Basic Rules for Managing a Relationship with Your Sister-in-Law

sister -in law

By Nadia Shah

How to Improve Relationship with Sister-in-Law

Sister-in-laws (SIL) can be a blessing for many. If you have a great relationship with your sister-in-law, it can be wonderful for you and for your brother (or spouse). Especially for us South Asians who spend a great deal of time with extended family.  Sometimes however,  these relationships can be more complex than just hanging out with a friend though. The kind of relationship you have with  your sister-in-law, can affect your relationship with your spouse and the rest of the family. As us South Asians know, when one party in the family is having difficulties, the rest of the family experiences the turmoil as well. 

Maybe your SIL is critical of how you are as a wife, mom, or daughter-in-law. Maybe you have differing views on politics, cooking, or life in general. Or it’s possible simple misunderstandings turn into conflicts.

Whatever the reasons, here are some tips is dealing with your SIL:

  1. Try to analyze how discussing your concerns with your SIL will affect your relationship with your spouse or brother. If you express your frustrations to your SIL, will she turn around immediately and complain to your spouse or husband? And who will he be supportive of, you or your SIL? Some husbands, like mine, would support who is right and logical, rather than me automatically (which I appreciate). Whatever you decide, think and then rethink how you want to express your feelings and thoughts. Find the least defensive way to talk. This is your family member and you will have future interactions with her. 

  2. Although it is important to gain the understanding of your spouse or brother (whatever the relationship is), avoid bad-mouthing your SIL. Talk about the issues but don’t call your SIL bad words when talking about her. This will contribute to your negative feelings toward her. Also this will place your spouse or brother in a defensive position, because he loves her as well.

  3. While gently and effectively communicating, do not compromise yourself or your position. Listen to what your SIL is saying with an open mind and hopefully with the goal of understanding or accepting, without letting go of your beliefs and values.

  4. Consider lowering your expectations of the relationship. Unfortunately, the relationship may not be what you imagine. By lowering your expectations, you may be pleasantly surprised when you experience positive interactions. But keep in mind that lowering your expectations doesn’t mean you should stop putting in effort. Continue to put in effort because your SIL is family and you know healthy relationships are beneficial (although the effort may not be mutual).

  5. Resist the urge to be like your sis-in-law if she behaves in a way that is not so nice. Remain as you are (I’m hoping you’re a nice person). This applies to every relationship you’re in. Don’t let the other influence your personality and the way you want to be.

  6. Lastly and most importantly with every relationship, set boundaries. If she intrudes in your relationship with your spouse or brother, be clear. This is where you need to be the most clear. “SIL, I know we have our issues and hopefully we will resolve them. But DO NOT try to harm my relationship with my spouse (or brother).”

What are your experiences with your sister-in-law? Share your questions with our columnist below!

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