Author Topic: Can I get some help with a difficult sister-in-law?  (Read 7485 times)

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that_one_girl

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Re: Can I get some help with a difficult sister-in-law?
« Reply #15 on: January 12, 2013, 05:42:41 AM »
I am aware that my primary problem is my DH (in this case Dumb Husband).   If DH is not here, ILs and I get along just fine.  I can handle the snow, I can handle DH being a jerk, I can handle my boss treating me like an idiot, I can handle ILs being controlling Ö but not all at the same time.  I have gone to counseling by myself for the better part of the last two years.   DH went to counseling for about 5 months and things got better, then he quit because his therapist was an hour away (we live in a rather rural area).  DH had a job for about 3 months and things got better, then he got fired (donít get me started on how picky DH is about what job he will and wonít do).  DH got a ďbe a manĒ speech from BIL and things got better (actually his family told him to pack his things and leave, but DH said he stayed for me Ö not sure why), but I wonder how long it will last this time.  I want to give him a chance to change, to be a better person, but eventually enough will be enough and he will run out of chances.   Again, I canít leave him at the moment due to financial constraints.   When I graduate, the circumstances might be different.
The boys (7, 11, and 13 Ö yes, I think itís weird that SIL sleeps in their room and not in Bedroom #2 with her husband Ö and SIL also spoon-feeds the youngest. )  are in school, so at least that keeps them away except for major holidays and the occasional long weekend.  They think they are so much better than us.   They are a good 10+ years older than us and have 3 boys, so I think that is where a lot of their superiority complex comes from.
       
Iím trying to make the best of a really bad situation.   I am trying to keep the peace so that SIL and BIL will stop threatening to kick us out of the house (not that I think they legally could since DH is listed on the title). SIL actually told us (well, she and DH were talking and I was in the room knitting or something) that if the house isnít kept clean then she expects us to move out and just use it as a vacation home like they do.  We cannot afford that, and that is not what we agreed to when we signed up for this deal.  What really irks me is the way they act like they are doing us a favor, letting us stay in the house, when in reality, we did THEM a favor when we bought interest in the house, allowing them to get out of debt and reducing their monthly bills for the house (before us moving in, they had renters covering 25% of the bills. They still used the house while the renters were here, but the renters would go elsewhere when they visited.  I think that is why they expect me to vacate the premises when they show up.)  Another thing that irks me even more is that they do not treat us as equals.   When the bathroom was remodeled, they told us to pick the paint color and then BIL complained that the color was too dark and it was the wrong kind of paint (not knowing anything about paint, I followed the recommendation of the guy at the hardware store and went with a gloss paint that I could wipe down.)   Next renovation project, THEY will provide me with a paint chip, and then I will buy what they want.

I guess what I am really asking for is a recommendation on how much to stick up for myself and polite ways to do so (i.e. should I have said to SIL, ďNo, I live here, I need the medical supplies out here in the common area so they are accessible.Ē)  and how much I should let slide.   SIL told me that if we donít keep our room organized, then we should have Bedroom #2 and they should be allowed to use the Master Suite.  Iíve already decided that we will not be changing rooms, since we live here full time PLUS they took all the existing furniture from the Master Suite to place in the basement for storage and required  us to purchase new furniture.    I am VERY frustrated because any time I try to bring up my feelings that there is no respect, they insist that they are doing everything they can to make me feel at home.  They throw around the word "family" when it's convenient for them.  They want us to participate in the boys' sports games, so they say "It's what families do." 

I had already planned to put a lock on the bedroom door, as the doorknob sometimes doesn't click shut anyways. 

Itza

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Re: Can I get some help with a difficult sister-in-law?
« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2013, 06:37:08 AM »
The way I see it, you and SIL are equal in this association as the house belongs to FIL, BIL and your DH, meaning you're both one step removed and associated by marriage to the owners.

So, I reckon that means you can stand up to her being a bossy bully, hold your own since it's evident from your posts that DH won't do it. That's where the etiquette comes into it: how to do it politely. Phrases like, "I'm afraid that won't be possible," "That won't work for us. You will have to move it/put it elsewhere," for example. There lots of other phrases used around this board you may find suitable for your situation. Also, the lather, rinse, repeat is a good tactic to keep repeating things firmly and politely.




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Hmmmmm

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Re: Can I get some help with a difficult sister-in-law?
« Reply #17 on: January 12, 2013, 09:27:15 AM »
I am so sorry you are in this position.  I also wonder if SIL isin a similar one. Did her DH fully consult with her before agreeing to having family move full time into her vacation home?  I know you said it was done because the FIL and BIL needed help paying.  But maybe her preference was to sell and use the money for other vacations instead of trying not to feel like your guest on her vacation time.  And her DH probably sold her on the idea that you guys really needed the help. 

