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Putting A Stop To The Backstabbing Drama

First; a little background. I recently started dating a guy and it looks promising. So promising, that he have on several occasions introduced me to his family (closest family consists of his father, sister w/husband and two kids aged 3 & 5, and their aunt w/ husband and two kids in their early twenties).

Everyone is nice and welcoming and always positive towards me. I do have a hard time getting along with the sister. It works fine at family functions, we talk about the weather and the roast and the beautiful cake and all things mundane and I play with her kids and all is good. But we never really talk, she does NOT EVER tell anyone what she means, just smiles and nods and move on and comes back with an ever bigger smile. This would be great if she was such a person that forgives and forgets but sadly that is not the case. Instead for voicing her opinion she just smiles and nods and smiles even more until she drops a bomb some time later about how offended/sad/etc she feels about a particular situation. She NEVER confronts face to face and she never really talks about things, just smiles and nods.

The particular event I would like to describe to you happened during Easter holiday.  I and my boyfriend made plans to stay at his winter cabin, do some skiing, etc. for the entire holiday. His sister, husband and kids would come up to visit and have dinner one day and I really looked forward to it. I brought my dog along since he loves to play in the snow, and the kids had a good time playing with the dog.  I and my boyfriend’s sister cooked dinner and chatted and generally everyone had a good time. (I thought that everything went VERY well at this point and I actually felt that got a bit closer to her).

After dinner we sat down to relax and the dog went to sleep in a corner. I made point of putting the dog down for a nap as he was getting a bit worked up by the kids constantly playing and giving him commands.

I need to point out that the kids are not at all used to dogs and did not know how to properly behave around him. Thus, when they tried to approach the sleeping dog and started poking him, I politely, but sternly told them to please leave him alone, he has laid down to rest in his bed and seems to want to be left alone. He is a big dog and even though I completely trust him around kids he could easily knock them over or something like that if awoken abruptly, and I did not want the kids to be scared or get a bad experience.

The kids backed off, the dog kept sleeping and I avoided a potential dangerous situation and everyone was happy. I thought nothing of it afterwards. My boyfriend’s sister and her husband did not even flinch when I confronted their kids, no reaction at all and I thought I was well within my right to tell them to leave the dog alone.

The young boy, however, kept his interest on the dog and I had to tell him one more time to leave the dog alone, but that’s how kids are. I did not raise my voice or use foul language, just sat down with him and explained why we need to respect the dog’s space when he sleeps.

In my eyes it was completely called for because it was my dog and it is completely up to me if I want the kids to play with him or not, and secondly no one in my boyfriend’s family are particular familiar with dogs hence I thought it a good opportunity to teach the kids a little bit about how to treat a large dog as I did not want them to approach him unattended.

However, a couple of days or so later my boyfriend got a call from his sister, where she told him that she probably stand to spend more than a couple of hours with me at the time because I was too harsh and rude and berated her kids. Apparently she was furious! My boyfriend kept a polite spine, and told his sister that she was out of line reacting like that and then relayed the conversation to me later on. I was devastated since I want nothing more than a happy and friendly relationship with my future sister-in-law and I love her kids very much. It just bothers me that she did not speak to me at the time, or if she didn’t want to bring up the subject in front of the kids, made no effort to speak to me afterwards.

Is there any way I can handle this situation gracefully without insulting the sister? I really wish she had spoken to me at the time, and I would have adjusted my manners accordingly but she did nothing of the sort, carrying on as nothing ever happened and being all cheers and joy. And then she starts yelling at her brother because of my apparent rude behavior, not trying to confront me or even talk to be about the subject.

I have noticed that they seldom really talk to each other in my boyfriend’s family, everyone just keeps their mouth shut and then complain to everyone else than the actual persons involved. Therefore I am not sure it will go down well if I approach his sister on the subject, I have consulted my boyfriend and he said that I am more than welcome to confront his sister but I will not get a sincere response, she will be happy as ever and then call and shout at him for telling me.

I am quite furious myself as I think that it was well within my right to tell the kids not to disturb the dog and in addition avoid a potential hazardous situation.

Do you have any ideas on how I handle this and hopefully the same situation in the future? Should I keep low and forget about it all and then risk similar situations in the future or should I keep my ground and tell the sister that if she has an issue with me she can take it up with me? All I really want is an open and honest relationship with my boyfriends family.

Any thoughts?

Yep, lots of thoughts.   Sister is a drama queen and over time she has been allowed by her family to get away with these post situational rants behind people’s backs.

The way to mitigate her behavior is for both you and your boyfriend to commit to never hearing secondhand rants about other people.  And I mean *anyone* ranting to either of you about anyone else in the family.  Your responses when the drama gossip starts is to halt the conversation and say, “I do not want to hear it.  If you have a problem with XXX, you go talk to XXX.  Do not speak to me until you do and if you cannot resolve the conflict together, I will help moderate between you two to come to a peaceful resolution.”   You want to force her to either address her offenses with the person she claims has offended her or force her to cease the backstabbing gossip.

Your boyfriend should view his sister’s drama gossip as a very divisive tool to sow discord between you, him and various family members.  I do not believe he should listen to any of it if his sister is unwilling to address her offenses directly with the person she claims has offended her, i.e. you.   I think you should release your expectation that you and boyfriend’s sister will become bosom buddies and accept that civil but superficial interactions may be all that can be expected from this relationship.   I would certainly be discreet in what you choose to tell her about your personal life or opinions, btw.


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  • Sarah April 3, 2013, 7:49 am

    Wow. I try not to correct other people’s kids because I know there are plenty of people who are very offended by that, but I do step in in dangerous situations, especially when the parents may not be saying something.

