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Cutting the MIL’s apron strings

Dear Annie: My mother-in-law is a widow and lives next door to my husband and me. I have never felt like we had privacy, as she would walk over whenever she felt like it and visit without calling first.

Even when we were newly married, she would just walk over to our house without reaching out beforehand. My parents always told me to never live next door to your in-laws; it would only cause trouble in my marriage and I would not have privacy. However, when I married my hubby, he was already living next door to his parents, both in very nice homes. Now, don’t get me wrong, she is a very nice person. Yet, my husband and I would someday like to move and build a new home in our area.

The problem is that my husband, without even asking my opinion, has said that when we build our house, he will put on an in-law apartment for her. He acts as if it is just a matter of fact that this will happen. He can be stubborn and set in his ways.

We have not discussed this subject with my mother-in-law; this has just been between my hubby and me. My mother-in-law has never discussed the issue of her moving as she ages, and she seems quite happy and content where she is now. Though I believe that would drastically change if my husband and I move.

My mother-in-law is a good and caring person, but I finally want to cut the apron strings. I want my privacy back for our senior years — and for my husband and his mother to ask my opinion on things. Am I being selfish? What should I do? — Ask for My Opinion, Please

Dear Ask for My Opinion: Healthy marriages have two key ingredients: communication and compromise. Clearly, your mother-in-law is very important to your husband. Be honest with him and say that you love his mother but that she should not just stop by unannounced. You can express to him that there is something really nice about a son who respects his mother and wants to take care of her, especially since she is widowed.

But then tell him that there is also something nice about a husband who listens to his wife’s wishes and respects the privacy and intimacy of their marriage, which is between just the two — not the three — of you. If your husband is set on having your mother-in-law law live next door, be clear about your boundaries.

As for his building an apartment for her on your new house, that might depend on whether your boundaries are respected.

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