Are In-Law Problems More Indicative of Marriage Problems Instead?

by admin on July 3, 2014

I have a bit of a confusing situation. I have been diagnosed with OCD and it has gone untreated since the diagnosis because we were looking for a doctor who would not just put me on meds and leave it at that. We finally found one and I have begun treatment. That is part of the background and it is important. Now, to the story.

My in-laws are due to move in with us in September. They have no money and their business has failed. They do have three other adult children where they currently live; but they want to move to the state we live in because they love the state. Though we have been planning this for months they have nothing ready to move out here. Nothing. They have not packed, they have not given notice on their leases, nothing. My therapist is highly concerned about my in-laws moving in with us even for a short period of time because I am really in a very bad place. My home is currently my safe place and she is worried such a tremendous disruption would cause me too much anxiety and stress. Is there a polite way to rescind the invitation; and, if not, is there a polite way to enforce my rules (because let’s be honest they are not my husband’s) considering they are long and intrusive?

I really need a polite way to handle everything because my in-laws are the type of people who can get offended easily. 0623-14

Where is your husband and why doesn’t he have your back on this?   Is he not in agreement with the doctor that his parents moving into your home would be disruptive to your therapy and recovery?  Have you communicated any of this to your husband?  This doesn’t appear to be an in-laws problem as much as it is a marriage problem.   Your letter went from “we were looking…we finally found…” to “my home…my rules” so something happened in between that changed from a team approach to a singular approach.   I think before you can address the issues of your in-laws coming to stay with you, there needs to be some in-depth communication with your husband as to how this will impact your health.

{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

NostalgicGal July 3, 2014 at 4:18 am

If your husband isn’t an integral part of your therapy OP, he should be. As of this moment. And if he doesn’t get the drift, maybe the therapist can get it through his head when you apparently haven’t. How this just can’t be and why. This just sounds like major trouble brewing; nothing positive for you, and quite probably it will be your marriage destroyed as well as you.

If your husband flat refuses to go to your therapy then you should consider telling him the only other choice is marriage/couples therapy NOW and if he refuses that too, consider that you might be better off without than to go into this.

I don’t think there’s any other way around this; finding the inlaws a place to stay other than under you roof is the only solution. And if they haven’t prepared in any way yet, that is also just… ominous.

I’m a Prozac, Wellbutrin, and Valium alumni myself. If your DH isn’t on board with your treatment; and can’t understand why this can’t happen, and your therapist can’t get this through to him, then maybe you need to serve papers. (I won’t give you the long long story, but, from the bottom of my heart and experience, this is a bad thing brewing and your DH has to be made to understand; and you have to find another solution than them moving in with you. There are three other adult children, closer to them; just because they love your state doesn’t mean you have to open YOUR door. No is a complete sentence)


Lo July 3, 2014 at 6:42 am

I agree with all of this. I struggle with OCD. My partner has my back. If he didn’t I don’t know how our marriage would work.


Tracy W July 3, 2014 at 8:00 am

I didn’t see any indication in the story that the husband wasn’t supportive or in any way not on board with the treatment. The only thing the switch in language to me indicates is that the husband himself doesn’t have OCD, and it’s only dealing with the OCD that makes the wife not want her in-laws there now.


remi July 3, 2014 at 11:09 am

Yeah, that was my take on it. The house is “her house” because she lives there. I call my house “my house” too, despite living with my family. And the rules are “her rules” because they are in place to help her, and her husband doesn’t need them for his own sake. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t supportive of her or her rules, it just means that they’re there for her — like the healthy cereal in my cabinet, I buy it for my own healthy breakfast needs. My family members eat it because it’s there and it works for them, but if I wasn’t around they’d be fine with any other breakfast cereal too. But just because they wouldn’t necessarily go out and buy my brand of cereal if I wasn’t around, it doesn’t mean they aren’t supportive of my need for healthy foods. Frankly, if her home is her safe space I don’t really understand how that could work without a supportive husband; if she was meeting resistance to her needs at home it wouldn’t be very safe for her, would it?


NostalgicGal July 3, 2014 at 7:33 pm

This varies and JKC says below, some see mental illness as a character flaw. What the issue is, is that she should not have these people there, they should not be there; yet the plans are still that they are going to move there. That is where her husband does NOT ‘have her back’ and is ‘not onboard’ with what she needs to recover. I don’t know who originally offered or got knuckled over into agreeing to this, but it needs to be “UN-AGREED” for her sake. Now. It just bodes nothing but NOT good.

This is many steps above cereal.


Kate July 3, 2014 at 9:03 pm

My feeling is that if the husband was supportive he would have told the in-laws that they couldn’t stay. Yes, OP was only just diagnosed, but OCD doesn’t materialise out of thin air. The husband would have been aware that serious changes to routine like people moving in would cause the OP anxiety.


JKC July 3, 2014 at 10:53 am

I’m with you. My husband has been treated for a similar condition and for that reason, I would never invite my mother to come live in our house. This is because a) she thinks mental illness is a “character flaw” and that one should be able to get better just by resolving to feel better, and b) they just don’t get along that well in general, and with his stressful career he needs a peaceful home life. My MIL totally gets it and I think she’d be an easy person to live with, so she’s welcome if that need should ever arise.


Tracy W July 3, 2014 at 5:05 am

My own thinking is say, look, we’re very sorry, but this just isn’t going to work out at this time. I don’t think that rescinding an offer to have someone move into your house permanently is like rescinding an invitation to a guest.

That said, your in-laws will probably be offended by my suggested approach but, well, being offended doesn’t kill us. Someone saying “I’m sorry but I can’t do this because of my health” deserves a bit of offense swallowing (barring a history that puts that statement into a much worse light).

As for the team approach switching to the singular approach, I think that’s just the OP noting that the OCD is her problem. Quite possibly her husband personally is a very easy-going guy who wouldn’t blink an eye if a pack of hyperactive monkeys moved in to his house, and his only concern here is for his wife’s mental health.


