*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 positive relationship with your in-laws will need plenty of patience, but when they live with you, things can get a lot more complicated. Whether it's about sharing meals, cooking times, or just deciding what to eat at the beginning of the day, it can be hard to get along when your in-laws expect to make every decision and won't listen to you.
How would you react if your in-laws took the breakfast your spouse made for you, didn't apologize, and also made sure you couldn't find any other snack in the pantry or the fridge?
Could you still try to have a good relationship for your partner and your kids' sake, or would you ask them to move out immediately?
My friend Sarah, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband Nick for almost one year. They have one daughter together, and they're both working, so they can afford their house payments while planning vacations quite often.
"We didn't want to pause work, but we also didn't feel it was ok to leave our little girl with a babysitter. My mom was a widow when we got married, so she told us she could move in once I gave birth and look after our daughter while we focused on work. She also offered to handle most meals, even those very early in the morning," Sarah said.
The couple became parents just two weeks after the wedding ceremony since Sarah had found out she was pregnant during their engagement. So, Lina, her mom, came to live with them and make sure all was going well in their home as they adjusted to becoming parents.
"It did feel nice to know mom was home all the time, and I didn't have to worry about anything. And she cooks very tasty dishes, so I was sure Nick would be pleased too. To me, this was going to help our relationship stay happy and bring us all closer as a family," Sarah said.
In the beginning, things went well, and the couple felt less stressed while Lina took care of supplying the pantry, choosing what to have for every meal, and taking care of their daughter. Little by little, though, she avoided asking them what they wanted to eat and just made a weekly menu without consulting anyone.
Sarah was ok with it because it was most of the things she'd had as a child anyway, but Nick wasn't that comfortable with it.
"I realized our close relationship gave her a chance to make a lot of decisions in our home, but I didn't want it to go that far. I like to choose different dishes, and every time I told Lina I wanted something in particular, she found a reason not to do it. If she doesn't mind cooking for us, why can't she ever do what I like? She just comes up with excuses like it's too expensive or she doesn't have time to go to the grocery store again," Nick said.
Things went on this way for a few months, and Nick's relationship with his mother-in-law got more tense all the time. But lately, things have become even worse because they're having disagreements about breakfast.
The problem is Lina thinks she should have the first meal of the day because she wakes up before everyone else and doesn't sleep much at night either, as she looks after her granddaughter.
Sarah usually makes breakfast for her and her husband, but it's generally Lina who takes that, and he ends up with nothing before work because Lina cleans up the fridge every night and makes sure no snacks are left in the pantry either.
"She eats my breakfast before work; she took over snacks and the fridge. I am thankful because she looks after my daughter, but this is getting so annoying. I don't know how we can have a positive relationship if she keeps doing this. I always get to work annoyed and need to take extra time to find a snack. And she makes me late on purpose, I know it. I've told her so many times there's no way she could just forget and have my breakfast," Nick said.
He talked about it with his wife, but Sarah thinks he's just overreacting and could easily buy something to eat on the way. Nick, on the other hand, feels he and Sarah should share a few moments having breakfast together since that's the only time of the day when she cooks for him, but his mother-in-law keeps interfering in their relationship.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Lina to keep having her son-in-law's breakfast and not let the couple have a few moments together while eating their meal in the morning? Should Lina apologize and at least leave some snacks in the pantry so her relationship with Nick doesn't get worse and he won't ask her to leave their home?