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Ask Lisi: Brothers-in-law might be jealous of family life

Advice: Take a guys’ weekend away to get close again. Give them the benefit of the doubt but remind them they have two nieces who love and miss them.

Dear Lisi: My wife and I have been together since university, married now 10 years. She has two brothers, neither of whom live in our same city. One is an extremely successful entrepreneur; the other a still-to-be-discovered musician. Neither are married, though both are in their late 30s.

I’ve always gotten along very well with both of them. They’re hilariously funny, especially when the three siblings are all together. And they’re terrific uncles to our two small daughters, who adore them. They’re both very family-oriented.

We maintained our closeness through weekly FaceTime calls throughout COVID, and as soon as it was humanly possible, we travelled to see each other.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that both men have changed since the pandemic. They’re harsh with my wife; their jokes less funny and more biting.

The musician didn’t use the lockdown as productively as possible (you would think he would have written lots of music, recorded in home, posted videos to YouTube, etc.) and he’s still floundering. He also has less drive.

The entrepreneur made loads of money during the pandemic, but became more self-centred and selfish. His girlfriend left him during COVID and he’s just hanging out with women who clearly enjoy the perks of his bank account.

They’ve stopped coming to visit, inviting us over, trying to meet up somewhere. They’ve stopped FaceTiming the girls. I’ve tried to talk to them, separately, to see what’s up. My wife asked if they’re upset or mad at me or her for any reason, but they both were adamant that wasn’t the case.

What’s going on here?

The brother-in-law

It’s hard to say with only your side of the story. There are always more than one side to every story and in this case, there are two other people involved.

With their age and stage, I might hazard to say they’re probably somewhat jealous/envious of you, your wife, and your settled family life. The musician sounds like he’s hit a wall. He probably needs some injection of artistic creativity and hopefully his day will come. Or not. That’s part of his journey.

The entrepreneur might be influenced by all of his wealth, and the freedoms and benefits that brings. But again, that’s not usually sustainable long-term and he might be feeling the pressure.

Maybe a guys’ weekend would be a good way to get close again, to spend time with both of them and listen. Give them the benefit of the doubt, but remind them that they have two little nieces who love and miss them. And do not accept their rude behaviour to your wife.

Dear Lisi: My wife has zero concern for her appearance. She wasn’t always this detached from how she presents herself to the outside world. She used to care. A lot. She loved shopping, and prided herself on her vintage designer wardrobe. It was eclectic but interesting.

Like everyone else, she lived in pyjamas and workout gear during the pandemic. Her work is such that she rarely needed to turn her camera on when on a Zoom call, and thus rarely even dressed up from the waist up (like so many of us did).

But where we live, COVID is basically done. She now goes in to her office at least twice weekly, we like to go out for dinner with friends once a month, and we have people over at least twice a month.

Even on these occasions, I need to remind her to shower and make herself presentable.

How can I get my cool wife back?

Vintaged out

Your wife needs to seek some professional help. Not for her lack of dress code, but something else is going on that runs deeper. Start with her regular doctor and see what they discover.

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions to [email protected] or [email protected].