My SIL lashed out at me bc I said I don't want to be yelled at.
October 7, 2017 1:23 AM   Subscribe

I've been yelled at by my sister in law twice (in front of my brother and kids once and in front of my parents, at my parents' home). I told her & my brother (his husband) in a short SMS that I don't want to be subjected to my SIL's anger anymore. Now I have to apologize if I ever want to see her again.

I thought I was being firm, asking for respect and now I'm not so sure.
Am I responsible for the distress I caused to my SIL for pointing the fact she lashed out at me for no (apparent) reason?

I understand that during a bout of uncontrolled anger we often behave and say things we regret afterwards, etc. Is it a reason not to say that it is not OK to behave so? (I still don't even know why I've been yelled at. I've just been told it's the way my SIL communicates).

I'm pretty traumatized by her yelling and content (especially w r t things she said about my disability) and my stomach hurts just thinking about all this again. All of this makes me pretty sad and disoriented, I was so looking forward to getting to know my SIL. My whole family walks on eggshells around her actually.

I am not sure what to tell them that is not an apology (or should I apologize? Am I too proud?) but that also says I don't want to be yelled at unless for a good reason (ie if I make a huge mistake). Or should I just shut up and not reply to my SIL and brother's request?

Complicating factors (that will probably be the subject of next AskMe) is that their kids LOVE me and are sad I don't come and see them.

Thanks in advance for your perspective, Mefites
posted by Ifite to Human Relations (55 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Who wants to see her again? Leave it, she's being totally inappropriate, you're being a bit of a doormat asking if you're out of line. Leave the kids out of this, it's her behavior not yours that is going to cause lack of contact if it comes to it. Have your brother sort that out if it's important to him. It may not be a fight he is willing to take, which would be sad but, again, not something for you to be involved in or stressed over.
posted by Iteki at 1:43 AM on October 7, 2017 [29 favorites]

What did she yell at you for?
posted by laukf at 1:44 AM on October 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

You mean if you don't apologise, you'll never have to be around someone who verbally abuses you and the whole family? Sounds like a win to me! I'd be downright ecstatic.
posted by Jubey at 2:09 AM on October 7, 2017 [66 favorites]

Am I responsible for the distress I caused to my SIL for pointing the fact she lashed out at me for no (apparent) reason?

I'm pretty traumatized by her yelling and content (especially w r t things she said about my disability)
HELL to the no.

SIL is absolutely out of line. The fact that she's holding a relationship with BIL and kids hostage to her own pride is reprehensible, and your partner needs to step up and defend you here. You didn't mention the content of the yelling - maybe there's a conflict there that could be resolved further down the line, maybe with the help of an outside mediator or counsellor? - but violent, abusive yelling (especially about your disability, egads) is never called for, and you were right to set boundaries on that front. Please don't back down. You and your family deserve better treatment than that.
posted by nerdfish at 2:11 AM on October 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: The content of first yelling : I was preparing a cake with my nephew (with his parents' permission) and set the oven at xx temperature. My SIL who was passing by said it was too high and wanted to turn the oven down. I told her gently that this recipe required a pretty high temperature, and that's when she started yelling, saying things about me, my deafness, my parents, my SO. Ouch.
posted by Ifite at 2:14 AM on October 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

You haven't caused her any distress. She's just angry that she's not allowed to use you as a punching bag and that you actually called her out on it. If she were a decent person she would have apologised profusely before you even had to send that text (though good for you for sending it).

A person who makes it all about her like she is doing is not someone you want to know. She was rude to you, you called her out on it, now she's distressed? Only because the world isn't revolving around her. Don't let her manipulate you into apologising. She's awful.
posted by kitten magic at 2:17 AM on October 7, 2017 [35 favorites]

Now seeing your update, WTF? You weren't teaching your nephew to burn the house down. If she knew her oven had a quirk that meant you needed a lower temperature than you had set then fine, she could explain that. Her response was TOTALLY unhinged.
posted by kitten magic at 2:19 AM on October 7, 2017 [26 favorites]

She's scary. I don't think you should be around her. Those poor kids, imagine having her for a mother. Your brother needs to stand up to her.
posted by Jubey at 2:21 AM on October 7, 2017 [16 favorites]

After reading your update, I'd like to double down on HELL TO THE NO. Not okay.

