A friend screeched. Her mother-in-law had been driving her crazy, but this morning, in the shower, the events of the past week or so smacked her right in the face - her razor was wet, and her MIL's fingerprints were all over it.
"Freakin' G-to the-R-to-the OSS!"
We all have our boundaries. The razor snatching wouldn't have bothered me; I'd have changed the blade and gone on with my day. But my fences aren't her fences, and she's over the top annoyed. I'm not judging; I'm sympathizing.
One of the first boundaries I set when we were married was the sanctity of my toothbrush. Yes, we shared bodily fluids in many ways, but not that way. Not with my teeth, with my paste, with my bristles. No way. No how. Never.
My new husband shrugged his shoulders and agreed. He thought I was strange, but it wasn't worth an argument. That's the way it's been for the last 37 years or so; I'm odd and he brushes it off. It works for us.
My heart goes out to my razor-intruded friend, though. Having house guests is always stressful. Knowing that they are attached by blood to your family, that you have to make allowances if you want to keep the spouse, only adds to the frustration. Please don't empty my dishwasher... I'll only spend two weeks looking for the measuring cup you put away where it seemed to you that it should live. Did you forget that it was my house? That's about as stressful as my relationship with my MIL ever got, but that measuring cup was lost for much longer than it needed to be. If only she'd listen.
My friend's MIL doesn't listen. She drives her B*A*T*S**T crazy. She used to live far, she's planning to live near, and it's only going to get worse. Setting limits from the outset was the best advice I could offer. Don't offer a key to your house. Ask that visitors call before they arrive. "Sometimes, I like to be naked when I clean house," might be a good image to put into the intruder's mind. I can't imagine that even the nosiest of in-laws would want to walk in on a sweaty naked daughter-in-law who's up to her elbows in soap suds.
It helps to have the spouse on board when establishing limits. No one ever won by getting between a man and his mother... or a man and his wife. Not that winning is the ultimate goal. Surviving is enough, sometimes.
When my father arrived ten days before he was expected, just two days after we'd brought Big Cuter home from the hospital, I told him he could come for dinner but not stay the night. We were just getting used to being a three-some; I wasn't prepared to entertain a fourth. He joined us for a meal, we shared the champagne he offered, and then he found a motel for the evening. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done... and the most rewarding. We never had an issue after that. He respected that we were adults, that we had made plans, that he was just one of the many moving pieces that now made up our family.
For my dad, who rarely acknowledged that others existed, it was an epiphany. For me, too.
It's easier said than done. It's often judged by outsiders. But knowing where the edges are, where your space begins and my space ends, is part and parcel of family life. I hope my girlfriend can find her boundaries before she falls over the edge.