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Posted by: Mindful | 2012/07/29

In-laws and boundaries

Hi CS,

Hope you are well? I''m sorry this is going to be a long post, and I really need to vent!

I''ve been married for 6 months, and have been with my husband for 4 years.

My parents live abroad, his parents live around the corner from us. His mum and dad are both retired, and so needless to say have a lot of time on their hands. They have their own set of keys to our house (which I very much struggle to accept), and since we''ve lived together, they let themselves in during the day and do housework around the house. Both of us have asked them not to do this, but they tend to ignore it.

I am a quiet person / prefer to be on my own than in constant company. Also a bit of a workaholic, and had been working very long hours recently due to a project coming to an end. I was in an accident just over 3 months ago and broke my leg, and was forced to stay at home - not being able to travel and bear weight on my leg while it mended. OMG it was the longest 6 weeks of my life! The inlaws were there every single day, and I know they mean well, and it is so much appreciated, but they constantly made comments of how they can''t do this or that because they have to look after me... NO, not HAVE to, I never asked them to!!!

Having been out of cast and back to work for about a month now, I''ve found them even more intrusive in our house than ever! We would mention something like " Oh, we''re thinking of painting the house" , and next thing, they''ve painted the house for us. We weren''t even given a chance to talk about colours or things like that. We wanted to renovate the back garden with our wedding money - just mentioned what we were planning to do, and we got home and it''s done! (and then they moan that it was such hard work - but we never asked them to do it, we say: WE want to do this, they hear: YOU have to do this as fast as possible)

I mentioned to my husband that it feels as though they''re taking over all our activities that we should be doing as a couple, and he says they just mean well.

I lost my rag on Friday night. She''d phoned me during the day to ask if she could throw away some broken china in the garage - this is china that had been delivered in my boxes from my parents house and had broken. They all arrived while I was in cast, so hadn''t had a chance to look at everything yet. I''d asked her 3 times during this phone call not to throw anything away as I hadn''t looked at it yet. And three times her answer was " but darling it''s broken" ...I don''t like losing my temper at work and told her to just throw it away then - she''d bullied me into throwing my personal belongings away that I haven''t had a chance to even look at yet!!!

I got home on Friday night, really looking foward to an evening in the garden with my husband, and was preparing snacks and drinks for us, when she''d let herself in to the house, and I knew she was going to sit for a visit, and my plans for a romantic evening with my husband fizzled away. I was not able to mask my feelings at that moment, and while I managed not to burst into tears, I couldn''t hide the annoyance on my face, and even when she commented on it, she didn''t get the message that at that moment she was not welcome. She was going on about some garden shed that they were getting for us, and when I told her I had no idea what she was talking about, she said oh Eddie said you wanted it. I asked Eddie about it and he said she had sms''d him a picture of a shed and his response was " that''s nice"  (he showed me the texts) - her interpretation was " you have to buy it for us" 

I had a talk with my husband about all of this yesterday and why I feel angry at them, and he understands. He''s shown me texts where he asks them not to come round to the house while we''re not there, but they ignore it.

The last time we had an argument about this, his parents started phoning me each time they wanted to come to the house to do chores. At that time we were not married, and the house was not registered in my name (incidentally it still isn''t but that is not an issue to me, my issue is I feel I have no say in who comes and goes in the house), and I felt it was not my place to say no, but I got very annoyed with each phonecall - why not phone their son - it makes me look and feel like the bad person! And then the phonecalls became more and more during the day - up to 20 calls, when I told them I was being told off for taking personal phonecalls at work, the cannot call me anymore. I even started screening the calls, up to the day that my FIL had a heart attack, and I''d screened the call because I thought she was phoning again for some silly reason.

He''s gone to have a talk with them about this now, it''s well overdue, but why am I feeling like the pig in the story now? All I want is a bit of boundaries and privacy!

