment you’re just not prepared to be in contact with her, but you’ll be sure to get in touch when you are. If she honors that request, then consider that she may not be the awful person you remember and that accepting a friend request from her may be a small starting point that costs you very little but would mean a lot to this woman. And if she keeps pushing, then you’ll know she’s only doing it for selfish reasons and doesn’t deserve your time and energy, so you can block her with an easy conscience.

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    • avatar

      Guy Friday September 19, 2013, 11:08 am

      I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said EXCEPT for the Facebook message, at least for now. I think the LW should wait until after the wedding. It could be nothing if you respond now, but if it IS something, you don’t want this to blow up right before the wedding and potentially cause problems. Go to the wedding, be civil, enjoy all of the other family members you want to catch up with . . . and then, if you still feel like the message is necessary, send it when you get back home, noting that you wanted to try and rebuild the contact but the wedding made you realize you weren’t ready for it yet and you’re sorry about that.

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      • avatar

        Liquid Luck September 19, 2013, 11:19 am

        Eh, I think it depends on how far away the wedding is. A couple months? Then ride it out and wait. But if it’s more than that, I would send the message ASAP. If there is any drama caused by it, it should die out by then.

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray September 19, 2013, 10:41 am

    I’d accept her FB friend request, snoop through all her pictures and postings, and then hide her as Wendy suggested. And if you are concerned with her having info about your life, then I’d just make her setting such that she can’t see much or write on your wall, etc. And I’d ignore all other messages. Then at the wedding, I’d hang out at the bar on the other side of the room. But if she found me, I’d say hi and congratulations and then like others have said above I bet she will be so busy that she won’t chat very long. But I’d definitely go to the wedding if you want to, for your cousin, for sure.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle September 19, 2013, 11:09 am

    I don’t understand this. You’re excited to see & catch up with your cousins, right? And you’re happy for Annie— who is the bride— right? So… just go to the wedding!

    What will be awkward? Seriously, what? I’m a horrifically awkward person, trust me, but even *I* know that any interaction you’ll be having with Annie’s mom likely will be minimal. Minimal, minimal, minimal. Like Wendy & everyone else is saying. Are you really considering not attending your cousin’s wedding (that otherwise you want to & are able to attend) because of a “potentially awkward” situation with her mom? (I mean, for one, a ~lot~ of weddings are just several awkward situations piled on top of each other, anyway…)

    “I understand that the wedding is about Annie, so I wouldn’t want to seem like I was disrespecting her mom” <–ummm, ha, the only way you'd be "disrespecting" her mom is if you're imagining yourself giving her this big dramatic rebuff. Like, you're not imagining that, right?

    "Should I just RSVP 'no' to avoid any chance of upsetting Annie and her family?" <– Well, fuck. Again, you aren't imagining giving Annie's mom this BIG DRAMATIC REBUFF, are you? Because that's the only way your attendance could possible upset the bride & her family. You avoid this NOT by ~skipping the wedding entirely~ but by checking yourself if (if! if! if!) Ex-Aunt *does* decide to verbalize all of her Facebook messages upon seeing you in person.

    That means saying hi, faking enthusiasm, being cordial, & saying something like, "ooooh, I'd love to catch up!" (while never doing so. Don't feel bad! People do this even with those they *don't* have a fraught relationship with)

    Okay? Sorry to give you a bit of a smackdown, but I feel as though you're getting too caught up in your head about this. You will go to the wedding—& EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE 🙂

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    • katie

      katie September 19, 2013, 11:18 am

      you stole all my thoughts.

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    • avatar

      Liquid Luck September 19, 2013, 11:27 am

      Seriously, this. There will only be drama if the LW creates or allows it. Is it really that difficult for adults to behave civilly or even be friendly around people they don’t particularly care for, even if THEY are trying to start something? Adults are not at the mercy of other people’s whims in these situations, they are autonomous and can choose to engage or to simply smile and walk away. Saying “well she started it!” is a middle-school response, not one that mature adults can use to blame someone else for their own choices.

