As the saying goes, you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family.

While you can't trade your sister-in-law in for a kinder gentler version, you can manage the situation with all the grace of the lady you are. "People always have a reason for why they do what they do," says Anita A. Chlipala, LMFT, founder of Relationship Reality 312 in Chicago. Thinking about possible reasons for her behaviors might help lessen your desire to cut ties entirely. Here, Chlipala breaks down the five worst types of sisters-in-law, and how to deal with each.

woman jealous of engaged sited in-law
Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill

The Bossy Babs

She tries to control everything from how you tuck in your shirt to the way you should plan your wedding. As much as this might pain you, Chlipala suggests giving her the benefit of the doubt. "Usually people who come across as controlling have anxiety," she says. "She may be anxious about her sibling having 'the best day ever,' or thinks her ways are the right ways," she says. Take a deep breath, and when she goes into controlling mode, gently remind her that this is your day as well as your fiancé's, and although you appreciate her input, ultimately you will do what you and your partner think reflects you both best. Then have a stiff one.

The Nosy Nancy

She wants to know everything from what your father does for a living to how much you're spending on the wedding. Before you deck her, (calmly) tell her the reason(s) why it's none of her business, Chlipala says. For instance, you can say that money is a private matter in your family or with your fiancé, and you'd like to keep it that way. Or you can keep it light: Say, "Money doesn't matter when it comes to spending a day with our favorite people," and laugh it off even though you're seething inside.

The Jealous Jessica

She's single and lets you and everyone else in the family know it. Because it's all about her, right? Try to show a little compassion, Chlipala says. It's not easy being single, for anyone, when all she thinks she sees are happy couples all around her. Chat with her about what you miss about being single, or about your own dating struggles before you met her sibling, Chlipala says. And since you're already taken, offer to be her wing woman. (Remember, the less strife you have before the wedding the better, so taking one for your team can only help keep things peaceful).

Competitive Cathy

Whether it's the number of squats you did at the gym or the hours you work in a week, she always does more. In fact, no matter what you tell her, she's already been there, done that, and over it. The reality is, "She's probably insecure and needs to compete with you to feel like she measures up," Chlipala says. Again, a gentle approach is best. Compliment her on what she does well and what you admire about her. You can't fix her insecurity, but knowing that it's not just about competition might help you tolerate her behaviors better—at least until after the wedding.

Rude Ruthy

Without fail, at every family gathering, she mutters something to the effect of, "It's harder to let out a wedding dress than take it in," or "Are you really going to wear your hair like that for the wedding?" In this case, show her who's boss. "Rudeness is never OK, but some people may not even have the self-awareness of the impact of their comments," Chlipala says. You can say something like, "Hey, I know you probably don't even mean it this way, but when you say 'X,' it hurts my feelings / I feel like you're putting me down." If she does it again, speak up again: "Remember when I mentioned you were being rude to me? What you just said is what I'm talking about." Sometimes it takes several instances of pointing out rudeness for someone to "get it." And if all else fails, sic your spouse-to-be on her.


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