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Vent away !
I understand how irritating this must be for you, though I must admit I haven't too often heard someone complaining that someone does the housework for them !
Its always more difficult, isn't it, when the person who is being a nuisance obviously means very well and is being kind even though heedless. Remember that they may need both to feel useful ( imagine them sitting at their home feeling totally useless and redundant ) and to need to feel a bit hard done by. So when they groan about what hard work something was, don't let it make you feel guilty, just make mildly sympathetic noises and largely ignore it.
But do avoid mentioning any wishes when they're around ( sounds like the curse of having a willing genie round the place, who will grant you everything you wish for, though providing not quite what you wanted. And if there realyl is something you want, be sure to be absolutely specific in spelling out exactly what it is you want !
THough you may well see it as pprimarily yourt husband's task to dissuade them, it'd be best to do so as a couple and face-to-face, rather than by text.
Often a useful tactic is to recognize their drive to be useful, and try to find other things they can do without being a nuidance - maybe getting them involved in some charity work, "on your behalf" if necessary, or doing something you really do want.
I wonder how they'd respond if, while they're doing your back garden, you sneak down the road, let youtself into their place, and wash their dishes or whatever ?
Certainly be more explicit about what a huge favour they could do you both by recognizing your need for alone and romantic time together, maybe agreeing to stay away several nights / days a week that suit you best ? Try for a joint family meeting and negotiation, pleasantly but firmly stating your concerns and needs, recognizing that they mean so well and are trying so hard to be helpful, but making it clear that the way they;'re doing it now, is just not being helpful, and deprives you both of the pleasure of doing some of the chores together and without others being involved.

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Our users say:
Posted by: gal | 2012/08/06

Just try to move far away from them them as possible I knw what u going through mine demand that I give my 3 month baby food or what ever it is even if I don''t want to its anoying u don''t get married 4 ur inlaws to tell u wat to do u get married to have a life of your even though they raised your hubby he''s not they baby anymore.or just pray 4 them that they change glad 2 knw I''m not the only 1 going throug this and 4 those wu think u the bad 1 ignore they don''t know wat its like.GOD bless let me knw how''s things

Reply to gal
Posted by: Jacqui Potgieter | 2012/08/06

Oh boy did I have a medalling mother-in-law she was so dependant on my husband she would try anything to break us up or cause trouble in our marriage.

She even went as far to tell everyone that I punched him in the face and gave him a blue eye.

My husband exploded. Result? We no longer visit her and we have as little to do with her as possilbe. My husband got tired of seeing me stand up to her and he took a stand. We have our life back

Reply to Jacqui Potgieter
Posted by: Kim | 2012/08/06

Oh wow, I can relate fully to your situation Mindful. Is your partner an only child by any chance?
My boyfriend is, and although we aren''t living together yet, we are planning to be in the next 3 months, and what worries me is that I dont think his mother knows how to let go of him.
She still does his washing, dictates to the domestic worker what should be done in the house, etc, etc. He is 30 yrs old!
She also comes over and does the gardening when we aren''t there, we come back and find whole flower beds have been removed! She goes shopping and we come home to find new detergents and groceries in the fridge/cupboards..My BF earns really well so its not a case of charity or that he needs it.
I know how you feel 100%, its your home, and you want to be buying the groceries YOU prefer, and doing your flowerbeds/garden the way YOU choose to!
Its a tough situation as they do mean well, and its very sweet of them in one way, but very imposing and an invasion of your privacy in another.
My boyfriends parents have already suggested that he sells his dbl story house and buys another single story one, in THEIR neighbourhood, for when I am pregnant, so that they can babysit etc. Starting to wonder and worry about what i''m letting myself in for!
I don''t think the answer would be to leave your husband, as someone suggested above.. its a very sensitive issue, and needs to be handled in a sensitive way so that no feelings are hurt and there is as little resentment as possible. Easier said than done, I know. If i were you, I would leave it to my partner to be the ''bad guy'' and tell them it straight. They will always love him as he is their precious son, but the same might not apply to you as their D-I-L! (Or to me as the future D-I-L!).
I would rather he sits them down and talks to them in a way that he knows best, to get them to see it from yours and your partners POV.

Reply to Kim
Posted by: Emm | 2012/08/06

My marriage almost ended through intruding in-laws and I still hate it when mother-in-law accesses my home without my permission, and that she doesnt respect my opinion. it is my home. i am the home-maker there. she''s had her chance.
Good luck with your situation. dont let the stress eat at your relationship.

Reply to Emm
Posted by: Stones | 2012/08/06

I think this woman is moaning more than too much. I know most women are like this especially if the visitor is not from her family.

How can you tell your parents to stop coming to your house? After all they are the ones who brought-up this man of yours, now you demand domination.

If I was your husband I was gonna tell you to follow your parents overseas. You are putting unnecessary pressure to your husband.

Reply to Stones
Posted by: Emm | 2012/08/06

I can relate! and I feel for you. Don''t leave the issue unattended for too long. It''s harder to break the habit then. Even if it''s intended well, your privacy should not be compromised. your needs for your home to be respected are not second to their habit of intrusion and interference!

Reply to Emm
Posted by: warren | 2012/08/06

Just tell them if they want any kind of a glimmer of hope to get gran-kids, they had better stop invading your time/alone time with your hubby!!! Good luck!!!

Reply to warren
Posted by: Ryan | 2012/08/06

Goodluck,

Anyone that comments anything other than this are obviously similar type of people who will one day (or already) meddle unnecessarily in their kids lives.

You and your husband have a bond that no one can replace, parents have a completely different role your lives, and there should be space for both relationships, in a balanced manner.

This balance will always shift to and fro due to the stresses of life and you and your husband have to set firm boundaries else you will end up focusing more energy on the 3rd party issue, rather than on each other and your marriage.

I just broke up with my girlfriend over exactly the same thing, and can explain firsthand, that unless your husband if firm with his parents, nothing will ever change.

If all else fails, walk away... no one deserves such an invasion of their privacy, and for some reason we are always apprehensive to taking back our own privacy.

Reply to Ryan
Posted by: Nicolette | 2012/08/06

I would get busy with my husband on the couch and let them walk in on it - that should help with them dropping in unannounced in the future :-)

Reply to Nicolette
Posted by: Reader | 2012/08/06

I had a good laugh as you merrily play the victim here. What is so wrong with growing up and taking charge of your life? Would it kill you and your husband to respectfully request the keys and set the boundaries - again, in a polite and respectful manner. Explain to them that you both would prefer it if you could do things for yourselves and in your own time?

You have some serious growing up to do as you say they bully you...but who is allowing the bullying? It is said that a lot changes after the wedding...well you should have said something before the wedding, but I guess you were just saying yes to keep everyone except yourself happy....

Honestly, only you can fix this, change your attitude

Reply to Reader
Posted by: N | 2012/08/06

Nip this is the bud NOW, you will need to make them see you love that they are trying to help, but you also are starting a new life together and all you are asking is they respect you and your husbands request and let you do your own things so you can have the time together and do things yourself... It is har - my in laws are still causing me issues 13 years later. So catch this now - and dont give up, they dont go away. As much as they mean good they are not causing it and it will get worse. Good luck and hold your ground !

Reply to N
Posted by: Jaymay | 2012/08/06

Yep - had those inlaws from hell before. The husband needs to MAN UP.

Reply to Jaymay
Posted by: VR | 2012/08/06

Similar thing happened to my wife and I. I understand your frustrations and so on, and actually it was my mother who didn''t know the boundaries.

I think you need to be careful about how you approach it. What is going to happen is that they think you are putting ideas into your husband''s head. That you are the ''bad''/''mean'' one and so on, that he is the innocent party.

it is actually up to him (they are his parents after all), to tell them what he thinks. I''m sure it annoys you even more when he just shrugs off your feelings as if they are unimportant or you are making a big deal.

It might seem like a small thing to someone else, but it is about respecting privacy and one''s wishes. They must understand that it is now you and him, he isn''t their little son anymore, and even if they do mean well, you want to be able to do/choose things yourselves, as a couple.

It was my fault, and it is your husband''s as well and until he takes your seriously, and understand that it is a problem, then this will continue under the guise that ''they are just trying to help''.

The worst is that you know that they are genuinely trying to be nice etc, but don''t forget that good intentions does not mean good results.

You have to make a stand somewhere, and sometimes it is better that you stay sane and perhaps seem ungrateful or rude, than to keep it inside then one day explode on your husband.

(been there, done that, got the tshirt! )


It isn''t an ideal situation, but I think your husband really has to understand your feelings, and that at the end of the day it is you and him against the world, as such ..

Reply to VR
Posted by: Ranter | 2012/08/06

The best thing you can do is sit the whole lot down, the in-laws and your husband and then you and your husband set the boundries. Not in a mean way, in a " lets find the middle ground here." 

Reply to Ranter
Posted by: Baby | 2012/08/06

I have two kids (3 &  4) who do half day at a preschool 10ks from home and 1 of them is doing OT once a week. I would love to have that extra resource around. Why are resources always not evenly distributed? Please send your inlaws this side, I really need help, I am drowning just raising those 2 without having to work, go to gym, cook supper....huh...and moreover I will not have to pay them for it, some people are so blessed. I live in Centurion if you would like to consider and can even give you my contacts.

Reply to Baby
Posted by: Anon | 2012/08/06

I feel for you - my late mom in law had no boundaries either but luckily she lived in another city. Every time she tried to cause trouble my husband sided with me but it still took years for her to get the message and back off. If I were you, I''d change the locks so that they can''t wander in and out whenever they feel like it - it''s simply rude to do that. Good luck!

Reply to Anon
Posted by: MK | 2012/08/06

You will have to put your foot down. Be honest and straight but be respectfull still. This will continue for as long as you allow it to or for as long as they think they are allowed to. You will have to get the message across very clear.

If they dont want to listen, change the locks. If words wont work, maybe an action is needed.

Good luck.

Reply to MK
Posted by: Zoe | 2012/08/06

I can totaly understand your annoyence.

I suggest you leave a sex toy and or something else on your couch or somewhere they are sure to see it.

I can almost guarantee they will never come with out an invitation again...

Reply to Zoe
Posted by: YesYes | 2012/08/06

Get out now, it wont change and your life will be wasted. Your husband has no back bone. I tell my parents straight to leave me and my wife alone for us to build our own lives. Hit the road lady.. you are doomed

Reply to YesYes
Posted by: Olliemor | 2012/08/06

Mr Anon, you clearly have no idea what this woman is enduring. Mindful, I''m in your husband''s shoes. My advice? Make an appointment with your in-laws, and give your hubby the choice of whether he wants to be present or not. Have a sit down with them, and without losing your temper (take a chill pill prior) or letting your emotions take over, tell them exactly how you feel. What they are doing, is invading your privacy, and you and hubby need time to get to know each other on a new level. They HAVE to allow you time to do this. Then make a point of inviting them over ON YOUR TERMS! Perhaps a special Sunday lunch, or whenever it SUITS YOU! Do NOT let them steam roller you. Tell them that you (as the home maker) have your own ideas on what you would like to do on YOUR home, and that they must please respect that and back off. You are planning to be married to your husband for the rest of your life, and that gives you a lifetime to make the home your own.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes, please

Reply to Olliemor
Posted by: James | 2012/08/06

Cybershrink, if I had posted this and this was your reply, I would not consider it helpful. Mindful seems to want help with how to stop the inlaws from being interfering and you are advising her how to cope with their interfering.

Mindful, you and your husband are a team now. Your inlaws need to experience your being a team. What I can derive from your comments your hubby doesn''t feel as strongly about the circumstances as you do. You will need to change that by maybe making a formal appointment with him and laying it out to him in very much the same language as you did in this letter. You''ll really have to make your point without blaming, but simply about how unhappy their interference are making you even though they mean well and that you really need your privacy with him. The catch here is that he is going to feel that he needs to make a choice - you or them. Address that, because in essence it''s true, but there is a midway - you don''t want them out of your life, you just want your (as a newly wed couple''s) privacy.
The result of the meeting with your hubby should be that the two of you decide to have a similar meeting with your inlaws in which very much the same contents of discussion should be on the table. You and your hubby should decide before hand how you want to conduct this meeting and what should be discussed. Both of you however need to get a firm message across that there are going to be changes.
A very symbolic and strong way of reiterating your intentions would be to plan on how to either get your keys back or change the locks and deny them new keys.
Your main goal is to have a normal married relationship with your hubby. If that means your inlaws feel dejected because of your and your hubby''s decision, then so be it. Don''t feel guilty about it. They are responsible for their own lives...and you as a couple for yours.
This does not mean that you and your hubby abandon them - even though they might feel and say so. It means you are taking responsibility for your lives and your relationship as married couple. on''t let anything make you feel guilty about that! You and your hubby will be required to be strong in showing the rules of the relationship with your inlaws. Be loving, understanding and supportive to them in future, but on your terms. Go and visit and have them visit on your terms. If they want to come over and it doesn''t suit you, then you as a couple don''t have them over. If they pitch up unanounced and it doesn''t suit you, you will need to say so as a team and explain that another time might be better but visiting now doesn''t suit you. (We know how hard this can be, but initially you will have to stick to your guns until they have learned that they do not have free access, but need to respect your lives as a couple. On another occasion, you might invite them over to visit, or ask to visit them.

Good luck.

Reply to James
Posted by: david | 2012/08/06

Tell them you need time to make grandchildren, if they dont leave you alone they wont get any!

Reply to david
Posted by: Mike | 2012/08/06

WOW - Im a male - but I could have writen that same story, these people dont realise what they are doing to your relationship.
I left home when I was 17 - so Im not a great fan of other people around at the best of times, I realy enjoy my own company and that of my wife - but not the whole family.

They need to move on.

Reply to Mike
Posted by: Mr Anon | 2012/08/06

Just gonna give you my honest opinion here ,while I hear your desperation in this situation for your boundary lines to be respected, remember they are parents and want the best for y''all ,that includes taking some of the burden off y''all.
I would give anything to have my parents around , cant say the same for my mom in law who in diagnosed schizophrenic and my brother in law who is a drug addict both living with us.
I allow it caus they dont have anywhere to go. You got it easy,
So parents who want to help , allow them, its their way of showing love.

Reply to Mr Anon
Posted by: Margarite | 2012/08/06

You have my sympathy and empathy, mine lives in my house and treats me like dirt for 10 years, now. All I get told by my husband ''relax''.....well not the answer....
You have a tough time ahead of you...get them a different hobby....good luck.

Reply to Margarite
Posted by: S | 2012/07/30

Change the locks!

Reply to S
Posted by: cybershrink | 2012/07/29

Vent away !
I understand how irritating this must be for you, though I must admit I haven't too often heard someone complaining that someone does the housework for them !
Its always more difficult, isn't it, when the person who is being a nuisance obviously means very well and is being kind even though heedless. Remember that they may need both to feel useful ( imagine them sitting at their home feeling totally useless and redundant ) and to need to feel a bit hard done by. So when they groan about what hard work something was, don't let it make you feel guilty, just make mildly sympathetic noises and largely ignore it.
But do avoid mentioning any wishes when they're around ( sounds like the curse of having a willing genie round the place, who will grant you everything you wish for, though providing not quite what you wanted. And if there realyl is something you want, be sure to be absolutely specific in spelling out exactly what it is you want !
THough you may well see it as pprimarily yourt husband's task to dissuade them, it'd be best to do so as a couple and face-to-face, rather than by text.
Often a useful tactic is to recognize their drive to be useful, and try to find other things they can do without being a nuidance - maybe getting them involved in some charity work, "on your behalf" if necessary, or doing something you really do want.
I wonder how they'd respond if, while they're doing your back garden, you sneak down the road, let youtself into their place, and wash their dishes or whatever ?
Certainly be more explicit about what a huge favour they could do you both by recognizing your need for alone and romantic time together, maybe agreeing to stay away several nights / days a week that suit you best ? Try for a joint family meeting and negotiation, pleasantly but firmly stating your concerns and needs, recognizing that they mean so well and are trying so hard to be helpful, but making it clear that the way they;'re doing it now, is just not being helpful, and deprives you both of the pleasure of doing some of the chores together and without others being involved.

Reply to cybershrink

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