Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing to you about a painful situation with my in-laws.
Let me begin by saying that I have always had a wonderful relationship with my in-laws. We have always gotten along well and never had any issues.
However, all of this changes when my sister-in-law, their daughter, comes to visit. They suddenly become very tense and nervous and make sure everything goes her way. For example, if I ask them for something, even a minor need, they get hesitant and say they must ask her if its okay – even if it doesn’t relate to her.
So, it was bad enough when she just came to visit every once in a while – now she is living here. At first I thought things would get better and that my in-laws would relax. However, the situation has only gotten worse. It’s as if my in-laws have fallen off the face of the planet – they do not call and do not come by anymore. When we call, they speak with us, but often say they have to call us back as they are busy with my sister-in-law’s children. Needless to say, those calls usually never come.
My other sisters-in-law feel the same as I do, but I was really the closest with my in-laws and am very hurt. I have discussed the issue with them, and things change in the short-term, and then go back to us being ignored. In fact, we hear from just on erev Shabbos most weeks.
I do not know what to do anymore. Part of me feels like I should just accept the situation, and another that I should keep trying. Please tell me what you think.
A Daughter-In-Law In Pain
As you have already spoken to your in-laws, which would have been my suggestion, it is hard to answer your letter.
I can tell you that it seems as if your in-laws are scared or feeling guilty in regards to their daughter and can’t find space for anyone else. I would never suggest you move on and forget about your in-laws, however, you may need to readjust your expectations, at least for the time being. This will be painful, yet I think it is necessary. In essence, you have to be the bigger person and continue to have a relationship.
I wonder: can you invite your in-laws for a meal on Shabbos or for dinner during the week, so your kids have their full attention? Can you try to continue to make the effort to call them even though they seem to often be unavailable? Can you have your husband try to speak to them about how your family is feeling?
Readers, we would love to hear your suggestions for this writer. Have you ever dealt with a situation like this and if yes, what worked for you? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
Wishing you all hatzlacha navigating family relationships.