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Question
Posted by: Frustrated Girl | 2010/05/19

Boyfriend''s parents " helpfulness" 

My boyfriend and I live together. His parents live around the corner from us. Both retired. They are the most helpful and giving people I know –  the kind that will take the food from their own table so that others won’ t go hungry. But lately, I have been getting annoyed at their continuous helpfulness in our house. As it isn’ t my house (although I live there, and pay rent), I feel I can only say so much. They seem to find reasons to come to the house every single day –  to pick something up, or to drop it. And when they are there, they do odd jobs, like mow the lawn. Even doing our laundry –  which I tend to do when I get home in the evenings, I now find it done by them when I get home. A few months ago, I was having trouble with my car battery, when his father decided to ‘ help’  out. I NEVER asked him to look at the car. I’ ve only ever asked for his assistance once, and that was to take the car in for a service when I was away. After him “ helping”  with my car battery, I got a phone call at work, saying the car’ s alarm was going off, and he didn’ t know how to stop it. Now I can’ t do anything from work, and told him to take the battery out of the car, I would look at it when I got home. (In other words, I would deal with it and take it to a mechanic as was my plan from the start). He insisted on getting the car’ s manual, which is filed away in my personal files, and I didn’ t want him scratching around in it. But he insisted (all the while the car’ s alarm going off), and then, while he was looking for my personal files, forgot that I was still on the line, and I ended up hearing him and the wife fighting about the car, and how they’ re never going to help me again. So naturally I was incredibly angry, considering all their ‘ helping’  with the car, and the household chores were never asked for. His mother, who suffers from arthritis also makes a huge show of how hard she worked in our house and how sore her joints are from doing the work –  in front of my boyfriend. (Again, I stress, none of this ‘ help’  was asked for). So at the moment, I’ ve had it. I can clean my own house, and do my own chores, thank you very much. I’ ve become very distant towards them, and I hate feeling this way, but I feel as though my personal space has totally been invaded. I’ ve asked my boyfriend to tell them not to do all these things, and he says he has, but they come round anyway. They seem to be aware that I am frustrated / annoyed, because nowadays, I get sms’ s asking me (from the mother) if they can quickly go to the house to “ do this”  or “ get that” …  This morning was a “ do I want my laundry done”  text, and after saying no, I’ d done it last night, she said she’ d go round and hang it up outside for me. I didn’ t respond, and another sms came through saying “ if I want her to” …  Last week, after a permission to pick something up sms, I was accused of leaving the gas stove on –  which I find incredibly strange, because I leave the house 1.5 hours before my boyfriend does, and even asked him to go check something in the kitchen, and he didn’ t notice anything!! So yes, I’ m angry, I’ m irritated, and I’ m frustrated! Our relationship is being affected too, and I don’ t know what more I can do. Is there any advice out there what I can do to save my relationship, without alienating his relationship with his parents?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

It's especially frustrating, isn't it, when you have good reason to be angry with someone, but they are indeed "helping" you, thus making it difficult to feel entirely justified when you get angry about it. And they are indeed being invasive.
Try to see their point of view ( and it's a point of view I suspect they don't recognize themselves ) - they are RETIRED. They are capable and energetic folks, who have very little to do with their time and energy - and so affectionately, they choose to use all of this to help you in many ways, whether or not you need to be helped or want to be helped. They don't recognize that it is themselves they are helping, most of all.
What might be useful would be to tackle this view of events. Discuss it with your boyfriend, in the light of how you could both best help THEM. COuld there be ways to get them involved in local charities and other Good Works which genuinely do really need volunteers and helpers, where they could do enormous good. And as a bridge, while that picks up, to wean them from doing what you don't want - are there chores and tasks around your home which you could actually ask them to do, which would help them to feel useful. When you two have a plan, then as a couple discuss mit with his parents, along the lines of feeling so overwhelmed by their energies and usefulness when you don't really need much help, and feeling guilty at using up their efforts when there are so many needy groups and people in your area who need their help much more. Ask whether you could keep their helpfulness more in store for emergencies and times of need, and suggest you have together explored ways in which they could have such a valuable impact on the community at large.

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6
Our users say:
Posted by: Anon | 2010/05/19

If my in-laws lived nearby it would be the same! and I would go MAD MAD MAD! Sorry, but I think they''re interfering in you life and unfairly so. It will only cause more and more problems if you don''t lay down ''rules'' about how much and how ofter they can get involved. You have your own life to live. Seems as though its always the boyfriend/husbands mom that cause these problems. I myself am the mom of 2 boys, and expecting the third one. It horrifies me to think I might also turn out that way - a meddling MIL!!

Reply to Anon
Posted by: Frustrated Girl | 2010/05/19

I know they mean well, and I do appreciate the things they do. I can''t explain why I''m feeling so annoyed... I think it''s something like they''re making me feel bad about them doing it, when I never asked them to do it in the first place?

Reply to Frustrated Girl
Posted by: Maria | 2010/05/19

ps. My mom and my mil also insist on doing things like washing dishes and folding laundry when they come to our house. Luckily we mostly visit them and not the other way around. They also don''t have keys.

Reply to Maria
Posted by: Maria | 2010/05/19

It sounds as if you guys have become his parents'' pet project. I would also feel it is an invasion of privacy if I was in your position. Your bf has to sort it out, seeing as it is his parents. He can tell them that you guys really appreciate everything they''ve done for you but you would prefer doing your own chores, seeing as how you are adults and capable of looking after yourselves. They won''t be happy initially, but hopefully they will find something else to fill their time. Take care.

Reply to Maria
Posted by: Happiness | 2010/05/19

Ag shame they just want a purpose in life being on pension and all, and their son just happened to be around the corner for them to help.
I think you''re blessed because all they want to do is help, it could have been worse! They could have expected you guys to literally take care of them in every sense of the word. Just breath and enjoy the ride.

Reply to Happiness
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010/05/19

It's especially frustrating, isn't it, when you have good reason to be angry with someone, but they are indeed "helping" you, thus making it difficult to feel entirely justified when you get angry about it. And they are indeed being invasive.
Try to see their point of view ( and it's a point of view I suspect they don't recognize themselves ) - they are RETIRED. They are capable and energetic folks, who have very little to do with their time and energy - and so affectionately, they choose to use all of this to help you in many ways, whether or not you need to be helped or want to be helped. They don't recognize that it is themselves they are helping, most of all.
What might be useful would be to tackle this view of events. Discuss it with your boyfriend, in the light of how you could both best help THEM. COuld there be ways to get them involved in local charities and other Good Works which genuinely do really need volunteers and helpers, where they could do enormous good. And as a bridge, while that picks up, to wean them from doing what you don't want - are there chores and tasks around your home which you could actually ask them to do, which would help them to feel useful. When you two have a plan, then as a couple discuss mit with his parents, along the lines of feeling so overwhelmed by their energies and usefulness when you don't really need much help, and feeling guilty at using up their efforts when there are so many needy groups and people in your area who need their help much more. Ask whether you could keep their helpfulness more in store for emergencies and times of need, and suggest you have together explored ways in which they could have such a valuable impact on the community at large.

Reply to cybershrink

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