My Spouse is Too Close to Their Parents Nine telltale signs that indicate your spouse won’t leave the nest, and how you can help put and end to it. BY DIANE GOTTSMAN
Illustration by Gabriel Lefrancois
Establishing a few rules will help your spouse leave the nest.
Belonging to a close family can certainly bring joy and happiness to your life and your marriage. However, if your mother is the first person you call when you have good news to share rather than your wife or husband, it’s definitely time to shift your focus. Here are nine scenarios of being too close and how you can handle them:
1. You head straight for your mom's house whenever you crave a home-cooked meal and sit down at "your" chair at the family table.
Healthy alternative: Pick out a new recipe and offer to make it with, or for, your spouse. Take a cooking class together or learn how to cook your own home cooked meal.
2. You insist on doing things a certain way because that’s what "your parents have always done."
Healthy alternative: Be open to new ways of doing things and start your own family traditions.
3. You seek advice from your parents before discussing the issue with your spouse.
Healthy alternative: In most situations, your spouse should be the first person you consult when a major decision or difficult situation arises—it's a sign of partnership, courtesy and respect.
4. You are seriously considering buying a home next door or across the street from your parents.
Healthy alternative: Have you ever watched "Everybody Loves Raymond?" Remember the mother-in-law? Even great in-laws are better with a little distance separating front doors.
5. You run to your parents after every argument with your spouse.
Healthy alternative: Except in extreme cases, don't air your dirty laundry to family members. You and your spouse will make up, but what you tell your family will stay in their minds long after you and your spouse have kissed. Present a united front to your parents.
6. You routinely accept financial help from your parents when you can't afford something on your own salary.
Healthy alternative: Unless the money is for a medical emergency, think long and hard before accepting money for non-luxuries items and non-essential extras. This scenario may create an underlying current of dependency (and guilt) that keeps you from becoming independent. Make every effort to live within your means.
7. Your mom has a key to your house—and isn’t afraid to use it.
Healthy alternative: Make it clear that the spare keys are to be used in the event of an emergency. A better option would be to give the key to a trusted neighbor that you could readily access more quickly if needed.
8. Your mom still comes over to the house to do your laundry while you and your spouse are at work.
Healthy alternative: Although in theory, this sounds like an arrangement made in heaven, but it's time to take responsibility for your own household duties and let mom concentrate on her own laundry list.
9. You insist on using a certain brand of soap or detergent because it reminds you of the scent you were familiar with when you were young.
Healthy alternative: If it's okay with your spouse, this is not a terrible offense, but if your spouse has an aversion to the scent, take a look at your reasoning and change brands of soap.
If any of the above scenarios remotely describe you, take heed. Creating a new life with your spouse is a much better option than moving back home with your parents while your spouse decides if he or she wants to live in your family's shadow.
Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @: www.twitter.com/DianeGottsman.