*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Having part of your family stay over for a few days in your home isn't that difficult, but when they become permanent guests and your spouse doesn't want to ask them to leave, things can get complicated.
Whether your relatives are friendly to you or avoid helping with anything around the house, not having time just to be with your spouse will easily lead to problems. And when it's been more than a year since your in-laws first came in and have yet to leave, your marriage may be in doubt if you can't agree on how things should be.
My friend Tamara has been married to her husband, Robert, for five years. They were engaged for three months before tying the knot, and they could afford to get their own home in Dallas, Texas, as soon as he proposed.
"I was happy we didn't have to wait too long to have our own home and could start our life together in our own place right after he asked me to marry him. We had a nice quiet wedding with our loved ones close by. We didn't want a big party, and we were so excited to share the big day with the people who meant the most to us," Tamara said.
They went on their honeymoon after the ceremony, and when they got back, Robert's parents were waiting for them with gifts. They had also cooked dinner for them.
"It was great to come back and find everything clean and tidy. And his mom is such an awesome cook. I loved her cakes and the way she knew how to use the right amount of seasoning for any dish," Tamara said.
The couple slowly adjusted to each other's habits; they did house chores and cooked at home when they had time to save money.
"I didn't want to always have dates, particularly when we could use the money for something else. And the bills kept getting higher each month, so it was useful to learn how to cook and to get Robert involved too. That way, we still had fun even if we didn't get dressed up to go out somewhere," Tamara said.
They initially wanted to have kids right away, but Tamara changed her mind because she realized she would be missing out on so much at work.
"I loved my job, and yes, I did agree to have kids as soon as we got married. But when I had to think about giving that up and being a housewife, I understood I couldn't do it just yet. I needed at least three more years to get used to the idea," Tamara said.
Robert wasn't pleased about it, and they argued when she first told him she wanted things to be different. He eventually agreed to wait on becoming parents, but he still felt he would have wanted to know that before the wedding.
"I still loved her, but if she'd told me that before, I might have reconsidered getting married, or the ceremony would have been later on. It just felt like she went back on her promise, and a part of the trust between us was gone," Robert said.
They got back on track slowly, and it seemed like Robert accepted Tamara's decision. He started to get her flowers more often, and the arguments went away. Two months after she let him know they wouldn't have kids anytime soon, he told her they needed to talk.
"I didn't know what to expect. I even thought he might want to end our marriage over the kids' issue. But it was something else. And nothing good either," Tamara said.
When she got back home, her husband let her know his mom and his brother would be their guests for a while. Robert's parents were about to get a divorce, so they needed time away from each other.
So, his mom, Gina, felt she could help her son and his wife while considering what she was going to do about her own marriage.
As for Robert's brother, Elias, he had lost his job recently, had no money for rent, and his dad didn't want him to live in his home.
"So, Robert told both of them it was ok to come and stay with us for a few days until they could think things through. I wanted to support my mother-in-law, and I was sorry she was getting a divorce. And I knew Elias had no money, so I couldn't refuse him either," Tamara said.
What she didn't expect was how long their guests would be staying. Those first few days turned into weeks, months, and then years.
It's been two years since Elias and Gina knocked on their door with their packed things. Not only have they found reasons to avoid leaving, but they also haven't helped with any of the house chores, cleaning, or cooking.
"I can't get over the fact that my mother-in-law, being such a good cook, hasn't offered even once to help me make dinner or lunch. Each time I suggest she should come into the kitchen, she says she won't interfere with what I'm doing because she's just a guest. That's offensive. And both she and Elias expect to eat three meals in my house and criticize what I make," Tamara said.
She talked to Robert about this, but he kept telling her she was overreacting. And when she insisted they should have left long ago, he pointed out they don't have kids yet, so it's ok for them to stay as long as they want.
"I can't put up with this indefinitely. It's my home, not theirs. And they upset me with their comments. Robert won't do anything about it, and his mom walks into each room as if she owns it," Tamara said.
Last week, Robert and his mom were waiting for her when she got back from work.
"Gina said they had to talk to me. And that I wasn't behaving the way a good wife should. She wasn't happy with the way I took care of her son, and he just said yes to everything she said. She told me I couldn't cook, clean, or do the dishes and didn't even dress the right way. And that she had no idea why her son had chosen me. And at the end, she added he wanted a divorce. And he said yes again, nothing else," Tamara said.
Her brother-in-law came in from the kitchen, and he pointed out that he also thought there was nothing worth eating in the fridge.
"His mom and his brother moved into our home; he wants a divorce. And she told me, not him. Are we even a couple anymore?" Tamara said.
She didn't answer that evening, but she's considering having her parents and siblings move in to balance things out.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Gina to interfere in her son's marriage and even tell his wife about a divorce instead of letting him handle it? Would things improve if Tamara's parents also came over for a longer stay?
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