AthenaC July 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm

“Quite possibly her husband personally is a very easy-going guy who wouldn’t blink an eye if a pack of hyperactive monkeys moved in to his house …”

Ha! Such a temperament is a huge plus if and when the OP and her husband become parents.

I think your reading of the marital dynamic is reasonable, as is the admin’s. I hope the OP comes back and offers some clarity on this.


Brit July 5, 2014 at 11:25 am

“Such a temperament is a huge plus if and when the OP and her husband become parents.”

The OP already is a parent, although why you think this is remotely relevant – or any of your business – is something I still don’t understand.


Ange July 6, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Gee, it was just a little joke and made no value judgments on the OP at all. Maybe try lightening up a little?


Mya July 3, 2014 at 5:24 am

Battling depression and anxiety myself I’d say you need to stop them moving in ASAP. As they have made no preparations you’re not leaving them ‘out on the street’. Your letter mentioned that your husband supported you in finding a doctor so clearly he is invested in your wellbeing. The admin points out the change in tone of your letter but I think that is simply your own anxieties taking over. You haven’t actually said whether or not you’ve talked about it but assuming both you and your husband are working and are equally contributing to your home, you both have a stake in what happens there and you need to explain to your husband that you’re not well enough to cope with his parents.

Don’t worry about your in laws getting offended. THEY are moving in with YOU. They are the ones imposing on you so they have no rights whatsoever to dictate the terms of the arrangement. Getting over your illness, or gaining control of it is more important than what the in-laws think. Put that on a back burner and worry about it another time.


Gwyndollyn July 3, 2014 at 8:00 am

I think she and her husband each have a steak in what happens in their home regardless of how they split their responsibilities. If it’s her home, it’s her home and it doesn’t matter two bits to this issue who works how.


kit July 3, 2014 at 4:15 pm

“They have no money and their business has failed” and “they do have three other adult children where they currently live; but they want to move to the state we live in because they love the state”?

Easy solution coming in, in-laws! Earn some money and move into whatever state you want! But if you are bankrupt and begging for a roof over your head, you don’t get to be picky about where you will move (on whose expense, anyway? the closer the better, IMO). I really don’t think OP’s in-laws are in the place to demand that they must move in with her and her husband, even if OP didn’t have OCD.


Lkb July 3, 2014 at 5:35 am

I can see why the husband has apparently not spoken up: These are his parents and they are in a crisis too. They are broke. If he says, “No. You can’t come. Mom and Dad.” He may feel he is being heartless, or appears to be so to his parents and his sibs. I’m not saying he’s right or wrong to do so, just what his thought process may be.
Prayers to OP and her loved ones.


Tracy W July 3, 2014 at 8:12 am

From the story, it may well be that the main reason the husband hasn’t spoken up yet is that the conversation went something like:
Husband “Well, given what your therapist says, I’ll call Mum and Dad and say they can’t come.”
OP “Oh no, that would be rude! We already invited them,”
Husband “Maybe, but your mental health is more important than that.”
OP: “I’ll post on and ask how to do it. Don’t you dare say anything to your parents until then.”


Kate July 3, 2014 at 5:40 am

As a fellow sufferer of OCD I can understand why this is not an option for you.
I’d be saying ‘unfortunately due to my medical condition I am unable to meet your request’. I was diagnosed about eight years ago and have found it helpful to be fairly open with family about my disability, so I avoid these situations (people asking to stay over or asking me to stay at others’ houses). My husband has my back when it comes to his family – for example, I’m not comfortable sitting down at his mum’s house because she lets the dogs sit on all the furniture and wipe their bottoms on the chairs. My husband explained OCD to her to save me from having to do so. It sounds like you would benefit from your husband doing the same.


CaffeineKatie July 3, 2014 at 6:45 am

If you were just diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo long difficult treatments, no one would question your inability to have your in-laws living with you and adding to your problems. This should be no different–you need to focus on treating your health problem and therefore they need to make other plans. And your husband definitely needs to step up and be your shield. Be direct and don’t JADE.


Callalilly July 3, 2014 at 6:50 am

See the 1937 film ‘Make Way for Tomorrow,’ and then think about what you should do.

It’s on Youtube:


Lo July 3, 2014 at 7:32 pm

So underhanded.



The Elf July 3, 2014 at 7:42 am

Normally, I’d say that since the invitation has been sent and the plans made (even if they’ve taken no action), you’re in a tight pinch. But you have an out! Recent diagnosis! Your husband totally needs to have your back here. He needs to be on board with your therapist’s opinion that your in-laws moving in will disrupt your treatment. Then, united, you break the news to them that this diagnosis has forced your hand and you’ll have to rescind the invitation, so sorry. It would be great here if you could offer some sort of assistance in finding a new place or in keeping their old one.

First and foremost, you need to focus on your health.

If they must move in, is there any way to remodel or update your home to create a separate apartment so that the two couples share a roof but not shared spaces? That might be the happy middle. It’ll be expensive, but your sanity is worth it.


Dee July 3, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Yes, the diagnosis being new (actually, it isn’t, but the therapy is) means the situation has changed. The in-laws leaving so much to uncertainty – not packing or doing any planning at this late stage – means their personalities are going to greatly aggravate your condition. Also, their financial situation leaves them completely dependent on others, at least until (or if) they get on their feet. Their stay likely wouldn’t be short term. They do have options, though; they can stay with their other children, close to where they are now, until they are able to move closer to OP on their own. That is not a bad thing and allows the in-laws to take some responsibility for their financial situation, and not put the onus for that on OP.

And I believe it is imperative that the in-laws NOT know the medical reason for the change in plans. Revealing that OP has OCD gives insensitive people ammo to assume she is just “fussy” and “controlling”. All the in-laws need to know is that OP has recently been advised to be in an extremely low-key, stable situation for her treatment, and that her medical issues are complicated but not life threatening. Keeping this private is important as it seems the in-laws already have at least some boundary issues – this move striking me as a very intrusive request of a son and daughter-in -law.


