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Not Seeing The Forest

Two years ago, I married a divorced man with a big extended family. While many of his relatives – none of whom I’d previously met – came to the our wedding, some couldn’t, including one brother and sister-in-law. We did receive a wedding gift from them, an obvious regift set of candles, one of which was broken. (This could not have been a ‘We wanted to send you something even though we can’t afford it’ gift. They have two homes, and the husband, although retired, is on the board of a very chi chi private college.) I thought the gift was odd, but sent a very appreciative thank you card anyway.

It was several months after our wedding that I finally met this brother and his wife at another family event. Now the brother is just about the warmest, most charming person you could ever hope to meet. But his wife refused to shake my hand, or even make eye contact.

We were at another event last month, and again, she acted like I wasn’t there. I am basically very shy and socially inept, so I’m reluctant to ask her what the problem is.

I’m a middle-aged woman, not some young hottie who drives men wild, so it’s not as if she has anything to worry about. I am nobody’s idea of a trophy wife. I did not break up my husband’s marriage. I’ve met his ex, and she has always been friendly and hospitable to me. And the rest of his family has been very welcoming.

We should be invited to this couple’s grandson’s christening in another month or two, and I dread having to feel like I’m some horrible person that my sister-in-law can’t stand being in the same room with.

My husband won’t say anything to her, and her husband seems not to notice.

Any recommendations??  0802-13

Why, why, why are you giving this woman such enormous power over you to negatively affect your mood and perception of all family functions?    Why can you not focus on the “very welcoming” attitude of the entire rest of the family?  It’s as if you are trying your darnedest to only see the one rotten apple in the entire orchard of lovely fruit. Unless you want to fertilize the seeds of family drama, I suggest ignoring her and concentrate on being grateful that the rest of the family are kind, welcoming people.

{ 70 comments… add one }
  • Rebecca August 5, 2013, 3:05 am

    I can understand why the OP feels uncomfortable. It’s very awkward to be in the same room as someone who clearly dislikes you for no apparent reason and makes no attempt to be civil. I’d be interested to hear some concrete suggestions on how to handle this sort of thing, but so far I got nothing.

    I had to go to college with someone like this. There was a group of us in the same program and we were (mostly) all very friendly towards each other, but this one girl would huff and sneer and almost roll her eyes when I spoke. And she was quite snarky in her responses to me. I was never sure what her problem was, but it did make it awkward to be around her. I had another one of those in a former job. Everyone else was easy to get along with, and people seemed to get along with her, but she was sneery towards me. I’m never really sure how to react.

    • admin August 5, 2013, 8:14 am

      The way to react is to not react at all as “reaction” implies an emotional response. In the presence of someone who is uncivil and clearly does not like you, you behave like a business professional, meaning you greet them civilly and perhaps exchange a few trivial verbal niceties but otherwise you ignore them as if they did not exist (unless they specifically engage you in conversation). It’s behavioral training for adults…..you reward decent, nice people with smiles, rapt listening attention, kindness, give and take conversation and do not reward uncivil, moody, snarky behavior.

  • David August 5, 2013, 3:33 am

    OP, the advice the admin gave you is spot on.

    Continue to be the charming person you are and interact with the rest of the family. Be coolly polite with the one SIL, but don’t give her any more space in your head.

  • Marozia August 5, 2013, 3:52 am

    Well said, Admin! OP, do you think this woman is giving a second thought to you? Definitely not! Best thing to do is ignore this woman’s bad manners and disgraceful ‘better than thou’ attitude and concentrate on the positives of the other lovely family members.

  • Toia August 5, 2013, 5:13 am

    I have to say if you have done your best to be cordial to this woman that you need not put yourself out. As someone who suffers with social anxiety I have learned to pick my battles, I have plenty to worry about without other people’s baggage added. When the two of you are at events together in the future do your due dillagence by saying hello, you have fulfilled you obligation. Don’t allow her to steal positive energy from you. You need that energy to have fun forging bonds with the welcoming members of your new extended family.

