Author Topic: Taking a "back seat"  (Read 8952 times)

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Sassy

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Taking a "back seat"
« on: February 15, 2010, 05:09:54 PM »
Hi I am a DIL who posts here for insight and support with my MIL.  I read more than I post.  I find reading here helps keep my perspective balanced, so it's not just my point of view I consider.  Considering how my DH's and my actions, can have an equal and opposite reaction on MIL, gives us deeper understanding, and helps us both navigate communicating with her.  Thank you all for your help, past and present.

I saw the phrase "back seat" used here, and it has made me think, because it's a phrase my MIL uses a lot.  (No, I don't think it's my MIL who posts here).  I do not like the idea of MIL feeling she's in the "back seat" of anything.  But at the risk of beating a metaphor, I was hoping for help to explore that feeling, with the goal of finding out if there's a way to avoid MIL feeling that way, without letting her take the wheel, or the "co-pilot" seat next to my husband.

The idiom "taking a back seat" is defined on freedictionary.com as "to let other people take a more active and responsible part in an organization or a situation."

One of the reasons my DH pulled back from her, is because of her wanting to involve herself in decisions we made, and getting very upset when her input wasn't acted upon.  We listened to her ideas, and discussed them with her sometimes.   
Whether it was our wedding, house hunting, budgeting, vacation planning, job searches, graduate school, it was and is all things we want to do as a couple, to plan, to affect how the rest of our lives go.  We ended up sharing less planning with her, because it seemed a way to upset her less, if it turned out we didn't do as she suggested.  Then she felt left out.  A catch-22?

I'm not sure how she could have been in the front seat with us, for most of these? Or does she expect me to take a back seat, because her wisdom and experience supercedes mine?  If I'm honest, I guess ideally I pictured her driving her own car.  Or enjoying the ride with us, if she wants to come along. My own parents drive their own car, or seem content to ride in the proverbial "back seat" for things we plan for ourselves.  I don't know if that's unfair to compare, because my parents are married to each other.  She may have felt for so long that she and DH were "up front" that the role of "back seat" is me taking what was hers.  I'm not sure and I try not to assume or judge.

Please know I am not referring specifically to the member here who used that phrase, not at all, which at this time I don't even recall who it was.   I do not want to offend.  It's the familiar phrase and the feeling around it, itself.   This is about my feelings that come up, when my MIL uses that phrase, and wanting to understand hers.  I am struggling with the idea of it being "selfish" for us to drive our own car.  Any insight to help me gain compassion or understanding is greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Offline luise.volta

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2010, 05:48:31 PM »
S - Nice to hear from you. It might be useful to find out how others view the "back seat" concept. I may get clobbered for this, but I think that 's where the MIL belongs. In her own home, she has the place of honor.  In the DILs home, the DIL occupies that place and the MIL needs to get that. It doesn't have to be a negative experience. It's only an issue if the MILis tries to create and/or maintain supremacy. The truth is she's a outsider to the marriage. How could it be otherwise?

In some cultures where there is a communal home occupied by several generations, the MIL may rule supreme until her life is over. Then the eldest DIL steps up to the plate and it starts all over again. But most of us live independently, in our society. Thus, we are quite naturally in the "back seat" in another woman's home and she is in the "back seat" in ours.

From reading hundreds of posts here, it's clear that's OK with us. We just want to be in the car. The "back seat" is fine. What we often face, however, is having no "seat" and being  kicked to the curb.

Conversely, the much maligned MIL wants to run everyone and everything. What's wrong with that picture? In our culture, where we have separate residences, how would that work? Who would sit on who's lap up in front? 

Either end of the pendulum throws it (life) off balance.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

peggyrice@triad.rr.com

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2010, 05:55:43 PM »
Sassy, I think it is just a phrase for acknowledging that you are his primary partner.  I would not read a lot into it.  Mothers all "let go" of their sons when they marry.  I think that most mothers just want to maintain a warm relationship and continue to feel that their son's care and love for them as they start and maintain their own families.  We have put at least 18 years of devotion in their upbringinng and I think that deserves respect and consideration.  The relationship of a mother/son can not be compared to the wife/husband relationship.  Totally different with totally different types of love-both very strong and to be repected and honored.  Also family values and ethical structures can differ so very much.  Things assumed by one family may be totally foreighn to another - a lot to sort through - not right or wrong - just different and to be respected.  I think blending takes time and attention.  Also, as mothers grow older, they wonder who will be there for them as they age and maybe physically fail.  If the DIL acts distant and uncaring, the MIL feels that she is doomed to grow old and spend her last days alone.  It is hard for young women to think this far into the future, however MIL are in a later phase and values have changed since they were your age.  Not wrong or right just naturally different.  Have you ever really tried to put yourself in her shoes?

