When you’ve been with someone for a long time, his family sort of becomes your family. You’re part of the inner circle—you are let in on personal information about the family, you sit witness to their arguments, you’re included on the holiday card, and you’re invited on their vacations. It’s a really beautiful thing, to be welcomed into the fold like that. And, it can mean you even get some additional siblings. But your relationship with your partner’s siblings is not exactly like that with your own, blood siblings. It can come close but there will always be some lines you cannot cross. It’s best for everyone if you are always on good terms with your partner’s siblings. If you aren’t, then the rest of the family—regardless of who is right or wrong in your fight with that sibling—just sees you as combative. They’ll always take their blood child’s side. Here are ground rules for dealing with sibling-in-laws.
Don’t get involved in fights
Do not take sides when your partner and his sibling are fighting. It doesn’t matter if your partner is totally in the wrong—taking the sibling’s side makes you look like you aren’t a good partner. It doesn’t matter if the sibling is totally in the wrong—taking your partner’s side makes the sibling dislike you. Just stay out of it.
Except to stop the fight
The one way you can get involved in their fights is to try to stop them. You can step in and remind them that they love each other, of all the nice things they’ve done for one another, and of how important their bond is. Everybody will respect you if you do that.
Just be supportive of decisions
Even if your partner’s sibling makes a terrible decision, like to marry his girlfriend of one month or quit school to become a skate boarder, you have to be nothing but supportive. Let the blood relatives step in and be the voices of reason.
Text on birthdays and holidays
Since the sibling-in-law is your family now, too, you have one more person to add to your list of folks to text on birthdays and holidays. But it’s actually really nice to expand that list. Remember, you’re on their list too.
They can vent about their parents
The sibling can vent to you about their parents. In fact, you’ll often bare witness to your partner and his siblings talking sh*t about their parents and complaining about their parents. You can be there. You don’t need to leave—if it were private, they wouldn’t say it in front of you. They trust you.
You can listen; you can’t participate
You can’t, however, participate in complaining about your partner’s parents. Even though he and his sibling may be doing that right in front of you, you need to remain an impartial party. If you participate, suddenly your partner and his sibling will feel defensive of their parents.
Try to include them
If you’re all together for the holidays and, you and your partner are headed out for a beach walk or to go shopping, you can invite the sibling along. In fact, you should, so he can see you’re making an effort to strengthen that relationship.
Your partner can exclude them
If your partner wants alone time with you, or if you want alone time with him, let your partner break that news to the sibling. You just look like the bad guy if you do it.
The sibling can’t vent to you about your partner
Sometimes, the sibling may try to complain to you about your partner. That makes sense because you both know your partner very well. But, you’ll have to politely say, “I think you should take this up with your brother—I don’t feel comfortable talking behind his back like this.” You’ll come out looking like a good partner. The sibling will understand.
And you can’t vent to him about your partner
Even if you’re tempted to complain to your partner’s siblings about him, since they know him well, you can’t—you’ll look like a disloyal partner.
Your partner can vent to you about his sibling
Your partner can and will complain to you about his siblings a lot. You can listen, but you have to tread lightly in these conversations—making him feel supported, without ever saying anything negative about his siblings.
You need to befriend the sibling’s SO
You do need to develop some friendship with your partner’s sibling’s significant other. Even if you don’t think you can be best friends with, say, your partner’s brother’s wife, you should make some effort there—in a way, she’s your family, too.
Your home may be a crash pad
You’ll probably need to open your home to your sibling-in-law whenever he comes to town. That’s just part of the deal—families host each other. That being said, since you are family, you aren’t expected to go to every event/dinner/outing with your partner and his sibling. They understand you have to work or do your own thing in your home.
But the sibling’s home is for you, too
The great thing is that you have a place to stay any time you visit your sibling-in-law’s town, too.
Never criticize your sibling-in-law
If there’s something your sibling-in-law does that bothers you, or even worries you, bring it up with your partner, and he can talk to his sibling. You should remain a positive voice in your sibling-in-law’s life.