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What Is Yours Is Mine…Particularly Your Hotdog

I have an issue with my MIL, and I’m not sure if the blame lies with me, her, or somewhere in between.

I wouldn’t say I have issues with personal space, but I have firm opinions on what I find acceptable. For example, our bedroom is our own space, mine and my husband’s. I do not like other people entering my room, unless invited, and that very, very seldom ever happens. I also consider my desk my space and I don’t like other people to sit at it, even though it is in a common area in our house. There are plenty of tables and seating areas in our kitchen/living room so that no one should find it necessary to sit in “my space”. I know it may sound selfish to say “mine!” like a child refusing to share a toy, but I am a private person, and I expect a certain level of privacy in my own home.

My MIL consistently enters my personal space. She walks into our bedroom whenever the mood strikes. There is no reason for her to be there. It is a small room, and we don’t keep anything in there that she would need or want. I have mentioned this to her several times, and even had the support of my sister-in-law who also dislikes having my MIL go into their bedroom. MIL just argues that she isn’t snooping, and doesn’t see the issue.

Another problem, and perhaps the biggest one, is her habit of grabbing food off people’s plates, or taking sips of their drinks without asking. She will reach across the table and take a handful of fries from the plate next to her. On several occasions she has said “oh, what’s that you’re drinking? Looks good!” and proceed to take a big mouthful of drink before anyone can stop her. During her last visit, I had been rushing around trying to get ready for a family get-together at our house the next day. My husband grilled hot dogs for the kids and put one aside for me that evening as I hadn’t taken time to eat. I was standing in the kitchen, holding the hot dog when MIL came along, grabbed my hand, and pulled the hot dog in for a huge bite. Then she had the nerve to complain that I didn’t put mustard on my hot dogs. I know it was probably rude, but I just passed it to her and told her that she could have it and put whatever she wanted on it. She doesn’t think it’s a big deal, and gets offended when anyone protests. “We’re all family” is her stock reply.

The problem seems to have gotten worse instead of better over the past couple of years, despite my protestations (and those from her other DIL). I know that my issues with personal space play a part in this situation, but I need a way to let MIL know that pushing herself on others (or even just me!) is not OK.    0909-14


Your MIL has an entitlement attitude which expresses itself in crossing personal boundaries with no regard to courtesies of respect.  Your food is her food to do with whatever she wishes, your space is her space.   The first step to changing this behavior, or at least modify it, is to address the issue very directly and specifically….

“Do not go into our bedroom.”

“But I’m not snooping and I don’t what the big deal is anyway.”

“There is nothing you need to see in our bedroom, all the more reason why you have no need to go in there.  And it is irrelevant whether you believe it is not a big deal.  I do consider it a ‘deal’ and am requesting that you do not enter our bedroom.”

OP, where is your husband, the son of your MIL?   Why are you dealing with this invasion of your bedroom privacy apparently alone?   Is it perhaps that your husband has given up trying since he is familiar with this behavior for decades?

As for privacy for your desk, I think you have an unreasonable expectation that no one should ever sit at the desk given that the desk is located in a common area of the house.    Courteous, considerate people know better than to snoop through papers on a desk or drawers but if there is an available chair in the common area, I don’t think most people would view the desk as off limits entirely.    Until recently small writing desks were placed in common areas for guests to use for writing correspondences while visiting so  I don’t think people have it engrained in their cultural mindset to completely avoid sitting in a desk chair.    If the desk must be in a common area, you may need to invest in a roll top desk to get that level of privacy you want.

As for the food, that is just gross, rude and bratty what your MIL does with other people’s food.   I’d be tempted to stab her grubby paw with my fork if I saw it sneaking up to my plate.   If I were the victim of her theft from my plate, I would most certainly, and promptly, take my plate and empty the remaining contents of whatever it was she took onto her own plate and refresh mine with new food.    Can you imagine how barbaric meals would be if everyone at the table stole food from each other with no regard for the courtesies of asking, “Are you finished with that?  Yes? May I have it?”

As for the hotdog incident, I would have stiffened arm in resistance and asked incredulously, “What are you doing? Get your own hotdog.”

And when your MIL gives you that manipulative explanation that “We’re family!”, you respond with this….

