I have a younger brother with whom I was very close, until he got married three years ago. From the beginning I understood that my sister-in-law did not want to have much to do with my family and especially with me, but I accepted it because I saw my brother was happy. Besides, my brother would visit and talk without her being present. Lately, however, our communication is waning. When I asked him why he was avoiding me, he started making up some stupid excuses, until I pushed him and he more or less told me that his wife has a problem with me. She thinks that I am turning him against her and that she does not want us to visit without her. And he does not want to clash with her, because when they argue she makes such scenes that he cannot stand it. That’s why he thinks it’s best to avoid me and stay with his wife.
I was very hurt by his behavior. As much as I want to understand him, it hurts me a lot that he let someone else interfere in our relationship in such a way. I do not understand why my sister-in-law brought us to such a point, I do not know how to handle it, I do not know if I should talk to her or just accept losing my brother…
The sister-in-law relationship is a difficult one as two probably completely different people are invited to socialize with each other and have a good relationship. Each of them has her own character and influences from the environment in which she grew up. For example, if your sister-in-law grew up in a family environment where her mother suffered from a bad relationship with her husband’s family, it makes sense to be wary of her husband’s family, especially if she perceived some behaviors in his family as threatening for her relationship.
And everyone has the right to choose to keep her distance from her partner’s relatives, if she so wishes. However, things are different when she starts interfering in her partner’s relationship with his own family, as you write to me that your sister-in-law does.
There are many reasons why she would do this. There are people who cultivate toxic relationships with their partner because they feel insecure and constantly seek confirmation or are egocentric and believe that the world only revolves around themselves and their problems. They often try to isolate their partner from their environment and when what they want is not done they break out in an excessive way, often trying to manipulate the other emotionally, which in some extreme cases can even reach physical violence.
But regardless of your sister-in-law and the factors that determine her behavior, in all this your brother also plays a key role. Why did he make this compromise with his wife’s wish, if he wishes to see you? Is he generally submissive and avoids conflicts, finds it difficult to set boundaries, and generally adapts to the demands and wishes of his partner or others? What does he think about what your sister-in-law accuses you of? Does he feel that you can interfere in the relationship between him and his wife and maybe negatively affect him?
In any case, your brother would do well to set boundaries and clarify his position. But if he cannot do it at the moment, give him the time and distance he asked for. It does not mean that you will lose him. Show him love and respect, assure him that you respect his wish and that you are always there for anything he needs. Avoid talking to him about his wife. If he has a problem and wants to share it with you, he will do it.
If you decide to talk to your sister-in-law, do it with love, without selfishness and aggressive behavior. Approach her, talk to her about what interests you both, show her that you accept her as your brother’s partner. Try to ‘listen’ to what is behind her words or behavior and understand it. Sometimes relationships are ruined mainly by misunderstandings and dysfunction in communication.
Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional Life Coach, ICF ACC, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor and Trainer, and Certified Points of You Practitioner.