Social Question

KTWBE's avatar

How to cope when living with in-laws?

Asked by KTWBE (764points) July 26th, 2010

My husband and I are newlyweds trying to get on our feet and have been living for the past four months in his parents’ basement. My in-laws have lived in this house for their entire married life (nearly 40 years), which means that my husband was born here and grew up here. We both want to get out and start our own independent life together. However, his parents are driving me crazy. I’m struggling to tolerate them at all, and spend much of my time in our little room downstairs trying not to say anything incriminating. What’s the best way to live like this? Is there one? Help!

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33 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

I do not believe there is a solution to this issue. I once lived like that in a household that did not speak English, so I think it was better that way.

I have lived in several sharing type living arrangements, such as roommates, renters in a home, and a commune. I never had a problem with anyone.

I have had a married son and wife (different wives each time) living with me on three occasions. Twice before it worked with absolutely zero problems, and once I was labeled the Mother-In-Law from Hell. The DIL who said that once slammed the door to her room so hard she put a three foot crack in the wall from the corner of the door frame to the furnace outlet.

My take on this is that there are some people who can handle living with other people, and there are some who can’t. The DIL with the issues has the same issues with anyone who has tried to live with them in the house Hubby and I bought for them. Her mother and grandmother live there now, and according to Sonny, they fight nearly non-stop.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

The only way is to get things out in the open in a firm, respectful but no nonsense way. Your husband has to do most of the work on this issue and reassure his parents that while you both respect and appreciate them, you will not tolerate any oppressive or unpleasant behavior.
Try to be as independent as you can in your own space and never give the in-laws a reason to find fault with you. They hopefully understand that this is a temporary solution and that both of you are trying hard to stand on your own feet. Meanwhile, privacy is of utmost importance and get it across that there is absolutely no need and no time for catty comments, remarks or unconstructive criticism. Keep a distance as much as possible without withdrawing from family occasions but most important of all, state your limits as diplomatically as possible, emphasizing at the same time how grateful you are for their help and that as soon as you both can manage to set off on your own, you most certainly will. Patience, tolerance and skill are what is required in this case. Good luck.

YARNLADY's avatar

Perhaps you could get out as much as possible by looking for a job, or doing volunteer work in the neighborhood.

Flowergurl's avatar

My husband and I also lived with his parents for the first four months of our marriage. The situation was horrible to say the least. I couldn’t do anything right and was totally stupid according to my MIL. I kept my mouth shut and did not fight with her, but any possible good relationship that I might of had with her back then was completely lost. Many years had to pass by before I even wanted to be around her for any length of time. My husband finally decided that his marriage was not worth giving up to save a few dollars, so we finally moved out.

If it is possible and you can tough it out a little bit longer, then go for it. But then again, if you were able to find an inexpensive apartment and lived as frugally as possible, I bet that somewhere down the road you would look back fondly at that time spent together and would appreciate all of the things that you had worked so hard to obtain.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’m of the experience and mind that it’s best to bite your tongue when you’d rather complain or defend yourself and then move on when you can. The important thing is you and your husband check in with each other every few days to get stuff off your chests and to keep a united front because your life will be expanding what the two of you make together and if his parents become a respectful part of that then great. It’s just not worth it to argue with people under their own roof when you need something from them.

BoBo1946's avatar

Found this…author unknown…could help!

Respect. No need to spell it out in big bold letters, but respect is one thing you have to give them so they can give it to you too. If you can gain their respect, you can live your life through even without their love. The only problem with respect is that it’s hard to give to someone who hates you. Isn’t that tricky? Look at it this way, they’re your husband’s parents and they’re way older than you which makes them seniors. Those are two reasons why you should respect the old folks. Just be grateful that they brought up their son so beautifully, and that if they were not good parents, your husband would’ve been a jerk.

Leave when you’re starting to get angry. When conversations on the dinner table turn out to be not exactly friendly, excuse yourself and leave before you say anything you’ll regret later. What you have to say may be true, but remember you don’t have to speak up especially when it’s only going to make things worse.

Discuss it with your spouse. You don’t have to tell him how much you hate his folks, or how you’d rather them sleep in the garage, but discussing the difficulty with your spouse can really help you. Remember that your husband (and your kids) is the only link you have and he can make his parents like you if he’ll always say good things about you.