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  • katie

    katie September 19, 2013, 11:18 am

    like fab said- what is going to be so terrible about going to this wedding?

    i just cant think of a reason why it would be so bad that you wouldnt want to go. i mean, seriously- imagine the worst case scenario here. what is it? maybe you left out some stuff that would make the worst case scenario bad enough to warrant not going, but from what you said there is nothing to be had here. it seems like everyone will be actually happy to see you, aunt included- i mean she keeps facebooking you wanting to be your friend and reconnect. i just cant see how this would be some big dramatic thing.

    do you think you might be living in the past, a little? all the bullshit happened a long time ago, and you dont even know what kind of growing, changing, forgiveness, or even more bullshit these people have been through. you seem to be going at this whole situation from the point you last had contact with this family, as though no time as passed and nothing has changed. i think maybe if you shifted your focus to be more real-life, and actually took a chance and communicated with these people and figured out what had happened through all these years, you will probably have a much different outlook on all of this.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark September 19, 2013, 12:00 pm

    Yeah, I really don’t get all the drama. And its oddly narcissistic to assume that this wedding will somehow be ALL about you… Look, Your aunt will have so many guests to contend with — good luck getting five minutes with her, tops. Not going would be a real slap in the face — to pretty much every one. And aside from the fact that your aunt obviously REALLY can’t pick a decent man to save her life… Your hostility towards her seems grossly unfair. What would You have had her do? Stick around to forever keep mixing your uncle’s drinks? Hold the bottle? NEWSFLASH: your uncle wrecked his life, his family… And even, yes, basically fucking killed himself. And all for what? Booze? Sounds like a real swell guy… If you want to be childishly angry at someone for all that mess — go piss on HIS grave or something…

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    • katie

      katie September 19, 2013, 12:20 pm

      actually, would not going be a real slap in the face? i dont even think so. this is an almost estranged family, an at least out-of-touch family…. i dont even think anyone would notice to be perfectly honest. its not like not going could be taken as some big statement- you dont say stuff to people you havent spoken to in years and years anyway, you know what i mean?

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph September 19, 2013, 5:47 pm

        I agree with BGM (what did I just do?!) about it being a slap in the face. I mean I know that not everyone can make it, but I was sad at some of the people I was hoping to see at my wedding but who declined.
        I didn’t dwell on it or get mad at them, but yes declines do sting. And I imagine due to the circumstances, the decline would be a much greater sting to the cousin in this case because it would be interpreted to indicate bad blood between the families (which is not an untrue conclusion either).

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      • avatar

        GatorGirl September 19, 2013, 7:20 pm

        I totally agree with you, per usual. I understood some people would not be able to attend, but when my grandparents didn’t attend because of my aunts bs….it hurt.

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    • avatar

      llclarityll September 19, 2013, 1:24 pm

      But you just contradicted yourself.

      “And its oddly narcissistic to assume that this wedding will somehow be ALL about you… .”

      “Not going would be a real slap in the face — to pretty much every one.”

      So if it’s a slap in the face to everyone if she doesn’t show up, then yeah, the wedding really is all about her, if that’s what everyone is going to concentrate on.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark September 19, 2013, 3:28 pm

        No. I didn’t say her absence would ruin the wedding… Just that it was a slap in the face. And it would be.

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    • Lindsay

      Lindsay September 19, 2013, 6:34 pm

      It’s hard for me to envision it being a slap in the face. Plenty of people decline wedding invitations all the time for harmless reasons like having other plans or finances. Nobody has considered it a slap in the face when I’ve declined. And personally, for someone to think that simply not attending a wedding is a slap in the face of the couple and guests, that seems pretty narcissistic to me that they’d assume that the lack of their presence would be so impactful.

      I don’t disagree that if she’s trying to do the right thing for her cousin, then she should go, but I don’t think her cousin is somehow going to magically know there’s more to it if she didn’t.

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  • Emily

    Emily September 19, 2013, 11:03 am

    I’d go to the wedding to support my cousin were I in your shoes. Have you ever considered joining Al Anon It’s a spiritual program that offers a supportive community to those affected by relatives (including their uncle’s) drinking. The program will also help you empathize better with your cousins and ex-aunt. While your aunt clearly made some bad decisions in the past, it might help to hear the stories of people who have gone through similar struggles. You could also have a private conversation with your aunt during some downtime from the wedding and set some boundaries with her. You never know, she might not be the big, bad monster from history past.

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  • avatar

    Lily in NYC September 19, 2013, 12:05 pm

    Short and sweet: you are being a jerk about this for reasons that don’t seem valid at all.