    And I count bothering a sleeping dog as dangerous. You startle anything while it’s asleep and it might jump or snap or injure you. It’s also kind of mean to pester something sleeping. It may not be intentionally mean, but if an animal or human is sleeping, leave it alone.

    I’d have intervened as well. Although the backstabbing drama is ridiculous, did you give the parents a chance to correct the child? Some people are upset if not given the chance to step in themselves, although it can be hard to wait if the kids are actively pestering your dog. You were in a tough spot. I don’t think you were in the wrong to say something.

    I think the admin has some good advice. Don’t hear rants about others from anyone in his family. If someone calls your boyfriend to complain, he should tell them to talk to you, or whoever it is that they’re upset at. He can even say, “you should talk to X, or should’ve said something at the time, I don’t want to hear it”.

    Good luck!

  • ferretrick April 3, 2013, 7:53 am

    Admin is spot on here. When I was in therapy, my counselor called this “triangular communication” -where people in a family always go through third parties rather than talking to each other. It’s a very hurtful and destructive pattern in families, and it’s very common. But, what you need to do is count this incident as a lesson learned and don’t do anything further this time to escalate the drama, because your BF is right-sister will then just get mad at him for “tattling” (although deep down that’s exactly what she wanted him to do). Just let it go.

    Then, have a talk with boyfriend and tell him exactly what Admin told you-next time, he is to cut the person off, and refuse to listen to any 3rd party griping about you. He is to tell his sister-or whichever family member-to speak to you directly or not speak about it at all. It sounds like this communication style is deeply ingrained in his family and something he learned from childhood on, so it’s probably going to take more than one incident to get him sticking to your strategy. But, when he does slip, YOU stop him and tell him you both agreed to not participate in the 3rd party nonsense, and you don’t want to hear another word of what was said. Be patient but firm and eventually the lesson will take, and you will both have much more peace. It takes two people (or three) in this case to make drama, so decline to be the 2nd and 3rd people.

  • Angel April 3, 2013, 7:55 am

    I totally agree with the admin. My MIL is like this and I cannot stand it. She is constantly complaining about my husband’s brother to my husband and also to me. I have told her on several occasions to please work it out with BIL, without much success. My husband tells her the same thing. But she is pushing 80 and has done this kind of thing most of her life. In her case I don’t even think it’s malicious, she is just ignorant and doesn’t know any better. She wants to keep the peace with my BIL because he does tend to get defensive when confronted.

    In the OP’s case I would not bother to confront the boyfriend’s sister. Just file away this behavior and remember for future interactions–this is how she is. Personally I would limit your time and interactions with her and with her family. And as sad as it might seem to you now, just accept the fact that you and she will probably never be close.

    If the dog situation comes up again, my advice would be to have your boyfriend correct his niece or nephew. This way you are completely out it.

  • Marjorie Margarine April 3, 2013, 7:58 am

    I could have written this letter myself. My sister in law is EXACTLY like this, except she (fortunately) doesn’t have any kids. She acts like everything is fine, and then I find out through the grapevine that I was horribly offensive to her. I’ve also discovered that her definition of “horribly offensive” is very, very different than mine. Recently, she was “horribly offended” when I told her husband that his job sounded difficult. I still haven’t figured that out. She was also “horribly offended” when I sent her a novel I thought she might like for her birthday, because I was “insinuating that she doesn’t read.” She has never even posted on my facebook wall for my birthday, texted me congratulations for graduating from graduate school, and when I married her brother, she put her name on the gift her parents gave us, but when she got engaged, she threw a temper tantrum because I didn’t send her an engagement gift (she and the boyfriend had been living together for over a year, frankly, I didn’t even know “engagement gifts” were an expected thing). Right after I first met her, she started complaining to me about her mom, my mother-in-law, who is also very strange, and kept trying to get me to join in. I eventually admitted that, though I liked her mom, a recent family vacation was very uncomfortable for me because her mother did not speak to anyone for an entire 9-hour drive. Of course, she immediately told her mom that I didn’t like her and had said that she was awkward. Lesson learned on that one.

    People like this are impossible. They are looking for offense. Unfortunately, in my husband’s family, his mother will always entertain whatever his sister says. DH has gotten pretty good about cutting her off at the knees, and unfortunately, because of her attitude, we do not have much of a relationship with her anymore.

  • Abby April 3, 2013, 7:59 am

    That’s tough, because if you hadn’t said anything, and the kids continued to pester the dog, and they got bitten or the dog jumped on them, well the sister would be even more furious. I have an 18 month old and I am constantly worried about her getting attacked by a dog. I let her play with family members’ dogs, but only if I am right there with her. Sister should have been the one to call the kids back but if she wasn’t going to do it, someone had to. Yet a lot of parents are extremely touchy about how you talk to their kids, even if it’s to warn them of something for their own safety. I don’t think much can really be done about it. If it happens again where the kids are doing something that could be dangerous, maybe just tell the sister instead of trying to manage the situation yourself.

    I have to wonder though, exactly what good came of your boyfriend telling you what his sister said? He should have told his sister you spoke up for her kids’ own safety and left it at that. Sounds to me like Sister isn’t the only one that likes to stir up drama.

  • Wendy B. April 3, 2013, 8:01 am

    “I have noticed that they seldom really talk to each other in my boyfriend’s family, everyone just keeps their mouth shut and then complain to everyone else than the actual persons involved.”

    So does this mean your boyfriend does the same thing?

    Along with following Admin’s advice, I would add that you should thing long and hard about whether you really want to get involved with this man. It sounds like the entire family does this and unless you’re willing to play the game, or if he’s willing to stand with you completely, it’s not worth the heart aches and head aches you’re going to be experiencing down the road.