Honestly, the sticky notes would have set off a nerve with me.  Would it be possible for you and her to go off alone and renegotiate the arrangement?  Im not sure she is sane enough to work with you on this,but I would give it a try.

joraemi

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Re: Can I get some help with a difficult sister-in-law?
« Reply #18 on: January 12, 2013, 09:58:05 AM »
The way I see it, you and SIL are equal in this association as the house belongs to FIL, BIL and your DH, meaning you're both one step removed and associated by marriage to the owners.

So, I reckon that means you can stand up to her being a bossy bully, hold your own since it's evident from your posts that DH won't do it. That's where the etiquette comes into it: how to do it politely. Phrases like, "I'm afraid that won't be possible," "That won't work for us. You will have to move it/put it elsewhere," for example. There lots of other phrases used around this board you may find suitable for your situation. Also, the lather, rinse, repeat is a good tactic to keep repeating things firmly and politely.

POD to all of this and the Bunny Foo-Foo's from a few posts earlier!

Have you tried the "Killing her with kindness" approach? A bright smile for her when she arrives. A little vase of flowers in their room if you know they are coming or a favorite food item prepared/purchased in anticipation of their arrival, etc. It sounds like a definite power struggle is happening, so if you can be firm and polite about your expectations (none of which seemed OTT to me) all the while being warm and inviting, maybe it would help?  Idk. Just a thought.

I hope you can find a happy medium with your DH.




Courage is the price life  exacts for granting peace.  ~Amelia Earhart~

that_one_girl

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Re: Can I get some help with a difficult sister-in-law?
« Reply #19 on: January 12, 2013, 10:35:54 AM »
I tried killing her with kindess and she took it as a sign of weakness and an invitation to walk all over me.   I called her before one of their visits last year and asked what kind of milk they liked to drink.  I don't have a clear preference, and I would rather buy extra milk when I know they are coming than have her buy milk once she gets here and have so many containers jostling around in the fridge.   She responds that Dneph1 drinks chocolate milk, Dneph2 drinks 2%, and Dneph3 has dairy issues and drinks the NameBrand Soy Milk that comes in the red container.   She was at work so we couldn't chat long, so there were no further details discussed.    So I buy a gallon of 2%, some chocolate syrup, and splurge on NameBrand Soy Milk.  Soy Milk is something I normally keep in the house because I've found I like the way it tastes with cereal better than regular milk.   Well, come to find out, Dneph1 will ONLY drink storebought chocolate milk. So that was fine, but since then she has not bothered to let me know when they are coming and which Dnephs will come with (sometimes they stay with friends when the rest of the family comes here).  I tried having a meal in the crock pot timed to be ready when they arrived so they would not have to go out to eat.  I was told the food I was cooking "smelled like death" by BIL. 

I wish that she had been here when the Renters left.   A lot of nonperishable food was left behind that I didn't know if it was the IL's or the Renters'.  If she had been there or shown any interest in how the kitchen was organized, I would have consulted her on it, but now after living here a year and a half I don't see the point in rearranging to suit her organizational style when she is not here that much.  I have certain physical limitations that mean I need things I use regularly not to be stored too high or too low.  I even explained to her that the post-its were put up so that DH could figure out where to put things, instead of using the "I don't know where it goes." excuse to not put away dishes.

As far as renegotiating the agreement, SIL and I cannot do that legally because of the way the original agreement was written.   Only the menfolk who are actually named in the agreement can change it, or at least that's how I understand it.   Had I been involved, there would have been several stipulations written in that are not currently in there and the agreement would have been refined over e-mail BEFORE we moved across the country.

DH contributes to a lot of the crazy.  There is a closet in the living room dedicated for IL's winter gear/blankets.  I keep the door shut unless I need the vaccuum out of it.  On occasion, I will temporarily put something (such as my dog's crate when she was recovering from getting spayed) in front of the closet, but I try to make sure it is moved when I know they are coming, so they can access their stuff.  I will go to work and ask DH to move the crate or whatever.   When I return from work, SIL is mad because stuff is blocking their closet, and I will say, "Sorry, DH was supposed to move that, of course it does not go there."  Then she will say, "You always say everything is DH's fault."  Then I say, "That's accurate."  Then I am in for a lecture on how he never blames anything on me, but they see me go to work and come home and clean the house while he sits on his butt playing video games all day.  By the end of their stay, they realize that I am portraying the truth.  BUT... by the time they next visit, the cycle starts all over again because they seem to forget everything that happened the last time.  It's so frustrating. 

