Mother-in-Law Problems | THE JOLT NEWS ORGANIZATION, A WASHINGTON NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION

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By Alexis Rae Baker

Dear Lexis,

I find myself angry all the time. I’ve tried meditation, thought control, and a number of other actions, but none seem to produce much results. I find myself at the mercy of my mother-in-law who decided to come and live with us without warning. She and I don’t get along. She is weak and my husband reminds me that it is traditional that when someone’s parent needs help, their children (and accompanying spouse) step in to help. I tend to be okay with this paradigm, but I don’t know how to maintain my own sanity with it. Do you have any advice?

Thank you,

~ Rage in Tumwater

Dear Rager,

I can certainly understand. I have certainly had my share of unpleasant circumstances and encounters. It can be especially difficult when you feel trapped and hopeless to escape. You have my deepest sympathies.

I had a similar experience recently, and while I’ll keep the details private, I received great advice. If you can’t escape the circumstances, you need to create space for yourself and set clear boundaries. You will need to communicate these limits to your mother-in-law and your husband. It may not be easy and you may feel like you’re the only warrior against an army, but I’m sure things will calm down over time. You will find your happiness.

It’s a shame that you find yourself in this precarious position, but given your level of anger, the time for the bare minimum has arrived. What do you need to not get angry? What are you ready to accept and what are you not ready to accept? Where are you willing to compromise and where are you not?

Take time alone and reflect on the specific issues that are causing your distress and why they are so problematic for you. Is it a particular action, situation or attitude? Does it bother you because it causes physical, emotional harm or does it run into personal blockages?

For example, imagine your mother-in-law has a dog that is known to bite those she considers a threat. And while you can understand the dog’s desire to protect its master, there have been several occasions where the dog has attacked people who didn’t seem to deserve such behavior. As a result, you fear that an action on your part will trigger the dog and you will be attacked. Or maybe you are worried that your child will do something and the dog will attack him. It is the fear of physical harm resulting from a specific situation.

Once you’ve identified your particular sticking points, provide a few options for dealing with them. Keep in mind what you are ready to handle and what you are not ready to handle. Maybe you’re willing to spend the funds to convert the garage for her to live in, but you’re not okay with her in the house. It may be good for her to be in the house, but you can’t allow her belongings to take over your space and need to ask her to confine her belongings to her own room. Maybe you’re tired of her taking away your time as a couple, and you need to make a schedule for her to have access to your husband.

Whatever the problem, there is a solution you can live with. And, if implemented and maintained, it is also possible to repair the damage already caused by circumstances.

Also set clear boundaries with your spouse and let them know that if the behaviors that frustrate you continue to occur, you expect them to find an alternative solution to the life situation. Let her know that’s what you expect, whether it’s building an additional structure on your property or sending her mother to a care facility where she can get better care.

It can be very difficult to be in this position and I understand that you may feel bad for not wanting to help. However, your family should come first. Don’t trade your own well-being for her well-being as this is almost guaranteed to destroy your marriage. Set your limits, make sure you have what you need, and you’ll soon find a compromise you can all live with.

I wish you good luck and a wonderful solution.

~Lexis

Lexis is Alexis Rae Baker. She writes from her home in Olympia. Have a question about life, relationships, spirit? Visit it at lexisrae.com or write to Lexis at [email protected]

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