Q: My mum and my aunt had a huge argument several years ago and haven’t spoken since. I’m married and I want my family to have a relationship with my aunt and cousins, but mum says she’ll disown me if I do. This is tearing me up. What can I do?
A: Unfortunately, we’ve seen families needlessly splintered because of situations like yours. Like others we’ve observed, your mum severs relationships when she feels hurt, upset, or angry. We can’t offer you any guarantees how your mum will respond, but let us suggest the best approach you can take if you want to retain your own identity, build healthy relationships, and still honour your mum.
As an adult, you need to establish appropriate boundaries with your mum – you are separate from her. This is especially true in a situation like yours where your mum is inclined to test or cross them. Let her know that you love her and value your relationship, but that her ongoing disagreement is between her and her sister – not you – and that you will be pursuing a relationship with your aunt and cousins. She may object, and even accuse you of betraying her, but it’s critical you stand your ground.
Once you’ve initiated things with your extended family, keep the focus of your relationship on you and them – not your mother. There may be the temptation for you to be made, or for you to assume the role of, mediator. But it’s important for everyone involved that your mum and aunt work out their issues without interference from other family members. In the meantime, continue to pursue your mum to the extent that she shows respect and receptivity. She may pull back at first, but it’s likely the “new system” will eventually take root, and she’ll come back around.
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