How can I get my mother-in-law out of the house with out upsetting my husband?

26 answers | Last updated: Dec 05, 2016
Courage67 asked...

Has anyone experienced a husband or partner who asked you to take in his mother with the promise if the situation does not work out, he will have his mother move out and not hold it against you?

It has been 5 years since my mother in law has lived with us and I am burnt out. I approached the topic of my mother in law moving out into her own apartment since she is now capable of doing it, in turn my husband turned on me yelling "Are you ever going to be happy with my mother living with us???"

It became very clear that if I proceed with her removal, that my husband would resent me and hold it against me. I know that he is trying to rescue her since his father abandoned and divorced her. Anyone else caught in a catch 22?


Expert Answers

Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N. and Attorney is the author of author of The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents. She has over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. As a nurse, she has extensive experience with geriatrics, chronic illness, pain management, dementias, disability, family dynamics, and death and dying. As a trial attorney, she advocated for for the rights of injured individuals and neglected elders. She is also co-founder of AgingParents.com.

You're experiencing a common struggle with family conflict around living with a parent. There are few situations in which this goes perfectly. What can you do about it?

You mention being burned out. It sounds as if a lot may be expected of you in terms of duties and responsibility toward your mother in law. It can be easier for your husband to offer his mother your home to live with you if he has less day to day responsibility for her than you do. It is time for an honest, unemotional meeting with your husband, without mother in law being present, to discuss how to make this situation better.

To prepare yourself, the first thing to do is to make a list of all the chores, duties and things you do for and with your mother in law each week or each day. Something is causing you to feel burned out. Write it down and try to be objective about your list.

Next, make a note of anything about having her in the house that is stressful or difficult for you. Sometimes it's criticism, complaining, telling you how to run your house, etc. that can get on your nerves. Sometimes personality differences or different styles of communication, different tastes or habits can cause friction. List everything.

Finally, you need to mentally rehearse a strategy for bringing up these things to your husband. You don't want to make him wrong, raise your voice, or blame him for promising one thing and doing another, as this will likely cause him to become defensive and push back. He's already done that and you are likely to see it again if you raise the topic poorly.

Every conflict can have a solution. Compromise may be needed. The reasons your husband feels that it is necessary to have mom in your home and her reasons for wanting to stay probably have nothing to do with you; they are likely rooted in the past. Perhaps he would feel guilty if he "abandoned" her again in her life. Perhaps she is fearful of living alone or without his support. There may be no logical basis to these fears. They are emotional, not reasonable things necessarily. However, they can be very strong motivators for anyone's behavior. You can't talk a person out of emotions.

If you can think of anything that would make life easier for you, personally with mom in the home, bring it up. Ask for what you need, short of insisting that mom leave. You don't want to damage your relationship with your husband by refusing to compromise on this. It may not be worth taking a position, making threats or giving ultimatums. These seldom do good in this kind of problem. For example, can you get away for a solo vacation, rest or break on a regular basis? Is there a friend you can visit away from home? Sometimes a change in your routine can make a big difference in your creative thinking about how to make the matter better for yourself.

You didn't mention whether mom needs supervision, but you did say she could live on her own. In that case, you have the possibility of getting away often and for your own sake. If there is a group you can join, an activity outside the home you'd like to do, or any fun thing that will give you a lift in your spirits, now is the time to find it and do it on a regular basis. If mom does need supervision, perhaps you and your husband can hire some assistance to be with mom while you have time to yourself. Caregivers can he hired by the day for for a few hours.

The most important message here is to take the best possible care of your mental health by doing things for yourself that feel good to you, regardless of whether anyone joins you. If you feel better about yourself, your situation may be livable. Standing up for what you need in a calm, respectful way will go a long way to getting you closer to a peaceful solution.


Community Answers

Mariannew answered...

You might have calmly answered your husband with, "No darling, this is just not working out as we planned, and we need to come up with a more workable living arrangement." Then set about finding a solution. If hubby refuses to compromise, you have choices to make to take care of yourself, or stay in the current mess and stew until your health suffers, or even move out.


