The Passive-agressive Sister-in-law

Updated on February 28, 2011
K.D. asks from Auburndale, MA
12 answers

Grrr. So upset with how my SIL behaves. She is constantly putting "digs" on facebook toward someone. You know those cryptic status updates that seem pleasant on the surface but are really intentional messages toward someone? She does it constantly and I am always trying to dissect what she's saying to figure out if it's directed at me. Recently there have been many posts, comments and updates directed at me and my family without coming right out and saying it. She did an extremely horrible post about my husband recently and her husband (my husband's brother) and her got in a huge fight over it. But she continues to do it! The lastest one was today. My mother in law is coming to visit. She was just diagnosed with a severe form of cancer and we are taking her to a specialist in our area. My SIL puts on my MIL's wall. "thinking about you mom! anyone not doing what ask just call ya" (usually there are so many typos, misspellings, lack of punctuation and capital letters that I have a hard time even understanding her).

She has some deep seeded resentment toward us for some reason. I'm not sure if it's because my husband is the older brother of the two and he tends to be the one who handles all the decisions in the family and has always kind of told his brother what to do (his brother tends to lack some common sense). His brother and wife are in chapter 13 bankruptcy, have foreclosed on 2 houses, she doesn't work, spends all day on facebook playing games, her kids (from a previous marriage) are not involved in any activities outside of school and his sons from his previous marriage have been taken away with no visitation rights, whereas my husband owns a successful business, we've been happily married for 15 years, I work full time, kids are in music and dance classes, I take care of all the housework and cooking on top of it all, etc (I'm not gourmet, whereas she prides herself on a full day cooking project). There are constant digs that relate to us and our lives versus hers. She even has said that some people don't understand what it means to work hard (she hasn't worked outside the home for 10+ years even when they were headed toward foreclosure).

When we were recently together for Thanksgiving, she took over all the cooking and cleaning throughout the weekend and drove everyone crazy with her passive aggressive attitude that she was doing it all (she seriously vacuumed the same room 5 times all while grumbling toward us and all while her teeenage daughter slept the day away). I would offer to help but she would just sweetly say she was all set. My husband ended up making himself scarce and I took lots of walks with the kids, which made it worse because we were enjoyoing ourselves while she did all the work. She also took it upon herself to discipline my children and even told my MIL that if my youngest was her daughter she would put her up for adoption. (my youngest (7 years old at the time) has special needs and self-control issues mostly in stressful situations that we are working on and having her aunt yell at her in front of family doesn't go over well.) This time it was her teenage daughter that posted stuff on facebook "I am so DONE right now." (right after my 7 year old got upset about being bossed around by the younger step-cousin). Do they really think we won't see this stuff??

Today I "hid" her so I can't see her status updates, but seriously want to de-friend her and send her a piece of my mind. I'm so sick of her immature behavior. All the family lives far away from each other, so facebook is the way we stay connected, especially with so much sickness right now. In addition to my MIL's cancer, my husband's 34 year old cousin was just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. All this after his step-father died suddenly on our front lawn (there are some issues with that too because he was mowing our lawn at the time - they think we would bring them here to "work" instead of relax. She posted that prior to his death and the death was kind of a validation of her point. Even though she knows as well as we do that he loved to help us out and he helped them as much as he did us). We have all become closer by connecting on facebook, but I just am so tired of trying to read between the lines. Should I send her a message or keep the peace? My husband jokingly said that I should respond to her post today with a "who the f%$& wouldn't take care of her, bi*%h?") then de-friend her. The family would get a kick out of it and applaud me quietly because I am the quietest, most reserved member of the family that never stirs up drama or trouble.

Any advice on how to handle her???

Edt: As I side note, my brother in law (her husband) dated my very best friend when he was between wives. He broke up with my best friend in order to date his now wife. She has always said from the beginning that I will never like her because of what he did to my friend (wasn't a pleasant break-up). I always say in my mind, "THAT's not why I don't like you." I'm happy they didn't end up together for my friend's sake, but at the same time I think that all these bad things things wouldn't have happened had they stayed together. I honestly believe he'd still have access to his kids and wouldn't have gone into bankruptcy. He's really a decent guy, just chooses horrible women (ex was even worse and she has lied repeatedly to the courts).

