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Annie’s Mailbox: Enforce boundaries with pushy MIL

Tue., Dec. 7, 2010

Dear Annie: I am at the end of my rope. My mother-in-law is a wonderful, giving person, and I care for her. But she does not seem to understand boundaries.

Last weekend, my daughter and her family came for a visit. I wanted to spend some time alone with them and invited my in-laws to drop by later in the afternoon to see the grandchildren.

My mother-in-law showed up two hours early and brought a friend. When I reminded her of the time, she said she would wait in the front yard until I was ready. That was annoying enough, but she then informed me that she wanted to show her friend our house. Annie, our house was in no condition to have people wandering through it, and I told her so. Despite my objections, she barged right ahead.

I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I need to make it clear that this is my house and she needs to respect my decisions. My daughter says I need to be firmer. My husband has asked me not to say anything when these things happen, and he refuses to tell his mother when she has overstepped. Now what? – Mi Casa, not Su Casa

Dear Su Casa: Your husband should speak to his mother and ask her to be more respectful, but since he won’t do it, you will have to. Your daughter is right. You need to be more forceful, but do so with extreme politeness. If she shows up with a friend for a guided tour, stop her at the door, smile apologetically and say, “I’m so sorry, but we are not prepared for company. I wish you had called ahead.” Regardless of Mom’s protestations, stick to your guns. She will be angry, but she won’t do it again. You will get the boundaries you want, although we cannot guarantee your relationship will be the same. The choice is yours.

Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@

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