I've been married for four years and I love, love my husband. His mother is, for all intents and purposes, a fine MIL except for one thing. Backstory: his younger sister, who has a disability, hates me. She makes it clear whenever I'm around, and though my husband has tried in the past to step in, it's clear that nobody but MIL is able to influence SIL's behavior. Some of her behavior of late includes constantly muttering insults under her breath at me, picking up and moving her chair to be away from me, and hiding a gift that I gave to MIL. In the last year, there was a major outburst at a dinner which really unsettled us. I understand that she's working with a disability and can't really filter her thoughts or feelings for my benefit. However, it hurts. I've tried my damndest to make it work, but it's clear that it won't.

My problem here is that through the tantrums, the outbursts, and the glaring insults, during which I am very clearly embarrassed, MIL doesn't really say or do anything. She usually tries to change the subject. I'm not asking for a total revamp of MIL's parenting skills, but a little encouragement, preparation, or even apology, would go a long way. Am I being totally out of line?  E


Are you out of line? Well, you are and you’re not, but let’s start with why you’re not…

Obviously no one, no matter how self-assured or confident, wants to be ridiculed or insulted by anyone. Just because it’s coming from someone with a disability doesn't mean it’s any less hurtful or embarrassing. So I do give you major props for holding your sh-t together and rationalizing this the best you can. E, I can’t imagine how un-fun it has to be to sit there quietly and swallow it. Props.

Okay but now think about how overwhelmed you feel at times in this situation and multiply that by infinity and this is where you’ll find your mother-in-law. All I’m saying is you should cut her a bit more slack here because while raising any child ain't easy, there’s no denying she’s had to face a f-ck of a few more challenges. I know you know that, but just keep that in mind….

Now there are two reasons why your MIL is handling this the way she is. It could be that either it’s just a blip that doesn't even register in the scheme of her daily challenges with her daughter, or maybe she’s ignoring these outbursts because it’s an actual clinical strategy. Giving her attention during these outbursts may be a problem. But f-ck, the truth is I really don’t know, and you really don’t know either which is exactly why you need to talk to her.

Arrange an afternoon where you two can just hang out and chat. Don’t play the blame game, but just express that you’re finding it difficult to emotionally deal with what’s going on and that you want her advice. That way it opens up the dialogue so that she understands how you feel, and hopefully it can serve as a little education for you on her daughter’s disability and what she’s had to go through. I feel very confident that if you do this it will not only give you the tools to deal with it, but it was also bring the two of you closer together. 

Keep me posted and thanks for writing in! xx Keep your questions coming to [email protected]