So I love my mother in law dearly but she is 4 months into grieving my father in law. She doesn't drive or speak good English. She was so used to taking care of her husband (he was 20yrs older) and cooking. She was basically a homemaker. She cries alot for him and I feel bad for her. I've on the other hand kinda feel like she is looking to my husband as her male figure. She has the need to take care of him, he opens the car door for her, walks into the stores with her. Things he used to do for me. She had a way of taking care of her house and to me it seems like she wants to take over my house. I do things a certain way, and without seeming to harsh, I tried to explain what I like done in my home. She told my husband that she is scared of me, and she will ask me if it's ok to take a shower. I clearly explained to her that she doesnt have to ask to take a shower or eat food we have or to do her laundry. She makes me feel like I treat her like a monster. I bought her puzzles, word searches, painting rocks, adult coloring books, to try to get her into a hobby. She double bagged them and put them in her closet. Me and my husband been arguing and I feel like it's putting a wedge in our relationship. Please, I need advice!

The things you do a certain way...

What sort of things?

Why do you think the gal needs a hobby???

She's lost the husband she spent her adult life waiting on. That was her hobby. She's missing it dreadfully. And it's only four months.

Set yourself a private deadline - end of the year, say. Something like that.

Put yourself in MIL's shoes. Think what would make you feel genuinely welcomed and cherished. Not colouring books or word searches. How about, being asked to demonstrate a recipe? Given respect for your experience. Having the pain you're in handled tenderly.

This will be a LOT easier if there is a definite limit to how long you have to keep it up. Of course you can't openly say to MIL (or DH, not just yet) "how long are you staying?" But you can start framing a schedule in your own mind, and shaping a plan for the end goal.

This lady needs to heal, so that she can then begin to look forward. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to make her healing process a really good experience for all of you.

Tiny example - instead of feeling miffed (who wouldn't?!) that DH opens the car door for MIL, open the car door for her yourself. Help her into her coat. Thank her for setting the table, even if you personally never do it her way. If you take control of these special little touches DH won't have to and it won't bug you so much.
Helpful Answer (19)
Reply to Countrymouse
Beatty Apr 3, 2020
What a caring & insightful response.
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Someone on this forum once said *a castle does not need two Queens*.

It sounds like your MIL is also trying to find her place in the new family dynamic. She is used to having her own house & being needed as you say, so may well focus that instinct onto your husband. Oh boy.

Is it possible for her to live nearby instead? Say a nice little apartment?

If not, I'm thinking a suite of rooms? Like a bedroom, small sitting room, bathroom. If space & $, some people build an extention.

A separate space she can be Queen. You obviously are Queen of the main house.

My Gran did the live with daughters thing for a time as didn't want Assisted Living. But such energy to fit into others' spaces, always being a guest really. When she did move into AL, it was her own little space. It was a better fit for her.

I'd say give it a go. Especially to get through the virus. Then take your DH out for dinner & discuss. How it IS working & how it is NOT. This is your house too & your life & you get a vote sister!

(A three person marriage is not a workable arrangement for most).
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Reply to Beatty

I think culture is involved here. Does Mom from a culture where the man is head of household. Where even if you are married the parents still have some controll. Matriarchs and Patriarchs.

I have always said, I did it my parents way when I lived home, when I got my own home I did it my way. So, MIL needs to understand that you welcome her into your home but its your home. If she wants her room a certain way, thats OK. But its your house and as such you like it a certain way. Your husband needs to understand this too. If you were living with her you would have to do it her way.
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Reply to JoAnn29
lkdrymom Apr 5, 2020
I have to agree. She needs to be needed so find something she can be in charge of. With that said, she needs to know that this is YOUR house and you get to set the way things are done. If you were living in HER home you would expect to have to do things her way. Why is this any different?
"kinda feel like she is looking to my husband as her male figure" and it also sounds like he's emotionally enmeshed with his mother. Ya'll need some marriage counseling and if he will not go, then you need someone to support you. She really needs to go somewhere else to live. Is that a possibility. Why does she need to come to your house?

You are right. If she moves in, you will not be the number 1 woman of the house and from your description no the number 1 woman of your husband.

The book that I usually recommend for situations like this is titled, "When He's Married to Mom" It offers advice on how to win him back. I wish for you the best.
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Reply to NoTryDoYoda
Sgarza Apr 3, 2020
She has 1 daughter who has 4 kids of her own that all have "problems" and a few of them live with her sister there is no room. They also have cats and smoke cigarettes and my mother in law doesn't do well with those things. I feel really bad cause I know there is no other place and she is better off with us,but I'm struggling at times. And my husband said I wear my emotions on my sleeves. Thank you for your response. Maybe I need to try harder, or maybe I need to seek a therapist. Idk.......
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It’s hard having anyone live in our homes. It just is. I am sure it is just as hard for her to live with you.

