I have been involved in a relationship with a guy for the last year and a half. We’re talking about getting married, and everything between us is great. The problem is that his sister and I don’t get along. She makes fun of me every chance she gets. She is going through a divorce, and the guy I’m dating and his family always take her side.

I have been trying to overlook the nasty things she says to me, but that makes her even meaner. Even when I’m being extra nice to her, she will embarrass me in front of other people. No one from his family, not even his parents, ever takes my side, and they all say I’m being too sensitive. This guy and I also fight a lot about her, especially when I complain about the things she does.

If not for his sister, we would have a great relationship. My parents think I should break up with this guy, but he wants us to get engaged. Do you think I should get engaged or wait to see if things get better with his sister?


By Baila Sebrow

This woman sounds like an unhappy person seeking to have other members join her team. Your focal problem, however, is not with her; your problem is with the guy you are dating. Putting aside his parents and family–who are also behaving in an unusual manner–you need to ask yourself, Why is a guy whom you are having a serious relationship and contemplating marriage with always taking his sister’s side? He should be outraged that any human being, especially someone he hopes to marry someday, is getting hurt by a member of his family. Yet he seems complacent with the situation while you are in distress.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this woman is doing everything she can to turn you off from marrying her brother. It appears that she is gloating–that he and his family always seem to take her side. As bizarre as it might sound, these people are empowering her.

While his sister appears tough in her demeanor, it might be that she is emotionally fragile, and going through a divorce is taking its toll on her mental health. Her family, being aware of that, might think that taking her side and telling you not to be so sensitive is their way of showing her support. But that is no excuse for allowing you to be her verbal punching bag and making you feel as though you are victimizing her just for complaining. They are trying to make you believe that you are the aggressor in this situation!

Although your parents are advising you to break up with this guy, you are likely scared to do so, because you have convinced yourself that if not for your strained relationship with his sister, everything would be hunky-dory between the two of you. You do not realize it now, but you are experiencing a blessing in disguise. His sister’s behavior is in actuality a symptom of a serious problem with the guy you are dating.

There is something uncharacteristic about his relationship with you. In a normal relationship, the guy should be responding negatively to his sister and taking your side when she bullies you. In addition, he should be telling her in no uncertain terms that what she is saying or doing is unacceptable. He should openly issue a warning that he will not have anything to do with her until she apologizes and treats you with respect. That he does not see anything wrong with the status quo indicates that the guy himself is not demonstrating behavior of an emotionally healthy individual. Quite possibly, he too is a victim of his sister’s abuse, and is therefore accustomed to such behavior.

The reason why you and this guy are even fighting about this woman is because in his mind, he believes you to be the bully in this state of affairs–someone looking to stir up problems. He just does not get it. Maybe, with therapy, such atypical thoughts can be altered. But that should not be your problem to deal with.

If you decide to not take your parents’ advice and instead throw caution to the wind and marry this guy anyway, do you seriously believe things will get better with his sister? Do you believe that after you are married, your husband, who is not on your side now, will suddenly defend you and act in an honorable manner when his sister gets into the mood of abusing you? The answer, sadly, is no. It will likely get worse. This woman is feeding off what she senses to be your weakness and the sick control she has over her parents, family, and brother.

Problems with in-laws before marriage do not magically disappear afterward. Much marital strife and eventual divorce is the result of negative relationships with in-laws. In a case such as yours, where you are the obvious victim who gets harassed for complaining, the setup for a struggling marriage would be in the making.

You have invested a year and a half in this relationship, and that is a big deal. You are naturally worried that you might not meet someone else whom you can consider for marriage. That is a realistic concern, but it should not be at the expense of your future happiness.

You deserve a husband who will protect you when he senses a precarious situation, not just in a physical sense, but emotionally too. In a healthy relationship, spouses are naturally attuned to each other’s sensitivities, and will go into immediate action when something is not right. In this case, should you marry this guy, you will be involved in a constant tug-of-war. And you seem to have no allies within his family to assist you in defusing the situation.

As you describe the relationship with the guy you are dating, there are too many issues working against you. A harmonious future marriage with him does not seem promising.

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at v

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