Dear Ann Cannon • My extended family has always been really close. Except one set of cousins became estranged about a decade ago over our family cabin; they wanted it for themselves while the other cousins said we needed to share with everyone. (The lawyer agreed that we needed to share.) For many years now, I have tried to reconcile with these cousins. I extend invitations to lunch and parties, which are sometimes accepted. I send Christmas cards and graduation congratulations to their children. But there is still a frostiness. Now I am in charge of the annual family picnic. I invite these cousins; it’s awkward; they say they’ll come; then they don’t show up. It hurts everyone’s feelings.
My question is how long do I need to continue extending these invitations? It’s very clear they don’t want much to do with the rest of the family. They have not once in all these years extended an invitation. They try to be polite, but it’s a strain on everyone, and the rest of the family continues to have really hurt feelings when they give lame excuses and blow us off.
— Had It
Dear Had It • As far as I know, there are no hard-and-fast rules for extending invitations to semi-estranged family members, which means you are free to do whatever you want to do on the cousin front. Score!
Meanwhile, I’ve listed below some options you may wish to consider when planning your family picnic. Just be sure to ask yourself if you can live with the consequences.
• Maintain the status quo. Invite your difficult cousins to the picnic and expect everyone who comes to experience the same level of stress and disappointment they always feel whenever the entire family gets together.
• Break with the status quo. Don’t invite your difficult cousins. This could lead to a permanent rupture with that side of the family if they discover you excluded them. Is that possibility worth it? (We won’t judge if the answer is “yes.”)
• Call out your cousins on their behavior. Tell them what you’ve noticed and then ask if they still want to be included in family events. That puts the ball in their court. Again, you may run the risk of further alienating them but (also again) that might not be such a bad thing if said cousins always act like they’re doing you a big favor just to show up.
If it were me, I’d probably choose the second or third option at this point because I feel personally irritated with your cousins even though I’ve never met them. (Sorry. This heat has made me REALLY grumpy.)
Meanwhile, I heard from a number of readers with a range of opinions regarding the letter from a reader who finds public displays of affection in church distasteful.
Dear Ann Cannon • I’d like to offer a different view about PDA at church. What if that neck rub is the only intimacy that the couple shares? As my marriage slowly descended into its death spiral, a hand on the knee or touch on the shoulder at church was a small but powerful signal that my (now ex) husband and I might try, yet again, to find the positive in our relationship. It was the closest I would feel to him all week, both physically and emotionally. I would ask “Disgruntled in Draper” to reframe what she thinks she sees and find a seat on the front row.
— A Touching Perspective