Hi I would like some advice please.
I have a sister-in-law who is very difficult and has major issues of jealousy. SHe has done a great deal of damage to the relationships of my brother and us,his family. She has said and done things to me that have been incredibly hurtful, including telling me that my brother didn't care about me or my kids. SHe verbally attacked me one day when I was breast feeding my son, telling me I was fat, didnt have a sense of humour and that I was competing with her for her husband/my brother, called my degroitory names and accused me of not respecting their marriage. all this because I was being 'too excited' that she was pregnant with their first baby and then I was made to apologize for offering my maternity clothes (she was offended because she thought I was fat) . It seems that I am damed if I do and damed if I don't.
We haven't been invited to their house for three years and are not included in any celebrations for their kids. When my nephew was born I was not told by them but heard on the gossip grape vine. MY SIL refused to speak to me because apparently I didn't give her a big enough hug at a family function....
All this has contributed to my depression (I suffer depression, am on AD's and, I admit, am overly sensitive to this situation!). I wont pretend I am perfect and I am sure that I have done things to offend her, but never deliberately or knowingly. And to be fair she can be great fun at times. You would like her if you met her.
We have always invited them to family functions like birthday party's etc. We have always done the right thing even though it makes me very very anxious to have them in my home.
Last year we christened our three children, we sent my brother and SIL an invitation but they didn't acknowledge it or the emails that I sent. They didn't turn up.
Now they are christening their son and I have to acknowledge, have done the right thing and have asked us to come although my husband and I feel very unwelcome. However I just don't want to go. My brother issued the invitation, my SIL wont speak to me unless she has too.
I know that I should be the big person and do the right thing and go because it is all about the child and not us. Two wrongs dont make a right. But I just feel so hurt by their non attendance at our children's christening (it was a big deal - my husbands family came from another country to attend).
What do I do?
Hi Alice! I'm so sorry this situation is causing grief to you and your family. I understand having over-sensitive feelings because I've always had that problem too. As an outsider looking in, I think you should keep trying to be sister, sister-in-law, and aunt to your brother's family. You'll never have any regrets if you do the right thing. Family relations are usually left up to the women in a family, so don't be offended if your brother doesn't seem as involved as you wish he was. If you truly love your brother and want to be a part of his life and involved with his family, keep doing the right thing and eventually it'll pay off. Hang in there, Alice!
Hi Alice. All the things that you shared about what your SIL has done are examples of unexcusable behavior. She is an adult behaving like a temperamental and spoiled child. Regardless of the circumstance, a mature adult would reign in his or her emotions for the sake of the children. I would not want her negative influence around my family. It is too bad that your brother supports her nasty behavior. Shame, shame, shame! Nonetheless, it is his wife and they are bound by their children.
Personally, I would not go out of my way to connect with her on a day-to-day basis. I will however, continue to invite them to special events and if they do not attend, no skin off my nose. The ball was in their court and if they choose to drop it, they have only themself to blame.
I would be the bigger person and attend the christening. Do it for the child sake - they are the innocent victims here. Apparently your brother is sticking his neck out and inviting you. As soon as your SIL start to act up, I would see that as a signal to leave. Do not allow her to treat you like that. That is just abusive.
Is the christening ceremony taking place in a church? is there going to be a party or a reunion in their house afterwards? I know how you feel. Maybe your husband and you would agree to a middle way solution: just go to the church and leave after it is over.
But then again I am thinking about your kid(s). They probably would like to meet and play with their cousins, or not? If they have an urgent and genuine desire to do so, I would perhaps make the sacrifice to attend the party, just for their sake, but leave before the end. Are your kids old enough to understand your problems with your SIL? You just don't need to make them take sides. That is not their problem.
If you make up your mind not to come at all, you could at least send the family a note or a card (by ordinary mail, not e-mail) with a few good words for the kid.
Thank you all for you very sound words. My kids are not old enough to understand the issues and even if they were I wouldnt burden them with them as I firmly beleive that people should make up their own minds...OUr kids enjoy their cousins company but dont really know them and 'could go without' (sounds callous I know but there really isnt any relationship there)
The christerning is in a church with a casual style reception afterwards. We have been asked for 'a drink' but I think others have been asked 'for lunch'. I kind of like the idea of going to the church and skipping the reception but I am worried what that would look like as I suspect that my SIL will throw it back in my face (she usually does, my mum doesnt help).
I agree that this is for the kids, we, as adults must model doing the right thing. I have to be the bigger person and go but how? Church only or church and reception...
I try to stay away as much as possible.
Well, if it is not that important for your kids, then I would choose to go to the church only. Don't worry about your sister-in-law throwing it back in your face. Will she actually have a chance to do so? If she hasn't changed over these years, she will talk behind your back, anyway. So let it be. I think you and your husband are grown-ups and have all the right in the world to avoid any situation that will make you feel really embarrassed and uncomfortable. It is not so much a retaliation as it is avoiding a harmful environment for you.
Anyway, one never knows. Perhaps in the church you both will be sincerely welcome and may notice a genuine difference in your SIL's attitude. In this case, if she and your bother are really warm and affectionate towards you, you may consider a quick change of your plans and come to the drink or whatever.