“Don’t flatter yourself that friendship authorizes you to say disagreeable things to your intimates. The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become. ”
Oliver Wendell Holmes


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • mark September 11, 2014, 5:16 pm

    I don’t think I’d bother with a lock on the bedroom door. If it is a typical bedroom door lock it won’t keep anyone out, and have no desire to deal with a outdoor style key lock for my bedroom.

    The problem is getting her to respect boundaries and to me a lock is in some ways just conceding.

    • A different Tracy September 12, 2014, 8:12 am

      I see your point, but I don’t agree. To me, conceding would be if the OP stopped trying to keep MIL out of her bedroom, and instead hid everything personal. Locking the door isn’t giving up, it’s making a very pointed statement that MIL is not allowed in there. Sure, it means MIL is being forced to behave instead of being “trained,” but it’s still addressing the problem.

      • mark September 12, 2014, 4:23 pm

        By conceding I mean you are conceding that it’s ok to go into any area of your house that isn’t locked. I have plenty things and places in my house I want people to stay out of and I expect them to understand a closed door means keep out. And I have no desire to install locks on everything. If they can’t respect my privacy. They can stay out.

        Of course ymmv.

        • Sura September 30, 2014, 1:29 pm

          I thought of this too. It’s kind of like when they made the “quiet cars” on the train line I took to work: I thought it only made things worse because the real issue isn’t people needing dead silence in public, it’s that too many people are inconsiderate in public. As a solution, carving out rudeness-free zones implicitly signals where rudeness will be tolerated.

  • Catherine September 11, 2014, 7:29 pm

    Op, you mention kids. Quite apart from how long has this been going on, what are you teaching them? Start setting boundaries now before your kids grow up to either believe it’s okay to help themselves to others’ food and snoop around their private spaces or continue to let themselves be ridden over roughshod by people like your MIL. If your husband balks at setting boundaries with his mother, use this argument. Just because he’s been normalized to it over the years doesn’t mean it has to continue to the next generation.

    Everything else, I agree: locks on the doors, hide the desk stuff and a big fat No! every time she comes near your or your kids’ food.

  • NV September 11, 2014, 8:21 pm

    If possible, I would suggest not inviting her over. If she asks why, tell her that she has continually failed to respect your privacy and so you do not feel comfortable having her in your home, and you will not ask her back until she learns to respect you and that ‘we’re family’ is not an excuse and will not hold water with you. The key here is to just keep repeating: don’t argue, don’t let her explain.

    “You have failed to respect our privacy and so we do not feel comfortable having you here.”
    “But we’re-”
    “No. You have failed to respect our privacy and we do not feel comfortable having you here.”
    “But family-”
    “No. You keep failing to respect our privacy and we do not feel comfortable having you here.”

    Like that. Also, if she does the food thing again, just throw it out and tell her that it’s not appropriate behaviour. Keep repeating, like the above. Good luck.

    • AMC September 12, 2014, 8:39 am

      This. If she refuses to respect your privacy, she shouldn’t be welcome in your home anymore. If she doesn’t keep her hands off your plate, you won’t be dining with her anymore.

  • msdani313 September 11, 2014, 8:49 pm

    For those saying that the OP should get a lock for her door… I wholeheartedly disagree! I am not locking doors in my house because my MIL is a nosy rude boor. I will simply not allow her into my home until she can follow the rules. If you cannot respect the rules of my home you are not allowed in my home. My father has only spend 15 minutes total in my home because I will not allow him to smoke inside my home.

    As far as food goes I am not above firmly poking the hand of those who choose to reach into my plate with my fork. My food …my plate! While I may allow my 18 month old niece to reach into my plate all others may ask first.

    • Cecilia September 12, 2014, 9:00 am

      I wouldn’t allow a child to reach into my plate, not even an 18 month old. I wouldn’t flip out or shout or poke her hand but your dear niece is old enough to start learning table manners. If you allow this behavior now and don’t stop it, in about 25/30 years, her DIL may be writing in about food stealing.

      • msdani313 September 12, 2014, 4:50 pm

        Yes my niece is old enough to know not to reach into everyone’s plate. However, I am “TeeTee” and she knows that I will share because “Tee Tee loves the niecey” . If we are around other people (family included) she does not take food from plates. However, my plate, her mom’s plate and her grandfather’s plate are fair game. When she is old enough to sit with a plate of her own I am sure she will no longer reach for my food.

        • Anon November 18, 2016, 12:46 pm

          So apparently because other people won’t let her take food off of their plates they don’t love her?

