Bullying Sister-in-Law Trying to Manipulate for Inheritance

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Reader’s Question

For over ten years, my brother’s wife has been telling me who I should include in my will. About 6 months ago, my sister and I were at my brother’s home when his wife brought up the subject of wills again. Although she usually focuses on my savings, this time she said I could do what I liked with my money but that my sister and I should leave our own half of our flat to our 6 nieces and nephews (her two sons). The following day I spoke to several solicitors who said that under no circumstances should we do as my sister-in-law suggested. When I didn’t go along with her plan, my relationship with her changed dramatically. Some weeks ago we were at a family party, and she said some hurtful things to my sister and me. I then decided to tell my brother what she’d been doing for many years. When she found out, she screamed abuse at me but had the nerve to say that I needed to go and get help.

My brother doesn’t seem to understand that the contents of our wills is really not his wife’s business. Nor does he understand how her behavior has hurt us so profoundly.

Now, my sister-in-law has been telling people a false version of events and suggesting I have mental problems. I googled ‘family bully’ and found good summaries of much of what she’s been doing.

My solicitor has recommended that I obtain a psychiatric report on her just in case my sister-in-law actually challenges my will someday, but this sounds somewhat excessive.

I’m at a loss for knowing how to deal with this kind of bullying. I’d be so grateful for any advice.

Psychologist’s Reply

Some people use intimidation, posturing, and even bullying to get what they want. I describe this in my first book In Sheep’s Clothing [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK] and discuss these and other tactics in my upcoming book Character Disturbance [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]. You have no power over your sister-in-law’s behavior, and if you let her actions control yours, you only enable her. Be the person you’ve always been, and relate to your loved ones in the manner they’ve come to expect from you. You can anticipate her antics, but don’t let them get to you. You always have the power to set the terms of engagement. So engage with your loved ones as you always have, but refrain from engaging with those who only want something from you and are willing to browbeat you or defame you to get it. In the end, those with the problem issues will stick out like a sore thumb.

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