  • jen d. August 5, 2013, 5:22 am

    First of all, you don’t know for a fact she doesn’t like you. Some people give bad gifts without any nefarious intentions, and some people have other things on their mind while meeting their new in-laws. You have no idea what’s going on with her life – she could be going through something.

    That being said, it does kind of sound like she’s a little unfriendly. Divorce is a funny thing – sometimes people create drama when there isn’t any to begin with. Kill her with kindness! Always be friendly and open with her, and keep that smile plastered on. She’ll either thaw towards you and you’ll find a new friend, or she’ll be so annoyed by you she’ll leave you alone. Win-win;)

  • Margo August 5, 2013, 5:33 am

    This must be very unpleasant and I can understand why you’d be upset.

    I think the first question is why is your husband so reluctant to say anything? In your position, I would discus this with him, in the first instance. IS he reluctant to raise it because he has prior experience of this woman’s attitude and behaviour and knows that raising the issue won’t help (in which case knowing that may help you, as it suggests that there is nothing personal about her not liking you, it’s just that she’s hostile / changeable / generally) or is it that he is not prepared to get involved or to support you, in which case the relationship with your husband, not that with his brother’s wife, is the one you need to be working on.

    As you mention that the rest of his family is welcoming, is here another family member whom you could speak to – not to ask them to intervene, but to ask whether they know if there is any reason why your SiL seems so distant? If it turns out that she has taken offence at something you can then decide whether you want to reach out to her or whether to let sleeping dogs lie.
    Is it possible that she is also very shy, and feels that you are giving her the cold shoulder?

  • Rae August 5, 2013, 5:42 am

    I agree with Admin. Some people are just mean and there is nothing you can do about it. Try to focus on all the good people in your life rather than the few bad ones.

  • LeeLee88 August 5, 2013, 6:02 am

    I would suggest chalking it up to “There’s always one.” There’s always one person who’s a bit strange in every family, situation, what have you. Don’t be offended, this SIL is just “that one”. I agree with Admin, don’t focus on one sickly tree when you’re surrounded by a beautiful forest.

  • Jewel August 5, 2013, 7:05 am

    The OP’s husband may be reluctant to say something to the SIL, but surely he has some idea why SIL is acting this way… (and, I agree that the OP is giving SIL too much emotional power)

  • Justin August 5, 2013, 7:37 am

    There are people I don’t like and there are people who don’t like me, and sometimes through family or mutual friends we end up interacting socially. I follow a simple rule, just be civil and polite. I don’t go out of my way to spend extra time or avoid the people I don’t get along with and I don’t let it bother me, if I am at a social event there are plenty of people I do want to spend time with there.

    There may not even be a rational reason for people now clicking, it could be something small and stupid and completely unsolvable.

  • The Elf August 5, 2013, 7:45 am

    There’s one in every family, it seems like. Whatever her problem is, it’s her problem. It’s hard to be with someone who doesn’t like you (believe me, there’s one in my family too), but if you focus on everybody else, you can safely ignore the ice queen.

  • Cat August 5, 2013, 8:32 am

    I have had this problem too and the best defense is a good offense. Greet her warmly when you first see her, “Hello, “Mildred”. How nice to see you.” Later, you can say, “Goodbye, “Mildred”, so nice to have seen you.”
    She is not important unless you make her important.

  • Sarah Jane August 5, 2013, 8:37 am

    Surely your husband has SOME guess as to why she behaves this way?

    I would suggest that instead of your brainstorming for conclusions as to why she does not treat you cordially, assume it’s her problem, not yours, and move on. Keep being friendly. If she does not warm up eventually, sooner or later someone else in the family may notice and perhaps they can clue you in. She may treat all the newcomers this way. She may treat everyone this way. There could be a whole host of reasons.

  • Library Diva August 5, 2013, 8:42 am

    My guess? The SIL was very close with the first wife in this story, and simply doesn’t like seeing her replaced. She’s decided that while there’s nothing she can do about the divorce, and nothing she can do about the subsequent new marriage, she doesn’t have to be nice to the woman who she views as having usurped her friend’s place. Perhaps she had always held out hope that they’d patch things up, and the hope was shattered by this marriage.

