Brother in law?

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-29-1998
Brother in law?
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 8:19am

Hello everyone,

I have posted on this situation before but I have made some changes but it is still a problem.

First I want to say up front, I am here to get some kind of advice. If you feel you need to be negative because you've been through something hard, please don't post. I'm looking for an outsider's point of view and am only looking for constructive responses.

I'll give you a quick back ground: I married my husband about 15 years ago. When we met, he was living with his older brother and raising a child. ( the child's mother left). Both of them had been divorced about the same time and decided to pull their resourses to raise the child.

When I came along, I didn't expect the brother to move out right away. I figured it may take a few years. 15 years later he is still living with us. The child is grown and out on their own. The brother has no friends and is not interested in making any or getting involved with any woman.

Problems with him: He lives in our home which he occupies 1/3 of. He pays NO expences as far as rent or utilities or food. He makes very good money. He eats what I fix but if he doesn't like it, he will make comments on it. He talks rudely to me and acts like he is entitled to live this way with us. I am forced to clean his areas such as his bathroom because he is not a clean person. I have to ask him to wash his hands or feel like the hand washing police. I am constantly wiping things down with disinfecting wipes because I can't trust that he will wash  his hands if I'm not there to watch him. I live in a nice home but he make the outside of our home look junky because of the junk cars he instists on having around. (he drives a pretty nice care regularly). If I say something to him, when my husband gets home, he will make it sound like I was being a real bitch to him. He is very paronoid to the point he thinks everyone is talking about him. He treats me like a servant not his brother's wife.

Problems with my husband: My husband is a wonderful man. He is good to everyone around him. We would not have a problem if it weren't for his brother. He is very defensive of his brother. He will take his side over mine and if he feels I'm doing something to complain about his brother he will jump on me. for example: I was walking around the house the other night, shutting off lights and making sure doors were locked. I do this every night. I saw a light on in the garage (I had mentioned a couple days before that I found lights left on) My husband got upset and said "if he's outthere he can have lights on. Ill bet I can find lights YOU have left on!" I just shook my head and walked away. He was appoligetic later but this is typical.  He will also say things to make me feel bad about myself or try to make me think there is something wrong with me. Please keep in mind that the only time he does this is when it something that concerns his brother. In any other situation, he is very loving and encouraging. All I can think is, our marrage would be great if it weren't for his brother. He ask me what I'm going to do when his brother retires. I lost my breath. What he is telling me is I will have to put up with him more!! Like I have no choice!!

A few months ago, I let go. I told my husband that I didn't think it was fair that I should have to live like this. I made NO commitment to his brother and don't owe him anything. I told him I would not allow his brother to treat me badly anymore and that the only reason we fight is because of his brother. I ask him who he would choose if I ask him to make a choice. He hesitated and said "you". What that told me was he was weighing the finacial cost. He also told me that when we got married, he had other choices but he chose me because he felt I would put up with this situation. That made me feel like crap. I married him because I loved him. I had other choices too and they didn't come with all the excess baggage.

I also went back to work. Oh, they like me to take care of them. Like cooking cleaning running errands. Basically being on call! I was told that if I got a job I would have to make sure they ate and things around here got done. I finally stood up for myself and told them that I have a right to have a career and it shouldn't have limits on it. I don't ask for my husband to limit his career.

My husband had a talk with his brother and told him what I said. His brother now walks around the house like a wonded puppy. An attempt to make me feel sorry for him, which I wont!

I have become extreamly resentful. I have thought about contacting a lawyer. I ask my husband what his brother does with all his money. So I know he is thinking about what I'm thinking about there.

I am mad because I have never known my marriage without my brother in law! He is ALWAYS there!! I'm mad because I am supporting someone who makes good money and I never agreed to that. He helps their mom out and pays for some auto repairs but other than that his money is his!!

I don't want to divorce my husband but I have come to the point where I don't know what to do.

Thanks for reading, sorry so long.

The wearer of many a hat!!


Avatar for tobermory
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-29-2001
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 9:42am

Have you considered or been able to try marriage counseling? Getting a neutral third party in on this might help. On the other hand, it might not. To be honest, you don't have a brother-in-law problem -- you have a husband problem. He is clearly choosing his brother over you. In marriage, if the spouses aren't putting each other first, things are difficult. The fact that he told you he chose you because you would put up with all this crap tells you that his priority in getting married was to get someone to take care of him and his brother, not to find someone to spend his life with.

Frankly, if he doesn't consent to marriage counseling, I see no alternative other than divorce, unless you want to spend the rest of your life this way. And it seems you have already spent too many years catering to bullies.

Good Luck,


iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 10:25am

I agree with the idea of trying marriage counseling, but frankly your DH knows that you don't want his bro around yet he is still there, still not paying rent and he "protects" him without regard to your feelings.  I just can't imagine that after 15 yrs it will ever change.  Since he's mentioned what will you do when bro retires--it's clear that he intends to have him around forever.  Not to mention that he said that he married you because you'd put up with the brother.  I guess most women would have said that they wouldn't get married as long as the brother was living there and would have waited til he moved out first.  I could see if the brother was handicapped in some way but since he works it doesn't appear that it's the problem.  So I really think your only choices are to put up with the situation or move out yourself.  I doubt very much your DH is going to change.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-29-2002
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 10:32am

I know you have made it clear to your DH how you feel about the current living arrangement, but it sounds like you are going to need to take it a step further and take action.

