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Q. I have a cousin whom I love very much and for the past 40 years have frequently invited him over to my house for events and bought tickets for us to attend a musical program or play. I’ve come to realize that he never reciprocates. Lately I find my enthusiasm waning for continuing these efforts. Is it because my brain is getting older or because I’m now on a fixed retirement income and think more about finances?

A. The brain only continues behaviors for which it gets a reward. Forty years is a long time! I can appreciate that you love your cousin; I can also appreciate that your brain may be recognizing that a genuine, healthy relationship is a two-way street. Pay attention. You have no obligation to invite him or anyone over to your house or take them to programs and plays. The best predictor of the future is the past. If you want to continue the invitations for YOUR brain, recognizing that HIS brain will not reciprocate, that’s your choice. You also have the option of altering your behavior. In fact, it might be interesting to stop issuing him invitations and see what happens.  

He may be relieved and never call, having accepted your invitations for your sake. Or he may call because he’s been using your invitations to save spending money on entertainment. If he does contact you, be ready with what you want to say. Here are some possible responses:

“Over the years I’ve never received a reciprocal invitation from you so I’ve decided to give you break in case you were accepting them just to please me.”

“I’ve enjoyed the things we did together. Lately I’ve developed a new interest (if you have) and am spending more time doing that.”

“My finances have changed with retirement. I’m happy (if you are) to do things with you in the future as long as we each purchase our own tickets.”

Good boundaries and a high level of Emotional Intelligence can help you avoid allowing others to take advantage of you.