Oy Vey: May 10, 2019
AdviceOy Vey! Have I Got a Problem...

Oy Vey: May 10, 2019

Got a problem? Email Rachel Stein at oyvey@atljewishtimes.com, describing your problem in 250 words or less.

Toco Hills resident Rachel Stein writes about spirituality and, working with readers, tries to help community members deal with dilemmas.

Hi, Rachel,

My situation is taking up way too much headspace, so I figured I should go ahead and get some advice before the worst happens and my relatives move in and actually invade my living space!

Before I dive into the dilemma, allow me to give you a little background. My husband and his younger sister, Susan, have an extremely close relationship. They were raised by a widowed mother who has since passed away. While growing up, my husband always protected his sister, almost sashaying into the role of the father who was not in the picture.

Today Susan is a married woman with three very young children. She has a lively personality, and the two of us get along well. But her children are a handful, and any time they visit for a weekend, it usually takes me at least a week to recover.

My children are already older, so I no longer deal with toys cluttering the house. Sticky fingers wiping food all over every available surface is also a distant memory until Susan and company show up and remind me of the good ol’ days. Then I wonder: How in the world did we do it?

And now, drum roll please, … here is the crux of the issue. Susan is having some major renovations done on her house during the summer and she wants to move in with us. For how long, you ask? I’ll tell you how long! For. Six. Weeks.

Rachel, I can’t. I simply CANNOT handle it. I don’t have the physical stamina, much less the emotional and mental reserves, to tolerate the incessant noise, mess and lack of privacy for such an extended period. After their last visit, I caught a cold, which developed into bronchitis! However, my husband disagrees with me. He feels that the definition of family equals doing for each other no matter what.

“This is what family is all about,” Stan insists. “You are there for each other. Period.”

What doesn’t he understand? I also love his sister, and I know how close they feel to each other. Stan is also concerned that refusing to accommodate her request will negatively impact our relationship. But don’t the needs of a wife take precedence over those of a sister? They have money; they can rent a place! Why dump themselves on us?

Stan and I have reached an impasse and have exchanged some sharp words over this issue. Any helpful suggestions would be deeply appreciated.


Smothered with Worry

Dear Smothered,

What a difficult situation! You must feel overpowered, like Stan and Susan are standing as a united team against you. And as you mentioned, that doesn’t feel right, because a wife should take precedence over a sister.

So, what should you do so that you can breathe more freely?

I suggest aiming for a compromise.

Explain to Stan that you want to help and support your family, especially because it’s so important to him, but that six weeks is beyond your limits, and you are concerned that it won’t be good for your health and well-being. How about agreeing to a two- or three-week duration?

That amount of time is probably also in excess of what you feel capable of managing, considering your reactions following Susan and family’s weekend stays, but typically, compromises tend to be good solutions. Stan will see that you care, and you will probably feel less guilty since you’re showing a willingness to do your part.

As far as Stan’s concern that not opening your home for the full time may negatively affect your relationship with Susan, I don’t think that is valid. Surely a loving sister will understand that everyone has limitations, and a loving rapport entails recognizing each other’s boundaries with empathy and consideration.

Presuming that this agreement is received favorably, it may also be a good idea to have a discussion with Susan before her family settles in. Gently share your expectations and explain the reason you’re mentioning them. Affirm that you anticipate enjoying this opportunity of spending this time together, especially if you work as a cohesive team. (Okay, okay, white lies are allowed for the sake of peace, are they not? She doesn’t have to know that you are counting the days, hours, and minutes until their departure.)

“Now, Susan,” you add, “would it be possible to…” Finish the sentence according to your needs. Do you want her to share the cooking and cleanup? Are there certain places that are off limits to the kids? Would you appreciate her help with errands or even them contributing financially towards the larger shopping bills that are inevitable during their stay?

I hope this is somewhat helpful as you navigate this rocky terrain.

Wishing you a peaceful and maybe even an enjoyable visit, as well as plenty of oxygen!

Take care,

Rachel Stein

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