Social Question

Aster's avatar

How to avoid a long-lost niece who doesn't remember me? Hints aren't working.

Asked by Aster (19994points) March 9th, 2012

So my niece lives a thousand miles away and has no memory of ever meeting me. I found her on Facebook and I’ve sent her many childhood photos. She still mentioned flying to meet me at our house. I am not keen on that due to extremely unfortunate occurrences involving my brother (her father) and her mother. She is obsessed with them, which is normal, but it is such a depressing story I would rather leave our connection where it is. But now she wants my phone number and I fear hurting her feelings. I will give her my number but how do I tell her this is as far as I wish to go? What do I say when or if she pesters me for a reunion over the phone? I want to be nice and I have. She’s very grateful for the family photos that I gave up to make her happy and they did, I thought. Last I saw her she was two.

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55 Answers

tom_g's avatar

@Aster: “What do I say when or if she pesters me for a reunion over the phone?”

Tell her that how you honestly feel.

Aster's avatar

@tom_g no; it sounds too cold and crude. She’s sensitive and needy.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s hard to say without understanding what the “unfortunate incident” was. Are you embarrassed?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

How old is the niece? The actions of the brother and her mother weren’t her actions, so maybe this is one time you suck it up and take one for the team to help her out a little. I don’t know the entire scenario, so it’s up to you.

tom_g's avatar

@Aster: ”@tom_g no; it sounds too cold and crude. She’s sensitive and needy.”

Well, like @Dutchess_III said, we don’t know the whole story here. But I’m of the opinion that honesty is the best prescription for resolving interpersonal conflicts and situations.

Aster's avatar

@Dutchess_III no; not embarrassed at all. I just don’t want to have to listen to her agonize over my brother (her father) and all the things he was guilty of doing, all the people he hurt many decades ago. I’ve discussed him and her mother over email but for some reason she wants to be right in front of me. I feel like she’s invading my boundaries even though she appears to be very nice.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Sounds like she needs some closure. Gosh. Maybe you could set a time limit of two days, and just bear it for her sake?

Aster's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I have helped her out. My parents (her grandparents) did their best to avoid the lot of them. I won’t be that rejecting, no. But staying at our house is just too much. I already have very unhappy relatives other than her coming out of the woodwork. My parents feared this which is why they cut them off. I wanted to connect with them and I did. I thought that would do it .

Aster's avatar

@Dutchess_III you’re right; she needs closure but I can’t give it to her. No amount of photographs and death certificates can give her closure and she seems to think I can but I can’t. Obviously, all the photos and emails haven’t done it so visiting us won’t either.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh wow. It’s really, really deep, isn’t it @Aster. Well, just keep avoiding answering her questions and avoiding her requests. Hopefully she’ll get the hint…..

Aster's avatar

I will always answer her questions. And it was not one incident; it was a trainload of them I want to forget. I just wanted to find her and see how she and her sister are doing and answer her questions . That is all I wanted to do. And I do not regret finding her at all.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Aster If it was bad for you imagine what it was like for her and her sister. I’d be inclined to give them a break and let them stay for a few days.

Dutchess_III's avatar

This is SUCH a hard call.

Aster's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe if I lived alone I’d consider it. If she lived a hundred miles away I’d go visit her. I cannot bring her happiness, on the contrary because her childhood memories are so sad to the point of being traumatic. I can’t heal her pain.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Aster Ouch, that one hurt. Do people ever think about what affect their actions have on others? Damn idiots.

JLeslie's avatar

Give an excuse for her not coming any time too soon. Whatever chaos is in your life, moving, new jon, just too busy right now.

Or, tell her you prefer guests not stay at your house, but if she is ever in town you would happily meet for lunch.

I don’t know the situation, I assume she is relatively young? I would never hold against her the crap her mom and dad did.

Maybe you need to tell her your boundaries and see if she can live with them. Your happy to show her more photos, but don’t want to go over the negative occurrances in the past? Then she can decide if that is enough for her.

Maybe she just craves to know her family, and knows you can’t fix things from the past. My family is very very small, and people lost touch over the years, and when I find someone who is related to me, sometimes someone I never knew existed, I am stunned and excited. I can’t believe I have several cousins, they are second cousins, I always thought I only had two second cousins on my mom’s side, and knew of none on my dads. But, I have several on my dad’s side it turns out. It changes what I thought my family was.

Dutchess_III's avatar

She’s not holding her responsible…@Aster just doesn’t want to deal with the emotional drama and trauma when it isn’t going to help her niece anyway.

