How to Deal with a Distant SIL?

Updated on May 10, 2019
V.Y. asks from New York, NY
23 answers

When my brother met his future wife, my parents and I were thrilled. She was beautiful, smart, nice, kind, down to earth. He was in love with her and started spoiling her with gifts (she is a few years younger than him). She subsequently got her degree in business and a job and he started his own business and started making a lot of money. It seems that she started spending all or most of her salary and a significant part of his on super expansive designer clothes (we are talking hundreds or throusands) and fancy things and now she is “super fancy” (even though she comes from a small town, middle class family).

First big warning sign was their wedding. My husband and I got married before them and I told her about the vendors we used to be helpful (was never pushy). She turned into a bridezilla and I got an angry phone call from my brother after the wedding that “our photographer ruined their wedding by taking horrible pictures of them and now she is crying after seeing them.” The photographer we used was excellent and many of our friends used his services for their weddings’ maternity, and family photos. The vendors might not have done as good job for her as for us because she didn’t plan everything out well or the venue was different and I think she was disappointed by everything. She didn’t include us in their wedding in any way.

She also became very close to a girl I had a falling out with years ago (and she knew about it) and would always put their pictures together on social websites and constantly go out with the girl and her husband for double dates and travel with them. She will constantly mention the girl to me (like talking about her a lot) even though she knows we are not friends.

Lastly, they just had a baby girl and I tried my best to be a good aunt. I was there for them, gave many nice presents to the baby. We went to baby’s christening and now she posted about 20 pictures from the christening - group photos and table photos and neither my parents or I are on any of them. It’s almost as if we are excluded on purpose. For Easter she wouldn’t even get out of the car to say “hi” to us. It seems that she wants my brother to just take care of her (she is the only child) and her parents (who are very involved with the baby) and her baby and be distant from us. I can’t talk to my brother because he is very protective of her and will become defensive and I will end up being a “bad guy.”

What to do? Please give me a good an idea or two. I am trying to do my best but often end up being resentful of her.

P. S. Many people ask why do I care about her spending money and if I am jealous. I am not. I work part-time but make a lot per hour and my husband has his own business and makes a lot. I prefer to spend my money on children (health and wellness spendings, school programs, classes, etc), on home improvements, on travelling (often visiting family or inviting family to join us). What I don’t like is that from what he kind of mentioned once is that she requested he buys herexpansive things such as a mink coat and she wore it only a few times and now it hangs in the storage while he is literally killing himself at work and she doesn’t mind that.

What can I do next?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I'm going to play devil's advocate a little bit with you here. You say that you want to be friends with her, but it's clear that you disapprove so fundamentally of everything about her, I suspect that comes through in your interactions with her. You stand in judgement of and disapprove of her clothes, the way she spends money, her friends, how your brother treats her, and her relationship with her parents. Was she supposed to pretend that she wasn't friends with someone just because you had a falling out with that person years ago? Rather than accept her for who she is, you would prefer to change who she is, what she wears, how she and her husband spend their money, how she interacts with her husband and family, and who she is friends with. You say that you are trying your best, but I doubt you can hide all of that.

Given that it's clear that you just don't like her, I think you should give up on the dream you have a of sister-in-law/best friend, and accept her for who she is: someone you might not choose as a friend but who your brother has chosen. If you can respect her life choices as her own without the negative judgement and respect her as your brother's wife, you might be able to work on a better (although probably never very close given your very different priorities in life) relationship in the future.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

how can you be friends with someone you hold in such low regard? You have fundamental differences with her, the way she treats "friends" and "family" and how she spends HER money and your brother's money. If they can afford it? SO WHAT? If they aren't borrowing from YOU to make the mortgage or car payment, HOW is it YOUR BUSINESS?

Are you jealous they have more money than you? Is that it?
OR are you upset that she isn't fawning over you? It sounds like you need a LOT of attention and praise for whatever it is you are doing.
It also sounds like you hold grudges. You are not pleased that she is friends with someone you USED to be friends with. Why does this bother you so much?
It also sounds like YOU need to be involved in every aspect of their life. You weren't invited to the wedding? Is that what you are saying or you weren't a bridesmaid or in some other role of "importance"?
What do you want to say to your brother? That you don't like how she spends their money? that you need more attention, what?

How do you deal with this situation? You need to take a step back and chill. You need to figure out why you need to be so important in their lives. You need to figure out why you are holding a grudge against a former friend and not happy that they seem to be having fun together.
Then when you DO get invited to something with them? You just need to be mellow and kind. Ask questions and not make it about you. Fawn over them and your new niece or nephew.