You're sorry that SIL is upset, but you absolutely won't be spoken to like that. You're happy to reconnect when she's in a place to speak to you in a calm, adult way. End of story.
posted by nerdfish at 2:24 AM on October 7, 2017 [17 favorites]

Wow, no, if anyone should be apologizing it's her.
posted by Aleyn at 2:26 AM on October 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

... wait, what?

I could see someome, in a moment of panic, raising their voices because omg kids near fire - but that would be followed immediately by an apology once they'd calmed down.

Your SIL just has her knickers in a twist that for once somebody's standing up to her horrid bullying ass. I would NOT apologise. And tell your brother he needs to sort shit out with his wife if he wants to have a continued relationship with you.
posted by Tamanna at 2:38 AM on October 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I often apologize when I don't feel it's warranted, to appease the other person for my own sake.

There was a time in my life when I would have apologized in this case as well. I'm not sure what's happened between now and then but I wouldn't apologize to this woman if we were stranded on a desert island and she had all the coconuts.
posted by STFUDonnie at 3:26 AM on October 7, 2017 [18 favorites]

Everyone I'm sure will tell you how unreasonable your sister in law is, but I think you should also think more broadly about the effects on you.

I had family member that was causing me an amount of stress; it emerged that if I wanted to interact with them, I had to meet a certain set of conditions, or we couldn't interact at all. I initially tried to work around this, and compromise and I really felt wracked with guilt and disappointment about the whole thing - especially since I knew they were upset too.

In the end, I was clear about what I could offer, and it wasn't enough for them, and we haven't meaningfully spoken since. And you know, I still feel pangs of guilt and upset about it, but on a day to day basis my stress levels have gone way, way down. And I reflected recently that actually life has actually been much easier without those interactions. I didn't realise how much stress and tension I was carrying around about this relationship, and how I was always afraid, basically, of how and when it could go wrong and it was consuming a large amount of my headspace.

So no, don't apologise, this is not a pattern of behaviour that is acceptable in general, or to you. Also, sometimes it's good just to have a break for a while, it doesn't have to be permanent.

Best of luck
posted by smoke at 3:27 AM on October 7, 2017 [52 favorites]

Why would you want to see her again? Life is short, spend it on people who treat you with respect.
posted by windykites at 4:14 AM on October 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, no. Don’t apologize. But, for your nephew’s sake, do little things that show him that he has an aunt who cares- cards, small gifts, phone calls, that kind of thing. That kid is going to need an out sooner or later, best if he has an adult he can trust.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:28 AM on October 7, 2017 [15 favorites]

Response by poster: Ok Smoke, I cried when I read your comment. You described my situation to a T.

I didn't realise how much stress and tension I was carrying around about this relationship, and how I was always afraid, basically, of how and when it could go wrong and it was consuming a large amount of my headspace.

That's me right now. I'm thinking about this thing everyday and it eats me.

Thank you everybody for your comments, I guess I needed some validation, ah! I've been *assertive*, not unreasonable.

Next question probably will be about how to show my nephews and nieces I care without exposing myself too much to their parents.
posted by Ifite at 5:08 AM on October 7, 2017 [23 favorites]

Just to chime in: like other folks above, my first thought was, "so why would you want to see her again?!?"

She's a bully, plain and simple, and if you let her get away with this now --- if you were to give her that totally unjustified apology she's demanding --- then all that would happen is next time (and there would be many 'next times') she'll just keep getting worse.

No, it stops now: she can behave in an adult manner, treating other people with respect, or she can suffer the consequences of her actions.
posted by easily confused at 5:44 AM on October 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

She sounds horrid and damaged, but maybe there's a third way that future you, future brother/parents and the other future family members, including your niece/nephews, will be glad you tried before you throw in the towel. Can you invite her out for lunch or coffee, just the two of you, and try to work out some ground rules so future interactions are civil? Maybe people here can brainstorm a script. You don't have to be best buddies, and you should stick up for yourself. That said, this way might avoid having you perceived by the rest of the family as the one who created the strife that caused the cessation of all future Thanksgivings together or whatever. It's worth a shot. You can always go no contact in the future, but that's a hard dynamic to reverse.
posted by carmicha at 5:53 AM on October 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: so why would you want to see her again?!?

