There comes a point in many serious relationships when living with a parent comes into play. Maybe you both decide it’s smart to move back home and save for your own home, or maybe a parent needs to move into your place. And if it’s your partner’s parent(s), the already challenging situation becomes that much harder.
This situation happened to me a couple years ago, when my mother-in-law was in desperate need of clearing out her home — the same one she’d been living in for 20+ years. And since both me and my fiance’s jobs were closer to her house, we were spending every night there anyways, and we would indeed save money, we decided to move in. Looking back, I realize I was 100% unprepared.
If you want to keep your sanity, the relationships strong, and everyone happy as possible, there are some specific steps to take. It’s not always easy, but it’s 100% doable. Here’s what got me through the learning experience, and what I would have done differently.
I’m not talking about asking your mother-in-law to stay out of your bedroom, but much more specific, less obvious boundaries. As someone who works from home everyday, my mother-in-law knocking on the bedroom door (aka my office) ten times a day to ask random questions just wasn’t okay. Neither was her eating the organic food I spent my paycheck on — especially when it came to the last of the spinach, which I ate for lunch every day. Before moving in, or having a parent move in, discuss all types of boundaries and create guidelines for each party to follow. Pro tip: Hide extra food.
Have a date night
We made the mistake of including my mother-in-law in all meals, which ended up leaving us no time for weeknight romance or easy meals. Eventually, we started going out a couple nights a week (“our night”) without bringing her along, and reserved the rest of the week to include her. You want to make everyone feel comfortable, but it’s even more necessary to keep the relationship between you and your partner strong.
Do things 1:1
Similar to going on date nights, it’s crucial to spend time 1:1 with everyone living there. I’d have days where I went shopping with my mother-in-law, but it was just as important for her and her son to bond individually as well. Just because you all live together doesn’t mean you need to do everything as a group.
This was super hard at first, because my mother-in-law is legit the nicest person in the world, but sometimes I didn’t want to have lunch together. Or I wanted to be able to walk down the hall without having a conversation. After months of letting it basically eat me alive, I spoke up. Asking for more personal space changed things tremendously.
Have an end date
Another mess up for me and my partner — we moved in without knowing when we’d leave. It didn’t hit until a few months in, but then I realized that part of my depression with this whole situation was not having an end in sight, not having something to look forward to — which was moving out on our own again. The date might change, but establish the length of the stay before anyone moves. If it’s a sick parent that will be staying with you, create a game plan or budget for a possible caretaker in the future — or when your siblings will take their turn.
The trickiest part about living with your partner’s parent? Feelings are attached. Unlike your own parents who you can be honest with, you’re dealing with your partner’s mom or dad — someone they love tremendously, and someone they get defensive of (understandably). Without realizing how annoying or rude I was being, I constantly vented to my fiance… about his own mother. He took it well but eventually told me it wasn’t healthy.
Enter: My first trip to a therapist. I realized that it wasn’t fair that I was constantly complaining to my fiance, and my friends were pretty sick of it too. Hiring someone to listen as an outside opinion was the best thing I did during that process.
Remember that it’s temporary, and give yourself as much alone time as possible. P.S. I made it out alive, and still in a relationship. Good luck!