THE BLOG

Is There Such Thing as 'Relative Etiquette?'

11/07/2012 12:18 pm ET | Updated Jan 07, 2013

We all know the standard procedure of what happens when we run into someone familiar but haven't seen in a very long time: an awkward hug, maybe a brief air kiss and idle chitchat for a minute before making the same tired promise of "Let's get together soon," and then walking away, knowing it'll probably be another decade before you see them again.

But what happens when it's someone you're related to? This even more awkward, because you aren't sure of the standard behavior. You don't want to be seen as rude or even overzealous. It's a very awkward fine line that we often don't understand ourselves.

Everyone has two sides of their families. Often people are more close to one side, while they could go a decade without seeing. And that's just fine. Life happens, and for whatever reason, rifts occur and people move on and separate from the herd. It's a natural progression.

I've never been close with my father's side of the family. They were never around when I was a kid and even when they were, after a certain period of time the situation would become incredibly awkward. Every time I saw them, they would call me by the wrong name or even by my mother's name. Even in adulthood, the relationship is very one-sided and often feels over before it starts.

It's even more bizarre when you run into more than one estranged relative and they introduce a new cousin, someone you're expected to embrace -- but just can't. How can you be expected to fall into place with a random person? I've met cousins that have lived in my town and only ever come across one that I felt a connection to. The rest I feel like I can't be bothered with because they haven't made the effort and they aren't as important to me.

I've always been extraordinarily close with my mother's side. They know my past, they know everything and always have my back. Literally everything I am is because of them and all of the lessons I've been taught are from them. I know more about my maternal aunt Mame than I do about my paternal grandmother because she is more than willing to share our family's history, whereas my father's family history is very shaky and unknown. Although my father loves going down memory lane, it's usually his own personal memories and not ones of relatives past.

With my mother's side of the family, the standard behavior is a hug, kiss, nose grab and of course the standard, "When are you getting a job?" It's familiar and it's a source of comfort.

From the time we were kids, we were always taught that nothing comes before or after family. As long as we remain true and loyal to them, we'll always have a place to call home. The question that remains is what about the other relatives, who simply don't feel like home? Do we just simply ignore them, or do we take the initiative and make a solid attempt at a relationship that may blow up in our faces?

Do you believe there is specific etiquette when it comes to family and behavior, or is it just like with any other person -- and it's best to take things as they come?