    I can imagine a number of other scenarios: maybe she doesn’t like OP’s husband and is extending this dislike to OP. Maybe OP reminds her of someone she dislikes. Or maybe she’s just a “female dog.” I know it’s easier said than done, but I do advise OP not to worry about it too much. All you can do is be civil to her. When you go to the christening, congratulate her and her husband as well as the parents, and socialize with the family members that HAVE welcomed you.

  • Angel August 5, 2013, 8:44 am

    My take is that the SIL probably is judging both the OP and her husband for being on the second marriage. I don’t think it’s personal and she probably would dislike anyone who is the 2nd wife. This being said, I don’t think it’s a good reason and it makes her look petty and small. If that is in fact the reason. But from the OP I can’t discern any real reason because the SIL didn’t even come to the wedding and has only met the OP a handful of times. Really the OP and the SIL have no relationship beyond seeing each other at family events. I don’t know but if I were her I would just try and put a smile on for a couple of hours, say hello, how are you, and who cares if she doesn’t respond? It really only makes HER look bad, not the OP.

    I know that it can be difficult to be in the same room as someone who doesn’t like you–but, these are good sized family events, and from the OP she says that all the other family members are nice to her. If all the other family members are nice, focus on them and don’t worry about the lone weed in an otherwise beautiful garden of flowers 😉

    And once again the Admin is spot on!

  • Mae August 5, 2013, 8:48 am

    I agree with the other comments- be cordial, say hello and move on.

    My husband has an aunt like this. She is rude and dismissive to pretty much everyone, except her grandkids. After the first few times of her ignoring my attempts at conversation, I would just say “Hello, Aunt ‘Joyce’, how are you?” and then stay clear of her the rest of the day/evening. SO much happier now.

  • Wild Irish Rose August 5, 2013, 9:03 am

    Admin is right as far as that goes, but OP may be reading too much into the SIL’s treatment of her. As has been pointed out, maybe SIL just isn’t going to accept that first wife is gone and is being aloof to OP because of that. Or perhaps SIL is very shy (OP says SHE is, so it’s possible someone else might be, too) and doesn’t know how to be warm and friendly.

    As for the gift–well, that’s interesting, but I’m not sure much was meant by it. I’m with Admin–just be warm and loving to the rest of the family, and perhaps eventually SIL will get over herself and warm up to you as well.

  • abf August 5, 2013, 9:07 am

    ok, I agree with LeeLee88. Reminds me of what I heard a comedian say once, “Every family has one, if you think yours doesn’t, chances are you’re it.”

    If she doesn’t like you, she doesn’t like you. I’ve also heard it said that about 1o% of people will not like you. She may just be in that 10%.

    And thank you Admin for advice to handle it professionally. Glad to hear your reccomendations. I’ve been on the flip side, with myself being the one who doesn’t care to socialize with someone (due to their constant playing the victim and whining.) After much thought and consideration, I did just exactly what you have reccommended. I am civil and polite but I do not give her an audience , nor allow her to suck me into her pity party.

  • mpk August 5, 2013, 9:10 am

    I agree with just greeting her nicely when you see her, and then go talk to the people that are friendly to you. If she doesn’t respond in return, just ignore that.
    I don’t think i’d talk about her to anyone else in the family.
    I would hope that if she’s being that way to you because she was really good friends with your husbands ex-wife, that he would say something to you as an explanation. But since he hasn’t, then that’s probably not it.
    I wouldn’t give her another thought.

  • rachel August 5, 2013, 9:30 am

    Agree with the admin, just ignore this woman and enjoy yourself.

  • gramma dishes August 5, 2013, 9:34 am

    I agree with Library Diva. That was my immediate thought when I first read the story. I suspect the SIL really liked the first wife and is resentful that the “new” wife has basically removed her from the family (in SIL’s mind). Interesting though that the first wife herself has been friendly to the OP.

