Let’s take a deep breath and tackle one of the most sensitive, but crucial topics for every married woman: in-law relationships. Or, to be exact, the mother-in-law. Or, should I say the monster-in-law?
Well, let me tell you some good news: it’s possible to have a healthy relationship with your husband’s mother. And, you know what’s necessary for that to happen?
This list of boundaries for mother-in-law! The only way to stop her from overstepping and interfering in every part of your life is to set healthy boundaries right from the start.
Here are the most important ground rules and limitations!
What are healthy boundaries with in-laws?
Healthy boundaries with your husband’s family are all limitations, which impose them to finally understand that you’re his primary family now. They have to learn to respect you, your attitudes, opinions, privacy, personal time, and space…
List Of Boundaries For A Mother In Law
Here is the ultimate list of boundaries for a mother in law that you should set if you want a happier family life.
1. No criticizing the relationship
Rule number 1: nobody is allowed to criticize your relationship or either of the partners. Actually, let’s be clear: your narcissistic mother-in-law, sister-in-law, father-in-law, best friend, or family member has no right to have an opinion about the way you and your spouse run your marriage.
They may not like the way you and your husband do something. They may not agree with some of your decisions. But, they must keep their opinion to themselves.
I know I’ve heard my MIL telling me that “things weren’t like that back in her days” or “how she would do something differently”. She wasn’t criticizing my marriage straightforwardly, but she was definitely doing it indirectly.
That’s exactly why one of your ground rules should be to ban this right from the start. If you catch your MIL starting to criticize some of your relationship practices, tell her that it’s not acceptable and ask her for some privacy.
2. No “choosing the side”.
Let’s get one thing straight: parental love and romantic love are two different concepts. They can’t be measured, and they shouldn’t be compared.
However, despite this, one of the most common toxic behaviors seen in extended families who don’t care about you is the practice of “choosing the side.”
“Do you really love her more than you love your mother?” “I can’t believe your wife’s needs are more important than mine.”
“She can come and go, but your mother stays with you forever.” “You can have as many wives as you want throughout your life, but you only have one mother.”
“Who will you trust more: me or her?” “Are you really going to choose her side?”
Sounds familiar? If it does, your MIL is trying her best to make your husband pick between you and her.
This is not acceptable, and you have to make that clear from day one! Even if you and her don’t get along, she is still his mother and you’re his wife. That’s the end of it!
3. Holiday limitations
Here’s another important thing on the list of boundaries for a mother-in-law, and it’s related to the holidays! I know what you must think right now: it’s only a couple of days a year, so why bother dealing with it?
Well, trust me when I tell you it should be on your list of boundaries for mother-in-law! Holidays can be the merriest time of the year, but at the same time, they can be a disaster waiting to happen and a reason for your depression.
It’s all up to you and up to the limits you set.
Who will be hosting the holidays? Remember, you probably have an extended family as well.
Will you spend all of your holidays with your extended family? Maybe, sometimes, you want to use these days to rest, and to be with your husband and children without any visits.
If your in-laws are coming to visit you, where will they be staying? How long are they allowed to stay in your house?
The same questions apply to the situations where you go and visit them!
4. You’re in charge of your own children
Trust me: you’ll need to make a special list of boundaries for your mother-in-law once the new baby comes. I get it: she’ll be crazy for her grandkid, but please don’t let her forget that you and your husband are the primary caregivers!
You and your husband are the only ones in charge of things like breastfeeding, the baby’s sleeping schedule, etc. Of course, this applies to the children’s upbringing and your parenting style later in the future as well.
For example, if you decide that there’s no putting your child in front of the TV or no ice cream before dinner, she has to respect that, even if she disagrees with your decision! On the other hand, if you choose gentle parenting, she’s in no place to discipline your children in the way she finds appropriate!
Here’s a piece of advice: if you think that your mother-in-law won’t respect your decisions, limitations, and parenting style, don’t ask her to babysit.
Tell her that you don’t wish to burden her since you know your child is a piece of work!
5. No interfering in private decisions
Private decisions regarding your marriage are not your MIL’s concern.
I’m talking about things such as the fact that you don’t want to have children or the way you divide your house chores. And, of course, let’s not forget everything related to finances!
I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Trust me, there are nosey mother-in-laws who will literally try to take a sneak peek under your sheets.
If you and your spouse decided not to cook on a daily basis, she’s in no position to talk you out of it. If you decided to have a cat instead of children, it’s your choice and she must respect it.
Remind her that you’re her daughter-in-law and not a machine for giving her grandkids. She mustn’t forget that you’re both adults, and that she has no right to invade your personal space, time, or decision-making process.
6. No favors if they come with conditions
How do you set boundaries with your MIL? Well, for starters, don’t accept any favors if they come with certain conditions (and, in most cases, they do).
Your MIL might offer to babysit. You’re probably exhausted and you’ll be more willing to accept.
Be careful because that is likely to be a trap! If you allow her to help you with the children, she’ll see it as a green light to interfere with your parenting methods.
The same goes for finances. She might offer you a loan or even give you some money when you and your husband are in crisis.
However, that doesn’t give her the right to interfere with your future financial calls or to nag about your bad money management skills.
7. Passive-aggressive practices will not be tolerated
Here is another important thing on the list of boundaries for a mother-in-law: don’t tolerate passive aggression. These practices are not always easy to spot, but trust me, they can ruin your marriage!
Sometimes, it just appears that your difficult mother-in-law is worried about your well-being, but she’s actually making nasty comments about your parenting or marital skills. This must be identified and stopped on time.
You think that hateful remarks that hit below the belt are the worst. Well, there’s something even worse: gaslighting.
