Post # 1
So I have a sister in law who is 16 years old. I have been with my husband for 8 years and we got married last year. When she was a little kid she adored me and wanted me to play with her and was jealous when I would visit and her brother would “hog” all the time with me. She was always excited to see me and would greet me with huge hugs.
Well today it is totally opposite. After my now husband moved a couple states away to be with me (2 years ago) she became very jealous. I have a sense that she feels I have taken her big brother away (I should mention he is 30 years old and hasn’t lived with his parents and sister for 5 years). There was a huge change in her attitude towards me. She doesn’t talk to me unless she has to and ignores my presence for the most part. If we are alone she acts annoyed towards me and gives sometimes rude and usually short responses whenever I ask a question. Sometimes she doesn’t respond when I talk to her and she just looks at me with this serious facial expression… she makes everything so awkward.
She was a bridesmaid in our wedding and she sobbed uncontrollably. It was not happy emotional tears… It clearly was agonizing for her to watch us get married. It made me super uncomfortable.
I don’t know what to do. I feel that I am not close enough to her to talk to her and call her out on her behavior.
I have refrained from saying anything to my husband about it until now, and of course he said he hadn’t noticed anything but trusts me. And the wedding ceremony sobbing just clicked in his head. He wants to ask other people in his family about it, but I told him not to right now. I don’t want to stir up drama.
This is really frustrating. It has been over 2 years since my husband moved states and I would think she would have gotten over it by now, but it almost feels like it is getting worse and worse. I don’t have this problem with my other older sister-in-laws.
What would you do?
Post # 2
maganda: I don’t want to discount your emotions here, because I’m sure it must be frustrating to see such a flip in attitude but… Have you considered the fact that she’s a 16 year old girl? I was so hormonal during that age that I was moody, angry, manic, annoyed, and bawling uncontrollably within the course of 5 minutes. Puberty’s a bitch and I get the feeling that could be a major factor.
Post # 3
To be honest, I’d mostly just give her time. 16 is still young enough to be irrational and a moody teenager, and to not understand what it’s like to start your own adult life. I worked with high school students for a few years, and that’s definitely an age where any and all drama that can be drummed up will be a huge deal. She’ll probably understand and put things in context in the next couple of years.
In the meantime, it’d be good if your husband checked in with her to see if she wants to talk about this. Has she ever been out to visit? It might help if she starts seeing a far-away sibling as an opportunity to travel and visit, instead of just having someone missing from home.
Post # 4
Yip going to say i think it is mostly down to her age… She is young and she will grow up, go through life and realise what you guys did really wasn’t so bad… Short answers etc, I was like that with a lot of people whether I liked them or not…
Post # 5
ren89: That’s exactly what I was thinking.
Just like ren89, I don’t want to be dismissive of your SIL’s emotions and thoughts. However, I think a combination of her immaturity and not being prepared for the changes that would happen when her brother got married are causing her to react this way.
Obviously, plenty of teenagers don’t act like this when siblings get married, but when immature people (they can be any age) are faced with changes in relationships that they refuse to accept, or aren’t capable of understanding or accepting, rude, confrontational, distant, or awkward behavior can follow.
I don’t have any advice about how to go about dealing with this problem with her and/or her family, but I do advise that you keep her age and immaturity in mind. She is not immature just because she is 16, mind you, it’s just that she’ll likely mature emotionally and grow out of this behavior and mindset. If she were about a decade older, then her behavior might not change. Try not to take what she says and does too seriously.
Post # 6
ren89: I have considered puberty/hormones… But I know that if puberty is the only reason for the behavior then she would be like this with other people too. But she isn’t. She is an exuberant, happy, young lady with ALL other family members and in-laws.
By 16 puberty is finished for most girls. She started going through puberty when she was 9 when she loved me – which she did until she was 14 years old (when my husband moved states). Him moving was definitely the trigger for all of this. I noticed her becoming distant with me on our first visit back a couple weeks after he moved.
Post # 7
maganda: To be honest I’d just try ‘kill her with kindness’. Maybe invite her to spend a week or so holiday with you adn your husband, send her a message when you know she has a test or exam to wish her luck from both you and your husband… chances are she feels like she has lost you both and while she isn’t handling it is a very mature way, she is 16, they tend not to handle things in a very mature way… I can regret the fights I had with my mother when I was around her age, I can see now how sensless and unimportant they were but back then they were important to me… So for now just keep being nice to her and wait it out…
Post # 8
maganda: there is a distinct possibility she is mostly angry with your husband for moving, but you are the one copping the attitude because she knows she can get away with it. Puberty may well be playing a role and it doesn’t necessarily finish at 16 for most girls. The hormonal changes can go on until last adolescence and so a reasonable emotion like missing her brother could be perpetuated.
Regardless of the reason though, in order to move forward encourage your husband to make a big effort to communicate with her, take an interest in her life, invite her to stay with you both. Despite feeling uncomfortable, you could bring up the issue with her and ask in a non-confrontational way if she is ok. Relate to her and say it must be hard with her big bro having moved away or something like that… Being 16 sucks, because you feel like an adult, but you’re not yet and it feels like no one understands your life or they think your own problems are not important! (I used to work as a school counsellor). So perhaps treat her as an adult (within reason) because she would probably love that.
You might continue to get the cold shoulder, but she’s 16 so that’s not uncommon! All the best.
