*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 a good relationship with your in-laws will mean extra patience and plenty of challenging moments if they don't really like you, but sometimes it gets to be too much, and even your home becomes a reason to argue.
Would you allow your in-laws not just to have an opinion but also to tell you what you're doing wrong every day? Would you still feel it's your house or theirs if that keeps happening?
My friend Mary, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, has been married to her husband, Nick, for five years. They don't have kids yet but are considering becoming parents in the next two years.
While Mary's parents were excited about the couple's engagement and helped plan the wedding and supported them with the costs, Nick's parents were very distant and preferred not to get involved much.
"They did come to the wedding, but they didn't look happy. And our relationship was not something they were looking forward to. They knew I wasn't going to have kids right away and that I didn't care about being a housewife, so since that moment, they ignored me every time I visited. I still tried to be nice and polite because I felt that when we do have kids, I would like them to see their grandparents," Mary said.
The first year of their marriage wasn't easy since the couple hadn't lived together before tying the knot. They were renting an apartment in Phoenix because they couldn't afford to buy a home, and their relationship had a few difficult moments as they struggled to save and get comfortable with each other's habits.
"It wasn't that we didn't love each other. But it was a lot to handle at the same time. Our work schedules were so long, and we agreed to do overtime any chance we got because that got us closer to buying a house in Phoenix. We got up at different times, and that made mornings a bit confusing, but after six months or so, we were able to manage everything nicely and have the place tidy," Mary said.
Since they were both busy, they mostly ordered food for their meals, but Annie, Nick's mom, wasn't happy about that. She offered to cook for them from time to time.
"At first, I thought it was nice of her to support us this way. As it turns out, she mostly did it to have a chance to criticize me. Every time she brought us food, or when she cooked in our kitchen, she kept saying she was doing my chores and replacing me as a housewife because I didn't have my priorities clear and my relationship with my husband came in second place," Mary said.
The uncomfortable situation went on for four years. During this time, Nick's dad passed away, and his mom became a widow. And she didn't feel ready to look after her home on her own.
"She asked us if we could have her stay for a month or two until she decided what she was going to do. We thought she would get an apartment in Phoenix and avoid living in the same house, but she was upset, and I felt we should support her. I agreed for two months at most because I still knew she didn't like me, so there was no use arguing or trying to keep up a relationship filled with disagreements," Mary said.
Annie got along fine with Mary for the first week, but after that, she began noticing everything that was lacking in her daughter-in-law's home and pointed out what she needed to do. Dusting, cleaning, doing the dishes, and even seasoning for dinner was not ok for her. She focused on Mary and kept pressing her to do things differently.
"She disliked the carpets I chose for the living room and wanted me to buy others, then the food was too sweet or too salty, and when I got pizza, she said I should pay more attention to my waist. And on the weekends, when I wanted to take a nap, I had to ask her first. And most of the time, I had to wait a while longer because she had loud music on and wouldn't turn it off," Mary said.
Mary tried to explain to Annie that they were supporting her but that it wasn't her home. Unfortunately, her mother-in-law got offended, and their relationship got worse. Annie won't even greet her now, and she just shouts at her or goes to the kitchen, looks in the fridge, and throws away almost all the couple's takeouts without asking them.
"She's a widow, and she wants to run my home. Those two months passed. It's been almost four, and I want her out of my home. I won't stand such behavior any longer. I'm sorry I even thought I should help. She didn't appreciate what we did for her," Mary said.
Nick also talked to his mom and asked her to try and get along with his wife, but Annie just told him he would be better off divorcing.
What do you think about this situation? Is it ok for Annie to try and take over her daughter-in-law's home even if she was supposed to be there only for two months? Should Mary try harder to have a positive relationship with Annie despite her unpredictable behavior?