Basically, get out of your own way. You are stopping yourself from being in their lives with you being critical over every thing. STOP.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Wow, just stop. Why do people look to social media so much for fullfillment? So you aren't in many of her posts or pictures. Obviously you aren't that close to her in real life so why do you expect it to be reflected any differently online? Quit trying to buy her affection or friendship with presents or whatever. Just focus on your own life, your own family and friends and let your bother live his. He knows you love him and I'm sure he loves you so LET IT GO.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


Please. Stop. It'ss not about you. It doesn't have to be about you. She doesn't want to be your friend. And believe it or not - she doesn't NEED to be your friend.

This is your brother's life. He chose it. He loves her and is happy. When and if the bubble bursts? You can say all you want then. Until then? You just smile and say hello. You may be able to talk with your brother when you let go of your resentment and just be yourself. Stop trying so hard to make it work. You aren't the center of the universe. And you won't be her best friend.

So WHAT if she's friend with a former friend of yours? Does this former friend have dirt on you that she will feed to your SIL? If so - so what? What do you care?

WHY are you keeping score?
WHY are you resentful - because she's got money to spend and she spends it frivolously and you can't?
What exactly is your problem with her? Once you figure that out? You'll be able to live in peace. That's what you need, peace.

You WANT to be involved. Got it.
You WANT to feel important. Got it.
You do NOT like that she has a former friend of yours. Got it.
You WANT to be acknowledged as someone IMPORTANT. Got it.

the ONLY way you're going to get involved is when you stop making it about YOU.

The only way you're going to feel important is if you back off and stop trying so hard.

You MUST get over that she became friends with someone you once were friends with. This right here? That's a RED FLAG for me. WHY? Because it shows you harbor resentment and don't let things go. SO WHAT if they are friends? BE HAPPY for them.

Stop WHINING about you aren't getting.
STOP making it about YOU.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

You don't like her and you judge her. She can sense that.

You have no right to say how your brother and SIL spend THEIR money. Yes, you think it's better to spend money on kids and traveling than on material things (I agree with you!) But it's her money and she can spend it how she wants to spend it. Stop judging how she manages her finances and spends her money.

You have no right to say who she can be friends with. If you're uncomfortable with your SIL talking about the girl you had a falling out with, just tell her you'd rather not talk about her. Are you thinking that she's friends with this girl to intentionally upset you? Stop taking it so personally.

And she didn't post pictures of you? Whether it's intentional or unintentional, it shows she doesn't care for you either. But are you surprised? Would you want to post pictures of someone who's constantly judging you or be friends with someone who's so critical of you?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

You can't do anything about her. She's an adult, and your brother chose her.

You can limit your contact and stop trying to buy her acceptance with baby gifts."Being a good aunt" doesn't mean spoiling a child with material things - that's exactly what you object to you in your sister-in-law.

Keep your distance, and stop getting so involved. She's petty? Why do you care whose pictures she puts up? That sounds more like middle school stuff. Let it go, be the grownup, take the high road here.

Spend less time and she won't bug you so much. Cultivate relationships that make you happy and inspire you to be the bigger person. If they miss you, your brother will reach out. If they don't, you'll realize that you have little in common except some DNA, and your life will be better without them. Don't pick a fight - if your brother needs somewhere to turn, he'll do better if you've been non-judgmental and unemotional.Share your troubles with someone else, and stop expecting people to be who you want them to be rather than who they are. I'm sorry they've disappointed you, that she's shallow and has a spending problem, and he's unable to make better choices. But they are adults. When people show you who they are, believe them.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

she sounds obnoxious and entitled. meh.

not anyone's first choice for a sister-in-law.

but maybe you aren't either.

if your brother makes good money and can buy her minks (gross) that she doesn't wear much, it's none of your business.

i would take a dim view of the angry phone call after the wedding, for sure. but it was your brother being the &ickwad, not her.

no photos of you from the christening! oh noes!!

her husband is protective of her and doesn't want to hear you bash her. huh.

you seem to think you have a more important say in how much your brother works and how he spends his money than his own wife.

maybe you're trying to do your best, but you clearly don't like this chick and (like me) are not good at hiding your dislike.

why not make life easier on everyone and allow a cordial distance? if your brother ever asks for your totally unvarnished honest opinion, by all means, let loose.

think that's likely?

if you want to remain in your brother's life at all, let alone see your niece ever, i suggest you tuck your resentment firmly in your back pocket, put on a pleasant social smile when you see them, and do some sort of serenity meditation when you find yourself simmering over her.

ideally you'd figure out something you have in common with your sister-in-law and try to form a small bond over that. but you don't sound ready for it.