  • Ergala April 3, 2013, 8:03 am

    My sister in law and I did NOT get along for the past 10 years. The issue….we didn’t communicate. I picked up on vibes coming from her (which she did admit later on to putting out) and we both made assumptions about the other. It got so bad that I absolutely refused to go to any family get together where she was going to be. I guess she had vented to a few of my dh’s family members and they too decided to take a disliking to me. She just moved back to the East Coast and we were all invited to a holiday party. I finally told my mother in law (the person who invited us) the deal and that I don’t think I’d be going. She was pretty upset and I made it very clear that it was between my SIL and I….and my DH. Well DH called her a few days later and pretty much laid his cards out on the table. Then she and I talked and I have to say it was the best thing ever. She had NO idea of the abuse I suffered as a child and that I was incredibly insecure. I had no idea I was coming off as distant and cold because I didn’t want anyone to hurt me. So we went to the party, had a great time and we are planning to get together very soon to try and kick start a friendship.

    My point is that sometimes grown ups have to sit down and spill their guts. I don’t think people are drama queens just to be drama queens. I think there is always some underlying issue in there to make them act like that. Vulnerability is sometimes the door to friendship and I think it would be good for YOU to talk to her face to face and explain how you want her to approach you if she has an issue. That you will be receptive to her feelings because I have a feeling the people in her family aren’t.

  • Pen^3 April 3, 2013, 8:06 am

    I absolutely agree with admin.

    If sis actually had a real problem with anything you did, she would have called you out on it then and there, especially if she felt it was impacting her children badly. What kind of mother sits back and lets her kids be insulted and mistreated right in front of her and just smiles about it? Only a completely distant one, and she doesn’t sound like that type from what little you’ve said of her. So we can conclude that she was not actually upset, not deep down.

    (I should add that I think what you did was not only completely in line, but very kind and instructive to children interested in a friendly dog. Most reasonable people would appreciate what you did.)

    Also, why ring boyfriend and not you directly? Again, not actually being upset is a part of this. If she just wanted to gossip, she could have done so with anyone else. Calling your boyfriend specifically only seems to have one purpose: to create strife between you two. She might want to actually try to convince him that you are no good, or she might be simply trying to make his life more stressful when you are around, in an effort to condition him to not being around you. Very manipulative and ridiculous.

    Both of you, as admin said, should simply refuse to listen to any gossip, from any family members, about other people when they are not present. If sis has an issue with you, boyfriend has no reason to listen to her rant. Direct people to talk to whom they seem to want to and then walk away from the situation. And accept that sis will never be that close to you if she sees you as someone to be manipulated and mistreated this way. Keep things civil as you have been (I applaud your efforts), and by getting used to the fact that you cannot have a close relationship with this woman, you will make your own life less stressful by not desiring more than is possible.

  • Lo April 3, 2013, 8:07 am

    This sounds like a bad situation. This woman is clearly poisonous. Definitely set up a wall of polite distance in your dealings with her and anticipate the worst. By that I mean, expect that you may do something reasonable that is blown out of proportion later on and you’ll hear about it from a third party.

    Your boyfriend would do better to not inform you of anything she says because it’s clear that her complaints are going to be of this nature.

    The situation with the kids and the dog is particularly grating because you’d expect that as a mother if she *truly* believed you were being rude to her children she would have stepped in and said something to you at the time. Her job in this situation is to reinforce good behavior and to keep her kids from causing trouble and to keep them safe. A non-manipulative person would have either sat back and allowed your correction of their behavior, stepped in and reinforced it with the children, or else spoken to you about it immediately if she felt that you were being too harsh. For the record, I would have done the exact same thing you did with correcting the kids but if she feels differently there are appropriate ways to handle it.

    The fact that she didn’t do any of this means that she is judging your actions and storing up drama as currency to be spent at her whim. She isn’t looking out for your best interests, the dog’s, or even her children’s. She’s a troublemaker and she clearly has no issue using her kids as pawns to rake up the drama. Engage cautiously and avoid if possible.

  • Michele K. April 3, 2013, 8:38 am

    Oh, wow. First, OP, I think you handle the children/dog situation well. You were not “berating” the children. You were giving the dog space to rest and helping the kids realize the dog has needs as well.

    The Admin has the right approach to how you and your boyfriend need to handle the rest of the family. But, you will need to have a clear discussion with your boyfriend about it. He needs to be completely onboard with the situation. If he allows his sister to unload on him, then tells her to tell you, it will not work. The moment she mentions a complaint or problem with you, he need to halt the conversation and redirect it to you.

    This type of situation sounds very familiar to me. Without going into details, it has to do with family dynamics and how they handle personal information and people from the outside. It boils down to presenting the perfect, happy exterior to everyone outside the family. You do not make complaints or show more than superficial emotion to an outsider.

  • jch April 3, 2013, 9:08 am

    Wow. Talk about passive-aggressive behavior! Your boyfriend’s sister sounds like a piece of work…
    I think Admin is right — refuse to engage in the behavior she is trying to instigate. She apparently wants to cause trouble without being directly involved, so don’t allow that. Personally, I would confront her myself. I’d have no problem putting her on the spot, especially since no one seems to ever do that – it’s about time someone forced her to explain herself. If it were me, next time I saw her, I would tell her what your BF told you, and let her know you are upset to know that she misunderstood your concern for her children, etc., etc., and you wish she had talked to you directly at the time. Seems she gets away with this kind of stuff regularly….I’d make her explain herself!

    It seems to me that you were looking out for both your dog’s well-being (your right as pet owner), as well as that of her children. At that young age, it is very important that they learn how to approach animals that have the potential to harm them. There is a reason for that old saying, “let sleeping dogs lie.” As sweet-tempered as your dog may be, there is always a chance he could react poorly if woken or surprised. You know this, and I can’t imagine why the sister doesn’t…It sounds like you handled the situation admirably, and it’s shocking that the children’s mother wasn’t grateful for that.