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    • TaraMonster

      TaraMonster September 19, 2013, 12:40 pm

      Seriously. I was reading this thinking, “Oh come on. Get over yourself.” And
      I GET family drama. Believe me, my family has all the Jerry Springer bells an whistles that LW’s does (with a bit of variation, obviously). But not going to the wedding bc you’ll see someone you don’t like for 5 minutes? Um. Not following that logic. Just go to the wedding! Sheesh.

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  • avatar

    painted_lady September 19, 2013, 12:23 pm

    I feel like Annie has already had enough punishment as a direct or indirect result of her mother’s actions. Don’t punish her anymore.

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to achieve by not going to the wedding. Most weddings it is SO easy to be polite and then avoid them the rest of the night because there is always so much going on, and I think you probably are aware of that. So, what’s the goal? Are you trying to make a point to your aunt that you don’t think she should be forgiven so easily? Are you hoping to show the rest of the family that you think they’re wrong for welcoming her back?

    You don’t have to go to this wedding, of course, but whatever point you’re trying to make is going to be lost on your cousin, and this is really about her, isn’t it? She’s had enough pain in her life due to people not being able to move past their differences, and doing that to her over…well, not being able to move past your differences. That’s really misplaced. I don’t know precisely what it is you’re still angry about and why you’re not able to be cordial, but I trust that you have reasons, and you’re the only one who can decide if it’s the right stance to take. However, direct your anger in a way that no one else gets hit with the shrapnel.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray September 19, 2013, 12:42 pm

    At most weddings, there will be a guest or two who REALLY don’t want to run into someone else there…but it’s not about you, and it’s not even about your ex-aunt. It’s about your cousin getting married. People will be there to support your cousin and it’s no guarantee that you or any of the other guests will like or want to talk to everyone else. But it doesn’t matter. She’s not even your family anymore, so I think you can suck it up for a day (where you probably won’t have to run into her too much, it’s not like a small lunch) and then you won’t have to see her again. Trust me, I do understand family issues, but I think you would lose a lot more by missing out on your cousin’s wedding. Is there even something to GAIN from missing the wedding?? So her mom knows you don’t like her? I doubt people would even recognize that, and it appears childish. All people would know is that you didn’t come to your cousin’s wedding, and your cousin will likely feel sad about you missing an important moment in her life.

    Would you want your cousin missing your wedding because she had a problem with your mom? The whole “I don’t wanna go because X will be there” sounds very elementary.

    Obviously, there is a lot more to the story, but I definitely think you should go to the wedding. You can be cordial, even if it’s killing you inside. Kill people with kindness. Hopefully you can learn to let this go and put it in the past, because at this point, it seems like a waste to be this upset about these circumstances and the fact that it all happened years ago.

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  • avatar

    starpattern September 19, 2013, 12:44 pm

    So… is LW sure she is even invited? This may end up being a non-issue.

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  • avatar

    GatorGirl September 19, 2013, 12:54 pm

    I love when the DW world agrees on wedding crap 🙂

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    • avatar

      Liquid Luck September 19, 2013, 1:26 pm

      We should start an etiquette debate about this. Surely we can’t allow the topic of weddings to become agreeable, how else would Wendy get page views?!

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      • avatar

        GatorGirl September 19, 2013, 1:29 pm

        haha, right? Is there an etiquette question wrapped up in this? Other than make sure you RSVP on time, attending or not.

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      • avatar

        Liquid Luck September 19, 2013, 3:03 pm

        Sadly, I don’t see anything in this particular letter. Maybe the LW will update us when the invitation comes though, and we can pick it apart then 🙂

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray September 20, 2013, 7:23 am

        Here’s one: would it be against etiquette rules to punch the mother of the bride at the reception if she starts up with all this “hi hi lets be friends” bullshit? I’d say yes, that is rude and unacceptable. But of the rules are silent on this, maybe we should let LW it’s an option? 😉

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray September 20, 2013, 7:25 am

        * IF the rules are silent on this point
        * then maybe we should let the LW KNOW it’s an option?

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  • avatar

    SasLinna September 19, 2013, 1:00 pm

    I think the LW may have omitted some important details about what went down in that family. For example, what was up with the kidnapping? Did her aunt kidnap the kids when they were living with the uncle? Or something of that order of magnitude? It’s just not clear from the letter why the LW would be so strongly opposed to even responding to a FB message.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna September 19, 2013, 1:07 pm

      LWs, include all the important facts! Pleeease

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    • katie

      katie September 19, 2013, 1:13 pm

      all of that is going to be subjective though. if the aunt “kidnapped” the kinds because the uncle was too drunk to buy them food/pay eletric and gas bills/monitor them if they were young, thats not exactly a bad thing, you know?

