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by Abigail Van Buren

Criticism Cuts Too Close to Home When Cousin Starts in on Brother

DEAR ABBY: I recently had a phone conversation with a cousin who lives on the other side of the country. We talk once a month. She has always been judgmental and negative about our cousins, aunts, uncles, etc., who -- for the most part -- she rarely communicates with. In the past, when she would put them down, I'd cut the conversation short because I didn't want to listen.

During our last chat, she started in on my brother. That's when I lost it. I gave her a piece of my mind and hung up. Since then, she has texted and called a few times, but I haven't responded.

I feel bad for what happened, but at the same time, I refuse to listen to her talk badly about and judge other family members. How should I handle this? Should I respond to her? In one of her texts she said she "didn't mean to upset me," but I don't consider that an apology. -- HATES JUDGMENT IN OHIO

DEAR HATES JUDGMENT: Yes, you should respond to your cousin. She needs to understand that you are changing the rules regarding further conversations with her.

Explain that it has always made you uncomfortable when she said unkind, judgmental things about family members, and that when she started in on your brother, you finally reached your limit. Tell her that in the future when you talk, it must be about positive things and not family members. After that, the ball will be in her court. See if she follows through.

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