Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Family and Children => Topic started by: menley on June 20, 2013, 06:32:27 AM

Title: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: menley on June 20, 2013, 06:32:27 AM
My sister has been married for several years. As I don't live in the same city as her and her husband, I don't spend much time with them and really don't have much of a relationship with her husband beyond seeing each him at holidays and exchanging occasional e-mails and Facebook posts.

He sent me a message on Facebook recently, saying that he and my sister were going through a rough patch and started telling me about their problems. I don't want to get involved in these problems; I know my mother has, as my BIL has talked to her about them as well, and it's caused some problems in the relationship between my sister and my mother. Luckily for me, my computer was low on battery and I was able to simply say that I couldn't talk as my computer would die shortly.

My two questions are as follows:
1) How can I tell him gently that I don't wish to be involved in their marital disputes? I know I could simply say, "Look, this isn't really any of my business, please don't tell me these things." But that seems a little cold to me. Does anyone have suggestions for wording that conveys the same idea but isn't as abrupt?

2) Should I tell my sister that he's told me these things? If it were me, I would want to know. But as I've found from reading these boards regularly, not everyone would :) Do I have an obligation to tell her, or is this a personal judgment call where I weigh the pros and cons of telling her and decide?

Thanks for any help you can provide.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: SPuck on June 20, 2013, 06:41:12 AM
"I am sorry BIL, but I cannot discuss this topic."

You can be polite as you want, but no matter how try to ease the blow if he is going to get offended or mad he is going to get offended or mad.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: *inviteseller on June 20, 2013, 07:26:36 AM
OK, maybe I am really off here, but it seems that BIL is trying to get you on 'his side'.  Why would he, not being close to you at all, spill his guts and why go to his MIL about marital problems?  I would tell him that Sorry, I feel the issues should be kept  between you and my sister and I will not get involved. 
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: AmethystAnne on June 20, 2013, 08:04:47 AM
POD with * inviteseller.

My OldestDD's first husband used to do that......there were other problems.....and he is now her XH.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: Zizi-K on June 20, 2013, 08:22:23 AM
My sister has been married for several years. As I don't live in the same city as her and her husband, I don't spend much time with them and really don't have much of a relationship with her husband beyond seeing each him at holidays and exchanging occasional e-mails and Facebook posts.

He sent me a message on Facebook recently, saying that he and my sister were going through a rough patch and started telling me about their problems. I don't want to get involved in these problems; I know my mother has, as my BIL has talked to her about them as well, and it's caused some problems in the relationship between my sister and my mother. Luckily for me, my computer was low on battery and I was able to simply say that I couldn't talk as my computer would die shortly.

My two questions are as follows:
1) How can I tell him gently that I don't wish to be involved in their marital disputes? I know I could simply say, "Look, this isn't really any of my business, please don't tell me these things." But that seems a little cold to me. Does anyone have suggestions for wording that conveys the same idea but isn't as abrupt?

2) Should I tell my sister that he's told me these things? If it were me, I would want to know. But as I've found from reading these boards regularly, not everyone would :) Do I have an obligation to tell her, or is this a personal judgment call where I weigh the pros and cons of telling her and decide?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

What your BIL is trying to do - insert you into a private marital problem - is highly inappropriate to the point where "being gentle" is no longer a concern for you. He's jumping right over normal boundaries, so you will have to be really explicit and clear that you are not interested in being his confidante.

I think you should tell your sister, but not from the perspective of tattling on BIL but from a place of concern. "Sister, BIL initiated a FB chat the other day and seemed to want to talk about the problems you two have been having lately. My battery was about to die anyway, so we didn't talk about anything, but I'm just concerned that he's feeling very distressed about what's going on, to the point where he's seeking me out to talk about them. I don't feel comfortable talking to him about it, and told him so. But, if you haven't considered it yet, couple's therapy might be really helpful for you guys...."
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: Margo on June 20, 2013, 08:28:11 AM
I agree that it is absolutely fine for you to tell him "I don't feel comfortable discussing this, and it's really not my business. Please don't tell me this"

I also think that it is reasonable to mention to your sister that he contacted you. Zizi-K's suggestion is good, and if you would be OK with your sister talking to you, then you could stsart by asking how she is doing, and whether she would like to talk about it. Obviously if you'd prefer not to be involved at all you can say so.

Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: MayHug on June 20, 2013, 08:30:08 AM
I wouldn't tell your sister. What will you gain? My sister's husband (soon to be ex) did the same thing to me. I had heard they were having some problems, didn't know details. (and not my business to know) He sent me a Facebook message asking to speak to my husband and I. I just replied that I loved them both and didn't want to be put into the middle.

I didn't tell my sister, but then she is a very private person. It would have upset her knowing he wanted to talk to others about their problems.

Unfortunately they are now divorcing and I've heard more details. I still feel badly for them both. They were married almost 28 yrs and have 6 children.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: Virg on June 20, 2013, 08:40:08 AM
From a completely pragmatic standpoint, if you tell your sister about the things he tells you, he's less likely to try to confide in you in the future.  In any case, you're the best judge to decide whether to tell your sister, but if you do I agree that Zizi-K's approach is the best way to tell her.  It doesn't judge either of them and gives her the information she needs.

Virg
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: TootsNYC on June 20, 2013, 08:45:37 AM
I think that "look, this isn't my business, please don't tell me these things" is completely appropriate. It's not at all harsh. And being gentle is NOT the goal of etiquette; sometimes, in fact, firmness is absolutely crucial.

This might be a good place for the "cut and paste" technique, if only because it makes the responses easier for you.

You will know what to say every time and won't have to think about matching his argument, appeal, etc.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: Winterlight on June 20, 2013, 09:37:19 AM
OK, maybe I am really off here, but it seems that BIL is trying to get you on 'his side'.  Why would he, not being close to you at all, spill his guts and why go to his MIL about marital problems?  I would tell him that Sorry, I feel the issues should be kept  between you and my sister and I will not get involved.

That seems odd to me too. I'd definitely tell him to leave me out of it in future.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: Eden on June 20, 2013, 09:45:39 AM
I absolutely do NOT think you should tell your sister. What purpose would it serve? It would only add stress and insert you into a situation you want to avoid.

I'd tell BIL, "I'm sorry to hear you're having a difficult time. I don't think it's appropriate for me to discuss your relationship with you, but I do wish you well and hope you can find a neutral party with whom you can talk."
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: NyaChan on June 20, 2013, 10:57:13 AM
I would be telling my sister immediately.  Yeah, BIL is family, but for me, my sister comes first - him contacting you is IMO a huge red flag unless you  have a relationship where giving advice on this subject is normal.  I would want her to know so that 1) she can protect her privacy, 2) she'll know that he's going behind her back and sharing their private information to her sister of all people! 3) it will discourage him from trying to involve me again and 4) protect you from any possibility that he will try to use your communication to cause trouble in the future - which would blindside your sister if she is never told that this communication happened.

"BIL, it is inappropriate for you to speak to me about the problems in your marriage to my sister, especially as you have done so behind her back.  Please do not contact me about this again."
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: m2kbug on June 20, 2013, 01:04:50 PM
It seems he's trying to get you on his side.  When I was getting divorced, my ex was sending emails to my parents.  It was strange and it did come across that he needed my family on his side.  I probably would tell my sister, but this one is something best determined by you and your relationship.  I don't think you're under any obligation to tell her, and it might be best that she not know, but again, this is best determined by you and your relationship.  I'm pretty much in NyaChan's camp on this one including what to say to BIL.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: azleaneo on June 20, 2013, 01:18:51 PM
I would tell BIL that you're not a counselor and that he should really try couple's counseling instead of telling you about their issues.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: Roses on June 20, 2013, 01:57:10 PM
I think it's strange that he's reached out to you.  I would tell BIL that you have no intention of getting in the middle of their issues; that your loyalty is to your sister and anything he tells you, you feel compelled to pass onto your sister.  I'd also recommend they seek out professional counseling if he needs to talk to someone about their problems.  Then I'd relay that conversation to your sister.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: dawbs on June 20, 2013, 02:32:41 PM
Telling him that you're not comfortable w/ that is the best place to start.

That said, I'd tell my sister in a heartbeat.  Not in a "can you believe he said X" more like "Sis, I wanted to give you a head's up.  Bob contacted me last night and, during normal chit-chat, he started describing to me issues between the 2 of you.  I asked him not to involve me and he dialed back, but i wanted you to know that it happened"

Because this behavior can be a way of isolating people and jeopardizing her relationships.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: Firecat on June 20, 2013, 02:51:20 PM
Telling him that you're not comfortable w/ that is the best place to start.

