Dear Barb—In-Law Interloper

Dear Barb:

My husband and I have been married for three years.  We are very happy, except for his mother interfering in our lives.  Everything was good when we were dating and engaged, and even the first part of our marriage.  For the last year she is critical of everything I do. 

She “suggests” different cleaning products that I should use and how I can clean my floors so there won’t be any streaks.  When we invite them for dinner, she always has something negative to say about the meal.  If Dan and I are having a discussion my mother-in-law will always take Dan’s side, even if she doesn’t know anything about what we are discussing.  Whenever I bring up the issue to Dan, he says I am overreacting and that she doesn’t mean to cause problems.  He says that is just how she is and everyone in the family ignores it.  I don’t want to ignore this behavior, and I do not think I should have to take her criticisms.  On the other hand, I don’t want to cause problems with my husband.  Do you have any suggestions on how I can deal with this without my husband feeling caught in the middle? Looking forward to your response. 

Thanks Katrina. 

Hi Katrina:

To begin with your husband should not feel caught in the middle.  You need to be united as a couple, his support should be with you.  Also, if there are problems or issues that need to be said to your in-laws, that must come from your husband, not you.  There are clear behaviours that indicate you have an unhealthy relationship with your in-laws.  For example, they try to make you feel bad, which is seems your mother-in-law does, by suggesting ways that you could be a better housekeeper.  Another indication of trouble is when an in-law inserts themselves into a discussion you and your partner are having, which you have obviously experienced as well.  You and your husband need to have an open and honest discussion about how you are feeling.  Then you both must produce a plan.  You may have to set boundaries, and you both have to agree to follow through on these boundaries.  Healthy boundaries are necessary and a foundation in all relationships.  Even if your partner does not agree with your feelings, he has a duty to protect you and take into consideration how you feel.  These changes will not happen overnight, change takes time and commitment.  I would not suggest cutting your in-laws out of your life that is a drastic step and may only lead to more problems.

Good luck Katrina

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