Monday 21 October 2019

Dear Mary: Meddling and gossipy sister-in-law is making me consider moving out

'Her sister is a notorious gossip-monger'. Photo posed
'Her sister is a notorious gossip-monger'. Photo posed

Mary O’Conor

I've been married for four years now, however my wife and I have been together for almost 15 years. My wife is very attached to her siblings, she worships the ground they walk on. Her sister treats my house like a walk-in cafe, she is forever here.

I have asked my wife on numerous occasions to set boundaries for her siblings, especially her sister, but nothing ever happens.

Her sister is a notorious gossip- monger and we have experienced personally how she talks badly about us when she's with other people.

What is also upsetting is that my wife tells this woman everything - from our finances to the last onion in the kitchen - everything. Nothing is off limits and things like respect and boundaries do not exist in our marriage.

This sister has no respect for our home, arrives here unannounced, goes through our things and acts like her presence doesn't bother me - I'm simply invisible.

My wife condones her behaviour, because every time she plays the 'family card', and unfortunately that doesn't sit well with me.

This woman has her kids and boyfriend, but insists on making a nuisance of herself and creating trouble in our household.

I don't know if she is doing this intentionally to cause trouble, but this has been going on for years.

I hate the fact that my wife and I keep arguing about this issue and continue not to speak for days, because she always chooses her family's side.

I don't want to leave my wife, because we have kids together.

Please give me advice on what I should do, because it's clear that communication does not work.

A I think it is very interesting that you don't want to leave your wife because you have children together rather than that you love her and couldn't bear to have a life without her.

In itself I think that shows how much the situation has deteriorated due to her sister's constant presence in your lives. While she seems to welcome this presence, you are understandably angered by it.

This has been going on for a long time, given the length of time you have been together. You have tried without success to get your wife to change things so now it is time for you to change how you are handling this.

I suggest that you sit down with your wife and draw a diagram. It should be a large circle with two smaller equal circles on either side of the large circle. The smaller circles should connect with the larger circles with one half inside and one half outside the big circle. The large circle represents the family you and your wife have created and the smaller circles are each of your family of origins (FOO).

This is an ideal configuration and one that we all aim to have, whereby our family is the most important unit and our family of origin, while included in our life, is only a part.

Then draw another large circle but this time her FOO circle should be almost totally inside the big circle. Your FOO circle should remain the same. This is what is happening in your case, and shows how very little room there is for your own relationship to have a chance because it is almost totally overtaken by her FOO. So it proves just how out of kilter your family unit is and therefore how much her FOO is affecting it.

If she doesn't see that there is a problem then you will have to say that you intend speaking directly to her sister and ask her to cut down drastically on her visits to your home, and that she can no longer feel entitled to probe through your things and papers.

The gossiping and bad mouthing will also have to be addressed. There will inevitably be a fallout from this, but you will have taken a stand and asserted your entitlement to privacy in your own home.

In a way you are being bullied by the sisters, because if your wife tells her everything then no doubt she will have told her of your unhappiness at the current situation, and yet they have both continued to do as they wish while totally ignoring your wishes.

There is no easy answer to all of this - but standing up for your rights is the way to go.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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