This post was accidentally deleted. It was submitted by bit096.
Gabby,I'm in a 7 year marriage and a battle with my in-laws. My sister in-law is almost 9 years older then my husband and I, she practically raised him in there single parent home when mom used to be working two jobs.
She has no kids of her own and tries to act like mom to him and our two daughters. She doesn't like me, I try to be nice to her but she's always trying hard to get my husbands attention and then tries to make me look and feel bad by hinting to him all my flaws. This caused us not to talk for about 5 years straight (caused my husband to be in the middle of this war and he also didn't talk to her) I felt bad about that, she is in our lives again now but is starting it all over again. Sending cards, letters and gifts to my husband and my kids and pretending I don't exist. I'm trying to be an adult about this but a part of me gets jealous because my husband just praises about what a wonderful person she is. How can I prevent her from bringing my feelings down?
Your letter is valuable because many readers have similar problems. What we've learned is that the way in which you estranged yourselves from her didn't work. It didn't work because of the following reasons:
1) You and your husband were not clear and therefore could not make it clear to her, as to why you were no longer willing to interact with her. Dumping someone without letting them know specifically why, and how they can recreate the relationship, is both abusive and unethical. There is a way to recess someone responsibly and ethically (keep reading).
2) You did not issue her an ultimatum, such as, "Complete 24 hours of therapy before you call again."
The very first interaction you, or your husband, had after the five-year recess was where you blew it. I say "you" because, you didn't coach your husband and have him agree exactly how to handle her if she tried to contact either of you, so as to be aligned.
Here's an example of a responsible recess-estrangement communication.
Deliver it in writing, via US Mail, with a return receipt requested, and keep a hard copy in your file cabinet.
"Dear SIL, After many many discussions we have come to the realization that we don't know how to communicate with you without feeling badly afterwards. We have decided to take a recess from interacting with you and attend some therapy/counseling/coaching sessions. We'll let you know when we feel confident to start interacting with you again. In the meantime please respect our wishes to not call or try engage us in any way at all. No cards, gifts, messages, etc, except for emergencies. Before we are willing to engage in any conversations with you we'd first like to hear from you that you also have completed 25 hours of therapy/counseling/coaching sessions. We love you."
What's up for you now is for you to enroll immediately (alone, by yourself) in therapy/counseling/coaching sessions. It's your leadership-communication model, your way of communicating that's producing this result for you and yours. With support you will discover that your silence condones your husband's support of his sister's abuse of you. In truth he unconsciously empowers her abuse. It appears that he's become immune to his sisters covert condescensions, put downs, and abuses, else, he would have handled the very first one through to mutual satisfaction. "That didn't feel good. Would you be willing to apologize?" "No?" "We'll be going now."
Why immediately? Because each hour you submit your children to your way of relating teaches them to put up with abuse. This addiction to abuse is mostly transferred to children silently, nonverbally.
Had you been conscious when you first started dating you would have picked up on his addiction to abusing and being abused and known enough to not date him.
Here's an example of the first conversation you would have with SIL when she called to see if you really meant what you said.
SIL: "Hi, this is SIL."
You: "Hi SIL, how very nice to hear from you. Have you completed your 25 hours of therapy?"
You: "I'm going to hang up now, please don't call again until you have done so."
You ask, “How can I prevent her from bringing my feelings down?” You can’t, because she’s not bringing you down. Part of your counseling will be about acknowledging and completing your addiction to blame. She represents for you an incomplete, from an earlier, similar (most likely childhood) experience, probably with one of your parents. The incident took place at a specific age, in a specific location. It had a beginning, middle, and end.
For example: You were in the living room and your mother said…. And then you said..., and then she said. It's that specific an incident. You have created your sister-in-law recreating for you an interaction you’ve had with someone, one in which you made a decision (and live from that decision) that they did it to you, that “THEY” are bringing you down.
It could be said she is supporting you in putting in (restoring) your integrity. Your integrity has been out, all these years, in part because the way your mind remembered the incident is inaccurate. In fact it’s an out right lie, for which there have been continuing undesirable consequences. Even unconscious lies have an effect.
Let say your memory of the incident was that your mom said something similar to what your sister-in-law now says to you. Your experience was that it didn’t feel good. There was/is another way to have handled your mother other than the way you did (and now handle your SIL).
If you and I sat down and started remembering what was going on in your life back then, especially between you and your parents, we’d recall that just prior to your mom delivering her invalidating put-down, you had delivered one of your famous stink-eyes. You "forget" now that you did this hundreds of times and that it always felt to your mom what it now feels like to you when your SIL does it. To this day you have not acknowledged to your mom that you did it and that you know it didn't feel good. Once ack'd the effects of the abuse, the perpetration, disappears. It completes the incident. All communications have beginnings. middles, and ends, the end is through to mutual satisfaction. Whereas with "talking" (it's called the adversarial communication model) there is no intention for mutual satisfaction
The bottom line is you can continue in life blaming your SIL for the results your leadership communication model produces, or, you can accept responsibility for causing the results. Responsibility for you begins by being willing to look and see that unbeknownst to you something about how you have been communicating with her has been causing her to treat you this way.
While we could spend time looking at (finding the number one communication between you and your SIL) that began this mistreatment, it’s far more efficient that we locate the number one incident in your life, the one that this is really all about. Once the truth is told about that incident you'll no longer have a need to create someone doing it to you.
We’ve got another thread to unravel, that being, how you've managed to attract and reward your husband to support another in disrespecting you. This your far more serious problem. My hit is that he unconsciously intends this so as to mask his own equally serious problem, that of being an enabler of abuse. A husband who is whole and complete would not allow his sister to treat someone he absolutely respected this way. He is in fact unconsciously covertly using her to communicate his unacknowledged and verbally undelivered withholds/perpetrations to you.
Your letter, our communications, are a turning point for you. You’ve set up life to get to this point in the leadership-communication skills curriculum. Many never get here. Or if they do they back down and continue being stuck in their adversary communication model. To effect a transformation you are going to have to be willing to not have your husband. A conscious, actualized woman—being whole and complete in her relationships—having no need to be abused, would have picked up on this pattern of his within minutes of the very first conversation with him, and either created a context of respect, or, not dated him any more. His karma is on his face. It’s experiential. Someone with the same stuff going on can’t see it.
Here’s another bottom line: He needs as much counseling about this as do you. If try to handle it without professional support you’ll still be handling this stuff years from now, belying what you say you want which is to be treated with respect.
Supporting another in abusing another is abusive. Setting it up for another to abuse you is abusive. The whole problem reveals your own addiction to abuse, to abusing and to being abused. Not to worry, it always escalates. Once it does it will force you to handle it the way you should have on day one.
With aloha, Gabby
PS. Please check back from time to time. Quite often I have corrections/edits to my knee-jerk (off the top of my head, it’s called communicating from my experience) replies.