How do you deal with strained relationship because of a in-law?
December 4, 2012 10:26 AM Subscribe
My sister-in-law is not fond of my girlfriend and it's affecting my relationship. I'm hoping to get perspectives from others that may have experience with a similar situation.
posted by miit to Human Relations (57 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry in advance for the long post.
My GF (30's) and I (M/30's) have been together for about a year and a half. My brother and his wife have been together for about 10 years - so I've known my SIL for a long time. I've never been overly fond of her, but we've gotten along just fine.
For a while now it's been pretty clear that my SIL is not a fan of my girlfriend, with no real reason behind it. I think it's a jealousy issue, but don't really know. After bringing up the issue with my brother, he claims that my GF has seemed a bit cold and stand-off'ish in the past, but I have not witnessed this at all. In fact, my other family and my friend get along very well with her. I do see that my brother tries to engage in small talk and to be generally more polite ever since I talked with him about it, but his wife is still just cold - which is interpreted as rude and disrespectful by my GF, I don't necessarily disagree.
So, here's where the problems come in. My GF feels like I don't put her first and that I don't defend her when she, in her own words, "is being treated like s$@t". And that I send my brother and his wife the message that it's OK because I don't say anything. I readily admit that there are things I've done that would make her feel that way. For instance, a few months ago I sent my SIL a birthday present. My GF's birthday is the day after and all she got from my brother and his wife was an e-card. My GF didn't know I had sent a gift, but when she found out, she was quite upset. It's not that she wanted a gift or anything, but she feels like I was rewarding my SIL for bad behavior and she feels like I try to keep peace with my brother and his wife at her expense. I probably should have said something to my brother then, but didn't.
I think from my brother's point of view, my relationship is still relatively new and my GF kind of needs to "pay her dues" (my words, not his). My GF's solution is for me to essentially tell-off my SIL and basically give my brother the ultimatum of "you treat my girlfriend better or I will treat my SIL the same way". The problem I have with this is that I am naturally conflict averse. My brother and I are close and I don't want to have a strain on my relationship with him because his wife doesn't know how to play nice. Also I feel like this type of approach may backfire and make them dislike my GF even more. I was feeling like things were getting better since my initial discussion with my brother and wanted to give it more time. My GF has obviously reached a breaking point.
I know I need to have another discussion with my brother at some point soon, but there never seems to be an appropriate time (I know the e-Card thing would have been a good time). Ultimately, if this woman is important in my life, they should treat her accordingly - unless there was some issue or incident that would make them behave otherwise (which, as far as I can tell, there is not).
But, here's the other problem. My GF has a temper (don't want to get into details, but she's dealing with it), and I feel like we have a hard time communicating through this particular issue because she gets emotional and will say unproductive and somewhat hurtful things to try to drive her point home. I understand that she feels hurt, but I have a hard time wanting to try to work things out when she gets into that mode. My reaction is usually to shut down and not say anything - which I know is just as unproductive, and I'm working on that as well. However, it feels like no matter what I say, she just gets more upset and my only option is to wait it out. Some days I just feel like it would be easier to walk away from the whole relationship. I realize, though, that my brother and SIL are a primary factor in this issue and this may just happen again with any new relationship.
Can anyone who has dealt with a similar situation offer any suggestions or perspectives to dealing with this?