Dear Miriam,

I am in my 50s and married 30 years and all of my husband’s sisters are between a size 4 and a size 8, which leaves me looking like a whale, because I am a size 12. My husband thinks they all look great and is always giving hints about my size. If I wear a dress, he always asks, “Are you wearing that?” and if I say I am, he says I look a few stone heavier than in jeans.

I feel that he dictates what I wear and expects me to wear heels all the time because he doesn’t like runners or flat shoes on me. He also comments on how much make up I wear. For a peaceful life, I just do what he says, even though I could be uncomfortable. All through my married life, my sisters-in-law have told me I should stop wearing jeans and wear dresses, so I find it hard to do right.

I have adult children and have often thought I would be better off if I left home. Should I just continue and live the rest of my life like this, or be strong and wear what I want?

Regular Reader

Dear Reader,

Thank you for getting in touch. On reading your letter the words of Shakespeare come to mind: “To Thine Own Self Be True”.

Please know that your husband and sisters-in-law have no right to dictate how to live your precious life. It is interesting to note, they all appear to sing from the same hymn sheet in this regard. Perhaps as children they experienced a lot of control and criticism when it came to their own dress sense and eating habits. Their way of dealing with it now seems to be projecting their issues on to you by trying to control what you wear and what you eat.

It is never about condoning their behaviors, but equally not judging them. If you can try and look at this with compassion, it will help reduce any anger or resentment you might feel, and also empower you knowing they have their own problems to deal with.

The time has come for you to take back your power from them and start living your life authentically. Do what feels right for you. Wear what feels right for you. Enjoy the size 12 dresses and jeans, and the flat shoes or lower heels. It is ok to be true to yourself. Look inwards with loving kindness and ask yourself: what has been going on for you that this unpleasant situation has unfolded?

I believe that a low sense of self-esteem and feeling unworthy play a huge part of it. Somewhere along the way, you internalized the belief that you are not good enough and it grew stronger as you got older.

We can never change other people but we can change how we are around them. Invest in a wardrobe that meets your needs, not your husband’s or his sisters’. If they do not like what you wear, remember: that is ok. They do not have have to. Pleasing others for the sake of peace will never work.

With regard to your question about leaving home, I feel that this is not the time to make such a major decision. I suggest that your first step going forward is to speak to a professional with a view to building up your self-esteem and confidence and learning to love yourself unconditionally. When you feel stronger and surer of yourself, then you can start looking at your future and where you would like it to take you.

Remember you are “good enough” exactly as you are. It would seem that your husband places a lot of conditions on you with regard to how you live your life. That is not love. It is control and probably coming from a place of fear. You do not have to live like this. You have the power to change your life and remember, too, that what other people may think about us is actually none of our business. It is about them and whatever is going on in their troubled minds. I wish you the very best as you go forward with your life.

Read more

'My family bought me a hoover for my birthday'

Readers write: Granny flats, gender reveals and vacuum cleaners