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My sister-in-law is too clingy towards my husband. What do I do?

Tagged as: Family, Marriage problems<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (26 April 2011) 11 Answers - (Newest, 4 December 2015)
A female United States age 26-29, *ulieh writes:

My question might sound weird, but the situtation that Im in is making me more and more anxious.

So me and my husband have been married for a little over two years now. We have two beautiful children(ages 3 and 1)Our marriage itself has been amazing and full of great moments. When we were dating there might have been some rough patches, but soon as we actually moved in together everything changed- for the better. So here is the problem. My husband is very close with his sister. She is very naive (She is still 22 though)and always manages to drive me crazy with her problems that she drops on us, well on her brother to be exact. Whatever it is she always goes to him and truthfully it's causing our whole family to fall apart.

And when I say sister I mean full blood related sister. When we were dating back then it was always her who seemed to come between us. She seemed very possessive of him and I thought it was normal because they only have 1,5 year age difference so they have always been close- plus she is his little sister so I expected her to be a bit clingy. She was always looking at me weird and made weird remarks whenever I was around. After we had our first born and got married she calmed down and for a moment we actually got along. She moved to a different city because of college and focused on her own life- leaving all the foolishness behind. Atleast thats what I thought.

My husband has a heart of gold and he would never say 'no' to his sister because he feels oblicated as his big brother to help her. I always felt like she was getting in trouble just so that she could have an excuse to call him and invate him over. A couple of times he went there to visit her just to make sure she was OK, but after he got back he was never quite himself. He wouldnt really say much and I assumed it was nothing big so I wouldnt need to ask about it.

Again this also stopped in time and now to my current situtation. She has moved back to town and visits our house regularly. I can tell that she cares for our children genuinly and loves to help me with them. She even offered to babysit when I get back to my job. She had never offered her help before so I was a bit taken back by it. This is the part where it gets tricky Ive noticed that whenever my husband is around she has the tendency to get really close to him. Whenever he is sitting on the couch she is sitting next to him. She even sits on his lap as a joke of course- they just laughed at the whole thing.

I dont know what it is, but I always feel nervous whenever she is around. She is very sharp with her words and of course looks better than a washed out housewife. Ive talked to him about it, but he says that family is important to him and gets offended if I bring it up. His family is close I get that. They live near by us, but I dont get why she has to spend time at our house when her other siblings and parents live on the next block.

I feel like this is also effecting me because Im more tense and act snappy, even towards my children. Whenever she is around the house I get nervous and feel like I have to watch every move she makes. Lately Ive even found myself watching how he responds to it. Am I losing my mind?

I dont want to bring this up with my husband again because the tension is already there and I know that he is frustrated with me. It annoys me that he feels free to joke around with his sister and act like he is 17 again, but when Im in the picture he gets serious and doesnt even act the same anymore. I feel like Im the bad guy because I have to remind him that he is a father and a husband now.

Am I being delusional? How should I approach this issue?

Im really confused and dont really know what do. Being a mother of two small children is exhausting enough and now that this is going on I feel like I could explode any moment and just lose my mind.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (4 December 2015):

As an only child and having dated plenty of people who had siblings and a normal relationship with their siblings, I truly feel your plight. You're not going mad and it appears that most people here (even if this was posted back in 2011) legit don't comprehend where you're coming from. But I do. Have you ever seen the film 'The House of Yes' - it's about an incestuous sibling relationship. The girl in that film is about as just as outrageous as my SIL.

I forbade her from my home, as I cannot take her "fits" (as the family so loving calls them). It's your home. Blood is not thicker than water, despite what so many quaintly believe. For a 22 year old adult to sit on your husband's lap regardless of blood relation, is not okay. Especially if it makes you uncomfortable, especially when reading that she does made me uncomfortable. You should speak to your husband about it directly or do everything you can to make her feel uncomfortable in turn. She should be finding her own partner and hanging out with her own friends. And people should grow up because we do grow up. He's a father and she's an aunt, they don't and shouldn't devolve into children when around each other. It's not mature or healthy or normal.