6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I understand being disappointed that a relationship which you thought would be good has turned sour. I really do understand because my brother's wife does not get along with my parents, and I've had my issues over the years with her too. As with all issues, part of it is mine--we probably could develop a closer relationship, however I haven't reached out much due to my resentments, fears from past conflicts, and limited energy for long-distance relationships. In any case, my brother has resolved it by continuing his own relationships with me and our parents independent of his wife's relationships (or non-interaction) with us. We talk about other things in our lives (other than me asking about how his wife is doing, not expressing any reservations about her). Of course, it's easier for us to do that because we live on the East coast and my brother is on the West coast--no irritation from hoped-for good interactions that don't work out. Even with living close, however, you may find that your brother and you can develop that independent relationship, especially since you can talk with him about his daughter. Negative comments about his wife or discussions of difficulties with her are 100% off limits, however. Think about it: if your husband's siblings wanted to talk about their issues with you, wouldn't you want him to stick up for you? You're putting your brother in a really awkward position when you have complained to him about her, so avoid that.

You are wise to see that your own resentment is a part of the equation. The amount of emotional energy around her friendship with your ex-friend is a clear sign of that--it should make absolutely no difference to you that they are friends, logically speaking. It's challenging to work through resentments, however once you do release that feeling, it takes the weight off your mind and heart. One possible technique: you could try mentally sending wishes for her health and happiness. You DO want that for her, I assume, just because she is a fellow human and also for the sake of your brother and niece. Don't expect her to change or to do anything; just wish her well. See whether you can spend some one-on-one time with your niece, too. Anyway, good luck with it.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Just ignore her. I ignore my brothers girlfriend. It took me time to work through all my feelings, but she isn't important to me, so I just do not give her head-space. My brother is an idiot where she is concerned, and I've stopped caring. Let him make his bed and lie in it. He's a grown adult.

So I'm nice. I'm kind. I'm respectful. I treat her as I would any acquaintance I know. I was best buds with my ex-SIL. By the time of the divorce, I had known her for over half my life. She was a dear friend. This lady? we will never be friends. And that is OK. I rarely see my brother. His loss. It is all about her and her family. That's OK. He decided to be with her and build a new family. That's OK. It's his right to make such decisions.

It really isn't any of your business how they spend their money. It really isn't any of your business what pictures she wants to put on a website. It really isn't about you. It's about her, and her life.

You need to let it go. He has a new family now. If you love him, you will respect and support his decision by letting things be as they are. Quiet your judgment. It really isn't your business. Let it go.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Why are you allowing how she lives her life to bother you so much?

Focus on your own family and not the "Fancy Nancy". Stop following them on social media. Be sweet when you are at family gatherings which are likely not that often according to you. Stop obsesssing on how she lives her life. Worry about you.

You may not be petty and jealous but you sure do come across that way.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I always wanted a BIL who was like the brother I never had. But my older sister married a much older man so he’s 20 years or so older than me and way way smarter than me! And when they met, I was pretty immature in hindsight. So I don’t think he was my biggest fan. Since then I’ve matured but he’s still way smarter than me so I get intimidated and he really doesn’t show much interest in me. I’m actually a very successful professional but he’s one of those people who knows and remembers everything. So I’m just really nice and respectful but don’t try to be buddies. Not what I always wanted and I don’t like certain aspects of his personality but my sister is happy. So I’d try to let it go. It’s his marriage so you and she just need to be mature and civil. Maybe accepting you’ll never like her will help you write her off in a way. No chance of changing her etc.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

You didn't marry her - your brother did.
All you can assume is that your brother knows and approves of what she does.
So smile and keep your mouth shut.

You have your husband and kids, your brother has his wife and his kids.
I don't know how close you were when you were growing up - but you are both presumably grown up now and diverging.

Let it go.
Live your life and be happy - you don't have to interact that much with your brothers family or at all if it comes to that..

Do yourself and your whole family a big favor and get off of Facebook/social media.
No good can come from it.
All you want to do is whine over pictures she's posted that don't have you in them - and who the heck cares?
If you are that wound up about it then just admit that social media does not bring out the best in you, delete your accounts and go cold turkey.
There must be support groups for this somewhere!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

He has to live his own life, I would let this go. If you are not in photos then simply post your own photos of events and tag your brother in them. If you are not seeing the baby enough talk to your brother and arrange to see the baby more. Just ignore her issues, she is really not your problem.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Your brother is responsible for his relationships with his side of the family, not his wife. Do not blame her for his lack of including his side of the family in things.

