If you have a nosey, controlling mother-in-law, the best thing you can do is draw up a list of boundaries for mother-in-law that you and your family will be happier with.
If you don’t set out what is and isn’t going to be tolerated – by you and your partner – she’s going to continue to interfere.
I can’t promise it will be easy to get your mother-in-law to stick to the boundaries, but you absolutely need to set some.
Here is a list of 20 boundaries you should consider setting to keep your mother-in-law from becoming a problem in your relationship:
List of Boundaries for Mother-In-Law: 20 Rules to Create Healthy Boundaries
1. No Turning up Unannounced
One of the most important boundaries you can set is that your mother-in-law cannot just turn up unannounced.
If she wants to come over, she needs to call or text first so that you can prepare for her visit.
This boundary also gives you the opportunity to say no if you’re not in the mood to see her, as opposed to simply having to put up with her being in your home.
2. No Getting Involved with Arguments Between You and Your Partner
Your mother-in-law should not be getting involved in any arguments you have with your partner – no matter how much she may think she knows what’s best for you.
This is your relationship, and you need to be able to work out any problems yourselves without her interfering.
This is one of the major issues people have with mothers-in-law as they will often side with their own blood.
3. She Is Not to Get Involved in Your Finances
Another area where mothers-in-law can be quite noisy is in her child’s – and yours – finances.
This is something that should be kept strictly between you and your partner, and she has no right to know how much money you have or what you spend it on – and even less right to comment on it.
If she starts asking questions about your finances, politely but firmly tell her that it’s none of her business.
This is a boundary that you need to set early on, as mothers-in-law can cause a lot of conflict between you and your partner when it comes to money matters.
4. Any Form of Emotional Control Over Your Partner Will Not Be Tolerated
A lot of mothers-in-law try to control their children by using emotional manipulation.
This might take the form of guilt trips, playing on their fears or simply making them feel bad about themselves.
It’s important to nip this in the bud early on, as it can be very difficult to break free from this type of emotional control once it’s been established.
She may have gotten away with them when your partner was growing up and living under her roof and rules, but she needs to accept that he’s flown the nest and she no longer has that control.
5. Talking About Your Personal Issues with Other People Is Not Allowed
If you confide in your mother-in-law about something personal, she needs to understand that it’s not to be repeated to anyone else.
This is a boundary that a lot of people have problems with, and mothers-in-law, in particular, seem to have a hard time not gossiping.
However, if she knows that you’re not going to tolerate her talking about your personal life with other people, she’s less likely to do it.
So, set this boundary early on and if she abuses your trust, cut her out of the loop when it comes to private matters.
6. You Don’t Want to Hear About Your Partner’s Previous Relationships
This is a boundary that I hope you do not need to set with your mother-in-law, but if she does bring up your partner’s previous relationships you need to draw a line.
A lot of mothers-in-law like to bring up their son’s previous relationships and compare them to his current one – usually in a negative way.
This can be very hurtful, of course, and at best it’s just going to be annoying.
Next time she brings up the past, I’d simply say to her something like:
“I don’t want to hear about that, it’s in the past and we’re building a life together by looking forward.”
7. She Doesn’t Get to Tell You How To Raise Your Kids
If you have children with your partner, then this is a boundary that you’re definitely going to need to set with your mother-in-law.
She may think she knows best when it comes to bringing up kids, but the bottom line is that it’s your decision how you raise them.
Of course, she’s entitled to her opinion, but she needs to respect your decisions – even if she doesn’t agree with them.
8. She Needs to Ask You when She Wants Something and Not Just Your Partner
This is a boundary that a lot of mothers-in-law have trouble with.
They will often go to their son – your partner – when they want something, without even considering that you might not be okay with it.
It could be anything from wanting to see your kids, to asking him to do a favor for her.
She needs to respect that you’re a team and that she should ask you as well as your partner and not just go over your head.
9. She Needs to Ask You Before Giving Your Kid’s Gifts
A lot of boundaries couples set with their mothers-in-law is to ask first before giving gifts to their children.
This is particularly important if she’s buying them something expensive or something that you wouldn’t have chosen yourself.
It’s always nice to receive gifts for our children, but we should be the ones deciding what they get – not our mothers-in-law!
10. There Is No Competition Between You and Her for Your Partner
This might be the most important boundary of all, and one that a lot of mothers-in-law have trouble with.
