View Full Version : Family Drama- Any Advice?

05-06-2009, 09:46 AM
Long long story and too much to get into. But in a nutshell: My husband's sister has been stirring up problems nearly our entire marriage. She is my age, married as well with 2 kids, and works. However, she has some issues and can be counted on to start something several times a year. She'll call our home repeatedly after midnight and keep calling until someone answers, then cry the next day and say she's sorry. She'll ask to get together for the holidays then invite only my husband and her other sister and exclude the spouses/families. These are just a few examples. There are too many to list. Usually we don't hear from her unless she is starting up trouble.

Last summer my husband asked her just to not contact us. She did something again, we fought about it, etc. He thought it would be best if she just backed off and everybody took some time to just cool off and hopefully see things differently. Last week, out of the clear blue she sent us a typed, 2 page letter in the mail just ripping us. Me especially. She just said hateful things which really made her sound very jealous- of everything from our jobs, lifestyle, house all stupid things really and none of which should concern any normal human being. It made me so angry. My husband and I discussed and he thinks it's best to ignore it. Don't respond. I said yes part of me agrees, but the other part of me feels like this will just keep going. In 6 more months get another letter,or she'll call again, or show up. I don't know. We've never "done" anything to her, we have said things when things were said to us first (and not every time either) but that's about it. I don't understand how someone who presumably has thier own life, family, job etc would need to go so out of their way to make trouble. She does have a history of problems, but she really has a strange fixation on us for some reason.

So- would you ignore and let it be?

05-06-2009, 09:59 AM
We had this problem with my mother-in-law.:stir: I let my wife make a choice, and backed her on it. She decided to ignore her, and so we did. After a couple of weeks, she stopped calling. That was three years ago. DW still talks to her on rare occasions, but she does not bother us at home or try to intrude upon us any more. Good luck:thumbsup:

05-06-2009, 10:43 AM
The important thing with people who thrive on this type of drama, as your SIL seems to be, is to not get involved. It's like anything else - if you respond, you train her that you will react when she does certain things.

Be prepared - she may scream for while until she goes away. This letter sounds like her really trying to get you to take her bait, and until you react and give her the attention (or whatever) she wants, she may get more and more in your face. Be graceful and don't stoop to her level and she will run out of ammunition.

It's *just* like toddlers in a temper tantrum. No seriously.

Anyway - does it matter what she thinks of you and your family, if a: you're happy and b: the rest of the family doesn't believe her?

05-06-2009, 10:50 AM
I would handle it this way-- ignore her for now but keep the letter. The next time she contacts you, have the letter ready. Tell her she hurt everyone with her comments, and if she denies it read them back to her. Ask her why she would want to be around people that bother her that much. Then tell her you aren't ready to let her back into your life until she apologizes and gets some help. That will either make her realize she has to change, or she will be so angry she'll never want to talk to you again. Hopefully either way the problem will be solved. Oh yes, it could backfire, but I'm not sure what other choices you have. Just acting like it never happened will not solve it and probably make future tirades even worse. Best of luck. Mark

05-06-2009, 10:54 AM
If you respond, she gets exactly what she is looking for.....drama. I would also be very careful to not mention any of it to any other members of the family. It would get back to her and in her mind that would be a "win" for her.

05-06-2009, 10:54 AM
Anyway - does it matter what she thinks of you and your family, if a: you're happy and b: the rest of the family doesn't believe her?

No, it doesn't matter what she thinks. The letter in itself was ridiculous. What angers me is the way she intrudes and tries to start things. I think that is the real problem.

The rest of the family has shakey relationships with her at best. Often someone is not talking to her so everyone knows how she is. But she seeks out let's just say.

05-06-2009, 11:00 AM
I had something similar going on. Ignore it. She thrives on drama and you giving her a response will just give her fuel to go on. I suspect there might be a substance abuse problem from the sound of her behavior, as well. She needs help, but she needs to want to be helped. Clearly, she's not in that better place yet. Don't respond. If she does it again, still don't respond. I like Mark's idea of keeping the letter and telling her to get help if it comes to it, but for now, just ignore. She needs the drama and without it, she will find something else and leave you alone. The best response for someone like this is no response. The only reason for her to do something like this is to provoke a response, so why give her the satisfaction?

05-06-2009, 11:09 AM
I am sorry to hear that...my family is basically full of drama, and get togethers wind up in an argument of some sort. As sad as it is to say, to avoid the drama, I don't fuel the fire, and only am in contact with my family for Christmas, weddings, etc. Live and Learn....

05-06-2009, 11:26 AM
When you respond you are enabling her behavior. Ignore her. If she writes, just toss the letter away. If she calls, hang up. The only way that she can control your life is if you let her.

