Dear Barb – Grudge-in-Law

Dear Barb:

My sister-in-law hasn’t spoken to me in thirty years! She also hasn’t allowed my brother to speak to me! we’re virtual strangers now, because we haven’t been a part of each others? lives. This became apparent recently when we ran into each other at the mall. Following an initial hug and a few tears my brother and I were left wordless. The worst part is this happened because of a stupid event. At that time I had recently gone through a bitter divorce and my brother and sister-in-law hired my ex-husband as a real estate agent to buytheir new home. What upset me was that they didn’t tell me they were dealing with my ex; I heard it through my young daughter who had been visiting her father and overheard a conversation between her dad and my sister-in-law. I realize she doesn’t have to ask my permission to use my ex-husband’s services, but I feel it would have been considerate to let me know they were dealing with him. I told my sister-in-law how I felt and she had a melt down and said It’s none of my business and that my ex will always be their brother-in-law. I didn’t really intend to invoke this response; I was just sharing my feelings with her. This was thirty years ago! She still will not speak to me. Why would someone be so vindictive to actually carry a grudge for thirty years? Thanks Mary Ann.

Hi Mary Ann:

Wow, that is a long time to carry a grudge, but, unfortunately, many people do exactly this. Often holding grudges make people feel powerful, as there is a sense of power in being the wronged person, the victim. When, in reality, the anger and bitterness a person feels as a result of holding onto wrongs or perceived wrongs is only preventing any healing from occurring. For example, if your sister-in-law had simply discussed how she felt without overreacting, you both would have been able to move forward from this event and been a part of each other’s lives and your children would have grown up with each other. Your brother owns a part of this as well. He could have told his wife he wanted to see his sister and her family. His wife likely would have resisted at first, but if your brother had maintained a relationship with you, his wife probably would have come to realize that a healthier alternative would be to join her husband and accept the reality that people are human and life doesn’t always go according to your plans. Thanks for your question and Good luck Mary Ann.

“If you withhold love as a form of punishment, who is being punished?”
― Donald L. Hicks, Look into the stillness

Email 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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