How do we handle a disagreement about in-laws?


This weekend i got the surprise of my life. MY FIL and MIL were here for a short visit - they live 1000 miles away. My husband has always had a stressful relationship with them - no matter that we are in our 50's - they come, feel like they can criticize all that we do, that we don't know anything - expect us to change when we eat, what we eat, wait on them hand and foot - completely take over. We have full time professional careers that they criticize, opinions that they criticize, parenting skill that they criticize. We have set boundaries but they still try to get us to knuckle under each and every visit "We are your parents, you should......" I am usually wild by the time they leave after 48 hours.

ANYWAY - the last day of their visit over lunch - before DH took them to the airport - they mentioned that they want us to consider buying a larger house (with their financial help) and that we move in together. They want to see more of our son as they age and then as they age, we can help them.

I was stunned. DH said "we'd think about it" and then we got into a huge fight when he came back from the airport. He has absolutely no experience with caregiving. when my dad was at home and i did respite care - my DH was not there. Not to see the decline, the combativeness, the incontinence, the meals thrown on the floor - the constant doctor appointments for hours at a time, the constant getting up a night. The stress and exhaustion that you all know so well. I was wrung out after just a weekend - imagine my step mom who did this for five years!

I feel they should buy into a continuing care community - where they start out with independent living, gradually add services for assisted living, then finally skilled nursing and memory care. They won't consider this because they expect their children to care for them (even though FIL's own mom went into a continuing care facility).

My DH is in his own fantasy world - picturing the Walton's existence, three generations around the dinner table enjoying each other & him finally having the good relationship with them that he never has. In reality - they complain about what we cook and use the dinner table to criticize what we do, how we live, how we raise our son, our opinions, etc. I can't believe he is seriously wanting us to do this.

We can't get along now with them. What about as they age and need more hands on help? it will be ME they expect to drop my job to take them on round after round of doctor appointments, clean for them, cook for them, etc. because i am a woman. My DH disappears when they get on his nerves and i have to deal with them.

Yet - we have fought about this several times since Sunday. He feels I'm "abandoning" his parents by not wanting to consider living with them. He won't look at this website to gain experience, or talk to co-workers going through this, or counseling about this, or listen to my step mom's experience with my dad.

I am going to see a counselor on my own. I have told DH that this is a deal breaker - i WILL NOT live with them. Have any of you dealt with a spouse with his head in the clouds? How do i get him to at least start asking about the experience of others? He wants me to try. My counter point is that this is awfully expensive and disruptive to "try" as we will never be able to unwind this fiasco - so research now. We are at an impasse. Thank you!



Kimber, No is a complete sentence. You will not win any argument or discussion on this. Your husband will not go to a therapist, and he won't listen to anyone else's opinions on this until a catastrophe happens. Only your husband "knows", and he believes that "it will all work out". If you are expected to keep your mouth shut while being trolled by in-laws in your own house, there is not a way in heck that your husband will be reasonable and open to discuss the situation. Trust me on this. A non-caregiver spouse, that has never taken care of an elder at home and has family members that never did, has a very rosy picture of what the relationship will be and the level of care required. How many diapers of a child has husband changed, much less a combative elder? ha. I told my husband that his parents would not ever live with us. My in-laws didn't stay with us when visiting because of that type of behavior. My name, also on the deed, would prevent any sale of our house if my husband had been foolish enough to try it. My name would not go on any new loan application or deed of house. I would not pack up to move either us or them to a new house. And I DID NOT help my husband when his parents ditched a mortgage and home in another state to move to our state with the expectation of full time assistance. It didn't happen. But it didn't happen because I said no and kept saying no. It's stressful and it's been a daily challenge, but our son's needs came first, my needs and husband's needs second and third. And my in-laws needs were not mine - they were husband's. It was interesting to watch the reduction in involvement when it became clear it was a solo operation for husband and that his parents were looking for FREE help. Solidarity in refusal.
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to Guestshopadmin

I have an appointment on Wednesday with a therapist - a wonderful woman who helped me set boundaries with my mom and DH set boundaries with his parents about ten years ago.

Yesterday (Sunday) was the weekly call with my DH and his parents. They want to come out at Thanksgiving to visit but also to look at houses - something with a separate space for them. They mentioned to DH that DH should be getting together with a realtor and someone who can give us advice on staging our house for sale.