05-06-2009, 11:44 AM
Obviously she has psychological issues to operate in such a dysfunctional way. I have a sister-in-law who had similar behavior, amplified by prescription drug abuse. We got so tired of the upheavals and drama that we basically told her that until she got help and got off the drugs we could have nothing to do with her. We did try to maintain contact with her two boys. Finally after three years of therapy and sobriety (three wonderful, peaceful years!), she reached out to apologize for her past indiscretions, so we have re-established some contact with her. She will always have that basic underlying need for attention, but we have made it clear that we will not be a part of those games.

The thing that is sometimes hard to understand in these types of situations is what the husband's take on things is. I mean, do they not see their spouse diving off the deep end repeatedly or do they just choose to ignore it? My sister-in-law ended up driving her husband away eventually, but he stayed a lot longer than I would have expected.

So if it were me I would totally ignore the letter. And if she tried to cause more trouble, calmly re-iterate that as long as she continues the behavior she cannot be a part of your lives. You have your own family's mental health to think of.

05-06-2009, 11:48 AM
What would Bree Van De Camp do?...he he...I always love the way she handles things.

On a serious note.....handle her like an ex-boyfriend. Cut all contact. Ignore her completely.

05-06-2009, 12:21 PM
Most definitely ignore. No matter what the instigation or provocation or invitation (except the supposedly nice invitation, the first time. If it turns into a nastiness beginning, then for the future, ignore ALL contact.).

My mother-in-law went so far as to call her local Sheriff about my wife breaking into her house in the middle of the night and rearranging the furniture. He called us, apologetically, saying he had to call but he knew the problem.

If she gets nastier, you may need to get legal protection. She's not right, upstairs, and it shows. Her own husband isn't helping things by ignoring it, if he is.

And remember: at this point, she's not important to you or to your family. Don't regret anything, since she's not a person to be dealt with anymore. Don't give her or a thought of her the time of day -- it's a waste of your good time and good intentions.

05-06-2009, 01:04 PM
Do you know if she's been evaluated by a psychiatric professional? Because she sounds to me like someone with Bipolar Disorder....or someone who gets manically depressed, which is similar.

Who has the energy to sit down and write a letter like that, other than someone in the throes of a mania? What kind of reasonable person calls repeatedly after midnight until someone picks up the phone? Only someone who's lost the capability to think straight.

Having watched a friend of my wife fight her bipolar(and experience this woman's irrational mood swings), and watch my father descend into dementia and Alzheimer's, I've learned that things they say are not personal to you.....despite how specific and personal their spewing can be. The nastiness of these diseases is that they attack the things that make you human and civil. They strip away the things that make you more than an animal.

Which is not to say you have some obligation to help...just think about if your civility were stripped from your thought process, what you might say about her.

05-06-2009, 10:20 PM
I'm thinking she is bi polar or abusing drugs/alcohol as well. She certainly sounds like my sister who seems to be in the midst of a manic downswing right now. Oh, listen, the phone is ringing, it's 10:00 at night. I just now hit the silence button on the cell phone.
When she calls your house at midnight, answer, hang up without saying anything and take the phone off the hook.
Do not respond to the letter (I know this is very hard! to not say your peace but dont' feed her.)
Do not engage, do not make eye contact, like a wild animal she will attack!
Make sure that you and your DH are on the same page.
Tell him that he can't engage her either because it is not good for your marriage.
Stick to your guns and don't give her what she is looking for. Again, like a wild animal if she can't find what she is looking for at your house she will move on to the next unsuspecting sibling. Don't get involved in their drama. If you like her next "victim" tell them that you and your DH have chosen to ignore and not engage and that includes hearing second hand what she is up to. They might follow your lead and do the same thing. When she realizes that no one will fight with her she may stop.
Good luck, it' ain't easy!
and remember the "crazy one" thinks that they are normal and everyone else is crazy.

05-06-2009, 11:00 PM
We have a similar situation with my SIL. We have ignored her phone calls for over a year now, because her last act endangered one of our children. She is now in rehab for prescription drug abuse and some psychiatric problems. We don't hold any grudges towards her but understand distance is best until she gets better. I don't think there is anything you can do to change her behavior. Try not to let it upset you and your family and pray for her.

05-07-2009, 01:06 AM
I hope that you choose to ignore this letter and any follow-up contact your SIL tries to initiate, unless, of course, it's a full apology and a promise to get some mental help!

05-07-2009, 01:07 AM
I agree with most. Keep the letter. Ignor the writer. Follow your husbands lead as this is his sister. (In my wifes case, I followed her lead, encouraged her when needed and let things settle the way she needed).

I encourage you to not be hurt by this person. If she gets to you, find someone (A professional maybe) to speak to this about.

