“My Husband and I Hate His Sister’s Boyfriend”

My sister-in-law is 20 years old, is a junior in college, and is dating a man 10 years her senior. They have only been together for a year, and she just announced that she is expecting. Though we have only been around him a few times, her boyfriend is non-engaging, gives one word answers to questions, and does not appear very interested in her. My husband is 15 years older than his sister and has been a parental figure in her life. When she announced her pregnancy, he called her boyfriend and asked him to meet so that they could discuss his intentions. He asked for the boyfriend to get back to him within a week with a date and time that worked best to meet; the man never called him back.

After a week passed he called, the boyfriend again and told him that he was disappointed that he had not heard from him. The boyfriend stated that he was too busy to call him back. This angered my husband, who told him that he did not appreciate the excuse. This prompted the boyfriend to call my husband a racial slur and it led my sister-in-law not to come over for the holidays. I reached out to her to check on her, and she opened up about how stressed she was that there was disagreement between my husband and her boyfriend.

I organized a sit-down to try to resolve the differences. This did not go well as the boyfriend told my husband that he did not like him, that he did not want to be a part of our family, and that he thought that we were too sensitive when we explained that we were offended by the racial slur. He also proceeded to tell us that he himself has no family values. My sister-in-law is conflicted by her love for this man, and she refuses to see our concern and worry. I want to be supportive of her, but I do not want to have much of anything to do with her boyfriend. Please help! — Worried About SIL

The boyfriend sounds like a jerk at best, but I have to say: you and your husband have crossed the line of what’s appropriate here. Your husband asked the boyfriend to meet him to “discuss his intentions”? Really? Your husband is his sister’s brother, not her father, regardless of their age difference. And not only that, the boyfriend’s “intentions” are really not any of your husband’s business. His sister is 20, not 12. I get that she’s still very young and that you and your husband feel protective of her and concerned for her, but bypassing her and going straight to the boyfriend is not the way to show your concern. It’s disrespectful and it immediately puts the boyfriend on defense, as does an “organized sit-down” to “resolve differences.” A more appropriate way to handle and express your concern would be to talk with your SIL about what her intentions are and what her plans for the future are in regards to her boyfriend. Then, you could offer support in whatever way she might need.

Now that you and your husband have managed to alienate the boyfriend — who, again, doesn’t sound very charming, to say the least — you need to back off or you risk alienating your SIL, too, at a time when she probably needs your support the most. As you said, your SIL is conflicted by the love she has for this man. And even if their romantic relationship doesn’t last, he is going to be the father of her child. Regardless what your feelings for this man are — and it sounds like your husband has made those feelings quite clear — your SIL needs to retain a cordial relationship for the benefit of her unborn child. You and your husband can help by shifting your focus from grilling the boyfriend or telling him how much you dislike him and don’t want him to be part of your family to offering support to your SIL, such as helping her create a registry/list of baby items she’ll need, accompanying her to childbirth classes, spending time with her, asking her what her concerns are, and offering any financial guidance or assistance you can afford to. Also, don’t bad-mouth her boyfriend and don’t offer advice unless she asks for it. You’ve made your feelings known, and, if she wants to hear more about them, she’ll ask.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

    So even though the boyfriend sounds super sucky, I find myself rooting for him because the two of you sound so terribly intrusive and can’t even see the line of boundaries from where you are. Take a step back, let the 20 year old adult live her life and stop alienating her if you want to be involved in her life. Trying to control and micromanage her life is not the way to do that. Take a step back and be a positive person in her life instead of adding so much stress by trying to make her live life how you and your husband want her to.

  2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

    Yeah, the racial slur here is a red herring, LW. Your husband was wayyyyyyyy the fuck out of line here and has severely fucked up. He needs to man up and sincerely apologize to the boyfriend and stop acting like such an obvious asshole. Honestly? After his absurd behavior — how are you truly surprised that the boyfriend doesn’t like your husband? Seriously, who would?

  3. I understand your husband’s protective instincts regarding his sister because I have male friends who’ve told me they’re willing to even hurt someone who hurts their little sisters.
    But you’re going about this in the wrong way. You are just angering the jerk of a boyfriend and by extension, upsetting your SIL as well. You think you’re helping her and you think she should appreciate your concern, but it doesn’t work this way. Stop for a minute and see how it looks from their point of view: The boyfriend, who although seems to be a jerk from what you describe of him, and whom your SIL loves and who child she is carrying, is being constantly put on the spot and almost “attacked” by you two without him actually having done outright wrong. Look, whatever jerk he might be, he won’t change because you “have a talk with him”, as Wendy said it puts him on the defensive line and whatever bad qualities he has, they’ll just become worse instead. Being put on the spot doesn’t bring out the best in anyone!
    So you need to be more clever about this situation. You are worried that your SIL is dating a person who isn’t good enough for her. That’s a fair concern. But you can’t do anything to change him as a human being. However, you can be there for your SIL instead. If he really is as bad as you describe him, this means that she might have hard times in the near future. She might be mistreated by him, left alone, unsupported etc (again, nothing you can do abou this!) But don’t you prefer your SIL to feel she has someone to talk to and to support her at these times? By acting the way you are acting, you are slowly losing her trust, she sees you as less reasonable and down-to-earth people she can talk to. Instead, do exactly what Wendy has said, transfer all your negative feelings and worry into being the BEST support system she could have, because it seems like she will need it. That’s all you can do for now, and yet it might pay back big times in the very near future, you’ll be doing more than you think.
    (and don’t aggravate the boyfriend either, if you can’t force yourself to be nice to him, at least stay neutral)

