Dear Dr. Wallace:

My parents have been trying for years to get me to like my cousin. I don’t deeply dislike her or anything like that, but my opinion of her is just “blah,” and to tell you the truth, we don’t have much in common at all.

Our whole family has gone on trips and to dinners with my aunt and uncle and cousin, but there’s not much for us to talk about and she just seems quite boring to me. Neither one of us is better or worse than the other, it’s just that we are quite different. Is that a crime?

Is it okay not to seek to become a super close friend with someone like this cousin of mine?

— Polar Opposite Cousin,

via email

Dear Polar Opposite Cousin: Your letter did not provide any clue on what differences you two young ladies have, but I’ll take your word for it. However, I will make a suggestion to you, and please understand that I am not at all trying to shoehorn you into a close friendship. What I will aim to do is to have you two young ladies share some information with each other. Just get to know her a bit better, even if you fully plan to keep your distance overall. You can be polite and ask her interesting questions during the family time you spend together.

Ask her what her favorite hobbies are, what kind of music she likes, what kinds of foods she enjoys and so forth. You’ll at least get to know more about her (and she about you) as you pass the time. And once your family time is over, you don’t need to call her or chase her down daily on social media.

Your goal should be to make the time you spend with her palatable by having the most interesting discussions you can. But stay away from truly personal topics like relationships, etc., unless she brings them up first, and only then if you are comfortable.

I trust that as two teen girls, you’ll have a touch more in common than you realized at first.

Finally, use this time as good practice at socializing. As you grow into adulthood, you’ll find yourself in many situations where you’ll need to make conversation with others you don’t find too interesting or who seemingly don’t have much in common with you.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.

More from this section