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Started by momof2, October 31, 2011, 04:00:13 pm

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Hello ladies. My DH finally had a talk with MIL. We are open to communication. However, my DH and I need to set boundaries with MIL. What suggestions do you all have? Any boundaries you can think of?


Respect each other, foremost.

What sort of problems were you having in the past?


Unless you want to irritate MIL, don't call them "boundaries" around her.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


Mil does not like how we run our household. She also does not want to believe my dd has cerebral palsy. She thinks I am making excuses for her developmental delays. You may have to read my last post. Typing from my cell right now. Ugg.


Momof2 -- It's not your MIL's business how you run your household.  None whatsoever, unless maybe you're running a meth lab in your basement?  Just teasing.  ;)

But short of something like that - something that is illegal and endangering the health of your children, this MIL says is is none of your MIL's bees wax how you and her son run your house.  Her house, her rules, your house, your rules. 

I would keep everything very superficial - if you get into substance with her, she'll think she's been invited to give her opinion.  So don't discuss any personal stuff with her in detail.  If she brings up a subject where she's likely to butt in and overstep boundaries, just change the subject.  As for as how you run your household - just smile and say "Isn't it nice there are all kinds of ways to do things in this world - we can each have our own style and be happy in our own homes."  Then smile and offer her more iced tea or cookies.

If she launches into your daughter's situation or criticizes your mothering, again, just change the subject.  Smile, say "We're so lucky to have excellent doctors who take good care of her and give us good guidance as parents.  Have you seen any good movies lately?  then another smile - keep changing the subject.    I would be pleasant, but not give her information in detail - as she will then want to micro-manage. 

You could also tell her that she was a wonderful mother - that her job was to raise her son to be independent and self-sufficient - and she succeeded.  That you are so glad to be married to such a capable man.   That it must be so hard on mothers whose sons cling and are immature and can't solve their own problems.  Keep smiling,  Keep changing the subject. 

Good luck.  You're going to need it.   I am so happy, however, to hear that your husband backs you fully. 


I like the one that says..."We are a new family unit and we will learn as we grow. We get to make up the rules and you get to follow them."
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


I like that, Louise. I am hoping to take everything as slowly as possible with mil. I am still very guarded.


I'm not sure whether there is anything you can say to your particular MIL -- not believing a medical illness of your childs is pretty out there.  In short, she is likely a person that does not understand words/rules, only actions.

So say she makes a negative comment concerning the illness (or really, anything personal) talking with her at that moment will not help.  She will only become defensive and any hope of understanding is lost.  Simply leave instead.  She *will* get that.

People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


I looked at your other posting.  You and DH are already setting up your boundaries.  They're your boundaries, so it's going to be up to you and DH to maintain them. 

You're no longer discussing DD's health issues with MIL, so that will reduce the number of opportunities she has to assign blame to you for them.   Your boundaries, you maintain them.  If she brings up DD's health, "That's not something we want to talk about, but I have been meaning to ask you about (change the subject)."  You will probably need to do a variation of this several times a visit.   

If MIL observes something in DD and says something accusatory, change the subject.  If she continues, say "We aren't going to talk about this," and  add "I hope we can just drop it, so no one has to leave."  If she continues, it's time for you to leave or let her know the visit is over.

DH is no longer telling his mom every time he's angry with you, so that will reduce the number of times she calls you to yell at you on his behalf.  DH did a lot of damage to your relationship with MIL, by him doing that for so long.  I understand how it happened once.   What's problematic, is that after DH knew MIL's reaction would be to aim her fire at you, he still kept doing it.  By continuing, it seems to me, whenever he was angry he "sicced" her on you on purpose.    Was DH really surprised there wasn't sweet music when you're around someone he basically used against you as his hired thug? 


I'm curious, Mom, what are the boundaries that you have come up with already?


Unfortunately, I have not come up with many. I want to keep it simple and not sound like a total witch.

1. No discussions of religion. (MIL does not like that we are not Baptist)
2. No gift buying. (MIL tends to favor my DD over my DS from a previous marriage and leaves DS out)
3. The kids must be treated fairly.
4. No more pushing DD to do things she does not want to do. (DD has a brain injury or CP and MIL does not understand how that effects her.)

Basically, I got nothing. HELP!



I wonder how this is going to be managed -  setting up a lot of rules when she is oblivious to natural social etiquette?  I mean, she doesn't get it - so you'll be policing the boundary lines, won't you?

I think you and DH could set some private boundaries such as:

We're never going to get together with her unless lots of other people are around and it feels safe to us.

If the topic of religion comes up, we're going to get up and go to the bathroom suddenly (or something else that takes you out of earshot).

We'll never leave DD alone with MIL or in a position where MIL can push her.

DS will take more responsibility for her since she's his mom.

See, you can manage stuff like that. 