Aster's avatar

@JLeslie very helpful answer! Thank you. Yes; she craves knowing her family and luckily she has a daughter and sister nearby. Actually when I think about this, it’s happening to me more and more! lol I also wanted to know my family, I found several of them but she is the only one who wants to visit. I wonder if being divorced plays into it? The other family I’ve found are all married and none of them want to visit. lol In fact, another niece who is happily married has no interest in me and I was with her the day after her mom (my sister) died! I was sure she’d want to talk to me and ask questions. I was wrong.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aster Will she bring her daughter with her? That might be good. She won’t go into heavy details about bad times in the past maybe? How far away does she live? Any chance you would want to go to where ahe lives? A city you might want to visit, or drive through when going somewhere else?

JLeslie's avatar

One other question, how long ago did you find her? My experiences is it is like a whirlwind at first, and then things calm down again, and there is not such a fevered pitch with contact and questions. I would say don’t feel like you are setting some sort of precedent of yearly reunions and daily emails. You are just getting through the initial getting to know you probably.

Aster's avatar

@JLeslie I hope she wouldn’t bring her daughter who is newly married! We don’t have all that much room! She lives about a thousand miles away near my hometown. If I ever go up there again (I’ve gone twice) I will visit her for sure. My best friend lives there, too. Maybe that’s what I’ll tell her: I will visit HER .
I found her two weeks ago.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aster Do you happen to live in a vacation spot?

Aster's avatar

No, it’s not a vacation spot at all.

JLeslie's avatar

Just wondering because when I lived in FL for instance, people came to see me, but they were also coming to be in FL, so there wasn’t a tremendous amount of pressure. They wanted to lay out by the pool and beach as much as talk to me.

Aster's avatar

OK: but then did they spend the night or a few nights and you cooked for them?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, Aster isn’t in a vacation spot, so that doesn’t factor in.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aster Depends who it was. Usually people spend the night, but sometimes they had their own hotel. I cooked if I felt like it, or we went out to eat. Now that I live near Memphis, which does have toruist attractions for sure, it still is not like FL. They stay here, I usually take them everywhere, and all the time is spent with that feeling of needing to make sure they are happy.

@Dutchess_III I agree, it doesn’t factor in.

Aster's avatar

@JLeslie and your husband enjoyed having them and went to eat also?

GoldieAV16's avatar

You get to set the boundaries for discussing issues that are very painful for you. You can say, “Juanita, I am thrilled that you found me, and I was happy to go over a bit of the past to bring us both up to speed on what is going on, but I’d like to have a relationship with you that is unencumbered by all of the painful trauma of the past. If that sounds okay with you, then let’s get to know one another a bit more: current interests and hobbies, jobs, kids, pets, even religion and politics. But if the conversation drifts to the past – because it will – I am going to bring it back to the here and now. If you seek some answers, they cannot come from me, and you will have to do that work with a therapist, friends, or other relatives. MY work is to heal that past by laying it to rest.”

Then live your truth. Stand up for yourself.

Aster's avatar

@GoldieAV16 wow! You sound like a therapist! I should copy out your answer.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aster It really depends on the guests. My husband during the work week would mainly stick to his routine. On a weekend he will go along with a meal or dinner or out or going through some photos or memories, but he also would do things he wants to do around the house or run an errand.

My grandma used to stay with us for three weeks in the winter years ago. He was always very good with her. My parents stay a week twice a year, and he is rather aloof a lot of the time, it really bothers my dad. When my girlfriends come to visit we talk talk talk the whole time, and my husband is around a little, will have dinner with us maybe, maybe not. When we go to visit someone he is much more attentive, because he does not have the pressures of daily life weighing on him. He is a regimented sort of guy, so if he feels like something needs to get done around the house, or that he needs to be in bed at a certain time, he is not going to deviate much from it.

gorillapaws's avatar

IMO it sounds like you’re punishing her for the sins of her parents. If I were in your shoes, I would open my doors, but I would be completely honest about answering any questions she had. I would try to be as pleasant as I could be in the way I delivered the info, but I wouldn’t hold anything back in my answers either. I would stick to the facts and how it made you feel as opposed to making statements that passed judgment (e.g. “he really let me down and hurt me when he did x” instead of “he was a real jerk”). I think family is really important, and worth making sacrifices in personal comfort for.

gailcalled's avatar

You did say that you made the first move by finding her and then sending her photos.

Now, you have to decide how to take care of yourself and your husband. Either you say “no” and upset her or you say “yes” and feel angry and resentful or you find some compromise.

How about trying a phone call, with a limited time, and see how it feels?

If you open the door, you do understand that someone might walk in.

