Advice on a family issue


My husband comes from a somewhat dysfunctional family. In a nutshell, his parents divorced when he was 14 and his sister was 10. The divorce was tough on his sister, and their mother tended to use her pain as a weapon against their dad. Sister learned to be manipulative and how to maneuver any situation to make herself the center of attention. Now, aged 25, she is very aggressive, and is prone to saying really offensive things and openly ridiculing people. She also enjoys pitting people against each other and gossiping. The family lets her get away with this without question, out of habit, I suppose.

Last Christmas, sister-in-law tried to stir up trouble between us and their father and his wife. She was extremely shocked when my husband finally told her to butt out of our lives. I was proud of him for not backing down.

Anyway. Husband and I do our duty as far as family contact goes. Sister-in-law lives with their mother, and we take our son to see his grandmother as much as is reasonable - usually once a week, because of all the various work schedules. However, due to sister-in-law’s abrasive personality and the stress it causes, we try to not go out of our way to spend a lot of time with her. We don’t fight with her and when we have to be around her, we do our best to ignore her shenanigans - but we also like to minimize that time. This has become difficult since she graduated from college and moved back home with her mother. She doesn’t really have any friends or any desire to move out on her own, and her whole life revolves around her mother. So if we see his mother, we pretty much have to see his sister, too.

The problem now is, weirdly enough, my parents. They have strong notions of family unity, and they simply cannot comprehend my husband’s family dynamic. Since sister-in-law is superficially a charming person if you don’t happen to know her very well (and they don’t know her very well), they only see us being mean to a nice girl. They have started to inject themselves into the situation, calling foul on us for wanting to minimize our contact with husband’s sister, and refusing to even consider that we might have a good reason. My dad got angry at me last night and yelled that I “need to learn to get along with people.” I try to explain that we do get along with sister-in-law, that we always go out of our way to be polite to her, that there is no specific fight or feud. It is just that she is a very unpleasant person and for our own sanity we do not want to be around her more than is necessary. If we were completely cutting her off I could maybe understand his reaction, but we are not.

Now they’ve taken it upon themselves to start specifically inviting husband’s mother and sister to family gatherings and events that would normally be only attended by us.

Are my husband and I being unreasonable about this? Do we have no right to try to minimize contact with a family member that we consider to be toxic?


No, you are not unreasonable. You need to tell your parents to butt out and knock it off or they will be entertaining your in-laws without you and your husband.

Just stop going to your parents’ get togethers if they cannot respect your boundaries.


What you said!:thumbsup:


There’s a book called Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud which may be helpful as well.


Well if they keep inviting them they will soon get to know them better… maybe as well as you do… it might take too long for your liking, though.


Thanks for the support, all. I may just print out this thread and show it to my parents.


Your husband stood up for you with his family, now it’s time for you to do the same with yours.


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