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Dear Wendy

Sister-in-law is driving me nuts

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  • #858879 Reply

    I need some advice on how to deal with my pushy sister in law (SIL). Every year she gets upset with us about not spending Christmas with her family and obviously what I’ve been saying hasn’t sank in with her. Here is some background:
    My husband J and SIL are the only children of their parents. SIL is 9 years older than J; both are in their 40s. She is married, has one daughter and two granddaughters. SIL and her family live about a 6 hour drive away from us, in good weather. My husband and I have been together for 13 years and have one 2-year-old daughter and I’m currently pregnant. Their parents live 5 minutes away from us and my parents live 4 hours away in the other direction.
    Before we started a family, I would travel to see my parents for Christmas because it was one of the only times I ever got to see them due to distance and schedules. We would see each other maybe 3-4 times a year. My former home was not big enough to accommodate company overnight. During these years, my SIL and her family travelled to our town and spent Christmas with their parents. They always stayed for a week or two, and we always saw them after Christmas and for New Year’s. My husband was given the choice to spend Christmas with me and my family during this time, or stay with his family. He always chose to go with me, because he spent the rest of the year with his family. His sister is on disability and spends a couple months of the year total in our town with their parents, often bringing her family with her.
    In 2016 when I was pregnant, we travelled to SIL’s house and spent Christmas with them. It was a nice time but to be honest, her home really can’t accommodate so many guests either.
    In 2017 my daughter was born and we made it clear that we would be staying home for Christmas from now on. We are in a large house that can accommodate lots of guests. My parents have chosen to drive to spend the holidays with us.
    SIL’s youngest granddaughter is 4 and has a father in the picture who wants access to his child at Christmas. She feels she is “trapped” at home now, so my husband’s parents always travel there to spend Christmas with her. Then they often turn around and drives to our town after the 25/26th to spent more time with her parents and get out of her town for a while, which she always wants to do.
    So every Christmas my SIL gets her husband, daughter, both granddaughters and her parents. Then she sees us during the holiday season. And yet it still isn’t enough. She thinks my husband and I, and now my daughter, should be travelling to her place every other year for Christmas. I’ve made it very clear that she already gets a lot more family than more than most people do at Christmas and that she is overstepping big time, but it never seems to get across. The time we spend with them during the holiday season is also never enough. The fact of the matter is, we are so far down the list in terms of who is really important in her life to spend Christmas with, why is she making such a big stink about it?! It’s driving me nuts and frankly I don’t know what else to say about it. Any help would be appreciated.

    #858884 Reply
    avatarron
    Guest

    No reason you should feel obliged to spend Christmas with your SIL, especially since your husband isn’t pushing this. At your age and with your own child, you should be building traditions in your own home.

    #858888 Reply
    avataranonymousse
    Participant

    Just ignore her, but actually your husband should be the one playing interference here. You don’t have to drive 6+ hours (more like 8+ with a two year old!) in the winter while pregnant. Who cares how upset she pretends to be over it? Don’t worry about it. No one in their right mind is going to think less of you or your husband for avoiding that drive.

    “I’m sorry, with a toddler and one on the way, we will not be making that drive anytime soon!”

    “I’m afraid that doesn’t work for us.”

    Let your husband take this off your plate.

    #858890 Reply
    avatarktfran
    Participant

    This is your husband’s problem to manage, not yours. Tell him he needs to handle your sister, especially since it seems like you’re both on the same page.

    #858891 Reply
    CurlyQueCurlyQue
    Participant

    Yeah there’s NO REASON you should be talking to your sister-in-law about this at all. Your husband is the one that needs to run interference.

    Maybe it’d help to plan Dec 27th (or whatever day she arrives) in town as Christmas Part 2 where you all get together at your home and open each other’s presents. Explain that we understand with little children holiday’s get more complicated but we LOVE the idea of extending the Christmas season for everyone involved. (this also allows his parents to watch your child(ren) open presents etc) or something like that. Frame it as a positive opportunity and not a negative loss ya know? But again all this should be coming from your husband.

    #858905 Reply
    avatargolfer.gal
    Guest

    That was a reeeaally long explanation for a simple issue. I’m not really sure what the problem is. What do you mean she “gets upset”? Does she scream and yell, cry, or say hurtful/untrue things to the family about you? Or she just invites you and then is disappointed when you say no? If it’s the latter then the fix is pretty simple: decline nicely, and if she keeps bringing it up say something like “we wish we could but between Kid 1 and Baby it just isn’t in the cards. We can’t wait to see you on the 27th!”. Repeat ad nauseam. There’s no need to justify or explain further. If she gets unreasonably upset then end the phone call or stop texting, and don’t spend time worrying about other people’s unreasonable responses.

    #858915 Reply
    avatarEssie
    Participant

    You can’t manage other peoples’ feelings, so don’t try. You get to choose where and how you spend your Christmas. Yeah, she gets to have feelings about that, but that doesn’t mean you then have to change your plans to placate her. You were invited. You said you won’t be able to go. The discussion should have ended there. You don’t have any responsibility to make her feel better about the situation.

    And really, your husband should be dealing with her. And he should say – once – that he’s already explained what his family will be doing for the holidays, and he’s not going to discuss it further.

    #858990 Reply
    avatarFYI
    Guest

    Why does it drive you “nuts” because someone is disappointed? Take your own advice and focus on all the family you get to enjoy yourself, instead of focusing on the one thing you can’t control.

    #859026 Reply

    Thanks for your advice everyone. You all made good points that I will take with me. To answer one question, yes, SIL does lash out verbally, cries and badmouths me to the family. Whatever we (my husband and I) do that she disagrees with is MY fault, never her brother’s. I will stick to my guns, use some of the statements you all suggested and dispatch my husband to deal with future outbursts of this nature.

    #859027 Reply
    avataranonymousse
    Participant

    He should handle ALL of it, including taking the heat for the decisions you both make. Don’t respond to her at all. If she texts you about Christmas, have him text her or call her back. If she calls you, let it go to voicemail and have him call her back. She’s lost the privelage or discussing anything with you. Be calm, blank and pleasant in person but let him take the lead on everything related to her.

    Just be calm, cool and collected with everyone else. That makes it plain as day who is being unreasonable.

    #859044 Reply
    avatarbrise
    Guest

    It could help if there is no definitive stances like: “from now on we will be staying at home for CHristmas” or “she thinks we should be travelling to her every other year”. This is too rigid.
    This year isn’t working but perhaps at some point you can all make the effort again and book a hotel room? I think it is generous to allow family member to host alternatively, or at least sometimes, if it is important for them. And it shouldn’t be always for the others to make the effort of moving to visit you. Make it once for your husband, you know, people don’t live for ever and family time is important. So let it go now but don’t shut the door for ever and at some point, do visit her for Christmas.

    #859046 Reply
    avatarbrise
    Guest

    PS: especially as she is disabled

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