JeanLouiseFinch July 3, 2014 at 8:13 am

My mother has OCD and I totally agree with the people that say that in laws moving in would not be a good idea, for anyone. I am sure it is a terrible thing to suffer from OCD and I applaud you for getting treatment. It is also no picnic living with someone who has OCD, particularly if that person is in charge of the house. All of this should be explained to your in laws, by your husband. Then, you need to confer with the other adult children and decide how much they can all chip in so that all of you can rent a place for your in laws to stay, whether in your city or their city. This should be presented to your in laws as something their children want to do and not as a grudging favor. If they can live rent free for a while, hopefully, they will be able to get on their feet financially, but the adult children in the family need to discuss what they can all do if this becomes a long term issue.


PJ July 3, 2014 at 8:57 am

I’m not going to read too much into your relationship with your husband, since not much is really said on that. I understood your comments of the rules being yours (and not his) as emphasizing that the rules are more onerous because of your OCD.

Please start referring to those rules as *household* rules rather than *your* rules. You and your husband are a family, and your household rules are for the well-being of the entire family. He needs those rules as much as you do for the benefit of the family.

As for rescinding the invitation, I completely agree with the PP who said that nobody would think anything of it if you were diagnosed with a serious physical condition and that you had to take back your offer. There is much misunderstanding of the severity and the needs of someone with OCD, depression, anxiety, etc. but the demands and need for healing or management are equally important. Your ILs may or may not understand that, but you have to leave that as their problem, not yours.

You have clearly taken great care to find a therapist that you trust to meet your needs. Continue to exercise that care and follow his/her advice. It is not just a friendly “gee, I’m a bit worried about you”, but a “I’m a professional entrusted with your health, I recommend this course of action”. You simply have to follow it, or the care you’ve put into finding him/her was wasted. Maybe it will help with the ILs if you emphasize that rescinding the invitation is specifically on your doctor’s advice.

So your ILs are easily offended? Well, then I guess the offense they may take now will be nothing new to them. They’ll get over it. If they aren’t the type that will get over it, then that is a sign that having them live with you would be quite disastrous. Right now, you worry about *you*.

Sending warm thoughts and best wishes to you, as you and your husband take control of your OCD.


Kate July 3, 2014 at 9:06 pm

I think OP uses ‘her’ rules because for most people with OCD, the rules are irrational and really not for the benefit of others. Like, one of my ‘rules’ is that I’m the only person who can put away dishes, open the curtains, load the dishwasher, cook, clean, straighten furniture and make the bed because if anybody else does it, it’s ‘wrong’ and I have to re-do it at least three times. This is absolutely not in my own or my husband’s best interest -he feels useless and I’m run off my feet – but for me it’s better than having panic attacks every time I get home. They’re ‘my’ rules because they don’t make sense to anyone else and they’re a result of my OCD.


A different Tracy July 7, 2014 at 11:59 am

While I agree with what you’re saying, I think it’s still important to consider them “household rules” because (a) everyone in the household is interested in your well-being, and that means preventing you from having panic attacks when possible, and (b) if they’re not presented to the inlaws as “household rules,” it means they consider them “OP’s rules” and for some people, that opens a can of worms that’s best left closed (I don’t have to obey them because they’re not my son’s rules, that crazy woman is ruining his life, etc.)


Medowynd July 3, 2014 at 9:08 am

Even if you didn’t have OCD, I would still tell these people that they are not moving in with you. Should they move in with you, can you handle the increased utilities, larger food budget, storage facility costs or giving up a garage to store their belongings? Do either of them have a skill set that matches available jobs in your area. Do these people have debt? Do they own their vehicles? How are they surviving right now? Who is paying for their move?

I ask all of these questions because we had a close relative that wanted to leave her marriage and live with us. When I made it clear, that there was no room, we would not pay for her living expenses or provide transportation or childcare, she decided to stay in her marriage and work it out. They are still married ten years later. And, yes, I am well aware of abusive situations and that they require a different response.

But the bottom line is this, the inlaws need to take steps to take care of themselves. I see them moving in with you, regardless of your diagnosis as a powderkeg waiting to explode. For your health and the sake of your family, your inlaws need to find their own way. I hope your husband has your back all of the way and will not be swayed by guilt trips. I wish the best for you as your pursue treatment.


Wild Irish Rose July 3, 2014 at 9:31 am

If you had a catastrophic illness like cancer or something, would you be moving your in-laws in? Would your husband be standing by your decision with regard to that? What would your in-laws do in such a situation?

If you cannot handle having this monumental disruption take place right now, then you can’t handle having this monumental disruption take place right now. This might be the time for your husband to let his parents know that NOW is not good and perhaps we can revisit this in the future. Circumstances change and sometimes we make plans and then have to change them. The bottom line is that it’s YOUR home and YOUR health, and until you reach a point in your therapy that you can add outside influences into your home, you don’t do it. Where are your sibs-in-law and why aren’t they making the offer to their parents to let them stay with them until things are more settled with you? Your husband has some work to do.


OP July 3, 2014 at 9:36 am

I am the OP. And I will say first off that, yes, my husband and I are both in therapy. I go every week and he comes with me every other week. He is very slowly learning how to help me and what my particular brand of OCD entails. We are very very new to all of this. That being said the switch to the my pronoun was meant to show that it is my problem only. My Husband has no problem putting our boys to bed without a bath, I do. He has no problem with a little bit of noise and laughter after 9 pm, I do (I am talking that random soft chuckle that floats up the stairs not loud music or screaming).

Tracy W nailed the conversation exactly in her dialogue. It really went almost verbatim what she said. I do not get to just have OCD I get an obsessive compulsive personality disorder, this means trying to violate etiquette rules, even for the benefit of my health, is causing me major anxiety, trouble, pain and making me lash out at myself. As much as I said my in laws could get offended easily, we have talked to them and they have expressed severe reservations about coming since it is causing me so much distress. As of right now, in our house, I am the only one not bending on them coming. To rescind the invitation at such a late date feels like a huge violation of the rules, which is aggravating all my other issues. I am really very very lost right now.


