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My cousins (all in the same family) and I bicker, a lot. I don't like that they tend to harass my grandmother when she shares political posts. When this happens, I tend to call my cousins out for their behavior.

Recently, my grandmother shared something that ended up being very controversial. I'll spare the gory details, but suffice it to say that the conversation quickly devolved into a hostile cesspool of negativity.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened. Previously I've called them out for treating my grandmother as a naive child, being overly harsh to her, or just not being nice in general. The last two times this has happened however, one of my cousins blocked me completely on social media. What made the most recent experience different is that a lot more of the extended family (including aunts, uncles, and spouses of cousins) got involved and called out my cousins for their behavior. It would appear that I am not the only one upset with their treatment of our grandmother.

My cousins are unwilling to listen to the rest of the family, and have chocked up this most recent argument to the perception that the rest of the family is crazy, radical, and completely intolerant of their political views. They went so far as to tell me so in our private messages.

I've realized that in the past 10 years our relationship has become mutually toxic. Like really toxic, and I think its time to cut them out of my life completely, the exception being family reunions for my grandparents. I can maintain emotional distance for a couple days if it makes my grandparents happy.

I feel comfortable cutting ties with all of my cousins in that side of the family, except one. At one time we had a flourishing, deep, and emotionally intimate relationship. Sadly, over the past 7 years, our paths have diverged, and the relationship has wilted. Now it sizzles with latent anger, resentment and hurt. Cutting him off is hard for me because of what we once had. I also hesitate in cutting these relationships because I don't want to just abandon my grandmother to the wolves.

Regardless of my hesitation, I do believe it is time to cut off these toxic relationships. For my good, their good, and so that my grandparents don't have to witness this chaos again. It'll likely happen again given the recent explosion, but I want no part from here on out. I'm going to block that side of the family completely on my social media pages.

If anything I would really like to get closure with my cousin that I once had a good relationship with. Can it be done? What should I say so that I can get that closure without starting another fight?

  • Em's edit improved your question somewhat, but like our help center says, this site isn't here to tell you what to say. Whether or not this can be done seems unrelated to Interpersonal Skills and primarily opinion based. It's also lacking some details, you've given us a lot of family history but nothing about e.g. what you've already tried or considered doing to get closure. What would you define as closure? – Tinkeringbell May 1 at 5:37
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    Is your grandmother in agreement that this behavior is upsetting? Is she willing to tell them to "knock it off" so you dont have to come to her defense? As an aside, i deleted my facebook for like 2 years and re-joined cautiously. It was a refreshing change. If you're not seeing it, its less harmful - especially in an election year. – JenInCode May 1 at 19:48
  • @JenInCode Yes, and no. She is upset by the behavior, but she is very quick to forgive, so she never really get's the 'knock it off' part as strongly as she could. – ajsmart May 2 at 4:45
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"Closure" is one of those pop-psychology words that has been repeated so many times most people don't really know what it means anymore.

One definition of closure is "a letting go of what once was". That's something that only you can do. Nobody can give you closure.

Sure, sometimes we have unresolved issues involving other people, and in order to get closure we may need to talk things out with them until they are not unresolved, but resolved. But in your question you say you've already resolved to cut them off - so what is there left to resolve?

Either you have enough information in order to make a decision on your future contact with your relatives, or you do not. If you do, then you do not need to speak to them. Once you cut them off, their life will continue. If you really are certain about cutting them off, then speaking to them one more time will probably not achieve much.

However - as a frame challenge, I would like to suggest that you could gain closure from attempting to resolve the conflict with them. Get some advice on resolving conflicts with family members

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You're asking a great deal:

  1. You want to talk to your cousin.
  2. You want this talk to close the relationship.
  3. You want this to happen without starting another fight.

No, I don't think that can be done. The way I see that conversation going is that you would talk about all the things that went wrong so that the relationship has to end. That kind of talk would automatically start a fight.

The way I handled it was to just move and not tell them my new address. I kept my old telephone number so they can still contact me but they can't send me letters or show up on my doorstep. They don't have internet or social media so that works, but you can apply the same principle on social media. Just disappear.

If they want to know what became of you, inform them that you are busy with your own life, or whatever you choose to tell them. They will understand; they know they did wrong. No need to get into details. Someone may decide to make it up to you and be very nice. Be wary, however, of too-nice makeup behaviour. Sometimes people do that in order to get something for themselves. Acknowledge the gesture but if they're sincere, they're family and they'll keep.

With time, their sincerity will become evident. They'll understand that you were hurt and they might try again a year later, just to see if you'll accept a little kindness now. I find it really tricky to navigate betrayal and makeup but if all sides are sincere in their sorrow and regret for what happened, I have seen that it can be done over the long term. What I have experienced far too often is taking people back believing they are truly sorry when there is no such feeling at all. They blamed it all on me and were only being nice to prove that they still loved me despite me being such a terrible person.

That's why my siblings don't get to know my address. They don't like it but they have yet to admit having betrayed or wronged me in the past. In my family, this is part and parcel of lifelong family dynamics and they may never see it for what it is. Possibly things are clearer between you and your cousin. The important thing is to take a stand and draw a clear boundary, but not to try for that "closing talk," since it's bound to lead to more fighting. That's my two cents for what it's worth.

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