When the call was over, I came into the kitchen and said "I will welcome your mom and dad for Thanksgiving and we will enjoy a great meal and a great day together. However; I will NOT be looking at houses. If you want to move in with your parents - fine, but I will not sell this house and move into a house with you and your parents. They are independent now but as they age we will be expected to provide care that we do not have the training or time to do. Don't you remember how quickly my dad went from independence to needing his diaper changed? He is younger than your dad. If you want to sit down and talk with me, I am ready. I just wanted you to know my position. By the way, I'm meeting the therapist on Wednesday - you are welcome to come with me."

He did not say much and we didn't fight. I think he was surprised that the idea his parents floated last Sunday seemed to be an agreed upon plan in their minds and i think it rattled him a lot. He is someone who takes time to make major decisions.

We had a soccer tournament yesterday and didn't talk about this at all, but I noticed that when I woke up around 2am - he was not in bed. He was downstairs thinking and was up the rest of the night. To me, that is a good sign.

I so appreciate having you guys in my cheering section!
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Reply to Kimber166

Don't budge an inch on this. Hubs is nuts to think it would work out. Is he attracted to the deal because he sees financial gain somehow? He already has a "Stressful" relationship with these folks. It makes no sense that he would consider this proposal.

He needs to choose between you and his parents. I would never, ever expect my wife to live with my parents and they are pretty sweet folks.
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Reply to Windyridge

Do not do this. Make it your hill to die on. Once they get in the house they will never leave.

You husband is a lot like my father, he used me and my mom as a buffer. And she did move in with them for awhile.

I suggest you have your husband spend a week at their home with them....trapped. He might see what it will be like. My father had to spend a weekend with his mother in her place and he came home in shock. He wanted to know when she had gotten so 'bad'. We told him she was always like that but he was too zoned out in front of the TV to notice and we got stuck dealing with her.
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Reply to lkdrymom

Well - they came for Thanksgiving. They arrived on Wednesday - and we went to my son's school for his presentation. Thursday we all enjoyed the meal and walks. Thursday night they wanted to talk about the living together and "how we could make it work".

My DH has had alot of time to think since the blow ups previously and he stated politely and quietly "we have paid off our house, it is in a great location for our work commutes, and we like it. We are not moving"

Then I asked them what they were assuming would happen when we lived together. We found out that since I'm early 50's - that once i reached 55 I'd likely stop working and then would be available if they needed help - to the dr, etc. So i politely told them that i had no intention of stopping working at 55 - that i loved my career, that we needed to save for retirement and our son's college. In short - i could not afford to leave.

They expressed a lot of disappointment but it was not vitriolic. Later i found out my FIL had pulled my husband aside and asked him to promise to take care of MIL and "never put her in the nursing home". Bless my DH - he told his dad that that was a promise he couldn't make, that he saw how grandma needed nursing home care and how my dad needed nursing home care - that we were not full time nursing / hospital in our house.

My DH told my dad straight out - "you have made your own decisions all of your lives. Now you need to make plans for your aging - and loss of mobility especially and eventually loss of ability for ADL and mental capacity" what are your plans when you can no longer drive? etc.

Dad's response was "well that's why we expected you to step up" and my DH reminded his dad about his dad's mom - who chose to move to senior housing when she was 75 - then to assisted living - then to nursing home where she died at 99 1/2.
MIL and FIL were not happy - we got alot of snippy comments about the "young people of today" and self centeredness etc. which we ignored.

But, now it looks like living with us is put to bed. Hopefully they start planning for their future. They are 78 and 80 - no long term care insurance, house with stairs, yard to maintain and no plans for declining years.
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Reply to Kimber166

Thank you all for the wonderful answers and support!!!! This whole situation has completely floored me, and both of us are emotional right now. When they come to our area - they do not stay in our house (too small) because they completely ignored all of our boundaries every time they came. So when son was born - we have them stay elsewhere.

DH was visiting them for four days this summer (i had to work) and came home completely frazzled. They get on each others' nerves.

The above is why this is such a shock to me - DH and i have always been on the same page with his parents - have the relationship we can, but don't get trampled. His mom is from a poor country where the kids took care of the parents and served them (or so she thinks). Yet she did not do this for her in laws here or her mum in the old country.

My DH is, i think, saddened that as his parents hit their 80's - their mobility is going downhill, their friends have mostly died, and they are getting lonely. He is mourning the lack of good relationship with them. He somehow pictures this ideal of larger house = individual space would work. Yet, no amount of space will change their feeling that we should do as they wish because they are the elders, bossing and nagging us, and the constant patter of criticism. His mom still complains about his hair and he is 53. Ramp it up from their to his posture, his job, etc etc etc

I mentioned in my first post that they floated the idea only. It is in the initial stages. Yet, knowing my DH, he won't want to confront the fact that we all get along if we are not under the same roof and only for a few days at a time. He is a very logical man in every other area of his life, a wonderful husband, and father.

