My cousin is becoming increasingly hostile

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Wide eyed wanderer

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My cousin is becoming increasingly hostile
« on: June 25, 2020, 04:11:59 AM »
Someone on other forum recommended that I would benefit from checking out this site and forum - I've had a look and it's been very helpful so far.

Think I still have some learning to do and would love some advice on my situation.

So me and my cousin (both women in our early 30s) have always been close, growing up together, and I have always thought we'd be there for each other until we're old ladies. We've partied together, confided in each other and most of my friends are people she's friends with.

Background
For context, I grew up in a very emotionally and physically abusive household. My dad (who I'm no contact with) tried to kill my mother multiple times, and also tried to kill me and another sibling.

One of my siblings is disabled, and my mum later developed a very severe lifelong mental illness. I feel responsible for eventually earning enough to support my disabled sibling and afford private care for my mum.

I finished my degree in a prestigious field last year, and have been successful in my career despite not finishing my degree earlier. I'm also with an amazing man who I've been with for 10 years.

I should note I come from a very conservative culture, and my partner is white. I went no contact with my dad due to his actions and my fear that he would also hurt me and my partner if he found out. I have moved on from this and finally built a happy home with my partner.

I believe I'm intelligent and somewhat pretty, and try to be a good person no matter how others act. I'm still working on boundaries and understanding how to keep toxic people away, who I think I might be attracting.

The issue
My cousin has had a lovely upbringing with less strict parents who worked hard to be financially well off. She had 2 convertibles by the age of 18, had unlimited access to her parent's credit card and only wore designer labels. She is beautiful and also smart, and I have always admired her. She was also nice to me until the last few years. She got a degree but isn't doing as well in her career.

She dated men from a similar conservative background and often made a few disparaging comments about 'white' guys. She eventually fell in love and married someone who was white. She would then talk about how similar we were and kept trying to get my partner and her partner to become friends.

They then started insisting that we 'come out' to the extended family who had cut me and my siblings out for cutting off contact with our abusive dad. The only one who was supportive of my family was her father, (my mum's brother).

She understood that I had a different upbringing and had fears that my dad would find out and then harm me/my partner, but insisted I should anyway. When I didn't, she set up a lunch at her parents house for our partners and insisted the parents were on holiday. Her husband accidentally slipped that they were indeed at home and cooking the lunch tomorrow. I cancelled as a result and reduced contact.

We were on a cruise for a mutual friends birthday soon after - and when we were all swimming in the ocean, her partner started 'jokingly' repeatedly dunking my partner who can't swim well in the ocean. He later told me he was drowning. He didn't pause when I screamed at him to do so, and only stopped when I managed to swim over to them. I very angrily told him off and told him to stay away from my partner when we were back on board. No apologies were given and my cousin seemed angry at me.

After a year, I decided it was time to stop living in fear and tell my mum, and grandparents. Surprisingly, they took it well and were proud of me, with my granddad loving my partner and being very proud of how I'd done in my career. He also told me that he would love for us to get married soon, but sadly passed away soon after. He had been speaking with my cousin's father, who then insisted that he would like to pay for our wedding.

I have declined the really nice offer, and believe it is something both he and my granddad genuinely wanted, but don't feel comfortable accepting - if I was to accept, I'd rather it go to my disabled brother, or the care of my mum.

I told my cousin that I had finally told the family, and that it went well. She didn't seem happy about this and shrugged it off. During this time, she got pregnant, had a baby and separated.

She later started calling me and telling me about extremely negative addictions her dad had (which don't sound in line with his character), and what a terrible person he was.

She also told me her partner had abused her (which once again, doesn't sound like him). He is now staying at her parent's place and she has no issues inviting him out, but was previously saying he was abusive.

She then started insinuating that I drank too much to everyone, including to her dad and the rest of the family (when I got drunk at a new years party, I don't really drink other than that). She had brought drugs but I guess that doesn't count?

She also started telling everyone that I was living a fancy lifestyle now, and only like the finer things in life thanks to my successful partner. I think I'm down to earth and very unmaterialistic. I made a joke about getting coffee delivered with ubereats once, and she's used this to tell everyone how lazy and pretentious I am. At the same time, she keeps asking me if I like her 'expensive' handbags everytime I see her. I should note she was struggling financially after getting married until she returned home to live with the parents.

When I finally opened up to some mutual friends about why I don't talk to my dad, (which was really hard), she started telling everyone that she had a similar childhood to me and has been abused, and never had any money. She also takes every opportunity to make a snide remark about me.

How should I approach this - have a heart to heart with her? Or just go no contact? And I can recognise toxic people who show signs immediately, but when it's people I've known for years, who just change, I'm not sure how to handle it?

Sorry for the essay, and thanks for reading.