Aster's avatar

@gorillapaws I agree with you about sacrificing for family but technically I don’t feel very close to her at all. The last time I saw her she was two and now she’s grown and divorced with children.
I think of my family as my daughters and husband who are close by. It’s not as if I won’t or have not answered her questions or like I have no family. Sadly, I answered her questions at length; the answers did not make her feel good at all. In fact, I left out a story about her dad to spare her feelings. @gailcalled , yes; I made the first move and sent her 2 envelopes of photos and certificates. Far as a phone call, that’s why I’m telling all this. She just asked for my phone number.
I may be mistaken but it appears that it’s mostly the people who live alone who want to travel to talk with family members. As I said, none of the married ones want to come and barely wish to speak with me. In other words, she may be lonely.

gailcalled's avatar

@Aster: Call her and set up some ground rules. You don’t have to give her your number. Or use a cheap cell phone and then run over it with your car.

janbb's avatar

I would set the limits and send her an e-mail or letter saying what they are. If it is too painful for you to have her visit, that is a valid limit. If a phone call is too painful, that is a valid limit. I would tell her in a way that makes it clear that your boundaries in no way reflect on her behaviour and maybe leave the door open for written, FB or whatever kind of communication you are comfortable with. She is in a tight spot and so are you but you must be honest or she will pick up the bad vibes and internalize them.

Aster's avatar

ok; I’m senile . She already called me last week. We talked for an hour. Now she has lost my number. My memory is getting much worse.

gailcalled's avatar

@Aster: An odd thing to forget. You need to do what you need to do. This seems to be weighing very heavily on you so tell her that.

Aster's avatar

@janbb the phone call wasn’t painful. Honestly, I can’t remember what we said! LOL
I am so enmeshed in my immediate family and household that my rusted brain can’t hold onto as much as it used to. I think when she was talking I found my mind wandering.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes, well, it sounds like she has a f&$cked up family, and as you say she is not married, and she is looking for a familial connection. Why is it such a big deal to give up a couple days of your life to allow her to visit? If your life is very chaotic right now, I understand maybe not right now, but in the future. This could be one of those things that is a minor inconvenience for you, but huge for her. Maybe future is better, so things calm a little.

Aster's avatar

One of the things involved here, now that I think about it more, is that she is much, much more interested in me, talking to me, seeing me than I am with her. I can’t help it; don’t hold it against me. The people she has spent her life looking for have either died or disappeared and a lot has happened in my life . My nieces were people i wanted to find, I did, and that’s all I wanted. But it’s obviously more than I’m going to get !

janbb's avatar

Maybe you just have to say, “I am not in a place in my life right now where I can give you what you seem to want.”

Aster's avatar

@JLeslie well, I understand but she’s the type who would “book” the next dozen Christmases to spend with us! Flying down, hanging out, flying back. Then comes birthdays and mailing presents. I can see her wanting all that. She has a daughter and sister so I don’t get it. Her sister is the opposite as far as communicating. But, then, she’s married.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aster Oh. Yeah, then you would have to be straight forward about your expectations. That whole christmas and gift thing my family is not very into, so I don’t have to deal with it. I always tell people, friends, I rather not start the whole gift giving thing in general.

If her sister is the opposite in terms of communicating, again, she is probably needy for familial connection. Your married, so you don’t care as much, you have your nuclear family that you are involved with.

It’s not your burden or obligation. Just do what you feel ok with doing. Don’t worry so much about hurting her feelings. Be honest. She might feel like you are on the same page as her, because you were the one who first reached out, and you have gone along with everything so far, she can’t read your mind, she can only assume based on your actions, and what she might be projecting about herself onto you. Think about it from her perspective. I guess if you want to avoid being direct, you can be slower to respond to her, and she might get the hint at minimum you are very busy.

Aster's avatar

She does not feel like I’m on the same page. She knows I’m not jumping in with both feet ; she told me other family members have rejected her or been chilly and she claims she feels younger and so much happier after my connection. But now it’s not enough. To be honest, I would feel pushy and obnoxious if I invited myself, more than once, over to someone’s house a thousand miles away. I’d never consider it. Bu then I’d feel so happy that they sent me photos and death certificates and face booked me. I would not break their door down.

gailcalled's avatar

Stop brooding, bite the bullet, and tell her what you need to. Shilly-shallying will simply prolong the torture, since you seem to be a tender soul and haven’t yet learned how to compartmentalize (not an easy skill to learn, I admit.)

Aster's avatar

Well, if compartmentalizing means I put her in a compartment labeled, “Long Lost Relatives I’ve Found” I’m doing it. But she put me in a “Long Lost Relatives I Believe Will Give Me Closure” compartment.

gailcalled's avatar

Stop paraphrasing yourself and take action. You’ll feel better. Her behavior and needs and emotions are not something you can wish away; you can, however, do what you need to do..

“Compartmentalizing ” means the opposite of brooding.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, maybe she would be thrilled to have family want to come visit her. We all have our own perspectives. What did you say when she talked about visiting?

JLeslie's avatar

Does she have the money and time to be flying in to visit you all the time? Since that is your worry.

Aster's avatar

I didn’t respond. I changed the subject. I guess she has the time and money to visit 2X a year; I really don’t know about her income.

janbb's avatar

Everyone is giving you pretty much the same advice. Take care of yourself, just do it compassionately. Why not sit with our advice and take it in?

Aster's avatar

I will and thanks so much.

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