In almost every old movie when the couples are in love and committing to one another there will appear a door, and the man carries the woman over the threshold. Whether that happens with a newly married couple moving into their first home, or whether it happens on a date when the guy carries the woman into the bedroom…. it represents a new beginning and a change in the relationship. Today there is a new threshold, where the woman is being carried over the boyfriend/husband’s parents’ threshold, or her parents’ threshold. The bottom line is they aren’t moving into their own place.
This goes on in many other countries. In fact, in Italy men frequently live at home until they are forty. The mothers in Italy have a lot of power and control, and it is understood. In the US it is not traditional. In fact, young people want to leave home as soon as possible, but the economy is forcing many of those who left to return, and it is awkward when a grown son or daughter moves back in with mom and dad. Many times, they don’t come home alone; they have a “friend” or spouse. Having teenagers living with parents is wild enough, but having grown children with their spouses, friends or children living with parents can be chaotic.
It’s not only chaotic for the in-laws, but it’s chaotic for the in-law child too. They didn’t grow up with the parents’ family. They didn’t see the type of parenting style used to raise their new husband or wife, nor do they understand expectations and family boundaries. These issues and many more can make the stay in the family home a stressful, tumultuous time. As with all things, the better planning and communication about what is going to happen, the better. This is not a good surprise for anyone, so communication about feelings prior to moving in will make the threshold more welcoming. Below are a few more suggestions that will help.
1. Have a clear idea in mind how long you are going to live with your parents. Knowing a time limit will help people choose their battles more wisely. For example, if you cannot stand the way your dad or father-in-law spits tobacco while watching CNN, if you know you only have to tolerate it for six months, it may allow you to step back and find an option rather than saying, “Gross, can you stop that,” and storming off to your room or criticizing your partner.
2. Talk to your partner about boundaries. All couples need privacy, and if you know that you will have a place in the home that is off limits to everyone else, it can be a refuge when you need space.
3. Don’t just ask; observe and help whenever you can. When you live with someone else’s parents as a couple, you are usually trying to save money for a place of your own. Your way of giving back is to help. Cooking meals, folding laundry, running errands, and numerous other tasks keep a family going and they are all time consuming for one person. The more hands the better.
4. Remember, your in-laws were a couple long before you came into the picture. They have an unspoken language you may not understand, but your partner will. As much as possible, stay out of family feuds and arguments unless they directly involve you.
5. Date nights for you and your partner are so important, and they become even more important if you are living with in-laws. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you do need to get out of the house together and enjoy one another as a couple. If you have children, you will want to make babysitting arrangements so mom and dad don’t feel like you are taking advantage of them (this is the number one problem I hear about when kids move back home, so talking about it before it happens is advised).
Having parents and in-laws who are willing and supportive in offering you a place to live so you can save money or get on your feet is a gift. The best way you can gift back to them, is to try your best to be the kind of person that leaves them missing you, rather than distancing themselves from you. This is achieved through communication, gratefulness, and respect of boundaries. It can be a time remembered fondly in your relationship or a memory you want to forget. -Mary Jo Rapini
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Tags: Adult Children at Home, Boundaries, Communication, Family, Marriage, Relationships