How Do I Set Boundaries With My Partner’s Controlling Sister?

“She is asking personal questions and trying to make choices for our coming baby. My partner won’t say anything to her. How do I handle it without just seeming mean?”

Our Elder Says: Don’t settle for the first thing that comes along. The more research you do on various career options, the more likely you will pick one that you want to stick with.  


Dear EWC,

Hi, my name is Mel. 

I’ve been with my partner, Adam, for four years. We are going to have a baby in February, 2024. We are very different from each other and had very different upbringings. He was raised by his mom and older sister in a single-parent household, and cares a lot about his sister’s opinion. (I and had both parents.) Due to a falling out she had with their mom, we hadn’t seen his sister in over two years. She now lives three and a half hours away, and she has reentered our lives and everything feels a bit awkward. 

I was never really a big fan of hers. She nice and generous, but a total control freak and hippie. When my partner told her that she is going to be an aunt, I didn’t get too much excitement from her. She said interesting things like, “I’ll have to get used to having a niece”. Which I thought was weird because there’s really not much to get used to. (My therapist agreed with me.)

She has also asked about our finances twice—which, in my opinion, is none of her damn business. Adam, of course, didn’t think it was a problem until I explained to him why those type of questions are intrusive and unnecessary. Even our parents didn’t ask us that question. She continues to ask when are we getting married and what kind of career do we think our daughter will have. She also keeps pushing the French language onto our unborn child. She speaks fluent French and her husband is French. Honestly, I’m going to let my child decide what language she wants to learn and if she even wants to learn another language. I don’t want to cross the line and tell her to back the hell off since she isn’t my family, but I would like to set boundaries. I’m at a point where I’m not sure if I want my child around her. Adam has said he’ll set up boundaries with her, but this past holiday/Christmas weekend, those boundaries have still been crossed. How do I place boundaries with a person I’m not close to without sounding mean?


NanaPopo Response

Dear Mel,

First, congratulations on becoming a parent.  What a big change that will be for you and Adam. I know you’re looking forward to having the baby and all that goes with it. (Well, not the sleepless nights, of course.)

Adam grew up in a household with his mother and sister.  You said it yourself; they raised him.  He is used to listening to them and answering their questions.  It may take some time—and some conversations—for him to see himself as a separate adult.  

You were right to talk to him about not sharing everything about your lives.  If you can talk to him and keep it casual, that will help.  Tell him when he shares financial information with his sister it makes you feel uncomfortable. Do not say anything against his sister. Adam’s sister has the right to respond to your news as she wishes.  Maybe she never thought of herself as anything but Adam’s sister.  Now suddenly she’s going to be an aunt.

Children learn the languages they are exposed to.  As young children, they can easily learn multiple languages.  If your child is exposed to English and French, s/he will learn both.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  If you feel she is pushing French, you might say, “French is a wonderful language.  Perhaps s/he will choose to learn it.”

Her other questions, such as what career your daughter will have, can be deflected. “Oh there are so many possibilities.  We’ll see what she’s interested in.”  They don’t have to make you angry.  Just see them as her making conversation.  If she asks when you’re getting married, tell her, “When we’re ready.” Said with a smile.

I would suggest you and Adam talk quietly sometime.  If you can come to see her in a more benign light, that will help.  Decide what you really don’t want her to do, such as asking about your finances.  Then you and Adam come up with how you will handle those questions if they come up. “Why do you ask?”  “Oh that’s too boring to go into.” If she persists, silently look at her for a long time, then change the subject.

I am not seeing anything in your letter that shows she is controlling.  Using the conversational techniques outlined above will help with things she may be doing that you don’t like.  

Being pregnant makes your hormones go wild.  Could you be more sensitive to her comments now than before, especially since you said you didn’t really like her before?  Can you actively try to find things to like about her?  Adam was raised by her and his mom, and it will cause him stress if he knows there is friction between the two of you.

Focus your energy on getting ready for the baby, Mel.  It’s going to be a wild and wonderful ride.

Best Regards,


Article #: 501416
Category: Family

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