  • Angela August 5, 2013, 9:34 am

    This is about her, not about you. You can’t do anything about her, just about you. Remind yourself of that.
    Women (especially us middle-aged ones) often are sent the message when growing up that you should be liked by everyone. If someone doesn’t like you, it’s a disaster and it’s probably your fault. Let me tell you, it was a happy moment in my own life when I realized that there were people who didn’t like me and that was fine. I am professional with those people and when they aren’t present, I don’t waste neurotransmitters on them.

  • Allie August 5, 2013, 9:45 am

    “I dread having to feel like I’m some horrible person that my sister-in-law can’t stand being in the same room with.”

    Then don’t. You can’t control how this woman behaves but you can darn well control how you react to it. You aren’t in high school anymore and at our age (I’m no spring chicken myself anymore), we’ve earned the right not to give a hoot what someone else (unjustly) thinks of us. I don’t know who wizzed in her corn flakes, but who cares. Go to the christening and have a fab time with everyone else. Don’t give this woman any power over your emotions.

  • Amber August 5, 2013, 10:17 am

    Agreed with Admin’s response, both in the OP and in the comments.

    And I’d also like to throw out there that perhaps this lady’s awkward as well. You say you’re somewhat awkward and shy, but I hear some people say that when they’re only marginally awkward but can power through new meetings and such with a “fake it til you make it” attitude.

    And then, there are the true awkward people – or even further down the scale, awkward introverted people (not to say that introverts are all awkward, but that there are introverts who are also awkward). These are people who sweat meeting new people to the point of silence. And if they’re introverted, they’ll often be difficult to talk to in general until they’ve seen your face more than a few times.

    My husband is like this. He’s animated around people he knows in small groups, but if the group gets to large or even one new person is added to the mix, he clams up fast because he’s not sure what to say around the new element. When new people join our crew of friends, the well-known friends of ours have joked that they can’t wait to have husband back again – will it be a few months this time? Keep in mind, he’s in attendence, and he’s listening, he just doesn’t join in the conversation or respond with more than a polite “yes” “no” “good” “I work at this” “yes, the bean dip is really good” to the newbs if they talk to him first.

    He worries sometimes that he’s seen as rude or standoffish by the new people he meets, but frankly (and I haven’t told him this), he’s kind of a social berometer. People who are offended by his quiet demeanor tend to be too dramatic for our taste. People who leave him in his silence while interacting with me and then embrace him and welcome him into the conversation when he finally climbs out of his shell tend to be laid back, go with the flow types. And those are my kind of people.

  • Lauren August 5, 2013, 10:19 am

    One relative? At my brother’s wedding, every single guest from his wife’s side (including friends and family) acted like my family had the plague. We had to fly in for the wedding, we didn’t know a soul, other than my sister-in-law, and NOT ONE of them would even acknowledge us. In fact, one of her crazy friends stared daggers at me during the entire reception. (My uncle thought she was planning to stalk me for the rest of my life.) And please keep in mind that we had never met these people. At the wedding, the first time I set eyes on her mother (an absolutely unkempt hag -I can’t even begin to describe the outfit, but the uncombed hair should give you what the rest of her looked like) I went up to her smiling and introduced myself. She looked shocked, let out a weird screech and ran back toward her family. It was one of the most hilarious (and crazy) things I’ve ever seen. I know it sounds like I am exaggerating, but that screech really happened.

    My parents were very generous and held a dinner the night before the wedding (Don’t you love it? The out-of-towners hosted the dinner!) at a really nice restaurant in New York City, and the in-laws sat at their own tables and didn’t mix at all, I don’t recall them even thanking my father for the dinner. At the reception, they were so openly hostile that we just started laughing to each other about it. It was bizarre. At one point, we sent over the family (self-proclaimed) academic (he will spout on for hours about the most boring topics imaginable, and you can’t stop him for ages) just to make them uncomfortable.

