*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Making sure you have a good relationship with your in-laws can get challenging when you're doing all you can to have a happy marriage at the same time.
And if your spouse feels differently and doesn't get organized about money issues and keeps giving his parents more than they should, how could you stay on top of the bills?
Would such a situation cause an argument, or would you agree to work overtime or get a second job just so you avoid conflicts in your relationship, even if you think your in-laws are overstepping?
My friend Nina, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband, Elias, for six years. They have two sons together, and they both kept their jobs to be sure they could go ahead with their house payments and the rest of their expenses.
"I didn't even consider staying home. There was no way Elias could pay for everything, and it wouldn't be ok for me to expect that either. We're a family, and our relationship is about supporting each other, too," Nina said.
The couple worked hard and managed to get a few promotions so that their costs are manageable and they can also afford to go on vacation from time to time. While Nina has adjusted to being a mom, keeping the house tidy, and staying in touch with their babysitter, something has recently changed.
Her father-in-law passed away three months ago, and since then, Tammy, her mother-in-law, has had a very different behavior. Not only is she unwilling to spend too much time at home on her own, but she also refuses to invite any friends to stay over and can't be without presents for too long.
"It doesn't matter if it's her birthday or not. She kind of expects to receive something almost every other day. And it adds up since she won't agree to have inexpensive stuff. When I tried to give her a flower in a pot, she looked at me like I had offended her. It's very hard to have a good relationship with her these days," Nina said.
Unfortunately, things didn't stop there. Her mother-in-law's constant demand for gifts has been making Elias spend quite a bit. And since he's not very organized on expenses, Nina suddenly realized they would have trouble covering their expenses this month.
"I talked to him about it and pointed out there was no way he could keep buying her presents. And sometimes, he would just give her the money so she could get whatever she wanted. Our relationship is constantly getting worse because of this. I know she's upset and needs time to feel better, but no one is going to be happy if we end up with no money and can't pay our bills. He doesn't get it and thought I was being too harsh," Nina said.
She was disappointed by her husband's reaction and kept trying to explain that their sons and their house meant daily costs, too, but Elias told her there was another solution that wouldn't affect their relationship or their family. He thinks Nina should get a second job or try and do overtime as often as she can.
He didn't offer to do overtime because he said he needed to look after the kids while his wife worked longer.
"I didn't even know what to say to that. His mom constantly asks for money, and I'm supposed to work longer so she can have it. Why doesn't he just refuse? I just don't get it. She keeps asking him for money; we don't have enough for bills because she needs presents," Nina said.
Nina also went to visit her mother-in-law and tried to talk to her about what was going on. Tammy listened to what she had to say but then told Nina that she should get another job or work more.
And she didn't feel like she had to apologize or avoid asking for more gifts because she'd been babysitting several hours every day during the first two years after Nina had her sons.
"I know that, and I'm thankful. But it's like she didn't want any pay then, but now she will reproach me, and I have to work two jobs because she did that before. It's not fair. And I wouldn't have accepted back then if I'd known it would come to this," Nina said.
Her husband thinks his mom is being fair and that Nina should try harder to have a positive relationship with Tammy. Elias is also convinced Tammy isn't overreacting and assured his wife that his mom is likely to forget about presents in a few months after she's not that sad anymore. Until then, he's willing to buy her what she wants to keep her happy and positive.
What do you think about this situation? Is Nina overreacting, and should she agree to work more hours instead of expecting her husband to avoid giving more money to his mom? Should Tammy apologize and work on having a close relationship with Nina so they can make memories together without any more misunderstandings?