He needs to voice to his wife that he wants his side included in holiday events and pictures, etc. They are in charge of the management of their marriage and no one else.

If your brother wants you to see his wife positively, then he should stop talking negatively about her to you. It is inappropriate that he is telling you about their finances, buying her the mink coat and spending habits. When he says these things, you need to stop him and say, ‘Since I don’t want to come between family members, I will respect your privacy to work it out with Nancy on your own’. Each time you don’t do this, you are butting into their marriage and making her more resentful of you.

Who cares how she dresses? Who cares who she is friends with?
Good for her for getting her degree!

Sometimes photos don’t turn out...they should have done their own research on photographers. They made the choice to use yours, that is on them. You have no control over the outcome of that. They should deal directly with the photographer on that.

What stands out to me about your post is the sense of enmeshment between you and your brother, as if you are entitled to make decisions for him and live by your rules. I can’t help but wonder if you have always rescued him from situations and you feel you will have to again from his wife.

I think it’s time to set up new boundaries with your brother. Let him be responsible for any choices he makes, and shut down any attempts he makes to talk negatively about his wife or his marriage problems, and let go of your need to rescue him (at this point it is only damaging your relationship with him).

I think it is a good suggestion to mourn your expectations of the SIL relationship and as well as the married-brother relationship you hoped for.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

It takes time to build a relationship. Sometimes it comes easy, and sometimes it takes work. This one looks like it's going to take more work than some.

I've been very blessed with my brother's wife. She and I were fortunate to live close to each other and to have our first baby around the same time. It took time to really get to know her and to call her a friend, but we both desired that relationship.

It's been more work with my husband's sister. She and I both try, so I'm lucky there. But she and I are very different people with very different interests. So sometimes we struggle with things to talk about. Our expectations of family are very different, so that took some getting used to.

It stinks that you loved your photographer and she didn't. It's not your fault, and it's not fair for her to say it is. She needed to make sure she would like the photographer, too, and she needed to make her expectations clear. If she was unhappy, she needed to talk to the photographer about it. So that one's on her.

Your other examples really articulate the fact that you and your SIL have very different expectations of family. She might not have known that you were hurt that she didn't post pictures that included you or your parents or that she didn't say hello to you at Easter. It just might not have occurred to her.

You need to build a relationship with her. Talk to your brother. Maybe take him out for a drink. Just say that you'd really like to get to know her better and does he have any suggestions. I would not talk about the ways that you have felt hurt. I think it's really important that you just focus on positive things you can do to get to know her better. Just let him know that it's important to you that you and your SIL have a healthy relationship. But you have to remember that it's ok if you don't become best friends. For now, just focus on getting to know her. If you phrase it that way, your brother is more likely to want to help you out.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

This is the type of problem that runs deep because we want our siblings to marry someone who loves them and is a good person. When they marry someone that is not, it is tough to watch because you start to see changes in your sibling that are negative.

There is very little you can do. He made his choice. The only person you have control over in this situation is you. This is a lesson I also learned the hard way. My brother married a gold digger and I watched him change into a horrible person that defends all of her negative behaviors. It’s tough because there’s a process of mourning because you remember the sibling you grow up with. Times change.

You may need to distance yourself. Fill your life with people that make you happy. When you are surrounded with happiness, you will not care about their situation. It takes time and it’s a process of letting go, but worth it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

She sounds spoiled and self centered and dramatic and annoying. But you have to just ignore her and let things roll off your back. Like she is a gnat and nothing she says bugs you. Really, who cares if she spends too much money on fancy clothes or what photos she posts for her friends to see? She is not a friend to you and you do not like my advice is you have to somehow get to a place where you can be polite when you have to be in the same room as her, yet not care one hoot about anything she does. I have never quite mastered this, but perhaps you can! Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I had a great relationship with my brother’s wife. Even when she became his ex-wife, she was a kind and beautiful person. This made it especially painful when my brother-in-law (who I love dearly) married a very difficult woman. It can be so hard to connect with someone who you have little in common with except the love of your brother, and to see someone you love appear to be mistreated.

It’s hard for me to know whether you are just very different, or whether she is really a toxic person. Try to let go of the things that seem to be troubling you, like her friendship with someone you don’t care for, how she spends her money, and whether you’re included in her photos. See if you can just resume enjoying each other’s company as you did when you met, especially when the topic is the baby. Judging her will get you nowhere, and it’s possible if she feels less judged, she will be easier to get along with. My hope would be that you can find a way to reconnect and rediscover the positive feelings you had for her when you met.

