How to Have the Kind of Sister-in-Law Relationship Your Friends Are Jealous Of

Eight simple tips for getting along with your SIL.
Couple smiling and laughing with sister-in-law
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images
Erin Celletti
Erin Celletti
Erin Celletti
Erin Celletti
The Knot Contributor
  • Erin is a freelance contributor to The Knot and loves creating lifestyle, travel, beauty, relationships and commerce content.
  • In addition to writing for The Knot, Erin contributes to a wide range of publications including The Everygirl, The Everymom, Scary Mommy, Romper, Bustle and Brides.
  • Erin lives just outside of New York City, has a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and two Master’s degrees in Education and Administ...
Updated Feb 29, 2024

Sister-in-law relationships can run the gamut. To put it quite bluntly, they can be great and offer a truly sisterly bond and connection—or they can suck. Of course, there's plenty of middle ground in that; though sometimes it can feel out of reach. It does take effort, some work and determination to cultivate a healthy sister-in-relationship. And if you're on a mission to improve your sister-in-law relationship, rest assured that help is here.

As a relationship writer, I've seen my fair share of sister-in-law relationship advice and those dealing with a difficult sister-in-law relationship. To smooth any potential pitfalls in your own connection with this family member, I've curated the best of the best.

Below, see tried-and-true advice for how to get along with your sister-in-law and have the best sister-in-law relationship possible.

1. Communication x3

Healthy and consistent communication is essential in any relationship—so it goes without saying that it's important for sister-in-laws to communicate, too. No matter which side you stand on in the sister-in-law relationship, being a clear, open and honest communicator will serve you well and prevent misunderstandings that can lead to conflict.

But remember: communication means that you do the communicating. Using someone else like your spouse or another family member to do the talking almost never works out. There are few and far circumstances that benefit from bringing in a (non-professional) third party into a relationship that involves just the two of you.

A few other things to keep in mind when it comes to communicating with your sister-in-law:

  • Save the heavy or important stuff for face-to-face talking. Things can get lost in texts, and in-person communication makes things more human. Save the texts for the less important stuff.
  • Timing is everything. Don't save heavy conversations for late at night when you're likely tired or your SIL is putting the kids to bed.
  • Think before you speak. For the real important convos, plan what you want to say before you say it.
  • Be timely in your responses. Nobody expects you to be on call 24/7, but do your best to reply to any digital communications in a timely manner (just like you'd want her to do for you).
  • Keep things between the two of you. Talking behind her back—even if it's just venting—won't do any good.

2. Be Honest

Honesty is always the best policy. And if you're in a sticky situation where being honest feels nearly impossible, remember that lying is the worst thing you can do while building trust. You can choose to not answer a question or to omit the truth when needed, but you shouldn't ever flat-out lie. (Just like you wouldn't with a friend or any other family member.)

3. Pick Your Battles

Remember: Not everything needs to be a fight, not every point needs to be proven and not every battle needs to be won. You have a lifelong relationship ahead with your sister-in-law and there are bound to be conflicts or disagreements at times—but not every single one warrants time and attention. Instead, pick and choose your battles. Of course speak up when you feel like you need to; but also recognize that some situations are best to let go. Save your time and energy for the things that truly matter.

4. Keep Perspective

Keeping perspective is so important for most situations and relationships in life, and it's no different when it comes to your sister-in-law. Even if things aren't going so great, remember that neither of you really asked to be put in this specific relationship or situation. But it is both of your jobs to work at it. (And that something wonderful can certainly grow from it.) While you may not be best friends or act like sisters, achieving a mutual respect is ideal.

5. Be as Direct as Possible (Without Including Others)

Sister-in-law relationships tend to get the most complicated when others get involved—especially your partner or other in-laws. Then, family dynamics, loyalties and pressure can come into play. Plus, nine times out of ten, others (and the added emotions they can bring into it) can make things worse. So whenever and however you can, keep communication direct and a two-way street (meaning the two of you!).

We're not saying to keep secrets; just to be mature and handle things respectfully. It's sometimes easier said than done, I know.

6. Forgive ss You'd Like to Be Forgiven

Just like how you probably heard growing up, "Treat others how you'd like to be treated." It's important to graciously give your sister-in-law forgiveness if and when the situation warrants it—that's what you'd want, too. Practicing forgiveness in any relationship isn't always easy, of course. But at the end of the day, if it's a forgivable offense, try to release the grudge and let it go. Essentially, treat her how you'd like to be treated. It can sometimes be as simple as that.

7. Occasionally, Silence Really Is Golden

If you're generally a reactive person, this is an important part of maintaining a healthy SIL relationship. Taking a step back and knowing when and when not to talk is essential.

In a situation where tensions are high and feelings are hurt, it is natural to want to speak your mind. Nut sometimes silence—even if just in the moment—really is golden. It can provide you both the time to think, process and calm down before saying something that you may later regret.

8. It's Okay to Be Wrong (& Admit It)

Realizing you're wrong sucks—it just does! But admitting it is a necessary part of being human and a respectful sister-in-law. Nobody can be right all the time and we all make mistakes; But when you're able to apologize and admit when you're wrong, it shows the other person that you're self-reflective, validate their feelings and want to earn their trust that you'll do the right thing in the future.

Up Next
  • Mother-in-law zipping up bride's dress
    Here's How to Set Boundaries With Your In-Laws