          That’s probably not what you’re trying to say, but it kind of sounds like that. Also that’s not love. Loving her would be teaching her that she could get sick/get others sick by shoving her fingers into other people’s food.

    • Rodinne September 12, 2014, 9:49 am

      A lock is a cheap teacher. It is inexpensive to put a lock on the door, and the first time MIL tries to enter the bedroom and finds it locked, she will inquire as to why. Then the OP can say, “I told you I don’t want you in our bedroom. You refused to listen, so we put a lock on the door. I’m sorry you aren’t willing to listen to our wishes, but if we can’t convince you to stay out of our bedroom out of respect for us, we’re going to have to lock the door.”

      • Dana September 12, 2014, 5:46 pm

        There are also magnetic alarms that go off when a door is opened. Might put a stick in MIL’s spokes. You can get them for drawers, too, in case you think she’s looking in the nightstand or whatever.

        • Schnickelfritz September 13, 2014, 11:49 am

          I like this better than the lock! My friend has a drawer with the alarm, it is hilarious LOUD and sounds like a rain forrest with squawking and birds and music! You can hear it throughout the house, maybe even outside! MIL would be jumping out of her skin! She could try to open the locked door, but with the silence, not a big effect. But the freaking alarm would really get her attention, and yours, at which time her snooping could be addressed once again. I picture MIL sitting nicely with he hands folded in her lap, after that!

          As far as the desk, I wouldn’t dream of sitting at anyone’s desk – or even looking at anything on the desk, even decorative stuff. That is a very personal space. I had (past tense) a friend with serious boundaries. If she came in my home, she thought nothing of picking up a stack of mail, right in front of me, and flipping through it to see what was there! I once worked for an engineer at a large manufacturing company; he was also a local politician. We had an outgoing U.S. mail box. He would pick up the U.S. mail (employees could put there personal stamped outgoing mail there for pick-up) – and he would flip through our personal outgoing mail, reading the envelopes! I was absolutely floored. After that, I have never thought of him the same way. He went on to be a mayor of a lovely city in our area. I was very young. If I saw that today – I would definitely call him out on it, and I would not be whispering!

  • AD September 11, 2014, 10:14 pm

    I used to have a psychotic MIL who would walk into rooms where she wasn’t wanted. I adapted by locking the doors and keeping the keys in my pocket. Dunno what to tell you about the food thing, but definitely lock your doors. It’ll help.

  • Cattra September 11, 2014, 10:25 pm

    Our family grew up sharing food from each other’s plates and it was not uncommon to cut a piece of your own food and put it on another’s plate and have them reciprocate, or help yourself if it was a close family member who had previously given permission. But we would never do it with someone who said that they were uncomfortable with that or didn’t wish to share their food.

    Perhaps M-I-L and DH were raised to think that was the norm. (even though after it was said ONCE that it was unacceptable, it should not have been attempted again).

    • hakayama September 12, 2014, 3:50 pm

      This is not what the OP’s MIL does. It’s a totally different animal. Poor pun intended. 😉

    • The Elf September 15, 2014, 9:10 am

      We did the same in my house, Cattra. The difference here is that 1) It was obviously mutual and 2) YOU ASK FIRST.

  • Maggie September 11, 2014, 10:57 pm

    What your MIL is doing is the equivalent of a dog marking its territory. Everything is hers and she is Numero Uno.

    • Jaxsue September 12, 2014, 9:49 am

      This! It totally describes my late MIL.

  • Asharah September 12, 2014, 12:52 am

    I recall another story where an OP complained about her younger sister stealing food from the OP’s daughter’s plate whenever they ate out together. She ignored being told to stop and actually whined to their mother about big sis being mean to her. Yes this was an adult. Somebody actually suggested the OP bring a wooden ruler to hit Sis on the knuckles when she reached for daughter’s food. “If she’s gonna act like a spoiled child, she deserves to be treated like one.

    • NostalgicGal September 12, 2014, 10:38 am

      Up to about the age of 8 I would have just screamed like a banshee over someone stealing food from me. I had a rather piercing scream too. If that didn’t work it would be dump the plate and run to hide (and leave my mom to vent a spleen on whoever, I was usually pretty civil around adults, I’d been trained to be so) Next few years I would have launched the plateful into their face. And taken the grounding. I knew the punishment, and if I did it I took the punishment… if I did it on purpose (standing there and saying one or two weeks? to a parent, they knew it was premeditated). (don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time). I would also be ‘kept away’ from that person after that (so a win-win in the end). At Junior High age, I fought my own wars… and I would have sat so as not to have that person within grabbing range, even if I had to sit at another table in the restaurant!

