Is now the right time to say something to my cousin about her inconsiderate behavior?
July 12, 2009 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Is now the right time to say something to my cousin about her inconsiderate behavior?

For approximately the past year, I have made a handful of attempts to reach out to my older cousin to meet up for dinner or drinks. We both live in the same city. On all occasions, she has not responded.

This isn't a matter of failure of methods to communicate - our emails and cell phones work fine. When she needs specific information from me, she's able to contact me.

I should also say she is essentially the ringleader when it comes to getting family together. For instance, this past Easter, she texted me an hour prior to a brunch she set up informing about it and inviting to come. There's "last minute", and there's intentional last minute communication - this suspiciously felt like the latter.

Fast forward to today: Her engagement party is next weekend, and I plan on attending. She emailed me last week because she needed a head count and asked if I was bringing a guest. She also made the suggestion if I am around next week we should get together for a drink. I obliged, and told her the nights I am free. Unsurprisingly, I have not heard back from her.

So this puts me in a predicament. I don't want to be passive-aggressive at her engagement party. At the same time something should be said about her lack of communication. After all, this is a pattern with her and frankly it's inconsiderate. I am having trouble with the idea of celebrating a day in her honor, when she's brushed me off so many times.

How do I handle this in a mature manner?
posted by helios410 to Human Relations (27 answers total)
Don't say anything.
Go to the engagement party because you said that you would. After that, treat all "let's get together" offers as being friendly gestures that probably won't amount to anything. Your cousin might be neglecting you because she doesn't like you, or just because she's not very organised. Either way, just detach. You've tried building more of a relationship with her. Now it's her turn to make an effort if she's interested.
posted by snoogles at 10:02 AM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

You should talk to her about how you feel, but you shouldn't label her behavior "inconsiderate," or use any other categorical label. It's not that her behavior is something, it's that you feel a certain way when she behaves in a certain way, and that's what she needs to know about. There's no shame in feeling whatever you feel -- anger, resentment, disappointment -- but having an honest relationship means owning up to your feelings instead of pretending that she knows what she should and shouldn't do and is simply, categorically wrong.
posted by jon1270 at 10:04 AM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

Agree with snoogles. Be gracious, go to events she invites you to when she gives you sufficient notice (such as her engagement party), and stop making efforts to get together with her as friends. The next time she invites you to something with insufficient notice (brunch) tell her you'd love to come to events but you need more of a heads-up in the future. Then don't go.
posted by Happydaz at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

helios410: I don't want to be passive-aggressive at her engagement party. At the same time something should be said about her lack of communication.

No, it shouldn't. You are trying to be special friends with someone who clearly has no interest in being special friends with you. She pretty clearly lumps you into the "family" end of the "friends and family" pool. That doesn't mean she doesn't like you - I love most of my cousins, several of who are quite cool people, but while we are very friendly, we are not friends. I want to go to their weddings, see them for family events and trade the occasional email with them, but I'm not inviting them over for poker night.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:15 AM on July 12, 2009 [9 favorites]

Maybe she's super busy (i.e. makes time in her pressing schedule for family events, but just can't make it happen for one-on-ones), or maybe she just doesn't like you that much. It happens. No law against it. You tried. Move on.

You can go to the party and enjoy yourself while being no more than polite and cordial to your cousin. Maybe this is the extent of the relationship she wishes to have with you. Maybe lots of stuff nobody could even know.

My personal philosophy is "you never can tell, so don't try to guess". You made a good-faith effort, that's all you need to do.
posted by Aquaman at 10:17 AM on July 12, 2009

She clearly isn't interested in getting together with you for drinks or otherwise socializing despite living in the same city. She's your cousin, so she probably feels obligated to be friendly towards you, but it doesn't sound as if she actually wants to put in the time to really be your friend. It's entirely ok for cousins to not be friends, but she's handling this situation in a way that is unkind and misleading to you. I'd let that go--she doesn't want to be friends with you, but you probably want to keep things civil at family gatherings, so I don't know what good is going to come from confronting her.

