My cousin and I had always been great friends, but four years ago I found out she slept with my husband. (He and I had just separated.) When I confronted her, she admitted it and showed no remorse. In fact, she proceeded to tell me I had done bad things too and was a bad mother. I told her to stay out of my life. Since then, she has made an effort to become close friends with my teenage daughter (through MySpace), my ex-boyfriends, and friends. She has told mutual friends and relatives that we are no longer friends because I am jealous of her life and her pregnancy. How do I get past my resentment of this sorry excuse for a relative? - V.H. 32, Dallas
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Life would not be complete without a few annoying relatives. They should be added to the short list, along with death and taxes, of things that just can't be avoided. What your cousin did was downright despicable, and from the sound of it, her behavior continues to be both irritating and inappropriate.
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There's a lot to be said for working through and getting past the bad feelings that cause us, and others, upset. But in our rush to move out of that icky, uncomfortable place, we sometimes overlook the fact that our feelings are justified.
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I'm not advocating stewing about this, because the less you think about this woman the better, but why not just accept the situation? Who says you have to like her? This unwritten law that we're supposed to like everyone, or harbor no feelings of ill will toward anyone, is a weird facet of American culture. There's a great Irish saying: A grudge is a warm thing.
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Do you see this cousin often? Are there big family get-togethers where you're forced to chat over the punch bowl? If so, you can be polite without engaging her. It's perfectly legit to say, "Oh, hi, Emily" and turn around and walk away. When it comes to your cousin's trying to befriend your daughter and friends, acceptance may require some extra self-discipline. Don't involve yourself. Rise above it. If and when people mention the feud, remind them that there are two sides to every story and that you and your cousin have some complicated history, and leave it at that. If it were me, I'd just write the situation off - in my head and to other people. If her name comes up, you can simply say, "We're not the best of friends."
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The interesting thing about this tack is that there's often an added bonus: Once you accept your feelings, they tend to lose some of their tropical-storm strength, which results in your being able to, if not move on (always so much easier said than done), at least spend your energy on the things - and people - that are truly worth your time.
Karen Karbo is an award-winning writer and author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman. She's also a mom, a writing teacher, and a horse owner. Check out more advice from Karen.
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