      • iwadasn September 13, 2014, 5:32 pm

        I hope you realize that chucking things at people whenever you feel they’ve wronged you isn’t exactly the height of proper etiquette, either.

        • NostalgicGal September 14, 2014, 1:47 pm

          At that age, that is what I would have done, but I didn’t have to.

          I have launched one plate in my life and that was shortly after I married, to break my DH of the habit of overstuffing his mouth and chewing with his mouth open. And smacking and slorping along. I had tried various other things and the nag after other talks had caused a major fight; so I told him the next time I was going to do that so he could be assured he got enough food in his mouth at once. He did so I did, and I left for the afternoon. He now takes smaller forkfuls (he would actually try to cram two or more in his face at once) and he closes mouth to chew. That incident was over 30 years ago… and at least the civilized world can stand to eat within earshot of him now. I have an aunt that is even worse and I wish someone would have baptized her thusly early on, as it might have worked (she will talk with food dribbling out of her mouth after overstuffing)

          • hakayama September 15, 2014, 7:45 pm

            Holy cows! How did he ever get beyond the first dinner date with you? Were you perhaps blinded by his other virtues & attributes besides gluttony? 😉
            A European lady, born almost with the past century, told me that in her small town burgeois (sp.?) circles the ultimate test of civilized behavior lay in chicken. Yes, chicken. It had to be eaten with a knife and fork, with careful navigation around bones of various sizes and shapes. I imagine that close scrutiny was paid to how the utensils were held, managed, rested, etc.
            Your poor baby DH, would probably never have a second chance with those folks.

          • NostalgicGal September 19, 2014, 9:45 pm

            Long story Hakayama, we didn’t find out several things until after we’d been married a while, such as a morning person and a night person… college and both in classes tended to mask a lot of things. If he was eating with hands (burgers, fries, pizza) he didn’t do this-though he would smack and slorp a lot. If he had a fork he HAD to stuff-stuff-stuff his mouth. One plateful purposely launched fixed it. He closes his mouth, and if he’s that hungry, he will swallow a glass of beverage first to slow down his stomach. No nagging is priceless. Being broke college students we didn’t have real dinner type dining until after we were married a ways and it was our table. Hence what happened. Thinking, we had just one fancy fine dining meal where he had to wear a suit jacket and tie, and we’d been married like … seven years… I guess you can say we were never quite that type.

            I did learn how to eat fried chicken with a knife and fork. I can also eat jello with chopsticks and other dexterous stuff like that.

        • NostalgicGal September 14, 2014, 1:51 pm

          A further comment about premeditated. There were things that I knew I’d get consequences if I did it; and there were a few times I went and did it anyways; then asked what my punishment would be, flat out. I had understood the crime, I did it knowing I’d get punished, and I accepted the punishment calmly because I had WANTED to do that, I had MEANT to do that, and I was taking the responsibility for YES I DID THAT. Parental unit stated the punishment and I did the time for the crime.

  • OriginalDIL September 12, 2014, 5:37 am

    I’m the DIL in the OP. I love the dog whisperer advice, particularly since MIL is a dog lover but also fails to give them boundaries. 🙂

    My husband is another of those that takes his mother’s side, although he has said to her, and I quote, “you don’t really need to go into our room.” The apron string are still there, and she has them tied very tightly. Usually she just finds excuses to go in like putting something away that she thinks should be in that room, or straightening the bedspread or the blinds. It very much reminds me of a dog or cat marking its territory. As one commenter said “This is my son’s house, and I’ll go where I want.”

    I know the desk is MY issue, and I don’t tell people not to sit there. I think of it as working through my personal space issues. It gets my back up, but it is in a common area so I don’t make a big deal of it if someone takes that seat. I just usually find a way to make sure I sit there first. 🙂 Most people have enough respect not to look through the things there.

    Great advice, and as she will be visiting today, it will come in handy. Thanks!

    • lnelson1218 September 12, 2014, 8:44 am


      Please let us know if you incorporate any of the tips given and what the outcome was.

