Life Advice



Controlling sister-in-law makes a splash at the lake

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I need a script and advice on how to deal with my controlling sister-in-law.

Our family (four siblings) inherited a lake cabin from our parents. It has been in the family for decades. We share expenses and rotate the time that family members can use the cabin.

My brother's wife seems to think that this house is personally hers. She rearranges the furniture, changes the artwork, dictates where storage items should be kept (like moving all the paper products to the garage, even though it is not insulated and gets wet).

She has decreed that there should be no pets. Most recently she has decided that we need new high-end appliances, despite the fact that this is a remote location and there aren't any repair facilities close by. There is no discussion about any of this. If anyone challenges her actions, or even asks for a discussion, it is swept aside with a litany of imperious comments that basically state that she knows best.

My brother never stands up to her. His attitude is, "Well, she is good at organizing."

Her behavior is getting so controlling that no one wants to come to family gatherings.


Can you give us some help?

-- Silently Screaming

Dear Screaming: You and your siblings co-own this property. You should run it as a group, setting up some commonsense parameters that are easy for everyone to understand and follow. One rule should be that no substantial changes can be made to the property without the owners agreeing to it.

My theory about people who are overly controlling is that they are basically trying to tamp down their own anxiety by trafficking in perfection.


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