What I would address is her role, and yours, in event planning for the extended family. You know what holidays and important events are coming up, so you can call her and ask if there are plans in the works for Labor Day weekend (or whatever significant family event comes next). She may be inconsiderate when it comes to your time and your feelings (texting an hour before a holiday brunch is a pretty rude way to invite someone), but at the same time there's nothing to stop you from planning ahead and finding out about events you're likely to be included in. If you know that for whatever reason she doesn't especially like you or want to reach out to you, you need to find a new route into family gatherings that doesn't depend on her making an effort on your behalf. Either call this cousin well in advance of any event or holiday and ask if there are plans, make arrangements with another person in the family to keep you in the loop, or start planning your own holiday gatherings.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:24 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wanted to point out that I don't think your cousin is even being all that inconsiderate, just that you have different expectations than she does. Personally, I am not at all the type to go hang out with family, or go get drinks with much of anyone. Some people really only like to engage in activities that have a clear purpose outside of socializing. I'd gladly go to anyone's birthday party or wedding or any other day that has some importance to them, but anything short of that is just pretty exhausting for me. In that vein, I think it's kind of odd that you would feel awkward going to her engagement party just because she didn't get drinks with you sometimes.

I would not assume she sent you anything at the last minute on purpose. It's possible, but assuming that is entirely unhelpful and just going to breed resentment.

Personally, what it sounds like is she likes you just fine -- especially because she suggested drinks this time -- she just doesn't have a lot of initiative to actually go do stuff. Now that you know that, you can quit trying. If she sends you something too short notice for you to go to, just say you'd have liked to have gone but you already had other plans. If she doesn't keep up communication, don't take it so personally.
posted by Nattie at 10:28 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

nthing the comments of you having different expectations of family relationships. For a lot of people - myself included - family and co-workers are not the people with whom I hang out and do social things. It's sounds as though your cousin likes you enough but that she maintains a boundary between family relationships and intimate friendships, and that's a perfectly legitimate choice.

Enjoy the relationship you have with her for what it is and try not to have the same expectations as you would in closer relationships.
posted by Lolie at 10:45 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry to say, but this just reads like she doesn't really like you and therefore doesn't want to spend time with you one-on-one. Not at all uncommon with extended family. You are cousins, not chosen friends.

It's okay to feel hurt by this, but then think: why would I want to spend time with someone who so obviously doesn't reciprocate the gesture? This does not, however, excuse her poor etiquette in not returning your messages. It just explains it. Go to the engagement party, be polite, then get the hell out of there and put your efforts into hanging out with much nicer people.
posted by meerkatty at 10:58 AM on July 12, 2009

I see nothing wrong with her behavior. There's nothing to confront her about.
posted by jayder at 10:59 AM on July 12, 2009

I should elaborate and say, usually the pattern works as followed: family get together happens, she suggests meeting up, I make the effort, and I hear nothing back from her. Going forward, I am just going to say "sure" and accept it for what it is - her being polite and nothing more.

Many answers here are spot on. Ultimately this comes down to getting over myself and understanding she doesn't want to hang out me, despite her misleading and poor etiquette.

I will be cordial and polite at the engagement party, and chalk up any superficial suggestions to meet up as exactly that.

Meg_Murray, good call on finding another route on family gatherings.
posted by helios410 at 11:30 AM on July 12, 2009

Some people say "let's get together" the way they say "how are you." It doesn't mean they actually want to get together, just as the other thing doesn't mean they actually want to know how you are.
posted by musofire at 12:08 PM on July 12, 2009

How do I handle this in a mature manner?

Stop feeling like you're owed a reply every time you contact someone and calling the other person rude and inconsiderate if they don't.

Regarding not contacting you about a potential drinks night some time next week, it seems to me that you both have very different expectations of how casual social arrangements are to be made - some people have their social calendars set days and weeks in advance, some people are more 'casual' about it and will arrange get together's on an hours notice, it sounds like your cousin is one of those people.