    • Jaxsue September 12, 2014, 9:51 am

      I am so sorry your DH isn’t on the same page as you. I was in a marriage very much like that. I saw it long before we got married, and still ignored the red banners (much bigger than red flags!). I don’t know what to say; my now X-DH never cut the apron strings. :-/

    • NostalgicGal September 12, 2014, 10:40 am

      Good luck, OP, may it all work out, and do let us know what happens.

    • cdubz September 12, 2014, 1:04 pm

      Then you need marriage counseling. A husband should back his wife up, especially if his mother is making her uncomfortable. It’s his job to love and support you, and he’s failing. You are partners and he SHOULD NOT be taking his mothers side.

      I wonder what he would say if he saw this thread and knew the overwhelming majority were against him?

    • Anonymous September 12, 2014, 6:07 pm

      Wait…..”visiting today?” So, if MIL doesn’t live with you, then why not just restructure the visits so that these issues can’t crop up? You could visit in public places that don’t involve food (park, museum, art gallery, theatre, zoo, beach, public swimming pool, whatever), and if she asks, tell her the truth–that you don’t want her in your home because she doesn’t respect your privacy, and you don’t want to eat with her, because she takes food off your plate.

    • Snarkastic September 12, 2014, 8:51 pm

      I hope you speak with your husband and he sees your POV sometime soon. My parents have always backed each other up and agreed: they each had an equally wacky set of in-laws. At the very least, they all got along and respected each other’s boundaries. Good luck!

    • Steve September 16, 2014, 9:49 am

      If you’re having trouble getting your husband to cooperate, you might consider that a bedroom constantly subject to your mother-in-law’s invasions is hardly the right place to “set the mood.” If you get my drift.

  • A different Tracy September 12, 2014, 8:15 am

    “MIL, you don’t have to see the issue. You don’t have to understand why I don’t want you in my bedroom. You simply have to accept it.”

    • Dana September 12, 2014, 5:23 pm

      The first time. The second time, I’d go with “I told you to stay out of our bedroom. Get out. Now.” Then a time out — “Since you can’t respect my privacy, we won’t be having you over for three months. After that, we’ll see if you can follow the house rules. If you can’t, we’ll try a six month time out.”

  • AMC September 12, 2014, 8:56 am

    OP, I’m sorry to hear your husband isn’t standing up for you as much as he should. From my point of view, this all comes down to respect. By invading your private space and even snatching food out of your hand, she is disrespecting you in your own home. That is something your husband absolutely. Should. Not. Tolerate. It doesn’t matter if it’s not a big deal to your MIL; it’s a big deal to you, and therefore should be a big deal to him. I don’t know if marriage counseling is an option for you, but your husband needs to cut those apron strings and start being a better partner.

  • just4kicks September 12, 2014, 9:56 am

    Maybe the next hot dog you eat in front of your MIL should have copious amounts of onions, horseradish, hot sauce and jalapenos….And nothing in your cup except some ice cubes! 😉

    • NostalgicGal September 12, 2014, 10:46 am

      [LIKE] <<<<< made my own like button.

      I grow the really insane peppers; I do say for revenge do NOT stray past jalapenos. I have some that should be 'license issued to even be in the same room with' and really hot peppers are a threat to health, don't go there. MOST people have trouble with anything past mild salsa strength hot….
      no habaneros, no ghost peppers, no scotch bonnets….

      • just4kicks September 13, 2014, 5:35 am

        Agreed, OP is trying to stop rude behaviors, not send dear old MIL to the ER…..I think….

        • NostalgicGal September 13, 2014, 9:55 am

          Just have to point that out. You can get sauces and salsas and even buy some of the true hot ones peppers now; but. Though I like my insanely hot peppers, I also treat them with care and respect and make sure that the unknowing never get near my molten nuclear stuff. Having a close encounter with six and seven digit scoville unit stuff; should be voluntary and totally informed, and protect the Darwin Award candidates from themselves and you from a lawsuit.

          • just4kicks September 14, 2014, 6:36 am

            I used to put hot sauce on everything from pizza, eggs, and popcorn. Unfortunately, my system can no longer handle anything spicy. I have tried a scotch bonnet when I was younger and it was powerful, to say the least. My folks are always passing on salsas and even chipotle cream cheese they took one spoonful of and couldn’t stand the spice.