Hopefully since my IN LAWS are just in the beginning stage and nothing is rushing - i have time to get him to take the emotion/wishful thinking out and realistically look at this. Right now he sees their suggestion as them wanting to have a good relationship with him in their last few years and he wants that too.

BUT, i have read too much here, experienced too much myself, seen too many women co-workers stressed, angry, guilty, and the whole gamut to think naively that we can achieve the Waltons. This will be the hill i die on.

Thank you, thank you, thank you - for all of the support.
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Reply to Kimber166

Kimber, there are so many aspects of how this will go sideways:
-undermining and interference in parenting, often with the kid present
-teenage kids and older will become scarce due to stressful environment
-hearing conversations between spouses and insert themselves into the conversation, creating discord
-power struggle over the running of the household - expectation that household should run as theirs did
-because they're living with their kids, they may tell people they don't really have a home ("I'm a nomad")
-expectation of inclusion in all social activities. If the activity is not suitable or of interest to parent, changes are to be made to accommodate. This includes vacations.
-huge conflicts between parents and adult children, as parents will expect to continue their idea that you are to do as they wish you to.
-money will probably come into play

And this is not even touching on the whole caregiving aspect .....

I think that for each caregiver who looks back at "how in the world did I get HERE?", there's that one pivotal point where we zigged when we should've zagged.

This is yours. Hold fast. Re-read your first paragraph and amplify it thousands of times.
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Reply to Linda22

Kimber, I'm smiling as I write this. Your updated post is so heartwarming, and so welcoming, that your husband stood up to his father and made his position clear. You have a strong husband.

I was shuddering a bit though as I thought of how the family developed the scenario and just expected you and your husband to accept it.

I'm so happy for both of you that the attempt to change your lives and force you into home care was thwarted, and that you made a stand against the assumptive and overbearing relatives.

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Reply to GardenArtist

Oh, Kimber---
Been there--and it stinks.
Hubby thought his dying father should spend his last months with us. Of course it wouldn't have rattled hubby's chains one iota! I was already doing it all the caregiving in his home--and he thought I would jump at the chance to have HIS dad live with us, FT. I seriously don't know what was going on his head, except he felt extreme guilt over not having been involved much in FIL's care as he aged. Well--that wasn't MY problem. (At the time I was also caring for my father who had Parkinson's--giving mother days of respite care.)
We also had 2 children still at home---
There was no fight. I simply told Hubby if he wanted dad to be "here", that was fine. The girls and I would leave. He could quit his job and stay home with dad. I stood my ground and even though, to this day he thinks I was selfish---I knew my limits and I was at the end of them just running out to FIL's home 2-3 times a day, plus caring for daddy. And my girls. Hubby isn't capable of doing caregiving, and didn't do a single thing besides take FIL to the dr once or twice.

The whole "3 generation in one house" in really difficult--if not just impossible. My mother lives with my brother and his family. Almost 20 years now. He wishes he hadn't taken mother and dad in. But, he did, and now it's a forever thing. His wife has stepped away from caregiving and brother does it all, with some help from me, if mother is speaking to me. It has been really hard on the marriage, the kids....I just do not see an upside to them having mom there.

It sounds like an ALF would be great for your in laws. An apartment type setting where they can be "independent" and you can see them if and when you want.

I have seen and heard of too many disasters with the 3 generation home--stick to your guns!!! Once the parents are're stuck. And you're right, it won't be your hubby doing the "hands on", it will be YOU.

Wow--I just wish you luck in this. Sounds awful, esp since hubby won't listen to you. Maybe you can find some similar situations among people you know...and have him talk to them about how hard this can be.
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Reply to Midkid58

I agree w/the others here. This is a deal breaker!

The only way that it can work to move the elderly into the home is if BOTH the husband and wife are so committed to what it will take to see it through.

It's a "decent" suggestion that someone else made, perhaps they'd like to move to IL nearby with graduation from there to AL, and NH. That too, will have it's pitfalls .. but at least it's not right under your roof.

He is being unreasonable and I would dig in my heels!

My husband too, thought the "yellow bedroom" (guest bedroom in our home) would be a suitable setting for his mother to take up residence. Mind you, I think he's taken her to maybe 1 or 2 of the hundreds, if not thousands, of doc appointments she's had through the years as she has aged and become more frail. No, no and no!

Stand firm.
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Reply to Dorker

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