Friday, April 26, 2013

Invading My Personal Space

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.


  1. I suspect you will get a number of comments on MILs. :)

    My MIL lived with us for four LONG months. I was newly pregnant with my third and she drove me crazy. She's one of those people that prepares food the day before or in the morning and one day she decided she was going to make pork chops for dinner. She had made them earlier in the day and when I got home the house smelled of pork. I ran upstairs and barfed from morning sickness and didn't come down for dinner. She was so easily offended. She also thought she was a better mother than I am and was constantly correcting my girls and yelling at them. Finally, hubby took her aside and told her to knock it off. That she was a guest in our home until her place was done and that she needed to respect that I was the Mom/Wife of the house; not her. I couldn't wait until her retirement community was done and she moved there. I literally was relieved. We swore then that we would never, ever have family live with us again. I know that sounds really cruel, but my family's well-being is paramount. My husband's sisters all thanked him profusely because none of them wanted her living with them for four months. Don't get me wrong, I love my MIL, but she's an Italian matriarch and overbearing.

    I'm with your friend though. Don't touch my personal items like my toothbrush, razor etc... Hubby even knows better. It icks me out to think of someone else using those items.

    Have a wonderful weekend AB.

    Megan xxx

    1. Yes, I am sure there are MIL stories just waiting to be typed here :) Bring 'em on!

  2. My first husband was a believer in marriage meaning "what is yours is mine, what is mine is yours." This usually translated to my paying for what he wanted.

    1. Hence, he's your "first husband" :) Hope you found better balance the next time around, Olga.

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  4. I don’t know if I am doing it right or wrong , but I am unable to manage it, I live in a small house in UK, with two and half bedrooms and shared bathroom, this house is just enough for two of us and a toddler, people living in Europe knows how cramped an accommodation can be there.
    The thing is that my in-laws lives in Pakistan, they don’t have their source of income and my husband is spending a hefty amount on them monthly and this has been going on for years (I don’t care if he spends it but the way they miss use it kills my heart, overseas we both are working 9-5 like crazy to earn and back there they have at least 4 – 5house helps on regular basis. Even then the house condition is pathetic and un attended, their life revolves around food and sleep, nobody minds the stray cats roaming in the house , broken doors, cockroach infested furniture and kitchen , dull and broken floors, cats scratched couches, crow’s dropping all over the car port and the list goes on…..
    Only my husband out of four siblings is providing for his parents and the siblings are living on it too… and when they visit us I can see the life style we share is totally opposite, I am a neat freak,( a hair on a floor hurts me more than a bullet ) despite from a richer background I did my house chores myself, spend thrift and there is absolutely no food wastage in my house, but I see them messing my house, leaving the kitchen and dishes dirty when I get back from work, ask me to cook for them over weekends, and there is always left over food on plates in my sink, when I share table with them she always shows the criticism about the taste of food, but in my absence finish all of it , their meal choices always include four dishes , salads and chutneys.. so it is a lot of work for a working woman), my bathroom smells so bad that when you enter the house it is stinking, they used my toiletries without my permission, there is chai stains all over the kitchen floor, when they take shower they don’t close the shower cabin and all the bathroom mats are drenched and smelling when I got back home, they have invaded my house like theirs , their luggage and all items in it are spread open in my drawing room because it is easy for them to find their belongings, they bring their muddy shoes from outside and use it in the house…in short they are used to living with a house help, who always cleans after them and cook for them, the last time they left it took me a month to get rid of the smelly bathroom, and for a month I was collecting fruit pits and seeds from behind the sofa, under the bed, TV….. The brothers have failed marriages too and sometimes I feel my husband is demanding too much from me and I am afraid that I am at the verge of losing my mind… I just want to ask if this is normal, I don’t want to invite them again but is that unfair to my husband? My husband helps me a lot in chores, but then he is the same, his idea of cleaning is no different from his it doesn’t help much.


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