I just spent several days with my sister-in-law. She ended up at the same beach house as my family. My husband assured me that my SIL and her kids wouldn’t overlap with us, but she insisted she wanted the cousins to play together. So she invited herself down for the last five days of our stay, scored an Airbnb nearby (there was no room in the house), and hung out with her brood.
The problem? My SIL and I hate each other.
We didn’t used to hate each other. In fact, we got along pretty well until she had kids. She’s very smart and very funny. She’s an interesting person. Sort of snobby, and we’d never be super close, but I liked her.
Then some switch flipped. Her parenting decisions stood in sharp contrast to mine. I was the consummate (and in retrospect, fairly annoying) attachment parent. SIL, despite being a SAHM, put her kids in “school” at age 2. She didn’t breastfeed (judging it as “icky”), sleep-trained where we co-slept, never wore her babies (she thought the carseat was good enough), and let them cry it out. I thought she was barbaric. She thought I was a stupid hippie. We’re both very stubborn people.
At some point I can’t determine, we simply stopped speaking to one another. Just … stopped. I don’t recall why. Maybe she made a comment or I made a comment, and it pissed us off, and we just decided we were done. It doesn’t help that she’s my MIL’s clear fave, who she’ll drop all the things for, prior obligations be damned. It doesn’t help that she walks all over her brother, my beloved BIL, either. Doesn’t help that I’ve seen SIL go out of her way to tattle on my BIL and get him in some real trouble with his parents — after her kids were born.
Her kids annoy me and my kids annoy her. I think her son’s a loud, entitled bully. She thinks my kids are homeschooled freaks who lack social skills or will in the future. Our children don’t like each other either.
So we don’t speak. Literally, we don’t speak to each other. We aren’t mean or frosty or nasty. We just pretend that the other doesn’t exist in our worlds.
She walked in the house and we didn’t say hello. We saw each other on the stairs and did not acknowledge one another’s presence. When we left, we did not say goodbye to one another.
For several days, in the same house, we managed not to speak a word to one another.
Most people would regret this. They’d want to make up with a family member. After all, family discord sucks. You want to get along with the people you see on holidays, if only so you can be on speaking terms.
But I have no desire to “make up” with my SIL. There’s nothing to reconcile. We have fundamental personality differences, and differences of opinion, that aren’t solvable unless we both sit down, confront the situation, and discuss it. I don’t want to do that. I doubt she wants to do that either, or she would have (or sent a message through the family grapevine that she did). Maybe she would have said hello to me. Some kind of overture, some kind of gesture that said: I want to be your friend.
She didn’t offer it, and neither did I. Because we don’t really want to be friends.
Her friends do the country club thing. My friends, at least the real ones, watch obscure sci-fi shows, write, and let our houses disintegrate around us while our kids do art projects and smash old appliances to see how they work. I hate guns and think we should ban them; my SIL’s husband keeps a ton of them and goes on organized “hunts” where you pick farmed birds out of the sky by the dozen. We both think the other is ridiculous and obnoxious.
My poor husband has to live with this. I feel bad for him. His wife can’t stand his sister, and that’s not an easy position to be in. My BIL and other SIL know I can’t stand her. I think my mother-in-law and father-in-law know too, but like every other emotional issue in the family, they refuse to acknowledge that anything out of the ordinary is happening. In a way, that makes it easier: everyone’s denial of our feelings, at least in polite company, allow us to ignore each other in relative peace.
Which, I think, is all SIL and I really want. At least we have that in common.