          • NostalgicGal September 14, 2014, 1:56 pm

            There is a ‘Fooled You’ Jalapeno that tastes right but has a fraction of the heat. I grow those for my DH; and he uses about 2/3 FYJ and 1/3 NormalJ to flavor his omlettes. He couldn’t hack the bite of regulars; that way the heat is cut. I make salsa and add the Jalapenos in that ratio and he uses that.

  • MPW September 12, 2014, 6:37 pm

    My parents grew up very poor in Eastern Europe – my father shared a bed with his parents or up to 3 younger brothers – in two room houses (one common area and one bedroom on opposite sides of a common, central fireplace and chimney). They do not understand many concepts of personal privacy. They do not always pull the door closed when using the toilet – no matter who else might be at home. They don’t have issues about sharing food, cups, etc. They were like this in their 30’s and are now in their late 60’s, and have not changed. It’s attitude and culture, and not age and dementia, which give a person the belief that what they are doing is acceptable.

    They also have this dislike of multi-floor houses – citing how much space is wasted with staircases and hallways – and they have always lived in a one-floor house. The problem there is that the “public” areas of the house – like the kitchen, living/dining room – and the “private” areas of the house – like bedrooms, master-bathroom, home office – are all on the same floor. I hated this idea – not to mention that the smell of cooking anything – including objectionably smelly things – would permeate the whole house, including my bedroom.

    I chose to live in a two-story house for that reason. Nobody ever needs to go upstairs unless they are specifically invited upstairs – this includes mostly overnight visitors as there is plenty of “living space” on the first floor, but I do have a “home office” upstairs as well. They don’t understand why I would want that, but the thing is that I don’t feel compelled to make my bed or hide my underwear or bank statements when anyone comes to visit. Living in their house, I had to abide by their rules, but when they visit mine, they know better than to leave those “public areas” of the house.

    I agree with many others that a lock on the bedroom door is an unfortunate necessity. The desk is more difficult – if you can’t find a locking or roll-top desk to keep things hidden from view, and the desk is in a public part of the house, it’s going to be very difficult. If the desk is in a different room – like a home-office, well, that’s another story. (Maybe the desk needs to be moved to a “private area” of the house?) I imagine that there may very well be sobbing, hysteria, or even an attempt to break the lock, because this MIL sounds like she needs to exert her authority and control, but it certainly sounds necessary at this stage. The OP and her husband need to be on the same page as this, though I fear that a spineless husband may acquiesce to the issue at hand, get a lock on the door, and then secretly give MIL her own key, or simply “forget” to lock the door every time.

    I have no good advice about the food boundaries – none of that is even remotely forgivable for adults dealing with other adults – and I’d have blown up even the first time that it happened. This isn’t like sharing an appetizer plate or a “bite” of someone else’s dinner – it’s more “territory marking”.

  • Mabel September 12, 2014, 7:01 pm

    She took your hot dog out of your HAND and took a bite? What is she, a toddler?

  • Jessica September 12, 2014, 10:01 pm

    oh the stories I could tell about my ex MIL. Talk about invading bedroom space? My ex inlaws went through our bedroom drawers when we were a way on holiday, found out ‘intimate toys’ and proceded to call us and lecture us on where we kept them and why. They went through my files so they could find receipts and admonish ME for how much money WE spent. I found this particularly funny because She would spend $300 on a tiny hall table from a boutique whereas I would buy a second hand item and do it up myself. She managed to convince my husband that me doing a law degree full time, security and counter terrorism degree part time (after the kids went to bed until 4am) and be being a on call volunteer firefighter during school hours meant that I did not have time for my proper duties and neglectful of my duties as a mother, never mind the house was always clean, kids fed and dressed. Ex husband worked 12 hour days and all he was expected to do was the school lunches, put clothes on the line and washing up I did the rest including handyman jobs, mowing the lawn, cleaning the cars and house ect. . She was horrified to learn her son had to get up to get the kids ready for school in the morning, whereas I got an extra half hours sleep. (never mind that he went to bed at 11pm and I went at 4am) Our fighting got so bad he found comfort in my (now ex) best friend. So my marriage broke up and because I was not working and I have to finish study I cannot get a full time job,I had to move 5 hours away just to get a casual job. I cant fford to support the kids myself so my ex husband got full custody, I only see my boys (7 and 8 years old) twice a year for a week at a time. I cannot even go and visit because my kids and ex live directly accross the road from ex MIL so every time I show up she will SCREECH abuse at me about how i drove her son away and how mentally unstable i am. She loves my ex husbands new gf who has 5 kids to different men, words as a nurses aid and lives 5 hours from him. The in laws would rarely babaysit for us when we wanted a date night and if they did we had to pick the kids up my 9am the next day on the dot. That was 3 times or so a year. They now are happy to watch my kids for a whole weekend so my ex can visit his new gf who lives 5 hours the other direction from me.
    My husband leaving me for my best mate was the kindest thing he ever did, it got me away from that evil and vile thing that is his mother.