    My whole family is very gregarious, we have all traveled extensively, we are all very friendly, we easily converse with everyone, and we all were brought up to be able to mix with anyone. Her family is made up of teachers, who , we found out later, to everyone’s shock, fancy themselves great academics (entirely unknown, unpublished, and unrenowned – my sister-in-law claims her father is an important professor at some small school which I can’t seem to locate on Google). And you should see them – the bridesmaids were all her sisters, and they looked like a line-up of bag ladies looking for handouts. Not one of them looked like they had even showered before the wedding (including, sadly the bride, whose supposedly expensive wedding dress was capped off with a mess of uncombed hair). The father looked like (and had the demeanor of) a disgruntled mortician, actually the whole family resembled the Adams family in all aspects except Morticia. They proved through the course of the weekend to be rude, stand-offish, tacky, ill-mannered, and ignorant. I had to spend two days smiling and ignoring their insane behavior. Least of all swallow the slights they kept making to my parents – I mean, really, they’ll eat the expensive meal my dad paid for, but god forbid they deign to talk to him. I will never get over the weirdest weekend of my life – and that includes the one in Turkey where I was taken stock car driving by the hash smoking tour guide.

    I would like to say lesson learned, but I am always blindsided by people like this, and it never ceases to amaze me when I meet so called educated people who are rude, don’t know how to dress themselves and can’t even hold decent dinner conversation.

    So you have ONE relative you have to avoid? Please, come down to New York with me. I can introduce you to an entire family of homely, socially inept a**holes. If you would like, I could let you borrow my uncle. I sat next to him at the reception, and I have never laughed so hard in my entire life.

  • Elizabeth August 5, 2013, 10:43 am

    In answer to your question, any recommendations??? Say hello and shake her hand, interact with different family members in a normal/what-have-you-been-up-to manner and be sure and say good-bye.

    That is all you have to do.

  • lakey August 5, 2013, 10:52 am

    As someone with a large extended family, 5 brothers and sisters, various in-laws and nieces and nephews, if there is one jerk in the group, be grateful.
    Maybe this woman just has a crummy personality.

  • Raven August 5, 2013, 10:54 am

    Because I’m “that person,” I’d have a bit of fun with this. “SIL! How was your summer vacation? Where did you go? What did you do? I’d love to hear all about it! Come sit with me!” Then watch her squirm. What’s she going do? Avoid eye contact and refuse to speak in front of a bunch of other people?

    Ok, that’s probably not etiquette-appropriate…but I would be sorely tempted. Consider it a social spanking. 😉 Kill her with kindness!

    Enjoy the rest of the family, OP, in all seriousness. At least they aren’t ALL out to get you.

    As an aside, I find it a little strange that your husband won’t help you. He should be defending you, not sitting back and letting SIL be a total pill. In my opinion, when you don’t call someone on their behaviour, you’re giving them permission to continue. You and/or your husband should say something, preferably in private. “SIL, we’d like to know what the problem is so we can find a solution. Why do you treat me like I have the eye-contact-plague?”

  • Abby August 5, 2013, 11:05 am

    I agree with Admin. Who knows the reason for the SIL’s hostility, and who really cares? She could have been offended by something minor OP did, she could just be unfriendly and has no actual beef with the OP, or she could be one of those women who always enjoys being in the inner circle, and OP is the newbie going through initiation. If it’s the latter, the more OP tries to win over the SIL, the more SIL is going to withhold any approval. Some women just never grow out of high school.

    OP, enjoy your happy marriage, enjoy your interactions with those who are nice to you, and don’t worry about SIL. My suspicion is that someday down the road, another family will be the target of her ire and she will look to you to help her freeze out said family member. Just don’t play her game.

  • JenMo August 5, 2013, 11:26 am

    One of my SIL’s was the same when DH and I were first married. He told me she was friendly with his ex-wife, which likely explained her childish behavior. I just shrugged it off and didn’t worry about it. She eventually got over her snit years ago, much to my regret, because now that she does talk to me I cannot get away from her fast enough. She is one of the few people I simply cannot stand and I wish she would go back to the silent treatment.

