Brother Divorcing. How Do I Maintain a Relationship with My SIL? (Long)

Updated on November 17, 2010
M.O. asks from Barrington, IL
13 answers

I understand divorce is a personal, and difficult situation for all involved.

My brother and I have never been close. We are each other's only sibling. So, almost by default, we have gotten together around Christmas every year, mostly for my mother. She wants to see her kids and grandkids all being together and opening presents having their "family day". My mom knows that my brother and I aren't "friends" and have a strained relationship.

My brother's wife is a wonderful person. She and I each never had a sister and made a great bond together. I've known for a long time, because of her, that things between her and my brother were getting worse and worse. She has been telling me about how bad things have gotten, and eventually her plans to leave him. (Nothing was ever said by my brother to me or my mom.)

So now they are getting divorced. Things are very bitter and they aren't talking much. I respect that they are going through a hard time. I'm sure it's going to be even harder for them now that the holidays are upon us.

My question is, how do I maintain a relationship with my SIL (and nephews) when my only brother is divorcing her (bitterly) and really doesn't want us talking to her? He is pulling the attitude of "well I'm family". He doesn't want her invited to holiday or birthday parties. This all coming from someone I've barely talked to over the years, almost always misses my kids birthday parties and such because he has to work and really hasn't made an effort to act like my brother.

I really want to take the high road here. But at the same time I'm upset that my mother and husband both agree that Family Comes First, and she is no longer "family".


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answers from Modesto on

I think this first year you need to respect your brothers wishes... right now it's fresh and he's cranky. It will simmer down in time and everything will turn out fine. Just stay in touch with your SIL so she doesnt have to feel ostracized, especially since she needs to feel comfortable enough to bring the nephews around for visits. I think time will fix this for the most part. You say she's a great person, so I'm sure she will understand as you all work through this. Your brother will come to his senses after his pride shrinks a little.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on is my thought and maybe because my ex and I get along why I feel this way. Because of the fact that she is a biologically related to your nephews and they are biologically related to you through your brother that she is still family.

I think your brother has put you in a bad position and I understand why you seem to not feel very loyal to him even though he is your brother.

Not all divorced families have separate birthday parties. My ex and I still have a party for our twin daughters together.

While it maybe hard for your brother, fostering a healthy "acquaintanceship" between him and his ex for the sake of their children is best and I would just tell him that while you understand his concerns that you are just trying to keep them communicating for the sake of their children.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

I was the "ex-sister in law" with our child in my situation. I am really lucky that my ex-husband and I decided we were going to be close for our daughter. We live less than a mile apart and his very large family followed by being kind and appreciated that a little girl wasn't being used as a tool. Your sister in law is still family - she's your nephews mom! Hopefully their divorce won't get super ugly. And yes, if we had it to do over again we would have tried harder and stayed married!!

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answers from New York on

My sister and BIL got divorced a few months ago. Unlike your brother, it was a pretty peaceful divorce. So that has made it easier for me to stay in touch with my BIL. We were very close and he is the most amazing uncle to my son. We still see each other at least 1-2 times a month. I don't always tell my sister (despite she and I being VERY close) only because I think it may bother her, but I do tell her most of the time. She knows that I have NO intention of not maintaining a relationship with my BIL, so therefore, she has accepted it.
As for the birthdays and such. For my son's 3rd birthday, my BIL did not come. I am not sure how the future will be regarding b-days, but I am ok with how things are now. It may have been too soon this year.

As for your situation, really if you and your SIL are close, I don't see why you should have to stop that relationship. Really there is no reason that you two shouldn't be friends. I don't feel you are choosing her over your brother. you can have a relationship with both that doesn't need to conflict with the other person.
I would just let your brother know that your relationship with her has nothing to do with him, other than you met through him.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

I am quite surprised by the people that say you shouldn't invite her anymore because she is now "the ex." No offense but how silly! Just because she & your brother couldn't make it work I see no reason why you and her can't make it work. You are more than entitled to have her as a friend and a member of your permenant family. Try to be sensitive to your brother's feelings but at the end of the day, he shouldn't have the right to tell you who you can and can't be friends with. I mean seriously, isn't that what kids did in High School? Just my thoughts... :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Laredo on

I agree with Faith, you will still be able to see your nephews at your brothers house. But you shouldnt invite her to a birthday party at your house if your brother is going to be there. But if she invites you to a birthday at her house then they should understand you being there.
My DH parents are divorced. His aunt on his moms side felt the exact same way you do about your brother with his mom. She was alot closer with his dad, and when they got divorced his aunt would invite him to things and it caused alot and I mean alot of tension. I wasnt around when this happened but it still is a sore subject till this day. My hubs mom thinks that when she divorced him her side of the family did as well. So even though they didnt want to eventually they realized it was what was "right" in a sense.
What is weird to me though is that my hubs dad could absoutly care less so at family functions such as the Fourth of July BBQ my hubs uncle(his dads brother) and wife and kids come. I do have to say though out of his dads 5 brothers and sister this particular uncle is the only one that is still in contact.
Its a tough situation you are in and in the end you should do what feels right to you. Try and put yourself in your brothers shoes, if you and your husband were divorcing and you went to your brothers for dinner would you want your ex there all buddie buddie with him? Just something to think about.

