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SIL is toxic, please help me unravel how to handle her

(16 Posts)
sadfacecreepyface Sun 19-Jun-16 22:29:54

SIL (DH’s sister) has a H who philanders, gambles and has an alcohol problem. He does it all under her and their DC’s noses without an ounce of respect shown.

The two of them have frequent bust ups at social gatherings and family parties. He is rarely invited, but often turns up anyway invited by her, and comes on to some member of the extended family or one of my friends.

Despite this, SIL will not leave him. Nor will she admit that there is anything wrong. She absolutely brazenly maintains that everything is fine. The times when his behaviour has been absolutely bleeding obvious (eg he is snogging some other woman up against a wall in a corridor at one of DH’s cousins’ weddings while we were all trying to leave) she will blame the OWs for getting him drunk and seducing him and she expects us all to get behind her in the hate campaign. She has gone as far as physically assaulting and harrassing OWs in the past and trying to encourage her daughter to do the same.

Paradoxically she’s gained a lot of sympathy from her family for this, especially MIL, FIL & to some extent, DH, who have that old fashioned belief that she is doing the “right thing for the DC” by keeping her family together despite his awful behaviour. No one really talks to her about it. I think she and MIL have alluded to it in conversation once or twice, but MIL has stupidly gone along with the idea that it is always the fault of the OWs that her husband is so unfaithful. She also seems to be enabling SIL to live in a world where she feels she is in competition with other women constantly.

If this was where it stopped, I wouldn’t be writing this post because it wouldn’t be my business, but unfortunately I think that SIL projects a lot of her unresolved anger on to me, as the closest, youngest “other woman” in the family. I would go as far as saying that she bullies me. It’s subtle things: Criticising and shaming my appearance, trying to exclude me from family events and conversations, comparing our bodies and keeping tabs on what I eat, when we all eat together she will often insist that I eat more than I want to, to “prove” to her that I do not have an eating disorder (I don't.) She once lost her baggage on a flight and banged on my door at 4am when she arrived at the family holiday home, demanding that I open up my wardrobe and give her all my clothes to try on so that she could choose which ones she would take for the duration of the holiday.

She is excessively preoccupied with looks. If an attractive woman walks past, she wants everyone present to analyse, criticise or rate her out of ten. It always ends with an accusation from SIL that the woman must have had plastic surgery to be attractive, and how superficial that is. It is a topic returned to again and again, when really none of us have noticed. Notably SIL’s facebook profile picture for a whole year in 2013 was a picture saying “If you think the grass is greener on the other side, that’s because it is fake.”

She is also sanctimonious. If DH and I pop out for a drink together and leave PILs to babysit which they love doing, she will make a point of texting me and saying that she, as a mother, would never leave her kids to go drinking, but each to their own. She will then tell MIL the same thing and imply to MIL that I am somehow an alcoholic (far from it) in an attempt to make herself look better (?) She does this in any scenario where she feels she can draw a comparison.

I’m sure you get the gist. But the worst part is that she is totally and utterly defended by PILs because of her established “victim” status. If I challenge SIL on anything that she says or does to me, I get taken aside and given the “talk” – “SIL is very fragile right now, so we’re all just trying to make life easier for her.” This even includes her using her DD (14 years old) who called me last year and begged me to let SIL go to an event with DH instead of me because we should all be trying to help her mum "feel better." Yes, SIL has everyone wrapped around her little finger, apart from her H and me.

I have tried to have it out with SIL many times. Each time she says she has no idea what I am talking about. That all the talk about my appearance is a compliment and that maybe I don’t do things how she does things but she is allowed to comment on it, as the aunt of my DC. That I probably don’t get her quirky sense of humour and her way of taking the mickey out of people. And I’m so sensitive to what people say! How I survive in every day life she doesn’t know!

I have tried giving her a reality check about her situation, especially when her sanctimonious comments about me completely contradict the way she lives her own life (e.g. comments on having a drink, when she and her H can get paralytic and scream at each other in public or in front of their DC.) But touching on that is always met with total denial and usually ends with an accusation about one of my friends being promiscuous and flirting with her H at some event or other, and therefore the implication that I have been somehow complicit in the cause of her problems.

DH is on the fence about it all. He doesn't pick up on the constant digs at me. He joins in with the family status quo, which is to go along with what SIL wants to have an easy life and to try and avoid "scenes" with her H.

I am absolutely certain there is a key to unravelling this, or there is something I could say or a way I could behave that will stop SIL in her tracks, but I just don't know what it is? Any ideas?

Chippednailvarnishing Sun 19-Jun-16 22:31:45

You don't have a SIL problem, you have a spineless DH problem...

LineyReborn Sun 19-Jun-16 22:36:33

Well yes, the 'key' is for your DH to get off the fucking fence.

1horatio Sun 19-Jun-16 22:37:03

SIL sounds horrible. Shouln't your DH support you?

RunRabbitRunRabbit Sun 19-Jun-16 22:41:26

Yes, there is a key to unlocking this. Your DH makes his sister stop being a shit to you. Or he stops her being anywhere near you.

If he is unwilling to put your wellbeing first then all you can do is refuse contact with his family to protect yourself.

You can't change SIL. She is majorly invested in keeping her current situation going strong. Same for everyone else. Nothing you can say or do can change her. The day she leaves her DH, everyone else has to face up to having enabled her on-going abuse by him over many many years. None of them want that. You can't change that part.