These people picking on you, makes me sick. You don't seem jealous of her, what's there to be jealous of?--she's a pathetic twat obsessing over her older brother. You are intuitively feeling that something is amiss. These people are telling you that you shouldn't be jealous of his sister and that is correct, and I don't get any jealousy from you. They are creating the uncertainty for you. It isn't all in your head and you're certainly not creating it for yourself. Sibling sexual relations/exploring and even sibling molestation (occurring between a 5 year+ gap in age, it's molestation) is far more common than most would realize.

You're not crazy, you're not selfish, you're not mad. One in three sisters develop a Brother Complex and one out of every TWO brothers develop a Sister Complex.

My husband has enabled his little sister to be codependent and has helped foster her dependancey far into her mid20s. She has a substance abuse problem, can't hold a job down longer than 9 months, doesn't have a car, and has no bigger goals outside of working & going to bars. She's loud, obnoxious, stupid, maliputive, immature and incapable of caring for herself.

I have zero respect for her and wish regularly, like yourself that she'd finally snag her own dude and move to CA. His entire family thinks she shits gold that smells like roses when she's literally one of the most ghastly people I've ever met. And I would still feel this way about her even if I hadn't married her brother.

I guess I don't have any real advice for you, I was vocal about my misgivings and it didn't destroy my relationship. I never accused him of anything and the whole situation is very complicated. Recently I've asserted myself to her as she likes to cry to their mother sometimes about how I "keep her from her brother" - this is garbage, I just think she needs to be empowered to get her life together and since I legitimately don't like her, I'd prefer her to be in my life as little as possible. Just because I fell in love with her brother doesn't mean I have to love her. You don't have to play nice and pretend to like your SIL. Shocking right? Everyone is always encouraging repressing real raw emotions for the sake of keeping things copacetic but you're trying to just keep your sanity as you've said and not one comment I read to you, identifies with you or has comforted you.

Well, I identify. Nothing hurts worse than seeing the man you love *flirt* with his own sister. Nothing hurts worse when his eyes light up when *she* walks into a room (especially when she's painfully basic). One of my first family vacations and holiday with them, I thought I'd loose my mind. He'd go to her like a moth to a flame, anything she wanted to do, he'd do. He'd choose to sit by her, not me on almost every occasion, until I said something. We once sat on a couch and he sat thigh to thigh with her with inches between him and I. I wish I had made a scene. Everyone in the family seems to find all her ridiculous outbursts perfectly acceptable. Anyways I had to strech my hand over his lap to feel with my hand that yep, he was thigh to thigh, hip to hip to her with inches between us.

That's never okay. A man should never put his bratty stupid little sister above his mate. Genetics don't excuse character flaws. Ever. An asshole is an asshole and a bitch is a bitch.

Next time she sits on his lap, ask her if it's Christmas or sit on his lap too. Just be a mouthy bitch. Tell your husband that you'd prefer a bit more distance from his sister personally and that you'd prefer her not over so much and if he insists on spending some time with her, well, they can go on a "sibling date" outside of your home once or twice a month.

Right about now she'd be, what?--about 27 years old? Hope she's not sitting on his lap still, if she is, put your damn foot down.

I hope you didn't listen to these people. They would not know how heartbreaking, how nerve racking, how stomach sickening it all really is, unless they've been there. The stupid jokes, the comparisons, the phone calls at any hour of the night over created situations. How they do flirt and sit too close and get too loud, and make everyone around them mildly uncomfortable. How a crazy passive aggressive cunt with a Brother Complex constantly can trumph you, just because even at 28, or 70 as one dude here said, she's lil' baby sister. Give me a break.

I stood my ground. I fought. You love him, love him, but you do not have to love her and you don't have to be afraid to ask for phsyical boundaries to be set. You wouldn't be comfortable if a female co-worker or neighbor sat on his lap and just "dropped in" whenever, she doesn't get a free pass just because she's his little sister. That's a very stupid thing to reason as a viable excuse.

I didn't take my husband away from my SIL, he merely grew up and did what millions of people do.

And before any trolls say shit--I've been on Reddit, I know how absolutely disgusting some men can be. GOT is sibling fantasy porn. You read about girls getting molested by their brothers on The Experience Project.

