My husband of 14 years and I have two children. Years before we met, he’d moved away from home to work full-time and help his sister fulfill her dream of attending school in the big city.
Once she was established, he moved back home to be closer with family and friends.
During that time, she suffered personal traumas - a break-up, a mutual friend’s death, and she also had to have surgery.
She decided to not return home and has since married and had two children.
We try to visit her once or twice annually. Her house is always filthy, her kids run amok, while the adults sit drinking till wee hours (which I dislike).
My kids follow hers because it’s her house and her rules. When we question it or disagree, there’s eye-rolling and anger.
My husband has to watch what he says or be prepared to argue with his sister.
During our recent trip my mother-in-law (MIL) came along, and since there was no spare room, we decided to stay with my husband’s best friend.
This friend’s wife is close with my sister-in-law (SIL), and this upset her. We usually divide our time between them.
Our last trip, my MIL said her daughter was upset because she made accommodations for us to sleep at her house (with no private room and no rules).
My MIL says her daughter still blames my husband for leaving her in the city 19 years ago.
She also said we choose her friend over my SIL, and that I took my husband away from her.
I told my MIL her daughter should seek counselling to overcome her issues. The problem is that she needs to grow up and realize that both her best friend and brother have families and lives that don't revolve around her.
Also, she’d had equal opportunity to move back home as her brother did.
My husband agrees with me and let his mom know this. But she insists that her daughter doesn't need professional help to deal with her past traumatic issues.
Are we being insensitive? She’s not come to my husband about the issue, it’s all his mom being in the middle.
How do we make his mother realize that the blame shouldn't be placed on my husband’s shoulders and his sister should get professional help?
Your husband isn’t responsible for the traumas that happened to his sister when he moved away. However, he can be sensitive to them.
He should speak to her privately about it, since it’s obvious that she’s still troubled, angry, and hurt.
Even an apology should be considered (despite that he’s not to blame), if it can help encourage her to get needed counselling.
Her “filthy” house, lax parenting, and the couple’s drinking habits indicate possible depression.
BUT talking through your mother-in-law is a non-starter to helping his sister, or to finding a potential solution to the continuing rift and resentment.
Tell your MIL that you both understand that she feels badly for her daughter. Her son should also tell her directly that he’s going to talk to his sister and try to help her.
After that, keep her from being “in the middle” by not discussing it further with her. When she criticizes or carries gossip, change the topic.
Tell her you’re doing the best you can under the circumstances of distance and busy lives.
Then, DO the best you can and know you at least tried.
FEEDBACK Regarding the wife who was fed up with the health complaints from her husband who has scleroderma (May 4):
Reader – “Thank you for bringing to light some of the pressures felt when a family member is diagnosed with scleroderma, still an unknown disease to many.
“Having a supportive family is vital, as patients often need help with common, everyday tasks.
“A valuable and significant resource patients can explore is joining one of our excellent support groups.
“To find the nearest one, visit http://www.sclerodermaontario.ca/Find_A_Support_Group.html or call the Scleroderma Society of Ontario at 1-888-776-7776.”
Ellie – For other locales, do a Google search for Scleroderma support groups.
Scleroderma is an autoimmune, rheumatic, and chronic disease that affects the body by hardening connective tissue.
It can be a mild annoyance, or it can cause significant clinical problems.
For others, it can become life threatening.
Most people have episodes where the illness improves or even goes into remission.
Tip of the day:
Some family rifts have a basis in events that need to be talked out with sensitivity.