How to handle a disrespectful sister in law that's dividing our family

Christa - posted on 04/16/2018 ( 1 mom has responded )

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I've been married to my DH for 4 years, and we have a daughter together. He is the oldest of four and has two younger sisters. The oldest one has repeatedly caused problems in our family over the years, and now its gotten so bad since the last incident that we refuse to see her at family events (so we leave when her family arrives). This has been an extremely difficult choice for us because it affects the kids/cousins, but at the same time we have to draw boundaries or the drama will never end. I am looking for support and/or advice that we are handling this situation the right way and I'm curious how others deal with similar issues. Here's a brief overview of what I've been dealing with and how I am handling it.

Shortly after joining the family, it was clear that everyone seemed to tiptoe around my DH's sister because she was the type to be overly involved and controlling in everyone's life. The mom would confide in me saying, don't tell the sister about this or that, or she would vent to me about how controlling she's being about her latest boyfriend, travel plans, whereabouts, etc.

In the first year of becoming friends with the sister, trust was broken. I had confided in her about some relationship issues I was having with her brother (we talked frequently with each other about each other's man issues), and she then began to unload 10 years of negative things about her brother's past that painted him in such a bad light that I was ready to end our relationship. Why would a loving sister do that? I was very distraught and now between a rock and hard place. I was forced to go to him with everything she told me. He felt very betrayed and said that half the things she said were untrue and he has no idea why she would be trying to break us up. We stopped talking to her for a while.
After I got pregnant, we became friends again and tried to work on things but I kept a safe distance. One day I let her use my phone and she went through 6 months worth of text messages between her mom and me, just to be nosy. Found where her mom took me out for my bday and told me not to tell her because she wanted her to watch her son that night. (The mom CONSTANTLY lies to her and then puts us in the middle.) This turned into a HUGE fight where she was not speaking to her mom for days. Anytime we were having issues with the sister, my mother in law would come to see my daughter less frequently, and then tell us to keep it a secret so that the sister would not get upset. We did this for a while, and then my DH finally said enough, we're not lying you need to stand up to your controlling daughter because this is ridiculous. On other occasions I've told her mom things about my life/relationship in confidence, and the sister will find a way to let me know that she knows my business and that "her mom tells her everything".
I've seen her own grandmother and aunts bad mouth her in front of me when she is in the other room. Apparently, she's had run-ins with aunts, cousins, mom, dad, siblings and gone months/years without speaking to them so its not just me. I can't tell you how many family events we've gone to where she has some sort of loud outburst or breakdown, and the whole event gets ruined. She's allowed to act however she wants and the whole family puts up with it. On one occasion she forced me to open a xmas card at an event (from her dad's wife) in front of her so she could see how much money we were given, then made a huge scene about it saying it was done on purpose to spite her.

Still after all this and many other incidents, I tried to take the high road and look at her with sympathy to keep the peace because I don't like being on bad terms with people, especially family. During her pregnancy last year we became closer again, and after her daughter was born we spent more time together with our kids. Things seemed good, except that I had a miscarriage during that time but she was there for me and I valued our relationship more. We were seeing the mother in law more frequently since we were getting along more (1-2x a month), but she was still constantly over at her daughters house seeing her other grandkids and helping as its always been (new baby or not). I've accepted that the grandmother will have a closer bond with the sister's kids than with mine. I can handle that, but my fear is that my daughter will get a sense of that favoritism one day.
Finally, the reason we are now not speaking is that her mother was at our house and had a medical innocent. I was not here, but my husband was. The sister was critical of the way it was handled and venting to me. Although she was being very harsh, I took the high road but defended my husband. She called back a few days later to apologize, but then felt the need to further drive home her same “I’m right about everything” points. When I respectfully told her she was crossing a line, she became condescending (told me to try and have a grown up conversation), then told me that I am coming across as a total B****. So I hung up on her. A few minutes later she is blowing up DH's phone on text bad mouthing me and saying they need to talk. He didn't respond so she continued to send mean texts and said I was manipulating him and told him "good luck". A few weeks later, like nothing happened, she sends my DH a text inviting him to her daughter's first bday party. I asked him to call her and help her understand we cannot be around each other until she apologizes. She avoided his calls on purpose for weeks and he was scared to upset her because she was pregnant again and having difficulties. So we sent a gift but did not attend the party. She sent a text to both of us saying thanks. A few weeks later, three days before xmas, DH finally gets her on the phone to set the record straight. Not only does she refuse to see that she did anything wrong, but she changed the whole story to make it look like I caused all the problems. Luckily, my husband trusts my word more than hers and stood up for me. They had to agree to disagree. We had to see them 3 days later at xmas. It was so uncomfortable that we left after 45 minutes. He and my daughter interacted with the sister, but I did not and stayed hidden out of sight.

Now her son has been born and we have not met him. We were at an event recently and she arrived with the new baby, but we left. It was hard on us to do this, and painful for her but how else should we handle it? Does she really think she can treat me like this and that her brother is still going to greet her with happy, loving arms and want to be a family? I'm so torn because I want my daughter to see her cousins and family, and for my husband to not go through all this stress for every family event. But it's not my style to be the one to reach out and work on things with someone that has repeatedly caused issues, went below the belt on this last incident, bad mouths me to the family, and refuses to apologize. And there’s a good chance it will continue to happen. Thanks for any experienced advice!

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