How did you set boundaries/manage expectations with your parents after marriage?

posted 3 months ago in Married Life
Post # 2
3035 posts
Sugar bee

I remember your thread about your mom enjoying constant contact.  You desperatley need to set boundaries with her; this isn’t about COVID and I would caution you against blaming her behavior on COVID related loneliness.  As I recall from that thread, your mother practically stalks you, expects instant responses, and does shit like shows up 4 hours earlier than she was expected/invited.

In case it’s useful to anyone reading this thread, I recommend setting those boundaries before you get married.

However, as that isn’t useful to your situation..  Your mom is reacting to your perfectly healthy response to set reasonable boundaries by being emotionally manipulative (ie, “I never thought I was just company; I see where I stand.”)  She is trying to guilt and shame you into doing what she wants.  

Lastly, I think you need to stop focusing on finding magic words that will accomplish what you want without hurting her.

Start by setting boundaries on how often you check in with her/video chat with her, and for how long. She’s trying to cast you in the role of her partner, so make sure she doesn’t have opportunity to do so.  Keep the calls short and focused, and make it clear that you have a hard stop and need to get off the call at a set time (15 minutes?) even if you have to make up a reason why.

Think about using phrases like “Ok, you’re not yourself and you’re saying eratic things, we’ll talk later when you’ve gotten control of your emotions.”  Or my favorite, “That doesn’t work for us.”

Don’t JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain).  You don’t need to explain or justify your choices. Any attempt to do so not only will give the impression that your boundaries are up for negotiation but also makes it look like you’re asking permission to have boundaries.

I doubt you’ll feel comfortable saying omething like “People who cannot respect the bounds of my nuclear family don’t get invitations to visit”, but you might want to keep that on back burner.

Post # 4
7134 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2016

With the exception of saying “You’re not yourself, you’re behaving erratically. We’ll talk when you’ve gotten a hold of your emotions” (which sounds patronizing and disrespectful, imo) I agree with PP’s statement.

Your mother’s response to being called company was manipulative (would she have preferred “guest”?). She does not live in your house. She is not owed access to your home or time.

I wouldn’t treat this as a thing, though, personally. I would continue to enforce my own boundaries in loving and compassionate ways with my mother and also enforce that she needs to manage her own feelings about my boundaries, herself.

Post # 5
343 posts
Helper bee

Lots to deal with, OP. I’m sorry.

Have you read Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents? If not, I’d highly suggest it. Your mom tries to make you responsible for her emotions constantly. Also, you’re building your foundation with your nuclear family. She’s your extended family. Personally, I’d make myself less and less available again. 

She may not realize it fully, but she’s being incredibly emotionally manipulative. It sounds like you do actually need to be a bit firmer with her. If you find yourself tipe-toeing around how to explain how you’re doing the very healthy, very normal thing of focusing on your nuclear family as opposed to shouldering all of the emotional weight she’s trying to pass onto you–stop. The main point is, if a buzzword like “company” is going to set her off, there’s not a whole lot you can do to get her to adjust her own lense here. This is a lot of emotional work–and it’s not yours to complete. 

It’s very great you’re looking into therapy. I’m assuming this would also set her off (and may never actually work) but have you every suggested therapy to your mom? My FH did this with Future Mother-In-Law (he framed it as, “wow, therapy has been so helpful and great for me. I’m really glad I started going–I’ve gotten so much off my chest I’ve been harboring for years. Have you considered therapy?”) and it kick-started her interest. He’s definitely seen an improvement in her mood since she started going. I don’t want you to shoulder yet another emotional responsibility for your mom, so this could be the wrong way to go, but perhaps it’d be something she’d eventually consider.

Post # 6
9109 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

View original reply
@CloverBells:  Actions speak louder than words, especially if she has already shown that she’s going to misconstrue and take offense at innocent, accurate phrases. My advice is to not have a big sit-down conversation about this, because usually those conversations are ultimately asking someone else to change their behavior, instead of changing our own behavior. In this case, I think it would be more effective if you just go about your business and live your life however is comfortable for you, and be prepared to calmly and matter-of-factly say “that’s not going to work.” If you need to start out softer and ease your way in, you can add “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Again though, very matter-of-fact, not dramatic or angst-ridden. Keep showing and/or telling her that you love her in whatever ways you’re comfortable with, but don’t feel guilty or get sucked into debates or justifying yourself for not being available whenever she wants you. 

If you do end up talking about it, I wouldn’t even make it about the marriage or “new family.” That’s just going to make her feel replaced, and it actually shouldn’t be about them anyway imo. You have the right to live your own life and decide how you spend your time, regardless of whether your’re married or not. 

Post # 7
1951 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2019

It’s simple op, when it comes down to it who are you going to make happy you or her? It doesn’t sound like there is a way to do both. So you really need to decide that your happiness is more important than making her happy. You come first period. 

Therapy is a great idea for you since it should help you figure out how to handle your mom, respond to her behavior and learn to understand that her emotions aren’t your responsibility. 

in the meantime. “That doesn’t work for me”, ” we will let you know when we are wanting a visit” are good tools to use with her. The second she gets guilt trippy or upset you get off the phone or end the visit. A better version of the phrase someone suggested above would be, “You sound upset, let’s connect at a later time when you have had a chance to calm down” that is you letting her know that her reactions to your boundaries are her problem and hers alone. If she says something about how hurtful it is that you don’t care she is upset you would say, “mom, my decisions on what’s best for me and my family aren’t up for discussion. I am not responsible for your emotions about it, that is yours to deal with not mine, like I said we can talk another time bye!” Another phrase if she keeps circling back to something you told her an answer to already where she isn’t taking no for an answer. ” mom ive already told you X, if you can’t find something else to talk about we will have to talk another time”. 

Start there and from now on your boundaries go up and never come down for any reason. Not for Covid, not because she gets sick, not for any reason. You learned that her behavior is always there so don’t give it any air time no matter what. 

Post # 8
2944 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

Practice practice practice 

You need to come up with your own specific responses such as suggested by PP. Then you practice them. In your head or out loud or whatever. That way, it comes out smoothly and automatically when the times come. 

Post # 9
48 posts

I think, when it comes to clingy parents, there is no way to set the boundaries without hurting someone’s ego. You say your mom probably wouldn’t act like that if it wasn’t for the Covid thing, but to me it seems as if she was already ready to get offended and she simply needed a reason to do that, so your words were just a catalyst for that. There is basically no way to avoid offending those who want to get offended. IMO, your wording was pretty fine and polite and she was finding fault with you just because she could, you know? So do whatever you feel is right for you and your boundaries and relationships, she will come round eventually anyway once she gets tired of playing the victim.

Leave a comment

Find Amazing Vendors