Edit 2: To answer some questions. Yes, I think the family does get irritated with her as well, but her tirades are only against US (and her sister. . .she is always putting digs on about her as well). She has a definite anger against us. Thinking it's from her husband telling his wife irritating things about his brother and her making it a reason to hate. My husband gets frustrated with his brother and we talk about it, but I would never treat him poorly or let it keep me from caring for him because of it. It's not just facebook either. When we first arrived on Thanksgiving, she didn't even move from her spot at her laptop. I came in, said hello and exchanged hugs with her and everyone, but my husband came in and chatting and hugged everyone except her. She sat in her corner and had an entire fake conversation with him. "Well hello Debbie, how are you. Fine Tim and you? Oh just great. So wonderful to see you. . . " and on and on and on. I was the only one who heard it. Finally when he was between conversations with other family members she started again loud enough for him to hear and he said, "Well, I didn't see you over there in the corner. Thanks for getting up." That set the whole tone for the whole weekend. And when she yelled at my daughter I wanted to go to a hotel, but everyone calmed me down and promised to never leave her alone with her. Sometimes the family can be maddenly polite to her and they don't tend to gossip or bad mouth her. But on occasion (especially after the big fight with her husband over her unkind comment toward my husband on facebook) the family will talk about her.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the great responses. I have decided for now to ignore her and take the high road. I had a long talk with my mother in law about it and she doesn't understand the comments she has made, but helped me to understand some of my SIL's background (not having a strong mother figure growing up, being very possessive and having a deep love for our MIL, scared she's going to lose her, having a horrible relationship with her own sister, etc.). My MIL and I have a very cloes relationship and I know that the opinions my SIL has developed about me are completely hers alone. No one else agrees with her (I think deep down I worried about that). She wants me to ignore her and to not let it bother me and I will do that for her sake to keep the peace during this difficult time. But my rope is thin. If she says anything else and I am at a weak moment, I will give her a piece of my mind and cut ties.

More Answers



answers from Washington DC on

I agree to keep the high road. I'm sure you're not the only one sick of her behavior.

I have a relative who drives me crazy. When I have to deal with her, I am polite but don't go out of my way. If she comes up in conversation, I might say things like, "Oh, but you know how she likes to be in charge and if it's that important to her, she should just do it herself." Smile. Blink. Move on.

She "stole" Thanksgiving from me and I decided after that I wasn't putting my family through the hassle of driving there when we could just as easily host my in-laws here. Etc.

As for her FB digs, ignore her. If you don't defriend her, filter her so that she sees only what you want her to see. I do that with people. They don't get ALL the posts, or videos or pictures. They only get a few, if I feel like it. One might say, "Why keep them on your list?" Because of family dynamics, really. I have a cousin I blocked entirely.

Anyway, if you do defriend her, don't even say anything. Just do it and let her figure it out.

I think that your SIL is very immature and insecure. Anybody who need that much attention all the time and that much recognition has his or her own issues. Just keep that in mind. I think she WANTS it to be about your friend because then it's not HER behavior, it's you. Victim mentality.

I would tell her, if she says it again, "No, I don't like you for your own behavior. It has nothing to do with my friend." And move along.

I try to bear in mind with my relatives that it's no secret I don't like my cousin and haven't since we were kids. I don't seek her out at events. I ignore her. I let her behavior speak for herself - like when she came barreling over at our other cousin's wedding and shoved herself between other guests because she didn't like where she was sitting (she had not RSVPd so she was lucky to get a seat at all). There's another one who likes to act like I'm not an adult and I subtly remind her that I've had kids almost as long as she has, etc. I do have a clue. Thanks.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

FB in the wrong hands can be a deadly weapon. For normal people it does work just like you said...To keep people connected. FB does not hurt people -- People hurt people.

Unfriend her (ask your DH to do the same) and review your security settings so that they are very tight. But do not make a big production about these FB changes. If she figures it out and directly asks you about it, simply say, "I just couldn't keep up with FB. It was taking up a lot of my time and so I decided I had to "break up" with FB for now."

BTW -- If you are FB friends with your BIL, you will likely have to unfriend him too which is unfortunate.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I would just Hide her on FaceBook (and her daughter too). Then she won't get to have a moment of drama about you unfriending her. This way you don't have to see her and she won't get any attention that she deserves (good or bad). She's not worth it. If anyone says anything about her posts (including her) just say, "Oh, I didn't see that, oh well" Let her actions stand on their own merits without your emotional input.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Why pay any interest to her FB postings?
She obviously has mental problems.

FB, is a place for people to connect. For mentally imbalanced people, it is a place where they really display that. Imbalance.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

This is why I avoid relations on FB like the plague. The LAST thing I need is to get personal with some of those kooks. And I wouldn't like my relations snooping through my friends and judging-and they so would. I personally would unfriend her and her daughter. Who cares.

IF I wanted to retaliate, I'd probably leave super cheery comments to her cryptic digs like, "You are so thoughtful and the best daughter in law ever. I don't know what this family would do without you." and "like" her comment to your MIL etc. Or "I know what you mean, you have worked so hard your whole life, I really admire your strength". "like." to her dig about people not working. Her posts look ridiculous enough already, but those might help make her think twice.

