Stop Nagging and Give His Sister a Break

Q: My husband's sister is living with us and she's so lazy! She lost her job and her boyfriend broke up with her, and they were living together, so she had to move out. My husband said she could stay with us for a month or so while she finds a new job and a new place to live. Now it's been three months and she just sits on her rear end all day watching TV and eating my food. She isn't even applying for jobs! My husband keeps telling me to cut her a break. I can't believe it! What about cutting me a break? I work hard all day and she just sits around doing nothing. I'm tired of nagging my husband about it and I'm ready to tell her myself to get a job or leave. Should I tell my husband it's her or me? Do you think that might light a fire under him? —Sofia- 30

Dr. Pamela: I understand how overwhelmed and frustrated you feel. But confronting, nagging, and issuing ultimatums to you husband will prevent you getting what you really want, regaining control of your home and re-connecting with your husband. It seems that you and your husband have stopped working as a couple and have lost sight of the goal; getting his sister back on her feet. You don't indicate how much you were involved in the decision, nor if you discussed different outcomes: What if she doesn't get a job and can't afford to move out?

Whether that discussion took placed or not, it is time for an honest, unemotional meeting with your husband, without sister-in-law present. The two of you need to discuss how to make this situation better. Every step you and your husband take together toward the goal, she moves closer and closer to the front door. But it is essential that you and your husband are calm and respectful whenever you talk about the situation. You don't want to make him wrong, raise your voice, or blame him for promising one thing and doing another. That will cause him to become defensive and push back, as he has already done.

Every conflict can have a solution. Compromise may be needed. Remember that sister-in-law's life has been turned upside down. She's been rejected and abandoned, and could be experiencing depression. Depression is immobilizing. Try to help your sister-in-law create a schedule and plan for finding a job. But don't' hesitate to reach out to her for help around the house.

Finally, take care of your emotional health by doing things that make you feel good. If you feel better about yourself, your home situation will be more tolerable. Standing up for what you need in a calm, respectful way will get you closer to a peaceful solution.

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