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Dear Stavroula

Dear Stavroula: My Mother-in-Law Is Invading My Personal Space

Dear Stavroula,

 

I am 35 years old with a 2-year-old child. For the last two years, shortly before I gave birth, we moved and now live next door to my mother-in-law, even though I had serious objections from the beginning. But the prospect of having a family member help me to continue working and raise my child was a stronger incentive than my desire to live away from her and hire a nanny or babysitter. And the truth is, she helps a lot with our little one. But the cost, at least for me, is high. She has a key and comes in and out of our house whenever she wants, not caring if she’s bothering us or not. Many times, she comes with the excuse of bringing food – without asking us if we want it – or that she suddenly felt like playing with the little one to give us a break. A few times when I went to talk to her and explain to her that I want to have my private space at home, she misunderstood me, made a big scene in front of my husband, threatened that she will stop watching the child if we don’t appreciate what she does for us, and stuff like that.

But apart from her attitude, I am also troubled by my husband’s attitude, the fact that he justifies her behavior because he feels sorry for her. Unfortunately, his father died when he was very young and his mother raised him alone, of course, constantly stressing to him that she has sacrificed her life for his sake.

I don’t know how to handle the situation, I don’t want to argue with my husband, but I can’t stand my mother-in-law’s transgressive behavior anymore. What do you advise?

 

Chrysa

 

Dear Chrysa,

The mother-in-law-daughter-in-law relationship is inherently difficult and is an issue found in all cultures and times.

When the adult child marries, a new person enters a pre-existing system of people, and it is natural for conflict and turmoil to arise, especially at first, until all members of the system find their balance again.

Something similar may be happening in your case. Your own entry into the mother-son system that was your husband’s family has changed the situation a great deal, and it seems that your mother-in-law has difficulty accepting your relationship with her son without the existence of certain conditions that create a sense of security for her. One of them is the ability to feel her son’s house is her own. Since your mother-in-law has subconsciously replaced the lack of a husband through her relationship with her son, things become even more complicated.

On the other hand, it is particularly difficult for your husband to find new balances in his relationship with his mother, because in this type of relationship the boy learns from an early age that his role is to protect, help, and support the single mother.

It would be very helpful to seek the advice of a mental health professional on how you can most effectively manage this difficult situation so that the problem is resolved in the least painful way for all of you.

What will definitely help is to calmly talk to your husband and explain to him, without blaming his mother or him, how you feel and ask him to find a solution together that will make him happy as well.

As for your mother-in-law, it would help if you could look at her with more understanding. Despite the flaws and problems she creates, she is the person who raised the man in your life, and made him the man you fell in love with and married.

Sometimes with acceptance, understanding and love, problems are solved more easily than with conflict and rejection, but this does not mean that one should not respect one’s personal space, and allow others to encroach on their boundaries.

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