Don’t give up. If you plan to stay with your man forever, then you have no choice but to really try getting on their good side. Don’t pressure yourself into doing it, but just try to be charming when they’re around. Eventually they’ll understand why their son chose you!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Ha! You ask my husband – we live with my family and, though they help with kids, we want to move out ASAP and that’s what you need to do, as well. We wouldn’t be able to handle living with his parents either, though they’re nice people and we like them in short bursts. I don’t know if you have kids but if you don’t, count your blessings because annoying in-laws get worse when you have kids and they feel they’re more capable as parents than you.

lillycoyote's avatar

@BoBo1946 is right. I don’t have any experience with this set of circumstances, but that has never stopped me from having an opinion on something. :) There are just some times in life where you really have no option except to pretty much “suck it up.” You are not able to be financially independent at this time or you wouldn’t be living with your in-laws, a relationship that can be difficult sometimes, even if you are not in close quarters. But it is is in the best interests of your marriage, I think, in the best interests of everyone, including your future children, to try to maintain as good a relationship with your husband’s parents as you can. And if you don’t mind me asking, what exactly is it that is “driving you crazy.?” That’s pretty vague and broad. Maybe if you provided more details as to exactly what the issues are people might be more able to help you come up with methods that would allow you to cope better.

perspicacious's avatar

Was there a good reason to not wait and marry when you could afford the independent life you are seeking? This would seem like a nightmare to me, even in the best case scenario.

KTWBE's avatar

Hi everyone, thanks so much for the feedback thus far. I struggle with “sucking it up” when it comes to this situation, even though I try desperately to do just that. When we moved in, I thought it would be just fine and that people who said nasty things about living with the in-laws were surely just jaded and silly.

@lillycoyote, The problems here are many and varied, and I prefer not to go into detail as a(n albeit ironic) courtesy to them. Perhaps it can be summed up best as a violent clash of lifestyles—I enjoy exercise, healthy food, sunshine, independence, and personal space. The lifestyle here is sedentary, deep-fried, indoors, smothered, and invasive.

My greatest struggle, though, is how to communicate my frustrations with my husband, or even if I should! He recognizes that I’m uncomfortable here and has tried to act as a go-between, but I know it’s difficult for him. We are open with one another, but the last thing I want to do is make it an “It’s me or them” situation.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@KTWBE Of course you should communicate with him – this might not get better.

Pandora's avatar

@KTWBE Oh, my. Run. Those two lifestyles will never get along. Find a tiny inexpensive apartment. Even if it is a little run down. Better you two get out on your own and wing it than suffer in silence. Your marriage will ultimately suffer. If you have to get two jobs each to make it happen than do so. Better you spend more time apart than more time at each others throat. Eventually you will either get mad at him for not standing up for you or for not doing everything possible to help. Or he will resent your resentment and say you aren’t trying hard enough. After all. He’s known them his whole life and I’m sure he is use to their life style, so you would be the problem.

lillycoyote's avatar

@KTWBE O.K. Well, those really do sound like they are verging on deal breakers. What you’re going through isn’t easy, but in the end, unless and until you and your husband have other options you may really just have to suck it up, as hard as that may be. I have been financially dependent on others on and off over the course of my life and it is never, ever easy. Their house, their rules, you just do the best you can to hang in their until you can manage to be out there one your own, then you get to determine your own destiny. Being financially dependent on other people is not easy but it beats living in a homeless shelter.

BoBo1946's avatar

This article is wriiten by my friend kathee. She shares with us her tips on how to win your in-laws.

1. Smile. Smile can ease tension and fends off the impression that you are intimidating. It can make your partner’s family feel that you are easy to get along with.

2. Never miss a family gathering. Be as visible as possible. This way, they will think that you value time with them.

3. Strike a good conversation that you know expertly about. Always know what you talk about. They say there are three topics that a person should avoid in a discussion: sex, politics and religion. All of us have our say on these things, and we don’t have similar views toward them. It’s best to be on the safe by talking about your partner’s childhood, their favorite meals, favorite movies, pastime activities, etc. Anything that interests ordinary beings.

4. Be confident. Never come off as unsure. Confidence gives the people around you the impression that you know yourself enough, and you’re a person of good standing.

5. Greet your in-laws on special occasions through text or phone calls. Whether it’s a mother’s day or birthday, greeting your in-laws makes them feel that you treat them special, like your own parents. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy phone conversation or a two-paged letter. A personalized text message is also better than forwarded ones. A one-liner greeting will do.

6. If you cannot attend an occasion, inform your in-laws beforehand why you can’t make it. Even if you’re one of those who don’t like your in-laws, just accord them with the decency of letting them know why you cannot attend the occasion, especially if they personally invited you.

7. Never dress too provocatively during family get-together. Most in-laws are undeniably old-fashioned and conservative. So better not show off too much skin. Dress and act appropriately.

8. Never fight or argue with your partner in front of your in-laws. Blood is thicker than water. Whether you’re the one who’s right, in-laws will always have their heart out to their kind. So avoid fighting with them around. Save it for later when you have him all by yourself.

9. Cook for them. Show off your kitchen skills, and let them taste some of your specialties. This will make them feel that their son/daughter is well taken cared of because you know your way around the kitchen.