They need to understand that just because you’re in a relationship with their son, it doesn’t mean that you’re trying to take him away from them.
You’re not competing with her for his attention, and she needs to accept that you’re an important part of his life too.
If she can’t do that, then it’s likely that your relationship with her is going to be a difficult one.
11. She Has to Follow House Rules Like Everyone Else
If you have set rules in your home, then she needs to follow them like everyone else.
This is particularly important if she’s staying with you for an extended period of time.
She might not be used to following rules, or think they don’t apply to her because her child lives there, but if she wants to stay in your home then she has to respect your wishes.
The same goes for when she’s just popping over for a short visit!
12. She Is Not Allowed to Keep Secrets About Your Family from You
This is another boundary that I hope you don’t need to set, but sadly it’s all too common.
A lot of mothers-in-law think they know what’s best for their son and his family, and so they will try to keep secrets from you in order to “protect” him.
This is not okay.
A marriage is built on trust, if there are things your partner can’t tell you that’s not a good start.
If you later find out his mom knew as well and they were both keeping it from you, that’s just going to add salt to the wound.
13. She Needs to Accept You for Who You Are
We all want the best for our kids, I’m sure you can appreciate and understand that.
But at the same time, we also have to respect who our kids have chosen as their partners and accept them for who they are – even if they’re not who we’d choose.
She might not like everything about you, but she needs to respect your differences and accept that you’re not going to change just because she wants you to.
14. She Doesn’t Get to Make Plans That Affect You on Behalf of Your Partner
Another boundary that will make your life easier is making it clear to your mother-in-law that she can’t make plans on behalf of your partner without checking with you first.
This includes things like making plans to visit your family, telling him he has to be somewhere, arranging family events, and so on.
She might think she’s being helpful, but it’s disrespectful if she doesn’t check with you first and shows she’s still trying to retain control over your partner.
15. Any Form of Abuse Will Not Be Tolerated
I also want to emphasize that any form of abuse – physical, emotional, mental, or otherwise – will not be tolerated.
This is another boundary that I hope you never have to set, but unfortunately, some mothers-in-law still abuse their position as matriarch of the family.
If she’s crossing this line then it might be time to consider distancing you and your family from her until she can demonstrate she’s willing to behave accordingly.
16. She Has to Accept that Her Child Is Grown up And Can Make His Own Decisions
This is an important one and something that a lot of mothers-in-law have a hard time coming to terms with.
Our mothers-in-law have to accept that their children are grown up and can make their own decisions – even if they don’t agree with them.
I’m sure it’s hard for her to let go, but she needs to respect your wishes and allow you both to live your own lives – mistakes and all – freely without her interfering.
A little advice is fine, even helpful at times. But you’ll have your own line that you don’t feel comfortable with her crossing, and you need to make that clear to her.
17. Any Signs of Jealousy Will Not Be Tolerated
Jealousy is a destructive emotion that can tear families apart.
If your mother-in-law is jealous of your relationship with her son, or the attention he gives you, she needs to deal with that in a healthy way.
Jealousy is not an excuse for bad behavior, and it’s not something you have to tolerate from her.
18. She Should Not Show Any Kind of Negative Behavior in Front of Your Kids
Some mothers-in-law think it’s okay to show their negative emotions in front of their grandchildren – or they just can’t control their emotions – whether that’s anger, sadness, or anything else.
But this can be confusing and upsetting for kids, and it can have a lasting effect on them.
So, it’s important to set the boundary that she needs to keep her negative emotions in check when she’s around them.
19. She Needs to Accept that Your Kids Come Before Her
This is another boundary that might be hard for her to accept, but it’s important nonetheless.
Your kids come before your mother-in-law – always.
She might not like it, but she needs to understand and respect that fact.
Even if you get on well with her for the most part, when it comes to the crunch if your mother-in-law tries to take priority over your kids for any reason she needs to be put in her place.
20. You Get to Say What Goes for Your Family – Not Her
This is the most important boundary of all, and it’s one that she needs to respect at all times.
You and your partner make the decisions that affect your family – not her.
This is one of the major issues mothers-in-law have and really struggle with.
They think that because they’re senior or because they are the mother of your partner that they have an equal say in some way – it just doesn’t work like that.
You may welcome her opinion, that’s fine. But if she thinks that she can make decisions on your behalf, that’s never going to end well!
Image credits – Photo by Tiago Muraro on Unsplash
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.