They actually offered us a choice where to live.  It was either this house or a garage apartment on the property where their main home is.  We chose to live in the house because of its proximity to the school I wanted to attend.   Anyways, if she is unhappy with the situation or if it was forced on her by BIL and FIL, then she shouldn't take it out on me.   

kckgirl

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Re: Can I get some help with a difficult sister-in-law?
« Reply #20 on: January 12, 2013, 10:55:31 AM »
We chose to live in the house because of its proximity to the school I wanted to attend.   Anyways, if she is unhappy with the situation or if it was forced on her by BIL and FIL, then she shouldn't take it out on me.

Maybe you should say that to her.
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TootsNYC

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Re: Can I get some help with a difficult sister-in-law?
« Reply #21 on: January 12, 2013, 12:27:03 PM »
I tried killing her with kindess and she took it as a sign of weakness and an invitation to walk all over me.   I called her before one of their visits last year and asked what kind of milk they liked to drink.

That's not what people mean by "killing them with kindness."

When she DOES initiate something, you just have a sweet voice and face.


And yes, you should say, in the moment, "I like having the medicines there--it makes my life easier."

Or, just blow her off. Try to get yourself to stop caring what she says or thinks.
She can SAY "you need to move the medicines." Does that FORCE you to move the medicines? No. Just say, "Oh." No more.

And don't move them. What's she going to do about it?

your BIL can tell you to move the furniture around--do you have to do it? No. What's the worst that can happen? He can keep harping on it. And you can keep thinking what a weirdo he is.


You also might develop a catchphrase and repeat it. I know that I suggest this so often that people have started naming it after me, but it can work.
   When BIL says, "you should rearrange the furniture," then say--and ONLY this--in a tone of mild surprise, "it's *our* bedroom."
   When he says, "yes, but we own half the house," you say "it's *our* bedroom."
   When he says, "I'm in construction, I know what I'm talking about," you say, "it's *our* bedroom."
   You do not deviate. Not ever. Not even when he says, "Why are you repeating that over and over?" You say, "It's *our* bedroom." Because you are driving home the point that--hey, it's your bedroom, and there's nothing else to talk about.

When SIL says, "You should move the medicines," you say, "they're *my* medicines." Underlying point: not yours, and you shouldn't be saying anything about them.

When BIL sleeps in the living room, just make noise in the kitchen. Don't sweat it. If he complains, say, "I need to start my day." And maybe, "perhaps you should have other sleeping arrangements."

The bigger issues, like furniture, etc., when it comes up, you should say: "we're all equal owners, yes? Would you like to buy us out?"

VorFemme

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Re: Can I get some help with a difficult sister-in-law?
« Reply #22 on: January 12, 2013, 03:47:07 PM »
"I'm supposed to take my medicines with food (at mealtimes) - having them in the kitchen makes it easier to remember to take them."

Be noisy in the kitchen, if you wak BIL apologize and "remind" him that it would be so much quieter in Bedroom #2.

Your SIL spoon feeds a normal seven year old boy?  Something is "off" there - normal seven year olds don't want to be spoon fed...in my personal experience. 

Whatever she is complaining about, tell her that you don't want to make a mess rearranging EVERYTHING while she's there for a short visit, but you might try things out her way and see if they work for you.  I have a SIL who is four inches taller than I am and I am three inches taller than my sister (four or five inches taller than VorGuy's mother & sister).  What works for the one person in HER kitchen may not work nearly as well for someone a lot shorter or taller...

Is there anyway to clear one to-to-bottom line of cabinets for her in the kitchen?  She can pick what goes at which height to suit her and ONLY her family's stuff goes in those cabinets & drawers.  If there isn't - still set aside what space you can - especially if you can get a latch for it as a visual reminder (or even a lock) that this is HER space and only her space.  The rest of the space is shared.

So - the renters left when BIL and his family came down for trips in the past...interesting.  I can see why she thinks that this should be the normal approach - she doesn't have anything or anyone getting in the way of her plans....and they would have taken their meds with them instead of leaving them in the kitchen (or bathroom). 

Good luck with the DH - I'm stumped at the moment....
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Wordgeek

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Re: Can I get some help with a difficult sister-in-law?
« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2013, 05:02:24 PM »
Sympathies to the OP but this matter is beyond the purview of an Internet forum on etiquette.  I urge you to consult professional assistance in real life.