I don't want to see her again but I know this situation kills my parents and they would rather we have a bad relationship that no relationship at all (ugh) so we can have Christmas together. Honestly knowing my parents sad about this makes me double sad (more than, for example, knowing I won't play with my nieces and nephews as much as before).

On preview : and what Carmicha said
posted by Ifite at 5:54 AM on October 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't want to see her again but I know this situation kills my parents and they would rather we have a bad relationship that no relationship at all (ugh) so we can have Christmas together. Honestly knowing my parents sad about this makes me double sad (more than, for example, knowing I won't play with my nieces and nephews as much as before).

Sometimes we pay a charge of guilt or sorrow to avoid greater sorrow. That is sad for your parents, but they could also choose to do a better job standing up for you if this is so important to them.

You don't need SIL in your life; she sounds awful, and it's doing the kids no favors to witness this anyway. Gifts delivered via mail on birthdays and Christmas will do.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:01 AM on October 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

Your parents are leaning on the wrong person here: demanding you accept SIL's abuse to make them happy is the wrong way around; what they should be demanding is that SIL behaves in a civilized manner and refrains from yelling at & bullying other people in their home.

You aren't the problem here: that would be your abusive SIL and your guilt-tripping parents.
posted by easily confused at 6:30 AM on October 7, 2017 [49 favorites]

You are probably the first person in her life to stand up to her, and you did it gently (your words) and reasonably. Bravo for you!

I'd recommend against trying to brainstorm future interactions with her. You've already told her what your bottom line is, and you've seen what the outcome is. It's a kind thought, but it won't work. You'll get yelled at again--either for suggesting the idea, or during the negotiating, or after the negotiation, because there's no way she'll stick to any kind of guidelines--and you'll have lost all the traction you gained for standing up for yourself in the first place, and you'll have to do it again, or put up with abuse. And why? So a bully gets to have her own way again? I don't think so.

Setting boundaries is never easy, and it seems as though your parents (although I'm sure they're lovely people otherwise) don't understand about standing up for their loved ones. Wanting you to subject yourself to abuse so that they can be happy is . . . not good. Their wants should not factor into this decision.

You can have a separate Christmas with your parents, and you won't need to walk on eggshells during it.
posted by purplesludge at 7:18 AM on October 7, 2017 [11 favorites]

you have nothing to apologize for.

I will say this though -- and please correct me if I misunderstood the timeline -- is the idea that you sent a reproachful SMS some time after the yelling incident occurred? And you sent it not only to her directly but to your brother, in effect tattling on on her? If that's what happened, then... you're still within your rights, certainly, but it's not a great way to deal with it, and I wouldn't call it "assertive".

"Assertive" is telling her in the moment "Phyllis, back up" or "Phyllis, I'm not going to have this discussion in front of little Klamath, but we can discuss it in the other room if there's something you want to tell me" or "Phyllis, let's be adults, no yelling please." Sending the SMS later - especially to your bro - was something of an escalation.

And to clarify - I'm not saying she was in the right, or that you should apologize, or that she's not unhinged. She sounds awful and you should avoid her. But in the future with nasty people, I think it's better to say something in the moment, or not at all.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:24 AM on October 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

Any time the phrase "walking on eggshells' comes up, my opinion of the aggressive person immediately dives to a terrible depth. It says they have a long, long history of being aggressive, to multiple people, and said people enable them, because.... Family at any cost? If we stand up to them they get more mad? Dunno. It's really dysfunctional.

So no, screw SIL. Set those boundaries, and anyone who wants you to cave on them is not your ally, or even looking out for you at all. I'm sure someone will wail that you having healthy boundaries "RUINS XMASS" or tears the family apart, but hey, set boundaries on that kind of asshole manipulative behavior too.

Yeah, setting and enforcing these boundaries may cost you a lot of people you were close to. But it will most likely lead to a lot less stress and anxiety after all the toxic people get walled off.
posted by Jacen at 7:46 AM on October 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

My SIL is like this. She'll go off on vicious, unhinged rants that are set off by the most nothing things. Everyone is always terrible to her and she's never wrong. I've seen her be incredibly mean to my brother (her husband) and heard tales of what she does to my mother. I'm pretty sure she has borderline personality disorder. My brother, I think, is trapped in an abusive dynamic and tries to appease her/sides with her. They have two children. They're my mom's only grandchildren so she is determined to jump through SIL's hoops. She ties herself in knots trying to do things "right."

