HELP! My Mother In Law Is Living With Us And Ruining Our Marriage!

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Dear MarriageAdviceToday,

I am a 32-year-old wife who has been married for seven years. My husband and I have always had a strong relationship, but recently, it has been strained due to his mother living with us. She moved in eight months ago after her health began to decline, and while we both want to support her, the situation is becoming unbearable.

My mother-in-law has always been somewhat critical and overbearing, but living under the same roof has magnified these traits. She constantly comments on how we run our household, criticizes my cooking, and undermines my parenting decisions. My husband often takes her side to avoid conflict, which leaves me feeling isolated and unsupported.

Our once peaceful home has turned into a battleground. We have no privacy, and intimate moments are almost non-existent. My husband and I argue more frequently, and the tension is palpable. I am beginning to resent both my MIL and my husband for not recognizing the toll this is taking on our marriage.

I feel guilty for feeling this way because I know she needs help, but at what cost? How can I address this situation without causing a family rift? I don’t want to choose between my marriage and supporting my MIL, but I’m at my wits’ end. How can we find a balance that preserves our marriage while still caring for my mother-in-law?

Troubled in Texas

Dear Troubled in Texas,

I hear you loud and clear. Having a mother-in-law (MIL) under the same roof can indeed be a challenging dynamic, especially when it starts to affect your marriage. It’s important to address this issue sensitively yet assertively. Here’s a step-by-step approach to help you navigate this tricky situation:

1. Open Communication with Your Spouse: Start by having an honest and calm conversation with your spouse. Share your feelings without blaming or criticizing his mother. Use “I” statements to express how the current living arrangement is impacting your relationship. For example, “I feel overwhelmed and stressed because we don’t have enough privacy.”

2. Set Boundaries: It’s crucial to establish boundaries that everyone can respect. Discuss and agree on certain times or spaces that are reserved exclusively for you and your spouse. This might mean setting aside a couple of hours each evening for alone time or designating a part of the house as a private sanctuary.

3. Involve Your MIL in the Conversation: Once you and your spouse are on the same page, involve your MIL in the discussion. Explain the situation gently and respectfully. Emphasize that you value her presence but need to make certain adjustments for the sake of your marriage. Make sure she understands that these boundaries are about preserving the relationship, not rejecting her.

4. Seek Compromise: Find middle ground that can work for everyone. Perhaps your MIL can spend a few nights a week at a relative’s house or find a local community center for daytime activities. If it’s feasible, consider renovating part of your home to create a separate living space for her, giving everyone more privacy.

5. Prioritize Couple Time: Make a concerted effort to carve out quality time with your spouse. Schedule regular date nights or weekend getaways to reconnect and strengthen your bond. This dedicated time together can help mitigate the stress caused by your living arrangement.

6. Consider Professional Help: If the situation remains tense despite your best efforts, seeking the help of a family therapist might be beneficial. A professional can provide unbiased guidance and strategies to improve communication and harmony within your household.

7. Explore Long-term Solutions: Sometimes, temporary solutions are not enough. Explore long-term arrangements that ensure everyone’s well-being. This could involve finding a suitable assisted living facility for your MIL or adjusting your living situation to better accommodate all parties involved.

8. Take Care of Yourself: Don’t neglect your own well-being. Ensure you’re getting enough rest, engaging in activities you enjoy, and finding ways to de-stress. A happier, healthier you will be better equipped to handle the challenges at home.

Personal Story: I have been faced a similar situation. Although my MIL wasn’t living with us, she has been very critical during visits. She would comment on everything from our home cleanliness to how we raised our kids. It reached a point where I dreaded her visits. Instead of letting it fester, I sat down with my husband and explained how her comments made me feel. He initially felt caught in the middle, but he agreed to talk to her. We decided together that he would gently but firmly set boundaries with her. He told her that while we valued her opinions, our home was our space, and we needed her to respect that. It wasn’t easy, but over time, her visits became more pleasant, and I felt more supported by my husband.

Remember, you’re not alone in this. Many couples face similar struggles, and with patience and understanding, you can find a solution that works for everyone. Your marriage is worth the effort, and by addressing the issue head-on, you’re taking an important step toward preserving it.

Best wishes,


I'm a work-from-home (previously stay-at-home) mom of two beautiful children and married since 2009. Because I prioritize my relationship with my husband, I've seen tremendous benefits in marriage and want to help couples achieve happiness in their relationships. When I'm not busy with work and family, you might find me blogging, out at a race track, or on a Rally course.

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