Sometimes, your husband’s mother will try to convince you, your husband, and the entire extended family that “she didn’t mean it like that” or that “you misinterpreted her advice”. Don’t let these practices continue!
The most important thing here is to build unlimited trust with your significant other. Will your husband believe you or his own parents?
8. Your house – your rules
As harsh as this might sound, this rule is the way to preserve your mental health. Repeat after me: your and only your rules apply to your house.
Your mother-in-law (and your own parents) are just guests there and they must obey these rules.
First of all, there is no barging in and disrupting your peace. As much as you love your family, they can’t be showing up unannounced whenever they feel like it.
For this rule to apply, you and your husband have to make an agreement regarding their visits.
How often are they welcome to come over? How long are they supposed to stay? Is it okay for your families to spend the night or is it better to stay at the hotel?
Will you be cooking family dinners every once in a while or will you be taking your inlaws to the restaurant?
Of course, this all depends on your family dynamics and other factors.
It’s one thing if your mother- and father-in-law live across the street. In that case, you have to put an effort into setting healthy boundaries unless you want to end up on a set of Everybody loves Raymond.
But, hey… you don’t want to end up like their favorite holiday destination or a free hotel they spend a few months a week in either.
9. No abuse of any kind
When people hear the word ‘abuse’, all they think is physical violence. But, trust me… there are numerous other forms of abuse that are characteristic of a toxic family life.
You and your husband have to become a united front and stick to the attitude that calling names, insulting, and humiliating is also a form of abuse. To be exact, it’s called emotional abuse, and it won’t be tolerated.
The no-abuse policy is especially important when it comes to your children. Your husband’s mother or your own mother will perhaps want to discipline their grandkids in the way they find appropriate.
Explain to them that they’re not allowed to spank them, yell at them, or abuse them in any other way. Don’t let your overstepping MIL even negotiate about this; it’s your decision and it has to be respected.
10. Phone calls and texting regulation
Here’s another important item on the list of boundaries for a mother-in-law: regulation of phone calls and text messages.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not advising you to block her on everything the moment you say “I do”. That wouldn’t be a healthy relationship either.
However, you didn’t get married to spend all of your days texting her and talking on the phone with her either. Therefore, to save your own mental health, form a united front with your husband, and agree when and how often it’s okay for her to call and text.
Once again, it all depends on the family dynamics. What if you’re used to hearing from your own parents every day, but your husband only texts his father and mother once a week?
In that case, you two have to find the middle ground here – a solution that will be acceptable for both of you.
11. Unwanted advice is not welcome
This might come as a shock to all the overstepping MILs out there: nobody needs or wants to hear unwanted advice. This applies to your marriage, the new baby, your personal space, cooking skills… the list goes on and on.
But, what’s important is for your MIL to understand this as soon as possible. If you don’t ask for her opinion, she is not invited to give it to you.
However, you have to be extra careful here. She’ll probably get all defensive and do her best to convince you that she’s telling you all of it because she’s worried about your well-being.
And, maybe she really is. Nevertheless, both you and your husband are adults. You’re perfectly capable of making your own decisions.
Even if you regret them or do something wrong, you’re the only ones who suffer the consequences.
12. Scheduled get-togethers
We’ve already discussed the fact that your MIL has to know that she can’t come into your house unannounced and uninvited. Well, the best way to prevent this from happening is this item on the list of boundaries for mother-in-law-scheduled get-togethers.
Family dinners, celebrations; it all has to be planned in advance. You’ll have enough time to clean the house, get your schedule in order, and get financially and mentally prepared.
It’s likely that your MIL will accuse you of treating her like a business partner once you try to impose this rule. Don’t let her get inside your head!
Just tell her that you’re busy, and that you’re doing all of this to give her your undivided attention when she’s with you!
13. Directness is encouraged
There is no need to go around the corner to complain about each other. If you and any member of your extended family (and this especially applies to your MIL) has a problem with one another, be direct about it.
Of course, never forget to be respectful. You’re allowed to talk about whatever is bothering you as long as you do it properly.
14. Information sharing is voluntary
Some MILs think that the moment they get a daughter in law, they also get the green light into her life, mind, heart, and soul. This young woman became a part of the family, and therefore, lost all of her individuality.
You’re in no obligation to share your secrets or personal information with your MIL, especially if we’re talking about an overstepping MIL. And, she has no right to be upset about it.
You’re not hiding anything from her – you just chose to keep some things for yourself.
Being nosey is disrespectful and it equals invading your and your husband’s personal space. You two are a team, and whatever happens between you two should stay right there.
Keep this in mind: this woman might become your friend with time, but that will never be her primary role. She is not your BFF that you should tell your deepest wishes and darkest secrets to.
And, she has no right to complain about this.
15. Rules are there to be respected
This list of boundaries for a mother-in-law shouldn’t be just a bunch of theoretical rules that nobody actually follows. The rules and the regulations are here to be respected, and your MIL has to be aware of that from the first day.
If necessary, mention the possible consequences of her overstepping. No, I’m not telling you to threaten her or to emotionally blackmail her. Just make sure she realizes that every action has its reaction!
How do you set boundaries with an overbearing mother-in-law?
To start with, you have to be direct. Tell her that you respect her and love the role she has in your life, but setting boundaries is necessary for all of your sakes. What is even better is to have your spouse set these boundaries and explain to her their importance.
To Wrap Up
I can’t emphasize enough how important this list of boundaries for a mother-in-law is. If you two are getting along great, you might think you don’t need these limitations, but trust me – you do.
You never know when things can start going downhill. That’s exactly why you need a list of rules that everyone respects.
Sometimes, these boundaries seem difficult to follow at first. However, once you all get used to them, you’ll see that they’re actually a recipe for a successful relationship.