I've told my brother that I think the way SIL treats people is inexcusable and I won't put up with it. I have since agreed to accompany my mom on visits to be a buddy/witness in case if an event. My philosophy toward dealing with SIL is to be very polite & distant and limit time with her. My plan in the event of future blow-ups (and a tactic I've encouraged with my mom) is to immediately remove myself from her presence. Just drop everything and get out. I don't think there is any value in engaging someone like this. I do think there is value in calling their shit out separately. My SIL doesn't scream at her boss. She can control it. So, if I were you, I'd email brother and say, "SIL thought I had the oven temp too high. When I told her that was the temp the recipe called for, she screamed at me about my disability, our parents, and my SO. Her behavior was completely inappropriate and cruel. I will not apologize. It is not appropriate for her to treat your family like this. I love you and your children and hope that we can maintain a relationship. In the future, if SIL engages in similar behavior, I will leave. I hope this will be sufficient for us to resume visits. If not, maybe you and the kids can come over for dinner sometime."
posted by Mavri at 7:47 AM on October 7, 2017 [19 favorites]

She insulted you for being Deaf? Wow. Disturbing and clearly abusive. I'm so so sorry you have this terrible person in your life. You are not overreacting at all.

You might want to read up on dealing with narcissistic personalities.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:56 AM on October 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

It's not clear why your brother accepts her behavior towards you. It sounds like a very unhealthy family system. Perhaps she makes life unbearable for anyone who doesn't tolerate her behavior. It's likely that you are a threat to her status quo, in which she behaves appallingly, bullies everyone, and has no consequences. She will likely increase her efforts to make you accept her bad behavior.

Tell your brother, straight up, SIL raised her voice and said genuinely mean things to me, specifically intended to be hurtful. My behavior was reasonable and I don't have anything to apologize for. but be prepared to be excluded from your brother's life and your nephew's. Let your nephew know you love him and are available as a resource, should he need a friend. I would possible add, to your brother, that you deserve an apology from SIL because her words and actions were way over the line.

When someone upsets the balance in an unhealthy family system, it can seem to make it worse, but bringing it to light is really a step in the right direction. If you do end up spending time with her again, I strongly recommend Stop Walking on Eggshells.
posted by theora55 at 8:51 AM on October 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

You've been assertive and honoured your feelings, so congratulations.

I lived with a person who seemed capable, fun loving and charismatic but who kept me and everyone in her circle off balance with invented drama. It took me a looooooooooong time to realize how much energy I was expending and how badly I was contorting myself to keep her perpetually happy. A big part of my acceptance of the situation was due to the fact that I'd always been an introverted loner, so it wasn't difficult for her to convince me that her moods and her strange family dynamic was normal (if colorful) your in-laws are all locked into your SIL's dance and if you stand up to her, you're picking at the fabric of her power.

She'll make everyone miserable and demand they exert pressure on you. You'll be made to feel like it's you who's ruining everyone's lives but in the long run, I think you'll be doing the nephews and nieces more of a service by illustrating he proper response to abusive behavior.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:59 AM on October 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

>I told her gently that this recipe required a pretty high temperature, and that's when she started yelling, saying things about me, my deafness, my parents, my SO. Ouch.

God almighty. Just for perspective: that's insane; she's got emotional problems. Just reading it makes me mad.

Apologizing will just establish that she gets to be right no matter what, and can do whatever she wants. Nothing ever gets better from letting stuff like this slide. You're teaching the people involved what kind of treatment you will accept.

You're not obliged to accept abuse from assholes in order to spare your parents awkwardness and discomfort. People who care about you won't ask that of you if they're being their Best Selves. Anybody who wants you to put up with abuse in your own home deserves whatever amount of awkwardness and discomfort is required to get them to put their own feet down.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:48 AM on October 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

Complicating factors (that will probably be the subject of next AskMe) is that their kids LOVE me and are sad I don't come and see them.

