W hen I got married, at the age of 18, the words “enmeshment” and “narcissism” didn’t exist in my vocabulary.I come from a family of four siblings, some of whom are very different from one another but all of whom care deeply for each other and would go out of their way to help any of the others.

I naively assumed that the same loving family dynamic that existed between my siblings and me existed between my husband, Nochum, and his siblings as well, and that I, as the new sister-in-law, would step gracefully into that dynamic.

It never occurred to me that I’d have any problem integrating into my husband’s family. Nochum had four sisters close to me in age — Yocheved and Chava, who were married, and Ruti and Hindy, who were single. I’m naturally a people person; I love meeting new people, and I was delighted to get to know my new sisters-in-law.

I quickly discovered that the feelings weren’t mutual.

I’ll never forget the first time I spent Shabbos at my in-laws’ house, when I was married just a couple of weeks. After candlelighting, I turned toward the couch, where three of my sisters-in-law were sitting and schmoozing, and greeted them with a cheerful “Good Shabbos.”

Their lively conversation ground to an abrupt halt as they eyed me up and down, examining me head to toe, without bothering to return my greeting. I suddenly felt keenly self-conscious, as though I’d been hit by a bucket of ice water.

Not one to easily lose my composure, I followed up with, “What can I do to help?”

“Nothing,” the youngest sister, Hindy, murmured.

None of them moved over to make place for me on the couch, so I pulled up a chair and placed it at the edge of the couch, near where Ruti was sitting. She promptly shifted in the direction of the other sisters-in-law, turning her back to me.

At that point, my mother-in-law, who had been resting — she suffered from a chronic degenerative ailment and was not a well woman — emerged from her room and came to my rescue, engaging me in conversation and welcoming me into the kitchen to help her. Shortly afterward, Nochum returned from shul with the other men, effectively putting an end to the sisterly conversation I had been excluded from.

The first time this happened, I was utterly bewildered, and didn’t know what to think. Perhaps I had intruded on a sensitive or personal conversation? But this scene repeated itself each time I visited my in-laws’ house when Nochum’s sisters were there. The sisters made no attempt to draw me into any conversation, and if I tried to speak up and join the conversation, my words went unacknowledged, as though I hadn’t spoken.

After several experiences like this, I told Nochum that his sisters seemed to have something against me. “Did I do something wrong to them?” I wondered.

“I think they’re a little jealous of you,” he replied. “You’re so poised and confident, and you have such a sunny personality, maybe they feel a little intimidated.”

Intimidated by me? The 18-year-old kallah? (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 681)