I read your article- it’s a good one. Is it ever a good idea for other family members to try to step in and write a letter to the family member that isn’t speaking? My twin sister’s son stopped speaking to her years ago and my sister is sad about it. I often think I should write my nephew a letter, but I hate to get involved. My nephew is almost 50 years old.
I’m assuming you’re referring to my first piece on the subject of family cut-offs?
For those of you dealing with being cut off from a family member, this article is a good primer on how to navigate that tricky situation.
For some more tips which you may find helpful, I’ve also been interviewed on this topic in the following article:
Now, to answer your question:
Is it ever a good idea for other family members to try to step in and write a letter to the family member that isn’t speaking?
My answer to this as a family systems therapist is a definitive NO. If you were to get involved between your sister and her son, you would create what we in the biz call “triangulation”. Here’s what Dr. Ronald Richardson in his excellent book, Family Ties That Bindsays about triangles:
In most families, triangles increase rather than reduce the problems. Triangles occur because it is usually difficult for any two people in a relationship to focus just on themselves and maintain a one-to-one relationship.p.52
You are probably already in a triangle that looks like this: You and your twin sister talk about her son who doesn’t talk to her and he’s on the outside in this case. If you were to approach your nephew directly, the triangle could change to this: You and your nephew grow close by talking about his mother/your sister. Triangles only accomplish one thing: to bring two people closer and to distance the third as ‘the problem’.
I encourage my clients to engage only in one-on-one relationships and to speak directly to anyone they are having an issue with, and not have someone else speak to that person on the other person’s behalf. In my experience, it always ends in disaster and makes things worse in the long-run when the third party steps in to try to ‘smooth things over’ between the other two.
Plus, if you were to write a letter to your nephew, he might feel that you’re taking his mother’s side and cut you off as well. Here’s the thing: No matter what your sister has told you about this cut-off with her son, that is only one side of the story. I’d be curious to know his side as well to get the full picture.
I’m not sure if you have a connection with him, but if you do, I would suggest connecting with him one-to-one and just focusing on the relationship thatyouhave with him and leave his mother out of the conversation. I like to say, “It’s their karma” and should be left to them to figure out.
I think you’re wise to not get involved in a triangulating way. I also acknowledge how difficult it must be for you to hear your sister’s sadness over her son’s cut-off, but it’s her son and it’s their relationship to figure out. Hope that helps. Feel free to write me back with your thoughts.