  • kingsrings August 5, 2013, 11:27 am

    It’s easier said than done to try not to concentrate on the one person of the bunch who clearly dislikes you, but won’t tell you why. I have experienced that too once in a while in my life, most recently as a matter of fact. Someone in the same community as I’m a member of is very beloved and adored by everyone, but he’s hot and cold with me. Sometimes he’s nice to me, then all of a sudden for no apparent reason he’ll get angry with me and be frosty and rude to me for a long while. I’ve asked him during both of these times what the issue is, have tried to find out what is wrong, but he refuses to tell me what his problem with me is. I’ve always been nothing but nice and kind to him, and can’t figure out why he flies off the handle with me like this. And everyone else in our community just think he’s wonderful and worships the ground he walks on!

    OP – you’re going to be a member of this family for the rest of your life, and deserve to exist in harmony with all of them for the rest of your time with them. Even just one bad person can be upsetting enough to ruin events with them. Please make every effort to communicate with this woman and find out what the problem is. It sounds like it’s something completely on her end, but at least talk to her. You might never get resolution to it, but you can at least try.

  • Snowy August 5, 2013, 11:54 am

    Admin, perhaps you could choose better phrasing. Your advice, at its core, is spot on–namely, do not let this woman have the power–but it comes across as blaming a victim. She’s said nothing about this casting the rest of the family in a negative light, or about avoiding events because of the sister-in-law. Her issue is specifically with the sister-in-law, so of course that’s what she’s writing about! I’d be baffled, too, if a new relative disliked me for no reason, and I’d also seek advice on how to best handle being in her presence, and how to deal with the dread of seeing her. (Which, again, is the good advice of, “Don’t let her have that kind of power.”)

  • Lacey August 5, 2013, 12:05 pm

    The Admin is spot on with “behavioural training for adults.” Don’t ignore her rudely, because she’ll see that as a form of attention and as justification for her actions; just be polite and civil in front of other people and quickly move on to talk to others. Her bad behaviour will be obvious and people will wonder why she acts that way to you when you’re nothing but civil to her.

  • whiskeytangofoxtrot August 5, 2013, 12:06 pm

    OP, all you can really do is shrug it off and sally forward. Middle sis and I have a younger sib who behaves this way toward us, too. At our last encounter, when we met with other family members to help pack up someone moving back to their home state, middle sis and I decided that the best tactic was just to keep our communications with Brat Child polite but not chummy, and matter-of-fact, and simply get on with the business at hand. BC seemed nonplussed that we disregarded the sullen, sulky behavior as if it didn’t exist, and a little disappointed to be the only one who had a problem. The attitude didn’t change, but it did ease up a bit, the rest of us had a grand time catching up, and we got the job done. Rest assured, BC’s demeanor did not go unnoticed by the others- and neither did ours. 🙂

  • FeatherBlade August 5, 2013, 1:07 pm

    Or perhaps the SIL is so ashamed for having sent you a regifted wedding present, that she quite literally cannot look you in the face.

    Whatever. Stop worrying about her. Follow admin’s advice.

  • Barreleh August 5, 2013, 1:15 pm


    Original poster here. The original advice is something I was mulling myself — why do I care?

    For the record, she was not close buds with the ex-wife, and as for the wedding gift, I just thought it was VERY odd for someone who is not poor to send a broken re-gift. A few people that came to the wedding gave no gift at all, and that was fine with me. The gift of their presence was all I was looking for. If she had sent no gift at all, that would not have bothered me in the least.

    What I don’t get and my husband doesn’t get (although like most men, he doesn’t want to deal with any form of drama) is why she’s so cold to me.

    This is funny: the last event we went to, she was walking sort of absent-mindedly in the room, and her head sort of moved in my direction. As soon as she realized it, she straightened up and turned her head away.

  • Lo August 5, 2013, 1:47 pm

    This has got to be one of the hardest life lessons to deal with because some things are well and truly so far out of our control that only our reaction to them matters; and they’re always hurtful things. My first impulse would be to avoid avoid avoid but that’s not healthy and it punishes the rest of your family. So while I do understand how hard this is on you I would urge you to consider the advice most others and the admin have already given and be civil and don’t let her ruin your day.