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answers from Topeka on

I personally wouldn't maintain any relationships with my ex husbands side of the family regardless of the bond we once had..
You want to continue a realtionship with your soon to be ex sil does she & how is she feeling about this?I would give it time before inviting her to everything it would be akward for everybody & I wouldn't go nor would I be inviting..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Don't listen to your family.... I gave up a very good friend because she was my ex's family and I have never been able to quite fill that gap (and more than 10 years have gone by).

Also since their are children depending on the custody arrangements you will proabably be seeing her anyway. Cutting her off now will make for a bad relationship all around.

Someone below said that just becuase he stopped loving her does not mean you need to and she was correct. Your mother and husband are trading on the blood is thicker than water theory of life, that has no application in reality. Even if you gave in you still would have a bad relationship with your bother - so why do it?

Okay - maybe I was ranting a bit - make a list of pros and cons - and see what is best for you, for your nephews, for your mother and last your brother. The order is important - because you need to come first to both you and your husband, then the innocent nephews who are caught in the middle, then your Mom, and last your brother.

I will say a prayer for your family.

Good luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

Maybe you could maintain a limited relationship with her, with the agreement that you never mention your brother out of fairness to him. If she can't agree to that then I would back away. Let him know that out of respect for him that he won't ever be brought up in your presence when you talk to her.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

My sister & BIL divorced and it was bitter too. I was very close with his family at one time, even dated his younger brother. I am friendly with the x-boyfriend/younger brother's girlfriend, that's how close I am (him I could do without).

By the time the divorce was going through, grandchildren were well on the way and now there are four of them. As well, there has been a wedding. The two had to learn to get along, as there are children involved. I watched my sister avoid a lot of parties and milestones, which is only too bad for her. He was there and she chose to stay away. She has finally gotten off her behind and started coming. So yes, without choosing sides, I was there and she wasn't.

I have gotten over my hard feelings for my XBIL, which is remarkable for me, but I could really do without him as well. However, I am still friends with his brothers and sisters and my younger daughter is friends with my XBIL's daughter. I really enjoy the gatherings and am glad I chose to get over it and just know that I don't have to live with him, so my moment of liking him is minimal.

Really, your brother brought her into your life and not under the condition that you love her for as long as he does. I don't know how he can rightfully remove her from your life.

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answers from Chicago on

Please take the time to continue that relationship. i commend you as so many people do the ' family ' thing and in our case for instance it is really fictitious. My applause for your efforts. And see if you can shove some other woman in your brother's path. And perhaps the first holidays you can do separately with her on a different day. Divorce hurts so many people not just the couple. was divorced many years ago and missed seeing my nephews grow up on my ex husband's side. To this day I wish, but know this won't happen that families could have seen how mean their brother, son, was to me which forced me into having to make that painful decision. I have been remarried sixteen years, but even my own family is disloyal but all I hear is 'family' and is a joke. Good luck.

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answers from Saginaw on

This is tough....

My mom was in your situation many years ago. She chose to stay friends with my ex-aunt. My Grandma got mad at her as well as the brother involved in the divorce and another brother. A torn relationship lasted for years. Not only did my Uncle not come to anything, my Grandma didn't either. Its now almost 25 years later and my Grandma still has bitterness towards my aunt but things have gotten relatively better. I don't really have a relationship with my grandma and neither do my kids but we are on friendly grounds. I blame my grandma for my relationship, because no matter how she felt about me, she could have made the effort to be in my life. My mom wouldn't have stopped her, but her stubbornness made her stay away. Today, my mom visits her mom every now and again and they seem to get a long ok. But this is after many years.

You can go the route of making your brother mad and possibly your mom too depending on which side she takes...but let me tell you it can be hard road to travel. This will not only effect you, but your kids too.

All that being said I have a wonderful SIL, she is actually married to my husbands brother and I couldn't imagine shutting her out of my life. So I understand why you wouldn't want to and why my mom didn't.

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answers from Phoenix on

Well, really she should not be invited to parties, etc. Generally when couples divorce and have kids, they each celebrate the bday's and holidays with their own families. So lucky you! You can see your nephews at your brothers family parties and hopefully your soon to be ex SIL will invite you to her parties. That way you will still be able to be in contact with her and your brother and family should understand that and it shouldn't be a problem. I'm divorced as well as my hubby and our kids have bday parties at each parents house on separate weekends and the same thing for holidays. So no worries!!! Good luck!!!

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