I have been married for two years now and my husband and I have a one-year-old boy. My sister-in-law has been helping me babysit since I reported back to work in July 2020. She got a job in October 2020 but the job did not last, so she returned to our home. We live with her to date. I do most of the house chores though she helps sometimes. We decided not to employ a house-help so that we could save towards taking her to college next year. She is 23 while I am 28.
My main problem is that my husband does not understand me when I tell him about any conflicts I have with his sister. He says they are petty. One day, he even told me to take a break from watching a TV series I like so that his sister could watch a movie. He told me this in her presence. Worth noting is that she was home the whole day while I had just come from work that evening.
The other day she blocked my mobile phone line while trying to access my phone to use the internet. She did not even apologise and my husband sided with her and claimed that I have changed and was creating problems where there were none.
I feel betrayed. I feel alone sometimes in my marriage. In public he always defends his sister but has my back in words. I also feel that I am more proud of him than he is of me and feel as if he values what his family thinks of him that what I think of him. I do try not to make him choose between his family and I, but I need him to be fair. I am afraid of the future. If he cannot be open-minded and be just now, what does the future hold for me in case problems arise between me and his family?
Thank you for your question. Discord with in-laws is one of the most recurring complaints that couples have and is responsible for many marital breakups.
Sometimes this discord revolves around one side of the family more while the other feels excluded for a variety of reasons. First, close-knit family ties tend to be difficult to break. It appears that is why your husband and his sister seem as if they gang up against you. Second, a desire to protect one’s sibling in case of perceived mistreatment is common. May be your husband feels that you are too harsh on his younger sister.
The remedy for a relationship such as yours is not straight forward. I sense your desperation regarding how your husband and sister are treating you. It is important that you dedicate concerted and concentrated effort to rebuild the broken-down communication avenues. Additionally, empathy is required. Listening to each other and asking each other to imagine what it would feel like to feel uncared for is a good place to start.
It is important to stop blaming or finger pointing and instead re-establish dialogue, trust and fellowship on common issues that you seem to agree on. When trust and fellowship starts to return, share your feelings on what is bothering you, but be careful not to overcrowd the table with too many issues. Share little by little while including bits of praise and gratitude on issues accomplished, however small they may be.
Breaking with certain traditions or practices doesn't come easily, your sister in-law may be 23, but may be immature and in need of a lot of guidance. Try and see in her what could be an immature and egocentric sister who thinks that the whole world should revolve around her.
What I see is a heart that is wounded by the feeling of exclusion instead of one willing to commit to create a cordial and loving environment in her home. You and your sister-in-law should find activities to do outside of the home environment. Win her as a friend and you will in turn win your husband.
Am I advocating for behaviour that lacks accountability? No, all I am saying is that you get more from a friend than a foe. Do to others what you would wish they did to you if you were in their situation. I suggest that you first learn how to teach by example. This is the one significant way you can enhance your relationship. Second, do not let your distress control your responses. Third, instead of blame, learn to talk about your feelings in a courteous way. Fourth, listen to yourself by talking through statements before you utter them, this will solve the problem without throwing a punch.
Why would your sister in-law desire to change how she lives her life? In fact, why would your husband desire the same for her? I believe your example is key and could be the attraction she needs to desire to be like you.
Someone once said, “When you take your blind fold off, you will see the light more clearly.”
That is why we need to stop focusing on the bad in people and start seeing what they were meant to be or could become. When we do this, we will not let our circumstances erode our relationship, rather, we will face this circumstance and change it.
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