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Family boundaries

(94 Posts)
Gigi1975 Wed 04-Nov-20 10:41:59

Over a number of years my MIL has always been welcomed into our home. I very much see her as part of our family and as she’s on her own without a husband or partner we always spend lots of time with her including big occasions: Christmas, birthdays etc. However, lately I’m finding she’s getting too involved in our family life, putting forward her views in lots of different areas, telling me ways to do things and I’m finding it very frustrating. I’ve decided I need to be better at putting some boundaries in place but this is something I struggle to do in general and I think this will be especially hard with her. She’s a very strong character, I’m a lot more relaxed normally but I feel my relaxed approach has led to her taking over in a way I’m not comfortable with anymore. My question really is, have you ever been in this situation as a MIL? Is a direct approach best? How do I establish some new boundaries without permanently offending her? I want to be sensitive to her needs but I’m also aware I’ve been doing that a lot and that has meant I’m often neglecting my own needs and this is leading me to feel very unhappy.

Madgran77 Wed 04-Nov-20 10:50:32

Could you give some examples of what things she is commenting on? It would help with responding

Gigi1975 Wed 04-Nov-20 11:02:37

Ok. Telling me my daughter needs a haircut, that she needs certain clothes. Suggesting foods I could make for her. It’s been making me feel like my parenting isn’t good enough.

MawB2 Wed 04-Nov-20 11:16:04

Smile and ignore?
(Changing the subject rapidly)
Try not to let it get under your skin, there are many women like that - she may mean well and is unlikely to change! Keep your cool.

FannyCornforth Wed 04-Nov-20 11:24:55

Maw's right, there isn't a great deal that you can do without making an issue of it. If it wasn't your MIL trying to boss you about, it would be your own Mum.
One that that you could try...
If she suggests something that you agree with, or at least doesn't offend you, do it, and make a tremendous fuss about what a marvelous idea of hers it was.
And then (hopefully) it will make it easier to ignore her more unwelcome suggestions.

NotSpaghetti Wed 04-Nov-20 11:28:38

I think as people get older, some say things they might have buttoned up about in their younger days. My mother-in-law can be like this and I have three strategies depending on my mood.

- I say, bluntly but laughing, "oh, I'm not doing that" - or sometimes "you can do it if you want".

- I might say "hmmm, not sure, I'll think about it" or similar. I keep it friendly and bright and smile and be cheery. I Do not engage in conversation about the merits/demerits as this is allowing reason into the debate! I operate on how I feel. "Well, I feel this is right just now".

- Route the problem elsewhere...
I don't know how old your daughter is (mine are adults now) but I'd say "speak to her yourself about her hair". Obviously if she's small this is harder and it's difficult if the person is also manipulative. In these cases you may just have to say no. "I love her long hair" or "I love this little outfit". Keep practicing and if challenged stick firm.

Choose your battles.
Good luck

FannyCornforth Wed 04-Nov-20 11:28:39

You say that 'she makes her feel that your parenting isn't good enough'.
You can control this.
Don't allow yourself to feel this way.
Of course your parenting is good enough!

Oopsadaisy4 Wed 04-Nov-20 11:31:01

Gigi you have children , you are a grown up, just tell her nicely that you have everything under control, smile and move on.
Have you suddenly become so sensitive to her views that you can’t deal with her ? talking about setting boundaries seems to be overkill to someone you have known for such a long time.

cornishpatsy Wed 04-Nov-20 11:40:18

I don`t think ignoring it is a good idea as it could get worse and you will become resentful and not include her so much in your life.

I like the ideas of NotSpaghetti, friendly smile but I am doing it my way.

Gigi1975 Wed 04-Nov-20 12:23:28

Thanks for all your suggestions. I’m giving it all some thought. Sometimes she says things to my partner and he comes and says it to me. I find this really annoying because as he speaks I can tell straight away it’s not something he is thinking himself. I suppose there are times in life where these things wash over you and times when they don’t so always good to hear others experiences.

LovelyCuppa Wed 04-Nov-20 12:32:58

I can be quite an opinionated person, so I've tried to think of the things that might work with me!

Have some things that you reserve for just you, DH, children etc. Not to be unkind, but because this would remind me that you are a separate, capable, family unit, where you and DH like to make the decisions.

Don't be afraid to say some of the phrases posters above have suggested. "That's not my way", "I prefer..." etc. It doesn't have to be confrontational, but stops her taking your silence as agreement.