    • Jessica September 12, 2014, 10:08 pm

      Sorry for the spelling mistakes I get so riled up when I think about it. If any of you are wondering what I did that she would hate me and love the new gf? Well its a simple. I am fat and not what you would call a beauty. The new gf is a lot slimmer… and still not a beauty. Naturally MIL’s assumption is I am fat and lazy, new gf is not. You should have seen her go red like a tomato when i had the NERVE to get a tattoo after my ex left. I got ‘unbreakable written on my right wrist and ‘unstoppable’ on my left. and a small picture of a firefighter under ‘unbreakable’ which says ‘firefighter for life’.
      I now work as a security guard/bouncer and also almost all the way through the recruitment process to be a paid retained firefighter. None of the things I just mention are suitable for a mother I have been told my ex MIL.

      • NostalgicGal September 13, 2014, 12:25 am

        Sorry you’ve had such a bad one. I sure hope that after you get on ‘regular’, you can get the boys back before he and the ex-witch-law can brainwash/lie to/sell a passel of lies to them that they won’t ever believe otherwise…

        Keep chugging, may you ‘live well’ and karma gets the non innocents in this one.

      • just4kicks September 13, 2014, 5:38 am

        Calling you out on private sex toys?!? Good Lord!
        You should tell them they are wonderful for stress relief and invite them to borrow them!

        • just4kicks September 13, 2014, 1:27 pm

          I’m sorry, I re-read your post, I didn’t realize you and your hubby got divorced.
          Sorry for my flippant statement about your intimate toys!
          You sound like a hard working, terrific woman and mom.
          I pray a man who appreciates you will find you soon, and you can have the happy life you deserve!

          P.s. re: you getting a half hour extra sleep while your husband got HIS kids ready for school reminds me of my husband hiding in our bedroom all day to avoid a visit from my folks.
          A few weeks later, his mom was in a nursing home for about a month before she made my son bring home, she got a Sunday pass. I had the flu and had been throwing up non stop for about 24 hours. Did my hubby cancel dinner at our home? Nope. Mommy dearest came to dinner and bitched that my hubby was doing the cooking and tending the kids and where the hell WAS I?!
          He then came to yell at me to come say hello and have dinner because his mom was mad I “was napping”. If I could’ve thrown up directly on her…..I would have.

          • NostalgicGal September 13, 2014, 4:04 pm

            I have many foods that will come right back up, if I want to barf on someone’s toes (just once, but so worth it) I could orchestrate it just fine on cue.

            Getting to sleep half an hour later, but going to bed five hours later, means a net loss of 4.5 hours… ow. I was working nightshift to keep us alive at one point, and agreed to let DH wake me up at a certain hour to do some stuff (preventing a fight) and it gave me 5 hours of sleep after 14 hours on my feet…. we were doing said stuff and he complained about me being ‘inattentive and sloppy’ and I pointed out with politeness that cut me some slack I had only had five hours of sleep-I was tired (yawn). No, I had had eight, he was SURE of it. So the fight starts. I went to bed at 8, got up at 1, that’s five. Screaming he starts counting off on fingers, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, starts to unfurl and jab the next finger for ‘2’ and realizes he’s run out of numbers. He starts over, still screaming, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, shake a finger…. he blinks several times, then quietly counts 2, 3, 4… 8 hours was 4 pm. NOTHING would have gotten done! Exactly. So chill and have some patience…..

          • Melissa September 22, 2014, 11:07 am

            Wow, he brought his mother in contact with you while you were sick? If the nursing home had known you had the flu I am sure they would have put a stop to the visit even if she was vaccinated. You can still get the flu after vaccine, it will be a milder case, but you can still get sick, I know, we have had several vaccine failures and partial immunity happen in our family. I just hope she didn’t bring it back to the home, it would have caused havoc for weeks with patient and staff. And if DH does it again, call the nursing home and tell them she can’t be there because of illness.