  • Bint April 3, 2013, 9:14 am

    People like this are infuriating. Why could she not talk to you at the time? Or afterwards? Why could she not politely ask her brother to let you know blah, blah? But no. She has to go for the screaming option, which is when you just stop listening. Just refuse to take any of it on board. Any of it. Accept she will never say anything to you, but tell your boyfriend, “If she can’t discuss it like an adult, I’m not interested.” Refuse to hear any of it. Try to get him to do the same.

    Anyone who does the post-event screaming rather than speak up at the time can forget it. I don’t care what their problem is. My husband’s parents are very passive-aggressive like this – without the screaming, but they nitpick at him after every event until he used to get totally wound up knowing that moaning, complaining phone call was coming after everyone had thought they’d enjoyed themselves. After several years of an unsympathetic wife saying, “Well, they should have said something. It’s not your problem,” he just rolls his eyes.

    I don’t think this woman is a friend you want to have.

  • ElizabethD April 3, 2013, 9:20 am

    I agree with admin but something hugely important is omitted … you handled the situation very well in the moment. It was your reponsibility to ensure that the children were safe in the presence of your dog, as well as take care of your dog. You anticipated everyone’s needs, paid attention, and provided guidance as necessary.

    If a parent is not minding a child in my home I have no problem politely and calmly intervening – I shouldn’t have to but I’m certainly not going to stand back and hope Mom or Dad remembers to parent. It seems the children took the direction well so your tone and manner were certainly not over-the-top. Their mom may be a Drama Queen but she also behaves passive aggressively, perhaps because she is allowed to. Often these family dyanamics evolve over time so slowly that the participants cannot see how extreme they’ve become; time for some pushback.

    I think a follow-on conversation is in order: “I was sorry to hear you were upset that I gave direction to the children. I thought it necessary for all involved. Next time, please speak up if you have concerns.” Then just drop it.

    The refusal to engage is what stops these types. BF shouldn’t be allowing her to rant after the fact. Shut it down.

  • DowagerDutchess April 3, 2013, 9:24 am

    Your boyfriend is feeding this drama by passing her rants along to you. If you’re not getting along gear with her, cool it with the holiday invites for now. You’ve only recently been dating, you don’t need to be a part of his family yet- at least not all the time.

  • Stepmomster April 3, 2013, 9:29 am

    Just say no to the drama Llama. She will get you sucked in, and get you and your boyfriend worked up, until you both live to fuel her fire. Follow the admins advice, or your entire dating relationship will be defined by “trying to have a relationship” with his sister. She LOVES this game, and I bet has done it with most of his girlfriends.

    There is no way to win, because she is looking for things that are wrong, it’s like an abusive relationship where one person is chronically unhappy and the other spends all their energy trying to “fix” them. Don’t buy into it. If she wanted a healthy relationship with you, she would make more of an effort to develop a thicker skin and look for ways to spend positive time with you.

    But the drama is more fun. Not only that, but she can use it to make her own family pay attention to her. She doesn’t care about you or her brother more than how it benefits her. RUN.

    Also, take a cue from your boyfriend. If he is cool towards his sister there is a reason why. Don’t force HIM into trying to change because YOU want an imaginary relationship with his sister. He might have been burned by the llama for years and through many relationships, so don’t go there unless it is something he is willing to help you with or be a part of.

    Finally, this is how I deal with obnoxious relatives… would you be friends with that person if they were not related to you or your boyfriend/spouse in some way? no? Then why does blood mean you have to put up with terrible, hurtful behavior? It doesn’t. This woman is not special, she isn’t a princess, she will only mean as much to you as you let her. Let the Llama go back to her other pastures and chew her old cud there.

  • Gee April 3, 2013, 9:38 am

    First of all, OP, I think you were completely in the right for what you did. You were polite with the children when you told them what you needed to. And you had every right to request that they not bother your dog while he’s sleeping. I don’t think you could have done anything differently that would not have offended Sister. If someone is determined to take offense, they’ll find a way.

    And I agree with the Admin. My MIL would try to pull this kind of crap all the time–gossiping about other people, and I know she gossips about us with other. We all have now learned to say, “You need to discuss this with ____” and then change the subject. If she persists, it’s followed up with a “I’m not comfortable discussing this.” Just refuse to engage. Drama queens need a stage to perform. Don’t give them one.

  • BB April 3, 2013, 9:48 am

    My Ex’s family was/is very much like this. It lead in no small part to the break-up of the marriage when I refused to play the back stabbing game and called them out on it. It was the entire family, not just one member. They smiled and nodded to my face, then told my ex what a horrible person I am behind my back. Good times (not). I thought my family was dysfunctional – they made us look like the perfect family!

  • Cat April 3, 2013, 9:58 am

    Sounds like my birth family only they make up lies about those they have decided to dislike and then spread them to other family members. No one has the courage to call the liars out because “It would start a family argument. It’s better that they believe the lies.” I cannot understand how a lie trumps truth in a family.
    The question about the dog is: if the dog had bitten one of the children who was poking it, would the sister have said, “Oh, it’s my fault for not watching my children!” or would she have screamed, “Your dog bit my child!”? You did what was right. No apology needed.
    The larger issue is the sister back-biting habit. Suppose at your next meeting you say, “I was wondering if you were offended when I asked your children to leave the sleeping dog alone? If you were, how would you have liked me to have handled the situation? I was concerned about the safety of your children and did not intend to offend you.”
    I’d do the same thing everytime she pulls the trick of going behind your back to complain about you to anyone. If you know she says something about you, don’t mention that you were told, just that you were wondering if…
    My guess is that, if she is confronted everytime she pulls this, she’ll quit doing it. Her pleasure comes from “paying you back” without giving you a chance to respond.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith April 3, 2013, 10:05 am

    OP, admin’s advice is the cure for your headache. It’s also easier to remove a pet to another room and shut the door than it is to herd children who are excited by interacting with a furry friend. As a GF who is new to the family scene, your actions might have been seen as weighing in prematurely by your BF’s sister. Whatever, now you know to steer clear of correcting her lovelies and to steer clear of her drama generally.