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Bloomie

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Re: My cousin is becoming increasingly hostile
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2020, 12:03:34 PM »
Hi Wide eyed wanderer - Welcome to OOTF. I am glad you have reached out for support.

It takes great strength to have built a life and relationships that sustain and lift you up out of the ashes of the terrible treatment at the hands of your father. It is heartbreaking to hear of how you and your mom and siblings were treated. You are so wise to protect your family of choice (FOC) from the damage you know your father can do.

I find that relationships that were established in my childhood when I was surrounded by abuse, or during my young adult years where I was focused on survival, sometimes have an unhealthy dynamic that becomes revealed over time. It is painful to begin to see such rivalrous and untrustworthy words and behaviors from someone we believed we would have life long strong and loving connection with. I am so sorry you are experiencing this.

When your cousin speaks smears and lies about you and your life and character it must be really difficult to believe her when she is speaking ill of your uncle and others. When someone's word is unreliable and they have a proven history of maligning the character of others I am really cautious and take a neutral position around unproven accusations like she is making against your uncle.

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How should I approach this - have a heart to heart with her? Or just go no contact? And I can recognise toxic people who show signs immediately, but when it's people I've known for years, who just change, I'm not sure how to handle it?

Would it be productive to have a heart to heart with your cousin? Have you observed that she is a person who takes responsibility for her choices and actions in relationship with other people when there is an issue? Is this really a change in behaviors or are these traits and characteristics you have noticed over time that she is just now turning on you since you are experiencing success and acceptance and love in your life?

There is a wide spectrum of contact between full, close, intimate contact all the way to no contact. It is possible to take a bit of a time out from the relationship and think through what you may want and then begin to build a toolset of strategies to handle some amount of contact if that is what you end up wanting considering the larger family connections that mean so much to you.

The drop down menus above - the toolbox, in particular, are really good places to gain more ground in understanding and building strategies. For me, in a similar relationship with a close family member I believed would always stand with me and be a loving mutual support system, I found there was a great deal of grieving that came with the realization - in my own case - that my family member showed me who they really are when my life took good and healthy turns and I was no longer in a step down position in their view.

For me, I needed to do some boundary work and shift my focus to my core values and developing a strong foundation for what does and does not work in close relationship with me. You don't have to decide anything forever in a relationship with your cousin. You can take a break and some time figure out what you want and need right now.

Keep coming back and sharing and letting us know how you are doing! I'm so glad you reached out!
« Last Edit: June 25, 2020, 12:10:01 PM by Bloomie »
"You can understand and have compassion for someone and still not want a relationship with them."
Amanda E. White, LPC @therapyforwomen

Bloomie 🌸

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PeanutButter

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Re: My cousin is becoming increasingly hostile
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2020, 12:49:30 PM »
Hi Wide eyed wanderer. Welcome!

I hope Bloomie's words are soothing and helpful to you. They always are to me.

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I find that relationships that were established in my childhood when I was surrounded by abuse, or during my young adult years where I was focused on survival, sometimes have an unhealthy dynamic that becomes revealed over time
This has been my experience also. IE: my absolute favorite Aunt becoming a flying monkey for my ubpdM.

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...do some boundary work...developing a strong foundation for what does and does not work in close relationship with me. You don't have to decide anything forever in a relationship with your cousin. You can take a break and some time figure out what you want and need right now.
For me a decsion beyond setting boundaries was not necessary. The person then chose not to continue the relationship with a healthier me.
If there is a hidden seed of evil inside of children adults planted it there -LundyBancroft  Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong good or bad -DebbieFord The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none -Thomas Carlyle

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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: My cousin is becoming increasingly hostile
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2020, 10:47:02 PM »
Hi Wide Eyed Wanderer - I'm new here too and also coming from the other forum.

I, too, have had a long lasting, close, and what I thought was a good relationship with a sibling ( we were best friends) only to have them change in response to healthy choices I made in my life to protect myself from further abuse.

It can be downright confusing and disorienting to have someone you thought you could trust and share in your successes suddenly turn around and try to undermine them. I'm really sorry for your experience and I feel your pain in whole.

I don't have much advice, as I'm in the same bewildered state. While it sounds to me like maybe her claims about abuse etc from her family and spouse could possibly have some merit and it's a cry for help and attention, how strange it is that they surface at the time that they do, almost in a way to seek attention or compare/compete with you. That sounds like a red flag to me, though I think the advice from other members about boundaries is spot on so you can learn more about what's happening.

Maybe you can still have this cousin of yours in your life at an arms length in some ways to protect your mental health, but keep up distance and boundaries against her negative behaviors as more clarity about her intentions and the truth surfaces. Either way, what a difficult position to be in. I hope she sees the light and gets back to being the supportive person she was originally. So sorry.