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      • avatar

        SasLinna September 19, 2013, 1:17 pm

        All I’m saying is that it’s not clear what exactly the aunt has done that would deserve LW cutting her out of her life. As long as we don’t know that it’s hard to judge the situation. Of course there might also be nothing behind it and that’s why the LW didn’t mention it.

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      • katie

        katie September 19, 2013, 1:22 pm

        oh i agree- its not clear at all. my guess is that its either nothing, something very serious, or some biased not-true version of events. the LW might not even be able to sort through all of it.

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      • avatar

        SasLinna September 19, 2013, 1:25 pm

        I can agree with either nothing, something very serious, or a biased version. 🙂 All possibilities covered!
        We should bet. My money is on very serious. I’m imagining something straight out of a Desperate Housewives.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph September 19, 2013, 5:50 pm

        I’m betting on biased. Because really, in a messy divorce where your relative is involved and you are a child, how do you not get a biased, distorted view of events. You never get the other side and you never get the whole story.

        Regardless, though, the wedding isn’t really the minefield she’s making it out to be. The wedding is probably the lowest-risk return to the lives of the aunt and cousin because they will all be too busy to get into whatever “it” is.

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  • avatar

    llclarityll September 19, 2013, 1:21 pm

    Side note, it drives me crazy when people say things like, “I don’t mean to be cold, but….” or “I don’t mean to be stand-offish but….” or whatever, fill in the blank, and then the very next sentence is exactly THAT.

    Yes, you do mean to be that. And it’s ok. Call a spade a spade and have some conviction. If you want to be cold with your aunt, it’s fine, it’s your prerogative. Stand by whatever emotion or feeling you have and don’t feel like you have to minimize it.

    This seems to be something that women do way more than men. My coworker has a book about negotiating raises and other work-related things for women, and one of the things it says is that men rarely go to their bosses and say, “I don’t mean to be forthright, but I am requesting a raise.” Be forthright God dammnit!

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    • avatar

      Liquid Luck September 19, 2013, 1:29 pm

      http://www.notracistbut.com/

      Enjoy the hypocrasy 🙂

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      • avatar

        llclarityll September 19, 2013, 1:33 pm

        Holy sh!t this is going to be one extended lunch break.

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      • avatar

        GatorGirl September 19, 2013, 1:35 pm

        one of my favorite websites ever. absolutely hysterical. (And ridiculously sad that people are that dumb/ignorant)

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      • avatar

        quixoticbeatnik September 19, 2013, 1:57 pm

        OMG. This is like Not Always Right.

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      • avatar

        Liquid Luck September 19, 2013, 3:06 pm

        I love the Not Always Right sites! I did have to stop reading the Not Racist But site after a while though, because it made me too sad to think there were actually real people out there who believe that thinking (let alone publicly announcing!) these things are okay.

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      • avatar

        Liquid Luck September 19, 2013, 3:07 pm

        And to my original response, ughh… hypocrisy* How did I just notice that typo now? That’s embarrassing.

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      • avatar

        quixoticbeatnik September 19, 2013, 4:15 pm

        I love Not Always Working and Not Always Learning too! But not the romantic one because I don’t find that as funny for some reason.

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      • avatar

        Liquid Luck September 19, 2013, 5:33 pm

        I agree, the romantic one is definitely the worst. I mean, I still read it, but I always feel like I wasted my time afterwards. It just seems so wrong to read all the other sites and not the one, you know?

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest September 19, 2013, 1:43 pm

      Or say “I hate to be cold, but…” At least that’s more honest?

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    • Lindsay

      Lindsay September 19, 2013, 5:49 pm

      I’d probably disagree. I think the phrase is just an alternative to “I don’t want to be col, but…” Sure, “I don’t mean to” technically means something else, but I think the sentiment is often pretty clear. Of course, some people ARE being hypocrites, but some people are just stating an opinion and acknowledging that they don’t want to be whatever negative thing you’re probably going to assume about them.