  • Lisa April 3, 2013, 10:18 am

    I have a basset hound, one of the sweetest, loving, gentlest dogs you can imagine, but one time I startled him from a nap his first response was to whip his head around and snap at me. And I can only blame myself since I know better. Can you imagine if the OP’s dog actually bit the child? I shudder to think what would have happened then. Young children need to be taught how to behave around animals, and if the parents aren’t going to step up and do so, then it becomes the responsibility of the OP.

  • Allie April 3, 2013, 10:31 am

    I agree completely with Admin. Your boyfriend needs to stop dignifying his sister’s sniping by listening to it at all. When she starts, he should simply say he is not prepared to listen to her and end the conversation as politely as possible. As for you, by all means continue to be civil to her when in her company but do not give her post-visit sniping a second thought. As you describe the incident with your dog, I don’t see that you did anything wrong. However, there’s absolutely no point in wasting any breath trying to explain this to her. She won’t listen.

  • Lisa Marie April 3, 2013, 10:31 am

    Thank you Admin, I have learned a lesson here myself about handling family in the future concerning the third party gripping. I might add that when I was a young mother, I did take offense when a good friend went overboard correcting my preschooler for dropping ice cream on the floor and her baby could have eaten it had an allergic reaction etc. She did not even give me two seconds to say anything or clean up the accident. We left shortly thereafter and I have to admit I wrote her off as a friend because of this.

  • Goldie April 3, 2013, 10:32 am

    She said WHAT? Goodness, if I were the kids’ parent in this situation, I’d be falling over myself apologizing to OP, and thanking her profusely for picking up my slack (as a parent) and making sure my kids do not get bitten by a startled, awakened, large dog. I’d walk away from that encounter thinking that OP has done me a huge favor, not fuming at her for having “berated” my kids! The mind boggles. I’m not going to comment on the way this family handles conflicts by gossiping behind each other’s backs – I think we all agree that this is dysfunctional to the highest degree. I think that, unless they change their ways, an open and honest relationship with the boyfriend’s family is just not in the cards. I’d be civil, polite, and very careful around them (like Admin advises). What about the boyfriend? I hope he doesn’t follow the same pattern in relationship that the rest of his family does? He seems t0 be better balanced than the rest of them.

  • Annie April 3, 2013, 11:02 am

    Some people sure do love to feel wronged! I had a coworker who was like this at work (I don’t think he had very much family, so I guess he had to get all his drama at work).

    He was planning to get surgery, but hadn’t scheduled it yet. I was in a meeting with him and his boss, and his boss mentioned that he wanted Coworker to go to Japan. Coworker seemed perfectly happy with this arrangement. Then after the meeting, he came to my desk and said bitterly, “Well, I guess I can’t get surgery.” I was completely shocked–there had been no clue from him in the meeting that he didn’t want to go. I told him that he had to discuss it with his boss if the trip was really a disruption to his personal life. “Fine, I will,” he said. He came back a few minutes later and said, “It’s just like I thought. He doesn’t want me to get the surgery I need.”

    I seriously doubt he talked to his boss at all. I realized then that he was a drama llama.

  • Ashley April 3, 2013, 11:10 am

    But if you had done nothing, and the dog had gotten startled and accidentally hurt one of the kids, she would have been even more angry!

    I really don’t understand drama like this. I made it a point to not ever get involved in it. Even when I was in school, I actively avoided drama by avoiding groups I knew to cause drama. Why do people really get so caught up in making others angry/sad/whatever?

    I have to give your boyfriend credit for standing up for you, and I agree with admin’s advice as well.

  • The Elf April 3, 2013, 11:43 am

    All you need to be is civil. So, forget about being friends with Sister-in-law and just try to be polite in person. You can’t change her. Just don’t listen to the back-stabbing. It sounds like your husband is already on board with at least some of admin’s advice, given that he talked to you about it and told sister she was out of line. Develop a plan – together – about dealing with SIL and then stick to it. (That last part is harder than it sounds; I still struggle with it with regards to a misbehaving relative).

    You were right about the dogs. So even if another similar situation provokes SIL’s reaction, still do it. The safety of the kids and the dog means more than a little back-biting.

  • Cami April 3, 2013, 12:03 pm

    Cat said:
    Sounds like my birth family only they make up lies about those they have decided to dislike and then spread them to other family members. No one has the courage to call the liars out because “It would start a family argument. It’s better that they believe the lies.” I cannot understand how a lie trumps truth in a family.

    Cat’s birth family sounds like my dh’s birth family. The person who made up the lies was my MIL. No one told me or my dh about it until our wedding day. I only found out about her lies about me because at my wedding — yes, my WEDDING — I had so many people from my dh’s family come up and say, “Oh, wow. You’re actually a really lovely person. Based upon what MIL said, we thought you were [fill in the blank with pejorative term]. But you’re not!” Yeah, wasn’t that lovely? To be told of lies being spread and how people believed them and being called — in a backhanded sort of way — the very names my MIL had used to describe me. On my wedding day.

    So here’s my advice, OP. Do NOT try and be friendly with this individual. ANYTHING you say or do WILL be held against you later. If you must intervene, try anad have your boyfriend do it rather than yourself. Frigid civility and only necessary communications are your real friend in this family.

