Brother-in-Law is Too "Affectionate"
Q: My husband and I have been very happily married for two years. We both come from large families and the holidays are both hectic and exciting. The problem is that when we're with his family, one of his brothers has been making me uncomfortable. He finds every opportunity to give me a full awkward body hug which I find difficult to release from. I keep my distance from him but somehow he finds his way back to me. I've told my husband that it creeps me out when his brother tries to touch me, but he thinks I'm overreacting, that his brother is only being affectionate. I don't know how to handle this. I've pushed him away and told him in a kidding-around way not to be so chummy but it hasn't stopped him. I've casually mentioned this to a few of my husband's cousins but no one notices it. — Lauren, 29
Dr. Susan: Stop talking it around to his family and handle it yourself. You might ask your husband to stand near you at the next gathering until the greetings are over. It would be interesting to find out if your brother-in-law acts less "affectionate" when your husband is right there. Your husband should be more understanding about your level of discomfort. Lacking his help, perhaps you could deal with the issue humorously. Write a little sign on a card saying STOP. Tape it to a popsicle stick and keep it handy until he starts an inappropriate hug, then pull it out and hold it up in his face. Or if you feel he's being inappropriate and you can't pull back, step on his foot while saying, "That's enough."
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.