Dealing With an Intrusive Mother-In-Law From the constant phone calls to the intrusive questions, use these tips to help lay down the ground rules. BY JENNA D. BARRY
When dealing with in-laws, remember that you can control your response to their intrusiveness..
What do you do about a mother-in-law that calls her son everyday and wonít let up on wanting constant information about our personal life? We moved out of state to have more privacy, yet she finds "reasons" to call everyday. My husband keeps the calls short and does not give her any details about our life. I think that it fuels her even more. What can we do to limit the amount of time, and avoid her constant nosiness?
Many wives feel frustrated when their mother-in-law makes frequent phone calls and asks intrusive questions. Itís easy to get caught up in the victim mode, but itís important to realize what you can do to improve your situation. Here are a few ways to:
1. Change your perspective. Imagine that it was your eight-year-old neighbor, instead of your mother-in-law, who called everyday and asked nosey questions about your personal life. Would you likely be more confident and assertive with her than with your mother-in-law? The extent to which your mother-in-law can push your buttons is the extent to which she has power over you. Learn what your buttons are and brainstorm new responses. In the future, if she tries to push your buttons, but doesnít get the same response out of you, then she no longer has power over you. (Itís important to point out that your mother-in-law may not be trying intentionally to push your buttons; she may simply have a different opinion than you about what is appropriate regarding phone calls and questions about your personal life. Try to find a way to make her feel included without ignoring your own needs.)
2. Unite as husband and wife. A couple is more likely to overcome a marriage obstacle when they work together as a team. When dealing with difficult in-laws, itís important for you and your spouse to communicate your needs to each other, and work toward loving compromises. For example, your husband may want to talk to his mom once a week, but you only want to talk to her once a month. Find a solution that takes both of your needs into consideration rather than revolving your lives around pleasing the parents. When appropriate, your husband should set boundaries with his own parents and you with yours. However, in cases where you and your hubby are not united, itís better to protect your marriage by drawing boundaries with his folks than to stand silently and do nothing.
3. Set reasonable boundaries. You canít control your mother-in-lawís behavior, but you can set limits on how her behavior affects you. The purpose of a boundary, or limit, is to protect yourself and/or your marriage. This is a way to show someone how you will or will not allow yourself to be treated. Boundaries are an important ingredient in healthy relationships. Keep in mind that you can only draw boundaries effectively on issues that affect you. For example, you can control how often you talk to your in-laws on the phone, but you canít control when your spouse talks to them.
Here are some options for drawing boundaries on phone calls:
* Get Caller ID and screen your mother-in-lawís calls. * Donít return her calls immediately, wait a day or two. Continue this approach until youíve established a new communication pattern based on your needs instead of hers. * Rather than calling her back, send her a text or e-mail. You could also send her a letter via snail mail or talk to her the next time you see her in person. * Ask her to keep her calls between certain times of the day/night. * Turn your ringer off when you donít want to answer the phone.
To enforce your boundaries, you must change your behavior so that your needs are met, regardless of whether or not your mother-in-law changes her behavior. For example, if she continues to call after 10 p.m. after youĎve tactfully asked her to stop doing so, then you can enforce your boundary by not answering her calls. Eventually she will likely change her behavior because you changed yours.
Here are some things you can say to draw boundaries with in-laws who ask intrusive questions:
* "Iíd rather not answer that." * "Iím not willing to discuss my [finances/ sex life] with you. LetĎs talk about something else." * "Thatís classified. I could tell you, but then Iíd have to kill you."
Stand your ground in a tactful manner, and focus on being a great spouse instead of a parent-pleaser. Learn to let your parents/in-laws be upset with you. Just because they feel hurt or angry doesnít mean you did something wrong. Remember, you can have a great marriage even if your in-laws arenít so great!