Your Plan A should read: come only to the church.
Your plan B shoul read: depending on how they treat you there, you might admit a further step.
Pendulum - I like your style and I think will go with your plan A and B and see how it goes. This thought almost makes me feel comfortable. Thanks. I completely agree with the need to avoid a negative environment but I also agree that to do the right thing by the kids is the important aspect.
rosequartz - I also completely agree with you too. I am slowly working them out of my life but I am finding it emotionally very difficult and it effects me deeply. The reality is that they wouldn't be worried and that is just as hurtful as the abuse. The mind and emotions work in strange ways hey!? I do have to consider the big picture but I also have to protect myself and my family. I dont really know how to make the break. I want my children to know their family, but then again I dont want them to know people who dont really care about them...family's...hmmmm
I am with Rose. I have a similar family situation, but my SIL is my husband's sister. She reminds a lot of your SIL. I tolerated my SIL for several years and then I distanced myself from her and her family. My husband never had any guts to tell his sister anything, although it eventually became clear to him as well that she is toxic.
Alice, you don't need toxic people in your life, get away from her slowly, but surely.
Hi Negot. Even though you have successfully worked your SIL 'out of your life' do you still see them at fanily functions etc? Or have you complety cut her out? Can you cut someone out enough but still tolerate family functions do you think?
Hi Alice, we never have any family functions. My own family doesn't live in this country and my husband's family is spread all over the country. Important events in our family, like the birth of our children, my SIL has treated like not a big deal, barely deserving of even an acknowledgment.
I haven't seen her for several years now. It is hard for you if you have to see her at family functions. You could try to have as minimal contact with her as possible once you do see her.
I agree. I have almost no contact if I can help it and when I do see her I am a picture of happiness and friendlyness. The result is that I am always compelety emotionally drained and anxious. I also feel frustrated with myself as I would just love to stand there and yell at her what I truely felt, that is something I just would never do becouse it's what she did to me and it hurt like hell. I just cant behave like that.
Thank you all for your advice.
I find it interesting that lots of wonderful things can be going on in our lives but it is the one or two awful things that suck up our emotions and energy. We must practise at turning it around...advice to self...;-)
It sounds like you are reasonably thinking through the entire situation which is very mature and the right thing to do...although, I also realize that is leaving you feeling drained. Things just shouldn't be this difficult, should they?
I'm just curious - do you have any relationship with your brother separately from his wife? Do you ever have a quick chat or an email without her involved or is she involved in all aspects of communication?
Very interesting question luckydarlin! I actually went to see my doctor yesterday and we talked about this christening and one of the points that he raised was my communication with my brother. Basically I said I tried to distance myself as much as possible. But as he pointed out, this is causing me too much anxiety and pain. His suggestion was that I attempt to reestablish contact with my brother, very slowely and very separtly from his wife, things like emails, sms, the odd phone call. He rationale was that eventually my brother would realise that what his wife was saying about me was rubbish and that actually I'm quite a nice person who is really only interesting in a straight forward brother sister relationship. My concern was that that was undermining his relationship wiht his wife which is not my place or right. As Dr pointed out that it might actually strengthen their relationship becouse brother is going to (hopefully) stand up to wife and say this is all rubbish and to stop...(brother gets pretty hard time from wife)
Dr was pretty keen for my family to go to the christening and reception. As he said, what more powerful way to get back but to show her how gracious and normal we are, makes her look like a fool...
I can understand your concern of undermining your brother's relationship with his wife, but it is also your right to have a brother/sister relationship with your brother so if his wife has an issue with that, that is her problem to work out. I'm not saying you need to start communicating with your brother and then "tell on" his wife to him because let's be honest, it's still his wife and the mother of his children so there is a fine line there, but if you can open a door with your brother, it will make things easier for you.
I like my brother's wife; however, over the years I have realized there has been a bit of static at times between me and my brother. It took me a while to realize that although his wife can be a nice person, it seemed she sometimes liked to cause a little friction within our family. I took to calling my brother separately once a week or once every two weeks on his cell phone and just doing a "wanted to check in and see how everything was going". I'd always ask how his wife and children were doing so it didn't seem like I had a grudge, and we have now re-established a really great relationship between the two of us. Is it jealousy on the wife's part that they don't want their husband close to their sister? I'm not sure, but I only have one brother so I wanted to do my best to keep a relationship between the two of us. If all goes well, your sister-in-law will become kind because she won't dare to be otherwise.
That being said, once you do re-establish a relationship with your brother, if your sister-in-law becomes too overbearing, at that point you can very nicely (and carefully) mention a current situation to your brother and then he will hopefully step in and handle matters, but for now it's best to just start fresh with him. ...and if your sister-in-law doesn't like it, she'll have to get over it.
Good luck...I really hope things work out for you and I hope your brother eventually realizes how lucky he is that you have put so much care and energy into trying to make things work.
Last edited by luckydarlin; 09-05-2008 at 05:57 AM.