    I’m naturally passive. I can cope with being disliked but I cannot cope with being disliked for no reason, as a confrontation on my end is unlikely to happen. Being a second wife in and of itself is not a reason for any bad behavior. It’s not rational, it’s not fair, and it’s no way for an adult to act. Keeping that in mind, there are people who will treat you poorly no matter what you do. And I guess the sooner we all learn to cope with it the better.

  • Green123 August 5, 2013, 2:06 pm

    To quote The Simpsons, some people are just jerks.

  • Abby August 5, 2013, 2:26 pm

    The broken re-gift thing is weird, I’ll grant that. Since they couldn’t go, I don’t think they were obligated to send you a present at all, so the fact that they went out of their way to send you a bad one is very strange.

    Based on the fact that OP calls herself shy and socially inept, and her update that SIL was not close to wife #1, and her admission that SIL’s hostility gets under her skin, I’d imagine SIL is just one of those women who enjoys making other women uncomfortable and lording her disapproval over them. Maybe she feels like you have to “earn” her respect. Maybe your MIL sings your praises to SIL and SIL is competitive?

    I understand it is hard to just shrug it off when someone clearly dislikes you for no apparent reason, but at the end of the day, if they’re choosing to be hostile and immature, that’s on them, not you.

  • Tracy August 5, 2013, 2:50 pm

    Raven said: “As an aside, I find it a little strange that your husband won’t help you. He should be defending you, not sitting back and letting SIL be a total pill. In my opinion, when you don’t call someone on their behaviour, you’re giving them permission to continue. You and/or your husband should say something, preferably in private. “SIL, we’d like to know what the problem is so we can find a solution. Why do you treat me like I have the eye-contact-plague?”

    I can’t imagine any man (and very few women) who would be eager to jump in the middle of a “Why doesn’t she liiiiiike me?” drama between two women, and I think it would be inappropriate for him to do so.

  • Carrie August 5, 2013, 3:27 pm

    Well, you know what they say: “Kill them with kindness!”

  • RedDevil August 5, 2013, 3:42 pm

    Can I suggest it’s jealousy?

    It may be that SIL feels that OP is ‘liked’ more than her, given how warm everybody is to her. Perhaps SIL previously had the top spot for related-by-marriage family members, and she’s been booted from that spot by your likeable self?

    Pretty sure I’ve had this happen to me, only it was the sister of my boyfriend at the time, rather than an In-Law who decided she didn’t like me. She never gave me a good reason for why she was so nasty to me, so I gave up caring.
    The best way I found to handle the situation was to just say hello at the start (in front of people, so they could see I was making an effort), and then proceed to avoid her for the rest of the night so I wouldn’t have to deal with catty remarks.
    Worked so well once that she ‘huffed’ out the door like a child throwing a tantrum because people were talking to me and not her. She did NOT come off looking like a lady!

  • Mel August 5, 2013, 5:12 pm

    Hi OP,
    Maybe if you can reframe it in your mind it won’t drive you as crazy. Try this: “seeing this woman is a great opportunity to practice not letting someone else define who I am.”
    I say this because you said:
    ” I dread having to feel like I’m some horrible person that my sister-in-law can’t stand being in the same room with.”
    Your sister in law may well think you a horrible person but that does not make you a horrible person. Other people’s opinion does not change who you are. Her opinion of you does not matter; in fact, what’s going on in her brain is none of your business.
    It is a very difficult thing to be hated on and not hunt for a reason, to be secure and happy despite another person signalling you don’t deserve it. We social animals are wired to seek group approval. You do deserve it, though. Maybe this woman is sent to help you practice this skill.
    (Nice of her, isn’t it?)

  • M August 5, 2013, 5:18 pm

    I have a sister-in-law like this. She is the queen bee and what she says goes. She takes turns deciding who she is going to be friendly to and who gets the cold shoulder. In this large family we’ve all experienced it. Still there are a select few who get the cold shoulder more often. This makes us scratch our heads but mostly we find amusement in it.

    When she had done someone a favor she likes to wait until the room is full to say (loudly) “oh, Kendra. Did you enjoy the chicken dish I brought to your house last week Tuesday? It’s an excellent recipe.”

