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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: My Brother-in-Law Is Taking Advantage of My Husband

Dear Stavroula,

My husband is a quiet and sweet man, very diligent and successful in his business. Until recently, I had no complaints about his behavior. But his little brother has been in our lives for a year now, and that’s when the problems started. My brother-in-law, after closing his own store, asked my husband for help and he, along with my mother-in-law, persuaded him to give him a job in our business. My husband, although I had objections when we discussed it, accepted because the business he owns was his father’s before he died and he felt he had a duty to help his brother. He got him a job with a very high salary, without a trial period first, as I had suggested. At work my brother-in-law contributes nothing and only creates problems. He comes in whenever he feels like it, speaks harshly to employees, plays the boss, and is inconsistent with what he promises to customers. Every time I talk to my husband about the problems created by his brother, we quarrel. He rationalizes the situation and takes his brother’s side, saying he’s been through a lot, he’s now learning the job, but I feel like he’s using us. We work hard and he’s having a good time. I’m very angry with my husband for not listening to my opinion when I ask him to tell his brother to leave, even as I work in the same business and have contributed to its success. What can I do to make him understand that his brother is exploiting him?

Evi

 

Dear Evi,

The fact that your husband wants to help his brother in a difficult situation is not negative. He is a successful business man and has kept the family business, so he feels obliged to support his brother and give him the opportunity to work. He is very humane and reasonable. It shows a man who respects and loves his family, who takes responsibility seriously and is giving. By asking him to kick his brother out of the job in the business their father founded and at a time when your brother-in-law has no alternative, you are putting your husband in a difficult position and not helping your relationship.

As for the problems that arise at work, you write to me that you argue with your husband every time you try to discuss it. In these cases, however, the way you refer to your husband’s family is of great importance. If you talk to him in an aggressive way, if you use offensive words about his brother, even if you are right, it is reasonable for your husband to take a defensive stance or refuse to admit that this is the case. Even when we complain about our own family, we do not readily accept someone else criticizing them. Therefore, it would be good to present the problems to your husband objectively, discuss the situation calmly and with understanding. Ask him to suggest solutions, without blaming his brother or himself for choosing to bring him into your business.

Unfortunately, we do not choose our relatives and we often need to get along with people who are manipulative, such as your brother-in-law. Sometimes we refuse to see the truth about these relationships, at other times we may know that a relative is “exploiting” us and allow it for various reasons, such as our reluctance to get into a conflict, or we fear losing that person from our life. When it comes to our family, things are even more difficult. I do not know why your husband chooses not to clash with his brother if, as you write to me, the behavior of your brother-in-law creates problems in your work. You could probably ask him why he keeps this attitude in a calm and honest conversation without verbal attacks or accusations.

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