Lenore July 3, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Two months notice is hardly a late date, OP. Two hours? Yeah, super late. But in your post, you say that they’re planning on moving in with you in September (I’m assuming the beginning of that month). They haven’t made any arrangements, which means that you will not be inconveniencing them or costing them money at all. Even a job requires at most 30 days notice – you’re giving twice that!

Yes, they love your state. That’s great. They can come visit. Right now, you need to listen to your therapist, someone whom you’ve worked hard to find and trust, and follow her incredibly legitimate advice.

You *need* your safe place. This is something that can have a huge, huge impact on your life – and your relationship with your ILs. Do you want to carry on having a civil relationship with your ILs? I’m willing to bet my annual salary that within 6 months of them moving in, the relationship with them will deteriorate and may not be savable. Isn’t having them be “temporarily” offended by a timely cancellation preferable to getting to the point of wanting to cut them out of your life?

At this point in your life, being a little selfish is the best thing, not just for you, but your entire family. Tell your ILs “I love you, but due to a sensitive medical issue, we cannot have you living with us anymore. We’re sorry, and hope that we will be able to have you for a short vacation soon.”

They have 3 other children that can help them out. Help yourself first.


MrsL July 3, 2014 at 2:55 pm

What you’re dealing with is pretty rough and it sounds like the two of you are working on it as best as you can. Right now you need as much support and encouragement as you can get. My husband struggles with mental illness too and I struggle with anxiety and depression. You’re definitely not alone but everyone’s journey is different and no one handles an illness in the exact same way.
First off, it sounds like your in laws want to understand and support you and this is great! From the sounds of it they will not have an issue at all with not living with you guys because they get that things are rough.
Have you talked with your therapist about your feelings on this? Perhaps there’s something that you could do to make yourself feel better about the in laws not moving in right now. Maybe you could send them a thoughtful gift or find a way to help them in a manner that you are comfortable with?
Do talk with your therapist and then both of you talk with your husband. At the end of the day it sounds like they all want you to get better and that they will happily do whatever they can to help you get there. I hope things start looking up for you.


Dee July 3, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Maybe you are feeling lost because you are ignoring your instincts and insisting on going against them just to uphold etiquette? Can you take a leap of faith and trust your instincts here, as they are backed by hard evidence, and make the decision to rescind your invitation? It isn’t a crime to bite off more than you can chew and then have to pull back and say “sorry”. And maybe learning to like yourself even when you have to do that is a discussion for you and the therapist. Being imperfect and acknowledging that is not only acceptable but also wonderfully normal.


jen d. July 3, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Everyone’s OCD is different, and I’m not sure if you’re like me or not, but this sounds like a situation that you might be anxious over no matter what decision you make. It really doesn’t sound like a good idea for your in-laws to move in – you need to focus on your health and your family. I wonder if it would help to make the decision (whatever that may be) and stick with it. Would you feel a lot better if your husband told your in-laws that because of your health issues the move is off? Granted, you’ll probably feel terrible, and maybe even a little panicky while your husband is making the call, but will you feel better in the long run? It kind of sounds like your in-laws are looking for an out – maybe everyone will be relieved when the decision is made.

I know when I’m getting anxious I just have to step outside myself a bit and say, “Ok, jen d., this is just your OCD. Other people aren’t worrying about this as much as you are…” I don’t know if this helps, but I’m pulling for you!


Anna Wood July 3, 2014 at 5:03 pm

You made the offer in good faith, but now your situation has changed dramatically. I would think it would be in keeping with good manners to explain that you are currently unable to have them move in. It would be the height of bad manners to have them arrive, settle in, and then be asked to leave.


Wendy July 3, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Your not breaking any rules. Everything has been explained and your in laws are suggesting they don’t come if anything wouldn’t it be rude if you didn’t step back and say ok you don’t need to live with us. It almost sounds as if your trying to force them to come because your afraid of the etiquette rules. If you feel bad offer to have them for the weekend sometimes or to help whoever they live with financially as much as possible. The only time it would be rude is if you took back the invitation on a whim.


NostalgicGal July 3, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Hon, you need your health. We give you a pass on this, since they have not prepared yet, and you NEED to withdraw the offer due to recent circumstances; they need to find another place to roost. Later if things change, and they do things like get back on their feet; you might be able to help them with completing the move to your state. But for now; this isn’t a failing of etiquette. This is a health matter which supercedes everything else. Retract the offer without regret.


The Elf July 3, 2014 at 11:30 pm

I’m with the other posters – this is not a violation of etiquette to rescind the invitation under your circumstances. The diagnosis prompts a change in circumstance.


Ellex July 4, 2014 at 1:16 am

You know how on airplanes they tell you to secure your own mask before helping children or those around you? They tell you that because you have to be in a secure, safe situation yourself because trying to help that other person first could put *both* of you in a bad situation.

Right now OP, you need to put on your air mask. You are not in a safe, secure position to offer other people help from. It will be more beneficial for everyone that way.


Mya July 4, 2014 at 2:59 am

You’ve made an offer, from your reply the In-Laws seem to understand that it’s not a suitable time for them. Therefore THEY are politely declining the offer. Therefore you have nothing further to worry about. Offer made, offer declined, end of story. If you don’t feel as though you can be ‘responsible for rescinding the invitation’, then let the In-laws be responsible for ‘graciously declining your kind invitation’. Would that satisfy the criteria of the rules you mention?


ally July 6, 2014 at 6:02 am

Awesome! Just what the OP needs to hear.


Tracy W July 4, 2014 at 3:41 am

I know I would feel unhappy about having to rescind an invitation myself, so, while I don’t know what it’s like to have OCD, it makes sense that you’d find this stressful.
But, from what you say that your in-laws have already expressed severe reservations about coming as you’re distressed, I doubt they would be offended by you politely saying “I’m terribly sorry but, yeah, right now is not a good time.”

