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!!


iVillage Member
Registered: 02-08-2013
Fri, 02-08-2013 - 2:26pm

This is going to be a challenge.  Unfortunately, the situation has gone on for so long making it very difficult for a quick remedy.  The problem will only be corrected by actions of your husband;  he will have to take the initiative.  How do you get him to do this?  It won't be easy and the process will strain your marriage.  Your marriage is already "strained" by the situation.  You must make up your mind that you are want the changes made and you are prepared to stay the course.  I would calmly and caringly have a serious talk with your husband outling all the concerns and what your expectations are.  You must be firm and he must see you are serious.  Immediately, make it understood that your responsibilities are to your husband only and brother-in-law must take care of himself around the house.  Don't be vicious or rude to brother in law - simply show him you take no concern of him.  Don't do his laundry, make his meals, pick up after him, etc.  I would pretend he didn't exist.  When things "boil over" with brother in law or he confronts you about how you are behaving towards him - be calmly honest with him;  tell him you only want to live with your husband, that you want your family's privacy.  When arguments arise with your husband (and they will) respond the same way - calmly and stating your wishes.  You don't have to be hateful.  You just need to start being confident and forthright in how you feel.  Divorce is a pathetic choice.  Stay the course.  Stay committed.  Meet the challenge.  You must choose the change.  What you are asking is not unreasonable by any measure.  Realize that and hold firm to it.  Best of luck to you.  

PS.  I would like to hear your thoughts about my blog "Overtime Mother-In-Law" here

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Fri, 12-28-2012 - 1:29pm

That's exactly what I was thinking. That they knew something was wrong with him but didn't want to deal with it so stayed in denial about it and just said "oh he's just different" Usually this gets noticed in the school system by grade school age and the teachers will suggest if they feel the kids need to go into special education classes, so IF he is aspergers he could have been very high functioning that it wasn't really noticed. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Fri, 12-28-2012 - 11:24am

That's an interesting point.  If there was something wrong w/ the brother that he couldn't be on his own, the family should have admitted it and maybe OP would have been more sympathetic, but not all families do that.  I have a niece by marriage who's 18 now.  She did graduate from high school and she's trying a couple of classes at community college, she doesn't work & doesn't have a driver's license.  She seems intelligent, yet there's something definitely different about her--I have a 17 yr old son & he drives and works and just seems way more mature than she does.  The family has never said what, if anything, was wrong, maybe because they felt like someone would treat her differently, but it's pretty obvious to everyone--we guess it's something like Asperger's.  Socially she does interact with people but not like typical for someone her age, so maybe it's not even that, like she doesn't have social skills to act like a typical teenager.  I think the OP should directly ask her DH, if she hasn't already, if there is some kind of problem w/ his brother that he knows about as to why her DH feels that he needs to take care of his brotehr & he can't live on his own.  It could also be that the family never really had him tested for anything--they just thought he was "different" and accomodated him, but never got him any help.

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.

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.


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?

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: 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: 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: 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!!