Help! My overbearing mother-in-law is moving to town.

You and your husband don't see eye to eye on his mom — and her new-found proximity. Advice columnist Claudia Dey helps you sort it out.

Woman visiting a married couple

Illustration, Whitemay/iStock.

Dear Claudia,

My mother-in-law is completely overbearing. She worships my husband and is very hard on me. I’m pregnant with our first child, and my mother-in-law has just announced she’s going to sell her house two hours away and move to our small town. My husband is thrilled. I’m terrified. What can I do?

Dear Daughter-in-Law,

I fear you are (very nearly) trapped (forever). Your mother-in-law has made up her mind, and your husband is encouraging her. There was no family meeting. There was no opportunity to present your reservations. You need to make that opportunity for yourself now.

Where your husband sees a grandma, you see a ghoul. This could be a disastrous, even divisive situation unless you both arrive at a clear agreement. You must establish a set of rules and boundaries, which will require all of your courage — and all your diplomacy.

Tell your husband that you’re concerned about your mother-in-law’s proximity, since she can be hard on you. He’ll be defensive: It’s a son’s duty. Stick to the facts, or he’ll hear only insults. Try to be constructive. Map out what you see as your mother-in-law’s ideal participation in your life together. This may take some time, but everyone — especially your darling-to-be — will appreciate the structure you imposed to maintain a peaceful and happy household.


Claudia Dey is a novelist, columnist and Governor General’s Award–nominated playwright. She is the author of How to Be a Bush Pilot: A Field Guide to Getting Luckier.

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