wife & sister

Last night my wife and I got into the worst fight I could have ever imagined us getting into. We married a few months ago and moved to her part of the state, and see her family on a regular basis (usually twice a week if not more). My family is 2 hours away, but we are still there often enough. She and my sister have butted heads a few times, and its hurting her more than I seem to grasp. My sister would like to have us over and do something, just the four of us (us and our spouses), and my wife won’t. She asked me to respect her decision, as she is very warm and polite to my sister everytime they interact at my parents’, or there is any kind of a get together over here. But she does not enjoy her company and feels uneasy due to some conflict that has occurred between them in the past.

After four conflict-free months, I had hoped this would just go away and she would get over it, or talk to my sister about how she was feeling, but my wife isnt doing either. I have had a lot of resentment building up over this, due to the fact that I have readily been there every time she’s wanted to do something with her family. Last night, I asked her again if we could go over, and when she said no, I told her I’d start attending less of her family get-togethers (there was a play we were going to see with her mother and sisters, and I said she could go by herself).

This erupted into a huge fight where she accused me of threatening her, she sobbed and said she didnt understand why this was so important to me - she was nice to my sister when they had to interact, and she always said I was free to go myself. She said I was forcing her to spend time with someone she didnt want to spend time with.

Looking back, it was spiteful of me to do that, and I’ve apologized. I just wanted to make her see what it was doing to me. She always says “I just need time” while months and months go by (a similar thing happened during our engagement that lasted months), and I think “It’s so easy for you to say that; when in the meantime, I’m at your family stuff, I’m always there. It’s business as usual on your end of it, so you can take all the time you need.” I wanted her to know how I’m feeling. I felt terrible seeing her cry. But at the same time, I feel torn. And its hard not to feel some unfairness. I love my sister, and I hoped we’d be able to hang out, all four of us, and get along.

Am I being wrong in feeling this?

  1. Don’t say things like that.
  2. Without knowing what the issue was its hard to say if she’s being unreasonable or if the conflict really is one of those things that does take time to get over.
  3. My guess is the latter because your wife is still kind and pleasant, she just doesn’t want to spend extra time with her. But that is only my guess.

My fiance and I are going through something similar, and we’ve had a few strong fights too. But you have to patient and remember that merging families can sometimes take years to work out and have everyone feel comfortable, and sometimes it never happens.

And above all keep in mind that no matter what you’re on your wife’s side.

Your wife needs competent counseling on this, or it will really get out-of-hand. Why not have her talk to your pastor? It can’t hurt. Maybe a third person’s objective, moral view is what she needs to hear. It might be wise to go along and give your sister’s , or your side.

Hi. I’m sorry for the three of you, that you aren’t able to freely enjoy each other’s company. In my experience, the longer a problem exists, the longer it festers until it gets really ugly. Try to be the solution, since you’re not part of the initial problem.

There are a lot of relationship issues to which all couples must adjust during those first crucial years of marriage. You two have an additional problem which is affecting both of you in different ways. I suggest counseling so that your wife can examine why she’s unwilling to go forward and so that the both of you can learn to express your feelings without escalating into harsh words that can’t be forgotten, although perhaps forgiven. Even when you disagree, vehemently, you still should cherish each other.

It is only fair that you know what led to your wife’s feelings. Some people take umbrage where none is intended, nor even remotely considered, leading to years of anguish for all around them. If your wife is one of those, it’s even more important to get counseling, lest a pattern be established. There’s give and take in a successful marriage, but when one always gives and the other always takes, success may not be in the picture. Counseling can change that type of behavior.

If families are so good for us, why are they so difficult to be around? Makes no sense, but usually boils down to selfishness, immaturity, and egotism on the part of one or more, unless outright theft or other malicious behavior is involved. I strongly believe that if this situation continues, it will only be amplified as the years pass, and that you should insist upon counseling.

Obviously, since we don’t know the reason for the fracas, I’m not suggesting that your sister is faultless. One or both of them needs to apologize and they both need to try to move forward.

You have my prayers and best wishes that your situation will be resolved. Keep your faith in God and the sanctity of marriage; always take the high road. Best wishes to all of you.

I believe families are so good for us, because they are so difficult to be around.
This especially applies to our in-laws. Since we grew up with our families of origin, we know all the traditions, expectations, and rules of engagement. These rules are usually not even spoken because they don’t need to be, everyone just knows them - expect for the new-comer. When we enter our spouse’s family, there are different rules, and it often can be emotionally disorienting. Being part of my husband’s family has really broadened my skills at getting along with people I might not prefer to be around. For me, I’ve just had to get used to people speaking to me in a way that* feels* disrespectful to me, even though they aren’t trying to be disrespectful. They might be saying the same thing about me. We’ve only been married 3 years, so it’s a work in progress, but I have put a lot of effort into this, and it is finally starting to show results.

