Whit’s End: In-Law Trouble

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Hi Whit,

When my husband and I were dating over 10 years ago, I introduced my friend to his brother and they eventually got married—and now they are getting divorced after having had two children who are now 5 and 7. The break-up was nasty and there are hard feelings, especially because my BIL accused my SIL of having had an affair, which she never did.

Recently, while they were separated, my (and her) FIL died and my BIL refused to let my SIL  (his wife) attend the funeral at the church with her children.  My SIL is very upset because she wants to be with her kids so that she can console them during a traumatic event.

Obviously my BIL wants to punish my SIL by excluding her from the funeral because that’s the kind of mean, vindictive person he is.  My SIL and I agree that the damage to the kids should be more important than getting revenge, but don’t know what to do about it.

My SIL wants me to talk to my husband to see if he can somehow persuade his brother to be reasonable. However, my husband says that he is going to stay out of it because it’s between his brother and his wife. What do you think I can do? Should I try to do anything at all?
Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck:

Unless someone is going to stand at the entrance and close the door in her face, I suggest that your friend (and SIL) attend the funeral to pay her respects whether she can sit with her children or not.

In this way your SIL will make obvious the husband’s attempts to exclude and embarrass her to all in attendance.  Because he is taking his action is in a public venue in full view of people who know them both, your SIL will look like the person who is respectful, dignified, and adult.  In comparison, the BIL will look particularly petty, vindictive, and childish.  What’s more, because the children will want their mother to be with them, the disturbance they will likely create should prove troublesome for the BIL as well as the rest of his family.

As much as your SIL wants to be with her children, I think she should give up trying to influence the husband, or expecting you or your husband to intervene.  By letting her nasty soon-to-be-ex have his way, your SIL clears the way for his plan to shame her. Fortunately for her, it will most likely backfire and make clear to everyone that he was the one who behaved shamefully—and it won’t be behind closed doors.

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