RedRose

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2010, 06:05:14 PM »
I just want a relationship with my son and his wife and any grandchildren they may have. Just because he is now married does not mean I don't love him anymore. Why is there a need to control me, give me rules? We are adults and should be able to work problems out...without confrontation. Treat me with respect...the same way you want me to treat you.

Back seat is fine with me...

Marilyn

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2010, 06:22:27 PM »
Sassy,you sound like such a sweet heart!!!! I would give any thing to have a DIL like you,to care enough to try to understand your MIL and find something workable for the both of you.
I don't feel like i have taken the back seat,i have been put in the trunk,and forgotten about.I have told my son,i don't try to run your life,or tell you how to raise your kids,he said,oh you never do that!!! I said no i don't,all i want is to be part of your life.I don't expect to me #1or#2 in your life,but i do expect to be more than #12 or #13.

Every thing is with,for,and about DIL's family.I live 6 hours away,so i don't get to see them as often as i would like.When i do go visit,my DIL has made plans with her family.I have to always drive the 6 hrs on the holidays,and never get any quality time,or family time for us.I would like to be treated fairly,with some of the holidays being just our family.
I always hear,Mom,she wants to go see her sister,Mom,she wants to go see her Aunt,Mom,she wants to go see her Grandma,Mom,she wants to go see her cousin,Mom,she wants to go see one of the other sisters........they all live,with in 20mins of each other.And get together all the time.

My DIL's mother,i think,is overly involved in all her 5 girls lives,they have to run every thing they do by her,she seems to have a big say in every thing they do.I have heard this from a couple of the family members.

I give advice,if asked,other wise i have faith that they can make a  good and wise decision.

If this is the only thing that bothers your MIL,that she wants to know about all of your decisions,i think you can work thru this fairly easy.I just don't know what,or how you can handle it, at the moment.

I'm sure your going to get a lot more input from some of the other ladies on here.
I will keep thinking on it though.

Good luck,

2chickiebaby

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2010, 06:29:10 PM »
To me, it simply means being a part of their lives and not being put aside, in the back seat viewing while everyone else is put before us.

renny97

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2010, 11:10:49 PM »
That is exactly what I meant, Chicki. Yes, it was me. I use quite a bit of metaphors  ;). Maybe, it is an old thing? No, I am not offended.

First, I'd like to thank you for trying to improve your relationship with your MIL. That is the most endearing gesture we could ask for. It is all about the "effort." It means a lot.

"Back seat" isn't about driving, although I did add a few more metaphors after I got started- ;). It isn't the worst position to be in either. But it isn't the only one or shouldn't be--without confusing you more. I think most rational MILs would just like to be included in their son and GCs lives. It is pretty simple. We don't need a lot of fanfare or a big parade. It doesn't need to be every single day. There is something about getting older, that makes a person really know the emotional value of life.

"Back seat" doesn't refer to a MIL trying to dominate her adult son & wife's life. I think that is equally wrong. I think that is the problem on both sides of the family. When one tries to intentionally gain some form of control over every single decision with disregard to the other. I also know I have no right to know every last detail and that is a good thing.

We agree, that it is all about balance. You bring up a very good point. We all have our own perspective on reality.

But, simply put, I think the main word here is "fair." Ideally, that would mean manners, including your MIL when you can and be honest, if you can't. Whether a DIL or MIL, anyone who appears as domineering, arrogant, manipulative, or overly nosy would have to be "checked."

I really appreciate your unbiased view and the willingness to learn and understand. This shows your love of husband. We like that. We don't ask for much. It isn't a struggle between DIL and MIL as the stigma indicates.
Just a little kindness. Please no cross words. But, there should be healthy boundaries. I seem to use the same mantra, "You don't have to like me."

Renny

2chickiebaby

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2010, 03:13:06 AM »
I knew what you meant, Renny. It was Sassy who asked the question.  I agree with your explanation :)

cremebrulee

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2010, 05:29:03 AM »
Hiya Sassy...I have so enjoyed reading you, and your advice...thank you; and, your MIL is very fortunate to have you...you are a sweetie and would make a wonderful DIL....thank you for trying to understand her and for sharing....

I grew up very independent, and privet...I say much more on these forums then I do in real life...hate it when someone asks me how much I pay for things....or asks me questions about privet matters...if I offer, that is one thing, however, I will stand my ground with anyone who oversteps boundaries...and I won't get into he said she said...with anyone...I hate gossip...and dislike it when someone tells me something personal about someone else, and I will tell them, that, that person, told them in confidence, and it is wrong of them to repeat it to me....and once someone does that, I will no longer be intimate with my personal affairs with them....

