My sister-in-law and I were very close for eight years, until a few years ago, when we began to drift apart. At that point, I tried to let her know that I really missed our friendship but felt unsure how I fit into her life now that I had kids and she and my brother didn’t. I told her again recently that I wished that we were closer. She said she did too. Then today, a few days after that last conversation, she shared that she “just remembered” that she overheard me talking about her to my mother (years ago) and that because of that incident she has closed herself off to me and felt like she couldn’t trust me and this is the reason she gives for why we aren’t close anymore. I just don’t buy it. She says she’s really sorry she let things get so out of hand and didn’t confront me at the time ( I have no memory of saying the things she says she heard me say OR even feeling/thinking about her that way). I am completely baffled. I suspect this is more about some random issues she has than it is about me and my behavior. What do you think I should do?
Listen, dear. Everyone, at some point in her life, gets busted for talking smack behind someone’s back. It used to be bad enough when people inadvertently stumbled upon conversations or an especially echo-y heating vent would get a girl in trouble; cell have made this exponentially more horrifying what with their mysterious paranormal ability to “accidentally” dial up exactly the person you’re mocking and complaining about. A gal simply can’t back-stab in peace anymore.
She probably called you back and said she just remembered what you said because she’s been stewing about it for years, and needed a couple days to work up the courage to call you out on it. I like this. She’s got nerve.
This isn’t about your sister-in-law’s “random issues,” and just because you can’t remember calling her a mousy-haired gold-digging dictator who’s ruining your brother’s life doesn’t mean you didn’t do it. You did it. Busted. So now do the big-girl thing and say to her, “I’m SO SO SO sorry I hurt you, and I realize that even though it was a long time ago, those kinds of comments take a long time to lose their sting. I really do love you like a sister, and like all sisters do, I vented to my mom in an unkind way. I hope you can forgive me.” If you really do want to repair your relationship, and you really do like her, an apology like this is going to go a long way.
I just hope you’re able to actually MEAN IT, and not be secretly thinking while you apologize about how mousy her hair really is.