You People and Your Problems: “I hate my soul-sucking sister-in-law!”

You People And Your Problems: 'I Hate My Soul-Sucking Sister-in-Law!'
Here at HappyNiceTimePeople, we’re not afraid to be servicey. Email with your advice questions on any topic. Now on to a question from a woman who hates her manipulative, nasty sister-in-law!

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Dear Sara:

My sister-in-law is argumentative, looks for ways to tear me down (she is a master at backhanded compliments), and generally sucks out my soul whenever I’m around her. My brother, poor worn-down bastard, really wishes we’d be chummy. But I avoid her. I’ve stopped including her in my plans, despite his pleas that she doesn’t have any girl friends, and wouldn’t I invite her along on my many kid playdates. If I try to plan any family activities but don’t run every detail past her, she accuses me of being a control freak. (Which I’m really not. I couldn’t really give a shit about who brings the potato salad.) I’ve discussed with my parents (which may in itself be of questionable moral fiber) and they insist that above all, I need to be kind and inclusive. Is it wrong that I want space and I avoid as many interactions as possible?


Dear Fabiana:

Honey, I sympathize. I can’t empathize, because my brother’s girlfriend is cool as hell, but I certainly sympathize.

This woman, a gal we call your “sister-in-law,” is really no sister of any kind to you. She’s a chick your brother decided to bang for the rest of his life, for some reason no one can possibly understand. They reproduced, and surely you love their children, but you’ve got your own kids to worry about. She’s probably making their kids kind of shitty, anyway. And she has no female friends because she sucks as a person, as a woman, and as a friend. If your brother hasn’t figured that out by now, perhaps he never will.

That said, it’s on you to be polite and courteous. Always be busy when she wants to hang out, but don’t be nasty. Make a special effort to ask for her input on family events. Give her the little bit of power she craves, and let her chew on it and play with it and get a bit high off it. But always maintain your position as a powerful woman with her own priorities, and don’t get dragged down into the sister-in-law muck. Don’t talk to your parents about it; don’t talk to your brother about it. Simply conduct yourself with dignity, grace, and distant kindness. You don’t need to be BFF with this chick just because your brother throws it up in her.

You have your own family. Take care of yourself and your family first. This chick can find something else to occupy her time. See her at Thanksgiving and Christmas (or whatever holidays your clan celebrates) and keep your chats brief and pleasant when you run into one another at other events.

Good luck,

Sara Benincasa

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  • Hammiepants

    My sister are straight-up bitches. I just don’t talk to them anymore. The End. And the best thing a shrink ever told me was just because they’re your family doesn’t mean you’re obligated to love or even like them.

    • Charismatic_dairy_goats

      Exactly. Would be great if all family members loved each other and enjoyed each other’s company. But sometimes the best you can do is remain above the fray.

  • Hammiepants

    Cool still from “From Russia With Love”, btw.

  • My sister in law is an almost exact cross between Victoria Jackson and Michele Bachmann … of course then the rest of my family’s pretty unlikeable as well.

  • eastcoastlib

    My sister in law was a snobby, self-centered bitch. Her family had a few bucks so we were essentially trailer trash to her and she never let any of us forget it. My brother finally kicked her to the curb about two years ago because she developed a rather heavy meth addiction. She now lives in a ruddy old house in Vegas and rents it out for low grade amateur porn sessions. Her family has abandoned her, her kids refuse to talk to her and she recently called me asking for money. I sent her $500 knowing full well she’ll use it to feed her habit. Hopefully that money will hasten her descent into hell.

  • goonemeritus

    This approach reminds me of the year I spent working in Montreal.As an obvious US citizen many of my coworkers would try to get a rise out of me by running down the USA. The approach that worked best was to patiently listen to my coworkers views on their southern neighbor. After I felt they had worked up a good enough head of steam I would tell them that most of my fellow countrymen didn’t have an opinion on Canada nor could most of us find it on a map.

  • Haribo Lector

    The problem with advice columns like this is that it’s like a school English Lit comprehension exercise; the rules are you’re supposed to assume everything the letter-writer says is true and accurate. The unfortunate fact is that, laws of probability, the letter-writer is probably some kind of jerk too though.

  • Charismatic_dairy_goats

    I’m sorry you’re stuck with a toxic in-law. My aunt is like this: uncle married her for God knows why (sex) and her goal has been to lord it over and alienate the family ever since. Her kids actually turned out OK though! Try to be supportive of your brother when possible, his kids will need to see some healthy family interactions that aren’t all about power games and narcissism. His wife, well, you can hope some rich stupid guy will take her off your brother’s hands. In fact if she wants to hang out, you should take her to a whiskey bar or someplace guys with sailboats go to drink. Then leave her alone at the bar as much as possible, and this problem could solve itself.

  • Boy Elvis

    I blame all of this on that damned heterosexuality you people are so into.

  • laineypc

    Most of the people I know treat me in the same nice-but-at-arms-length, busy-when-I-invite-them way. I guess I am the sister-in-law. Well at least most of the people I know are not jerks.

  • lesterthegiantape

    To be fair, the potato salad issue remains unresolved.