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Monday 15 September 2014

Ask Mary: 'My in-laws are interfering'

Mary O'Rourke

Published 02/12/2012 | 06:00

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My wife and I have a new baby, and another child about to start school, but I can't enjoy any of it because whenever I get home, my mother-in-law and my wife's older sister always seem to be there.

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They visit at least four times a week and stay for the whole evening. They have an opinion on everything – from what we have for dinner to where we go on our holidays.

My wife says she likes having them around, but I think they just stress her out and make her doubt herself.

For example, we had decided to wait until the summer to christen our new daughter so that my brother could be there – he is the only family I have and he lives abroad.

We were happy with this decision until the in-laws got involved and told my wife that the christening should be at Christmas, because that's when most of their family were around.

Any time I say anything, my wife gets really defensive. I need some help.

Jonathan, Newry

Mary's view:

The query you have posed to me is very common and yet very difficult to resolve. You see, when you married your wife, you also married her family.

It is certainly very annoying to find your in-laws in front of you when you come home most evenings.

Your mother-in-law and sister-in-law are very happy that their daughter/sister has met a good guy, has two lovely children and they like to visit.

However, they are calling too often and heaping their opinions upon your wife.

In tackling this, I would go with the direct method. Pick a time when you and your wife are relaxed and happy. Explain to your wife how difficult you are finding the constant presence of your in-laws when you come home from work.

Explain that you look forward to coming home from work to be with her and your children, and having that special time together.

I can fully understand how your wife loves to see her mother and sister. Their constant calling would not be too bad if it was not accompanied by their constant criticism/advice.

In particular, I note that this is affecting your wife's confidence and sense of well-being.

Don't let your conversation with your wife spill over into argument, but it is important that you are very upfront with her.

You and your wife had planned the christening of your baby when your brother will be home. Talk this through with your wife, as I note that all her family will be home for Christmas.

My advice would be, don't take it on as a point of principle. If your wife is very firm on the idea of having all of her family together for the Christmas christening, perhaps that is a point that you could concede on, and ensure that everyone enjoys the event.

I wouldn't get into a very heated argument with your wife about it if she is determined on it.

I know it will be very difficult for you to broach all of these topics, but it is better that you do so.

In-laws can be a cause of great irritation – or great joy – in a family and it would be so much better if you can somehow steer it around to fewer visits and less interference and much greater satisfaction all round.

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