I don't think her lack of contact necessarily means she doesn't like you, just that you're not super-important, BFF, #1 priority. Some people don't respond to emails unless they have something to say (or pending until they have something to say and then they forget or by the time they have something to say its too late), some people are really busy and forgetful. If you really want to contact her and get an answer, don't email or text, call her and speak to her in person.

What I would do, is if she doesn't get in touch by 24 hours before the first night you said you'd be free, call her up and say 'hey, I didn't hear back from you so I just wanted to check in and see if you still wanted to go out for drinks this week. ' You might find out that there really is no personal slight against you, she replied to your email and you didn't get it (it does happen), or she had a senior moment and thought about replying and forgot to actually do it or maybe she's just been really busy organising her engagement party.
posted by missmagenta at 1:11 PM on July 12, 2009

I read it as it strikes her as a good idea to meet up when you're talking about it, but then she doesn't follow through. Yes, it's a pain to find her that inconsistent, but some people are like that. It means that you and her are friendly, but not going to be close friends.
Don't worry about it, focus the energy on your friends who are reliable and do follow through on plans to meet up. I wouldn't even bring it up, family has an odd way of turning mole hills into mountains.
posted by arcticseal at 1:15 PM on July 12, 2009

missmagenta: Stop feeling like you're owed a reply every time you contact someone and calling the other person rude and inconsiderate if they don't.

Er, I don't. This has occurred about four times in a row now - it's a pattern. So it's not a matter of feeling like I am owed a reply every time I contact someone.
posted by helios410 at 1:39 PM on July 12, 2009

To me it reads that things will be on her terms. I've a sister like that. It does get tiresome. No guess if that's the way she is in general or with you. Some find that rude/inconsiderate/selfish, some don't. I do, all the more when there's an invite for something in an hour.

Hard to imagine that she's gonna change and will probably be more in her world, with her engagement and all that comes after.

That said, in the interest of honesty, being adults, I see no loss or harm in asking about the invites/suggestions being ignored, your reaction. There's always the "help me understand why...," rather than, "I am displeased when... ." Does feel rude that she will not respond with a couple-sentences e-mail or a text.
posted by ambient2 at 2:19 PM on July 12, 2009

So, are you saying that you call her on the phone, talk to her, ask her if she wants to go out for a drink, and she doesn't respond? Or are you saying you leave her messages and emails and she doesn't respond? Because if it's the latter, honestly, that is not that much of an effort and her lack of response is not that big a deal. I know it hurts your feelings somewhat, but you shouldn't take it personally. It's really easy for people to see an email and think "hmm, I'd like to do that, but not this week." and just not respond. Or she may just be one of those people mentioned above that say "let's get together" when they don't really mean it, which is silly, but whatever. Now, if you're actually speaking to her and asking her a concrete question like "do you want to get together for a drink next Thursday?" and she doesn't respond, that is weird and rude and I wouldn't bother asking any more.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:21 PM on July 12, 2009

@ oneirodynia: I have left a voicemail regarding dinner, after her suggestion, with no call back. At the time I brushed it off as her being busy.

I think I'm at a point where I understand how I should interpret my feelings on the matter, and how I am supposed to respond to those feelings. Thanks all.
posted by helios410 at 3:00 PM on July 12, 2009

I'm going to go against the consensus here and say that I think it IS rude of her to suggest something and then not follow through, even just to say "sorry, I'm busy right now, let's do it another time/I'll see you at Christmas/whatever".

However, I think there's nothing you can do about it other than just go ahead and ignore her invitations from here on, and let her call you if she really wants to.

