My husband and I have been in love for 30 years, but lately I have been so angry I can’t breathe. My husband runs his family’s business. My sister-in-law has a nice salary with full benefits but only works four hours a week. Her excuse is that she is caring for my ailing mother-in-law. The truth is, I take my mother-in-law to her appointments and pay her bills. My sister-in-law is too busy with Botox, massage and nail appointments. My husband rants to me about how she takes advantage but says nothing to her. Recently when a brother-in-law dropped out of an important project without any notice, my sister-in-law laughed and said he must be related to her. My husband said as Mom’s caregiver she was excused. My sister-in-law gave me an evil little smile. I know when she doesn’t show because my husband invites me to lunch. Otherwise, they go to lunch and don’t invite me. I am avoiding her because I feel physically ill, anxious and want to scream when I’m around her. My husband is the oldest, so she goes to him for everything. What should I do?
Accept that you are powerless to change anything except your own anger and stress. Feeling so angry you can’t breathe is your body on homeland security orange alert. But you are terrorizing yourself by obsessing about your sister-in-law. So strip your breath to its core: You are being breathed. Surrender into that experience. Then, read on.
Your husband cries wolf whenever he complains that his siblings treat him unfairly. He doesn’t really see trouble approaching. He just needs the attention he gains from hollering. You listen and soothe so he can continue managing the family business. But it drains you. Why? He wants his siblings to change but doesn’t expect them to. You want everyone to see that if the in-laws don’t change and your husband doesn’t force them to do so, they will ruin your life, or at least, your health. Hmm, who do you think will be the winner of this competition? That’s right, not you!
Here’s a clue about human nature: Just because we don’t like someone—because they lie, take advantage of others or because they do not actually work at their job and aren’t suited for it—does not mean they are a bad person or ever will be considered so in the eyes of others. Everyone engages in inappropriate behavior at times. Compassion demands that we remember this so that we can be forgiven when we cross the line.
Your husband may be frustrated with his sister’s behavior, but he also revels in being the big brother who solves her problems over lunch. That reminds me of something important: your jealousy. It centers on your sis-in-law’s awareness of her appearance and her position as your husband’s lunch companion. So, are you confident that you are attractive to your husband? Do you take on too many commitments for your mother-in-law in the hope of being seen as good, even though you are exhausted? Your responses to these questions will reveal your underlying beliefs—the concepts that incite you to condemn your sister-in-law’s behavior. Excavate your personal history and you will discover a precedent that was the initial spark for your current anger. Perhaps your mother had her hair done instead of seeing you in the school play. Or your best girl buddy in college was tight with your boyfriend and you didn’t trust the friendship. That’s right, this is not just about your sis-in-law. She just mirrors something deep within you that is ripe for healing.