Yes, those are complicating factors for her. She's the one who owes you an apology and if she doesn't see that, there's no reason for you to maintain an abusive relationship. Let her be the one to keep the lovely auntie away from her kids. Keep the lines of communication open with them and your brother as much as possible, and see them separately if you can. If your parents are worried about your relationship with the kids, tell them that you are happy to see the rest of your family, but your SIL has chosen not to see you because you won't put up with her abuse. Other people are of course free to make their own choices, but be proud of the fact that you're modelling positive boundaries for those kids. That is no small service in the long run if the environment in their home is anything like it sounds.

In short, this mess and drama is on her, let it land squarely where it belongs. Your behaviour is completely normal and healthy and does not require explanation. Hers does.
posted by rpfields at 10:05 AM on October 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

She is abusive. Don't apologize. She'll only use it as a door for more abuse.

Next question probably will be about how to show my nephews and nieces I care without exposing myself too much to their parents.

Tell your brother that regardless of what happens, that you'll always be available to your nephews and nieces. Send them letters and a gift on their birthdays. Understand she might intercept them, but send them anyway. Behave warmly toward them at family gatherings. In those contexts, let them see you put firm, but undramatic boundaries on the way you wish to be treated. It's a good lesson for them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:15 AM on October 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

Also I would not in the future even address the content of the argument with her--whether or not you were wrong for setting the oven high. That disagreement is not the problem. the problem is the way she treated you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:17 AM on October 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

Your SIL's behavior is a common tactic for abusers. There's even a handy acronym for it: DARVO. "DARVO is an acronym used to describe a common strategy of abusers: deny the abuse, then attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby reversing victim and offender." You were right to stick up for yourself; I'm sorry your family has decided to try to pacify your SIL by pressuring you.

I'd recommend using the "broken record" technique -- just keep repeating the same message. "[Family member], I love you very much, and I value our family. I'm simply not willing to be treated that way." There's no need for you to boycott family events or force SIL to apologize, but if SIL tries to do it to you again, just leave/hang up. "If you don't stop yelling, I will leave." Then leave. You should anticipate that SIL will use this as a reason to try to make your family take her side -- she is likely to see any boundary on her (horrible) behavior as a direct attack. This sucks -- I'm sorry. Do your best to not let it get to you -- it's quite possible that some or all of your family will come around eventually to seeing this abusive behavior for what it is.
posted by ourobouros at 11:19 AM on October 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

Maybe the rest of the family has been drawn in to to this sick dynamic and enables her horrible behavior, but you sure as hell don’t have to.

Nobody has a right to use your disability against you! Fuck her!

Don’t apologize— it won’t work anyway. Nice normal adults settle matters by apologizing. She’s not a nice normal adult.
posted by kapers at 12:01 PM on October 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

Your nephew loves you. You’re the aunt who makes him cake and doesn’t yell or say rude things. Try to see the kids in situations where you don’t have to interact with her.
posted by kapers at 12:03 PM on October 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

I read your comment describing what she yelled at you for, and literally gasped. No, you should not apologize! She was WAY out of line, and had no reason or right to yell at you like that. None whatsoever. Your SiL sounds toxic and abusive.
posted by sarcasticah at 1:42 PM on October 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Your parents and brother don't get off the hook either. They're willing to force you to into family situations with a person who is horrible to you and makes you miserable so they can pretend happy Christmases, instead of confronting your abuser, protecting you and dealing with the situation. Pretty disgusting behaviour.
posted by Jubey at 1:49 PM on October 7, 2017 [10 favorites]

I'm predicting a question from you in the next few weeks about whether or not you should skip Christmas and/or how to keep the peace during the holidays. So I'm just going to answer it now - don't you dare take on the emotional labor of trying to be the peacekeeper or worse deprive yourself of holidays and family time so that SIL can continue being her abusive self.

While she goes low you go high and present yourself at Christmas as happy and fun aunt who isn't taking SIL's bait at starting drama, but before you even get to that point, speak to each of your parents individually and your brother and let them know that this abuse is not acceptable and that they each need to make that clear to SIL. Not that they need to choose sides, but that your family as a unit will not tolerate it. And then she will need to be the one who has to decide whether or not she will skip Christmas, because you will not.
posted by vignettist at 2:05 PM on October 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Depending on your convenience, consider spending Christmas Eve or New Year's with your parents instead of a whole family Christmas.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:28 PM on October 7, 2017

Wild guess here, but sounds as if SIL is aware of and very jealous of the relationship you have with her kids, which could complicate plans to spend time with them (but not her) in the future. Good luck, this is not your fault.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 3:40 PM on October 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

I would not apologize. I would not concern myself with the "blame" for "ruined" family gatherings. Take this through the steps for each decision tree. Say you do apologize. Family gatherings will still be stilted and awkward with everyone walking on eggs shells. At some point in the near future, another bs issue will arise and you will again be asked to appease her for the sake of family. She will have learned that she is controlling all of the family dynamic. Say you refuse to apologize which is my recommendation. It will cause strife with your parents. SIL will be unhappy, but SIL SOL is too bad. She will eventually learn (or not) that you will not accept her bs and will stand up for yourself.

