Tips for living with inlaws?
July 22, 2012 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Tips for living with inlaws?

Currently living with lovely inlaws and extended family. This is unlikely to change for a few years until we are more financially independent.

Feeling a bit claustrophobic as I miss having personal space and the freedom to pursue activities without being judged.

SO is comfortable. (SO could live with them forever. SO has agreed to work towards moving out but I feel this is only to comfort me and has no real substance as neither of us has fully experienced all the responsibilities of living independently. I feel it is important to live independently for so many reasons.)

In-laws are traditional, and it is normal in our culture for us to live with them.

I would like to have a good relationship with my in-laws.

So far, it seems cordial. They always appear happy in my presence, and I always put on a smile. There's always things to do, things unsaid and expected of me. If they are not happy with something I do, they never tell me. They hint. My culture is one of hinting and I am not so good at getting it.

Sometimes I feel tired from being "on" all the time. I am people pleaser and a bit of a loner and enjoy doing things alone. It is exhausting being constantly surrounded by people.

Excuse the length. I may be going off tangents.

Basically any tips for getting your inlaws to think well of you?

Thank you for your time.
posted by oink to Human Relations (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
-Help out around the house without being asked (if you are comfortable doing so)
-Ask if they need help with anything often
-If you have extra cash offer to pay for something related to household expenses such as the internet then take care of that for the month
-Spend time with the family even if it just means sitting silently in the same room
posted by livinglearning at 9:03 AM on July 22, 2012

During our shorter stint with inlaws, we instituted a near-mandatory cocktail hour. This seemed to help dramatically to be honest.

Not sure if this is within cultural norms for you.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:05 AM on July 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh the clash between cultures, expectations and the driving internal needs of an introvert. I suggest working with your spouse to chart out a plan of action - even if its 3 to 4 years long - as a joint strategy for working towards a move out date. What would the two of you need to do, financially and otherwise, in a pragmatic step by step manner to get there. Having this goal and its clarity will go a long way towards helping you mentally adjust to the current circumstances.
posted by infini at 9:06 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll just second your instinct that this isn't sustainable. I've been there myself and felt almost exactly as you describe.
posted by salvia at 9:43 AM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like the idea of doing things around the house without being asked. I also like the idea of using it as an unspoken bartering tool to trade for a bit more alone time. They see that you take initiative and do something they appreciate, and, in turn, hopefully they give back by being o.k with your extra private time that is a bit off from their norm.
posted by Vaike at 10:41 AM on July 22, 2012

Setting aside one large arduous task that is yours alone, like scrubbing floors or tubs, can help.

That said, this is not sustainable. Here's how it usually plays out:

1) son moves back in to save money for house
2) princeling son can do no wrong in mom's eyes, therefore...
3) all tension must be new wifes fault.
4) bad blood starts brewing
5) husband is forced to choose sides between mom and wife, chooses wife
6) mom becomes nasty mother in law forever.

Use the parents to save on daycare, not rent. The only times I have seen this work is when the couple moves into the wife's parents place, and the husband is happy to mooch. Unless both of you are pack animal people, the combination of sexual tension and annoying helpful parents doesn't work out well.
posted by benzenedream at 11:02 AM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am in a similar position, although hopefully it will only be for a short period of time! It's driving me batty and I'm totally exhausted.

I would definitely suggest taking on chores, cooking sometimes, etc. That will be the easiest way to endear yourself to them.

I try to define at least a little space that's "mine" and keep it looking the way I want. We are in a tiny room but I know that half of the top of the dresser is for my stuff, so I get to keep it tidy and pretty and with my stuff on it. I don't know why, but that makes me very happy! Also I try to keep the room tidy-ish (doing more than my fair share of the cleaning up, probably) so it feels less small and chaotic.

Do you have any close friends or family members near by? I escape by going to hang out at my mom's house.
posted by radioamy at 11:21 AM on July 22, 2012

I would just caution that you get the lay of the land before stepping in to cook. People can be very territorial about cooking and kitchens. Of course offer, but don't just announce you're going to do it. And if you offer to clean up after someone else (MIL?) cooks, which would be very nice and probably at least as appreciated, please make sure you know where everything goes rather than just winging it.

I agree that right-after-you've-done-a-big-chore is a great time to take alone time.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:57 PM on July 22, 2012

Don't get too comfortable or make your SO too comfortable. He will never want to move.
posted by pakora1 at 1:26 PM on July 22, 2012

Oh yeah fingersandtoes is right - ask what to use to clean what, what goes where, etc.
posted by radioamy at 1:29 PM on July 22, 2012

My SO and I lived with his parents for 3 years - and neither they nor I are from a culture for which this was traditional (nuclear families have been the norm since the late middle ages for our joint ethnicity). This was itself a pretty serious source of stress - as much as we like them and got on well, they felt like it wasn't "adult" or "normal" or "repectable" to be living with one's parents past university age. Hopefully, this is a bit easier in your family.

That said, there were things that helped. We had our own space - our room, and a small room in the basement. When we closed the door, they did not come in without asking. (Okay, it took a couple of embaressing/hilarious moments and a lock on the door to get through to his mom that a) we were married and had a married relationship, and b) asking did not mean knock on door and immediately open it to ask if she can come in). That was our private space, where we could be messy, or cranky, or lazy without having to justify it.

We also tried to get them to talk to us about how we could divide the chores more evenly. They are such get-and-go people (and we're not) that they would just have everything going before we realised it was time to cook dinner. I think we should have just been completely explicit and made up a chores schedule (N cooks Monday, L cooks Tuesday, etc), but we didn't succeed in getting that up. I think it would have helped. We did tell them that we wanted to help out, but that they couldn't do things like ask us to mow the lawn (or any other large chore) minutes before they wanted it done (neither of us could tell, since it was an aesthetic choice), but that they could schedule it with us ahead of time (because we had jobs and other responsibilities).

As for hinting: I feel your pain (I have similar trouble). I have just come to the point where I ask people to be explicit: have chores schedules, asking me outright to help with something, etc.

Something that was really useful for us, as we're all busy working people, was a coordinated Google Calendar that we could put house events there or when people were going to be out of town, or even simple things like "J and L out at their class" so we would know who would be home for dinner. We're continuing to use it, even after my SO and I have moved out. It may be that you don't need an electronic calendar, if your parents-in-law are home a lot more than mine are, but a paper calendar might be useful.
posted by jb at 3:35 PM on July 22, 2012

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