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Set some boundaries with mother-in -law

Published November 14, 2012 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • I am getting married to a wonderful man, and mostly I get along with his family. I do have one recurring problem with his mother: She has this issue with communication. She calls him multiple times a day and texts him, and has this nasty habit of contacting me if he won't respond. While it does bother me that she interferes so much, what really troubles me is that she treats me like his secretary. When we first started dating, she used to call me right away if he wouldn't answer her calls, sometimes when I was at work. He put a stop to that, but then she started texting me, saying it's important for him to call her. My fiance has said things to her multiple times, but she hasn't stopped — and in fact it's getting worse. How can I get her to stop with the text messages?

Frustrated Future Bride

Dear Future Bride • Oh, Honey. And I never call people "honey." You can stop the text messages many ways, but that won't help if you and your fiance don't face the real problem, which is his mother's complete failure to recognize or respect boundaries. That's because blocking her texts won't block these: her multiple calls per day; her apparent belief that there's nothing wrong with call-bombing an adult child; her sense of entitlement to immediate access to said grown child; her abuse of the term "important"; her treating you as her son's secretary; her refusal to change her ways despite a direct request to; I could go on but I'm getting annoyed just typing it out. Please talk to your fiance about what you both would like the relationship with his mom to be. Does he want this daily call deluge? Do you ever want her calling you to locate him? Does he want her deciding how you both spend time with her, or would he rather the two of you decided that? How often would he want to visit or speak to her by phone, under perfect-world conditions? He just needs to tell Mom he loves her, and also needs room to be himself without her voice in his head: therefore, he won't pick up the phone for multiple calls per day, and you won't relay her messages to him. If your fiance won't agree to this, then bring it to counseling — the urgency this time is real.

Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.