How Much Of A Part Should Your Significant Other's Family Play In Your Relationship?

I have been with my girlfriend for four years this May. I truly love her and we get along very well most of the time. My girlfriend is very close with her mother as her father has been working out of the state/country for the last 5 years, and her mom is around a lot of the time when we are together (she lives at home and I usually go over there when we spend time together.) 

In so many words, I cannot stand her mother. While we have never had confrontation at all face to face, I feel that she is far too involved in our relationship than need be, and she is not the kind of person that I would typically surround myself with. I could go on for just about ever about my reasons for disliking her, but that is not what is important. Let's just say that her 2 cents come very often and are very rude, very condescending, and overall not appreciated.

My girlfriend and I are moving into our own place together next month. This has brought on a whole new brand of the 2 cents that I was speaking of  and frankly I have gotten sick of it. Recently, a lot of turmoil has come up in our relationship because of my feelings of being disrespected and my feelings toward her mother. I am still finishing college (I'm 23, didn't start until 20 and have been going half-time) and won't be done until I'm 25. My girlfriend earned her bachelor's last year, and we have had many discussions of living our lives together, getting married when the time comes and starting a family of our own. During one of these conversations, my feelings towards her mother came up and she told me that if we were to get married that I would be marrying her family (especially her mother) as well as her. I definitely understand the taking on of your significant other's family, but as things have gone in the first 4 years of our relationship, boundaries will be crossed and I will be annoyed and very disrespected. I fear buying a house and having children and having my mother in law telling me what I need to do and how my plans are wrong and it really makes me question whether it will work out between my girlfriend and I.

My question is, to you married men, how much of a role do your wives' parents play in your relationship? Specifically, how much did they early on?  While it may come off like I am insensitive and I need to just suck it up, please understand that it has come to the point where I have a hybrid second mother-girlfriend creature that is almost ruining my life. I understand that my girlfriend and her mom are close, but I am in a relationship with only one of them.

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"There are techniques. The one I use with difficult people is "wall of nice":  you keep them out by being unfailingly nice and never taking any bait.  A book that tells some tactics on this is The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Susan Elgin.  She calls what I'm talking about "computer mode."

Another tactic is to level:  without heat, just to say, I'd rather hear things you like than things you dislike.  It's hard for me to be around such negative comments.  Such things.  However, it does make you vulnerable, and it can lead to explosion.  It's worth doing if you want to build a relationship with someone, rather than just keep her at bay."

That's okay for short term but would you really want to do this for the rest of your life? I think it would be exhausting, especially added to all the usual stresses of life. 

You're not married to her. Why shouldn't her mother be involved in everything? That's her family. I know this is old-fashioned, but it the married people are to leave their father and mother to be joined as one flesh. You've already got the cart before the horse, my friend. I don't see much future in all of this.

You're right Carl.

Sounds a bit like my MIL, but I live my own life and have my own life with my wife. Her mom is free to make comments, I am free to have my own life.

When talking to my wife about it, I remember that this is her mother. I must handle it "respectfully" and not attack her mother, which in turn becomes an attack on her.

If you bottled it up for a long time, then let loose, it will have come out as a rage attack on everything your GF believes in as well. That isn't healthy, and it isn't deserving of "respect".

It is her mom, and as others have said, until you are married, she still takes responsibility for her child(even if grown) that lives at home. You have got to learn that you have to prove you are responsible, you have to prove you are worthy of respect, you have to prove that you will take care of her and you have to prove that you can understand what the mother means to the daughter.

Until then, you aren't on your own taking care of her daughter. You are not yet deserving of the respect you think you are.


"My question is, to you married men, how much of a role do your wives' parents play in your relationship?"

Before I answer that I just want to point out that even if none of us have gone through what you're going through, that doesn't mean that you have a valid argument against your future mother-in-law. If that is the relationship that your GF and her mom have together then that's their normal and, after 20+ years of having that relationship together, you'll have a hard time convincing either of them that their relationship should change.


Anyway, to answer your question, my wife's parents play a very signifcant role in our relationship. Luckily for both of us, it's a very positive role. My wife and her parents are very close and always have been. Marrying her was also marrying them not to the extent that they're involved in our every day lives but to the extent that getting into a fight with them and not getting along with them would be extremely difficult on my wife and I since she and her parents are so close.


"While it may come off like I am insensitive and I need to just suck it up, please understand that it has come to the point where I have a hybrid second mother-girlfriend creature that is almost ruining my life. I understand that my girlfriend and her mom are close, but I am in a relationship with only one of them."


I hear you man but it doesn't sound like the mom is going to change and it doesn't sound like your GF wants anything to change so, before you buy a house and move in together and get married (etc.) you better think long and hard about whether or not you can live with the status quo for the rest of your life because, based on what you wrote, it doesn't sound like anything's going to change anytime soon.



Explain to your girlfriend exactly what it is about her mother that ruffles your feathers.  Caution, do NOT talk bad about her mother.  Use phrases like "I feel..." or "She makes me feel...".

My family is not involved with our lives much at all, we're too spread out and they don't the money for trips.  Her family is a closer family but still physically distant so not really directly involved although they do call more often and we talk on the phone.

I could not have asked for a better mother in law, she really treats me like one of her own sons.  However I have seen similar situations with brothers and cousins, it is necessary to get a hold of this sooner rather than later, true you are not married and really dont have grounds to stand on as of yet.  Also true is that this is a reflection of your girlfriends ability to deal with her family, a long and carefully thought out talk is in order.  Do not kick this too far down the road as it will not get better with time and will not go away just because you get married or have children, chances are it will get worse.  Good luck and hopefully it turns out well for you.


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