I also had a MIL like yours...she wanted to involve herself in all of our financial affairs and purchases...it annoyed me, however, since hubby was so used to doing so, I simply overlooked it...however, it made me so angry, hurt and frustrated, and I backed off of her...she just inserted herself into our lives way to much....I was 7 years older then my husband, which also made it difficult...I didn't want to be mothered...or given advice...or asked how much things were, or have things constantly bought for me...do you know, she bought me all my china, and crystal, and never asked me if I liked it?  She just went and picked it out herself and bought it...I was suffocating....

My personal opinion is this...

a lot of MIL's do not let they're son's go...they do not realize, that DIL's are the new lady of the house...that it is in fact, her house, and just b/c your son married her, doesn't give you entitlement to not call before you stop by...boy I hate that, no one should do that....we were raised to call people before we stopped by for a visit, even family....it's out of respect for they're privacy, even if you were not raised like that, your DIL is not you...she comes with her own set of rules and her own culture...and if you want things to go smoothly, we all as MIL's need to honor that from the very beginning....we have to grow, and understand, that just because we were raised with a certain set of rules, doesn't mean, others are...doesn't make us wrong or right, but what it does do, is translate, that we must be open to the need for some down right simply manners and socialization skills...to be aware, that DIL and son, need they're space when they first get married...and to stop insisting to be involved in they're childen's lives to the point that we treat our GC as if they are ours...they are not...

Your new DIL cannot wait to start being on her own, and leading lady of the house....she is excited and very dead sent on being a good wife....the moment, a mil, crosses over boundaries and starts saying, son likes his Lasagne made this way or that...or why did you buy this, or your chair should go over there....or calling son so many times a week...and the list goes on and on....mothers of son's need to let go, completely and allow they're son's to experience his new life, under a new household, with them, making they're own rules of the house together....if we MIL's are asked for our advice, that is a different story, and even then, in the beginning, I wouldn't elaborate...I'd tell my son, your a grown man, you need to start making your own decissions...and, you need to discuss things with DIL, make her think, she's in charge...allow her, her own household....

Before my son was married, I used to tell him, how important it was not to spend so much time at work, and more time, playing with wife, meaning...making special dates, taking her on romantic weekends...and never forgetting she is the love of his life, and the mother of his children and she comes first.  We'd talk about this a lot....

So, in my way of thinking, I believe way to many MIL's get to involved in they're sons life, when they need to embrace the change and get on with they're lives...we do not own our children...and once they marry, it's they're turn to live they're lives...not live up to our expectations and the way they do things, has to be they're way, not ours....

DIL's are very sensitive when they first marry....and any unwanted suggestion that a mil makes, well, quite frankly, if she is insecure, she is not going to identify with the fact that your trying to help her...she is going to take it as if you are telling her, her way of doing things is wrong. 

No MIL on the face of this earth, should be stopping by they're son's home uninvited or without a phone call...that is a big mistake...I'm going to be frank...your son's  and DIL's need they're privacy...they work hard all day and all week, and I don't care how badly you want to see the Grand kids, it is very disrespectful to barge in on them during the week when the DIL's are trying to rush around to get them all fed, so that they can spend some quality time together....same with weekends...they need they're privacy...I cannot tell how how many times my mom and dad, just stopped in and caught us, well, you know....

That annoys me...very badly when parents, think, because it's they're son or daughter, they have the right to just pop in, or expect to be best friends with they're son's or daughters...go everywhere with them...expect them to adhere to our Christmas traditions, when in fact, they want to make they're own.  I hated Christmas, absolutely hated Christmas, b/c of all the running around we had to do, to make certain the inlaws were happy, and so were my parents....awful time...that is why, I started going away for Christmas & Thanksgiving....to have a quiet celebration of my own...

If I had known, then, what I know now, I would have told both our parents, that we were spending Christmas and Thanksgiving at home in our own home, and that was going to be our new tradition...and to keep from hurting one parent, I would tell them both....

I was also raised that you treat everyone fairly...what you give to one child, you give to all....and it wouldn't be fair to nix one parent for another...so, DIL's should also understand that...

I don't mean to insult or hurt anyone's feelings, but, as you all know, I am very honest, cut and dry and don't mince words...

Now, if you have a DIL like mine, or MIL like our DIL's do here, then sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid trouble....there are just some lost souls in this world, who believe they own people...a normal, mature, aware and intellectual MIL/DIL would understand this...and would try to resolve problems between them and they're inlaws...that is why I love our DIL's here...they are not only aware, but also, intellectual and compassionate...they were in fact, raised by wonderful, mature, parents....

