She’s a bully and a trouble-maker, but no one will stand up to her


Our relationships counsellor answers your problems: She’s a bully and a trouble-maker, but no one will stand up to her

  • An anonymous woman says she has difficult relationship with her sister-in-law
  • She says that her family has struggled with her controlling nature for years
  • Turning to Caroline West-Meads she asks what she can do to make things better

Q My sister-in-law has always been headstrong. She was an only child and liked to rule the roost in her family. She and my eldest brother were school sweethearts but she never liked me and made my schooldays a misery. She also stirred up trouble for me with my parents and I was glad to leave home at 17. 

My three brothers and I are now all in our 60s and 70s. She’s still married to my eldest brother – and still causing trouble. When my father died recently, the administration of his will fell to my eldest brother. 

Although my sister-in-law said she was going to leave us to deal with arrangements, she became involved because my brother lacked computer skills. Then she fell out with my mother before the funeral, I think because she expected to gain financially for her help. 

An anonymous woman says she has difficult relationship with her sister-in-law. She says that her family has struggled with her controlling nature for years but it has got too much since the death of her father and now her mother is struggling with her daughter-in-law

An anonymous woman says she has difficult relationship with her sister-in-law. She says that her family has struggled with her controlling nature for years but it has got too much since the death of her father and now her mother is struggling with her daughter-in-law

I am used to this discord, so it’s like water off a duck’s back for me, but my mother is very upset. It seems to be all about my sister-in-law. She causes a scene to get attention and is foul-mouthed, which my family is not. My brother is like her puppet, so talking to him is pointless, while my other brothers don’t like to upset her. 

She causes a scene to get attention and is foul-mouthed 

A It sounds as though your sister-in-law has overshadowed much of your life, which is hard. This is also very upsetting for your mother, who is grieving the loss of your father and doesn’t need the extra stress. 

Your sister-in-law is controlling and it seems that no one wants to stand up to her. I wonder if your eldest brother is bullied and intimidated by his wife? You and your brothers perhaps lack assertiveness, which is understandable because it is not easy when faced with an awkward situation. But you need to intervene. 

While they may say they don’t want to upset your sister-in-law, not taking action risks your mother getting more upset – and she needs protecting. 

 You risk your mother being more upset. She needs protecting

Being assertive doesn’t mean getting angry or shouting – it is about firmly but calmly stating your position. No one should lose their temper or make accusations. The three of you need to say, collectively, to your eldest brother that you don’t want your sister-in-law involved and that you will help with the administration if he needs it.

You may also need to tell her directly because he may feel unable to tell her himself. If she rages and storms, ignore her and don’t let her bully you. 

I suggest contacting a solicitor to solve any disputes. You can find one that specialises in family law through resolution.org.uk. Also please contact cruse.org.uk or mariecurie.org.uk for support. You sound as if you have low self-esteem so you might want to seek counselling to help address this. See your GP for a referral. 

Why did he flirt with my best friend? 

Q After a painful divorce a few years ago, I met a nice guy. We’ve been together for six months and recently went out with some of my closest friends who were keen to meet him. 

But I was left dumbstruck when during the evening one of them, who is extremely attractive, started flirting outrageously with my boyfriend. 

To make matters worse, he seemed to be reciprocating. Her husband didn’t care but I was really upset – though I didn’t say anything at the time and laughed along. I had a huge row with my boyfriend when we got home, but he insists he felt embarrassed and was just humouring her because she is my friend. 

I’m really angry with her but now I don’t know if I can trust my new partner. 

At such an early stage of a relationship, most couples might expect to still be wrapped up in each other, so for him to flirt openly with someone else will feel like he’s not that committed. 

This could be the case but, equally, he may be telling you the truth. To understand better you need to look at both of your relationship histories. 

Did your marriage end because your ex-husband had an affair, so now you find it hard to trust and harmless flirtation is misinterpreted? Has your boyfriend had previous long-term relationships or a marriage that show he has a willingness to commit? Has he treated previous partners well? 

This could provide an insight into how he will treat you. Keep talking to him about what happened and, if your fears are unfounded, he should be willing to reassure you. 

  • If you have a problem, write to Caroline West-Meads at: YOU, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS, or email [email protected] Caroline reads all your letters but regrets she cannot answer each one personally 

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