You aren't purposely feeling the way you feel or think the way you think, their peculiar behavior is making you question their relationship because their behavior is absolutely peculiar. You'd be insane not to muse on it or observing what they so careless flaunt in front of you and they'll continue to do so until you call them out on it.

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A female reader, Battista United Kingdom +, writes (8 July 2011):

There's already loads of good advice here but I'll just add my bit.

My brother and I are both adults, but whenever we are together we love to just joke around like when we were kids. Although he's younger than me he's nearly a foot taller now, and there is something great about getting a big hug from my bro, like there is from my dad. There's just a special bond there that comes from all the childhood experiences. I always like to sit next to my brother or sister if I get a chance because I don't get to see them as much as I'd like. I guess they are just people who I'm completely at ease with, and who, aside from my OH, I'm comfortable in being in close contact with.

I expect your husband and his sister are similar. This is then combined with the fact that she probably still wants to be a big part of his life and get his attention. I expect she is jealous of you to a certain extent, but of course she can't really articulate that much now that you are married and have children without making herself look bad. Her approach is therefore to try and see as much of her brother as she can and, as you have discovered ( and I have to say that I have been there with an ex of mine) you cannot voice concerns without becoming the villain of the peace. It's a delicate situation.

I don't think you have anything to worry about, but I can see why it is getting annoying for you. You should work on not feeling stressed and think about the fact that YOU have a lot of power in this situation. You have a husband and children, the sister is still single. I suspect that as soon as she gets a bf the situation will change considerably and she will spend less time with her brother as she will be getting attention from somewhere else. Perhaps you can try and join in with the joking around, or maybe organise an evening for the three of you where you can all just relax and try and have a bit of fun. I know you probably don't want to see any more of the sister than you do at present but if you could all do something together on your terms then you needn't feel left out, and you also look like the good guy by making an effort with the sister.

Good luck.

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A female reader, vijeta 24 India +, writes (8 July 2011):

hey! hang in there... i know a lot of people here have been giving you a negative response, probably driving you off the edge, perhaps because half of these are either men or sisters themselves!

anyway, i wanted to assure you that you are not imagining or unusually jealous. i can tell this to you because i have an over powering sister- in- law myself who thinks she owns her brother!

see, most of the people here have been pointing out that you are jealous. has it occured to anybody that the younger sister here is actually jealous?

Blood is thicker than water, yes! but don't you think that personal choices, choices like choosing the person you want to spend the rest of your life with are far more valuable than ones that you have no control over?

your husband, for instance didn't choose his sister to be born in the same family as him, but he sure as hell did choose to marry you. choices, therefore are far more superior than blood. I'm in no way saying that his sister is lesser important than you, but she is surely jealous!

younger sisters or older, are prone to have close bonds with brothers and it irritates them that their brothers are a lot more closer to their wives 'suddenly'! trust me, she's probably obsessed with the relationship you share with your husband.

what you can do is NOT let her behaviour affect you! i know it is easier said than done but just pretend for atleast a day ... until you learn to get the hang of it of being absolutely carefree around her.

important: do not, i repeat do not take out any of the frustration on your children, this will only make your children run away from you and to her!

don't talk about this with your husband, because from what i gather he is blissfully oblivious about his sister's jealousy. I will not say that there is something sexual about the way she is so physically close to her brother. I think it is just yet another manifestation of her jealousy. she is probably trying to see what effect this has on you!

the problem is temporary because soon she will be married and hopefully if her husband has a sister like herself she will realize how plain irritating it is!

try going out more often without of course informing her about this.. eat out atleast twice in a week! get movie tickets just for your family and pretend that your friend or someone gave them to you as a gift so she CANNOT moan or complaint!

try and be very very happy especially when she is around, because this will make you happy for sure and your husband and to an outsider (read: sister) it may look like this is the perfect family! laugh with your husband and children! get a huge portrait photograph clicked of just you and your husband with or without the children and hang it in the living room so that she can remind herself that your famiy is your family!

let me know how this works out!\

and hang in there!

good luck!

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (29 April 2011):

A guy here.

