Dear Dr, Respler,
I really think this whole coronavirus plague is bringing out the worst in a lot of people. And I am including myself. I never considered myself a jealous person. I was always happy with what I had, and didn’t envy anyone. I am in my twenties and married almost a year. I have one brother who is four years older than I am, and is married with a toddler and a new baby.
I was an executive secretary for a firm and was laid off right after Pesach because the company was downsizing as a result of coronavirus and the other executive secretary had seniority and is now working for both bosses. My husband is still working, but at a reduced salary for now.
My parents have always been very generous to both my brother and myself, although since his marriage, I felt that they go overboard for my sister-in-law. But since I like her, I never said anything. But now I really think they are going beyond normal. They are doing everything for her and buying them everything for the new baby. When I asked my mother for some help financially to cover some of our bills, I couldn’t believe it when my mother said that she is sure that my husband can take care of it.
I kept quiet because I would have screamed if I had opened my mouth, This happened three weeks ago and since then I haven’t called my parents. My mother called me a few times and I only answered once. When she asked me if something is bothering me, I said that it looks like she prefers my sister-in-law to me. My mother’s answer was that she is very surprised at me and don’t I know that one has to do more for a daughter-in-law? I told my mother that I never heard of that and that I had a headache and couldn’t stay on the phone. Since then I don’t feel like talking to anyone in the family. My husband says that I am taking things the wrong way.
What do you think?
A Jealous Daughter
Dear Jealous Daughter,
I think there are a few things going on here. Firstly, you are probably having a hard time because you lost your job. Besides for the monetary loss, it is hard to be at home now, with not much to do. This can make people feel lonely, not as useful/productive, and/or overall more sad or even depressed. You may find that you get irritated more easily, which is a sign that you may be unhappy. Are you doing anything to help improve your mood and fill your day? Are you exercising? Getting out of the house daily? Meeting up with friends? Trying to find a new job or volunteering your time for now? All of these are just ideas that may help you feel better on a day-to-day basis, which will help you feel less irritable and help you deal with outside stressors. If you can exercise daily or a few times a week, this will really help increase endorphins and make you feel better. Exercising with a positive and good friend is even better as you will get the endorphins plus socialization! I’m sure you’re genuinely upset about what happened, but it’s also possible that you are feeling down in general, and this just was the icing on the cake. Taking care of yourself will help you manage all types of outside stressors more easily. Once you begin to feel more productive, you will be in a better mood in general, which will help you determine what specifically is bothering you.
It also appears that your mother is trying hard to compensate for something by answering you in the way that she did. Did she have a poor relationship with her mother-in-law? Was there conflict between her and your sister-in-law that she is trying to erase or make up for? It may sound strange, but she probably feels more secure with your love and may feel that she needs to buy her daughter-in-law’s love. It would be a good idea for you to attempt to speak to your mother, in a loving way, about how this situation hurts you. Not speaking to your mother only ignites more pain and exacerbates the situation.
You mentioned that your parents have always been very generous with you. Perhaps they do not realize that your husband’s salary was reduced and that you are struggling now as well. Perhaps they do not realize that you are having a hard time with everything going on now. Direct communication is the healthiest way to deal with most situations. If you do not tell your mother how you feel or what is going on with you, you cannot expect her to read your mind. She may not know that you’re feeling hurt and may feel that you are being ungrateful. There is no way to know what is going on until you open those lines of communication. Please stop ignoring your mother because it will only make the issue more difficult to deal with.
Work on making yourself feel happier and then call your mother to see if it is a good time to discuss something that is bothering you. Start with telling your mother that you and your husband appreciate everything they have done for you and that you know they have been very generous with you over the years. Explain to your mother that you have been having a hard time the last few months and that when you asked for help with the bills, it was because you lost your job and your husband also had to take a reduction in salary. Use an “I feel” message, which generally decreases defensiveness. Say something like, “I felt hurt when I felt that you didn’t want to help me and even if it is immature and petty, I felt jealous of the attention, love, and money that you were showering on my sister-in-law. I know you love me, but I felt less loved the last few months. I am sorry if I didn’t know how to express this and if I acted immature and didn’t speak to you about it.”
This kind of message will allow your mother to hear your feelings without feeling attacked or defensive on her end. If you feel you cannot do this alone, maybe practice saying what you want to say with your husband first, so it comes out the right way. If you feel this still will not help, maybe you should seek short term professional help with your mother to discuss this openly in a safe environment (this does not seem necessary at this time, but if you feel you cannot do this on your own, it may be a helpful alternative).
Whichever way you decide to do this, please try to express yourself to your mother with derech eretz, as it will be hard for your mother to hear you otherwise, which will be counterproductive. Hatzlacha.