I am really struggling with this one and hope you guys will be able to help.
My aunt never married and is childfree. She always made an effort around holidays when we were little and has continued to do so as adults for me since I live in the same city as her and have been open to spending time with her. I have a sibling who is not close with her and my dad (her brother) and her had a falling out about 5 years ago and they do not speak. She had a long term platonic lady friend who was her main person for a long time but that friend ended the relationship rather abruptly a few years back as well. They would spend Christmas mornings together, vacation together, etc.
About three years ago she started dating someone for the first time in a long time and she was very fulfilled by that relationship. Unfortunately he got cancer and passed away about 18 months ago.
I am married. We are both children of divorce so we have 4 sets of parents. We have a 1 year old and both work full time.
I did my best to support her through her loss as I am the only family she has a relationship with. She lived alone so through Covid I made extra effort to go for walks with her so she wasn’t completely isolated. She has dog sat for me in the past before all of this and was supportive to me through a personal loss of my own.
The issue is she seems to over inflate her role in my life a bit and she gets right in my personal space. She also tends in infantilize me a bit. She actually accidentally calls my baby my name lol. When my husband is involved in a visit she will sit so close to me she accidently sits ON me or link arms with me and makes it seem like we are sooooo close and my husband is the outsider. I honestly don’t think she even realizes how it comes off.
I feel I need to let her know…gently…. that my husband and baby are my people and I just don’t have the space in my life to also be her main person. I am happy to have a casual coffee/walk date here and there but she shouldn’t expect to have her own holiday dinner with us (she does).
This is a tough one. I have a single aunt and am in a very similar situation. I am the only family member still in regular contact with her – others cannot tolerate her on the regular or have fallen out and gone no contact.
The approach I took was I tried to slowly pull away from her after my children reached a certain age (no direct conversation) , and yes it did revise her expectations of our relationship. However, it resulted in passive aggressive comments basically implying about she has been abandoned by me (in the possible way, ha) every time I talk to her.
I admit though that I still prefer this to how things were before, since now there are boundaries, but wish I could have found a better way. I have concluded there may not be one.
OP your life will get busier and busier and as you grow your family and making time for relatives you don’t have a true reciprocal relationship with will becomes very hard. Give yourself permission to put your family first, even if your aunt is insulted and clamoring for time with you. Set your boundaries now. You can check in regularly and let her know you are thinking of her, but keep the calls/ chats short and conversation light. It’s an avoidant approach. But it may be the best you can do.
Tbh I agree with what you need / want to do. Another commenter left you good advice on how to approach it. I’ve never been in this situation myself
But I can’t help but feel a lot of empathy for her and feel a little sad for her
Don’t tell her she can’t be your main person or you prefer your immediate family over her, she most likely knows that. That escalates it in a way that could create much more tension. Better to address via boundaries as that sounds like the issue, that maybe you struggle to negotiate boundaries? Maybe you’re a bit of a people pleaser or conflict avoidant or caretaker? So be gentle but maintain your needs, include her where you can, and where it makes sense, and when she oversteps, address it right away. A kind way to do that is give her credit for positive intent, even if there isn’t any you see, as it helps people save face and avoids escalation. Then redirect to something else in the spirit of that same positive intent, and see how it goes.
For example, if she infantilizes you, if that’s due to unsolicited advice, tell her you’re not looking for advice at the moment, but if she’s offering advice because she wants to help, here’s something that you’d really like, then give her a task. She calls you baby, tell her you think it’s sweet that she wants to give you a nickname so here’s one you’d prefer instead. If she crowds your personal space, let her know you appreciate her affection but you’re feeling crowded, so if she’d give you some space now but offer you a hug when you leave that would work better for you. Lastly, passive aggressive comments often are a form of guilt tripping? And there’s a way to shut that down that can end up improving communication. If you’re interested in that, let me know and I’ll share more.
Holiday meals are meant for family. Why wouldn’t you invite your poor aunt to a holiday meal? I can understand not wanting to be her main person and that’s just a tough conversation you’re going to have to have with her to set those boundaries but I think you need to also understand that one day that very well could be you – all alone with no immediate family. That’s your family and it already sounds like a lot of broken ties – someone needs to pull everyone back in. Get your dad and her to make up. They’re siblings. No fight is worth ending a family tie unless it involves sleeping with someone’s spouse or something way out of line.
This is so tough. The best bet is to understand and communicate your boundaries… and sometimes it’s as simple as saying no or ending a call/visit in a reasonable time frame. The main thing is to be consistent. She WILL notice and she will bring it up bc it will be an extreme change in the behavior, this is your opportunity to state gently what ur boundaries are and what u want moving forward. She will try to push those boundaries (unintentionally) bc that’s the established pattern but it up to u to consistent if u want things to change.
On the flip, she’s obviously lonely. Maybe u could come up with ideas to suggest or things to introduce to her world so she can find another appropriate outlet, meet ppl or occupy her time b4 u drop da bomb on her. Lol. Getting her a pet could help. But please, take the time to find an appropriate trained pet 4 her. She’s 67 and as spry as she may appear, patience, pottytraining, doggy discipline or finding litter or a hyper cat might overwhelm her. Those are my suggestions. Hope they help. Wishing u guys a win/win… for family. Xo
Why can’t your dad and her fix things? Because that would solve a lot of issues.
Is it possible that you involve her in helping with your kids? That way it’s more even, she gets companionship and you get free childcare. I will be that aunt in future and it wouldn’t work for me because I don’t like kids but maybe she does and she will feel useful.
Prepare a few one liners you can use to switch the conversation spotlight back on her, and dont feel an iota of guilt or responsibility for her disapointment. Compassion =/= responsibility. You can care for someone without them being entitled to your time.
“Oh but I told you, these little ones are my focus of course. It is good to see you though – hey did you check out that games night I sent you…have you done x”
Best of luck to you <3
>I did my best to support her through her loss as I am the only family she has a relationship with.
>She lived alone so through Covid
Not your problem.
She’s the mature adult here. You’re not here parents. Maybe There’s a reason she doesn’t have friends.
>I made extra effort to go for walks with her so she wasn’t completely isolated.
Again, note that you’re not her *mom*. She’s the one with more authority, status, maturity and life experience here. She should be looking out for you and making sure *you’re* doing well.
>She has dog sat for me in the past before all of this and was supportive to me through a personal loss of my own.
Because she’s you’re aunt. Aunts and uncles do that. If she was terminally ill or facing dementia, then I could understand. But she’s not mentally ill or incapable. She just chooses to be an *emotional-energy leech.*
>The issue is she seems to over inflate her role in my life a bit and she gets right in my personal space.
When my husband is involved in a visit she will sit so close to me she accidently sits ON me or link arms with me and makes it seem like we are sooooo close and my husband is the outsider.
Your aunt is a grabby creeper. Stop spending time with her.
I’m getting a child molester vibe here.
>I honestly don’t think she even realizes how it comes off.
Making you uncomfortable is the *goal* here.
>I feel I need to let her know…gently…. that my husband and baby are my people and I just don’t have the space in my life to also be her main person.
Stop inviting her over to your house. Set a boundary of only answering one of her
I am happy to have a casual coffee/walk date here and there but she shouldn’t expect to have her own holiday dinner with us (she does).
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