    Or if she is sitting with two gals she will say (pointedly) to one, “Oh Rachel, I’m going to be buying this great lipstick.” This will be a conversation starter that any of us women would join in on. It wouldn’t be like Rachel and her had discussed lipsticks, planned a make-over or anything like that. She just wanted to talk to Rachel specifically even though “Bonnie” is right there too.

    People like this need attention, drama and feel better when they are “on top” or helping someone who is very low. She is not comfortable sharing in other peoples joy when they purchase a new car, get a promotion or are celebrating their childs achievement. Jealousy is their game. Like make have said, the best tactic is to greet her warmly, be friendly if she is friendly and most importantly, NEVER mistake her friendliness for friendship.

  • hakayama August 5, 2013, 6:03 pm

    @whiskey etc.: Your method reflects the principle I heard expressed ages ago… “Don’t touch the poop so it doesn’t stink.”
    @jen d.: So charitable of you to INSIST on looking for the good in everyone. And, BTW, the “slap-in-face” gifts are quite a common practice among haters.
    OP: Cool civility should be enough. Not the cordiality recommended by those not fully aware of the meaning of the word. Don’t even think of asking for explanations as that will leave you trampled and totally drowned in denials. Enjoy your life outside of the shadow of EVIL. Best wishes.
    Admin. is right on the money about not wasting emotional effort on a person/situation not worthy of your time.

  • MichelleP August 5, 2013, 7:09 pm

    OP, do not let this woman live in your head rent free. Enjoy your newfound happiness, and your lovely new family. Whatever you do, don’t talk about it with members of your new family. No matter how nicely put, it will just cause problems.

    @Raven, there is no reason for OP’s husband to “help” her with this, because this isn’t a problem and she doesn’t need his “help”. Quite frankly a grown woman should be able to handle this herself, exactly as admin has suggested.

  • Tsunoba August 5, 2013, 7:54 pm

    I honestly hate the advice of “Why should you care? Just stop thinking about it.”

    Mainly because I don’t understand how you’re supposed to prevent yourself from thinking about anything. I can prevent myself from saying things, or doing things, but…

    It’s like being told, “Don’t think about crocodiles,” and the first thing that comes to mind is a crocodile. And then you tell yourself not to do that, so you keep thinking of the crocodile until you find something else (like a video game or a book or something) to distract you completely.

  • The Elf August 6, 2013, 7:30 am

    Tsunoba: I honestly hate the advice of “Why should you care? Just stop thinking about it.”

    I felt the same way when my parents, and teachers, kept telling me to ignore the bullies. How can you ignore that? But the weird thing is that eventually, I could because I stopped caring about what they thought about me, what they were or weren’t going to do to me that day, or even that they were human and existed. And that’s when ignoring them actually worked.

    You can do the same with annoying, rude people in your life. It’s a mental trick you play on yourself. When that person pushes your buttons, stop yourself from reacting. You might still be seething inwards, but you can stop your reaction behavior. Don’t let yourself be drawn into talking about the problem with others, either (except your nearest and dearest, after the event). You tell yourself “They aren’t worth this effort. I’m going to do something more pleasurable, like talk to Person I Really Like.” It will be difficult at first, but you can convince yourself to stop caring about what annoying people in your life think.

  • Mae August 6, 2013, 8:45 am

    OP- just to second and third what others have said- please do not discuss this with any family members, save your husband. It *will* get back to SIL and she will know that you are bothered by it and she *may* amp up her efforts to make you uncomfortable. Or, she could use it to start drama by saying you dislike her and are trying to get others to dislike her as well.

    Another commenter said that in time, people will notice and may be able to clue you into why SIL is cold to you. I do agree that it is hard to be disliked for no apparent reason and have to spend time around them because they are family. Ugh.

  • Seiryuu August 6, 2013, 9:35 am

    Ah, the OP is plagued with the same thoughts I do when someone seems cold and distant. I myself haven’t gotten over this, but life is life. As Admin said, maintain a courteous, in-passing relationship with her despite any feelings of uncomfortableness.

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