Monday, October 17, 2011

Meddling Mother-In-Law Causing Marital Stress

Dear Tazi-Kat:

My mother-in-law is driving me up a tree. Before I married her son, she was always trying to insert herself between us by undermining our alone time. She would always suggest we do things "as a family, since we soon will be one". At first, I thought this was sweet and went along with it because I wanted her to like me and welcome me to the family. Now, after two years of marriage, I am ready to move across the country just to get away from her.

My problem stems from her inability to respect her son as an adult and me as his wife. She insists on planning every aspect of our lives together, from when and where we vacation; right down to when we should have children. She is constantly stopping by with things for our apartment, food for our refrigerator, or toys for "her grand-cat". Tazi, we have plenty of food in our pantry; the cat is content to play with the plastic seal from the milk gallon; and our apartment is crowded enough without the gifts she bestows upon us.

My husband and I recently decided to start saving for a house, and my mother-in-law immediately suggested to all who would listen that "the kids" (that's us) move in with her to save on the cost of rent. My husband thinks this is a great idea, and can't understand why I wouldn't want to move in with "Mom". I admit that the idea of saving for a house twice as fast is appealing, but I am afraid that once we are moved in with her, my mother-in-law will never allow us to move out of her place and into our own home - and on with our own lives.

Do you have any sound advice for me, Tazi-Kat? And please don't take my mother-in-law's side, just because she brings my Snowball toys every time she (way too frequently) visits!

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Dear Between:

As tempted as I am to praise your mother-in-law's generosity, I can understand how your poor Snowball might feel smothered by all of the love being expressed. There is such a thing as too many toys! We cats generally have a favored few items with which we play, none of which are more loved than the items we purloin from our humans. My Mommie's emery boards are my personal favorite.

I can also understand how you would feel smothered by your mother-in-law's generosity. There comes a time when people stop being children, and they would prefer to be treated as the adults that they are. There also comes a time when a man must stop being his mother's son and start being his wife's husband. I notice that twice in your letter you refer to your husband as "her son". Do you still see your husband as his mother's little boy? Because it would appear that she does see him this way and, by extension, you are her baby girl. If you wish to extricate yourself from her smothering, you need to draw the line and stand firmly behind it.

At this time, I would not advise that you move in with your mother-in-law, lest you want to ride the time warp back to childhood. Your mother-in-law's home is just that - her home, meaning you will have to live by her rules. While these rules may not extend to the decisions regarding family-planning, your mother-in-law will probably do all that is in her power to keep you under her wing (or under her thumb) for as long as possible.

You need to have a serious talk with your husband about his mother's behavior. If he sees nothing wrong with it, I would suggest you seek marital counseling for the deeper issues at hand. If, however, he agrees with you that his mother's behavior is overbearing it will be he who needs to have a firm talk with her about respecting your boundaries. In time, should the situation improve, you can re-visit the idea of moving in with "Mom" to save money on rent.

In the meantime, if you cannot find cheaper rent other than at Chez Mom, try to cut back on expenses that you can control: Internet, cable, cell phone bills, entertainment budget, transportation costs, and even your grocery bill. The Internet is full of articles on how to cut expenses, but I personally recommend anything by financial guru Suze Orman. Financial sacrifices can be difficult, so just remember to keep your eye on the prize - a house to call your own!

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