Monday Mailbag – The Litmus Test


Dear Lisa,

My sister recently graduated from college and has moved in with my husband and myself for four months until she leaves for an internship overseas. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to her coming. She’s been here almost two weeks and it’s not turning out to the be fun time I’d imagined. In fact, it’s a nightmare.

My husband, I have been married two years. We lived on the other side of the country from my family when we met and got engaged. My family and my husband haven’t had a lot of time together. So, when my sister moved in I thought it would be a great opportunity to start to build deeper family relationships. That has failed miserably. In two short weeks, she’s decided she hates my husband. I guess to be fair, she’s decided she hates the way he talks to and treats me. She’s really over protective.

My husband has a very stressful job and when he comes home sometimes it takes him some time to wind down. It’s true, sometimes he’s a little mean, and raises his voices with me. But I understand where he’s coming from and it doesn’t bother me. I’m pretty thick skinned. I guess having her here makes me feel self-conscious because I know she doesn’t understand him the way I do and I’m embarrassed.

I don’t know what to do. I can’t ask my husband to walk on eggshells all summer. I hate feeling like my sister is judging our relationship. More than anything though I hate that burning feeling of shame in my gut when he’s yelling at me and she’s around. It didn’t bother me before, and now I’m humiliated. I don’t even want to think about what she’s probably telling my family.

How do I make my sister understand he really loves me?


Dear Kendra,

I understand relationship dynamics can be complicated. Every relationship is different. However, you should never, ever have to make excuses for your husband's behavior, because there is no excuse for him being mean. None. Not one good excuse. You are ashamed for good reason. You are tolerating disrespect and your sister is right to be upset by that.
Just because you’re “used to it” doesn’t make his behavior right. If you have children someday how will you feel when he treats them the way he is treating you, just because he’s stressed? How would you feel if he yelled at your sister, and was mean to her, just because he’s tired?

When you live with someone your sense of normalcy can become twisted. When you love someone it’s easy to make excuses or ignore things that might be a real problem. However, this is a simple litmus test. Would you be uncomfortable with this behavior if it was happening in public? Would it be ok for your husband to be mean to you in the mall? Is it ok for him to yell at you at a restaurant? Would it make you uncomfortable to have his friends over and have him belittle you in front of them? I’m hoping the answer to those questions is no. None of that is ok, and if it’s not ok in public, it’s not alright at home behind closed doors.

Your husband needs some professional grade stress management tools. You and your husband probably need some professional help to learn to have a healthy marriage. The good news is you’re only two years into your marriage. It’s still new. That makes it easier to learn new ways of relating that are healthy and supportive.
Your sister is not the problem. Your husband is not the problem either. The problem is you are willing to tolerate disrespect. That might sound like a lecture, but in the end, it’s really good news. If you are the problem, you can fix this.

I wish you many happy years together,


*This reader letter was shared with permission and names have been changed.


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Lisa Hayes, The Love Whisperer, is an LOA Relationship Coach. She helps clients leverage Law of Attraction to get the relationships they dream about and build the lives they want. Lisa is the author of the newly released hit book, Score Your Soulmate and How to Escape from Relationship Hell and The Passion Plan.

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