  • LovleAnjel April 3, 2013, 12:19 pm

    OP did the right thing. Preventing an injury is more important than a parent’s feelings. If I see a small child running around with a screwdriver point up just for fun, I take it away. I don’t wait to see if mom will intervene or ask them what they think about it. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

    There likely is little or nothing you can do that will be “right” in SIL’s eyes. Stop trying to be her friend – be polite. That is all that is required.

  • Sansa April 3, 2013, 12:38 pm

    Totally agree with admin. I have encountered people like your FSIL many, many times and a couple of those people are still a part of my life, including a few family members. I avoid the drama as much as possible. If FSIL will not speak with you face to face, you will have to just avoid the talking behind the back as much as possible, don’t correct her kids unless they are doing something dangerous and keep them away from your dog.

  • Another Lisa April 3, 2013, 12:49 pm

    It’s very odd to me that the parents of the child didn’t do anything to correct him when he was bothering the dog. I love dogs myself, but I know any animal can snap if a kid is rough with him or bothers him while eating or sleeping. If they aren’t going to protect their child then they shouldn’t get mad when someone else steps in and does it.

    This woman (and her husband) sound very strange.

  • Dear! April 3, 2013, 1:23 pm

    She sounds like a gem. Lol.

    But her behavior reminds me of a family member my sister and I have come to know as Evil Cousin. However, instead of smiles when confronted, she cries and tries to make herself out to be the victim. I could write a novel about all the things she has done, but the gist of it is that she, too, is all smiles with family members and “friends” and she berates us, lies about us, and sometimes makes up elaborate and hurtful lies.

    I don’t like situations to linger, and as long as my anger has subsided or I feel the relationship can be salvaged, I approach the offending person so that we can talk and be done with any drama. (Life is too short.)

    However, a recent situation with Evil Cousin was the last straw and I just cut her off. I stopped returning emails, texts, calls, FB messages, BBM messages, etc. in hopes that she would take the hint. She didn’t and I finally just got tired and told her what she did, why I was mad about it, and why I was keeping my distance (this time) And, then came the tears and the victim card.

    I knew she was lying. She knew she was lying. She knew I knew she was lying, but I just told her I took her word about what she had lied about and went back to ignoring her. (That relationship is all but over, but family has a way of not letting you have a clean break) However, at family functions I play nice since it takes energy for me not to be.

    Gist of the story is, your BF’s sister probably won’t change, so keep your distance, keep it all smiles and light, and if you have to approach her, play the game. If she pretends everything is fine, you pretend everything is fine and just ignore her. As long as you’ve said your peace, keep it moving.

  • Abby April 3, 2013, 1:38 pm

    OP, I get that you’re annoyed with the sister, but honestly, what good would have come from her directly confronting you? Would you have apologized when you really felt you weren’t at fault? If Sister had said, I didn’t like the way you spoke to my kids, right to your face, how would you have responded? Your boyfriend’s sister is hyper sensitive and looking to be offended, and you having an awkward confrontation with her every time you look at her in a way she perceives as wrong will help no one. All that happened in this case is she complained to her brother about an event he witnessed and he defended you. It wasn’t like she exaggerated your actions to someone who wasn’t there and they now have a bad picture in their mind of you.

    I’d let it go. Boyfriend could take Admin’s advice and tell Sister he’s not going to be her sounding board for her grievances with a third party, but I’d also strongly recommend Boyfriend stop passing along information about his sister’s little fits to you.

  • LadyPhoenix April 3, 2013, 2:17 pm

    There are some people in this world that will just gossip, gossip, gossip. I won’t lie — I am guilty of this too, mostly to let off steam on a particular person I argue with without causing a major scream fest. But there’s a difference between quietly venting out your frustrations with one person while not offending them and simply tossing golden apples to a flock in order to stir up some discord.

    The bf’s sister is obviously the latter. She purposely talks behind your back to the family close to her, ESPECIALLY to the one closest to YOU for the sole purpose of riling you up and messing up the relationship. If you try to confront her about it, she’ll just play all innocent and cry on her family’s shoulder — making YOU the bad guy, which is the LAST thing you want if you plan on joining the family one day.

    Tell your boyfriend that you will not take part in her little game, and request that he doesn’t either. The next time she tries that cr*p, have you or the boyfriend simply state: “We are not going to take part in your drama. If you have a problem, be civilized and tell the offender. Otherwise, keep it to yourself and bugger off.”

    People like her will most like NEVER stop to rumor-mongering until EVERYONE tells her to shut up. The chances of that happening will be very small. What you need to do is simply ignore that drama and go off on your merry way. You and your boyfriend will have a more pleasant life when you’re not taking part of cr*p like this.

  • sv April 3, 2013, 2:39 pm

    I married into a family like that – one that is very pleasant but rarely, if ever, talks about how they are really feeling. So you can do one of two things – confront your sister in law, which will accomplish little but will at least let her know how YOU like to handle situations like this; or you can refuse to engage in the three way discussion ( assuming your future husband will back you up and also refuse to participate.) There isn’t going to be a time where everyone will bare their souls and you will become the best of pals – there just isn’t. That’s okay, too – I get along with my sister in law very well, but we are never going to be bosom buddies. We are fundamentally different human beings and just because I married her brother doesn’t automatically mean she became my best friend. You handled things with your dog as any reasonable person would, and if she wanted to handle it differently she had every opportunity to do so.

  • Lola April 3, 2013, 2:50 pm

    There are 2 issues here. 1 is mom confusing a discipline issue with a safety issue. That is something that anyone with common sense can agree on.

