Dear Readers: Following are leftover questions from my online chat “In-Law Wars,” of May 21:
My in-laws have a terrible relationship, bickering all the time. Meals at their home are uncomfortable because he criticizes everything she makes, and she jabs back, while the rest of us just look away. My wife says they’ve been like that for years and that saying something will make them furious. What would you suggest we do?
Try having family get-togethers at yours and any other adult children’s homes, in case this dynamic only happens within their own environment.
However, if the couple bickers blatantly everywhere, discuss this with your wife and any siblings she has.
If all are uncomfortable, a group statement should be made to her parents…. otherwise, you two need to tell them yourselves.
Say that you love them and want to see them, but their fighting puts a strain on everyone and is the only image of themselves that people, including their grandchildren, see.
Say that’s the reason that you’ll be keeping up contact with them but seeing them less - or only individually - until and unless they can keep their battles to themselves.
I’ve been married for 18 months and keep getting asked by my husband’s family if I’m pregnant, or if I’m having trouble getting pregnant, or when I’m going to get pregnant, or if I don’t like children…
It’s driving me mad! We hope to have children, but are not in a hurry. I’m 31, and don’t feel the “ticking clock,” but I’m not stupid and we’ve agreed to discuss this in another year or two.
His family acts horrified when I brush them off, as if I’ve already been declared “barren.” How can I get them to stop pestering me? By the way, they don’t pester him!
It’s your husband’s task to tell them all to back off. Even if they don’t pester him directly, he hears from you about what they’re saying. They cannot honestly think otherwise.
He needs to have a private chat with his parents, saying that this is your private business, no matter what they think.
He can reassure them that you’re both positive about having children and they’ll be informed when the time comes, but all questions until then are intrusive and rude.
My daughter’s marrying a man whom we like very much and whom she loves. But his mother’s a “controller” who’s dominating every wedding decision.
She chooses more expensive items than we would for table décor, flowers, etc. (She insists on joining every wedding-planning session, though we’re paying most of the bills).
She went shopping with my daughter and encouraged her to buy high-priced clothes for her “new life” but didn’t pay for any. My daughter realizes she overspent but she’s afraid to offend her by returning some. How do I help her deal with this woman?
Show her how to draw boundaries by doing so yourself. So far, you both get upset and talk about it privately but do nothing about it.
But you, as main payer of the wedding bills, have every right to reject some of this woman’s suggestions.
A polite, “that’s out of price range,” is all you had to say. And you still can.
Your daughter needs your support and encouragement that it’s okay to return some of the clothes. If you don’t help her do this now, her future mother-in-law will continually ride roughshod over her on many future decisions.
My mother-in-law swears in front of my kids, tells dirty jokes, teases my 11-year-old son about pimples, and pokes my eight-year-old daughter’s tummy telling her to lose her baby fat!
My husband says it’s her raucous sense of humour and to tell the kids to just laugh with her, but I find her very inappropriate.
An openly raucous mother-in-law can be refreshing in adult company, but there’s nothing funny in teasing youngsters about sensitive personal matters, especially body image about which so many are vulnerable.
Kids don’t laugh when their perceived flaws are treated as jokes. And dirty jokes to kids so young may give them the wrong impression that they too can pass these on.
Your husband’s responding as an adult who’s passed those sensitive stages. Instead, he needs to take a stand as a Dad and tell his mom to save her sense of humour for her friends.
Tip of the day:
In-law relationships require having boundaries set, with clear and caring explanations.