10. Never recite a litany of your partner’s flaws. This is very important. No matter how tempting it is to spit it out in the open, it is best to avoid washing your dirty linens in public, especially in front of your partner’s parents or relatives. Like in item number 8, their sympathy will always be toward their kind because blood will always be thicker than water.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@BoBo1946 That sounds like a hell of a lot of pretense and as if it’s all one way – they should be making concessions as well – they better as hell be making them.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir There are some good points to be taken and some “over the top” stuff. Lot of relationship, in the beginning, are about pretense, especially inlaws! A new comer in the family is always at a disadvantage. Eventually, there is some “elbow room!”

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@BoBo1946 I don’t like relationships based on pretense, period and avoid those like the plague. I am glad I don’t live with my in-laws and I know my husband doesn’t want to deal with my mother either anymore. There’s been enough ‘elbow room’ and now there needs to be ‘move across town’ room.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir got’cha… well, in a just world, rather avoid pretense myself, but sometimes i compromise to keep peace in the valley.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@BoBo1946 I’ve learned that’s not for me, for sure – I kept the peace for my father’s sake for over a decade and it led me nowhere but a bitter place and breathing easier upon his death – ‘keeping the peace’ keeps people apart, keeps families truly apart even if they’re one on the outside

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Sure they should be making concessions, but they can’t force them to. All they can control is their own behavior, and BoBo was just giving pointers on that. One of the two sides has to be a grown up.

Why, exactly, are you stuck in their basement? Why can’t you just move now, into a trailer or some other low rent apartment? 4 months should have been enough time to save up enough money to move….

BoBo1946's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir understood…ever situation is different. Can relate to your situation and see why you take that position. I’ve been dealing with family for the last year over putting my mom in an assisted care facility and i made some decisions not liked by all members. But, it had to be done for her benefit. I’m facing surgery soon and there was no way physically i could take care of mom. Fortunately, we had the finances to put her in a wonderful place and she is very happy now, and for that matter, everyone else that was against it. (this is off topic a little, but sharing it with you)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dutchess_III The point here isn’t about force – it’s about choosing to make concessions but knowing the other party is into that, as well so it feels more genuine.
@BoBo1946 I’m glad you found a good place – it’s hard

BoBo1946's avatar

Goodnite everyone….

Dutchess_III's avatar

@BoBo1946 Good night….I know your pain. I went through it all not long ago.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I must have missed something. I thought you were talking about the in laws making some concession. Apparently you were talking about the OP’s husband. Well, yeah. Build a fire!

My other questions still stand….Why are they in the situation they are in?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dutchess_III No, you didn’t miss anything – I did mean the in-laws.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ok, but what if the other party isn’t in to that? What if, in fact, the other party’s agenda is to make the “interloper” feel as uncomfortable as possible, either because they’re jerks or they think they have good reason do do so (in which case they’re still jerks not to at least be as gracious as possible)? That’s the part of the equation we’re missing…are they in the basement because they’re both 17, dated for two months, she got pregnant and now here we are, or were they a couple for several years and for some reason now have to have the in laws support them?

YARNLADY's avatar

Just to add support, I will add that it works both ways. We went to the extreme of buying a rental home to get my son and his wife (and baby) out of our house. It was absolutely intolerable.

They were paying a rent-to-own contract, but Sonny lost his job, so we have had to cover the difference, but in my opinion, it’s worth it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@YARNLADY I can imagine it would be. What were the circumstances, if you don’t mind me asking? How old was he, why’d they move in?

Honestly, I’d have a hard time with any of my grown kids moving in now, too….although we did have my daughter and both her then-seven and ten-year old boys here for a winter. It was hard. Too many different opinions on how things should be done…..

YARNLADY's avatar

@Dutchess_III It’s very complicated, because there is a whole back story. I’ll PM you.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wait. My son moved back in for five months until last December. He was a piece of cake as far as I’m concerned, but he wanted out ASAP. The only thing that was hard was when he was leaving. I had to force myself not to say, “What time will you be home?” I mean, geez! He was 22! What business was it of mine. But it was there, years of tracking, so I’d turn it into “Be home by 11, or B Grounded!”
To which he’d say, “I’ll by back by 11 tomorrow morning, Mom. Or the day after. Pretty sure!” Then we’d laugh. That was the hard part….

Thanks @YARNLADY. I’ll B listening.”

YARNLADY's avatar

@Dutchess_III I also have an adult grandson living here.

KTWBE's avatar

Wow, what a discussion. I really value everyone’s perspective!

@Dutchess_III We are both unemployed, trying desperately to find work, and living off of our savings for the time being. We have no children and have sold our car to bring in extra money. My in-laws had a spare vehicle that, although it’s now been in the shop for a few weeks, has been our loaner car. I promise we’re not deadbeats or punk kids—this was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, 2 months at the absolute most. But as our job search led us down several dead ends, we’re still struggling.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@KTWBE Hang in there! Something WILL turn up. It will…..wish I could help.

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