As for feeling like a violation of the rules, does it help if we point out this is a different situation? Miss Manners thinks it terribly rude to withdraw a dinner invitation, but polite to leave your fiancée at the alter – different situations, even though obviously the latter is far harder on the person’s emotions. Sharing a house with someone permanently is not a dinner invitation, it’s much more like marrying someone you don’t like. (Not identical, obviously, just more like). No one here regards it as rude for you to say no in this situation.

And perhaps your therapist might help with you saying no?


shhh its me July 4, 2014 at 8:08 am

OP, maybe this perspective will help…..I have a relative with undiagnosed anxiety issues which manifest in controlling behavior (undiagnosed in the sense that they were referred to therapists multiple times but refused to seek treatment , so I don’t have a name for it) I know that stress can mean more rules ,nonsensical rules and rules clung to with greater tenacity.

It feels like you’re violating a “rule” to rescinded the invitation , other posters have already addressed that the rule is “Do not rescind invitation except in cases of illness , emergency etc.”
What else may help is simply the perspective you will be likely to violate many more rules if they live with you. Etiquette and house guests/live in adults relatives and OCD don’t tend to get along. Imposing OCD rules on your in laws would likely be rules that violate etiquette. So you have a choice to break on rule now or break many rules for the duration of your treatment and their stay.

They are expressing reservation so take them at their word and respect them and say “You’re right it will be too much.”


A different Tracy July 7, 2014 at 12:01 pm

But as others have pointed out, if they decline the invitation, that’s not a violation. You’re not rescinding the invitation. You’re letting them know it’s not going to be as pleasant as they might have expected. In that case, it would be rude to insist they come!


Mojo July 3, 2014 at 9:40 am

You made the offer in good faith, but now your situation has changed dramatically. Ask directly for your husband’s support. Men (sorry to generalise) don’t often pick up on small hints and clues.

Maybe there are other ways you can support your in-laws; offer to help fund them at another sibling’s house, maybe have them to stay for a weekend occasionaly. But just carrying on with the plan could ruin more relationships than just your relatives.


Ashley July 3, 2014 at 10:26 am

I really hope your husband has your back on this. I have diagnosed OCD and while it’s a mild case, even I can see how disruptive it would be for them to move in during your treatment, or at least during what seems to be the very start of your treatment.

Heck, even if you didn’t have OCD, the fact that they have made zero preparations towards this is alarming. September isn’t THAT far away, they should have at least packed non essentials and done whatever they needed to do to get out of their lease. How long are they going to wait? Because right now there seems to be no telling when they will ACTUALLY show up, and that would be stressful on ANYONE.

Have a good long talk with your husband if you haven’t already. Make sure he realizes that you aren’t taking this invite back out of malice towards your in laws but because it would be detrimental to your own health and well being. Then he needs to discuss it with his parents ASAP. If you are willing to get any paperwork from your therapist/doctor who diagnosed you to support your cause, I’m sure it would be helpful.


lakey July 3, 2014 at 10:35 am

I agree with the administrator that DH has to be on the same page with OP and have her back. However, if the in-laws do move in there is evidence from the post that the in-laws may have some basic behavior issues of their own that could make there moving in a big problem to anyone, much less to someone with OCD.
They haven’t packed, notified landlords, done anything at all for the move. This makes me wonder why they lost their business and have no emergency savings. Have they made any effort to seek employment? Have they set up a timetable for how long they will live with you? Have they made plans for how they will help out with living expenses?
I have known friends, neighbors, and relatives who are dysfunctional in how they run their lives. In some cases, helping them out enables their bad habits. All of this may not be true of your in-laws, but aside from your own issues, you and your husband need to look at his parents with your eyes wide open.


Justine July 3, 2014 at 11:05 am

I also have to chime in and say “Where is your husband in all of this?” Sounds like your in-laws had other options / other children to stay with, even though they wanted to move out of state. Also sounds like they can’t be picky at this point: they have to be glad they aren’t going to be homeless. It took a lllloooonnngggg time for my DH to start standing up to his parents. He just never wanted to argue with them so me being first, or getting my way in my home, was not up for option. It almost ended our marriage.


Calli Arcale July 3, 2014 at 11:37 am

Yikes. If they still haven’t prepared for the move at all, then a) they may be inviting further legal/financial trouble by not getting their lease sorted out (I have no idea what the renter’s laws are like in your state), and b) it doesn’t bode well for them being organized enough to not cause major problems for your condition. If you had been treating your OCD for years, and were stable with it, it could work, but this is a delicate stage for you. A difficult and awkward situation for both you and your husband. I wonder if his in-laws are experiencing mental illness as well; their financial situation could easily be enough to trigger a depressive episode in many people.

I think this is a case where honesty is the best policy. People contemplating living together need to have all the cards on the table or it will be disastrous. Explain that you have finally found the source of your problems, and that you have been diagnosed with OCD. You’ve begun treatment, but it’s very early stages and you are not stable yet. Given that your in-laws have just had a traumatic experience themselves, they aren’t either, so it is probably best for everyone if you don’t move in together right now. You need to stabilize first. And try to get your siblings-in-law in on this too; suggest the idea of one of them taking DH’s parents in temporarily; a longer-term solution can be determined once your condition has stabilized.

And who knows? Knowing you have OCD may inspire them to call off the plan anyway. It’s not that they don’t like you, but adhering to the rules needed to help you get through the day may be beyond what they can deal with right now.


Danielle July 3, 2014 at 12:08 pm

This is one of those things about mental illness that really ticks me off. If (G-d forbid!) you were recently diagnosed with cancer, there would be no question that it is perfectly fair and reasonable to rescind the invitation, and no one would fault you for it. Yet somehow, when it’s a mental illness, you are supposed to figure out how to be sick without inconveniencing anyone else. Your health has to come first. Before you can help other people, you have to be in a good place yourself, and your husband has to stand behind you. He needs to be the one to talk to his parents and let them know that now is not a good time for them to move in with you. Perhaps they can stay with another of their children while you get a handle on your condition, and the four of you can revisit the moving idea in a year or so.


