Dear Annie: I was close to all my brothers when we were growing up, especially because we had no extended family around. Our grandparents and aunts and uncles were quite a distance away. All of us really felt it, and the siblings always wanted spouses who could provide what we never had -- a close relationship with our family.
Recently, my brother was married, and his wife was quite an adjustment. She is selfish, ungrateful, needy, overbearing, jealous and competitive. She is very proud, does the bare minimum and raves about her work. But my mom will do so much, and my sister-in-law will take advantage of it. The worst thing is that she baits my parents by using my brother and her kids.
Whenever we try to show her that family is important, she says we are coming in between their marriage. We have come to terms that she has a problem. When she is angry, she just blows up -- a total nut job! We call her a roller coaster because of her mood swings.
The thing is my brother is not a strong leader because she won't let him be. I know I sound biased, but really. She will cut him off when he talks, and she can't hold her tongue. I feel that he would rather let her have her way to avoid a fight. She complains about everything! I'm used to it, and it's been a few years, but now she is tearing our whole family apart.
She really struggles with jealousy and is extremely jealous of my other brother and his wife. She cuts them out of family parties. She is a nightmare on vacations and holidays; she always wants things her way. It's becoming too much. How do you deal with one person destroying an entire family?
We have tried having open communication without attacking her, but she still goes back to the same story, and now my parents and I are sick of family gatherings.
She's become a constant stress! So much so that I don't even want to try anymore. She fights with EVERYONE! Sorry for venting. I'm so tired of her. What do you do when life gives you ... THAT in-law? -- Sister in Despair
Dear Sister in Despair: It sounds like you have a brother in despair. Your sister-in-law is a very insecure and unhappy person. This combination makes for a difficult relationship with anyone, including herself. With this in mind, instead of focusing on all she has done wrong, maybe you could be more empathetic to your brother and shift your focus to supporting him. Continue to reach out in ways that you think would benefit him. Maybe it's going for a walk with him or sending him a nice email. Have an honest conversation with him about your family's concerns with his wife's behavior and confrontational personality. You might have to take a break from including her at family gatherings if she continues to ruin them.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.