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Tricky situation with SIL

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JessicaDay Tue 26-May-20 15:53:58

FIL died recently and it was a hard time for everyone as he’d been ill for three years and died a few days before lockdown. Nobody’s really been able to spend any time with MIL (70s) beyond DH having a chat from garden to kitchen window whilst dropping off shopping.

I know issues about who can visit MIL are going to come up once lockdown lifts to that extent.

DH has been a bit wary of SIL since childhood. She a few years older than him and didn’t react too well to him when he was a new baby. That developed into a kind of one sided sibling rivalry type situation. She is very competitive towards him, he kind of ignores that and doesn’t rise to it, mostly by keeping a distance and doing a sort of grey rock thing.

But since we got together, sometimes she directs her feelings at me by proxy. Every major life event we have she does or says something nasty or disruptive (when we bought a house together, got engaged, startEd trying to have children, got married). It gets to me. DH has intervened on several occasions, especially around our wedding, and I just try to avoid her as much as possible basically.

But unfortunately as he has warned her off about being openly hostile she’s gotten kind of sneakier. Trying to get me alone to say nasty things, at family events. It’s gotten to the point in the last few years that DH and I have to stick to one another like glue or she’ll pounce. FIL, BIL and evening MIL’s best friend have all stepped in at times when she’s gotten out of hand, and all have told her she’s out of line and needs to stop harassing me.

We were just about at the point of going totally NC with her a few years back, then FIL got his terminal diagnosis. He was told just a few months to live but he fought so hard and lived for three years. But we didn’t want to cause him distress with only a short time left, and just made the best of it. FIL made it very clear to SIL she needed to just stop, and bar one or two things, she did behave ok.

Recently though she’s been both making overtures about spending more time together as an extended family once lockdown is over. Part of me realises she’s just trying to gather her family closer after being bereaved. But I don’t trust her.

At best, I think she just wants replacement child care as FIL and MIL used to do a lot, but MIL doesn’t drive so won’t be able to do so much as they live 1.5 hours apart, and as SIL’s kids get bigger and she gets older she’s less able to handle them on her own. SIL lives closer to her in-laws, but has alienated them bu criticising their other children and grandchildren very openly/harshly, and by behaving in a similar way to her other SIL as she does to me.

Part of me also think she’s trying push things so I finally go “no way”. I have calmly confronted her and told her to stop in the past, which has worked temporarily but not for long. I really don’t want to cause MIL anymore distress and DH is missing FIL a lot, so I don’t want distance to be driven between him and MIL. I think SIL might be angling for that outcome a bit- get her mum’s undivided attention. To the point I think she’ll push for DH to be forgotten in the will. That would be really emotionally devastating for him (we don’t need money, neither do SIL/BIL).

MIL does know what SIL is like, but isn’t really able to stand up to her. She’s been a bit scared of SIL since SIL was a teenager, and SIL does hold the grandkids over her a bit. FIL was the one who used to have sway with SIL.

So I don’t know what to do. Just avoid/grey rock it for a while longer, or try to draw a line. But if I do that, how do I do that? I don’t think it’s personal, I’m pretty sure she’d be like this to anyone DH was with (she was like that with a couple of his early girlfriends, so he stopped introducing people to her. When we got serious she invited us both to her DD’s first birthday and he didn’t think he could decline without being the bad guy).

I realise I’ve very little control over this situation, but just want to try to avoid it blowing up in the next few months whilst DH and MIL are still raw.

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