    But there’s also a larger issue and that is LW having expectations of camaraderie she wants to have with a woman she calls her “future SIL”, even though she started dating her bf only recently and no proposal is forthcoming. This is not to snark on LW’s overinvestment in the relationship. It’s to point out an apparent pattern of having heightened expectations in her relationships, and expecting everyone to follow her style of conflict resolution. Perhaps BF’s sister has avoidant conflict personality, perhaps she just didn’t want to create a scene in front of the chitlins. Perhaps she doesn’t view the LW as a “future SIL” and thus is not comfortable with confronting her.

    What I would suggest is, “if you don’t want to get drawn into drama — don’t.” Trust me, it works. I’ve successfully avoided all the volatility of some of my in-laws’ family dealings by adamantly staying above the fray, while my poor hubby has been losing sleep playing the family arbitrator simply because he sees every perceived injustice as his cue to intervene. You need to let go of YOUR ideas of fairness, as far as the world at large is concerned.

  • lakey April 3, 2013, 2:59 pm

    As a dog owner, congrats to you for being responsible. Dog trainers will tell you that even well behaved dogs with good temperaments could bite under just the right circumstances. Normally I’m all for smiling and being civil with drama queens in order to avoid ugliness, but continue to stand your ground with the dog issue.
    My nephew and his wife and 2 toddlers were here for Easter. I kept the leash on my beagle and put her in another room when I was busy and couldn’t keep an eye on things. She’s a sweet dog, but you never now what would happen if one of the kids pulled her ear or poked her eye. Your boyfriend’s sister should be grateful.

  • jeab April 3, 2013, 3:00 pm

    I find the whole emphasis on the sister ALWAYS or NEVER being X,Y, or Z very presumptious. The OP claims to have only started dating her boyfriend “recently” — so how long did she even know this woman before deciding she ALWAYS/NEVER behaves in such and such a manner? Is it because her boyfriend has told her so? In that case, the boyfriend appears to be a passive-aggressive gossip himself.

    Let’s presume the sister really was genuinely upset that she felt the OP had overstepped some boundaries with her children (if it is within OP’s right to decide what is acceptable behaviour with her dog, then it is most definitely within the sister’s right to decide what is acceptable behaviour with her children). Instead of embarrassing the OP on a holiday occasion, she brought it up privately with her brother a few days later. I fail to see how this makes the sister a drama queen and gossip? If anything, the boyfriend who runs off to the OP is the dramatist. If he really felt his sister was over-reacting, the thing to do was to tell her so and leave it at that. Instead, he felt the need to fan some flames between his girlfriend and sister. Why? What good can really come of him telling his girlfriend, “By the way, my sister was really angry with you. You can confront her if you want.”? He sounds rather manipulative to me.

    Maybe she didn’t speak to the OP herself because she was a guest in her brother’s home and didn’t want to make the new girlfriend (who she barely knows) feel uncomfortable. Maybe she is already getting the negative vibes that even I am sensing in this letter….My god, you’re already talking about being sisters-in-law and you’ve barely started dating this guy. I’d keep my mouth shut around you too.

  • Jay April 3, 2013, 3:42 pm

    I agree with the Admin, but I disagree with the posters are blaming the boyfriend for telling the OP about his sister’s rant. He was supposed to just be quiet? If I found out my husband had listened to his sister and then kept something like this from me, I’d be very angry and upset with him! People deserve to know when people are talking behind their backs.

    Instead, the BF should just refuse to play the game and tell his sister what the admin suggested.

  • Puzzled April 3, 2013, 3:42 pm

    Perhaps I misunderstood, but why would it be the GF’s responsibility to moderate anything between anyone in the BF’s family? Or was the admin referring to the BF suggesting he moderate between family members?

  • ketchup April 3, 2013, 3:49 pm

    My mother is like this too.
    My brother and I have concluded that she does this because she prefers being a victim. If she speaks up immediately, things will be resolved quickly and painlessly, and that is not her wish. Last time she complained about something someone did and got the details wrong, however, I’m sure that’s how she remembers it. Drama queen, yes. Some people just have this drive or need to complain.
    What do I do? Lately, I have changed my response to this (I’ve grown up and stuff) and do say exactly what Admin suggests. I tell her to say something right there and then and to the right person. She’ll never do this, I’m afraid, but at least it shuts her up.

    I know I sound callous; it’s my mother after all. But trust me when I say I’ve tried loving her like a normal daughter and learned that she won’t let me.

  • Kristin April 3, 2013, 4:05 pm

    I think the sister was fine with the entire day but, on the way home, just HAD to find something she could complain about and this is what she picked. If she hadn’t found anything, she would have gone crazy, I suspect.

  • RP April 3, 2013, 4:09 pm

    @Jay – I see what you mean but there’s something to be said for not passing along gossip, at least now that the OP knows it’s a thing that the sister does. I think the OP needed to know that this is something the family does but now that she does it probably won’t be helpful for the boyfriend to keep passing messages along. It enables this bad communication where the someone is able to complain without talking to the person directly which robs the other person of the ability to explain themselves or even ask for clarification from the complainer.

    The family needs to learn that if they didn’t say it to the OP then as far as the OP is concerned, it didn’t get said. The OP shouldn’t have to feel conflicted as to how to respond to a complaint just because it wasn’t made directly to her.

  • Elsie April 3, 2013, 4:32 pm

    Admin is totally right. It’s probably the best way to get around the drama. If you confront the BF’s sis, she’s just going to get more upset.

    “In my eyes it was completely called for because it was my dog and it is completely up to me if I want the kids to play with him or not”
    ^^ That is totally correct, too. However, After the first time, I would have physically removed the dog from the situation and locked him in another room. Dog would be fine. Also, this is why I am a huge advocate of crate training. Some people are under the false assumption this is poor treatment, but (if you get a properly sized crate for the dog) the dog actually LIKES the crate. Proper crate training gives the dog a “safe place” he can go to when he needs it. Just teach the kids to leave the doggy alone when he goes in the crate.