In the short-term, both decisions, apologize or not, will cause awkward family tension. But in the long-run, she will need to learn to respect people but especially you if she is going to have a relationship with you. You are not responsible for her miserable life.

Think about this. If all she is asking is that you apologize and then she will be back to whatever her normal is, there is something psychotic about that, that she can and will flip a switch just to train you to apologize for her bad behavior.

As for her kids, as they get older (how old are they now?) they will come to see their mother for who she really is and you for who you really are. Kids are very very perceptive.

I would not apologize. I would not even communicate with anyone regarding this drama. Just go silent to all those demanding you act in some way. You are presumably an adult. Make your own decisions. It is not about winning or losing. It is about being an adult, treating people with respect. Managing people out of fear always, always eventually fails.
posted by AugustWest at 12:37 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you Mefites for your invaluable help.
I’m feeling raw, sad - and scared. But you make me want to be strong.

My brother had several sleepless nights fighting with his wife about this, but he is aligned to what his wife asks (that is, excuses from me). SIL said that because of these fights, their marriage is in danger .

I don't know if I should just go silent / act as if I haven't been asked anything or if I send an email saying that I value my family but won't apologize. I know doing the second option will cause not only a strife in my family but also probably a huge fight between my brother and his wife.

...and I realize I'm considering options based on my SIL's scary reactions. Uh.
posted by Ifite at 3:24 AM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

SIL said that because of these fights, their marriage is in danger .

Wait, so if SIL doesn't get her way on the playground, she's taking her toys and going home? If their marriage is in danger it's not because of you.
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 3:44 AM on October 8, 2017 [17 favorites]

Reading your latest update, I can understand that as a compassionate human being, you are extremely concerned about the effects this situation is causing within your family. But this situation is emphatically NOT your responsibility to fix.

Papering over your SIL's abusive behaviour is NOT your responsibility. Making nice because 'faaaaaamily' is NOT your responsibility. The state of their marriage is NOT your responsibility.

Please do not let yourself be persuaded to drop your perfectly reasonable boundaries on behalf of a woman who sounds like she needs professional help.

My response to the "you're-threatening-our-marriage-with-your-healthy-responses-to-abuse" escalation would be something along the lines of, "Well, I'm sorry to hear that you're going through difficulties. Do let me know if you need me to care for nephew at any time as I'd be happy to have him to stay / whatever you're willing to do." You are perfectly in the right here, go about your business as normal and do not engage any more with this ridiculous drama.
posted by doornoise at 4:02 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Good grief. I suspect the best --- the only! --- thing you can do now is to refuse to continue the entire discussion: as you say, go silent and drop the whole matter. Not apologize, oh heck no!, because you are totally in the right & SIL is way over the top here, just refuse to participate in the drama she's creating while keeping your boundaries firm. If your brother or your parents or anyone else brings it up, just keep repeating "I do not want to discuss that", and then don't. Talk about something, anything, else; literally walk away if one of them keeps pushing you. Basically, don't feed the troll.

Oh, and about their marriage being "in danger": not your fight, not your monkeys. If it is in danger it's because maybe, just maybe, your brother isn't 100% kowtowing to her bullying and abuse.
posted by easily confused at 5:30 AM on October 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

Don't engage. Don't send the E-mail. That will just prolong the drama. You've said what was necessary (and good for you!). From now on, just maintain a dignified silence, move on to other matters in your life, and take satisfaction in knowing that you're demonstrating to your nephew how mature adults behave.

I know how hard it is not to get pulled into this, but from this point onward it's your brother's to handle. You are NOT the cause of the problem. She is.

