How do I Stop my Meddlesome Mother in Law?

Dear Aaron,

My wife and her mother are very close. So close in fact that we only live a few miles from her. I don’t mind living close, but I do mind how much she meddles in our relationship. We’ve been married for 8 years and have two children together. It seems like every time we have a problem, my wife and I come to a solution together but before I know it my wife’s coming to me telling me about something else that she and her mother have agreed on and so therefore we should do that instead of what we came up with together.

I feel like even when we’re not over at my MIL’s house my MIL is on the phone giving advice about how we should decorate our house, what kind of car to buy and even how to raise our kids. My MIL is driving me nuts! How do I politely ask her to butt out?

Sincerely,

Meddlesome MIL

Dear Meddlesome MIL,

You’re not the only husband who’s ever had a problem with his mother in law. A lot of the complaints you have are very similar to a lot of the ones that many husbands have. I have a few tips:

1) Don’t blame your MIL, your wife is at fault, too. Remember, your MIL may be the one giving advice about what to do, but your wife is the one who’s accepting it. And your wife is the one giving your MIL’s advice more priority than what you both come up with together. Talk to your wife first and tell her you don’t appreciate how she is giving her mother more priority than you in your marriage.

2) Continue to act on the things that you two have come up with together. If you agree to put your kids to bed at a certain time but your wife changes her mind after talking to her mother, continue to put them to bed at the time you two agreed on. This will help her see that you put more priority on the agreements you came up with as a couple instead of what she came up with with her mother. And it will be an example of how to prioritize your marriage over your parents. This will also make her have to choose between your marriage and her mother.

3) Set boundaries about how many times you go to your MIL’s house. A husband and wife should be the most important thing to each other. Your relationship as a couple should take priority over any other relationship (including with your parents). When your wife is over at her mother’s house so much it’s impossible for her to attend to your marriage and your family as well as she should. Tell her that you need her to be more invested in ‘our family’ and take care of our family more and our marriage more. Set limits on how often you will go to MIL’s and that she can choose to go to your MIL’s house alone or stay home with you and the kids.

4) Look within yourself. There are plenty of times when wives (and husbands) haven’t sufficiently grown or matured enough to cut the umbilical chord from their mother. Other times, however, people become closer to their parents because their relationship is in shambles and they need someone to reach out to and take their mind off their rotten relationship. Look inside yourself and see if there is any reason why your wife may be preferring to talk to her mother instead of you. Maybe you come across as angry or short or uncaring when you talk about things together. Take ownership of what you do that may be contributing to her talking to her mother instead of you. Try to fix it and create an inviting place for her to talk to you about difficulties that you’re having.

At the end of the day, your wife may not want or be able to cut the umbilical chord from her mother. If that’s the case, you have some decisions to make about how much more you’re willing to tolerate it. Hope this helps.

Regards,

Aaron

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