Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by film and writing student, Callie Schuette.
I’m having a little trouble with my boyfriend’s sister-in-law, “Marie.” Pretty much everyone in my boyfriend’s family likes me except this girl. I even get along great with her boyfriend (my boyfriend’s brother). I’m 22, my boyfriend is 23, she is 25 and my boyfriend’s brother is 38. I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost two years and they have been together for a little over a year before that. The thing is, Marie has made comments to her boyfriend about how I don’t talk to her directly when we are all together. It made me a little angry because she says those things but never really makes an effort to get along better.
Recently, she defriended me from Facebook. I didn’t think much about it (my boyfriend was not happy though) and eventually sent her a friend request without ever bringing it up to her. Some weeks later, she defriended me again. I’m really over this and would like to keep pretending things are normal, enjoying myself around my boyfriend’s family and not caring about what she thinks, but I’m unsure how to behave around her now. Also, her birthday is coming up next week and my boyfriend doesn’t want to go because of her defriending me. I don’t know if I should say something to her, or just keep smiling like nothing happened. I would prefer not to say anything because I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but I’m worried if I never talk to her about this it will only get worse. She has also defriended some of my boyfriend’s cousins from Facebook so I think maybe she just likes to keep her friend count to close friends only. Please give me some advice in how to handle this difficult person! It will be much appreciated. — Favorite Daughter-in-Law
To a degree, I understand your feeling angry about Marie’s comment, but rather than adopting the somewhat obstinate attitude of “What has SHE ever done for ME,” wouldn’t it be far more constructive to try and understand why she might’ve said it? If her problem is essentially that she doesn’t feel like you talk to her, wouldn’t it make the most sense to, you know… make an effort to talk to her?
That said, the whole Facebook thing does seem petty. You could be right; perhaps she does like to keep her friends list tight, but even so defriending you so quickly after you humbled yourself to refriend her is a weird move. And by this point, she may be too far resolved in her feelings of resentment toward you to really salvage the situation. In any case, I’d still recommend you put in some time to talk to her. You’ll be the bigger person in swallowing your sense of being victimized, and attempting to graciously move things forward. Although her birthday party is hardly neutral territory, it could look really good if you were to show up with lots of well-wishes or, better still, a gift (you could ask your boyfriend’s brother what she might like, which would definitely reflect taking an interest).
If she starts responding to your efforts then great! You’ll have yourself another friend in the family. You two may never be really close, but at least there won’t be any festering tension. If, however, more negative comments from her trickle their way down the grapevine to you, do your best to shrug them off and take comfort in the fact that you did or are doing your best to make things better. Or better yet, unless it’s something major, ask your boyfriend’s brother (or your boyfriend) to please keep it to himself. And if it is something major and you feel like you need to say something to her, write it down first and then wait a week to distance yourself. If upon reviewing what you wrote, anything comes across as accusatory, reaching, condescending, self-pitying, or otherwise weak in character, don’t say it. Best to avoid giving her anything else to hold against you.
Whatever you do, avoid being petty or passive-aggressive (which means no ignoring her entirely); if you really are serious about your boyfriend, and she really is serious about her boyfriend/husband (I’m sorry, is she married to your boyfriend’s brother or not? If not, I’m not sure you understand what “in-law” implies… but I digress), you two will be seeing a lot more of each other in the future. It’s not worth it to build a foundation for years of ongoing, stifled nastiness. If she insists on fostering drama, then the best you can do is to keep your head above the fray and continue killing her with kindness (so to speak).
*Callie is a 21-year-old student and aspiring comedic screenwriter from Austin, Texas. She’s pretty well-practiced in the art of giving advice (thanks to her friends, family, and the odd stranger) and attributes her enjoyment in doing so both to her deep sense of empathy and her somewhat nerdy love of analyzing things. She also enjoys excessively long car rides, sweet thai chili sauce, and space westerns.