Sisters-In-Law From Hell Are The New Mothers-In-Law From Hell

family politicsRemember when you first got married and realized, Holy crap, I now have a mother-in-law to deal with? Sure, some of you truly love your MILs, but just as many could live without the constant putdowns, not to mention all that unsolicited parenting advice (the worst!). Lately, however, there’s a whole new family member on top of many a mom’s shit list: the sister-in-law from hell.

That’s right, sisters-in-law are replacing mothers-in-law as a source of headache and drama for so many women. And the results are far from pretty. Take Amanda, for instance. She’s a New Jersey-based mother of three and a pretty laid-back person who rolls with the punches and somehow manages to work full-time, cook meals from scratch and shlep her kids from program to program, all with a smile on her face. She describes her sister-in-law her older brother’s wife as “neurotic as all hell” and, well, it’s starting to affect their dynamic.

Amanda can still recall the time she and her crew were invited for dinner at her brother and sister-in-law’s house 45 minutes away. Every time they get together, SIL asks Amanda, “Is anyone sick? No one’s sick, right? Is anyone sick?” She’s obsessed with keeping her kids germ-free (never mind the fact that they’re in daycare and school all day), and she refuses to get together with anyone if there’s nary a snotty nose involved.

Anyway, on this particular evening, Amanada received a text while on her way over: Just want to be sure no one’s sick. “Do you really think I’d come into your home if my children had the stomach flu? I’m not going to put your child in danger!” is what Amanda usually tells her. Well, it just so happened that Amanda’s little girl, then 16 months old, experienced motion sickness and vomited everywhere two minutes before pulling into SIL’s driveway. Amanda called her SIL and said she’s really car sick, this has happened before, can you please make her a bath so that I can throw her in?

SIL was convinced her niece had the flu and, when Amanda went to take off the baby’s diaper, SIL said, “That smells like a really sick poo.” Amanda told her, “Uh, no, her poo always smells like that.” By that point, however, SIL was offering to drive her home and spent the rest of the night grabbing everything the little girl touched to wash it off. (The kid was fine, by the way it really was motion sickness!)

“I think she’s envious that I’m so lax and she’s so wound up because it paralyzes her every move,” Amanda tells me about her sister-in-law. The two families still make a point of getting together for the kids’ sake, but Amanda admits she’s thankful they won’t be spending too much time this summer up at the family’s country home. “It affects our time up there having her obsess over everything,” she explains.

Sometimes, however, it’s much more than germs that can tear a family apart. A couple of women I interviewed for this piece explained how discipline is often the culprit. Or, more specifically, daring to discipline your own niece or nephew. One mom told me about the time her husband tried to discipline his sister’s 9-year-old daughter, who had just hit a ball smack into his own toddler’s face. “Gemma, you need to say sorry, that was dangerous,” he told her, only to be told by his sister to “get the hell off my property and don’t come near my family again.” Uh, okay. This story shocked me clearly it’s about so much more than discipline and yet it’s a common theme.

Another mom named Lindy shared a similar tale about her sister-in-law’s 12-year-old kid. He smacked Lindy’s son in the head and it was Lindy’s own mother who stepped in with, “That’s not cool, please apologize right now, you should know better.” Well! That just set off her daughter-in-law (Lindy’s sister-in-law), who went on and on about how dare she intervene, it’s none of her business, etc, etc. It was hard for Lindy to watch; no one wants to see her own mother being attacked, especially not by some out-of-control family member.

Lindy theorizes her SIL acted this way because she’s always felt like an outsider. She says she works really hard to include her in things but that her SIL her younger brother’s wife has always taken the approach of, “It’s you and your mom against me.” She says her SIL tries to keep her husband away from his mom and sisters because she believes he should be focused exclusively on her and the kids. This drives Lindy crazy because her brother worships his wife, hangs on to her every word, and pretty much lets her run the show. (Interestingly, Amanda had the exact same thing about her own brother).

To put it into perspective, this woman once didn’t speak to Lindy for months because her son wasn’t invited to his cousin’s all-girls’ slumber party. It sounds like a minor thing but, as these women tell me, it’s all the little things that add up and make you want to end the relationship altogether (though most suffer through it for the sake of the children).

One mom I spoke with, however, drew the line when she caught her sister-in-law screaming at her 4-year-old daughter. “It was actually abusive,” she tells me, explaining how they were at a big family celebration when she told her daughter she was welcome to visit the buffet in the next room over and pick out a dessert. The little girl went running in to grab one when her aunt barked at her for no good reason, screaming at her to get out and to not touch anything. The girl started bawling, as her mom explains, and her initial reaction was to say, “Don’t every fucking speak to my child again.” Instead, she didn’t speak to her SIL for a year.

She calls her sister-in-law a pathological liar, someone who’s constantly trying to stir the pot for no good reason. She says it’s hard knowing that the cousins don’t see each other all that often, but she refuses to have this woman act cruel towards her own children something that seems to come with the territory.

Still, other families are forced break it off altogether. Montreal-based Tasha told me her own sad story via email. Her sister-in-law was only 10 years old when Tasha started dating her soon-to-be ex. They were both in their mid-20s at the time and he’d been pressed into being a surrogate parent for his sister. “She never got over his choosing me over her,” writes Tasha.

In a total Single White Female move, the sister started becoming more and more like Tasha taking up her hobbies, looking into a similar career path, and on and on. She was always really nice to her face but one day she told Tasha she thought that she and her brother should get a divorce after 12 years of marriage (with no good explanation). This was after Tasha’s husband had come to her and said he wanted to see a marriage counselor.

Ultimately, their marriage didn’t last. “Two of the three counselors we went to agree that she and the rest of his family are what broke us up,” explains Tasha. “When he moved out last year, he lived with his parents for three months. She was present for all but about four weeks of that time, despite having a husband [and son] in another province.” Even more disturbing is that Tasha’s kids will come home from their father’s current house and report that there are more pictures of their cousins than of them.

Another big SIL complaint is that whole idea of feeling judged. No mom wants to feel scrutinized but it’s especially tough when it comes from your own family. For example, Christina tells me how her sister-in-law a mother of six is constantly telling her that if they don’t home school their kids, they’re terrible parents. “Parents who send their kids to public school are lazy and don’t really care about their children’s future,” she’ll say.

Once, this woman ran into her brother at the grocery store. He had the day off work and was picking up some groceries. She was shopping with five kids in tow and said, “You’re not one of those parents who drop their kids off at the babysitters to go shopping, are you?” (Urgh.)

But wait, it gets worse! Christina and her husband had a lot of fertility issues when trying to conceive (sadly, she suffered two miscarriages along the way). SIL, on the other had, had five kids with a sixth on the way when Christian had her son. She was told all the time things such as:

-“Don’t you know you’re not following God’s will if you aren’t having kids? God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. We don’t see much of that happening in your case…”

-“When are you having kids already? You know, time is running out.”

-“We wish you only understood the burden of having all these children.Then you would know how easy you really have it.”

Unfortunately, tales like Christina’s as unbelievable as they sound are more and more common. Everywhere I go, it seems women are bitching about their sisters-in-law (and less so about their mothers-in-law). It’s sad, especially since it’s often the children who then miss out on quality cousin time. But, like all relationships, sometimes you need to set boundaries or cut off a toxic family member altogether.

(Photo: CREATISTA/Shutterstock)

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