Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. SIL: I suffered from infertility for a decade before I had my son. My sister-in-law “Jane” tried to convince my husband to leave me because I could never give him children. She did this in front of the entire family while I was in the hospital suffering complications from a miscarriage. When I discovered this, I told my husband I never wanted to see or speak to Jane again. I would not attend family events if she were there. Jane would not be around our children. He could go see her, but if she got in my sights, I could not be held responsible for my actions. Our son is a year old now. My in-laws are putting pressure on us to “forgive” Jane since it has been years. I am not budging. If Jane had had her way, our son wouldn’t exist. My husband told me Jane was just trying to look out for what she thought was her baby brother’s best interests. I cried and told him he needed to look out for his wife and son’s best interests. What should I do?
A: I hope you can impress upon your husband the importance of seeing a therapist about this; I think it would help you both immensely. Your position is eminently reasonable, and while I can understand your husband’s distress at the newfound distance between his sister and your family, I don’t think the answer is for him to pressure you into befriending her. Instead: “What you’re asking me to do is once again trust a woman who took advantage of my vulnerability during the most physically and emotionally painful time in my life to tell you to leave me—something she’s never apologized to me for or even seemed to demonstrate remorse for having done. I don’t agree that it would have been in your ‘best interest’ to have had a public conversation about leaving me in the hospital where I miscarried. You seem determined to assign good intentions to her actions despite serious evidence to the contrary. I’m not willing to rewrite what happened as a ‘mistake’ or water under the bridge just because it’s difficult for you to admit that your sister kicked me when I was down.”
I hope very much that your husband is willing to take you seriously on this subject and that he can do the important work of balancing his very real love for his sister with the very real harm that she caused you—harm she has never apologized for. You have every right to ignore these inappropriate requests from your parents-in-law to prioritize public smoothness at any cost, and I hope your husband can fully support you as you do.