      Like my old roommate used to say, “I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, but …” when she gave a suggestion for something. It was mostly a jokey statement, but it essentially meant that she wasn’t trying to be bossy or actually TELL someone what to do, so much as just suggest or offer her experience.

      I do agree when it comes to people saying “I don’t mean to” and then saying a GOOD adjective, like being forthright, but I just feel like cutting some people some slack otherwise.

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  • avatar

    painted_lady September 19, 2013, 1:25 pm

    Oh, LW, I just had a thought. So I felt like it was silly to tell you that you probably had no idea about the complexities of adult relationships – especially fucked up ones – and there were things that you completely missed because of age and your love for your uncle and your closeness to your cousin biased you to focus on parts of the story that reflected poorly upon your aunt. But I realized, I think you missed a MAJOR point in this: when your aunt moved out and divorced your uncle, it sounds like she did it while the kids were away to keep them out of danger. There may be no reason whatsoever for her to have feared your uncle, but you have no way of knowing. I can’t tell you how many people told me they didn’t believe my verbally abusive father was capable of saying some of the awful things he did simply because he never screamed at me in front of people. Anyway, what your cousin viewed as being blindsided, she very well may have been trying to keep them safe. I had a friend who last year was breaking up with her long term boyfriend who had very much been a father figure to her teenage daughter. She was concerned he might get volatile, so she came up with some silly reason to send her daughter out of town with relatives, and then she proceeded to take all their stuff out of the apartment alone. He came home mid-move-out, and there was a fight and he stabbed her and killed her. Had her daughter been there, it would have been two dead bodies rather than one. And if it had gone the way my friend hoped, her daughter would have come home and discovered her entire life had been turned upside down again. Maybe this isn’t what happened, but you have no way of knowing now. Your aunt may have had no reason to fear her then-husband, but what if she’d been wrong?

    Also, I realize your aunt probably had an unhealthy pattern of choosing terrible men, but are you genuinely holding the fact that her ex boyfriend likely stalked her against her? Like she did that on purpose? Maybe she needs better taste in men, but she didn’t threaten her and her kids: HER EX DID. Blaming her for being abused and having low standards would be like blaming her for marrying an alcoholic in the first place, whereas it sounds like you’re only mad about the fact that she didn’t stay married to an alcoholic and didn’t divorce him in a way she saw fit. Maybe she abandoned her kids, or maybe she felt like if she left him to be responsible he’d shape up. Maybe their relationship was so fucked up at that point she felt like the problem was her. The point is, you don’t know, and judging her on the tiny window you were allowed to observe and what you were capable of understanding as a child is both unfair and likely inaccurate. If you don’t like her personally, fine, of course. If she was cruel to you, stay away from her. But don’t assume that she somehow deserves your disdain because she had a hard time of it and didn’t make the best decisions from your skewed perspective many years ago.

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      painted_lady September 19, 2013, 1:31 pm

      *a way YOU saw fit.

      Also, I am acknowledging that all of this is purely conjecture, but the point is, the LW is angry about things she probably has very poor perspective on.

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    • katie

      katie September 19, 2013, 1:52 pm

      WPLS.

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      quixoticbeatnik September 19, 2013, 1:53 pm

      This. And wow, your poor friend. I am so sorry for how that turned out, how sad. I hope her daughter is safe with some loving relatives.

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        painted_lady September 19, 2013, 2:26 pm

        Yeah, it was really sad – the thing is, anyone she knew would have dropped everything to be there with her if she had said something, and it’s so sad that she felt like she either couldn’t depend on us or couldn’t pull anyone else into her drama. I don’t know what it was, but I’m so sad she felt so alone. I will say, though, because she was really well-known and well-liked in the school district, there’s really been an uptick in domestic violence awareness, so there’s that, at least.

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      • kare

        kare September 19, 2013, 2:39 pm

        I’m so sorry to hear about your friend.

        It’s a very sad thing when victims don’t reach out for help because they blame themselves or are ashamed or want to shield people from the hurt or whatever reason they have.

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    • meadowphoenix

      meadowphoenix September 19, 2013, 7:12 pm

      I’m not saying that the aunt didn’t try to protect the kids. But the letter says she threw the uncle out and let the uncle take the kids, so it seems as though whatever feelings motivated her kicking the uncle out, she felt that he was safe enough with those kids.