Don't give in to the unreasonable demands--and they are unreasonable. What you see happening here, believe it or not, is actually predictable. People like your SIL will be furious that they don't have everyone toeing the line and knuckling under, so they escalate their bad behaviour. Let her. It's not your problem.

Remember: your boundary was so reasonable that you shouldn't have had to ask for it, it should have been a given. You handled it well. Take comfort in that.
posted by purplesludge at 5:50 AM on October 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

SIL said that because of these fights, their marriage is in danger .

I submit that the very worst thing for your nephew and your brother is for this marriage to NOT be in danger - for it to continue on SIL's terms, in total defiance of reality and with carte blanche for her to act in any deranged way she wants.

So, while these folks are not under your control and not within your power to fix, I do think that kowtowing to her now - to be an outside voice validating her version of things - would be an active harm.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:15 AM on October 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

If their marriage is in danger it's not because of you.

Amen to that. If she is choosing to put her marriage in danger of this, that's between her and your brother, not you. Your instinct to stay quiet and not engage further is the right one. Let them sort it out between them.
posted by rpfields at 7:46 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been in you brother's situation. If you knuckle under, you won't be helping him - you'll be reinforcing her power. She'll just invent some new drama at some point and again demand that he chooses a side.

From her view, reasonable boundaries are a huge threat. This must be hugely distressing for you but please stand up and demonstrate what reasonable boundary-keeping looks like.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:00 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Stay strong. Ignore this woman. One day your brother will thank you for it. So will your nephew/niece.

One more time, take a step back and look at the situation from afar. This woman is demanding an apology from you for her behavior. Insane. And, she is holding your brother and the entire family hostage. She is not even a blood relative. No. Just no.
posted by AugustWest at 9:32 AM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Mod note: Heya, just a quick gentle reminder here to take care about not inserting gender/pronoun assumptions into a question where the asker hasn't specified something.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:51 AM on October 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Nthing the folks who urge you not to engage, OP. People like your SIL want a fight and will make anything a fight. So stay silent and just ignore family attempts to drag you into this. Or tell your parents and brother that you're not willing to listen to/be involved in any SIL drama any more. And when it gets brought up, just chance the topic. Except slips, those are normal. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 10:32 AM on October 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

For emphasis and perspective:
You were baking a cake with your nephew. You set the temperature of the oven.
Your SIL told you that the temperature was wrong.
You replied that actually, it was correct.
Your SIL said, "Oh, gotcha, my bad," and walked away - oh, nope, she yeLLED AT YOU about your DISABILITY and YOUR SO and then DEMANDED THAT YOU APOLOGIZE and said that HER MARRIAGE IS IN DANGER if you don't.
Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? That. Is. Spectacular.
I know it can be incredibly confusing to see how twisted things are when your family is telling you that this is normal and you should capitulate. It's really hard to keep your head on straight in that kind of scenario. But this is twisted, and abusive, and incredibly not-normal and not-okay.

Side note: Have you considered trying therapy for yourself? I'm guessing that if your family tolerates this kind of dynamic, it's probably not all that healthy in other ways, and if you're starting to pick up on the unhealthy dynamics, having a therapist help you chart these new waters, learn new ways of dealing with your family, and validate you might be extremely helpful.
posted by quiet_musings at 10:02 PM on October 8, 2017 [8 favorites]

Would like to join the other people in advising you to disengage, but my own sister acted in a weird, aggressively bananas way toward me and my wife a while back, pretty consistently, and kept insisting that I was the problem -- so we disengaged and now it's been seven years with no contact, and it's killing my parents. I don't think I would have chosen to sever contact if I thought it would go this long.
posted by turkeybrain at 7:36 AM on October 10, 2017

SIL said that because of these fights, their marriage is in danger .

Honey, their marriage was in danger WAY before these particular fights occured. To borrow a line from Miss Maya Angelou, "you are not in that". A marriage is a relationship between only two people - and you are not one of the two people in this given marriage. So don't even begin to even think of taking on any of the responsibility for the success or failure of this particular marriage.

If your SIL thinks blackmailing the entire family into acquiesing to her whims is normal and appropriate behavior for a grown adult, then she needs serious counseling. And your brother needs a shitload of support. Focus on supporting him, and the kids. Tell them as often as you can how much you love them, and how your love for them will never ever change, no matter what anybody says about you.
posted by vignettist at 8:41 PM on October 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

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