Q: My mum and her younger sister have always had a troubled relationship and mum has always been the first to apologise and make peace, whether it has been her fault or not. The three of us used to go out together regularly, shopping or for meals, but my aunt is jealous of the close relationship between my mum and myself and kept making cutting comments about us being ‘joined at the hip’. She is very touchy and seems to enjoy causing friction between people. She doesn’t talk to some family members. No-one has ever tackled her on her behaviour, but I finally stood up to her so she has now blocked my phone number and my account on social media. My mum is upset about the situation but what can I do? I am 28 and my aunt is 54.
A: Families eh? What’s the saying? You can choose your friends but not your family. Do you really need this lady in your life? Your aunt’s reactions are very dramatic, which sounds like par for the course. It may be that as she has been pandered-to previously, she doesn’t even know she is at fault. If she has always adopted the role of ‘baby of the family’ and been excused her indiscretions, she may feel she has had her nose pushed out by her sibling’s children and still craves to be the centre of attention. A sense of entitlement is hard to shift. If you want to redress the situation and reconnect I would suggest that both you and your mum go round to see your aunt together and explain that you miss her and value your relationship but that you are united and want harmony. Peace of mind is very underrated. You don’t need to itemise her weaknesses but let her know that her jibes are hurtful to you both. You may need to hear some home truths (as your aunt sees it) so be prepared to grin and bear it. She may well be jealous of your closeness, and pain manifests itself as bitter humour by way of a defence mechanism. Has she any children of her own? Does she have any close friends she can open her heart to? Have you really been guilty of treating her like a third wheel? You and your mum are very lucky to have each other, but your aunt should be compassionate enough (and old enough) to be happy to be allowed to share your relationship. It may be that your aunt isn’t ready to meet up with you, and you feel it would be more of a confrontation than a peace-making exercise to just turn up on her door step. In this case you will just need to keep the lines of communication open and hope she sees sense. I hope your aunt will appreciate your efforts. In the meantime enjoy your relationship with your mum.