Isnt it interesting that when you see these sorts of issues in print they can be so much clearer than when they are whirring around in you head!!
I could never 'tell on' SIL to my brother. I am very concious of her accusation that I didnt respect their marriage. I was increadibly shocked as I was the one how had always defended their relationship.
I do have a right to a relationship with my brother but I am tired of being the one fighting for it. But I think you speak wisely. Thank you
Hi. I hope you are still all out there as you gave good advice and I need reassurance please.
The christening is just over a week away and I can feel myself getting more anxious by the moment. I wavier between terrified, angry, calm and accepting. Last night I had a nightmare where I confronted my SIL and woke up very tense and crying. My baby was crying in the next room and while I could hear her I didn't react like normally.
I was so sad when they didn't come to our children s christening and I can feel all the hurt and anger from the pasts years welling up again inside me. I am sliding back into a depression. This is the effect this has over me...my mind has a mind of it's own!!!!!! . I cant seem to control these feelings and move on.
Even my husband who is wonderful and supportive has indicated that I need to leave it and move on. My mother makes comments like 'you're imagining this'. I am not imagining SIL behaviors but I admit I am dwelling on them...Hence I don't discuss this with my mum....why cant I just move on and let bygones be bygones?
Please I just need reassurance that going to this christening is the right thing to do. My logical and mature mind is saying yes of course it is but my emotional mind is saying it's too stressful so stay away. Dont let me lose sight of the fact that this for for the kids.
My husband and I had a similar situation years ago with his brothers wife. She was very jealous, confrontational to me when nobody was around and would make up stories about us. It finally got to the point after a blow up -- at a family event she cornered me (wanted to talk to me in private) and I got up to leave after I didn't like what she was saying. The story she told her husband and my MIL/FIL was that I attacked HER, said VILE things about the family, called her horrible names and my BIL indicated that I was never ever to be allowed in their home again until I would apologize.
DH still met his brother for lunch, but we pretty much stopped attending any and all family events we knew she would be at and of course I wasn't invited to their home anymore. I just didn't want to be put into a situation again where she'd accuse me of any falsehoods. We struggled for years -- we couldn't NOT invite his brother and their family to our wedding -- we took the high road and did, despite my receiving a scripture filled letter from her two weeks prior forgiving DH and his family for accepting me into their homes. She was a toxic individual and prior to any family event DH and I stressed and worried about whether she'd be there, should I just stay home...
Fortunately, my SIL moved on to yet another vicitim(s) -- my BIL saw the light about what an insane person she was and divorced her. After their separation other family members came out of the woodwork and explained that they too had issues with her and also avoided family events. My BIL told DH that he never knew why some of his cousins stopped talking to him or visiting them.
IMO regarding the christening. Go there, have a good time visiting with your brother and other relatives. See how things go and if you have to come up with another event you have to attend -- around holidays, we'd use the excuse that we also had to go visit my sister's family or I'd get a stomach bug or headache. Maybe you could pretend one of your children is teething or getting over an ear infection as a convenient excuse for leaving.
Thank you. As dreadful as it sounds it is comforting to know that there are other people who have been in similar situations and understand. One of the aspects that is difficult is that even though I know exactly what has happened, (and I have been honest with myself and tried to look at what I could have done to prevent or cause my SIL behavior) that I doubt myself constantly in regards to her. SHe has successfully undermined my confidence in myself and in regards to my relationships with my own family.
My parents believe that the best course of action is to ignore it and move on. I feel hurt by this because no one has actually 'gone in to bat' for me and defended me. I feel a little left out in the cold even by my own parents. I can still hear her calling me a "sick twisted ***** like your sick twisted ***** of a mother"....how can you come back from that?
Why did she call me that? like I said I was 'too excited' by her being pregnant and she didnt like it. I made the mistake of being pregnant before her (twice). SHe needs to be the center of attention. When she and my brother got married, my sister and I were seated at the back of the reception facing the toilet door. We were the last ones to be served a meal at their wedding while her family and my parents were all seated on the high tables (VIP tables). Why? Because my now husband and I announced our engagement 7 weeks before the wedding and she was ****** off because it took some of the lime light from her. I think we were all supposed to put our lives on hold so she could shine (she and my brother have admitted this, I'n not being sensitive and making t up). THe same as the pregnancy thing. She didnt want anyone to steal her glory of being pregnant and becouse I had already been there done that I think she thought my excitement for her was me interfering with her experience. Her second pregnancy I decided to keep my distance, so I was polite and kind but she was was ****** that I didn't make enough of a fuss...I just cant win.
OK sorry - just vented a little more angst...again why cant I be more mature and just move on. These issues are hers and not mine.
I dont want my brother and his wife to split up. I want my brother to be happy and successful. I want his children to have a good family life. I want to share their happiness and our happiness but I have to accept that she doesnt want me to be part of it.
It's a difficult situation all around. My husband and I are still hurt that his parents and brother believed such horrid things about us, never defended me... But for the sake of the family, we took the high road and just tried to let it go because we don't want our son isolated from his family -- grandparents, cousins, uncle... I do hope they've all learned from this.