Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I hate my sisters-in-law! I don’t even know if I can adequately explain how much bile I must swallow over Yom Tov when I am in their company. This hatred is now spilling over to include my husband, who insists that we spend Rosh Hashanah and Sukkos with his family as we were with mine for Pesach and Shavuos. Mrs. Bluth, the trade off is not an equal one. He is not forced to be with his despicable, evil and hostile sisters and their equally offensive husbands and unruly children. I simply can’t take another moment in their presence and refuse to go there for Sukkos.
Some background: I have been married to my husband for five years. Before we married, his parents and sisters (he’s the only son) were not overly warm to me, but they seemed hold out the promise of warming up once they got to know me better. Right after the wedding, my in-laws did invite us over and include us in family get-togethers and events, but over time these invitations petered out. This is because the friction between me and their older daughters became evident and was the cause of many arguments. What remained was the Rosh Hashanah/Sukkos gathering in my in-laws’ large house, where we are all thrown together for an insufferable long time and forced to endure each other’s presence. But this Rosh Hashanah was the worst of all and I refuse to go back.
You see, each of my husband’s sisters has children and we, as yet, do not. It is not because we can’t have children, rather, this was a mutual decision reached between the two of us for economic reasons. My husband was in law school when we married, leaving me to be responsible for meeting our expenses. As I said, this was a decision we made and no one else’s business.
However, my husband, feeling the need to defend my procreation abilities, decided to explain all of this to his sisters. This Rosh Hashanah was a non-ending barrage of “Why aren’t you pregnant yet?” “Five years and no baby? Maybe you should see a doctor for fertility help.” “Maybe you should look into adoption if you can’t conceive naturally.”
For three days, I sat there bitter and humiliated as they passed judgement on my life, seemingly reveling in my pain. And, in the privacy of our bedroom, my husband and I fought bitterly over this and many other things.
Five years begins to look like forever and I don’t think I want to sign up for a lifetime of this, even though I know it’s not my husband who is behind this. We still love each other, but I know that his sisters will never change. Even when we eventually have a child, I believe that they will find other opportunities to torment me. I guess I am writing for validation and encouragement to pursue legal avenues to end the marriage.
The old adage of too many cooks spoiling the broth was never truer than in your situation. Confined to close quarters with people who do not have your best interests at heart for a relatively prolonged period of time is definitely a recipe for disaster, which seems to be evident with your in-law issues. But there’s really so much more that oozes through your words. Lets try to figure out how much of the problem is them and what part you and/or your husband may have played in this toxic relationship.
There are many questions here that beg to be answered. For starters, what caused the original animus between you and your husband’s sisters? Was there jealousy or social altercations that set the groundwork for bad blood? Did you ever confront them asking why they treat you so shabbily? Have you sought professional advice on how to resolve the situation, which appears to call for family therapy as a means to reach some sort of understanding? Have you and your husband enlisted the help of a couple’s counselor? So many questions not addressed here.
While its not advice you’re asking for, I’ll take the liberty of offering it anyway. You say that you and your husband still love each other. That, in and of itself, is the most hopeful line in your entire letter. I am almost certain that your marriage can be helped by seeing a family therapist who will guide you out of the familial quagmire and teach you how to focus on just the two of you as a couple. Five years of marriage, with no children to distract your attentions from one another, could still be considered a boarder-line honeymoon period and will allow you to refocus on yourselves as a newly-wed couple. It should not take too long, based on your love for each other, for you to develop into a united and independent unit that will be able to withstand the poisoned in-law environment – or at the very least, give you the strength and wherewithal to distance yourselves from it.
As for your sisters-in-law, and anyone else for that matter, it is not their place to offer opinions or dispense advice, unless asked to do so by you. You are certainly within your rights to confront them and to tell your in-laws that you cannot join them for Yom Tov since they are seemingly unable to control the intrusive and argumentative climate in their home. Since I do not know what began all this cruelty, I can only assume that these women see you as some sort of threat.
Yomim Tovim can be stressful even for families who get along well, how much more so when there is tension in the house. However, this time of year is the most opportune time to resolve such issues as we are seeking forgiveness from Hakodosh Boruch Hu and those against whom we may have committed verbal and physical offenses. The first step to this endeavor is forgiveness, after which comes healing, depending on how much you really want to resolve the issues. Now is a perfect time to sit everyone down and air out the grievances, because family is precious and life is too short to waste on animosity and regret.