My Sister-in-law is Taking my Place

Question: Dear Luise: I have a sister-in-law who tries to act just like my mother. She spends more time with my mom than hers. Every time I go to see my mom or am spending time with her, my sister-in-law is either there with us or on the phone with my mom the whole time. My mom likes the attention and uses it against me. I have gotten better at ignoring it because I thought it would gradually go away. I was wrong. What should I do before it messes up the relationship between my mom and me. J.

Answer: Dear Jess: The kind of situation you are describing often comes from lack of history. By that, I mean your sister-in-law wasn’t involved with your mom for her whole life. They don’t have all of the mother/daughter/family entanglements. It’s relatively new and unchallenged. All of the things she learned growing up may have made her a lot easier to get along with, now…and your mom has been learning along the way, too. They get to start fresh.

Of course your mom likes the attention. Moms get a lot of garbage attached to them. They had to be tough at times and they failed at other times. Your sister-in-law probably feels that she has good reason for not spending too much time with her own mom. (Maybe you should go over there and hang out.)

There is very little you can do about the situation except to get that you may be able to find some hidden value in it, in the long run. And it will only mess up the relationship between you and your mom if you let it. Good for you if you are making progress at ignoring it because the truth is it may never go away.

There is no possible way that you can keep from feeling like the “odd man out.” You are. Focus in other directions as much as you can. Pursue other interests and see if you can take this whole thing as an opportunity to do some serious growth through separation.

It’s not easy. Even if your sister-in-law hadn’t come along and upset the apple cart, you would have had to create distance and move on, eventually, toward being equals. You and your mom are two adults. It’s possible to choose to put a positive slant on this and even be glad it is happening.

If it gets too heavy, seek out a good therapist to lend you a hand. Blessings, Luise

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