I have a baby sister who's a few years younger. She's approaching her 40's now.

She will always be the cute baby sister in my eyes, even when she's 70. We have a bond that goes way back and as an older brother, if she needs me or wants my attention, I'll be there. It's that simple for most older brothers--we grew up protecting and sheltering our baby sisters and old habits die hard.

Does that mean I love my wife less? No. It's a different love.

But I would resent it intensely if I'm made to choose. I honestly don't know if I would respect a partner who lets her insecurity intrude into the bond with my own family that I grew up with.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (27 April 2011):

Do not be jealous to his sister. enjoy and involve and have fun. instead of angry, just laugh at it. all is fine, it is normal and common.

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A female reader, Miamine United Kingdom +, writes (27 April 2011):

Miamine agony auntWhy can't a married father laugh and joke? Did he vow to always look unhappy and serious?

Unfortunately that statement suggests why he's comfortable in his sister's company and has to hide his feelings when your around

You say she's breaking up your family. But your husband isn't upset with her, neither are your kids. She's not making the kids or your husband hate her. What is breaking up your family seems to be your behavior.


If it comes to a fight, you will loose... People do not throw away family.

She's also reacting to you. You've made it clear you've had problems with her from when you were dating. If you don't like her, why should she like you. She may think your trying to get her brother to get rid of her and the other families, so she's clinging to remind him of the bond they both share.

You don't say she's rude or insulting to you. She doesn't seem to say bad things about you. She just has a relationship with her brother, which doesn't include you and you don't like it.

Two options.. Trust me, take one, it will make things a little easier and she'll hopefully back off.

1. Be her friend. Ask her to help with the kids, she likes them. Try to find nice stuff to say to her. Actually ask your husband to go over and check if she's alright. And as soon as you can, get the bitch married off to someone. She'll love you for ever then.

2. Don't get upset, just accept her place in your husbands life and don't worry about it. If you can last out 30years or more, she'll back off, as she'll have responsibilities and other stuff of her own to worry about.

Don't keep nagging your husband. A woman jealous of her sister-in-law is not attractive, and makes a man wonder if marriage is worth the hassle.

Oh yea, your slight references to some type of sexual thing... don't know about that.. no one ever will. It's very common for women to claim this when they have trouble with the sister-in-law. But I don't think it's common for adult siblings to have sex, more difficult to hide and more likely to lead to jail. She is probably telling him her secrets and he's worried about her. You don't really know why she needs his help or what is happening in her life. She could be in a dangerous situation you know nothing about. She could be sick. If you were her friend, she would tell you about her self, and maybe that might make you understand a little bit more and be less angry.

Become her friend, and then you can ask her nicely to stop sitting on his lap.

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A female reader, Basschick Australia +, writes (27 April 2011):

Basschick agony auntI don't think you're crazy, but I do wonder about your husband's sister. Her behavior is very strange to me. My husband is extremely close to his family and he has 5 sisters. When we are around them, they never sit on his lap or act flirty the way your husband's sister seems to. My husband loves his sisters too and they may laugh and tease each other (verbally) but I never feel threatened because I feel their relationship is healthy and normal. The things you have described sound very dysfunctional and in some families little sisters do develop love-romantic feelings for their older brothers. It's not common, but it does happen. And even less-talked about is the sexual exploration some siblings experience with each other. There may be a few skeletons in his closet than he wants to tell you about. At any rate I would NOT let her babysit for you. She strikes me as the type that could go psycho and use your kids against you to get what she wants. If you can't seem to make your husband see that his "cozy" relationship with his own sister is a little incestral and weird, you could try talking to a counselor or do some research on the web about families who have this type of sibling dysfunction. I do think if you try harder to befriend her, it might help the situation. For on thing, she must not have any real friends so she's obviously starving for attention. It probably wouldn't hurt if you hooked her up with one of your single male friends. Maybe if she had a boyfriend of her own, she'd quit obsessing about her brother and you could all try to live a normal life. Good luck.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (27 April 2011):

I have been thru the same thing.

