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Niece conflicted after aunt's email attack

DEAR AMY: I have a very wealthy aunt and uncle to whom my husband and I have recently grown close. We moved to their area last year. They have been very generous in helping us get settled. We go out to dinner with them once in a while, or visit at their home (they sometimes come to ours, but seem uncomfortable there). They typically invite us out and often pay. We did offer to pay once, but we were chastised and rebuffed, so we stopped offering when it became too uncomfortable and awkward. We would pay for other things when given an opportunity (grocery items, parking fees, gas, etc.). Recently my aunt sent me a scathing email claiming we weren't doing our part in the relationship and that we expect them to pay for everything. This email attacked my character and was very clearly intended to hurt, which it did. My husband wants to write them off, which I am tempted to do. We have a lot going on in our lives (our first child is coming this winter) and don't need this drama. I don't want to be the one to initiate contact because, though I understand their position, they handled this poorly and cruelly. How should I approach this situation?

-- It's Lonely at the Top

DEAR LONELY: I agree that your aunt's email sounds unfair and uncalled for, but I wonder if she is simply feeling unappreciated.

You are conflicted about how to respond, but if your character has been attacked, don't you want to? I suggest finding the high road and sticking to it. You don't need to explain anything or defend yourselves, and your response should be politely vague.

"Dear Aunt, I'm sorry you are so upset! We have enjoyed your company so much and are very grateful for your generosity. We love living here and you and Uncle Bud are a big part of that. I found your email quite hurtful and if there is a way we can clear this up, I would like to try." If your aunt responds, you can then decide, based on her explanation, how to proceed.

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