Ellen65761 answered...

I had about the same situation, except I loved my Mother in law very much. The big thing that started happening is she would just sit on the couch take a bunch of laxatives and dehydrating herself and then would have to go into the hospital for fluids. I am a RN so took her to the Doctors , had him tell her she can't take all the Laxatives she was was taking, which of course didn't work. So gave her stool soft and laxative she could take once a week. Tried to get her out to senior places for her to meet people her age, which didn't work. she wouldn't go and was rude to people her age that came to visit with her. She had a picture wall in her own home gave her a wall in the front room to put her pictures on, couldn't get her to help. Still sat on the couch. None of these things worked. So started to think of self. I went back to work at the hospital, she was well now and asked her if she would help me and take care of the house. I worked 3-11 shift, so she had to fix supper for my husband, and clean the floors and dust. She became happy person. That worked for both of us. she was needed. So she became happy and so did I. My husband thought I was being mean to her, but he came around in time as he saw her become the person she was before. Rest of family thought I was mean and using their mother, but that didn't brother me. She was well and happy. So be it.


A fellow caregiver answered...

My husband's blind 88 year old mother moved in with us last fall after she fell and broke her hip. When she didn't live with us I always would invite her for weekends and Sunday dinner so that she could spend family time with us. I never minded and we got along reasonably well. I did everything to accommodate her needs when she moved in. I was also very supportive to my husband. Within two months I began to realize that she was far more needy and incapable than I had known. She is on over 12different medications and has difficultly walking from her room to the bathroom even after her hip had healed. Now let me clarify that it was a minor break in her hip and she healed very quickly. Her difficulties in walking are related to her arthritis and poor circulation. Anyway... In addition to her health problems she is always interfering in our personal lives. She is a very negative person and basically is so miserable in her own life feeling sorry for herself that she makes everyone else miserable. She pulls little stunts to make you feel guilty, says hurtful and insulting things. She whines and complains every day. She wants to be catered to and she tries to enforce her opinions on everyone like everything should be the way she thinks or believes. She has absolutely no friends and sits in front of a television set all day long. I am sick to death of her and can't stand being in the same room as her. I have resigned any resonsibilites for her other than making dinner and doing her laundry. My husband jumps at her every beck and call and does everything she asks like he's her whipping boy. Problem is my husband sees these things and he is aware but he will not set boundaries for her, he will not deal with her behaviour and her expects me to "smile" because she is just a little old lady and keep my mouth shut and not start things up. We have had several huge heated arguments about his reluctance to deal with her which she has interfered with. I haved raised the issue about getting her registered for a nursing home because the waiting list is two years. I have pointed out all the benifits to him. I have mentioned that we need to retire ourselves in two years and I want to spend my retirement doing things and going places with him. I have explained to him that if something happens to him I am stuck with his mother. I am at my wits end. I love my husband . What do I do?


Thinker2thinkee answered...

Dear Courage67 (and all others in similar situation) ... You are awesome {{hugs}}. I'm telling you something I have to constantly remind myself of everyday, that it takes a special, unselfish, person to do what you have been doing. Most of my friends have told me that they would never ever care for their spouses parent (one of them put it in a prenuptial agreement). It's the time to stop being so unselfish. One of the definitions of selfish is "lacking consideration". Think about that... Who is considering you? Though it has only been two years with my MIL living with us, it has changed my family in ways that are extremely painful to put into words. She is a 75 years young woman who has made my family her everything. Slightly hard of hearing, she is constantly asking who, what, where and why of anything that happens in the house. This house no longer feels like my home. Reporting to me my teenagers every fault and just "up" in our business, because she has no life of her own. My husband will not address the issue of her moving out. She would most probably would not respect my wishes if I asked her to move out. Last year I decided I can only change me and make things better for me, I'm back in college. I have decided to focus my attention on myself and my children strictly! We could not afford for me to go to college, so I decided I would put it on a charge card, and make what payment I could (more than the minimum) until I finish and get a job. Turns out at some colleges you get paid to peer tutor, Biology, Algebra or English, with an A in that subject and your teachers approval (a few guidelines are provided). I'm not through it yet, though the experience of returning to school has forced me to face and deal with many fears I've had in my twenty six year marriage. It's not for everyone, it's challenging and at times difficult but at least I am doing something for me. I don't have the answer for everyone's individual situation but I hope this helps you to find a solution that works for you and helps you feel better. Love, Jia


A fellow caregiver answered...

