From the forums:
Shortly after my SIL moved in, we put our 1-year-old daughter in daycare. As is often the case, she kept coming home with colds. After about six months she developed serious pneumonia and was hospitalized for five days. After this, my wife and I decided our daughter would need to stay home for at least another year, so my wife transitioned to part-time employment and my SIL filled in all the childcare gaps. It wasn’t smooth, but after a year we put our daughter back in daycare and she was fine.
After another 6 to 9 months (I can’t remember exactly how long), my SIL was still living with us and it was creating problems in my marriage. My wife asked her to start looking for an apartment. After three months, she announced that she found an apartment and would move out. She chose to move out on my birthday when my mother and sister were visiting from out of town, but whatever. But then my beloved SIL insisted that she had to get back some shelves that she paid for, but I installed our office, and she had to have them on that day. She made a big deal of it, I got supper pissed, ripped them out, and left them on the porch for her. I didn’t see or talk to her for eight years.
My wife couldn’t not talk to her sister, so about two years after the shelf incident she called her up, apologized, accepted all the blame, and they continued their relationship. After eight years have passed, I agreed to my family for dinner with my SIL. My wife told me I can’t bring up the shelf incident because my SIL will just refuse to discuss it. Either that or she’ll just drop off the face of the earth again, which is okay with me, but would be crushing to my wife. So I played along and everyone pretended the last eight years didn’t happen which is fucking crazy.
About a year ago, she asked my wife if she could stay with us for a couple of days (she now lives across the country in NYC with all the other nutjobs), which turned into a week. Then, a few months ago she was speaking to our 7-year-old son and he invited her to stay with us, which she does for 2-3 days. Yesterday, she called my wife and asked if she could stay a day because she has an emergency meeting in our city and I think she is trying to save money on hotels. My wife is caught between the two of us. I want to tell my SIL to fuck off, but I can’t because of what it would do to my wife. Do I just keep bending over? — Over my SIL
If this is what you call “bending over,” then yes, keep doing it… and then some. I mean, one dinner after eight years of zero contact, and then two (short) visits in the span of year? In my book, that’s not really “bending over” at all; that’s called being a family member.
Look, I appreciate that your SIL pissed you off nine years ago when she overstayed her welcome in your home, created problems in your marriage, and then demanded you give back some shelves she purchased — and that you installed! — after crashing in your home for three years, I do. But I also see how you could take some responsibility for some of the bad blood between you. If you didn’t want your SIL staying in your home for three years, you shouldn’t have let her. And if you didn’t want to return the shelves to her or you didn’t want to return them THAT DAY, you should have said, “No,” rather them ripping them out of your walls and dumping them on her porch and not speaking to her for eight years. She’s your wife’s sister and your children’s aunt. It’s time for you to grow up and get over it.
Your SIL isn’t asking to stay at your house indefinitely again. She’s asking to crash for one night while she’s in town for a meeting. Is she trying to save on a hotel bill? Probably! Hotels are pricey and why would someone want to pay $150 or whatever for a room for a night when she could stay at her sister’s house and get to spend time with family she hardly sees?
You still have unresolved issues with your SIL and I get that. At this point, they probably aren’t ever going to be resolved. She doesn’t want to apologize and neither do you. Your wife has asked you not to bring up the shelf incident, so don’t. But what you can do is MOA. Nine years have passed now. If you want to ensure your SIL never crosses your boundaries again, do what you should have done over ten years ago when you allowed her to move in with you, and set some damn boundaries. Implement a houseguest rule — no more than three visits a year for no more than four nights each visit, for example (or whatever you and your wife agree on) and then tell your wife to share that with her sister. Then, when she asks to crash at your house because she’s going to be in town, you and your wife and your SIL have a clear understanding of what the limits are.
I know you would love to never see this woman again, but she’s your wife’s sister and your wife wants – and deserves to have — a relationship with her, which means you can’t avoid her. Things will be much, much more pleasant if you can just accept that now and make efforts to not be a jerk. You can’t control your SIL’s behavior, but you can control you own and you can control the way you react to her and you can control the boundaries you set.
And if you truly cannot stand the idea of sharing space with your SIL more than once every eight years, you might want to consider booking a guys’ weekend away or a trip to visit an out-of-town friend or family member when your SIL comes to town.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.