  • David April 3, 2013, 4:35 pm

    The best thing you can do for your own sanity is to stop playing your boyfriend’s sister’s game. Talk only in pleasant generalities, back off from trying to be friends, if she starts complaining, she should be told that she needs to take it up with who she is complaining about and to leave whichever of you is on the receiving end out of it.

  • schnickelfritz April 3, 2013, 6:10 pm

    Jeab, I picked up on the “recently started dating” too. Some people do introduce their new dates, to the family, without engagement intentions. Some wait until they have intentions. The sister smiling and nodding, not gushing etc., kind of fits in with the line of thought, her brother brings dates around regardless of further intentions – and she was just checking you out.

    You did the right thing, about talking to the kids about the dog. Some man-boys, do look for what is negative in a potential partner, as they are immature and run away when things get cozier. He took a private conversation with his sister, reporting it back to you – that is a huge red flag right there. You really don’t know what she said exactly, maybe he presented it differently. I really agree with much of what Jeab wrote, especially the middle paragraph. And, the ALWAYS NEVER stuff, you just “recently” met this family.

    I totally agree with the way you handled the dog / kid story – the problem is the boyfriend relating the private conversation with his sister.

  • Marozia April 3, 2013, 7:03 pm

    I totally agree with what Admin says. If you have a problem with X, speak to X, don’t second hand it to someone else. Sister is a drama llama. Everybody should not ignore the behaviour but to tell her about it. We ignored a similar situation and the person just kept on about everything. Until we confronted them, they didn’t realise.
    In regards to your pet, he/she must have their own space to sleep and not be disturbed and children must be told that. I tell my grandkids that our pit bulls have a time to play and a time to rest, and my GKs are younger than the sister’s kids. The dogs can get a little boisterous when they get excited so I don’t want the kids hurt, so I say to leave them to sleep and we’ll play catch and fetch later. They seem to be OK with that.

  • Esmeralda April 3, 2013, 7:04 pm

    My mom does this same thing. Last Thanksgiving, we had her over for dinner, as we do every year. We served turkey, as we do every year. I have been a vegetarian for 30+ years now, so there was no meat in any of the side dishes, and I served a vegetarian entree as well. My mom became a vegetarian several months ago (for health, not ethical, reasons), so I pointed out to her that everything on the table was fine for her to eat, except for the turkey. She thanked me graciously, smiled, and ate the meal, even asking for seconds on my veg entree.

    A week later, I get a phone call from my brother, who lives 2500 miles away. It seems our mom had been calling various members of our family (and all her friends) and telling them how hurt and offended she was that I had forced her to sit at a table loaded with food she couldn’t eat, and that I’d made a big deal about throwing together some little plate of leftovers for her to eat at the last second. My brother said she told him she’d gone home and cried herself to sleep, she was so hurt.

    I ended up driving out to her house, sitting down with her, telling her every word that had gotten back to me, and giving her the opportunity to confirm or deny. She admitted that she had been saying these things because she was angry with DH and I for not inviting her over more often. We talked for a long time, but there was no real resolution. She likes drama, and I don’t. She won’t change, nor will I; this sort of thing has gone on my whole life. Knowing this, the only way to minimize the unpleasantness was to explain our position, and minimize our time spent with her. This may be how the OP will need to deal with her boyfriend’s sister, as well.

  • schnickelfritz April 3, 2013, 8:32 pm

    Jay, huge difference between husband and new boyfriend.

    And, even so, there are things that are not worth repeating, that would only serve to hurt someone’s feelings. There is a saying, something like “what you think of me is none of my business” – google that. There are many articles along that line. It is eye-opening, regarding the ego, and not letting others’ opinions of you take up space in your head. People do not deserve to know what others say about them behind their backs – we would all be bonkers if we did! How would celebrities and politicians get out of bed in the morning, if they focused on others’ negative opinions. Many don’t read the tabloids and reviews of their work for that very reason. Be true to yourself – that is all we can do.

  • NostalgicGal April 3, 2013, 10:04 pm

    Drama-llamas, I had some years of a vicious circle with a SIL that was also my boss for awhile. And while I was working she could be back in the office and call my DH on her break and liteally feed him a pack of garbage and get him all worked up and on a side tangent, then I’d come off a 14 hour shift at 6 am and get the totally warped version lammed back at me after another cooking of some hours. I was physically and emotionally drained and literally had to go shower and pass out and get up and do it again, and I have the warped hystronics to deal with too. It finally gave when DH went to some therapy and a foot got put down about the calls. So now I was driving a wedge between Harpina the SIL and her DEAR little BRO. I’ve gotten it over the years about how I better not DARE to keep them apart… (get real, complete with eye rolls). This is the one that has decided that he can visit and stay over and I can’t be seen from her house in the street. Fine with me. DH has finally grown some spine and relayed some words for me. We’ve been married for this many decades, (harpina) so DEAL. If I’m so trying to cut him off, he’d be CUT OFF. So chill or HE is going to do it.

    OP, I think the Admin nailed it. If you two are going to be an item the middleman filtering has got to stop.

  • Rebecca April 3, 2013, 10:17 pm

    Well she had some nerve. After the young boy continued to pester the dog after being told, “no” the MOM should have said, “Son, did you not hear what OP said? She said not to bother the dog.” Since she didn’t bother to correct her child’s behaviour, she has no right to complain when OP does it. Let me tell you, if some kid pesters any animal of mine, you can believe I’m going to step in and say something.

    I agree with admin’s advice, and also, don’t ever expect a close, loving relationship with this person. The most you can do is keep it civil.