If there are things you don't want her to be involved in, don't mention them to her until they are complete. Talk about things outside of the family, work, news, neighbours, friends etc that you won't feel judged when she comments on.

Good luck. She sounds like she cares a lot, just is a little much for you at times. It sounds fixable!

Hithere Wed 04-Nov-20 12:55:03

Where does your dh stand?

He needs to tell her to back off and stop doing what annoys you.
I hope your mil is able to listen and readjust her behaviour

Judy54 Wed 04-Nov-20 14:05:56

Has your MIL got worse with age or as she always been this way. Perhaps she just says things in the wrong way without meaning to hurt you. Yes it is important to set boundaries and to be sensitive to her needs. You sound a very kind and caring DIL.

Hetty58 Wed 04-Nov-20 14:21:37

I don't like the 'boundaries' word (reminds me of several previous MIL discussions here).

If you can't put up with her, then reduce the contact time. She might think that you need help and assistance if you keep inviting her over.

Remind her that she's a guest ('part of our family' is just too familiar) and that 'I do it this way, I think first and then decide' etc. - so she knows that her opinions are considered and valued, but not necessarily acted upon

Lucca Wed 04-Nov-20 14:24:07


Where does your dh stand?

He needs to tell her to back off and stop doing what annoys you.
I hope your mil is able to listen and readjust her behaviour

Why go straight to “back off “. Surely there’s a nicer way?

Hithere Wed 04-Nov-20 14:48:42

There are nice ways to say back off.
"Back off" is the purpose of the message, not the wording

Grandmabatty Wed 04-Nov-20 14:50:44

If your dh is coming to you, spouting what she says, then you have a Dh problem. Deal with him first. You both need to be on the same side when dealing with her. It may just be she is particularly bossy so I like the vague smile approach and, "do you think do?" or "maybe," or if she really bothers you, "that doesn't work for us." But tell your dh you don't want to hear any more 'suggestions' from her via him

Susiewong65 Wed 04-Nov-20 17:25:00

You know what they say ‘Familiarity breeds contempt:’
I had very similar issues with my father in law some years ago, my mother in law was great but he had an opinion and a view on everything !

I found the best way to deal with it was to reduce the amount of time I saw them which meant getting them used to being invited over rather than them just turning up, which was tiresome and often inconvenient. It took a little while though.

I tried not to see them more than once a month and it has worked a treat, and has carried on ever since.
My DH can see them was much as he likes however, they are his parents after all.

Bibbity Wed 04-Nov-20 17:36:12

MIL. I live with a product of your parenting. Trust me there was a lot of improvement necessary when I took him on.
If I need any advice I will specifically ask. Until that time learn the ancient art of mind your business.

Grannynannywanny Wed 04-Nov-20 17:42:19

My paternal grandmother didn’t stop at suggesting I needed a haircut. She waited till I was left in her care for a couple of hours one afternoon and got her scissors out and cut my hair into a very short squinty fringe!

welbeck Wed 04-Nov-20 17:53:43

i think that sounds unduly antagonistic.
are you from another country.
in england that would sound rude and as if you expect a fight.

welbeck Wed 04-Nov-20 17:54:37

sorry, not quick enough. my comment was to Bibbity.

silverlining48 Wed 04-Nov-20 18:13:53

My mil changed as she got older and became really critical. Of me mostly. I had always welcomed her, inviting her to stay, which meant a 200 mile round trip fir us to pick her up, turning my dining room into a bedroom for her, and back again for meals. It was a pallaver but I wanted her to feel welcome.
There was a bit of a fallout over something of her making and I stopped seeing her, and it was only then I found out she used to criticise me to my then teenage daughters while i was in the kitchen making christmas dinner for us all. I was livid.

Bibbity Wed 04-Nov-20 18:33:25

I’m fortunately not English. But I am British.
I just don’t see the point on tiptoeing around those who persistently dig and be rude at others. Why should their behaviour be allowed to pass. Better they be corrected in home rather than in public by others.

FarNorth Wed 04-Nov-20 19:31:09

tell your dh you don't want to hear any more 'suggestions' from her via him

Start with DH. He needs to do the pleasant smile etc, as suggested above, not bring MiL's suggestions to you unless it's something he genuinely agrees with.

Maybe MiL has too little to think about, in the current situation, and hasn't realised she's focusing on your family more than she should.