That said, I'd tell my sister in a heartbeat.  Not in a "can you believe he said X" more like "Sis, I wanted to give you a head's up.  Bob contacted me last night and, during normal chit-chat, he started describing to me issues between the 2 of you.  I asked him not to involve me and he dialed back, but i wanted you to know that it happened"

Because this behavior can be a way of isolating people and jeopardizing her relationships.

I think this is an excellent point.

And this may be off-the-wall, but part of my nasty, suspicious little brain was wondering, "So, if the OP had been sympathetic, how soon would he have been asking her for a side game of scrabble?" Because, seriously, the "my wife doesn't understand me, you're so easy/awesome to talk to" has to be one of the oldest lines in the book...

I'm not saying that's what would have happened, only that it's one possibility that occurs to me. But I think, "I am not comfortable with this. Stop now" is a perfectly reasonable and polite response. And I would tell the sister, as uncomfortable a conversation as that would be. But if it were my sister, I'd also want her to know that I'm there if she needs me.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: dawbs on June 20, 2013, 03:14:36 PM
My suspicious mind went there because one of my sisters has been in 2 abusive relationships.

Both of those exes worked VERY hard to get me on 'their side' by blurring boundries--it was a way of trying to keep her from having support she'd need to leave.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: veronaz on June 20, 2013, 03:42:58 PM
“BIL, I’m not comfortable hearing details about your marital problems and relationship with my sister.  Please don’t tell me anymore; I don’t want to be pulled into it.”  Lather, rinse, repeat.  You might want to block him on FB if he won’t stop.

OP, you’re the one who should be offended, not him.  So he gets mad - so what?; you said you’re not close to him anyway.  (In view of that, I find it strange that he’s whining to you.)

Their marital problems should be between him, his wife, and maybe a professional counselor.

Quote
I absolutely do NOT think you should tell your sister. What purpose would it serve? It would only add stress and insert you into a situation you want to avoid.
This.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: JoyinVirginia on June 20, 2013, 04:01:24 PM
I would tell BIL that you're not a counselor and that he should really try couple's counseling instead of telling you about their issues.
This. And add any variation of ”I love you both and will not get in the middle” that you want.
And I would let your sister know that you did not discuss anything with the husband.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: weeblewobble on June 20, 2013, 04:41:08 PM
POD with * inviteseller.

My OldestDD's first husband used to do that......there were other problems.....and he is now her XH.

POD. Going to you and your mom before your sister can contact you smacks of manipulation.  It sounds like he's trying to a) sway you to his side and b) cut sis off from her resources in terms of people she can go to for support.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: MariaE on June 21, 2013, 01:44:54 AM
Telling him that you're not comfortable w/ that is the best place to start.

That said, I'd tell my sister in a heartbeat.  Not in a "can you believe he said X" more like "Sis, I wanted to give you a head's up.  Bob contacted me last night and, during normal chit-chat, he started describing to me issues between the 2 of you.  I asked him not to involve me and he dialed back, but i wanted you to know that it happened"

Because this behavior can be a way of isolating people and jeopardizing her relationships.

I agree with this! I'd tell my sister immediately and in fact I would think it my duty to tell my sister.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: menley on June 21, 2013, 05:10:12 AM
Thanks for the advice, everyone! It seems that there is a general consensus on what to say to my brother-in-law, but a mixed response on whether or not I should tell my sister.

As thus far it was a one-time message, and he hasn't tried to resume the conversation since then, I have decided that I will not tell her as long as my BIL abides by my request to stop discussing their problems with me. If he continues, I will tell her.
Title: Re: Should I tell my sister?
Post by: Sharnita on June 21, 2013, 05:19:09 AM
I will say that I can see BIL calling if it were a case of them having issues stemming from eratic behavior, extreme depression or some similar issue on sister's part.  That does not seem to be the case at all here but I could see a spouse calling and describing some of the behaviors, not to get somebody on his side but because he is concerned and needs help getting her help.  I can't imagine either of my BIL's calling me to get me on their side in a spat so if they called me to tell me something like this I might think post partum depression or some other illness and they needed help getting her to the doctor.