Angela July 3, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Two thoughts: first, can the other adult children be brought into this discussion so that they might be ready to offer or deal with the parents moving in with them instead of OP? Second, the message to parents should include or even emphasize the fact that the therapist thinks that moving in isn’t a great idea right now. It may be a lot easier for them to hear that “the doctor has highly recommended that there not be any significant household changes right now” than “sorry, we can’t do it after all”.


S July 3, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I see no indication of a marriage problem. My fiance and I own a house together and I frequently refer to it as “my house,” even in the same conversation. “Come over to my house tonight, we’re making tacos.”

OP refers to the rules as hers because they are her rules.


Cat July 3, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Let me explain something to you-these people have no money, are bankrupt and are moving in with you because “they like the state”. They cannot afford to move and have made no effort at preparing for the move. If they have a landlord, they are not living with their adult children. Ok?
They may never leave. They can’t afford it, they are getting old, their health won’t allow them to live alone…and guess who gets to be housekeeper, nurse, unpaid transportation, piggy bank etc.?
You are worried about their delicate feelings? Wait till you see how you feel taking care of them for the rest of their lives.
Time for a sit-down with husband. “I cannot do this. Can you afford to pay their rent and all expenses for the rest of their lives and still provide me with the care I am going to require? How do you intend to handle this?”
I had a friend who “volunteered’ his frail wife to provide all home care for his incontinent and obese mother. He did nothing; it was all on her. I know what was left of her. What will be left of you?


Snarkastic July 3, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Wow. Someone said something similar earlier, but your comment really put it into perspective. I guess this should have been a decision made by the WHOLE family and not just a portion. There truly is much to be considered.


BellyJean July 6, 2014 at 9:20 am



S July 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm

OP, you have my sympathy. Your distress is very clear in your update.

You mentioned you feel like you’re violating “the rules,” which I assume refer to the etiquette rule of not taking back an invitation. For what it’s worth, etiquette says it’s OK to rescind invitations! You invited your in-laws to live with you before you were diagnosed with OCD and were going through therapy (at least that is my interpretation of your post). Now all this is happening, you are going through a crisis. An emergency. And an emergency is a perfectly acceptable reason to rescind an invitation. You are not breaking the rules, you are playing by them.

Your husband has three adult siblings near his parents. Your in-laws won’t be homeless and starving. They recognize their arrival is inopportune right now and are willing to back out. Take the out they are giving you. Again, this is playing by the rules, not breaking them.

Whatever happens, I do hope you address your anxiety over the rules with your therapist. I’m sure s/he has a lot more credence than people on the Internet. 🙂

Best of luck to you.


LadyStormwing July 3, 2014 at 1:55 pm

It has been said that in times of struggle, we find out who our true friends are. OP, in reading what you said about the dialogue Tracy wrote, you have a real gem of a husband. If your inlaws cannot understand how crucial this point in your life is, tough cookies for them. They may like your state, but if they can’t afford to move out without moving in with you, they will have to deal. They are grown-ups. (I like steak, but I can’t eat it every day, after all.)

You mentioned that you have children. They are going to need you. In order for you to be there for them, you need to be there for yourself, first. I got the impression that you understand that, and your DH is right by your side. It’s a three ring circus and a multi-tiered balancing act besides dealing with a new diagnosis, medications, and therapy. OP, you have worked so hard to get where you are – don’t let an invitation that you know will only hurt you do just that. Your ILs still have their apartment and three other children to help them. They won’t be out on the street. Best wishes to you.


Cathy July 3, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Protect and take care of yourself first; if you don’t, it will take a toll on your family as well as yourself.

The in-laws sound like a hot mess and I would rescind the invitation without a second thought. You don’t owe them a home. They should be taking care of their own housing issues, not visiting them on you.

Get your spouse on board. That is of paramount importance. I second what Cat said in the post above; once they are ensconced in your home, they will never leave and it will all be on you to take care of them and financially support them until they die. Is that what you want? Think long and hard.


CaffeineKatie July 3, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Thanks for the update/additional explanation, OP. PLEASE let the consensus you see on EtiquetteHell help you allow yourself to put your treatment first! You’re not rude; for the sake of your family and yourself, you need to take back your invitation. They haven’t made definite plans/spent money/packed, so please please please don’t feel guilty about doing this. Best of luck with your treatment!


Lady Anne July 3, 2014 at 7:20 pm

I agree with Cat. I have seen this from the outside, but with TWO OCD people living together, and it was not a happy place.

My mom was always very controlling; although it wasn’t recognized as OCD at the time, looking back it is quite obvious. Her mother’s sister was simply very inconsiderate, making demands and fully confident they would be obeyed. (She’d have made a great Red Queen – Off with their heads!) At the time in question, my dad was on dialysis and they were packing to move into a retirement center, where his medical needs could be more easily handled.

One morning, the doorbell rang, and there was a private ambulance parked out front. “Where do you want me to put Mrs. Kerns’ hospital bed?” My aunt had become bed-ridden and rather than move into a nursing home, she had simply shown up – unannounced – on my mother’s doorstep. She had enough money, and my attitude would have been, “Let me look in the Yellow Pages for a nursing home and see if they can take her – today” but my mother had the men rearrange the living room and put the bed in the corner.

Aunt Clara wanted her meals served at a certain time every day, and pitched a screaming fit – literally – if my mother was late, or the meat was over-cooked, or any other reason she could think of. Never mind that her lunchtime was in the middle of my dad’s dialysis treatment. In between, my mother was driving herself nuts by insisting that she get the beds made every day, and the house dusted, ironing done every Tuesday morning, etc. “Has to be done, has to be done.”

Anyway, you and your husband need to sit down together and talk this over, make a plan of action that does NOT involve your in-laws moving in with you, and stick with it. Once they get their foot in the door – just until we have a chance to catch our breath, you know – you are in it for the long haul. As Cat said, you will end up being the caretaker, nurse, diaper changer, transporter, on and on.

Been there, done that. Say No and stick to your guns.


NostalgicGal July 6, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Tangetting off the main post but, what happened? If your parents were moving and your mom’s sister just plopped in one day; did they get moved after all? And what happened to your aunt? Just want to know what happened? I would have locked the door and called social services to come re-route the uninvited guest with a bed of her own….