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        tbrucemom September 20, 2013, 10:13 am

        That was the part of the letter that stuck with me. If he was so horrible or an alcoholic or whatever, why did she let her children go with him? Do you think maybe, just maybe, considering the fact that she kicked her husband out and moved in a BF (one who gave death threats) over the course of like 2 months that she was screwing around on him and he became an alcoholic after losing his wife, home, etc.? Maybe she wasn’t protecting her children by doing this while they were away at camp, maybe it was just easier because honestly I think coming back home from being away so long and finding your dad gone and another man living in your office is pretty damn selfish on her part. As far as going to the wedding, she should go and be their for her cousin. It’s not about her as others have said.

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    mirage14 September 19, 2013, 1:44 pm

    I have a very poor relationship with a former aunt, and I struggled on whether to attend her children’s weddings, bridal showers, etc, for fear of running into her.

    To make a very long story short, this former aunt, I’ll call her Mary, caused a lot of problems when my mom was pregnant – Mary was married to my dad’s brother at the time. My parents were not married when they had me, and Mary boycotted my mom’s baby shower, spread very vicious rumors, and treated me like an afterthought when was young and was at their house, to the point that I called another one of my aunts to pick me up one day – I was around 6 – and I refused to ever go back to that house without my dad (my parents never married and eventually separated for good). Once she and my uncle divorced, she cut out the rest of our family, which is to be expected, but refused to make time on the side to see my other cousins that she was closer to, including her own godchild.

    Seeing this woman has literally made me drink pitchers of alcohol to deal with being in the same room as her, but ultimately at both weddings I found a way to almost completely avoid her.

    Her kids and I are not close – mostly due to her intolerable behavior – but I cannot imagine skipping a cousin’s wedding that you are so close to. This situation is not your cousin’s fault, and frankly, its not as if your uncle was a perfect person to begin with, and it sounds like your aunt snapped under the stress of dealing with her husband’s addiction.

    Don’t punish your cousin because of poor choices that her parents made.

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    lets_be_honest September 19, 2013, 1:46 pm

    This seems like one of those issues that seems like a big deal simply because you are in it, even though if someone asked you what you would do in this situation, it’d be an easy answer.
    1. Accept facebook request and block her from seeing your posts or ignore the request and if she asks, say you never check facebook.
    2. Go to wedding, be nice.
    3. End of issue.

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      lets_be_honest September 19, 2013, 1:48 pm

      Just one more thing – learn to let shit go! We’ve all had really shitty family experiences. Its not good to hang on to them.

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        oldie September 19, 2013, 2:08 pm

        Very true, plus her childhood memories are likely colored by her parents siding with and taking in the alcoholic uncle. LW seems to sort of know that the divorce likely caused by the uncle’s alcoholism. Don’t know about the death threats from the new boy friend. Whom were they directed toward? The uncle? If so, we don’t know what communications/threats/stalking of one sort or another were flowing from the uncle to the aunt. Still, the bf sounds shady. I say this primarily because of the aunt dumping the kids with her alcoholic husband. Who does that? Likely the new bf demanded that the kids be gone. Wtf! Was that bf still around when the aunt got the kids back. If so, likely not great at all for the kids. LW doesn’t say if the aunt is still with this guy. A lot of suggestions that the aunt is a bad Mom with very questionable taste in men, but really lacking a lot of important details. LW should go and support her cousin. The cousin may have had a dreadful time with her mother after moving back and welcome the support. The aunt can be largely ignored if the initial hello doesn’t go well.

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        lets_be_honest September 19, 2013, 2:44 pm

        Yea, its all fucked up, but also…it was a LONG time ago. Who cares anymore. All the kids are grown. Let it go.

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    Lo September 19, 2013, 2:40 pm

    #overthinkingit

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    Sue Jones September 19, 2013, 3:06 pm

    Go to the wedding, be cordial to everyone.

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    Amanda September 19, 2013, 3:29 pm

    Go to the wedding!

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  • Lindsay

    Lindsay September 19, 2013, 5:52 pm

    I think it would be kind of odd to not go. Of course, it’s your choice, but you’re saying that you just might not go because you are expecting to have to be sort of cold toward Annie’s mother? I guess your reasoning doesn’t really make sense to me.

    If you want to see Annie and are excited about the wedding, then go. If you have to distance yourself from her mother, then that’s fine.

