Dear Annie: I come from a large family. We haven't had any truly rough times, but our sister-in-law is proving to be a problem for me.
"Jennifer" has never liked me. At her wedding, my other siblings were attendants, but not me. She often invites my siblings for dinner, but never me. I could live with that, but I am bothered by the way she treats my mother.
My brother has five children. For years, my mother has babysat for free. She attends all their events to show her support. She invites the kids to fun activities. Mom recently took on a full-time job and can no longer babysit. Jennifer always seemed a little jealous of how close Mom is to the kids, and now she's found a way to exclude her. Jennifer has stopped communicating with either of my parents. She declines invitations to family events at my parents' house, and won't invite them anywhere. She won't tell them when the kids' events are. Last week, Mom saw Jennifer at the grocery, and she wouldn't look at her or say hello.
Jennifer's attitude is having an effect on my brother. He's starting to behave the same way. This is awful for my mother and an injustice to the kids. Mom is too nice to say anything, and if I speak up, it will only make things worse.
My older sister has told me that I will soon be excluded from any family event involving Jennifer if I don't "change my ways." I don't understand what I have done wrong or how to fix it. Could you please give me some suggestions? -- Frustrated
Dear Frustrated: We don't know what you have "done wrong," other than to respond to Jennifer in the same negative way she responds to you. But we can tell you that improving the relationship will require major effort from you, since Jennifer is unlikely to bother. Please talk to your older sister and ask her to explain what might help you get along better with Jennifer. Don't criticize her. Be sincere. Do this for your mother's sake, and see if anything works to get this sister-in-law to behave with more compassion. (And shame on your brother for permitting his wife to treat Mom this way.)
Dear Annie I read the letter from "Mother-In-Law," who regrets the way she treated her husband's mother now that she is the recipient of her son's wife's disdain. I was happy to see you point out that many women have wonderful relationships with their mothers-in-law.
I could not have asked for a better woman to fill this role in my life. My mother-in-law did an outstanding job raising her son and accepted me into her family with grace and love. Sadly, she developed Alzheimer's and we had to watch a beautiful, active and engaging woman fall victim to the ravages of this insidious disease. It was heartbreaking to see this decline, but she was always happy to see us when we visited. She knew we belonged to her in some way.
I learned a lot from her, and can only pray that I have the same type of relationship with my son's wife when that day comes. -- Grateful Daughter-in-Law
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