Hope everyone’s well. I’d appreciate your thoughts because I’ve been invited to a family reunion and it’s totally thrown me because the other guests will include my estranged aunt and cousin. And I have no idea how best to handle the reunion.
Why we’re estranged: I left my abusive ex-husband several years ago. Some of my friends and family had seen my husband’s behaviour first-hand, so were very supportive. I was expecting the same from my aunt and cousin, but instead they declared that they felt sorry for him because “he seems so sad”. I tried to tell them about the abuse I’d endured over the years, but my cousin told me that “I can’t believe X would do that, he’s always been very nice to me.”
In the meantime, my ex continued to threaten me and make my life as difficult as possible by dragging out the divorce and withholding child maintenance payments etc. But much worse, as our kids got older, he became controlling and abusive with them too (I won’t go onto more details but just to say that the courts were involved, and for their own safety the kids now haven’t seen their dad for a few years. It was obviously an awful time for them but they’re doing really well now).
It was really difficult seeing my aunt and cousin take my ex’s side through all of this – my cousin even used to go away regularly with him – and so I cut all ties with them a few years back.
And now I’m going to see them at a reunion soon.
So the thing is, I’m autistic. I often feel quite awkward in social situations, and the thought of arguments is really stressful for me. I want to go to the reunion to see my other cousins, I don’t want to miss it because I’m avoiding my aunt and cousin. But I’m also not sure I’m capable of smiling and making nice with them and pretending that everything is fine. But neither do I want to cause an atmosphere at the reunion or get into an argument.
I keep stressing myself out by imagining how the conversation with my aunt and cousin might go. It’s exhausting! And I just don’t know how one is supposed to act in a situation like this. I would appreciate some thoughts on how best to handle it. Thanks.