It's not that your in-laws are bad people. In fact, you really like them. It's just that you prefer them from a distance--for a few short hours at a time. But, now that you're living under their roof, the "visits" are endless and the boundaries have blurred. And you're ready to snap.
You may find it comforting to learn that you are not alone. More and more couples are opting to cohabitate with their in-laws for financial reasons. After all, two pairs can live more cheaply than one and this living arrangement is enabling you to develop a sizable nest egg. You just need some help coping with your temporary situation--and fighting the urge to hit your mother-in-law over the head with her stainless steel wok.
The Roommate Agreement.
While Sheldon Cooper's all-encompassing "Roommate Agreement" addresses an unlikely barrage of scenarios involving superheroes, cloning, and visitors from outer space, the premise, itself, has its merits. Before embarking on a new living arrangement with your husband's parents, sit down and hammer out a set of rules and boundaries that you can all agree to live by. Be sure to consider the following.
- What chores need to be done? Who will be responsible for them?
- How will expenses such as groceries, heat, hydro, telephone, cable or satellite, and other bills be divided?
- How long will these living arrangements last? What are your financial goals and how much time will you need to achieve them?
- Who will care for the children? What disciplinary actions can your in-laws take?
- How often will you have family meetings to revisit these rules and discuss any problems that arise? How will you handle conflict?
- How will the use of common areas and items be shared?
The Personal Space.
Everyone needs a "safe zone"--a spot where they can enjoy privacy to simply relax, share a romantic moment with their spouse, or blow off steam with a Yosemite Sam-inspired rant. Your new living arrangements will not work if you are unable to carve out a little nook of personal space for yourself.
It is also important that each couple is afforded some "alone time" in the common areas as well. If your mother-in-law would like to prepare a romantic meal for her husband, plan on making yourself scarce that night. Ensure that you and your spouse are also provided with the same sort of opportunities.
The Inner Child Comes Out.
No matter how difficult you find the situation, you need to keep in mind that your husband is likely struggling as well. Remember that the relationship that you have with your in-laws has always been on a relatively even keel--adults dealing with adults. Your hubby, however, may find himself slipping into the old "parent vs. child" dynamic and this can be a difficult role to cast aside--particularly if the family dynamic is dysfunctional at all.
- Keep out of family arguments that don't directly involve you.
- Be patient while your husband learns to navigate his way to a new adult relationship with his folks.
- Be grateful for your in-laws' willingness to open their homes--and their lives--to you.
- Make yourself available to your spouse emotionally. Talk openly about the things that are bothering you and try to come up with actionable solutions.
Remember that you have moved in with your in-laws for a reason--to save money.