Dear Amy: I have a large extended family. I was close to my cousins and aunts growing up, but I now feel like the black sheep of the family. I am gay and have political and religious beliefs that differ from my conservative family.

While no one has ever been mean or critical to my face, I am “friends” with many of my relatives on social media, and I am routinely given the cold shoulder in this forum.

My aunts post warm messages to their other nieces and nephews. They have never posted anything to me. My cousins constantly post back and forth with each other.

If I add a comment to the conversation, no one responds. I often leave friendly comments, even though they never acknowledge me. While this is hurtful, I understand that my lifestyle is very foreign to them. My mother is very close to her siblings and their children, but she has no idea they treat me this way. She is not on social media.

Weirdly enough, my relatives seem to be paying close attention to my social media, and often tell my mom about updates or photos I have posted, which she appreciates. I want to tell her that these relatives are two-faced, but I’m not sure I need to make my problem her problem, and the problem of me feeling snubbed on social media is easily solved by removing them from my friends list. Advice?

Amy says: Your relatives are lurking. Lurkers note what other people post, but decline to “like” or comment on those posts. The fact that they are aware of your doings and report them positively to your mother means that they are paying attention. You should post whenever and however you want to. Yes, unfriend them (or hide their posts) if you want to, but don’t let them change you. I don’t know how it will help matters for you to report this snubbing to your mother.

Family matters

Dear Amy: My mother-in-law was just diagnosed with cancer and probably has a year to live. She and her youngest son had a falling-out, and he has not contacted her in almost a year, despite her many attempts.

I have been the only one out of four sons and four daughters-in-law to accompany her to her medical appointments, and have been trying to support her as best I can.

My brother-in-law finally called after he found out about her diagnosis and said he would visit this past weekend. He never showed. She, of course, was devastated. I texted him and he told me not to get involved, that it was none of my business. My husband agreed.

I feel that since I am the only one who talks to her on a regular basis, I have every right to be outraged and call out my brother-in-law. Do I have the right to get involved, or have I overstepped my boundaries?

Amy says: You have every right to react honestly to this behavior, but you don’t seem to have taken into account what your mother-in-law might have wanted you to do.

My experience with family estrangement is that trying to coax someone back into the fold is a delicate dance. You expressing your righteous and justified anger at his unreliability might have sent him skittering back into his corner. I do think you should absent yourself from this particular dynamic, to keep your focus on your loved-one’s needs.


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