December 26, 2015

Ask me Anything: “My Sister-in-Law is a Bully.” {Weekly Advice Column}

derek maguire/Flickr

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.


Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you! ~ Erica


Dear Erica, 

I have a huge problem. My sister-in-law is a huge bully.

When I married my husband five years ago, I knew his sister was tough. I tried to make friends with her as best I could, but she has always been combative. She has tried to tell me what to do from day one. She forced me to wear a wedding dress I didn’t like, she dictated the guest list for our wedding, and she even decided who was in the wedding party!

I decided back then to just go with the flow, but every year she gets worse. If I post pictures on Facebook of an event or a party I went to without her, she becomes irate and makes totally inappropriate comments on the post. She has called me selfish, a b*tch and a c*** on my Facebook wall.

She also talks to my parents-in-law about me behind my back, telling them about my husband’s and my finances, saying I’m trying to get pregnant so I can quit my job and “lay around the house” (not true), and worst of all, accusing me of flirting with a guy friend of mine at work and being on the verge of having an affair with him (totally not true!).

I am sick and tired of her b.s. How can I shut my sister-in-law down without alienating my husband’s family? I hate confrontation. I just want this problem to go away.

~ Bullied


Dear Bullied,

My mother always used to say, “begin as you mean to continue.” By letting your sister-in-law behave as she has from day one, you sent her a message that you would accept it. You gave her an inch, and she has taken a mile.

Despite your not liking confrontation, it’s time to put your foot down. You don’t mention how your husband has handled this problem, but the two of you need to be a united front.

Talk to him first about what’s been going on; he may not even be aware of the extent of it. Calmly describe your sister-in-law’s mistreatment of you and then say, “I need you to support me now.” Hopefully he will understand where you’re coming from and be willing to get your back. Getting your back means listening to you when you’ve been hurt, and refusing to accept when people speak badly to, or about, you.

Then, the next time his sister’s abusive streak flares up, you can do any number of things. If it happens on social media, block her immediately. (I would consider doing this anyway.) If it is in person, walk away. If it is via phone or email, simply do not respond.

If she reaches out to your husband to continue her tirade, he should refuse to listen. This may involve him also blocking her, hanging up the phone, not responding to emails, or walking away.

People like your sister-in-law thrive on conflict. The good news is, they can’t fight with you if you don’t engage with them. You have a lot more power in this relationship than you think you do, simply by choosing not to participate in it. Chances are the rest of your husband’s family is well aware of your sister-in-law’s toxicity, and as long as you remain respectful and relaxed with everyone else, they will be okay.


Dear Erica,

I have a guy friend who has a girlfriend. He and I were working out together and his girlfriend came into the gym.

He had told me before this that they were not together anymore, but they were. He also did not tell her he was going to be working out with me, because he said she would be upset.

Now she is not allowing contact between my friend and I, and made him unfriend me on Facebook. She thinks that he cheated on her with me, which he did not.

From what he has told me she has been lying to him, but it seems as if he is willing to do whatever she wants to try and make it work. I’m confused about the situation and what I should do.

I care about my friend and want what’s best for him, but I hate the situation. He and I have been friends for over a year, and they got together a couple months after.

Should I just walk away, or wait and see what happens? I really just don’t know what the right course is or what I should do.

~ Confused


Dear Confused,

According to you, your guy friend is lying to you and his girlfriend, and his girlfriend is also lying to him. What a mess!

In answer to your question, yes, I would walk away and see what happens. Unless you want to end up in the middle of a lover’s feud, that will be your only option.

This guy is obviously not willing to be truthful with you or his girlfriend, because he is afraid of the consequences. Until he grows up enough to be confident in his decisions and straightforward with the people in his life about what he wants, who he’s with, what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, he’s not going to make a very good friend or partner to anyone.


Relephant Read:

Why We Bully.


Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Toby Israel

Image: derek maguire/Flickr


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