The loss of a loved one can be one of the most difficult things to grieve and it can be tempting to look back fondly on that person.
What happens though when that fond recollection starts poisoning the view you have of those still in your life?
This was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) frustratedwithbil when she came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for some outside opinions.
“AITA for telling my brother-in-law (BIL) to stop comparing my sister to his dead wife?”
OP began with a quick breakdown of the family and the history.
“I am 32 F[emale].”
“My sister is 37 F. My BIL is 40 M[ale].”
“My BIL was married to his high school sweetheart, but she died tragically about 10 years ago.”
“He and my sister got together 4 years ago, and they have been married for 1 year.”
Then she got to the problem at hand.
“My BIL constantly compares my sister to his wife who passed.”
“These are fake names, but say my sister’s name is Amy and his dead wife’s name is Betty.”
“He will say things like ‘Amy is not much of a cook, but Betty always made the best steak. I’d do anything to eat her cooking again.’ “
“Or my sister has flat, straight, brown hair that she is somewhat insecure about.”
“And my BIL will say ‘Betty always had such beautiful blonde hair. It was so thick and shiny.’ “
“My sister has told me that these comments make her feel incredibly insecure and unloved, but she doesn’t want to bring it up and seemingly insult his dead wife.”
“The other day, I went to lunch with my BIL, sister, and my two brothers and their partners.”
“My BIL made a passing comment about how he wanted a dog but my sister is horribly allergic.”
“He said ‘Betty was such a dog person. She would let me have a dog if she was still around.’ Then he moved on like it was nothing.”
“I didn’t confront him in front of everything, but after lunch, I pulled him aside and told him to ‘shut up about Betty.’ “
“He said that I was being really rude, and he was just honoring her memory by talking about her.”
“I said he could talk about her, but he didn’t need to compare my sister to her ever.”
“He said that the comparison was natural in his mind because they were both his wives, and the comparisons were usually funny and lighthearted.”
OP was left to wonder…
“I really disagree with him, but I had to leave it there because he had somewhere to be. But it’s been really bothering me, so I wanted to ask here, AITA?”
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for some outside perspectives.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: NTA
Some suggested that there were deeper problems.
“It’s almost as if he doesn’t acknowledge that his first wife and second wife are two separate people with different strengths and weaknesses.”
“And by holding up his first wife as some paragon of perfect wifeliness he does a disservice to his living wife but also to his deceased wife by reducing her to a shadow of his memory instead of a complex human being with pros and cons, graces and faults.”
“In doing so, he has ultimately failed them both.” ~ The2nd_N
“Your BIL has serious issues and needs to get some professional help.”
“Ten years is a significant amount of time to mourn someone, and he is being extremely unfair to your sister by constantly comparing Amy to Betty.”
“You need to talk to Amy and tell her to start standing up for herself. She sounds like she is already unhappy in her marriage as it is” ~ empowerment_princess
Some even theorized why BIL was behaving this way.
“I don’t know if you should open the topic again but I’d prepare for a very rough road for your sister. Be ready to support her. She will need it.”
“Essentially he’s deified his first wife in his mind.”
“He’s idolized her and is experiencing euphoric recall or ‘rosy recollection’, elevating her memory to a place of worship.”
“Everything in his relationship with your sister is going to be subject to comparison to Betty’s ‘perfect’ memory.”
“This can only lead to disaster IMO.”
“It sounds to me like he’s never actually accepted and grieved her death.”
“He expects (subconsciously) Amy to fill the emotional and spiritual void left by Betty, which of course Amy can’t do even if he hadn’t elevated Betty’s memory to a place of perfection.” ~ throwawaysamplesize9
Others thought BIL could use a taste of his own medicine.
“I can’t believe I had to scroll this far to find this comment.”
“But I would convince sister to do these ‘lighthearted jokes’.”
“Something like ‘if comparing partners you had is fun and harmless for BIL, you can do that too. He is not sensitive, he does the same, of course he must understand that in your mind the comparison is only natural…’ “
“Of course, not in a manipulating way, more a ‘make him drop the bullsh*t’ way, a sarcastic one. Will sister do that? No, because, unlike BIL, she’s kind and empathetic. But he doesn’t deserve it!” ~ HolidayPanda9790
“I can’t believe he didn’t do those comparisons while they were dating.”
“They need counseling so he understands what he is doing. Maybe she should give examples using someone in her past. Not mean but say hey that was hurtful, how would you like if I said …”
“Maybe he wasn’t ready to move on or maybe he feels guilty that he has moved on and this is his unconscious way to let Betty know she’s still on his mind. Either way he needs therapy.” ~ Fluid_Association292
“NTA – but why would ur sister marry someone like this?”
“I broke up with an ex over this. i’d be pissed too if my sister was constantly disrespected like this.”
“I’d suggest she start playing his game.”
“Make up some ex from the past that she casually bumped into, and then start name dropping him constantly… oh bob used to do that too, but he was much better at it.”
“😉 Bc he’s an a*s if he doesn’t see how this name dropping and comparison is hurting his wife AND he thinks it’s no big deal.”
“So i say give him a taste of his own medicine and start reminding him of all the ways he doesn’t measure up.” ~ SuperSassyPantz
Commenters also showed concern for OP’s sister.
“Well the real message is that Betty is so awesome, he’d still be with her if she hadn’t died.”
“Amy’s only a sad consolation prize he has to endure since the one he’d rather be with is gone.”
“NTA OP, and I hope Amy finds her self-worth and realizes being a warm body place holder is a crappy way to exist through a marriage.”
“She should feel wanted and valued —-not a distant second place. She needs therapy to find out why she’s staying with someone who obviously doesn’t value her like he should.” ~ saurons-cataract
“NTA and I don’t understand why if he had been doing this the whole 4 years they’ve been together why your sister stayed with him and married him.”
“I also wonder why he married her considering it sounds like he wants to be with a woman who is completely different than your sister.”
“If someone treated me this way even for a few weeks I wouldn’t stay with them. This is really damaging to your sister’s mental health and well-being and needs to stop right away.” ~ muffins776
OP also got some compliments in the comments.
“I am not going to state how another person should grieve but this guy is incredibly unhealthy.”
“He needs therapy, and it would be good to have his wife go too so that he can hear in a safe environment how his comparing your sister to his late wife is going to create damage that may never be repaired in their relationship.”
“Good for you for handling the situation privately the first time, but I would continue to be on his case if I were you and you hear something like that again”
“… and the more times you hear it, the more public it should be.”
“Grief is one thing and cannot be compared, but using that to belittle another that you are in a relationship with is not OK. You are an awesome sister, thank you for defending her.” ~ True-Tomatillo-4720
There were also personal stories.
“As a widow this is one things that make people not want to date widows.”
“In my support group there are countless relationships that fail because people compare their dead spouse to their current partner.”
“It is very easy to make the dead spouse out to be a saint.”
“A lot of it comes from feeling guilty that they are with someone else.”
“Just an example I know someone that kept saying that if they had kids with the dead spouse how much better those kids will be to the kids they have now.”
“The dead spouse was child-free,”
“like really hated kids.”
“The second spouse had enough and left.”
“It wasn’t until their family called them out that they were planning to divorce the late spouse that they admitted to feeling guilty but by then it was too late.” ~ catlolafat
The loss of a loved one is painful and deserves to be grieved.
But we can’t forget that we aren’t alone in that loss and that those who still choose to be in our lives don’t deserve to be bag into which we throw our feelings of loss.