*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Keeping a close relationship with your parents after you get married can get difficult if they're not used to accepting boundaries or don't feel like making sure your spouse is comfortable with their actions.
How would you react if one of your parents thought it was ok to visit anytime after you got married and didn't check if you had anything planned before showing up? And if your spouse is clearly uncomfortable with the situation, which relationship would be more important to you, and could you be firm about limits?
My friend Tessa, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband Adrian for eight months. They don't have kids yet and plan to keep working so they can save and be able to get their own home within a year or two.
The couple had a short engagement, but they'd been dating for almost five years before they decided to make their relationship permanent. They didn't want a party and just focused on the ceremony where their friends and close friends came. As for gifts, they asked everyone to save them for their first child.
"We didn't need people to spend a lot on presents. Those wouldn't make us happy. When we become parents, gifts will be welcome. But on that day, everything was about love and celebrating our connection. Nothing else mattered. A loud party and a band or an expensive cake wouldn't have made any difference," Tessa said.
Their parents were close to them through it all, and they helped them plan the wedding. They also offered to give them a part of the cost of buying a house, but Tessa and Adrian refused.
"We want to do it ourselves like an effort and something to achieve as part of our relationship. If mom and dad pay for part of it and his parents add a bit more, it won't feel like it's our home. It will be more like a present from them. And we don't want that for our future home," Tessa said.
Their parents accepted their decision, and they're all ready to support them when they decide to have their own family. In the meantime, the couple's relationship is going well as they focus on earning more but also making time to go out dating.
When they get the chance, they also like to go on weekend trips, but this has been very difficult to do lately. The reason is Tessa's mom has gotten into a habit of visiting without calling them first.
She will usually let them know she's there right when she's in their driveway. It doesn't happen just on the weekends, but it's very noticeable at the end of the week because Tessa and Adrian feel like they can't have some time to get away and have fun because they need to be there and make sure Nina, Tessa's mom, is entertained.
"She tells us about visits when she's in the driveway. Dad works long hours, and mom is a housewife, so I know she gets lonely at home. She doesn't have a lot of friends, and most of them are working, too, so I get it. She needs the company. But coming to see us right after we get back from work or on a weekend can get so tiresome," Tessa said.
Tessa's dad does a lot of overtime, and he's usually away on work trips during the weekends, so that's why Nina has started to come by more often. Unfortunately, her behavior is affecting Tessa's relationship, as she and Adrian have already argued a few times about it. He's not willing to cancel their trips to keep Nina company and asked his wife to tell her clearly she needs to call before visiting.
"I don't want to upset mom, and she is welcome in our home. But we just need to schedule it. Until now, all my attempts to make her realize she has to call or text us before getting in the car to come here haven't worked. I talked to dad about it too, and he explained it to her, but she got sad because she thought she was bothering me and Adrian," Tessa said.
For now, the visits are going on the same way, but Adrian doesn't talk much when his mother-in-law is around. He's also considering going on trips with Tessa on Friday evenings and only coming back late on Sunday, so there's no chance for unexpected visits and canceled plans.
"She's lonely, but it's not our fault. I'm not going to cover for my father-in-law being away and neglect my own relationship because she doesn't have enough friends. It's just not fair to any of us," Adrian said.
What do you think about this situation? Is it ok for Nina not to consider the couple's schedule and what they want to do over the weekend and just visit them and expect them to be happy about it? Should the mother-in-law apologize and agree to visit only when the couple isn't going on a trip so they can still have a positive relationship and enjoy good times?