It’s also possible that she is truly a toxic person. My brother-in-law’s now ex-wife was actually abusive to him, and eventually he figured it out. Try to trust that if she is really toxic, your brother will figure it out too.

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answers from Springfield on

It sounds like you really disagree with their approach to money. You value different things, and you don't like the choices they are making. You said that your brother "kind of mentioned once" that he spent a lot of money on something that she doesn't seem to appreciate. There might have been other things bothering him that day, and people do vent when they are upset. Your job is to listen. It is not your job to draw extreme conclusions. This might have been a one-time thing. This might not have even been as extreme as you were led to believe. I'm sure you would be furious if you of your in-laws drew conclusions about you based on your husband venting a bit. We all vent, but you have to take it with a grain of salt.

You need to stop judging, especially about things that don't concern you (like how they spend their money).

If you want a better relationship with her, reach out to her and get to know her. She might be holding back because she knows how you feel about her and doesn't want to get hurt.

If she doesn't want a relationship with you, well, that's her loss. Keep being kind and respectful, but let go of expectations.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Let her be distant. You won’t have to see or hear her rub her lifestyle or your ex friend in your face. Win win.
If you stop caring maybe she will.
A bit interesting your brother didn’t include you in his wedding but used vendors.

Your brother is the one you should have the issue with, he is using his wife to distant himself from family. Does he not care your parents weren’t in the photos?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

I understand the desire to have a genuine friendship with your brother's wife. Sadly she doesn't sound like a genuine person who is worth your efforts. I have been in this situation. The only thing you can do is be polite and cordial for the sake of their children. One day they might need you. You have to think long term. I heard Dr. Laura Schlessinger (spelling?) address this in reference to grandparents being iced out. Keep it simple, loving, cordial for the sake of the kids. People RARELY change. Send the birthday cards, etc. if you want to be involved at all with their child/children. Your brother is still smitten and men in general won't rock the boat at home unless it is really emergent. They are able to just detach from what they perceive as cat fights, drama, etc. He knows his wife is high maintenance and he is willing to pay the price as he is in love. Be happy for him, even if she makes you want to roll your eyes. It sucks to have a snob in the family. I just let go of a childhood friend who I considered family due to her fancy attitude and demeaning nature in the name of trying to help me. However, her daughter, who is now 19, sees her mother for what she is and we stay in contact. She sees the fake wannabe attitude in her own mother and expressed it to me in tears a few months before I ended the relationship with her mother. Her mother's snobbery makes her feel unworthy. It is sad. The child/children may need you one day. This is about the child. Your niece or nephew. Not your brother or her fancy self. It's called family politics. Be diplomatic and you may one day be the "real" loving aunt/maternal voice the child needs. I would advise your parents to do the same. Sometimes we have to tolerate the obnoxious to be a source of joy to the offspring of the obnoxious. She is insecure and going through the stage of life where she is trying to fill her need for significance through material things and being better than others. Sadly she will find it is not going to work. Hopefully she won't inadvertently end up alienating everyone who just want to be a part of her life. It is not you or your parents. She has issues. Good luck and keep your chin up.

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answers from Erie on

It sounds like she doesn't like your opinions about her. Trust me, even if you've never said anything out loud, she knows. And she doesn't care. She's not married to YOU, let it go.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Mynewnickname's advice is excellent. Read it a few times over. I've changed my reply after thinking it through.

Your question is "How to deal with .." your SIL.

You just have to be respectful.

If a relationship forms naturally, that's great. It doesn't always, and it can't be forced.

She's a busy mom, wife, has a career I'm assuming, her own friends and family. I think you should give her some leeway when it comes to weddings and babies - we're not always at our best. I know I didn't love my wedding photos. People are allowed to have different opinions. Sounds like your brother was out of line by calling you. You don't seem to be holding him accountable whatsoever - just her. Not sure why that is.

As far as who her friends are or what she spends her money on - not sure why that involves you.

Your brother is who you love and care about. Focus on him, not her. Spend time with him on your own. If you don't have that kind of relationship with him, don't expect one to form with his wife. You have to have a good connection with your sibling in order to have one with his partner.

Did he post any photos? *I like the suggestion of posting your own and tagging them.

Take a break if it gets to you this much. Reassess why you're bothered so much.

Good luck :)

2 moms found this helpful
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