This is a tough time in her life. She does seem helpful and she desires to feel needed.

Do you feel that she truly desires to be helpful or is it a ‘take over’ personality. Did you get along with her prior to her moving in?

She misses feeling needed. She cared deeply for her husband and that’s gone now.

If you can compromise and find something that is helpful so she will feel needed and her activity is something that may satisfy both of you.

I am sorry that you and your husband are arguing. That’s hard too. As the wife, it’s important for you to feel as if you are number one. I get that.

Your husband feels caught in the middle. This is tough for him too. He lost his dad.

I hope things improve for all of you soon.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom
Sgarza Apr 3, 2020
Thank you.
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I once heard the saying "go on as you mean to end",, so make it known nicely that you are the "Woman of your house",, BUT.. find something that MIL can be in charge of.. her way. Something real that will make her feel needed. She does her own laundry? Why not ask her do all the laundry? She will feel usefull. So what if she folds things "wrong"? Its a chore you will not have to do.. maybe have her cook a dinner her way, that she plans once a week? One less dinner you have to cook! ( My hubs has taken over all the cooking for the most part since he retired, I love it) As for your hubs being there for her, opening doors, helping her shop.. maybe you could look at that as a clue as to how he may be for you one day. If she wants to be helpful, and I am sure she needs to feel like she is needed and not a burden , find her a real purpose in your home, and you may both feel better. And honestly, although I know you meant well,, if I got my 89 YO mom coloring books, rock painting kits, etc she would bop me on the head.. that is treating her like a child you want out of your way.
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Reply to pamzimmrrt

Sometimes when a new relationship, like that between you and your MIL since she moved in, can benefit from intentionally spending time together and getting to know each other better. Would you be able to take some time when you and she could just have coffee or tea together and talk? Was she born in another country? What was her childhood like? How did she meet her husband? What was their life together like when her children/your husband were young? What are some of the things she misses most about her husband?

She is still very much a "new widow" and she is probably suffering from shock and grief. It really takes a lot of time to adjust to one's "new normal.". Grief is not the only reason for the awkwardness in your relationship , but it probably makes it harder for your MIL to cope with her new situation.
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Reply to RedVanAnnie

First & most important - Get some counseling for yourself & hopefully your husband. If you don't the situation will only get worse & your marriage may be doomed.

Just a thought . . . Is there no possibility of either making part of your house into a "separate" efficiency apartment"? Or if you can afford it & there is enough space on your property there are pods that can be procured that are made specifically to be "mother-in-law" type separate living quarters for a family member who you need to look after.

Counseling! Counseling! Counseling!
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to martha908

You summed it up as feeling like she is taking your position in the household. Try to look at it as two women who love the same guy equally. She's been taking care of a house and husband all these years and now...nothing. Let her have some chores. Let her cook - there has to be some meals that hubby dearly loves that only mom can cook! Let her. If she doesn't do a task exactly right, is it really that important.
I always think about my sig other - when we got together he would try to clean up and it was totally different than the way I would do it. Mopping the floor was the biggie and I would remop. Then I finally realized how pissed I would be if someone came behind me and did it as though I wasn't clean enough. I LET IT GO. He was so good in so many other ways, why criticize. He mopped one week and I did the next in a manner that suited me. Overall the house was clean, we both contributed and I wasn't getting aggravated over something as silly as a mop job.
Don't drag home projects for her. Take her to a craft store (when you can) and see if there is something particular that catches her eye. Go online, for now, and show her some projects (quilt if she sews, crochet, etc) and see if any interest.
She's already in the home - don't get into a show down with hubby by asking him to choose you over her. It's his mom - what do you really expect him to say.
--Let go of the little things ---
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Reply to my2cents

If your MIL is still relatively young, get her situated in an Independent Living apartment of her own after she's been with you for a while and her grief isn't so raw. Help her move in and get set up, etc, and let her know you're available once a week to help her with whatever. That's my advice.

The worst mistake my mother ever made was having her mother come live with us after her husband died. An Italian woman with no hobbies, no friends, no interests in learning new things or making new friends, language barriers.....all the same traits your MIL seems to have. All they wound up doing was getting on one another's nerves and fighting over who was in charge and who did what chores. Two stay at home women enmeshed in a foul relationship with nothing to do but cook and clean. And fight. Leaving me in the middle of the chaos, and my father working grueling hours to escape himself. Grandma lived with us for 25 years and wound up living to the ripe old age of 91. She was sent to other children to live with after mom had it, but none were able to cope, so off she went to a nursing home.

Two queens in one castle doesn't usually work. Especially with cultural differences and expectations that don't jive with today's reality.

Have a talk with DH and make a plan to get her reestablished elsewhere within a certain time frame. Or expect the rest of your life and YOUR marriage to continue declining.

Good luck
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Reply to lealonnie1

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