Family Relations/Disrespectful Aunt



My mom's sister is continuously disrespectful towards my family. We are a middle-class family in Missouri, and she married a wealthy man and lives next to the bass player of a popular band in California. Our lifestyles are clearly not compatible, and she makes it clear that she looks down on us. Most recently, my mom's aunt passed away, and my mom couldn't take off work to travel for the funeral, so she sent me. My aunt mentioned disdainfully several times that she couldn't believe my mom wasn't there, and other comments of the like. My mom is a people-pleaser and won't say anything because she doesn't want to cause conflict, but I feel that my aunt's behavior is unacceptable, and that it is extremely inappropriate for her to be making these comments about my mom. I'm in my 20's and really tired of putting up with her acting that way. I dread family gatherings because I don't want to see her. Should I respectfully and tactfully make my feelings known, or just put up with her childish behavior?


Fed Up

Hi Cassara, thanks for your question. You asked, "hould I respectfully and tactfully make my feelings known, or just put up with her childish behavior?"

My answer is 'neither'. And, please take these comments in the spirit they are intended - I wish to show respect and deference, and to be helpful. It's easy for people to take offense when others give advice, especially over the internet. I do not mean you disparage you in any way.

Firstly, this is different from your question, because you have asked for advice.

In your case, it does not appear that you have this kind of relationship with her, so I would refrain from offering advice.

I rarely suggest 'putting up with' situations, because that may cause you resentment, or worse.

I would encourage you to find some alternative methods to resolve problems. There are dozens of such alternatives, such as humor, distraction, being vulnerable, etc. Usually it's trial and error, to try different things, until you find something that works.

You might consider changes to yourself, since that is the one thing that you have the most control over. Based on this very short message, it seems as though you might use a lot of labels ("middle-class", "wealthy", "childish", "popular", "disdainful", "people-pleaser", etc). People are very complex, almost always more complex than the labels we put on them. Labels have a detrimental affect on us, in that they cause us to act in a way that prevents other people from changing.

So, in sum, I would suggest finding ways to resolve things. As long as you continue to try, it's possible for things to change. People are actually more changeable than it seems to us. If you step out of the ordinary and expected, you might just be pleasantly surprised!  

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.


questions framed similarly to 'what are some ways to respond when someone does/says X' are best. Questions posed in the form of 'why does my father do/say Y', or 'how would you diagnose my mother when she does/says Z' are difficult, if not impossible, to answer. I will probably reframe your question to fit the first question (what do I do). Nay question regarding any family member is fair game. Some of the most difficult are in the area of step-parenting and divorcing families.


I've been a licensed psychologist in Florida since 1994. I've evaluated and/or treated thousands of patients.

American Psychological Association Florida Psychological association National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology


Psy.D., Miami Institute of Psychology, 1993 M.CS., U. of Dayton, 1984 B.A., Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978

Awards and Honors
Award for Years of Dedicated Service, Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society, 1999

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