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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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My husband and I purchased a 2 family house with his sister

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My husband and I purchased a 2 family house with his sister 4 years ago. The two of them had a major falling out right before we moved in, and now they don't speak at all. Things were said on both sides which are regretable. Even though they do not speak, both would always attend family functions as there are a number of other siblings so between them, their spouses and children, there was always a "buffer zone" between the two. There hasn't been any conflict between the 2 of them over the last year (since they don't speak) and I - along with my husband - were both hoping that the situation was progressing to the point where he and his sister could begin to move forward with their relationship. However, my sister-in-law is continuing to act like the argument just happened. She won't park in the driveway of our home so as not to run the risk of seeing my husband if he happens to be in the garage. She won't even look at him, despite the fact that my husband has tried to break the ice (taking in her trash cans every week, offering to have one of his friends who is a plumber fix an issue she has with her sink free of charge, etc). Now she's making excuses for not attending the upcoming Holiday celebrations with the family.
My husband feels terrible because he can't understand why after 4 years she seems to be regressing and acting like the arguement just happened. Her boyfried did confide in my husband that my sister-in-law made the statement that she does not feel like she has very much in common with her siblings, so she doesn't care about seeing them. We're adults (my husband is 46 and his sister is 56) so it's not like we're in our 20's and aren't old enough to know better. My sister-in-law can be very controlling and does have a track record of having arguements with people and not talking to them for extended periods of time. On the other hand, my husband, like his sister, can be very strong minded and opinionated.
I just don't know what to do at this point. I've stayed out of the middle of the situation the best I can but my sister-in-law's treatment of my husband is really starting to make me angry, especially when I see him lying awake at night, very upset by all of this. I understand that people work through things differently and just because my husband wants to move forward now she may not be in the same place. However, my husband feels like this situaiton with his sister is causing her to distance herself from the family. The other siblings have talked about it and have said they will not participate in my sister-in-law's childish behavior so if she wants to not come to the Holidays, so be it. That being said though, I know my husband still feels rotten about the situaiton and often comments that she makes him feel like a really bad person by the way she treats him.
Any input/advice you could provide on what I may be able to say to my husband to help him understand that this is her issue and not his would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

It sounds like there is more to what your sister in law is doing than just responding to the argument between her and your husband. When people hold onto anger as she is doing, there is a deeper reason why and most likely, it has nothing to do with what your husband did. So that alone may help him to feel better.

Your husband's siblings are right, whatever your sister in law chooses to do should be up to her. No one can control her and it appears that no matter what anyone says to her, she is not going to change her mind. And righting the "wrong" between your husband and her has already been addressed. She is not giving this up for deeper reasons and that is why nothing works with her. By letting her go and having her make her own choices, the consequences of her behavior are on her and no one else.

You can help your husband see that your sister in law is only trying to make him feel bad because she feels bad about herself. No one who is a healthy, well balanced person does something like she is doing. And your husband needs to know that a simple argument should not cause years of anger. That is not a normal response. Therefore, he did not cause this. A person who does not have issues would have let this go a long time ago.

Have your husband practice saying to himself that how she is acting is about her and not him. He needs to separate his feelings about what happened, which is long over and should have been long forgiven, from his sister's personality issues. And to do that, he needs to change his thinking from blaming himself because of how she is acting to letting her take responsibility for holding onto her anger.

Also, he can get support from his siblings. They appear to understand that there is something wrong with their sister and therefore can be a good support to your husband.

Finally, you may want to consider moving. That may seem drastic, but if your sister in law is this emotional over a long over argument, then it may be less stressful to remove yourself from the situation rather than hope she might someday come around and be friendly again. And that would also help your husband heal from this.

I hope this has helped you,

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You may also find this resource helpful-

Coping with Difficult People: The Proven-Effective Battle Plan
That Has Helped Millions Deal with the Troublemakers in Their Lives at Home and
at Work
by Robert M. Bramson


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