Setting boundaries with an intrusive mother-in-law

This article is a part of The Complete Guide to Dealing with your Mother-in-law – Chapter Six

It’s wonderful if your mother-in-law is your best buddy. But what if you are stuck with an intrusive mother-in-law who doesn’t respect your personal space? As I already said in one of my previous posts, the concept of boundaries does not exist in India as they do in the west. Mothers-in-law believe that they have all the rights on their son’s life, thus end up invading your private life.

Drawing strict boundaries is a good solution, but it is sure to ruffle a few feathers or worse, make you the villain. Here are some tips on how you can draw boundaries without making your in-laws go mad.

Talk to your spouse about moving out:

“Good fences make good neighbours” as Dr. Phil says. Moving out can solve many family problems along with some extra benefits like easy financial management. Consider renting an apartment nearby and limiting your visits to your in-laws.

Talk to your husband about this. Things probably won’t work if you blame your in-laws and demand your husband to move-out or threaten him with a divorce. Stay calm as much as you can and be smart. Here’s how you can approach your husband about the topic.

  • Step1: Tell him your problem
  • Step 2: Offer a possible solution
  • Step 3: Let him know how the solution benefits your relationship
  • Step 4: Listen to his opinions.
  1. Start by telling him that you are suffering an overdose of intrusiveness from your in-laws. Don’t BLAME them at any cost, it’s going to backfire on you. You should only let him know what’s affecting you, not how bitterly you hate a person.

For Example:

Don’t say“Your mom disturbs us with all those dirty hour-long gossips

Say:”I am finding it a little difficult to spend some private moments with you.” 

  1. Offer a possible solution to your husband: Be practical. Don’t get into a bitter and emotional drama. Don’t cry and make a fuss. Stay calm and simple. Don’t complicate things. Stick to open-ended questions instead of giving him direct orders.

For Example:

Don’t say: “Let’s move out of this god-damned place, I can’t stand this anymore!

Say: “Have you considered the possibility of moving? What’s your opinion on this?

  1. Let him know how the solution benefits your relationship: This one is an extremely practical step. Show him the benefits of your solution.

For Example:

You can tell him “Staying together is getting problematic for me and MIL. Both of us are subconsciously competing with each other for your attention. Nurturing these negative emotions everyday might lead to problems between us. Moving out can put an end to this as well as deepens the romance between us. I believe it’s great for us and your parents.”

  1. Listen to his opinions: Don’t get adamant about your decision. Your husband might have some valid points too. Things like his parent’s health, society taboos can stop him from considering your opinion. Indians are obsessed with what others might think of them, so it takes a while to get him out of that habit. If that’s the reason, you might have a hard time. If there are valid reasons like your in-law’s health, you might have to resort to other ways of setting boundaries instead of moving out.

Get involved in your work:

Over-interference in your married life, offering too much advice, getting overly critical and judgemental of your every move can be emotionally energy-sucking and that’s where DILs get irritated. Instead of bottling up your anger until the last moment, try to avoid the situation in the first place. Don’t stay around her for too long. Involve yourself in hobbies or go out and meet your friends. Or simply lock yourself in your bedroom and listen to some peaceful music. If your husband stays until late in the night chatting with his parents, let him. Don’t feel compelled to sit there.

Join a meditation class and master your emotions. Get a job and keep yourself busy. Make it a point to spend at least a day ONLY with your husband. Go on a date, meet your buddies, watch a movie or dine at your favourite restaurant.

Look for simple solutions instead of complicating things.

Many things that daughters-in-law feel as intrusive are actually a gesture of care and love from their mothers-in-law. It’s the generation gap and cultural differences we can’t help. She may cook because she wants you to chill out, but you may feel that she’s invading your kitchen. When such small things irritate you, be polite instead of being harsh.

  • She changes sheets of your bed and inspects your wardrobe? Invest in a good door-lock!
  • She gives you too much unwanted advice? Say ‘OK’ and do things your way.
  • She spoils the kids too much? Get your child busy by getting him involved in activities like playing and drawing
  • She sits in your bedroom, chatting when you want to sleep? Yawn a couple of times, pretend being inattentive and tell her politely that you are feeling very sleepy.

Fighting and yelling is not the solution to everything. Deal with acceptance and empathy wherever you can.


Go back to The Complete Guide to Dealing with your Mother-in-law