Enriching Relationships for a Lifetime   with Dr. Gary Oliver

Question

My mother-in-law comes to our house unannounced several times a week. After several conversations and many months, I was finally able to convince my husband to ask her to call before she comes to make sure itís a good time for us. But she drops by, and then he invites her to stay for supper! I realize this is his mother, but itís frustrating me. Iíd like some peace and privacy. What should I do?

Answer

It is clear that you want to deal with this lack of boundaries in a way that is helpful while maintaining your relationship with your husband and your mother-in-law. Your husband does seem to be getting the message for your need of privacy and boundaries, but very slowly! Here are a couple of options that you may want to try at this point.

The first option is to re-visit the issue with your husband. Before you talk with him think and pray about your reasons for needing more structure and privacy. What are the benefits for you and what are the potential benefits for your marriage relationship? When you talk with him share these insights and suggest even clearer parameters, such as setting up a structure where Mom comes a couple of times a week for dinner but where you pick the nights.

If your man is not willing to make this structure work with Mom then the next step would be having a woman-to-woman conversation with Mom yourself. Let her know of your love for her and that you enjoy spending time with her. Thank for some of good things she has done. Then let her know that you have been wired in such a way that when you come home you need some structure and private times to re-charge your battery. While you enjoy seeing her the ďdrop inĒ visits arenít helpful. Make sure she knows that youíve suggested specific time that might work for both of you. If itís true then you could also tell her that you would even enjoy the time with her more if there could be more structure around the visits.

At this point if he still invites her for dinner without talking it over with you first you may need to take step 3. If he invites her in front of you then you may need to be assertive and let them both know that it not convenient for you but you would be glad to make dinner on the night she is supposed to come for dinner.

Understand that they may both be very uncomfortable with this option! Feelings may get hurt. Being kind, gentle, and firm quiets many a battle and with time this situation has hope to work itself out.


Carrie Oliver, M.A., is an educator and a marriage and family counselor. Gary J. Oliver, Th.M., Ph.D. is executive director of The Center for Relationship Enrichment and Professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The Olivers have co-authored Raising Sons . . . and Loving It! (Zondervan). Visit Carrie and Gary at www.liferelationships.com.

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