    I think people get way too worked up about awkward situations. I understand your concern, but life is full of awkwardness and sometimes you have to stand up for your beliefs and needs, and it might result in some awkwardness. That’s OK. No reason to not do things you want to do (and things that would mean a lot to other people) just to avoid that.

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    Boosker September 19, 2013, 5:07 pm

    Won’t it be much harder for Annie than for you? Don’t you think she might appreciate having your support during what could be a great and/or difficult time? You seem to be overthinking this.

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  • meadowphoenix

    meadowphoenix September 19, 2013, 7:26 pm

    If you don’t want to accept her facebook request, reject it and block her.

    Unless you think you will disrupt the proceedings some involuntary way, like throwing up or having a panic attack, then everything about your response is in your control, and you should go. If your aunt says hi, say hi and then go join another conversation, like “Oh I see cousin so-an-so, I should go talk to them.” You don’t have to be fake enthused or fake at all, but politeness just mean you treat a person with some type of basic respect. Saying hi is basic respect, but otherwise absent yourself from any conversation. If your aunt keeps trying to corner you, then yes you can leave because at that point she will be being weird at her own daughter’s wedding. If you would feel unsafe at the wedding because of your aunt, then no don’t go.

    Listen, I’m not going to judge why you don’t want a relationship with your aunt. I will guess that you think she used your family in a manipulative way while she figured shit out, and there was lots of drama or whatever. You don’t owe your aunt a relationship. But your aunt is a person, and you do owe basic politeness to her unless she physically and/or emotionally attacked you and eroded your trust in her ability to behave politely. If that’s case, then that really needed to be in the letter though and you might need therapy in order to fully process, tbh.

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  • avatar

    LW September 19, 2013, 9:33 pm

    Hi, LW here. Wendy’s advice eased my mind about the situation a bit. Aside from those who said I was overthinking it (oh god, I am! I’m just nervous and freaking out.) the best piece of advice I saw from the commenters here was for LWs to always include all the details. When I wrote this I was really anxious about making it too long. Here are a couple of things.

    1. Yes.. I am invited. I talk to Annie on the phone quite frequently, and I have also received a Save the Date.

    2. The wedding is a small affair without a traditional reception. There will be a family dinner that I have also been invited to. This is why I think it will get awkward. I don’t know why I didn’t think this was an important detail at the time, again, I was being anxious.

    3. My mother has completely disowned this part of the family. More drama, but she somehow blames them for my uncle’s death, which makes no sense and is more guilt-based than anything, I’m sure. Either way, I’m worried that friending my cousin’s mother on facebook would cause a total meltdown there. Being friends with my cousins causes enough drama with her as it is.

    4. As far as letting things in the past go, I was just trying to give some backstory on why I did not keep up a relationship with her at the time. As for right now, it just doesn’t make sense for us to “reconnect”. I’m fine with being cordial, but suddenly pushing to be involved in my life is weird. We haven’t been related for over fifteen years.

    What I meant when I said I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, was that I didn’t want to snub her mom. I’m not really good at putting on a fake face. But you’re right, not attending would be more hurtful. I’m going to go and look forward to the good part.

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      SasLinna September 20, 2013, 5:51 am

      Glad that you’re going to go!
      That your mom is part of the drama here is an important detail. Makes it more understandable why you don’t want to interact too much with your ex-aunt, even on facebook. But please don’t feel responsible for your mother’s feelings about all this. You’re an adult, you have a friendship with your cousin that’s important to you – and even if you wanted to be closer to your aunt again, I think your mom should just suck it up.

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    • katie

      katie September 20, 2013, 9:54 am

      WSLS. you are not responsible for the way your mother feels about this situation and/or how she feels about how YOU respond to this situation. furthermore, you are not bound by anything to follow in your mother’s footsteps on this. if you want to reach out and reconnect with that side of your family, your mom can fuck herself and you do that. she has no bearing in your life about this. she can make her choices, you can make yours.

      honestly, this is all how families are torn apart, and its a huge reason why my family was torn apart, and it kills me. break that cycle, LW. dont give into it. keep people in your life who are good to you, regardless of how other people thing of them. if your family was my family, i would be the next generation- your and your cousins kids, for example. so i wasnt even alive, i didnt even get a say, in so-and-so not talking to so-and-so anymore. i havent even met people who are more directly related to me then you and your aunt, and its because of petty bullshit like what your mother is pulling. be bigger then it. be better then your mother.

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