My husband’s sisters control our home

What you need to know:

He consults them about each and everything, sometimes even on the choice of food to buy. When they say no to something, he will never talk about it again.

My husband is the last born in a family of five and he is the only boy. However, since we got married, it is his sisters that are running our home. He consults them about each and everything, sometimes even on the choice of food to buy. When they say no to something, he will never talk about it again. He overlooks all their mistakes and gets angry when I try to stand up to them. Please help me.


Dear Anonymous,

This must be stressful. When two people meet, it all seems well until third-party issues start coming up. Learning to live with one another and creating a bond takes time but dealing with relatives is another twist altogether. How can a couple manage to leave amicably with relatives?

This is among the top causes of conflict in marriage. It is important to remember that as a couple, you both have to know how to balance this collaboration.  As individuals, you come from separate families and you have bonded with your sisters, parents, or brothers for so many years. This means that one has to be intentional in protecting their spouse from their relatives.

The best person to balance this is your husband. These, being his sisters, it is much easier for him to let them know how far they should go as they stay in your house. To do this, find the most suitable time and place when you are both at your calmest points to let him know how this makes you feel devalued. Do not expect quick fixes, since your husband is the lastborn, it is possible that the sisters have not shifted from that position of him being the “baby” of the family.

Considering how long it takes for a behaviour to be unlearnt, work this through with your husband patiently and appreciate any slight movement of change that you see. Distract your mind from paying too much attention to what your sisters-in-law are doing as this will enable you to be calm amid a stressful environment.

Also, let go of your expectations. Most of us have a picture in our minds of what our father-in-law or mother-in-law will do for us and our children. But, that just isn’t always real life. At the end of the day, we cannot control other people.

Try not to focus on what you wish your in-laws would do or be. Even if it’s hard, dropping expectations completely can help you find ways to appreciate the little things. Your in-laws might not babysit every Friday so you can have a date night, but that occasional time that they offer, show your gratitude.

Take good care of your emotions, avoid the temptation to use too much force, and remember your husband will easily sympathise with his sisters given the fact that they seem to have pampered him from his childhood. I am sure there are values you find amazing in your husband. Use this as a motivation to work around the issue of his relatives, taking a lead in your home.

Seek professional services of a marriage counsellor to help you as an individual and invite your husband to the sessions too. This will offer you a non-judgmental space to speak about this issue with the help of a third party.

In-law relationships can be amazing but they can also be stressful. You may disagree about politics or your in-laws may criticise your parenting. While you have every right to set boundaries and not allow yourself to be belittled, it can be very helpful if you can also exercise good self-control in heated moments.

Taking a deep breath or even stepping out for a few moments can help clear your head so that small conflicts don’t erupt into screaming arguments. Just remember that if something does bother you, bring it up with your spouse later and work together to find a solution.

Reader advice

Work as a team

Jane Mukisa. It is important that you and your husband work as a team. Both must decide on a strategy to back the sisters-in-law out of your home and personal life. When you start the process, you can expect the family to be somewhat resistant as they have tolerated the behavior and actually encouraged it by not setting firm personal boundaries.

Talk to your husband

John Woods. I would recommend that you share your true feelings with your husband, discuss what you want in your relationship rather than focusing on what has not happened. If you feel that he is being manipulated by your sisters-in-law, tell him how you have been impacted by her behaviour.

Talk to his sisters

Joan Mukasa. As long as the habits are manageable, try and laugh them off. But if the habits are making your life difficult, tell her so in plain words. You do not have to put up with it perpetually.

Be the bigger person

Janet Nsokwa. The best way to deal with this problem is to be the bigger person. Smile at them, be cheerful and civil, and kill them with kindness. Negative reactions from your end can worsen the situation by unnecessarily bringing other family members into the problem. By expressing any sort of frustration or anger, you will be giving them the reaction that they want. Once they see that their attempts to bring you down are futile, they will be forced to give up.

He should set a limit

Martha Zion. It is time to stand your ground as a wife because this marriage is between you and your husband. Any intervention from outsiders should be only when prompted. You can also ask him to make a choice between you and his sisters. His relatives must know their limit.

Set a constitution

Moses Patrick Ojilong. Marriage is between two people. And marriage life is different from family life. Let you and your husband set the constitution that runs the family. Your husband must grow up and tell his sisters to back off before his marriage and family is ruined for good.

Involve a third party

Nampa Patience Natie. Try and open up to him in regard to how you feel about the whole situation. You could even talk to someone who is not related to him but a close friend or a person he respects and can listen to, to talk to him. If that fails, you could seek professional marriage counselling.

Evelyn Khorono Lufafa is a counselling psychologist with Sermotherapy Counselling Foundation