Mountains Out Of Molehills
My husband and I have been married 20 years. We live in the same town as his mother, though she lives on one side and we live on the other.
Over the years I have overlooked her poor housekeeping, her awful table manners, her poor grammar and repeated stories. I tried to accept her bringing the kids candy and trinkets they don’t use, need or like. I’ve told my husband to tell her not to waste her money on this stuff because it will go to waste.
The response I get is, “Let her do it. It’s more than what your parents do for our kids.” My parents don’t do it because I told them not to.
There are two things I cannot overlook. First, we gave her a key years ago for when we would be away or for an emergency, and my mother-in-law comes into our house when we are not there. Second, when she comes to our house unannounced, she does not bother to knock. She walks right in.
She also brings us newspapers we can read online, or old magazines I get myself or don’t have time to read. None of these things are asked for or wanted. They can wait until she sees us again. There is no need to make a special trip all the way across town.
My husband does not see this as a big deal. I told him she is being rude by not knocking and she has no reason to come in when we are not there. I forewarned him, if he does not say something, she may find me in a bad mood one of these days.
Am I being unreasonable? I feel my husband is not respecting my feelings.
Corrine, after 20 years it’s hard to change the dynamic of any relationship. You know and we know the trinkets, magazines and newspapers are no more than excuses to see your family or have something to do.
Put this problem in perspective.
We get horrendous mother-in-law letters. Mothers-in-law trying to supplant their daughter-in-law as mother to the kids, mothers-in-law taking over the wedding day, and mothers-in-law incessantly throwing tantrums.
Your letter doesn’t fit that category. It is more about annoyance. It may even reflect displaced anger from frustrations at work or some other source. That said, let’s examine your options.
There are two simple solutions. First, change locks. When she comes over and her key doesn’t work, tell her it was only for emergencies and you don’t need her for that anymore. Or you could put a flip lock on your front door, like hotels use. That way she can’t enter unannounced.
But the wisest solution is to reframe the problem. Reframing depends on one thing: that you love your husband. Could you deal with his mother in a way that would make him love you even more?
What she gives the kids is not for the kids. It’s for herself. Maybe it’s all she can bring, all she can afford or the way she thinks. But your husband values it.
When she brings you a magazine you don’t have time to read, ask her to read it to you while you do the dishes. When she retells a story, let her smile and be proud of herself, while you make a mental grocery list.
Or try treating her like something you cannot avoid dealing with at work.
His mother is in your life, and she’s not doing anything truly damaging. Can you treat her as you would wish to be treated, if you were her social inferior?
If it weren’t for this woman, you would not have your husband. If it weren’t for your husband, you wouldn’t have those wonderful kids. Your husband didn’t choose his mom. How might he react to you if you could let go of these things?
~ Wayne & Tamara
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