It's hard because guys have a soft spot for their sisters. Even though we think its annoying. But here's some advice:

whilst I think his sister is immature and needy I told him to stop talking to her so much. BAD move. She's pregnant and getting married and I'm stuck at the boyfriend/girlfriend stage because he said he won't marry me because I have too many rules.

Maybe I should have been nice to her. Because now she has everything that I want. She married. Pregnant. And still close to my boyfriend. BEWARE! Sisters are bad news!

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A male reader, Moonknight United Kingdom +, writes (26 April 2011):

Moonknight agony auntYou are not going crazy, you have a valid point and a real problem here. What you've described is a mixture of social acceptance and a lot of insecurities

Basically to put it simple, she is the woman of the house, YOUR house. It's understandable that you are frustrated she is taking your place in the home, as a woman, mother, and wife, Not because you are insecure or a jealous wife, this is rubbish and do not believe it for a second.

That woman, his sister, is insecure and has a hunger and need to be wanted/loved and always be center of attention, she knows she can always get that from her brother. This is why she comes around so often... i have seen these types before, you are not crazy.

You are however approaching this situation the wrong way, because you are giving her exactly what she wants, your attention. You need to cut this out and straight up ignore the woman, don't ever lose your temper or let her think she's getting the better of you.

These are foolish mind games, so play them like a pro or be a victim of her game. It's clear a long sit down and talk wont solve this because she will play the victim and make out your the bad person and she only wanted to see her brother blah blah blah *crys, your so mean blah blah blah *crys. Then you have a angry husband on your back.

That right there is the social acceptance she urges for. So relax, take a chill pill and stop letting her get the better of you. The other members of the family are probably used to her BS and know exactly how to handle her, maybe why she hangs around with your husband more, big brother the protector.

Mind games!

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A female reader, YouWish United States + , writes (26 April 2011):

YouWish agony auntAunt Honesty is right. You're jealous of his sister. Why do you have to remind him that he's a husband and father if he laughs and jokes with his sister? Getting married doesn't mean that he can't have a close relationship with his family.

She also might be jealous of you as well and needs reassurance that you won't get in the way of their brother/sister relationship.

We have a lot of insecurity running rampant around here between the two of you, and you're hurting your husband by making him feel bad for hanging with his sister. He probably doesn't say much after he hangs out with her because you get upset when he does and wants to avoid conflict with you.

It's one thing if he's with her 5-7 nights per week for hours, or she's dropping by your house unannounced interrupting your plans and constantly around. There are boundaries to be set in that area. Things should be planned, and if she wants to chat with him, she could easily take a half hour and do it over the phone.

One thing you might want to consider, however. In becoming jealous and adversarial towards his sister, you might want to pursue your own relationship with her. If the two of you became close friends, then you won't resent her time, because she'll hang with you too. She is your sister now, by the way, as well as aunt to your kids. She's someone the kids could bond with and that is always great!

Maybe your husband is laughing with her and serious with you because you're serious. You're a wife and mom, but you can lighten it up as well. You do not have to compete with his sister, and that will strain your marriage if you make it competition. Just set some boundaries (no unannounced visits, and tell your husband that you want to go on dates and have a break too).

His sister could be your greatest support and ally if you put the jealousy behind you and she does the same. My brother in law thought I was all wrong for my husband when we were dating, even going so far as to tell me that I should break up with him so that I don't hurt him. Now we're really close friends!

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A female reader, aunt honesty Ireland + , writes (26 April 2011):

aunt honesty agony auntIf am honest with you I think that him being so close to his sister is causing you to be jelous. It sounds like you are jelous of the attention that he shows her and how he looks after her when she is in need. You are jelous of the closeness that they both have.

Its almost as if you are expecting something to happen between them the way you are saying she sits close to him and sat on his knee and you are even watching out at how they respond. They are brother and sister and they will probably always have that bond as they have both growing up together. I am sorry but I dont see how you are going to fix this.

Obviously as a family unit the four of you need to spend quality time on your own as well. Even if once a week you both made an effort to take the children out and have a family day out just the four of you. At least that way you are spending quality time with him and the children by yourself. But other than that I think you just need to accept that he loves his sister and an unbreakable bond with her. It doesnt mean that he loves you any less.

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