Dear Melvin, My Boyfriend's Sister Treats Me Badly...
I have been dating my boyfriend, Mark, for a year and a half. So far, so good! At 34, I am ready to settle down and have a family. He's a wonderful man and we have a lot of shared values. My family really loves him, as do I.
Our relationship has been a dream, except for one tiny problem...his sister, Trisha. Mark and Trisha hang out once a week (if not more). She calls, texts, or pops over constantly. Since I've entered the scene, she has done everything in her power to exclude me.
For example, if we go to his family's house for Christmas or Thanksgiving, Trisha will roll her eyes every time I speak. If I send her an email, inviting her to dinner with us, she will ignore it and state that she never received it. If I send a text, she will press delete without responding. She is careful not to criticize me openly in Mark's presence, but one-on-one, she has something snarky to say about my hair, my clothes and even my laugh.
Obviously, this hurts my feelings. I'd like us all to be close and have repeatedly tried to extend an olive branch. But, I'm at the point of throwing in the towel. I have raised the issue with Mark. He either says he doesn't notice (and I'm being sensitive) or sheepishly admits that he doesn't know what to do. Mark hates conflict and would rather bury his head in the sand than kick up dust with his sister.
I'm not sure if this is a deal-breaker, but I'm confident that I'm fed up. Please help!
Grouchy in Gramercy
"For this cause [a good girlfriend/potential wife] shall a man leave father and mother [and sister who's a hater], and shall cleave to his [would-be] wife."
Matthew 19:5, King Melvin's Version.
I'm no Bible-thumper. But, I love this particular Bible verse, especially as interpreted by me. The Bible drops a lot of knowledge in this one little verse. To have a functional romantic relationship/marriage, you need to establish boundaries with your family and "separate" from them. I say "separate" because you should never abandon your family, but to make your romantic relationship work, it needs to be the priority. It needs to be nourished, protected and respected.
It's clear that Trisha is threatened by your relationship with Mark. Trisha's behavior is blatantly disrespectful. Excluding you from family events?! Rolling her eyes when you speak?! I commend you for not poking her in the eye like one of the Three Stooges. She clearly doesn't want you around so that she can have her brother all to herself. You don't need to be close to Trisha. You just need her to respect you.
Mark is dead wrong for not addressing this. What kind of man is this? As long as you are respectful to his family, he should demand the same respect be shown to you. Nobody likes confrontation, but he should be more bothered by the fact that his girlfriend is being excluded and belittled. Acting like he can't see it (or shrugging his shoulders when he does) is not acceptable.
My advice is that you have one more conversation with Mark in which you explain that you would never tolerate someone disrespecting him--not even close family--and his failure to respond makes you feel upset and excluded. You may also try to have a conversation with Trisha in which you call her out on her crap. Point out all the specific incidents of her disrespect (and, I do mean specific examples and not generalized statements). Sometimes, people back down when called out on their messy behavior. However, my experience tells me she will play the girl-you-know-I-love-you-I-will-be-nice-for-a-week-and-then-return-to-being-a-wench card.
If the behavior continues and Mark still won't address it then I advise this:
Tell Mark that you are disappointed that he won't stand up for you. Let him know you need time to yourself to contemplate whether you can commit to someone who doesn't demand you be included and respected. Then, plan a trip out of town. Be vague about where you're going and for how long. Maintain little (if any) contact with Mark while you are gone (i.e., one sentence texts sent hours after he texts you). The time away should force him to realize that there are certain needs only his girlfriend, not his sister, can fulfill.
If it turns out your man still hasn't woken up, as hurtful as it may be, you will have to leave this relationship. (And, in this regard, you will have dodged a bullet.) This is a foreshadowing of your future together--the first in what will be a long line of times he won't stand up for you. Each time it happens, you'll lose a little more respect for him until you have none left at all.
Do keep me posted. And, good luck, Grouchy.