Help me learn to deal with my sister-in-law without going crazy! (Long background inside)
posted by alpha_betty to Human Relations (47 answers total)
Background: I have been with my husband for about 2 and a half years. When I met him, his younger, 19-year old brother, Mike, was engaged to his high school sweetheart. At family functions, things went smoothly and everyone seemed to have a good, relaxing time.
About a year into our relationship, Husband and I got engaged, to be married in August of the following year. This news was well received and I felt even more welcome in the family. His parents and brothers and I really got along. Six months after our engagement, Mike and his fiance broke up. He binge drank and fell into a bad place for a few months, and when he started seeing Sally, a 30-year-old punky-looking mother of 3, no one expected it to last.
About 3 months after he broke up with his fiance, Husband, Mike, Sally, and I went out for Mike's 21st birthday. Sally encouraged Mike to drink, and Mike got plastered while Sally maybe had one beverage. At the end of the night, we had to switch cars, so we went back to Sally's house to drop off Mike and take his car back to his house. That night, Sally gave us a tour of her house and showed us her kids' rooms (Jedediah, Mary, and Faith), and offered us wine and marijuana (Husband and Mike's family are very anti-drug, so this put Husband off of her immediately). We declined, but Mike continued drinking. In the span of time we were over, Mike stripped naked and Mike and Sally gyrated on the couch and floor almost but not quite having sex. Husband and I left.
A month later was Thanksgiving. The day before, Sally and Mike had announced they were getting married two days before Christmas (and 2 months into their relationship), and decided Thanksgiving was a good time for her and her kids to meet the family. When they showed up, the kids brought pictures to "Grandma Lastname" (who they were meeting for the first time) and Sally called Mike and Husband's parents, who she was meeting for the first time, Mom and Dad. Sally largely ignored Husband, his other 2 brothers, and me for the entire night, though we were all introduced to the kids as Mr. First name and Miss Betty (not Uncle First name, since his mom is "Grandma" - I didn't get it).
Another month brought their wedding, and then Christmas. The wedding reception was held at Sally's home and was extremely uncomfortable for me - portraits were being taken of the "new family" with all of the in-laws, yet I was not included. This hurt me deeply, considering that I felt close to Husband's family and I had been around for so much longer.
At Christmas, Mike and Sally gave Mike's parents a positive pregnancy test in a tin. His parents were excited, but Husband, his two other brothers, and I just sort of sat in shock. At one point she looked over to all of us and asked if we understood what was happening, I guess because she expected a better reaction. Someone asked when the baby was due, and Sally named our wedding date. Husband and I quietly excused ourselves for a walk and didn't return until Mike and Sally were gone.
Fast forward several months into the spring. A bridal shower was being thrown for me, and invitations sent about a month and a half in advance. Sally and Husband's mom were invited. I guess I should say at this point that Husband and I live about 4 hours away from his parents and brothers, so we didn't see them very much between Christmas and the spring. Husband's mom and dad are very excited to come up to visit and his mom to attend the shower, but I got no response from Sally. Two days before the shower Husband's mom called saying that she could come, but that she would have to leave immediately after my shower was over because Sally's baby shower had been planned for later that same day. I quickly knit a baby blanket and sent it down with Husband's mom.
During the summer, we were very busy getting wedding stuff done. Husband's mom would call us with periodic updates on Sally's pregnancy, which neither of us really wanted to hear. Pictures of us on the fridge and around his parents' house were systematically replaced with ultrasound pictures and colored sheets from the new grandkids, which really bothered me and slightly grated on husband. We were told that Sally may not make it to our wedding, because if she hadn't had the baby yet she wouldn't want to be moving around, and if she had already had the baby, she wouldn't want to leave it with a sitter. In addition, all summer Husband's parents badgered us to invite Sally's parents to our wedding (who they had been getting chummy with at Sally's insistence), and we declined since we didn't know them and had already had to cut people we DID know and want from the guest list.
Finally, the day before we were to leave to go down to our wedding (which was being held in Husband's hometown), Sally had the baby. We traveled to his parent's house with my mom and brother for last-minute wedding errands, and a barbeque was held the night we arrived for a meet-and-greet. Sally and her parents held court with the baby and her delivery story, while husband, my mom, brother, and I came in and got food, then sat for about an hour before being greeted.
At our wedding, lots of other crappy family stuff happened, including Husband's mom holding the baby the entire time and barely looking up, and having our MC, Husband and Mike's uncle, toast to Mike and Sally's marriage and baby before he "got to" us. However, the icing on the cake is that more than half of our wedding photos are of the baby, someone holding the baby, or Mike and Sally.
The holidays are coming again and I find myself not really wanting to be around Husband's family, particularly Sally. I feel like I am suddenly an outcast and like I'm not important because I haven't had any children. During family functions, Sally dominates conversation and it's hard to get a word in edgewise, even if I were more outgoing and less quiet. I feel like the newcomer, and I'm completely resentful of ever so many things. I have tried so much to get over this, including therapy, venting, ignoring it, avoiding them... but nothing seems to work. I no longer want to waste my energy being anxious, offended, or thinking about past or future interactions with her or the rest of my in-laws. I don't want to feel like this anymore.
The flip side to this is, I would really like to get close to Sally, and our nieces and nephews. I don't have any siblings nearly old enough to have kids, so these are my first. I'd like to be able to get along with her, but it seems like she doesn't really find me necessary or important and I feel shunned when she's around. I want the family to mesh and for things not to be tense. I don't know how to make this happen.
Can you help me identify what my problem is, and how to get over it? How can I be around Sally, and the rest of Husband's family, for the holidays without feeling like I've lost myself?