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June 5, 2007 / missknowitall

Trying To Include Our Sister In Law

Dear Little Miss,
My little brother is a wonderful guy.  He is considered the Golden-child of the family and is fun, outgoing, athletic, and has a terrific personality.  After serving a mission for our church he began dating a girl he was set up with.  She was the only girl he dated since his mission.  He’s an extremely loyal person and found no reason to break up with her or to date other girls.  This relationship eventually led to marriage last summer.  Although she is a standoff-ish person, all of us were very kind and welcomed her warmly (with the hope that affection may be returned).  Well, she’s always “not feeling well” and doesn’t want to do things with us kids (we’re all very close).  So at first we suggested that she get checked out by doctor and find out what’s wrong, but it seems to be just an excuse.  Plus, she spends money like crazy.  My brother, still loyal to his wife (which he should be), is frustrated and not sure how to handle it because she’s the primary breadwinner while he’s in school.  He’s also frustrated because he’s very social and unable to do much because she’ll feel abandoned.  When he and I talk about things, he’s careful not to complain, but he is frustrated.  I don’t feel like there’s anything I can do, and I don’t want to get on his or her bad side.  Any advice I can pass on from my position as a close sister?
Concerned Sibling

Dear Concerned Sibling,

The only advice I can recommend you passing on to your brother is, “Hang in there, little bro, marriage is a complicated thing.  Keep loving her, and try to see life through her eyes.  Things may change once you graduate and get a job, things may change if she becomes pregnant, or things may change simply with time.  But even if they don’t change, you shouldn’t try to change her.  You married her for who she is, now love her for who she is, not who she could be.”

This sister in law is a very lucky person to have in-laws who wants so badly to include her.  May I suggest a different tactic to the one you have been using?  While your family, and the way you all do thing together, sounds ideal, it may not be what she is used to.  She may be comparing herself to all of you and feeling intimidated.  She may not be used to so much happiness and feel disconnected simply because she feels she isn’t able to find the kind if internal joy you all have.  So, instead of trying to include her, I suggest you step out of your usual sense of happiness and try to really get to know your sister in law on her terms.  Go shopping with her, try asking her out to dinner for a one-on-one sister date, get to know her, you can even try openly asking her (in a special one-on-one moment) what she thinks of your bubbly family, ask her what she feels when she is around you all.  People love and show happiness in many different ways, try to figure out her “love language” and then try to speak it.  If you can make her feel loved on her terms she may be more willing to show love on yours. 

It can be a slow process, convincing someone that they are truly loved.  Keep at it!    

Miss Knowitall



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  1. Karyn / Mar 11 2008 1:59 am

    First of all – I take the wife’s side. What business is it of the family’s to know her medical issues? Isn’t she allowed any privacy? And what business is it of theirs if she ‘spends too much money’? What’s ‘too much’? Maybe they are savers and she’s a spender but that doesn’t mean she is Imelda Marcos.

    Second of all – They sound like SUCH nosey busybodies! Why do they keep interfering in their brother’s marriage? So she doesn’t go along in lockstep with the group. So maybe she wants time with her new husband! Sounds like this family thinks they are the Kennedys and some sort of dynasty everyone should feel privileged to spend all their free time around. They sound like a bunch of egotists to me. I’m surprised the advice columnist didn’t call them on their meddling.

    “Concerned Sibling” if you are that concerned, stop trying to wreck your brother’s marriage! She sounds pretty good to me, earning the wages to put him through school! (Why shouldn’t she spend what she earns if she wants to? What business is it of yours??)

    Ugh! Save us all from TOXIC IN LAWS.

  2. missknowitall / Mar 11 2008 6:19 am

    I didn’t “call them on their meddling” because it sounded as if the husband was giving this information, not as if they were snooping. And the concern over medical issues seemed a valid concern in a day and age where depression is effecting more people and can have serious outcomes.

    Calling names at the person who is asking for help has never been my way of giving advice. I did advise that they try to look at life through the wife’s eyes and to try to love her on her terms, which I still think would be better than just telling them to leave her alone which might be interpreted as ignoring or shunning.

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