Or unfriend and ignore. I can't imagine who on earth reads her posts and thinks she's not nuts. Plus people hate those kinds of posts. In a survey done about behavior that gets you "unfriended" the fastest on FB, "Frequent negative digs as little 'tweets'" are THE MOST unpopular right ahead of constant political rhetoric. Believe me, no one likes her dumb little posts. They also tell anyone who wants a decent career not to leave a trail of catty posts on the net for future employers to see if they check your facebook page.
Keep the high ground, but don't let her trample you. It won't hurt you to put her in her place now and then.



answers from Charlotte on

What does the rest of the family think about what she is doing? Are they wise to her, or does she have them snowed?

If they know, I wouldn't look at her FB at all. I would never write her either.

I would just ignore her as much as possible. And I swear, if she treated my special needs child like this, I would never walk in her house. You should have a talk with your brother about her and her daughter's treatment of your child.




answers from San Francisco on

Take the high road. If you think people would applaud you then you already know they have her figured out. Who cares about the rest. The fact that you blocked her posts from your page is good. This is a person that will turn your words around on you so don't give her the opportunity. Focus on who you are and what you do and forget about her (I know, easier said than done but the blocking on facebook is definitely a great start!)



answers from Pensacola on

I can relate COMPLETELY. Your situation sounds EXACTLY like mine with my SIL. I deleted her and havent thought twice about the decision. I use Facebook to connect and keep in touch with people that I care about. I dont sign on wanting to see her negativity and the ridiculous posts that she directs towards me because she is full on hate and jealousy. I get myself so worked up reading her posts, though I know I shouldnt--its Facebook! But, its been much better not even having to worry about it anymore!!
good luck!! family drama is never easy! 1000 miles between her and I doesnt seem far enough!



answers from Washington DC on

I have posted cryptic posts on FB. I also have family that tend to vent on FB. I also have family that is having $ problems, but then post about all of the fun, expensive things they do. It drives me nuts..

I have defriended a family memeber. I just deleted them, and didn't say anything. It took her 2 months to realize it. She sent me a message about 'I seem to not be on your list anymore'. with a another 'friend request'. Then I responded and gave her the reasons, and accepted again ... but there are days ...

As for the family dynamics and 'digs' ... it sounds like she's just trying to make herself seem important. Again I know people like this. So when they get in this mood, I've learned to either just quietly do something without asking, or if I do ask and they decline, I step back with a clear concience.

As my hubby likes to say the only people you need to worry about are your parents, my parents and the people that live at this address. Everyone else is on their own.




answers from Appleton on

Time to sit down and have a family meeting. Discuss as a family how you want to deal with her. Personally I would cut all ties. You don't need the negativity. As a group tell her to get counseling, medication and stop the negative posts - comments - actions or she is no longer welcome at family get togethers.
Contact Social Services and see what the steps are to have a person involuntarily commited. She has some mental illness issues my guess would be bi-polar and needs medication. However be prepared as an adult she has the right to refuse counseling and medication after commitment. I think there is a possibility her husband also has a mental illness. Look at their lifestyle and spending habits, big red flag right there.
Next time she mentions that you don't like her because her husband broke up with your best friend, tell her your friend was lucky to get away. Any man who the courts deem so unfit he cannot see his own children is not the kind of man I would want to be married to. Not to mention their financial dificulties.
She not really passive-aggessive. Passive-Aggressive is when someone agrees to something, like your child says yes I'll help clean the garage on Saturday but then doesn't and finds an excuse or just doesn't do as they say they will.



answers from Boston on

Hi K.D. sounds like your SIL has you seriously wound up! I would have no problem deleting her on FB and taking out the trash. Sounds like you could start to just be above it all. Out of sight, out of mind. I learned a long time ago to rid my life of negativity. You don't have to be bothered by her bad attitude, bragging or griping. You have the freedom to just let it go! I know we can't always choose our relatives but we can choose the way we handle our interactions with them and also choose to feel one way or another about them. Don't let her bring you down, rise above it all.


answers from Modesto on

Wow. I'm so thankful that my family doesnt pay so much attention to all of our personal stuff. Y'all know too much about each other, that's why you cant get along. Funny how you can treat a perfect stranger sitting next to you in the pedicure station better than you treat flesh and blood and inlaws isnt it. It's because you dont know her business AND you and your family shouldnt know each others business either.
Everyone is ok until you get to know them.
I would not let any of what she says bother me. If you feel its geared at you and it gives you guilt, then you must be guilty otherwise you would not recognize it as such. jmo

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