General Etiquette > Family and Children

Mean-spirited, devious, brother-in-law -- must I even respond to him?

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Susan45:
First, please let me say that there is so much going on with my BIL that this is by no means going to be the only post about his behavior.  But I will try to keep it short for now to focus on what I'm currently facing.

DH and I go on holiday with this man every year.  He's in his 50s, never been married, and no matter how many meals I've prepared and had him over for in the past, he seems to resent me.
Yes, I've tried pouring my heart out to him in front of DH on holiday (year before last) to get some resolution to the endless drama -- all to no avail.  He really took the words to heart from the X-Files:  "Deny everything."

By contrast, my husband is a good man, sometimes too good, and for a while was unable to believe how devious his brother is.  Plus he feels sorry for his brother since his brother is on his own.   Only when he actually observed his brother's behaviour and I pointed it out, did he begin to realize how selfish and mean his brother is.  Much of this snarky behavior is carried out at any opportunity he has to be alone with me - even for a few minutes!  DH is learning how underhanded his brother is.  And our ultimate plan is to totally distance ourselves from this man in the next few years. 

He bullies in the strangest ways I have ever seen -- body language, expressions, threatening/mean looks, grunts and sighs.  And if someone does try to call him out on it, his reply is usually:  "What did I do?" or "I was just trying to --- " blah blah blah.  He never, and I mean never, takes responsibility for his behavior.  No one can ever quote him because he uses body language for intimidation, and he is quite good at it.

2 dilemmas are currently looming.  I'll just discuss one of them here, and hope someone can give me some advice.

Since we go on holiday with this man, and things have become so dire that now I will not ever speak to him first (except the "Good morning" or "Thank you for taking us to -----" (he is always richly reimbursed for anything he does for us), or "Goodnight now, have a nice evening."

The reason for this is, when my husband has to step away for any reason, this man gets rude with me.  He talks low on purpose at the restaurant table so I can't hear him.  He doesn't do that to my husband.  And this summer when we were back from holiday, he followed us up the stairs to help with the bags and the moment my husband went in the restroom, he followed me into the kitchen and began mocking me and talking in a really weird passive-aggressive voice I'd never heard him use prior to this summer.  "Did you enjoy the holiday Suuuuuusan?" (He knew he had made both DH and me horribly miserable on 2 occasions, yet he pretended to be oblivious to his lack of manners or concern.) 

BIL: "Did you enjoy the holiday Suuuuuuusan?"
Me:  "Did you?" (By that point, I didn't want to give him anything about myself or my feelings.)
BIL: "Why yes!  I loved it!  I thought it was so wonderful." (in a fake smile, fake voice)
Me:  "Oh, I did, too." (I smiled but it probably wasn't much more sincere than his.)
BIL:  "Oh, I thought you woooooould." (very sarcastic and hostile).

The second DH came out of the restroom, he retracted from the kitchen and his expression became instantly innocent like, and his voice became normal.

I told DH about this, and we agreed to distance ourselves from him as much as we could for the time being.  DH and he own property together. 

So I said all that to ask this: 
If for whatever reason I am ever left alone with the BIL and he asks:  "Are you enjoying the holiday Susan?" or directs the conversation to me in the presence of my husband, is there anything I could say that would discourage him trying to engage me in conversation without being  horribly rude?  After repeated dramas with this man, I loathe being around him.  Even a few times a year is difficult for me.  DH knows this, but insists on my presence 3 times a year plus a week on holiday.

My husband insists we do Christmas with him this year - twice! - and a graveyard visit to put flowers on the graves of their parents.  I'm fine with that, but I know the insults/digs/contempt are always just below the surface with the BIL.

Thank you for reading, those of you who persevered.  I love this forum and the posts are great.
As I said, worlds more about the awful BIL drama.  If you have any questions or cursory advice, please respond.  Thank you!

LeveeWoman:
Your husband is insisting you be exposed to this horrible man? Is he too intimidated by him to back away now?

For the time being, I'd never be alone with him. If your husband goes to another room, you could go with him. If it's to the bathroom in your home, you could go to your bedroom and shut the door. If you're at a restaurant and your husband goes to the restroom, go to the Ladies' restroom.

atirial:
To me, he sounds jealous.  He's acting like a child, and this is at the point where you should be refusing to be around him. If you can't avoid him altogether, can you make a deal with your husband that you are not to be left alone with him - if DH needs a drink you accompany him?

You could try treating him like a toddler, but if he's jealous and wants his brother to himself that won't work. If he is jealous then nothing you do or say will work, only what your DH does. I don't have any time for them, but there are men who only become protective if a woman is crying. Otherwise they assume the problem cannot be that bad. If your husband is one of them, is having an explosive crying jag in front of him likely to get him involved?

Two Ravens:
Your husband is insisting you spend a week with this guy? Who sounds not only like a Class A jerk, but incredibly creepy to boot? I'd put my foot down and refuse to go unless the vacation was majorly shortened.

I'd also start calling him out on his behavior. Every time. "Why are you talking to me like that, BIL?"

guihong:
You can choose not to go on these trips with him.  Yes, it will stir up a lot of drama, but so be it.  Let him go alone to see this creep.  Were I in your place, this would be a deal-breaker for me and our marriage.

Then you need to ask yourself why your husband, who is supposed to put your well-being first and foremost, would subject you to this treatment.  If you have children, are they in his presence?  I'd ask your husband if he would want your daughter to be married to a BIL-like man, or to be ordered to be in his presence for a week.

 By subjecting you to this bully, your husband has become a bully himself.

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