CodyKing Sun 19-Jun-16 22:55:07

What struck me is that she wants you to be in competition with her - you engage - stop doing this - stop trying to understand - don't comment - don't join in.

Why are you mixing with this woman? Block her number

Fomalhaut Sun 19-Jun-16 23:00:27

Your sil is probably deeply unhappy, co dependent and taking it out on you.

There nothing you can do to change her BUT your dh needs to have your back

fuckincuntbuggerinarse Sun 19-Jun-16 23:04:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SandyY2K Sun 19-Jun-16 23:06:20

If my SIL did this stuff,.I'd block her number and stay very far away from her at family events.

Do you show your DH the texts she sends you when you're out for a drink together? If not you should. If you did and he hasn't challenged her, then he is adding to the problem.

What does your DH say when she banged on your holiday room door for clothes?

If my brother behaved like that to DH I'd be having it out with him. I won't have any family being rude or disrespecting him that way.

If your DH isn't sorting it out then all you can do is keep your distance. When she starts talking nonsense just walk away.

Heyho111 Sun 19-Jun-16 23:14:49

I think your sil is very aware of what her H is doing and feels shame, rejection , abused etc.
Her reaction is very unstable to the point of mh issues. She is downing you in an attempt to make her feel / look normal. It doesn't work.
You need your H to say stop to her or disagree with her. Pointing out what her H is doing won't work because she knows. Perhaps the Family are playing to her because they are scared of what will happen if they don't.
When she criticises you just agree. My hair looks a mess, thanks for letting me know. Etc. If you agree she can't go anywhere with it. People watching - she's had plastic surgery. You've got an incredible eye to spot an eye lift from this distance. Etc.
You need to wait with protective gear as she may have a break down at some point.

DeathStare Mon 20-Jun-16 05:25:09

Agree with the others. Your DH is the problem. Your SIL would be easy enough to ignore/avoid/challenge if you had his backing but right now you don't.

At the moment there are three of you in this marriage (in terms of respect, loyalty and commitment) and there is only room for two if your marriage is going to be happy. Your SIL is fighting very hard that you should be the one to be pushed out. You really only have three options here as to how this goes forwards:
1. Your DH gets off the fence, realises it is you he is married to and stands up to her.
2. Things carry on as they are and you learn ways to deal with it. This could be by you going NC with his family for example.
3. You find it unbearable, he won't get off the fence and you get so worn down by it that you leave.

Personally I think option 1 is the best but while you can request this of him, there's no way to force him so I think you need to decide which of the other two options you will go for if option 1 fails and make this clear to DH

user1465876185 Mon 20-Jun-16 05:42:43

Husbands are pretty good at turning a blind eye to their adult sister's antics, actually they put up with it all their childhood and its probably a relief when its no longer them targeted esp. when its an older bossy sister!. Avoid her at all costs, don't socialise with her, don't go away on ''family'' vacations when she is going too, don't explain yourself to her. Don't be rude either if she catches you on the phone, be pleasant and pass the phone over. Make it clear to Hubby whilst you love him you will not be subjected to her continued innuendos and stress, that she has no business in your life and doings. He is welcome to see her on his own, but you will not be keeping him company. Then find something else to do and not sit at home clock watching. Let him come home to an empty house while you are having a good time elsewhere. the penny will drop. In the meanwhile its been my experience you will never change your MIL's mind about her daughter. Don't even try it, you will end up worse off and will cause yourself a whole new lot of upset.

Isetan Mon 20-Jun-16 06:30:44

You're H is not sitting on the fence, he's standing by and watching his wife being bullied and disrespected. He's chosen self preservation, which means sacrificing your emotional wellbeing to avoid his family turning on him. If he's not part of the solution, then he's part of the problem.

There is no special phrase or a language that could unravel your H's family's long established fucked up dynamic, so don't waste your time. You can not change her or her family's enablement of her, your responsibility and power lies in disengaging and limiting your exposure to her and her family dysfunction. Your H will no doubt be very resistant to you no longer being his buffer against his family but that's his problem.

Everyone has a part to play in dysfunctional families, the trick is to not play the part assigned to you. Disengage, disengage, disengage.

MrsBertBibby Mon 20-Jun-16 08:21:53

She sounds very unhappy and I was struck by the way that, whilst criticising her habit of blaming other women for her husband snogging them, you seem to leave all the blame for their awful marriage and childrearing at her door.

There isn't a magic key, life isn't that simple, sadly. You can only change your response, as Isetan and Heyho suggest. You can't fix her, or any of them, but you can keep your kids out of it, and you should.

FrancisdeSales Mon 20-Jun-16 09:11:11

Just was going to say what Mrs Bert said, please tell me you are protecting your children from all this dysfunction. Get off Facebook and disengage.

LizKeen Mon 20-Jun-16 09:24:40

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that you can say or do. She will never change.

The only thing that you can do is stop engaging with it. Completely. If your DH cannot get on board with that then you have a DH problem to boot.

No more family holidays. Limit contact the rest of the time. Basically, you need to remove yourself and your kids from this toxic mess. If the rest of them want to carry on the charade then that is up to them.

I am a child from a family that is eerily similar to yours. I have MH issues directly from it.

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