I'm currently going through the same situation. I wish I had an answer but honestly I'm as tired of it as you are. I'm seriously thinking of moving out and into a small apartment.


A fellow caregiver answered...

I'm sorry you are going through this. It was very kind and selfless of you to agree to take your MIL in. I am going through the exact situation and there is no end in sight. I am so tires of taking care of others and putting everyone ahead of me. We (women) tend to do this... Caring for children, husband, parents. It's time we took care of us because really, who else would? It's not being selfish. I felt so trapped and unhappy, I wanted to die. Put yourself on top of the list and make a change.


A fellow caregiver answered...

My hubby's mom wanted to relocate to our state after her mom passed away. I thought it would be great as we have 4 young kids to have their grandma in the same city. She needed somewhere to stay until she found an apartment. I agreed to a month or two max! I knew that's all I could handle, she has a cat im allergic to and she knows it, it's crowded, not only that she always demanding rides to work and this and that like our lives should revolve around her schedule. She also had an attitude and almost stormed in tried to put me in my place. Before she got here we told her no smoking in the garage and after a little while she got an attitude and went and did it anyway. then when we told her stop, she was angry muttering under her breath and storming around. I figured on a upper management salary she would have a car and be on her own in no time since she has not helped out at all and were going on 4 months! She is scared to drive now and it seems like she wants us to be her care givers. she is too young for that and we have too many demands already. Plus she is trying to strong arm us into staying with us for as long as she likes as she keeps making excuses for staying longer rather than ask us, (the answer would be no) she has Fibro and so do I, so I understand its very painful but the stress this causing me is almost unbearable and not helping my health any. she transferred her job and has already missed so much work I am terrified she will lose her job or plans on quitting it and living with us. She has violated us in so many ways. the hubby is on the same page except when it comes to confronting her about it. She is being a selfish bitch, even though I would not say that to the hubby..We are renting, and are not suppose to have her or her pets here...and she doesn't care we could lose are deposit or be evicted. Then rather than talk to both us about it she asked him behind my back if she could live in our house. (we got preapproved and are looking to buy) She keeps hinting about us having a separate living area for her....there's a separate area alright...on the other end of town. Im just tired of the manipulation....then she want to holler at me for doing laundry to late (she lives in our family room with a curtain up) or for the kids playing upstairs from her at 1 in the afternoon while she is taking a nap... I keep having to leave all the time to keep from going off on her, its not fair and Im tired of running away from my own home.


Boldandbeautiful answered...

I do empathize with you. There is no easy way but I can give you few strategies. Learn to ignore your Mil. Do your duties be happy. Don't bring her as a topic when you see speak to your spouse, the point here the less reactive you are the better for you. Spend yime with your mother, sisters and friends have your people in your life. Take your children for small vacations. Gently request your spouse to accompany you. Don't be rude at all with Mil. Show her respect but make sure you make it very clear that she is unwelcome.. Believe me your husband will enjoy spending time with you when you are in control of the house and his mother. Be polite but firm. Good luck to you.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Knowing that you are not alone doesn't fix your situation but it can help. After 10 years of my MIL living with us she recently moved out. I asked her to leave after l thought l was going to have a nervous breakdown and did not like who l was becoming. This has caused a considerable rift in my 32 year marriage. Not sure my husband can forgive me for asking her to leave and l am not willing to be held hostage by his feeling that l "threw his mother out on the street". She is now living in a beautiful apartment 5 minutes from us. I think my husband has always cared for her.....his father not present emotionally and sometimes physically. I don't think he is ready to look that closely to his emotional tie to his mother. I stay in prayer for us.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Same situation on my MIL my wife will get angry at me if I insist to have her mother move out, she live with us for 8 fucking years and I an tired of this mother in law drama, I need a break I need a home with out this mother in law in my house, my wife has two brother they need to start take care of thier mother not just im stuck with it. It's a terible feeling live with MIL. I think they need to realize that to get their own life not like being lazy and just live with us for life it's to move out my house leave leave. Get your own place please.