I don't know about the gift giving - she seems incapable of treating the kids fairly so I think I would concentrate on protecting them from her.   Make it so she doesn't have access unless you are there to monitor things.

How about that?


Hmmm Momof2, I'm kind of waffling on this.  I know that I would not like to be told "THESE are the rules!" and handed a list of What Not To Do.  So I kind of feel like you should handle each thing as it comes up.

So - MIL mentions religion, you say "MIL, didn't anyone ever tell you that you should never discuss religion or politics?" or "Oh MIL, we've been all around this mulberry bush before, do you really think anything's going to change?"  or "That's enough MIL.  I don't want to hear another comment about our religion.  If you persist, you'll be asked to leave / we will leave."

No gift for DS?  Fine - "MIL, we can't accept a gift for DD if there's no gift for DS.  That's not fair and in fact, it's unkind and not at all the kind of example we want to show EITHER of our kids."

Pushing DD - "NO MIL.  SHE DOESN'T WANT TO DO THAT.  Please leave her alone." and if it happens again "MIL, it is unacceptable for you to push DD this way, if you can't control yourself, we will have to leave / have to ask you to leave."

Are you not a Mom?  Don't you have Angry Eyes and That Voice?  Don't be afraid to use them.  Haven't you ever re-directed a kid at a playground, using your eyes and your voice, in a way that appeared 'nice' but brooked NO disobedience?

The thing about boundaries is that they're YOURS.  You have to decide on them and then you have to enforce them.  You can't just tell people "Hey, these are our boundaries - respect them or else!"  And you have to realize too that enforcing your boundaries isn't a punishment for anyone and it doesn't have to evolve into a fight.  It's like a toddler and the stove, you don't slap their hands the first time they go near it, you say "Careful - HOT" and redirect.  When that's not working, you bring out a Level 1 Angry Eyes and Tone.  You don't escalate to hand slapping until you've tried everything else.

You also have to realize that MIL is pretty happy with the status quo and won't want it to change.  So maybe, you should alter your wording a bit to add "That's not working for us anymore".

And the thing is, it really is like training a kid or a dog, you have to be consistent.  You can't let it slide, not even once.  Or it will be even harder the next time. 


QuoteThe thing about boundaries is that they're YOURS.  You have to decide on them and then you have to enforce them.  You can't just tell people "Hey, these are our boundaries - respect them or else!" 

And you have to realize too that enforcing your boundaries isn't a punishment for anyone and it doesn't have to evolve into a fight.  It's like a toddler and the stove, you don't slap their hands the first time they go near it, you say "Careful - HOT" and redirect.  When that's not working, you bring out a Level 1 Angry Eyes and Tone.  You don't escalate to hand slapping until you've tried everything else.

For all the talk about boundaries, the boundaries mean nothing unless the person who has the boundaries understands this.

It's the kind of thing we probably do in other relationships already.  When someone who always wants to borrow money notices something new and asks "how much did that cost?", answers get vague "not too much."  When someone wants to know details about something medical about us, we ask them how they are feeling, instead.   


I am giving you huge kudos here for wanting to try to have a relationship with MIL again.  I don't think you can set any boundaries with her, without sounding like a witch because she crosses lines that are obvious to a rational person.  I think you and DH will have to take a firm stand with her.  First, like Sassy said, your DH needs to set his own boundaries.  He can't call and rant to MIL every time you two have a disagreement.  That is just setting you up.  No, MIL shouldn't call and yell at you, but DH shouldn't have called her to begin with.   There's a huge difference in looking to a parent for some wisdom and looking for someone to side with you. 

Second, I wouldn't try to sugar coat it.  You can say what you mean, without being harsh, but it needs to be clear-cut.  I remember telling my DC plenty of times growing up, "I love you but that behavior is not acceptable."  I wouldn't even dwindle down to details, just set some all-encompassing rules. 

1.   Our personal life, is our personal life.  Discussing our religious choices, birth control methods or anything to do with how we chose to parent, is off limits.  You got to make your choices in life, we would like to make ours.

2.   There will be fair treatment of our children.  That is not up for discussion.  They are children and do not understand when you treat them differently.  We treat them equally and expect everyone else to as well.

3.   You have made it clear that you don't agree with how we handle DD.  We get that.  How we choose to deal with DD's medical, social and schooling is our choice and not up for discussion as we know you don't agree with how we are doing it.   

That is what we are asking for.  We want you to part of our lives, but not dictate how we live our lives.  We may make mistakes, but they are ours to deal with. 

She will have a choice to make.  She can either live with these rules, and honestly, nothing you are asking for to me is outside of what everyone should want or expect.  Scoop is right about you having to keep reinforcing them if she agrees to them.  She's gotten used to being a certain way with both of you and is not going to change overnight.   I think you will have to repeat a few times, "That was one of things we discussed that was off limits" and be understanding if you see her trying, but she slips up.  Bad habits can be broken, but sometimes you fall off the wagon a few times.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell