Welcome to Ask Evie, our advice column. Readers can submit their questions, and our editors will dish out their best advice!
READER’S QUESTION: “There is something that I’ve been struggling with in my relationship recently and it came to mind to submit it here! I know many women deal with similar issues, but I am in a serious relationship with my boyfriend (two years together) and we do plan to get married. He is great – caring, supportive, confident, great job, etc.
The problem is (especially as we get more serious and closer to engagement/marriage) that I really don’t get along with his sister. He has two younger sisters and an older brother, and the only one that is problematic is the very youngest one.
Not only are we completely different people with different values and beliefs, but she is straight-up mean! She literally asked me to step out of her wedding photos when her brother and I had already been together for one-and-a-half years. Since we are the only couple in the family that isn’t married, I was the only one stepping in and out of photos in front of the whole crowd. I was humiliated and embarrassed, and I almost ended the relationship because of it.
Figured this could make for a very relatable article that also gives some advice on how to handle it, plus comments on acceptable ways for the boyfriend to handle it as they are caught in between their sibling and girlfriend.”
EVIE’S ADVICE: First and foremost, let us begin by telling you that you’re absolutely not alone in feeling this way! Believe it or not, this is a fairly common concern that women face in their relationships, whether it’s while dating or even married. You may not agree on the topic of politics or religion, there could be jealousy at play, or you could just be two totally different people whose personalities don’t mesh well. When you find the man of your dreams and you can’t imagine a future without him, it makes it incredibly difficult when you discover that you and his sister just don’t get along.
With some of us even experiencing this firsthand, we have gathered our best advice and we’re ready to divulge our tips on how you can handle this very sensitive situation with ease and class. First, let’s tackle the experience you gave as an example: the stepping out of her photos on her wedding day. The exact tone or words she used in this situation are extremely important as they can tell us the difference between whether she was kind and respectful about the dilemma (asking you politely to step out of the family photos), or if she was downright rude about it (yelling “get out” or saying something along the lines of “you’re not family”).
When you find the man of your dreams, it makes it incredibly difficult to discover that you and his sister don’t mesh.
If it was the latter, that is completely unacceptable, and we would agree with you that it was worth getting upset over. However, we’ve got to be honest, if she asked you to step out of the photos politely (even if you felt embarrassed because it was in front of everyone), we can’t say we don’t agree with that. Even though you have been in the picture for almost two years, wedding photos do last a lifetime and they are extremely expensive. Most couples will hang these photos on the walls of their home for years to come and looking at a stranger (if the two of you do break up and move on eventually) will be uncomfortable for her. If she hasn’t gotten the chance to get to know you yet, she may not feel confident in knowing that you’ll be around for the long haul. That’s okay! You have a chance to prove her wrong if you and your man are truly meant to be.
If this is the only scenario where you have felt offended by her or upset at her actions toward you, there is definitely hope! This may have been a misunderstanding, or you could have just been at the brunt of her stress during her big day. While it can be difficult to move past this, we would recommend that you give her the benefit of the doubt and try to be the bigger person in moving forward.
Now, if this was not the only situation in which she has intentionally made you feel badly or been outwardly rude toward you, it may be time that you ask your boyfriend to step in and say something. If he believes that you’re his future wife and mother of his children, he should have your back – even when it comes to family matters (and this goes both ways). Have an open conversation with him about it, discuss what your boundaries are and how she makes you feel, but be kind – remember this is his sister. If you simply can’t move past the wedding photos situation, ask him to bring it up to his sister next time they talk and see what her intention was. Maybe he’ll be able to clear it up for you, or explain to her how it hurt your feelings. Next time you’re in a situation with her where she is being rude and your boyfriend is present, he should step up and say something. Once she knows that he is on your side, she may back off a bit.
If your boyfriend believes that you’re his future wife and mother of his children, he should have your back.
That being said, don’t let her negativity leak into your relationship with your boyfriend. If he isn’t able to positively impact the way she interacts with you, the burden of that should not fall on your boyfriend (she is her own person after all). If you allow it to, this has the potential to become a major conflict, cause arguments, and even lead to the demise of your relationship (which could be what she’s after anyway). You have the choice to allow this conflict to either bring you and your boyfriend together and make you stronger, or tear you apart.
The bottom line is, if you intend to marry this man, you’ll need to navigate a friendly relationship with her at least in public spaces. Be classy and polite; bite your tongue or leave the room if necessary. It’s up to you how much effort you want to put into the relationship; if you only see her from time to time (like for major holidays), say hello and move on to have conversations with other family members at the gathering. You don’t need to be best friends, and it’s not a make-or-break situation for your relationship with your boyfriend. Remember, above all else, you can’t control how she acts, you can only control your response.
Have a question you want our advice on? Email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.