Nelsontia answered...

Alot of the answers here are unhelpful as they say Basically be nice to mother in law don't confront hubby on the problem these women, or men did not marry the mother in law they are not obligated to have to take care of her, for a spouse to just say it's ok and not talk about it first is wrong. Putting the responsibility on other spouse to take care of mil or be stuck with them is wrong. Unless they want to or agree to it. I am stuck now at my mother in law's because she's overmedicated, can't remember things can't take care of her property and other health problems. I told hubby I would not nor did I want to take care of her I don't even like her but yet I'm stuck taking her to doc appts babysitting her till 6 or 7pm at night from the time she gets up. She acts like her nurse and maid and acts like she's doing me a favor...she on the edge of being a hoarder we've worked our butts off for 4 months now while his other 2 brothers do nothing but go on vacations. So done that I'm almost willing to take a lump s pay cut of my retirement just to move out. She's a hyperchondriac addicted to meds and making my life hell. I've raised all my kids and now it's time for me to live. No Matter What My Health Was I Would Never Be A Burden On My Own kids. That's the selfish person not the one not wanting to take care of her.tje husband's doing that to their wife's are selfish momas boys have fun living alone with your mommies.


Lynn0716 answered...

Well this is my 4th time my mil has stayed with us. She's bossy, controlling, unappreciative, and a hypochondriac! She is scared to ask or boss around her son, so she'll ask me to do everything and she sits and does nothing all day! I cant stand her and she can't stand me. Ive told him this living situation will never work and she must go, but he says im playing the victim! Really!? Im at the point of telling both of them to leave and dont come back. I need my privacy and sanity back.


A fellow caregiver answered...

My MIL is from a different culture and she has never accepted me or welcomed me into her family. When we were first married we owned a building and lived in separate apartments, then we went through a difficult foreclosure and moved into separate homes a few miles from one another. Then we moved out of state and had the three best years of our marriage, but my husband returned to school and borrowed money from his mom with the understanding that we'd return and she would live with us once he finished his schooling. we have children and the plan was for her to take care of them while I returned to work full time.

Everything fell apart. First of all, we can't stand each other. Second, she is a horrible disciplinarian, super strict and made my kids cry every day. Three weeks into my job, I quit. I couldn't handle her being my kids' caregiver. That really pissed her off because she quit her job to move into our place in the suburbs. She has never driven so she is limited with finding work. She is still young and gets around fine but always took trains and buses everywhere. Basically the shit hit the fan and now we are all miserable. It's been about 5 months and I am on the brink of moving out. I hate what this has done to my family and to my own mental health. She says she is here for her son and won't leave unless she gets all the money back she loaned him for school (40k). Aside from starting a gofundme page, (joking) I am optionless! I can't believe this is my happily ever after.


A fellow caregiver answered...

