So much on this blog is about the poor mother-in-law. But we keep forgetting that the mother-in-law engine isn’t fully functional in all its glory without the much-less-talked-about sister-in-law.
I believe that the Pakistani sister-in-law doesn’t get much media coverage because a lot of her covert activity is blamed on the mother-in-law. There are two reasons for this amazingly talented undercover agent’s less-than-deserved acknowledgment.
1. Mother-in-law likes to take the blame for her daughter. She can jeopardize her own relationship with people for her daughter. She doesn’t like her daughter getting the heat for anything. In her mind her life is limited but her daughter’s is unlimited so her daughter should live a happy and hugely communal life with the brother after mother-in-law has passed on. How she figures this is beyond me but I know this psychological aspect isn’t a conundrum to me alone. A lot of scientists are baffled by it.
2. Sister-in-law is basically a guilt machine. She spews constant guilt on her parents. How they got her married when she was young, how her husband is a deadbeat dad and husband, how she has been “keeping silent” for the family honor. The only way mother-in-law and sometimes even the father-in-law and the husband can compensate for all the atrocities that they’ve committed against her is by making another woman as miserable as her. It’s not the sister-in-law’s fault that that woman is invariably a girl who has been stupid enough to marry her brother.
But dissecting the psychology of the sister-in-law isn’t the purpose of this blog post. That’s almost impossible for a small-time blogger like me. I can only save you some grief without fixing the system. You might have heard of “cheats” that help skip to the next level of the game. I’m here for the cheats. There’s nothing problem-solving about the following account. It’s all problem-avoiding.
1. You can never be younger than the sister-in-law, even when you’re ten years younger than her. Just accept this idiocy and move on. When she tells people that she was in diapers when you were already sleeping with her brother, humor her by smiling through it. Nothing you say will change her conviction. Trust me, she has lied about her biological age so much that she now believes herself to be actually at least two decades younger than what really is her age. This is a true delusion and it is defined as such. It’s a firm, false belief that can’t be changed by simple reasonable reasoning.
2. In the same vein, don’t suggest that sister-in-law and you share different reproductive problems. If she has infertility, you have infertility. No amount of explaining can explain to her that your decision to not have kids is a well-thought out plan and has nothing in common with her desperate attempts to get pregnant. You can’t convince her that you don’t want a kid now. She perceives you as an extension of her so she can’t accept any deviation from the norm, which is herself. She tells anyone who listens that you are the one with a fertility issue and then asks for remedies for it, hoping to catch a remedy vicariously. Just learn to smile through this one too.
3. You’ll always be compared to your sister-in-law. Don’t think this is due to her being extremely accomplished. Think of it like this! When toads live together, they can only appreciate toads. So the fact that you’re a frog is incomprehensible to them. They think of you as just an uglier toad, even though you’re shinier. Don’t waste time lamenting their poor comparative skills. A carefully blended mixture of self-love, conceitedness and arrogance makes them disregard everyone else as inferior. This is not a reflection on you at all.
4. Sister-in-law has many annoying habits but one particular habit requires special mention and warning. She will advise you to be nice and polite and accommodating and sacrificing and compromising and loving and kind and subservient to HER PARENTS. Yes! That’s her core lecture series. Each time she sees you she makes a notable mention of all the people who have been commenting on how you are slacking in almost all departments of life but suck particularly bad at being a good daughter-in-law. Now don’t try to go head to head with her on this and remind her that she herself doesn’t practice any of it with her own in-laws. Quietly swallow your pride and move on with your life. There’s enough work to do besides playing slave.
5. If God forbid sister-in-law and you have gotten married close to each other then don’t you dare get pregnant before she has a bun in the oven. This will not only be considered distasteful by the sister-in-law but also your parents in-law. They might excommunicate you for planning a legitimate baby with your husband, who in another life was also their son. Why, you ask? Don’t you see how disrespectful it is to trump your sister-in-law’s baby with your own? You can’t do that. That’s like an open rebellion to the system. Just keep your head low and use protection for as long as it takes. And if you still get pregnant then may the force be with you.
6. You can’t be prettier than sister-in-law. That’s the loudest unwritten rule in the book. Similarly, you can’t be a better dresser, more educated or a better conversationalist. Just accept it and don’t worry yourself too much with how many lies make up this delusion of hers.
7. Sister-in-law’s husband is the most fragile commodity of this entire setup. Not only is he super egotistical and a total spitfire, he’s also a shameless flirt. Go with the program. Trust me, he only flexes his muscles at his in-laws. Your sister-in-law emasculated him years ago.
8. Everything you own, she has a claim to. Make up, clothes, jewelry, your home, every last belonging can be used by her and abused by her without your permission. Hurts? Well, not much you can do. Just shop for more, hand the receipts to your husband with the truth behind who the culprit is and go your way. Don’t try to save sister-in-law from any embarrassment. That never works. It actually can backfire. Showing compassion and license to people who don’t deserve it perpetuates abuse and shamelessness. Don’t participate in that vicious cycle.
9. You could love sister-in-law’s kids with all your heart but your motives will always be suspected. This is partly because she isn’t a kind and friendly person herself and partly because she has a lot of negativity for her own in-laws. Don’t let this change your love for these kids. They didn’t do anything wrong. Showing kindness to them is important because they don’t see their mother modeling it. They’ll thank you someday.
10. And lastly, don’t ever think your sister-in-law is the sister you never had or the sister you left behind at your parents’. She’s a very different type of sister. Thinking that she can be like a biological sister is delusional and will lead to a lot of heartbreak for you. You should try to think of her as a girl in a sorority. She could become your best friend or could be just another girl. But try to never join her in her ways of becoming an enemy. You’re above that. Despite all the hierarchy that a Pakistani girl faces at her in-laws, she’s usually above that. ❤️