  4. I’m inclined to give the boyfriend a pass on ANYTHING he said to the LW’s husband, since what the husband did was so far out of line. Holy cow, I would have (verbally) torn his head off, too.
    LW, you know what ‘being supportive’ is? All the things Wendy mentioned. And most importantly, keeping the lines of communications open, so that if things do go south with this guy, she feels comfortable coming to you for support. Your husband has now completely blown that, by being a pompous, condescending a$$. He’s driven a huge wedge between his sister and her family, just when she needs them most.
    She’s an adult. Who she marries and/or reproduces with is NONE of your husband’s business, and none of yours, for that matter. It doesn’t matter if you ‘approve’ of him or not. If you love her and want to support her, than do that. Preferably without the condescension and judgement.

    1. you said it perfectly. LW and her husband need to keep their “family values” to themselves or they”ll destroy their own family

  5. Who the hell calls someone else’s boyfriend and demands they ‘discuss their intentions’? Even if you think you’re a ‘father figure’. If my dad had tried to discuss intentions with Othello, we both would have laughed him out of our lives for a while. And we started dating at a very young age. The only intention discussion that should be happening is between your SIL and her boyfriend. And you and your husband have to respect whatever decision they (as full fledged adults) reach. By meddling so much, you have only ensured that your SIL will not come to you if she has concerns.

    So here’s what you do. You both take a huge step back, apologize for being so intrusive, and do what Wendy suggested to help her prepare for a new baby. If she wants you to. If she says no, back off. And even if she does break up with this guy down the line, don’t bad-mouth him then either. He will be involved in your family from now on, since he’s the father of your unborn niece or nephew. So you’ll have to play nice, no matter what happens in the future.

  6. saracarolina500 says:

    Even if the SIL had any niggling doubts about the baby daddy, he has just become emminently more attractive because now it’s “us against them.” Nothing like adversity to make the heart grow fonder. Just watch…there’s going to end up being an element of, “I’ll show them I’m grown-up and can make my own choices!”

  7. Has anyone in the history of internet advice columns ever managed to LOSE the high road to an openly racist in-law? I feel like the husband should get some kind of award for achieving that impossible feat.

  8. I don’t think the older brother was necessarily out of line. He may have contacted the boyfriend because he suspected that this guy was not going to step up to the plate and leave the sister and her family to care for the baby. I think he did it because he has a legitimate concern.

    1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

      You can do that in much better way. And NEWSFLASH! The dopey little sister isn’t some fragile swan that “the man” — i.e. the big brother — must protect. Honestly? She’s “left” herself in this situation just as much as him…

  9. So, your 35 year old husband called his sister’s 30 year old boyfriend and asked him to meet to discuss what his intentions are? And when he didn’t get a response to meet he told said boyfriend he was disappointed in his behavior? Your husband sounds like he will make a good father. Some day. With his own children. Please listen to Wendy.

  10. Ok, so I have people in my life who are with not-so-great partners right now. One is married to a horrible guy and she is miserable, one is living with his significant other who is a mooch and whines if she doesn’t get her way. I’m not a fan of either significant other. Does that give me license to go in with guns blazing to tell them just how much I don’t like the person they are with? Hell no.
    I totally get WHY this raised red flags for you. I personally would also question a 30 year old dating a 20 year old. But asking the dude his “intentions”? Well, this isn’t 1970. I agree that he crossed a line with that. He’s her brother, not her dad. Sorry to say but SHE is the only one who can determine if this guy is right for her or not. I know it’s weird, I know it’s creepy. Yet in this case she has to learn these lessons herself. Your husband I’m sure had the best of intentions but at the same time he also in a way pushed his sister farther away from him by going to her boyfriend directly. She NEEDS people she can trust in her life right now. Assuming she keeps the baby, as a college junior she is going to need all the help she can get. Maybe start a conversation with her about her plans for taking care of the baby and where they are going to live and if she needs to get another job. Don’t let it be a scare tactic, but use it as a way to help her realize that a baby will turn her life around, suddenly and quickly. As a 20-year-old, my guess is that she doesn’t fully realize JUST how life changing this will be. Help her navigate through these choices and decisions.

  11. Wendy_not_Wendy says:

    Dear Wendy, I’m 20 years old and my boyfriend (who is ten years older) and I recently found out we’re going to have a baby. We’re happy about this, but my brother and his wife don’t like my boyfriend. Admittedly, he’s very shy and doesn’t always feel comfortable around my family; he isn’t close to his own family and doesn’t feel he has a lot in common with mine. He also knows they’re judgmental about the differences between us, though we’ve worked through that ourselves. Now my brother is angry because my boyfriend wouldn’t go and talk to him about his “intentions” (which are… to have a baby with me). Admittedly, my boyfriend probably shouldn’t have gotten angry and called my brother a cracker, but I think he was feeling judged and resents their assumptions about him. Now everyone’s angry at everyone. [as imagined]

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