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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Less-intense socializing OK with relatives

Kathy Mitchell

Dear Annie: My cousin and her husband have four young kids. My family is invited to every birthday and Christmas party. Of course, they expect a gift each time. They even register for toys and clothes. Their kids are already spoiled with bedrooms overcrowded with stuff. They also post pictures on Facebook of trips to local museums and restaurants, so money doesn’t appear to be a problem.

The problem is, my cousin’s family is otherwise so busy that these parties are the only days my kids can be in their lives. If we don’t go, we never see them. They rarely call or visit. They’ll come over if we invite them to a barbecue or something, but they don’t reciprocate.

I don’t want to end the relationship, but it feels one-sided. My cousin’s father was like a father to me. After he died, I wanted to stay involved in her children’s lives. I have tried to keep this relationship going, but every year it gets harder. Any advice? – Tennessee

Dear Tennessee: It’s sweet that you want to stay close to your cousin and her family, but please don’t expect them to respond as if you are best friends. Socializing with relatives can be a bit more limited without creating ill will. Continue to attend the kids’ birthday parties, but don’t feel obligated to spend a fortune on a gift. Instead, offer to take the birthday child for a special outing so you can get to know each of them individually. Invite them over for family functions if you wish. Put less of an obligation on this relationship, and you may find it is easier to handle.

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