Sassy, I think your correct in all you think and feel regarding this issue...and I am so thankful your here...thank you for this thread

and by the way, I also want to say, while I think of it, to our DIL's here...while reading all your posts, I can't help think about how proud of you I would be if you were my DIL's...not to mention, your characters are those of some very good qualities, your parents taught you... who should be very proud of you all.  I would be honored to have any one of you be my DIL...thank you for your adice, feedback and perspectives on our issues...



« Last Edit: February 16, 2010, 07:28:59 AM by cremebrulee »

cocobars

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2010, 06:39:50 AM »

I do not like the idea of MIL feeling she's in the "back seat" of anything.  But at the risk of beating a metaphor, I was hoping for help to explore that feeling, with the goal of finding out if there's a way to avoid MIL feeling that way, without letting her take the wheel, or the "co-pilot" seat next to my husband.

The idiom "taking a back seat" is defined on freedictionary.com as "to let other people take a more active and responsible part in an organization or a situation."

One of the reasons my DH pulled back from her, is because of her wanting to involve herself in decisions we made, and getting very upset when her input wasn't acted upon.  We listened to her ideas, and discussed them with her sometimes.   
Whether it was our wedding, house hunting, budgeting, vacation planning, job searches, graduate school, it was and is all things we want to do as a couple, to plan, to affect how the rest of our lives go.  We ended up sharing less planning with her, because it seemed a way to upset her less, if it turned out we didn't do as she suggested.  Then she felt left out.  A catch-22?

I'm not sure how she could have been in the front seat with us, for most of these? Or does she expect me to take a back seat, because her wisdom and experience supercedes mine?  If I'm honest, I guess ideally I pictured her driving her own car.  Or enjoying the ride with us, if she wants to come along. My own parents drive their own car, or seem content to ride in the proverbial "back seat" for things we plan for ourselves.  I don't know if that's unfair to compare, because my parents are married to each other.  She may have felt for so long that she and DH were "up front" that the role of "back seat" is me taking what was hers.  I'm not sure and I try not to assume or judge.

Please know I am not referring specifically to the member here who used that phrase, not at all, which at this time I don't even recall who it was.   I do not want to offend.  It's the familiar phrase and the feeling around it, itself.   This is about my feelings that come up, when my MIL uses that phrase, and wanting to understand hers.  I am struggling with the idea of it being "selfish" for us to drive our own car.  Any insight to help me gain compassion or understanding is greatly appreciated.  Thank you.
Sassy,
I think you're very healthy in your stance with your MIL and see nothing wrong with her treatment.  The fact that she wants the "front seat" (or seems to), may indicate that she is having some trouble letting go of her son.  As Luise so nicely put it in her post, and I agree, We have to let our sons go when they marry someone.  It's not always easy for some MIL's to realize the dynamics involved and let go of that "control" part of the relationship we are all so used to having while raising our sons when they are still little, and I have met some mothers who never seem to get a grasp on the fact that her DIL is her sons choice and partner.  As his partner, she (the MIL) takes the back seat, just as there seem to be DIL's who don't understand that when they are at their MIL's home, their MIL is "up in the front."  Anyway, I see nothing wrong with your views and believe that since you are very considerate about her feelings, this situation should work out for you in the long run. 

None of us here object to taking a "back seat," but as so many others have stated, we feel kicked to the curb and as the mother of that son we don't feel that is our place either.  I believe these feelings come from completely different treatment by some of our DIL's. 

I have always given my input, but not until asked for it, where my DIL is concerned.  Then I felt it was still "just my opinion" and remained unscathed when decisions didn't go in the direction my opinion would steer.  I don't know if there really is a right or wrong here.  I can tell you that my DIL (no matter what I thought of her or how wrong some of her actions were), did give me full consideration when at my home.  That made a difference for me personally.  I didn't have to be "number one," but it was nice that I was - sometimes...

I hope things work out for you, Sassy.  You are one of our best assets here and I value reading your posts.  It's always a good thing to hear what I believe a healthy DIL thinks and feels, and to see some DIL's (like you) putting so much effort into understanding and trying to have that healthy relationship we all want.  :)
« Last Edit: February 16, 2010, 07:02:48 AM by cocobars »

Offline luise.volta

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2010, 06:50:26 AM »
Beautifully said. Thank you. We have the best of two worlds here, MIL/DIL which of course makes it one world, the way it should be. It isn't hypothetical, it's normal and many of us are denied that in our lives. We don't change things (people) here but we find ways to go on. It's called healing. We have created a loving, devoted e-family. A council of wise women. We surround those who join us, our "new with safety, and for some, peace comes, if we are open to it. We rant, cry, expound, nurture and are nurtured. Love abounds and humor tickles our funny bones. MILU has become my dream come true and if I had to dream alone, it would be an empty e-page.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Offline Pen