Disgusted July 3, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Way to over think and jump to conclusions. First we don’t know how her OCD manifests. You are also assuming by her saying her rules (not his) indicates huge marital issues. As someone who has OCD she could be referring to her compulsions and needs and seeing her husband does not have them nor fully understands seeing it isn’t his body that she be the one to talk to his parents so they have the best chance of understanding what is needed to keep her healthy. As someone who has multiple medical disorders no matter how loving my parents and partners do not know what is going on with me 100% of the time and I am the best person to make a request if I can than them for that very reason. She can not only tell them exactly, but they why and what it feels like when things are not done that way. It is better coming form the horses mouth with fully explanation then a second had information no matter how well educated or how good the intent is. For all we know it is something they would sit down together with.

As mentioned before we do not know how this OCD manifests itself, it could be a sense of disorganisation like what is happening and obviously causing a level of stress enough to write. So for all we know her husband could be trying his hardest to work with this new therapy they are all trying to figure. Just because the therapist says don’t doesn’t mean she doesn’t really want to help them out at first, but is now worried. If she had stated the husband is sitting doing nothing go for it on your assumptions. However all the mention is how she should address her personal issue.

They might be both sitting there hugging each night talking over what is the best idea for her emotions and health, her husbands (it is his parents after all and he could be feeling guilt both way and needs support) and deciding they need outside help how to correctly approach it. Except all she gets now is additional stress that her relationship sucks, which for someone who is in a bad place is a terrible thing to say up front, especially when everything said about it is pure assumption. Why not just answer her question what is the best way to approach her in laws with proper etiquette. That is what this site is about right, etiquette, is it not bad etiquette to judge someones family life bas on an assumption?

To the OP, are they the type of people who might be able to be brought into a therapy session (coordinated) without being upset so they might be able to hear some or you can all talk. With a medical professional coordinating it and there for his professional insight who might be able to let them know in a different and respectable capacity? That way you could say, hey I know we are both having a hard time (they sound like they are too) you guys probably know a bit of my hard time, but I wanted someone who could explain the medical side better so you know some of the things I ask of you are a medical requirement like taking medication would be for others because I want you to be as comfortable as possible. Try and make it an education session that way offence hopefully wont be had due to careful planning between you and the doctor and they might be able to be included into your health plan and be part of it and helping rather than just fumbling around not 100% understanding and maybe assuming the wrong thing. As we saw with the admin reply people love to assume anything out of almost nothing or what they think a slip in writing might be a glimpse into inner turmoil of something else (hello people who read too much Freud). Good luck with what you wrote in about, as for the marriage – no comment seeing you didn’t ask for marriage commentary and I have no idea why it was bought up.


splendidbluewren July 3, 2014 at 11:27 pm

dear OP,

I’m sorry that you are feeling so dreadfully anxious about breaking the rules of hospitality.

I’m very happy that you have found a therapist who works with more than medication alone.

I’m sure you know this, but will mention it anyway:
1. you are suffering from an illness which has a tremendous effect on the way you cope with stress
2. this is why you are seeing your therapist, because it’s beyond your husband’s ability and your own ability to sort it out alone
3. a part of your illness is this intense pressure on yourself to abide by rules you have internalized, whether they are rational or not in the current situation
4. you may not be able to think in a logical manner during an intense period of anxiety
5. you probably like to plan a long way ahead and rigidly adhere to the plan to feel okay

Please make getting help with the current situation a priority with your therapist at your next appointment – I suggest making an extra appointment if possible. She can help you by being a kind, compassionate and firm authority figure. She may tell you that you’re allowed to change your plans, and all the consequences you anticipate may not occur. I know this is really challenging for you, but take heart! Let your therapist use her professional knowledge to guide you.

BTW, this is not the time to be refusing medicine such as Valium – please take advantage of all avenues to bring your system back to its most neutral, calm, non-reactive settings.

In regard to rescinding the (extremely generous but unnecessary) offer of accommodating your husband’s parents – it sounds as if you are insisting on going with the plan. Things have changed and the other adults can see that the plan won’t work for you now. Please accept your husband and in-laws’ help. They are offering to help you by releasing you from your obligations and the original plan.

It’s part of your therapeutic process to practice accepting help, and part of theirs to offer it.

I know this is really hard. Bravo for seeking help. Please keep doing your best and let others show you their best too.

It is a privilege to truly help a person you love – you already know this from being the helper!
Now it’s your turn to accept help and support.

Best wishes.


SpottedPony July 5, 2014 at 8:02 am

From my understanding, the husband and even the in-laws understand that it would be too difficult for the in-laws to move in at this time. It is OP, who because of her OCD, is having the problems withdrawing the invitation. Apparently her form of OCD, requires her to follow the ‘rules’, no matter what the rules are, to the letter in order for her to feel comfortable. Withdrawing the invitation would be breaking the rules, would be rude, and that is what she is fixated on. Then there is the problem of the in-laws coming and she knows that they won’t follow the rules the way she follows the rules and that the thought of that is causing major stress. So for OP, it is a war in her mind, stress of breaking the ediquette rule of withdrawing an invitation or the stress of having people around who will cause more stress by breaking the rules all the time.

I think that OP needs to call her therapist and see about addressing this issue in her next session. Perhaps they should concentrate on OP dealing with this problem for the next few weeks until she can get a handle on it and not feel so stressed. I also agree that perhaps a very low dose of medication might take the edge off the stress and make things easier to deal with for now.

Good luck.

Spotted Pony


hakayama July 4, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Dear OP,
I can relate to your discomfort with noises that shouldn’t be there and other “out of order” items. Things and events that do not follow “The Rules”. While I’ve gotten relaxed with punctuation, spelling errors, misuse of verbs, and other grammar violations annoy the heck out of me. And that just on this web site alone. 😉 So many books spoiled by what some would call insignificant details, but to me they carry a lot of weight, especially in non-fiction. You wonder if the author was not accurate in one seemingly unimportant detail, how much faith can you place in the significant pieces of information…

So, let’s examine some rules for every day behavior, and rank them by weight in terms of the “big picture”. Which rule would you rather see people follow, use the proper utensils during meals or wash their hands before preparing food?
Now let’s move onto the really big rules for living. Adulthood goes beyond having a sofa that is not a hand-me-down: adults carry their own weight, stand on their own feet, make provisions for disastrous situations, and while they may live with a second hand sofa, they do not ask friends and relatives for rent money.
Your in laws may have Pollyanishly put all of their money in their business, and lost it all. Poop happens. BUT. Yes, there is this huge BUT, from the little you’ve said about them, it should not be that surprising, for if they ran their business the way they go about choosing their next place to live, they “had it coming”.
They are badly ARRESTED IN MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT. They are behaving like children. They want gratification without examining the options and making logical choices, as in: staying in a place they know and where they have a LOT of support; finding jobs which, even at a minimum wage levels, would allow them to lead a very modest (“hole in the wall”) life style; if they are of retirement age, and have even a minimum of SS income, then retire, and continue with menial work.
BUT, OH, NO! They want to do what they want to do, WHERE they want to do it.
Freakingly childish behavior. Totally NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES OF ADULTHOOD.
Girl*, your in laws broke and continue to break the rules.
And YOU are also breaking the rules of parenthood. Instead of doing what is best for your children (whose well-being supersedes all other concerns), you are focusing on breaking the etiquette rule of withdrawing an invitation.
At this point, I hope you see clearly that not all rules were created equal. In what I could call “Haka’s hierarchy of rules”, you must realize that some rules trump others.
Just as the rule of clean hands for preparing food is more important than the proper table setting when it comes to eating, in the “big picture” of living an human actions and interactions, the rule of protecting one’s young soooo overcomes the rule of breaking a promise to an adult. And not necessarily a deserving adult either…
I don’t like your ILs, especially the MIL. I can just see her fussing around, trying to show that she is concerned. But, that “easily offended” virago, is probably a master (mistress?) manipulator, who’s trying for your reiterated invitation. As in, “but really, please do come”… and stay put for the rest of your life while you suck the vital forces out of the family that DH and I should be focusing on.

Do what is right for your little family. That is rule #1, and it trumps all others. Do the right thing.


*I’m using this word with you affectionately. Given my age (up there 😉 ), there’s also a good chance that I could use it with your MIL, much less affectionately.
Blessings and good wishes.


hakayama July 5, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Please do remove the second quotation marks from line 7 from the bottom and place them at the end of line 8.
Sorry about the oversight.


kit July 5, 2014 at 10:55 am

Really, it seems your in-laws are quite understanding and ready to decline your offer anyway – accept it (their declination of offer)!

Also, another thought – your in-laws have already lost their ability to support themselves financially. It is probably a big psychological blow. And as Cat mentioned, they may never be able to do it again. Is it a good idea to take from them the ability to do housekeeping etc themselves, too? Maybe it would be better for them to move into a smaller and cheaper place, and their four children sharing the expenses until they, hopefully, can manage somewhat themselves again? In the interest of keeping happy home life of all five families concerned?

When my MIL became relatively weak of cancer, she didn’t want to come to live with us (saying she doesn’t want to have our kids see her die, but probably also because she was just a very wise MIL). Then, we rented a small flat in the same neighbourhood we live, just nearer to centre. She could (for a whole year anyway) walk by herself to grocery store, drugstore, doctors – we live farther from centre and she would have had to wait for us to transport her, if she had lived here. She was still independent, the mistress of her flat – believe me, nothing worse for someone than having nothing to do except to sit and wait for death. At the same time, if she needed something heavier to be brought, or if she had a painful day and couldn’t get out of bed at all, it was very easy for either of us to go and help. She did say once to me that she felt like – snik, snak! – her abilities to do things were being cut off one by one. This was why I didn’t quarrel with her (besides it just being stupid to quarrel about something like that with my wonderful MIL) when she always wanted to see how much I spent on groceries and pay it back – even if she didn’t have the ability to go to shop herself, who was I to refuse her the ability to at least pay for her own groceries and medicines? Even if my husband gave her some bigger sum now and then…


Angel July 6, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Even under the most ideal of circumstances, having your in-laws moving in with you can cause a tremendous strain on your marriage. The fact that you have a documented case of OCD makes it about a thousand times worse. This is now a matter of your mental health. Unless your husband is a complete numbskull he needs to put the kibosh on this idea of his parents moving in with you and him. I predict nothing but disaster if your in-laws are allowed to continue with their plan. The person who really needs to be putting a stop to this is your husband. Hopefully you and he are both on the same page!


danmar7 July 7, 2014 at 3:51 am

Beggars can’t be choosers. The husband and his sibs need to meet, if not in person, then via conference call or video chat. Everyone needs a chance to air his or her take on the situation, whether they’ve already been approached to house the parents (and declined), and what (if anything) should be done to help them.

For now, find out what senior assistance groups there are in the parents’ area, so they can get help finding affordable housing and financial counseling. I’d hesitate taking them in, or even giving them money. If they’ve essentially bankrupted themselves, you don’t want to be on the debt collectors’ radar.


Ashley July 7, 2014 at 11:16 am

On an etiquette note, you said “they have expressed severe reservations about coming since it is causing me so much distress.” I think if you can’t provide them with an environment they would be comfortable in (which is totally fine – an understandable) it is best to not stress both them and you out with the tension that will come. There is nothing wrong with cutting yourself some slack, looking realistically at the situation, and realizing that it won’t work. Etiquette is not something that requires you to force yourself into situations that will stress all parties for months.

On a marriage note, if you and your husband are not already on the same page, and if he has not proved and made it amply clear that you are his first priority and that he will always side with you over his parents . . . there is trouble ahead.


Elizabeth July 8, 2014 at 3:59 pm

“I’m sorry but due to my health and recovery program, we’re not able to host guests at this time.”

Repeat – repeat – repeat.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: