Drop-in In-Law Upsets Her
Q: After I moved from the Midwest, where my family lives, to a big city, I met my husband. He's from this area, and his family is nearby. We got married and bought a house in the suburb where he grew up. The problem is my mother-in-law. She drops in all the time unannounced. She knows our schedules and happens to drop by because she was "in the neighborhood," which seems to be always. The real problem for me is that my husband doesn't think anything is wrong with this. He feels that's why we live here, to have family close by with an open-door policy. If he were on my side and spoke to his mother, it would be okay. I went so far as to suggest that we move. — Emily, 32
Dr. Susan: Everyone has different ideas about personal boundaries. Obviously your husband's and his mother's versions are unlike yours. But your mate needs to take your wishes into account and find a way to make everyone (especially you) happy. The easiest thing for your mother-in-law to adjust to would be if he asked her to simply phone ahead of time. Either of you could say, most of the time, "Sure, you can drop in now." Just so long as you have the right to say that now simply isn't the best time, you're exhausted, busy, in the middle of something, or whatever.
Also, tell your husband you reserve the right to be in the bedroom with the door closed while his mom is there. Let him figure out a nice way to explain your unavailability ("She's napping." Or "She's working on something."). Don't move for this reason.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.