Dear Barb – Sister-in-Law’s Demands are Crowding Marriage

Dear Barb,

I hope you can help me with my problem. My sister-in-law is driving me crazy. Steve and I have been married for over 20 years. Steve’s father died when Steve was quite young. Therefore his mother and older sister raised him. His sister never married, but ended up taking care of the mother until her death.

Steve’s mother and sister have always been a big part of our lives, but things changed drastically a couple of years ago when the mother passed away. Now Steve’s sister calls or comes over every day. These are not brief visits and when she calls she talks to Steve for hours, asking him questions about every aspect of our life. I’ve tried to talk to Steve about the fact that I don’t want his sister knowing everything about us. He doesn’t understand, but instead gets angry and says that I don’t like his sister. It’s not that I don’t like her, but I feel like there are three of us in our marriage. I don’t mind him having a relationship with his sister, but this is just too much. What can I do!

Patty

Hi, Patty. In-laws can be a pain, as you obviously know, but they are a part of our lives that we can’t avoid.

You are in a delicate situation, as is your husband, who most likely is feeling sandwiched between the two women in his life. He may feel more of an obligation to his sister than most brothers do because she was the one that raised him and took care of his mother, ultimately allowing him to have a life of his own.

It appears as through your sister-in-law does not have much of a life. Perhaps you and your husband could encourage her to become involved in activities where she would meet other people. I imagine your husband is exhausted from having to deal with his sister on the phone or at your home for extended periods, consequently not leaving him with much time for you.

Unfortunately, I really don’t think you will be able to resolve this without outside assistance. Your husband feels you don’t want him to have a relationship with his sister, but you state this is not the case. I believe you just want to be a priority, which you should be as his wife. Moreover, I believe your husband is trying his best to make everybody happy and keep the peace, but he is obviously not able to achieve this.

I would recommend that you discuss this situation with your family doctor, who will be able to refer you to a professional counsellor. I feel confident you will be able to establish some boundaries and work this situation out to everyone’s satisfaction. Best of luck, Patty.

Email your questions to voice@voicemagazine.org. 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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