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2010, 08:11:47 AM »
Sassy, I'm honored that you would ask about this. You seem like a dream DIL dealing with an MIL who is having a bit of trouble letting go. May your MIL soon realize how lucky she is! Her son has found a great partner; now she can back off and let go of the reins. He's in good hands :)

I understand you aren't speaking literally in the above posts about seating arrangements, but as we all know from the corporate and political world, seating is very important and can tell a lot about the status of the people involved as well as help or hinder negotiations.

As a DIL to a wonderful MIL (who has passed, and who I miss every day) and as an MIL to a DIL who is trying to be polite around me but really doesn't like or respect me, I think the "backseat" discussion has been very interesting and enlightening. My first mental picture was of an overbearing woman, a "ship under full sail" as my dear grandpa used to say, plopping herself in the front seat of the car without being invited while the poor little wife was left to fend for herself in the backseat. My mind immediately jumped to the very real image of a day when we were visiting MIL and took a sightseeing drive. I offered MIL the front seat because I wanted her to be comfortable and to be able to talk with her son, my DH, more easily. It was a way of honoring her. I gladly sat in the back with our children. It would have made me very uncomfortable to be riding in the Queen Seat while my dear MIL was stuffed in the back. She doted on her grandkids, but 4 hours in the backseat with them could get old quickly:)

DH (over 6 ft, large man) and I are always stuffed in the back seat with DDD when we ride with DS and DIL, and I was put there when riding with DS and her sister, who she sees often, after spending hours helping DIL with an exhausting project. I will take my own car next time! I didn't feel tolerated, much less honored.

DH and I are "in the trunk" (LOL, Mominwaiting, that was great!) as far as DIL is concerned. There are times DS wants our input on decisions they're making, but DIL will always defer to her parents (who haven't made such great choices in their lives.)

So, I think that the seating arrangements, literally and figuratively, should change with each situation. However, some people hang on to them like grim death (I had a boss who didn't want to give up control of his reserved parking at the company even after he retired!!)
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Sassy

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2010, 11:22:37 AM »
Gosh, every word here is so validating, thank you.  Thank you.  I did not know what to expect when I wrote this and am grateful to be understood.

There's a lot more history and other more important things that are going wrong.  I wish this was our only issue.  But they all weave together, and this is one part. 

What she would say is "I know you just want me to take a back seat" and my response would be to say "no we don't."  But then I'd think about it, and think well, maybe she's right, and I do.  Then I'd feel I wasn't being honest with her.  She was right about my motivations.  And I felt dishonest and unloving. 

She also says "I can't just take a back seat when", when her son's making his first real estate purchase, when she thinks he's making a mistake, or whatever it is.   Then that would make me angry, like she didn't trust us or him to be able to take care of ourselves.  And I'd think about it, later realizing she wanted the best for him, or to protect him.  Then I'd feel silly or petty for feeling the anger before. 

It is complex.  Thank you all for welcoming me, and explaining this better from a different point of view.  "Kicked to the curb," and "stuffed in the trunk" were extentions of the metaphor that were funny and painful at the same time to read.

Quote
DIL's are very sensitive when they first marry....and any unwanted suggestion that a mil makes, well, quite frankly, if she is insecure, she is not going to identify with the fact that your trying to help her...she is going to take it as if you are telling her, her way of doing things is wrong. 

This seems to be so true.  As I become more secure (only been married since October), I hope this angle (my sensitivity) ceases to factor as part of the problem.  Thank you all.

2chickiebaby

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2010, 11:27:03 AM »
Sassy,
You are a whole lot nicer and more understanding than either one of mine are. 

thesecondwife

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Re: Taking a "back seat"
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2010, 11:43:29 AM »
Hi all. I am new here and post on the "other" site too. LOL. I am divorced from an emotionally abusive man and had a difficult MIL and SIL! I guess I am a veteran, huh? Anyway, I read every post and they all gave good advice. I think your MIL is having a hard time letting go too. My XMIL had a difficult time when XH and I moved in together and even when we married! We tried to reassure her too but she had this hate campaign against me.  :-[ I now have a BF that is awesome now and his parents are really nice. I must say its a breath of fresh air! But, maybe try having lunch with your MIL (You and DH) and talk to her about your boundaries and set some healthy ones. Let her know that you appreciate her advice, but that you are adults now and need to make your own decisions and own mistakes. That's how you learn!  ;) Good luck!