WE have been married for a year and used to live on our own. I’m 24 and things were good until my sister-in-law moved in with her two sons and her maid after quarrelling with her husband. She refuses to stay with her mother because she is afraid her husband will cause problems. Besides, the maid does not have a permit.
Sister-in-law wants to divorce her husband and has sent him a letter about that. She has some savings and skills and has opened a shop, with my husband as partner. I think the partnership makes her feel more secure about many issues, including money. But I feel sorry for my husband, who worries about her because her husband is a problematic person.
I don’t like that my husband is involved in the business. We often quarrel about this and I end up crying. He has tried to explain the benefits of their doing business together and says there will be profits in future. He also has other shops which he operates alone.
I thought my sister-in-law would move to another place after awhile but it has been four months now. I treat her as my own older sister even though, before she moved in, she said she has two children but I don’t have any. That hurt me but I still take care of her and her sons.
Sometimes her maid behaves rudely but she doesn’t seem to bother because she’s afraid no one will care for her kids when she goes to work daily.
My husband has a good income but we have many commitments – two cars, rent for our house and the shop, and more. He also has to pay all the household bills. Sometimes I have to spend my money, about RM50 per week, to buy groceries. He wants to return me the money but I feel guilty taking it. We’re buying a lot more food than before.
Whenever we go shopping, my sister-in-law will also buy things for use in her company. She will then put them in the cart and just wait for us to pay. Sometimes at night, she will ask me to teach her son. It’s fine to do it for one day, but she expects me to do it daily, even when I don’t feel well. Sometimes I have to do it because the boy insists that I teach him. If I were in her place, I would not trouble anyone and give my child the best I can without asking for help.
Whenever I’m not in the house, my sister-in-law will go to my bedroom and take my clothes, without telling me. I really hate that.
We plan to buy a new house and will need money for renovations and furniture. Does she understand the expenses involved?
Before she came to stay, my parents could come to our house and stay overnight. But now, her kids make a lot of noise and that wakes us up early in the morning. She says she will scold them, but they don’t listen. Sometimes the younger boy will write on the wall and she doesn’t care. When they break my things, she only tells my husband, not me.
I don’t like her staying in our house but I can’t tell her or my husband that. When is she going to move out? Each day I suffer stress and migraine thinking about that. Is my sister-in-law taking advantage of us? Am I being selfish?
THE most obvious effect of your sister-in-law moving in is the changes she has caused in your life. These changes may be seen as disruptive to your usual way of living and can be stressful. So, what you are going through and experiencing is understandable. You are not being selfish.
It is going to take some adjustments on your part. Your parents may not be able to stay over now, but they can still visit. You may not be able to sleep in like you used to. Children will be noisy and it’s the adults who will have to adjust to them.
Yes, you and your husband now have more mouths to feed. You also have more people to live with. Think about it, though: is the extra time and money you are spending on your sister-in-law and her kids depriving you in any way? Your standard of living does not seem to have changed.
However, this situation is complicated. It is not just about you. Your husband is in a precarious position, too. His older sister has left her husband for whatever reason and it is understandable that he would want to do everything within his power to protect her and her children and do what is best for them.
As for the business he has started with her, perhaps he is thinking ahead. This way she has a long-term solution whereby she can be less dependent on others. Have you thought of it like this? Going into business is risky enough. Perhaps he wanted to reduce the risk for her by investing in it himself.
Besides, it is a partnership between them. There is a special bond among siblings which comes with trust. We do not know the arrangement behind the business deal, nor the understanding they had when they made the decision. In this, it may be best for you to trust your husband and his instincts.
But all this does not mean that you have to let your sister-in-law walk all over you. You need to set clear boundaries – your clothes, your time, your rules. You have to let her know clearly that there are some things you will not stand for. Like taking your clothes without informing you or having her children scribble on the walls.
If you don’t want to teach her kids every night, tell her so. But, don’t stop doing it completely. Create a timetable that divides your time between them and your other activities. If you are going shopping, tell her what you plan to buy and state clearly that you have enough money just for that and that she would need to bring extra cash if she wants to get anything.
You must be assertive, but not aggressive or rude. Be careful with your tone of voice – be firm but not angry. Also, watch your body language. You do not want to come across as fighting with her.
You will have to adapt. That is the best way to deal with stress. Wishing that she’ll move away is not going to change things. Yes, one hopes that she will, in time, move to her own place and have her own life. For now, you have to handle the situation the best you can.