For me, my experience with my in-laws has been similar to the wife of thom_more_nj. I just haven’t been able to manufacture a friendship with my husband’s sister. And I know this bothers him. In my case, I have never felt fully accepted by her. I don’t know if your wife feels like that, but if she does, it’s a horrible feeling. And in my experience, this is much more common between women in-laws than men. Based on what you wrote, you probably both have reason to be hurt. This is when you two are going to need to learn conflict resolution in your marriage. You might need to both compromise a lot, or something else. Marriage quite often puts us out of our comfort zone. That can be scary, but in the end we will grow from these difficult experiences. Sorry, I don’t have more concrete advice for you.

I have been married for 36 years and for most of them I did not have a close relationship with my husband’s sister. It started right at the beginning when I started dating my husband and my sister-in-law may have felt threatened. Then it increased when my FIL took any opportunity to point out that his daughter was much better than me at just about everything. My SIL may not have been totally aware of the comparisons but it hurt our relationship. A lot of damage was done by my FIL and our families were hurt by the competitiveness created by FIL. Now looking back on it I wish that we could have been closer but we were all immature.
Time has a way of changing everything and now we have grown closer while we care for my elderly FIL. We are older,wiser and kinder and realize the negative effects were multiplied by the insensitve behavior of FIL.
I think that you should be in your wife’s corner because that is your duty to protect her. Once she knows that you will support her then you can dig deeper into finding out what is really going on. Has your family/sister really welcomed her into the family? Are they pleased to see her? As in my case there may be more going on between the two women than you really understand. My husband found it hard to believe that his sister could be so subtlely difficult. Men often don’t see what is really going on and can be easily fooled. I would not threaten your wife but keep reassuring her that you are going to support her if it is reasonable to do so. Sometimes you just want someone to listen and understand. I would not force your wife to see your sister but I would tell her that it means a lot to you and out of respect to you she should make an attempt to visit. She is an adult and sometimes adults have to do things they don’t enjoy with a smile on their face. It may help for both of you to seek out therapy to have a neutral counselor give their take on it and offer a plan that you both can live with.
If you work on this early on in your marriage it can be better dealt with. Your wife and sister may never really be close but they need to make an attempt. And you never know, time and life have a way of changing everything and they someday may actually enjoy each other.

This is the problem: Your wife is putting* you* on the spot because of a problem she has with your sister, and for some reason you won’t tell your sister this.

Your wife is going to take as much time as she takes. Not in your control. It is not fair, however, for your wife to expect you to “cover” for her indefinitely. At some point, your wife needs to realize that the truth has to come out into the open: “Well, Sandy, you and Rick and I can get together, if you like, but Sandy won’t come. I could tell you more, but to be blunt, I don’t see any reason to put myself into the middle of somebody else’s drama. I’m happy to come see you, I have no problem with going somewhere without her if its her issue, so whether the two of you work this out is up to the two of you, but you and she have an issue, and the four of us won’t be getting together until it is worked out.”

Now, that is what you say if this conflict has nothing to do with you. If, OTOH, your sister has been treating your wife in a way that you find wrong, then it is not out of place that you find her misbehavior personally offensive, because you take offenses against your wife as offenses committed against you. That is something else again. In that case, you should have taken the issue up with your sister when the offenses occurred. That is what healthy people do: They either let offenses go or else they address them at the time or very soon after the offense occurs.

Also, it is not out of place to say, “Sandy, you’ve offended my wife without ever apologizing and frankly, I think she’s going to take it as a betrayal if I go out of my way for the two of us to socialize with you. I wouldn’t let that stop me from seeing you and Rick if I disagreed with her, but I really can’t disagree with her. She has a good reason to feel hurt, and so we have a good reason to give you some room for awhile. You might want to think about that the next time you go shooting your mouth off, and I apologize that I didn’t say so at the time, because you deserved to hear it.”

Is that going to make it worse? Maybe, between you and your sister. Still, you and your wife have one life together now, and sometimes the work of drawing boundaries is going to be a joint enterprise. If your wife is drawing a reasonable boundary on bad behavior, it is your job to stay on her side of that line. The only time you should not stick on her side of her boundaries is when her boundaries are too uncharitable or out of touch with reality to defend.

Keep your course of action on topic, though. Either defend her boundary or else leave her alone to draw it herself. Don’t go drawing unreasonable boundaries of your own as a punishment. Don’t hold it over your wife’s head that you have decided to pass over equally offensive behavior aimed at you by her family, either. (After all, if your wife’s family had never done anything that offended you to a similar degree, why would you resent it that you get along with them better than your wife gets along with your sister? Resent your sister for not supporting her brother by being a more welcoming in-law, not your wife for having worse in-laws than you do!)

Tit for tat is a destructive path. Don’t go there.

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