Dear Barb – Accepting new in-laws

Barbara Godin became the new Voice advice columnist in the summer of 2004, continuing the popular column that began as Dear Sandra, and then Dear Heather as our previous columnists moved on to other pursuits. Despite having published over 70 columns in the Voice so far, Barb continues to cover new ground while answering a very wide range of questions of relevance to Voice readers. This is one column that relies on the input of readers, and The Voice is thankful to all of you who have taken the time to share your questions so that others may benefit from the discussion. This column is typical of Dear Barb’s style as it discusses one of those all-too-common family dilemmas that often leave the best of us bewildered and in need of a fresh perspective.

Dear Barb,

My sister is getting married next month and I can’t stand her fiancé. I feel really bad about this, but I just don’t care for him at all. He has never done anything to my sister or me specifically. I just find him very arrogant and at times he seems to be demeaning to my sister. This seems to bother me more than it does her. I love my sister very much and I don’t want to cause problems between us. How can I overcome these feelings and be more accepting of my soon to be brother-in-law?

Paul in St. John’s, New Brunswick

Hi Paul, thanks for writing. It’s good to hear from a man once in a while.

I think you’ve partly answered your own question. You need to be more accepting of your future brother-in-law. Remember, this is your sister’s choice — not yours. I don’t know if you are married, but if you are, how would you feel if your sister wasn’t accepting of your wife? I’m sure that would hurt your feelings very much.

You need to try to find common things that you can talk about or do together with your sister’s fiancé. Perhaps you both enjoy golf or bowling, or share an interest in carpentry or car racing.

Even though you find this man arrogant, sometimes arrogance is a cover-up for a deep-seated insecurity. You will never know if this is the case, unless you put forth the effort to find out.

There must be something in this fellow that your sister sees that makes her to want to marry him. Perhaps, you can also try to spend time with them as a couple. Participating in activities that you all enjoy will make him feel more relaxed with you. As a result, he may drop the exterior persona of arrogance, thus providing you the opportunity to see the person your sister fell in love with.

On the other hand, if he becomes abusive to your sister and you see that she is hurting, you may need to discuss this with her. However, if this situation arises there is only so much you can only do. Your sister is an adult, and has to live her own life and make her own choices. It is important to always be available for your sister, let her know she has someone to turn to.

Good luck Paul, and I hope I was able to help with your dilemma.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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