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Manipulating Sister-In-Law

Hi Vivian, 

Here is my question for you below. If you are able too, I would love to hear back from you in email as I tried to keep the question short but there were a lot more elements to my issue. I do not get along with my sister in law. We are well past high school yet she is constantly playing games that always gets me in trouble with my husbands family (eg I started going to gym with another one of my sister In laws and she told her husband – not me- that I was leaving her out, getting me in trouble by my husband – our partners are brothers) it’s been a long history of fights/bickering/bitching. I get told time and time again to “let go of the past” but for me, it’s so hard. Can you please give me some practical advice (other than “moving on”) to help me actually forgive and forget?

I can’t talk to my husband about how much I don’t get along with her. So I’m restricted about who I can talk to about it. She affects me so much that sometimes when I am forced to see her (at family gatherings) when I leave I am so down and just feel sad. She takes so much energy of mine and I can’t avoid her because her husband and my husband are brothers. But because she is of a different culture to mine and our husbands I am always expected to treat her differently (walk on eggshells so I don’t offend her) because she was raised in a different culture. 

My husbands family also treat her differently to me. For example, my husband and I married 2 years ago we are both 28 and just had a baby. We have been together for 7 years this November and we’re under no circumstances allowed to sleep over each other’s houses, hang out after 6 pm, be alone together until after we were married. But my sister in law was with her partner for 3 months and then fell pregnant. They were allowed to do everything that we weren’t allowed to do and so once they had their child they had so many issues because they didn’t get much alone time together. 

I feel cheated that I had so many more restrictions and am so over the family making excuses for her but I can’t talk to anyone about it. I know she isn’t a good person and she’s very entitled and ungrateful. 

I get so upset that it makes me feel like this and I can’t talk to her because I know I may come off as too aggressive. Can you please help.  

It seems there are several issues going on in this situation.  The biggest issue that I see right away is your sister-in-law is manipulating.  She knows she can get away with what she is doing.  She loves the reactions she is getting.  She takes enjoyment in pushing your buttons.

The first thing you should do is not react to her.  Don’t let her know that she gets to you because she will keep doing what bothers you most.  She knows the family likes her and will pacify her and not you, so you must not let that bother you.  There will come a time where she will push the envelope too far and the family will see the light.  I recommend being patient with that issue.

Now, let’s talk about going to the gym with the other sister-in-law.  You can go about it in two different ways.  One way is letting her join you and the other sister-in-law at the gym.  Pick out a really hard workout that you know she can’t handle.  Do the workout as if it were nothing and make her want to never come with you again.  This will end her complaining about not being offered to go to the gym.

The second option is letting your husband know that life isn’t fair.  If the sister-in-law doesn’t like that you don’t include her in the gym activities, then too bad.  You don’t have to do anything with her because she is not a nice person and you don’t want to involve yourself with that kind of negativity.  Let your husband know that she has a negative impact on you and you need positive energy only.

As far as being around her during family gatherings, I strongly suggest killing her with kindness.  You know how you feel when you’re angry with someone and they know but they are still being nice to you?  That drives you nuts, right?  So imagine how that would make her feel!  It would confuse the hell out of her!  I suggest to just act nice as if you are going after an Oscar award.  She won’t know what to do with that.

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