I am glad I found this forum. I've had a similar situation to many of you. I actually facilitated the whole process of getting my MIL to move in...long story short, she was in a bad living situation and we were looking to move, and thought that combining our living expenses would get us a much better place collectively. We made the agreement that we would live together for the next 2-3 years in a place that my husband and I found. She was meant to use the opportunity to "get herself together" ie. fix her credit, take care of health issues, find a better job and save. Both our expenses were meant to be a bit lower, specifically hers! On our end, we got to live somewhere nicer than we could afford on our own as well as have another hand on deck for chores. Her and I got along swimmingly, and I thought our relationship would only get better whe she moves in. Well it didn't! I quickly realized that she could not afford anything...and did not totally keep up her end of expenses. She is also not that helpful around the house. A bit, but not enough to make the extra espenses worth it. She also NEVER goes anywhere other than work. Always hanging around. Hanging around when I have guests talking their ear off. Always complaining or whinning about something. I also realized that the bad situation she was in was not strictly a result of bad circumstances and bad luck as she had repeatedly told me (which is why I tought the living situation would help her!!). I realized that she does not have long term plans, she takes jobs that pay pennies, she doesn't strategize about the future at all, and she seems comfortable being totally broke. Her head is really up her ass and I don't know what we are going to do to help her MOVE OUT. I was rather naive in thinking that this would be mutually beneficial and helpful, and that we would give her leverage to improve her life. But now she is just hanging out around the house, not doing any of that, and adding bills to our already dwindling funds. Sometimes I dread going home. I just want my space back, and I need to focus on my life and my issues (completing my degree, work, my own health issues, my husband etc). I've talked to my spouse about it and he has a lot of mixed feelings, but overall he sees that his mother is not financially in a position to find anything on her own. Oh man.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Like many of you, I am experiencing the MIL issues. What is most at stake here is ones marriage. Unfortunately, family conflicts can drive us to believe that what another person needs from us is more important than what we feel for ourselves. I will not share my testimony, because they're all basically the same. It all starts good, but it gradually shifts into misery. Coping with this issue can drive someone to encounter so much stress. For many the answer is yelling, and guess what? that MIL knows exactly how you feel, but she is reluctant to fixing the situation. I believe that just like boys at the fallacy stage have an uncontrollable desire for their mom's, at the elderly stage of a mother the feelings are inverted. It is not anyone's fault that your MIL did not plan ahead for retirement. This is only a lesson to us. Plan for retirement so that, you won't end up becoming that nuisance of a mother in law in the future. All the best to all!


A fellow caregiver answered...

I was so glad to read these answers to know I am not alone. I have developed a routine for living with MIL and my husband in her home, but when I"m not well I'm cut off from the psychological benefits of that. I need alone time, and never felt a natural affinity for her, plus I think my husband does too much, and it is time to place her already! I have contemplated moving out, but that would definitely mean losing time with my husband. She does go to day program and has a helper once or twice a week, but I'm just feeling discouraged, since my usual strategies aren't available to me at the moment. Thanks everyone for sharing, and letting me know I"m not alone by reading your stories.


A fellow caregiver answered...

So glad I came across these posts, I completely sympathize with you all. My 91 yr old MIL moved in 6 months ago due to health & aging issues. Despite being fairly healthy, she is always a miserable hypochondriac, very anxious and controlling. Now I realize I need to set boundaries and take care of myself more so that we can enjoy the time we have left with her instead of letting her make us as miserable as she is determined to be.


Thatstress answered...

My MIL was only suppose to be here until she was healed from her hip surgery... Its now been year and I'm about to lose my MIND! She doesn't respect my privacy at all. She walks into my room or bathroom without knocking, refuses to do her own laundry, clean up after herself or her cat... I'm ready to pack up my house and move far far away... This is unfair because she has her own house we pay all the bills on and she refuses to leave. I'm done!


Mountaingrrl answered...

Mine has lived with us for 14 miserable years. She is mean, dirty, lazy and uneducated. I was too nice and allowed her to have 3 bedrooms, plus kitchen, LR and bath for $200 a month! What a sucker I was! My husband's lazy siblings do nothing for her, even thought they have paid off houses and their kids are done with school. Now I am selling the house in order to get her out. First I have to get my husband to clean up the mess in her part of the house so we can list it. My advice is NEVER let it happen in the first place. But since is has, be strong and get her out. Mine is blind too, and I feel sorry for her that she has no friends, but she can get a place in assisted living, subsidized if her family won't help. Then we can visit every day, but I won't have to live with her, and the lack of privacy, and the crazy expense any more. Be strong! Get her the set up she needs, and have an honest talk with her, your husband, and family about her plans. That is what never happens here (everything is "secret').


Not happy at all answered...

