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My Husband's Past is Causing a Strain on our Marriage - Please Help!

I have been married for 6 months to a wonderful man named Michael. We dated for four years before deciding to get married. The problem I am having is with my sister-in-law Rachel. Rachel's sister Tina dated my husband 25 years ago when they were both teenagers. They dated for about a year. Their relationship produced a baby girl who died at birth. Their relationship was rocky and soon after that their relationship ended and they went their separate ways. Twenty five years later Michael and I met and I brought him home to meet my family. I had no idea that this was the same guy who had dated Tina. Tina and I were not friends or anything like that so I knew nothing of their relationship. The moment my sister-in-law Rachel met him, she started talking to him about Mandy and everytime we get together for holidays and special occasions, she brings up Tina's name in one way or another. Last month my father-in-law passed away. My sister-in-law Rachel walked over to my mother-in-law to pay her respects. I heard her introduce herself to my mother-in-law as Tina's sister...instead of as my sister-in-law. That made me upset, but I said nothing. In fact, for the sake of keeping the peace with my brother, I have continued to say nothing every time she brings up her sisters name. However, I am at the end of my patience with her. The latest incident was last week at my sisters wedding. Rachel was holding her daughter's baby and my husband went over to her to see the baby. The baby does not know my husband and she was scared of him and didn't let him get too close to her. My sister-in-law Rachel tells my husband that the baby does not want him near her because her Aunt Tina has told her all about him. My husband walked away from them and was upset because he felt her comment was uncalled for. Now I am upset with my husband because I feel that he should tell her that he is not interested in hearing about her sister. My sister-in-law does not seem to understand that her sister knew him as a teenager and not the man he is now. She cannot possibly know "all about him". I don't know what to do. I should have said something to her a long time ago but now I don't know how or what to say. Or should I even be the one to say anthing or should my husband? I need your advice. Please help. I have only been married six months and this is causing a strain in our relationship. I love him very much and I know he loves me too. As it is now, my husband has an ex-wife Beth with whom he has 3 children with. I do see her at family functions and we are cordial to each other. I have no problem with her. But Tina is not an ex-wife so she does not fit into my relationship with my husband. I welcome your advice and will do anything you recommend. Thanks.

Don't Know What To Do

Wendy's advice

It sounds very much like your sister-in-law and her sister have never gotten past this long-standing grudge against your husband. It's a complicated issue that you will probably never be able to completely fix, but there are a couple of things you should do to attempt to make family gatherings as pleasant and comfortable for yourselves as possible. Firstly--and I can't stress this enough--you and your husband need to present a united front. DO NOT let this woman's behaviour chip away at your marriage. When she takes unnecessary digs at your husband, whether it's to your face, to your husband, or to other people, you need to take a deep breath, step back and remember that you and your husband are on the same side. Being annoyed with him for not responding, or not responding the way you'd like him to, will only serve to give Rachel the satisfaction of knowing that her behaviour is causing trouble in your marriage, which I suspect is exactly what she's aiming for anyway. Secondly, this issue needs to be addressed in a productive manner, and since Rachel may not be receptive to a calm discussion with you, I'd suggest talking to your brother first. Let him know that you don't want to put him in the middle of this, but that you need his help. Calmly give a few examples of what Rachel has said, and tell him that this behaviour makes both you and David uncomfortable. Assure him that it's very important to you to have a good relationship with her because she is his wife, but that whatever happens, your marriage must come first. Hopefully, when your brother is aware of how much his wife's behaviour bothers you, he'll be able to rein her in at least a little. If this doesn't do the trick, you can try having the same conversation with her, making sure to be calm and clear and to not cloud the issue with anger. If she's still unwilling to control her mouth where Michael is concerned, you will have a decision to make. You can continue to attend family events where she will be present and be prepared to take the high road and turn the other cheek when she makes digs at Michael, or you can politely decline all but the most necessary family gatherings if you really can't handle her unacceptable behaviour. If you feel the latter is your only option, please consider hosting a few family gatherings a year yourself in order to keep in touch with the family members you do want to see, and if she will attend any of these, make sure she understands that her spiteful comments are not welcome in your home.

(All names have been changed to protect their privacy).

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