Take the high road. Know what you do is the right thing for you and your family, do not fall into the trap of responding to her- her ravings , insults and how she has hurt you are things that if spoken to a sick person will only fuel their fire. Your Sil is the flame. Dont let her venom consume you in a cycle of hate.
If you haven't guessed many people have had to deal with a sick relative. And remember, mental issues are as much a sickness as someone with a physical ailment.

Good luck.
Stay strong.

05-07-2009, 01:43 AM
Ignore her but keep the letters in case of legal action that may need to be taken. Keep a journal of all contact, letters, calls, etc...

05-07-2009, 07:33 AM
I would ignore it. This might be her way of getting some attention.

05-07-2009, 07:55 AM
You've had some pretty good advice there and I agree. You are better ignoring it. i had a similar problem with a family member who is bi polar, the more you pander to them the more they escalate. I was under pressure from other family members to see her though so eventually once things had calmed down, i took her aside and explained my perspective (not apportioning blame) and ensured she knew the consequences of further behaviour of that nature. Our relationship is much better as she knows the boundrys know and if she slips there is immedaite consequences.

05-07-2009, 08:49 AM
Your SIL definetely has issues and you and your DH seem to be her target so as an old saying goes... "If you ignore something long enough, it will go away."" Just ignore her and her antics, do not let her get to you and carry on with the wonderful life you have with your own family.:mickey:

05-07-2009, 09:51 AM
Wow, I hadn't logged into Intercot in months, and then when I did, I found this thread and honestly could have written exactly what the original poster did! So things happen for a reason.

You got alot of great advice here, which I'm definitely going to take heed to myself! I've taken to ignoring my SIL over the past few weeks for my own sanity, and I think that it will probably work for you as well. I also commend your husband for his support. It took a while for my husband to see how crazy his sister really is!

Hang in there!

05-07-2009, 11:36 AM
Just remember that if you let this get to you, she has won. She got you upset over her antics. If she was threatening or showing up on your doorstep, it would be a different story, but her entire purpose with the letter(s) is to get you upset.

Read the letter, laugh it off, and go on with your life.

05-07-2009, 12:03 PM
I agree that you should ignore her. But if it makes you feel better, write her a letter back....just don't send it!!!


05-07-2009, 07:01 PM
Just ignore her. She obviously seems to sound like she has some deep rooted, doctor needing, medication prescribing problems.

Maybe the next letter you receive you should write "return to sender" across the front of it.

05-11-2009, 06:34 PM
I know all to well about in-law issues. The only thing you can control is how you react to this. You can't make her stop but you can stop adding fuel to the fire if you know what I mean. I know it is so much easier said than done. Just continue on with your life as if she doesn't exist. She needs help and you can't make her see that or help her. Put the letter away and try to forget it. If she keeps sending more don't even bother opening them. Right now she is getting what she wants which is to upset you, don't give her the satisfaction of it. Good luck in laws can be quite the trial.

05-12-2009, 02:42 PM
She's probably got some bi-polar issues or something else.

It sounds like she's a "drama queen". If you give her any attention even argumentative NEGATIVE attention it's "attention" and it feeds her "dramatic" flame. Ignore it. Chunk the letter as if it never happened.

Not inviting "spouses" over for holidays...

a. Maybe she can't afford to treat or entertain EVERYBODY...making dinner for 4 is easier than making dinner for 10.

b. Maybe she's just selfish.

Basically if she doesn't want to call and talk about the weather or how her child won something big at school. Ignore her. Caller ID is FANTASTIC. She can leave a message and you decide if you want to pick up or ignore. Turn the ringer off if she's calling repeatedly.

Essentially. Don't feed the flame or contribute to the drama. Hopefully her husband looks into getting her some help.

05-12-2009, 05:15 PM
Thanks for all the advice. Yes- she does have some issues and I have suspected she is bipolar-although cannot confirm because she and the rest of the family won't discuss this. I have no idea if her husband knows about the letters and phone calls or just pretends it isn;t happening. I also think she drinks alot. So anyway...

We didn't respond and let it go. Actually the weekend before we got the letter we had gotten a few strange calls at night (we don't have caller ID) then the letter arrived. I am sure we have not heard the last of her, but as advised we have kept the letter and ignored. I hope she moves on with life and gets better. It's sad really.

On a side not- as far as the not inviting spouses for holiday get together- she wanted to go meet at a restaurant. At first she wanted it to be her siblings and the kids (no spouses) but then decided siblings only. Then she refused to come out towards where my husband and her other sister live- insisited they go to a particular hole in the wall bar/restaurant near her house. Everyone paid their own share. My husband said it was pretty uncomfortable. I could just imagine what would have been said to me if I had suggested a get together excluding family member but consider the source I guess.

Anyway- sounds like there are alot of us out there with relatives who do nutso things.