My situition started as a.miscommunication that ended up with my military living with us. It is slowly destoying my relationship with my dh and I currently pretty much hate my life and want her out. I need and value my own space. She doesn't require care and is completely independent, however she did just finis chemo and radiation for stage 2 cancer. Because of that and feeling a sense of obligation my dh cannot talk to her right now about moving out. I'm not really sure if he ever will. This is such a major decision and affects so many areas of your life that you don't even think about in the beginning. It really just keeps getting worse and worse. All I can say is that I really hope my dh will fix this situation that he caused or he will end up living with her while I go live in my own apartment.


Leeloo7 answered...

I'm glad to read that other people feel like I do. I miss my privacy but most of all I miss my relationship with my new (1 year) husband. It's both of our second marriages and at 50 I thought the tough years were behind us. Now everything is crumbling. I feel like I have to choose between staying and being miserable or leaving and losing him.


Beesandhoney answered...

I am very glad I found this forum. I am now about to be faced with this same type of situation. The only positive thing here is that is hasn't happened yet! My husband and I got married a couple of years ago have a 1year/old. When we got married I was clear about not wanting anyone (my or his family members) living with us, because I need our balance and value our space and family time without permanent extras. Now his mother has always lived with her older son and his family in a house that they now have to move out from because of the ridiculous raise of housing prices in the area. My husband mentioned that when we had our baby she mentioned to him she wanted to move in with us and help out raise our kid and is now bringing this up. It is clear that I am not planning on doing so, because I know this would mean entering a tunnel with no light in sight. I already arranged alternative solution when my widowed 83 yo father mentioned living with us because I did not want this to make us lose our focus which is now working on building a strong family together. I really love my husband and don't want him to resent me for"not wanting his mother" or this to wreck our relationship but I don't hoe to let him know that her staying with us (even temporarily) is not an option, because this will lead to bigger problems like...asking her to leave afterwards. I am terrified by the idea of her living with us and my husband shoots down every solution I try to bring to the table, I really don't know what to do.


Fedup2000 answered...

Thanks so much for this. I am going crazy this side too. MIL was getting divorced from hubby's stepfather after 35yrs of marriage (he was cheating on her at 65!) - who does that?! Anyways, so she was living in a different province (we're from South Africa) and had a job, but hubby's siblings (4) was just never there for her. They're quite useless all of them. I sometimes think he was swapped in hospital! Even before we moved away we were always buying them groceries as money was tight. I cannot even remember why my husband asked me to bring her here. She was supposed to stay with us for a bit, find a job and move in with a friend of hers also living in the new province. It never happened. The money she got from the sale of her house was spent in less than a year on no one knows what as she has nothing to show for it but a piece of shit car. Then, less than a month ago we hear that the dancing she's been doing for a year wasn't paid upfront like she said. No, she signed a contract to pay it after a year....with no money! So now we sit with that as well. Her previous work has told her they want her back...yet she does NOTHING. She was taking over my house. I hate that. My things need to be packed a certain way (a bit OCD, I know) but that's the way I want it and it makes me feel at least a little in control of something. My husband has told me how awful I am for wanting her out, so that's a big no-no. Our 10yr anniversary is coming up... do I give this up and just move on so him and his Mommy Dearest can grow old together? She's one of those Bible bashers as well... not that I'm not religious, but I really have a deep seeded dislike in people who is all holy yet is so damn selfish. And we used to get along like a house on fire! I absolutely adored her. But living with her has shown me how manipulative she is...especially when it comes to my husband! Men are idiots. I was an idiot for agreeing in the first place. I'm stuck.


Alexxifo answered...

It sounds all well and good to "sit down and talk about it", but when I bring it up (in the gentlest way I can) my wife gets angry and walks away. MIL has been with us for over 4 years.

If it wasn't for the kids, I'd move out. Do MIL's realize the toll they take on marriages?


Almond joy answered...

I just made a Pros and Cons spread sheet in regards to having my MIL live with us for the past 6 months. Only 3 Pros for her; she sets the table, she folds the laundry, she buys yogurt for my husband. 38 cons and still writing furiously. I agreed to let her live with us and it is the biggest mistake of my life. It's just not working out. I am absolutely miserable. One of us has to go.