I do agree that counseling for you and your DH maybe beneficial.

But I also think it is time for you to meet with an attorney, find out your options, and then make a plan.  Whether it be you give your DH an ultimatum or you simply move out.  One way or another you need to put actions behind your words and force your DH to act upon your previous frustrations.  You have expressed your feelings and concerns for 15 years with no adequate resolution, meaning your DH isn't going to do anything until he is forced to.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-29-1998
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 10:56am
Thanks for all your responses. I have considered counseling. I plan on talking with him further after the new year. I have also planned on talking to an attorney. The one other thing I have to consider is their mother is sick and will probobly die soon. I don't want her to know anything about this. There mother wanted my husband to put our house in his and his brother's name instead of his and mine. She was afraid I'd kick his brother out. LOL. The whole family babys this guy. He is very dependant. At least I have my job to go to every day!
The wearer of many a hat!!
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-27-2004
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 11:20am

I agree with Tobermory that you have a husband problem, but you don't want to divorce him.  Thus, you need to defuse the situation as much as you can, to make things tolerable for yourself.

You could begin by making a list of all the things your brother-in-law does that exasperate you, and then put them in order from most to least distressing.  For example, junk cars in the yard would be in my top ten.  You can probably deal with that by calling the city where you live and asking them to send an inspector.  Walk around with the inspector; see what he/she says.  An official report will be sent to you and your husband (the owners of the property).  When your husband exclaims about it, you can decide whether you want to tell him directly that you couldn't stand the loss of property value, or say, "My goodness, someone must have called in a complaint!"

You also need to decide how important some of the things your brother-in-law does.  For example, can you let go of the handwashing thing?  You cannot keep track of whether or not a grown man washes his hands, all you can do is react defensively by assuming he hasn't.  You can plate food in the kitchen to prevent his touching the serving dishes when you eat a meal together, and make sure to wash fruit, etc, that he may have touched.  When he retires to his room, you could do a quick wipe around with a disinfecting wipe.  Forget about the lights, they are just coming between you and your husband; just turn them off without comment.  Since you are so vigilant, it is unlikely that his bad habit is costing you much, it's just an irritant that makes you seem cranky to your husband.

DO NOT talk to your brother-in-law about problems around the house unless your husband is present, and when you do so, make it mutual in some way.  In other words, rather than saying, "Bro, the electric bill is too high because you always leave the lights on," say, "The electric bill has been really high the last few months, and I'd like to brainstorm some ways that we can bring it down."  You may not get a very positive response the first time you try this, but don't give up.  You may see changes in behavior after awhile, and that's what counts.

One thing I'd love to see you do is brainstorm with them some ways that you can get some free time for yourself, probably by hiring some household help; if you have three incomes, that certainly should be possible.  Discuss it with the three of them, and say, "It will cost $X per week, which will come to $X/3 from each of us."  Just see what happens when brother-in-law tells brother that he shouldn't have to contribute because husband's wife is the person who wants to have some free time.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-09-2008
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 3:47pm

There's no way I could respond to all of that WITHOUT it sounding negative, and you did ask.  What the heck are you GETTING out of this arrangement?  Sounds like just misery and knowing the brother is #1, not you.  It isn't supposed to be that way.  Your husband should have YOUR back, he should take care of this mess for you, but clearly he isn't going to.  You now know the brother will be with you even at retirement and will be allowed to keep mooching into eternity.  You're right, you should not have to live like this and he let you know the reason he married you is because he knew you'd put up with the mess.  The question is don't you deserve better than this?  I bet if you tried spending some serious time alone, you'd realize you will just continue to be resentful - life's too short, right?   


iVillage Member
Registered: 07-29-2002
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 4:37pm

Just out of curiousity.

Is there a chance your BIL maybe on the Autism Spectrum?

Some of the character traits you shared caused me to suspect there might be more to BIL than fully recognized.  Is this something you could bring up with your DH?  It could very well be the reason he has been catered as he has been so far, and if so then you might need to approach the situation in a different manner, and need to take into consideration there are limitations to what can be forced and what needs to be more compromised.

It would also explain the protective nature both your DH and his Mother have for BIL.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 5:26pm

I can see putting upwith the situation IF he needed a place to stay temporarily, but with what H said about retirement it seems like this is going to be forever. It sounds like your H is so protective of him for a reason though. BIL not having ANY friends and being paranoid could indicate that he aspergers (high functioning autism) and/or some other diisabilties. I think your H needs to have him evaluated. But it's great that he has a good job and could support himself if necessary. Do you think he could live independently if you told your H he has to go?

Avatar for xxxs
Community Leader
Registered: 01-25-2010
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 6:30pm

 The junk cars have them appraised.  Some might be worth a new hobby rebuilding them.  Then the boys will have to learn to cook,clean as you are too busy.  Sometime a valuable car is neglected.  Rebuilt they could help buy a new house.  With out the brother.


Avatar for khatru1
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-07-2004
Fri, 12-28-2012 - 9:37am

i think you have them on the defensive right now. I know probably your long term goal is to get him out of your house eventually. For now I would start making demands. Demand that those cars in the yard get cleaned up. Demand that he start paying 1/3 of the house payment, utilities, and food. Do not clean his bathroom if he has his own. Unless changes start happening along these lines soon I would not clean anything of his. Do not wash is clothes, or his dishes. Do not cook his food. The only reason this situation has deteriorated to this point is that you have allowed it to happen. You have to start unallowing it.