Post # 9
The idea that most young women are done with puberty by the time they’re 16 is abolutely not accurate. Puberty is different for every individual. For some, it’s short. For others, it’s long. For some, it starts before the age of 10. For others, it doesn’t start until 15 or later (I started my period at 15). It’s entirely unpredictable, and it hits some people hard, and others barely seem impacted by it. Some people spread their irrationality far and wide, and some focus on a single target. My sister focused almost all her pubescent rage on my father – she was completely normal with everyone else, but every word out of his mouth would make her snap and snarl. Now that she’s an adult, they get along great.
Post # 10
maganda: It could also be that as she has gotten older and matured (from being a child) that she has decided that she just plain doesn’t like you. It would be nice if everyone loved us but in reality there are going to be people we encounter in life who just don’t like us, just like there are people we meet who we don’t like.
Be civil and treat it how you would if it was a collegaue or classmate.
Post # 11
Polyphemus: It isn’t an idea, it is a medical fact that puberty for most girls has finished by age 16. If a girl has not had puberty symptoms by this age they need to see a doctor because there could be health factors that are delaying puberty. And trust me, for my sister in-in-law she has already completed puberty… she got her period when she was 9, and her breasts are fully developed… Double D’s. And an attitude problem with 1 person can’t be chalked up to just hormones. There is definitely more going on for her and how she perceives me.
aussiebee87: she actually continues to adore her brother. She can be rather clingy with him when we visit. Many hugs, hand holding. Sometimes I get flashed that serious look from her when she does it. She will talk her head off with him, but if I enter the conversation she ignores what I say or gives a one word response and will continue talking JUST to my husband.
I have pondered about what I could possibly say to her, but whenever we visit there is never any time where I am alone with her in their small house. We did give an open invitation for her to stay with us this summer during school break for 1 week, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out – I am betting she doesn’t want to spend time alone with me – which there would be a lot of since her brother works long hours and I work from home – and convinced her parents she couldn’t go.
j_jaye: well I am sure at this point she doesn’t like me, I think that is pretty clear. But there isn’t a good reason for her not liking me. I am friendly and kind towards her always – everyone else in the family likes me very much. There has never been a conflict or disagreement between us to cause this, other than her possible perception that I “took her brother away.” If a colleague or classmate treated me like this I wouldn’t talk to them unless absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t go out of my way to be kind to them, and they wouldn’t be in my personal life. Unfortunately this is family and that wouldn’t fly.
BtoR: that’s what I have been trying. I probably do just have to wait it out. I am just afraid that this disdain she has for me will stick and there will always be this weird tension between us. 🙁
Post # 12
maganda: Ok, so I know what you’re going through. I have a kid brother. There’s a 13 year age gap between him and me, and 10 years between him and my younger sister. He’s a little closer to her because they lived together the longest. When she got engaged he was about 12 years old and he sobbed uncontrollably behind the sofa… I mean, he like reverted to little kid tantrum hiding behind a sofa. It was SO weird. But we all just had to reassure him, especially my younger sister and her new FI, that he wasn’t losing a sister but instead gaining a brother. We also had to explain that even though things were changing, that it didn’t have to be a bad change for him.
At her wedding, he was very somber and teared up at the end of the day. But just talking him through it at the time really helped him. We’ve also had him come to visit us often so he still feels like he’s growing up with siblings.
So, it’s possible your SIL didn’t discuss her feelings with anyone at the time, but maybe she did confide in her mom? Maybe you guys could invite her out to stay with you for a week or something to reconnect. Show her some individual attention and love. And her confused feelings might come up so that you get to talk to her about them during that time.
Post # 13
maganda: I just saw your comment about already inviting her out for a week. Can you get her parents in on it by explaining your fear that she resents you for “taking her brother away”? Can you get your DH to take some time off while she’s there so it entices her?
Post # 14
maganda: I think people are getting physical maturity and emotional maturity mixed up here. At the very least, they’re not making the distinction. Emotional maturity and physical maturity aren’t always in sync; in fact, they usually aren’t. Many people are well into their 20’s before the can be considered emotionally mature, and some never really get there.
All of that is beside the point, I think. The reason that was mentioned at all has been lost and misconstrued. The reason behind mentioning her age was to point out that she’s behaving in a fashion that is typical of teenagers and that she might grow out of it.
She may be physically mature — I don’t doubt that at all — but emotionally she probably has a lot more maturing to do. Because of this factor, you may need to give her some time before taking much action, and be careful of what you do if you do take action. Even a year or two can make a big difference. She might stop acting the way she is and start understanding that her brother is just living his life in a completely ordinary and necessary fashion, and that you are not to blame for the changes that have happened.
If this problem stems from her feeling like her brother was taken away from her, you might not be the person who should talk to her about this. Her brother, your husband, should probably be the one to talk to her and work with her on this.
Post # 15
I don’t know why you think its jealousy and that she feels you “took her brother away”. Has she expressed that to you? How come people blame it on “jealousy” every time someone else doesnt like them?
My only advice would be to sit her down and talk to her. Put the blame on you. Tell her “we used to be so close. I have the feeling lately that I’ve done something to upset you. Please tell me what I’ve done so I can fix it. I want us to have a good relationship.”
Chances are, you didn’t do anything wrong, but this will at least clear the air without her getting defensive (don’t approach it with “why are you so bratty toward me??”). Or, who knows, maybe a year ago you brushed her off and due to teenage horomones, it really upset her and shes been harboring resentment since then.
The only way to fix it is to talk to HER and clear the air. Not her parents or her family, just HER.