And guys, if you're one of those people who thinks "let's get together" is the same as "how are you", don't do that.
It's fucking irritating.
posted by exceptinsects at 3:35 PM on July 12, 2009

If she's hosting an engagement party, she's also new to the whirlwind that is wedding planning... so she may just have not realized all the stuff she has to do. Also seconding the advice above.
posted by ejaned8 at 3:40 PM on July 12, 2009

I'm also going to disagree with what most people have said and say that her behavior is uncool. Both the very last-minute invite to a family function and suggesting plans and then not following through repeatedly are rude and hurtful. That said, I'd table it for now, go to the engagement party, and try to enjoy yourself, but next time she suggests getting together, I think it's worth saying something. What exactly, I'm not entirely sure. Maybe something along the lines of, "You've mentioned getting together before, but it doesn't seem to come together. I know we're both busy, so maybe instead of making firm plans, we should just give each other a call if we have a free hour to grab coffee or something." That way you aren't left hanging, the door is still open in case she's just really a flake, and she knows that you've noticed she's been blowing you off. Also, sometimes spontaneously getting together works better for some people, but they don't even think of it as being an option.

As for family functions, if you are on the receiving end of a last minute invitation again, I would thank her for extending the invite, but mention that next time you'd appreciate more notice. That is entirely reasonable, and doesn't have to become a huge fight or an uncomfortable situation. Also, if you can find another point of contact for family plans, that might save you some trouble and unnecessary hurt.
posted by katemcd at 6:22 PM on July 12, 2009

I have a cousin who is always so happy to see me at family gathering. She always says that she wants to stay in touch but she never does. Eventually I figured out that that is just the way she is. I enjoy seeing her when I see her and don't expect anything more. It helps that she is this way with most people so I don't take it personally.

BTW, I do think your cousin's behavior is rude but that is mostly irrelevant - telling her off is not likely to end well. So, take her behavior as a given and decide how you want to respond in a way that is healthy for you.
posted by metahawk at 6:25 PM on July 12, 2009

This has happened to me, with the wife of a former colleague. I see her around, she says we should get together and suggests venues/times, but then she doesn't respond to calls or emails proposing dates. But if I call about something she wants to know about, she calls back.

It's funny, the person I asked for advice on this was my mom, who said, "She's probably jealous of you!" which made me realize the not-quite-friend just doesn't like me that much, since "she's jealous!" has been my mother's theory for why someone doesn't want to be friends with me since I was five. (Don't worry, I didn't believe her even then.)

Anyway, I think it's one of those things that's maybe a little rude, but also understandable: she thinks she's just making friendly noises, you think she's making plans with you. I think your initial question made you seem a little intense, in that you were considering confronting her about this at her own engagement party, but it sounds like you have a good plan now: just consider these friendly noises, not real suggestions for get-togethers.
posted by palliser at 7:13 PM on July 12, 2009

The question actually isn't "is her behavior uncool?" since she didn't want to know. The question is "How [does helios] handle this in a mature manner?"

I'll second that it would help if you stopped expressing your hurt or annoyance through labels ("her misleading and poor etiquette").
posted by salvia at 9:09 PM on July 12, 2009

The next time she says something about "getting together" you could just smile and say "yeah, right, you always say that but you don't mean it!" And keep smiling!

If she cares in the least, tiniest bit, she'll try to find out what's going on, if she doesn't care much, she won't address it, and she'll probably stop saying that you should get together.

Or, like many other people said, you could just decide not to care.
posted by Locochona at 11:29 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is it possible she has something like depression or social anxiety disorder? This could describe my behavior to both friends and family on occasion, and it's not because I don't care or because I don't WANT to respond, it's because the idea of contacting someone or organizing something can feel completely overwhelming.

I can still sometimes organize big group things (especially with family) because there's less one-on-one interaction and I can send a group e-mail which feels more anonymous, but the idea of contacting someone directly and having a conversation with them and meeting up with them is exhausting and, frequently, terrifying.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:53 AM on July 13, 2009

The next time she says something about "getting together" you could just smile and say "yeah, right, you always say that but you don't mean it!" And keep smiling!

Haha yeah then say "I waited and waited but you never called back but I'm just kidding!" and then laugh like this HA! HA! and then clench your fist slowly into a twisted stress-claw under the table.

No please don't say this, just say OK sure! and let it go. She's probably busy and would sincerely like to hang out, or is a flake and keeps forgetting to followup. Either way it's not malicious -- your best bet is to play nice with extended family and don't rely on them for anything.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:27 PM on July 14, 2009

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