  • SJ September 13, 2014, 2:49 am

    My MIL walks into our bedroom, too! Once my husband told her to leave, and she complained that he was rude.

    But, grabbing food out of your hand? What planet is she from? She shouldn’t grab ANYTHING out of your hand. She shouldn’t eat someone else’s food. It’s insane.

    Best of luck.

  • cicero September 13, 2014, 4:03 am

    Wow. I wouldn’t put up with that, and I’m pretty passive/easygoing, but even for me that would crossing many lines.

    Get a lock for your room and lock the bedroom door before mil comes in.

    As for taking *my* food forcibly from my hand and taking a bite? The last thing you want to do is reward that disgusting behavior by letting her have the now- ruined food. I would either trash the whole thing ( adding a little drama) ( and I mean *trash* so that nobody can eat it or root it out of the trash can), or cut away the part she ate from and trash that and then continue eating my food.

    (And I wanted to remark about the possibility of altzheimers or other disorder- my stepmother always had a huge problem with boundaries and had a dysfunctional thought process. When things got worse ( boundary trampling got worse, she would go from pleasant to screaming banshie in seconds), we all assumed that it was the “same old same old” but just more. And it turned out she had developed Alzheimer’s probably two years before we realized things were different. Not just ” the same but worse”. I’m not saying this ius the case here, but it shouldn’t be ruled out either).

  • Lady Anne September 13, 2014, 9:32 am

    I really agree with putting a lock on the door. It is a very emphatic sign that This Is Private Property.
    Things have changed. My grandmother would not even go into my mother’s kitchen – her own daughter – because “a lady never enters another woman’s kitchen”. Our house is situated in such a way that the kitchen door seems to be the main entrance, but she would go around the side to come into the living room. And certainly never wander into private areas such as bedrooms. (Bored kids playing hide-and-seek, yes. Adults, no.)

    If your MIL has a habit of poking around in your medicine cabinet, use masking tape to hold a piece of cardboard (a piece of cereal box, for instance) over the open cabinet. Pour some marbles into the cabinet, close the door, and slide out the cardboard. Generally, you only need to do this once.

  • Zellie Crescent September 13, 2014, 9:47 am

    Not a mil but one of my dad’s aunts, I only see her twice a year for a couple of weeks each time but the food stuff dives me nuts. Either she’s trying to stuff food down your throat or she’s taking it away from you. She’s always asking people if they’re hungry saying that they look hungry or asking if they’ve eaten anything today, it seems like every 2 minutes she’s saying that she’s gonna cook something for me and I have to constantly keep repeating myself saying I’m fine I’m not hungry. The other half of that that makes me insane is whenever I do have some thing to eat or drink she just helps herself even if everyone is at the dinner table or at a restaurant, I’ve learned to sit as far from her as possible because she never uses a clean fork or spoon it’s always the one she’s just had in her mouth or picks it up with her hands. And with the drinks last year I’ve started to use screw top bottles instead of cups whenever she’s over or when I’m out visiting relatives but lately that doesn’t matter either because she’ll just unscrew it drink half and put it back on the counter. Before he moved away me and my brother would always ask if she wanted anything to eat or drink and she would always say either no or a bit of water then when we made food for ourselves she would swoop right in, we’ve been afraid to say anything because it’s my dad’s favorite aunt and hearing all the stories growing up it’s like she’s a second mom to him.

    • ArtsBeatLA September 15, 2014, 8:04 pm

      Zellie – stop answering her – she’s not listening. Just say once, maybe twice, “No thanks, I’m not hungry,” and thereafter just ignore her repeated harassment. Or say, “didn’t you just ask me that question? The answer is still ‘no’.” and repeat ad infinitum.

      If she claims she’s not hungry, make a meal for her anyway. Then, when she’s about to swoop on your meal – be ready! – direct her to the waiting meal.

      Find strategies to cut off this behavior before it happens. Stop being afraid to speak up.

      Frankly, I don’t know how any of you have the time to spout all these prepared speeches – just say “Don’t EVER do that again!”

      I can see how it was so shocking that the MIL grabbed the OP’s ARM and fed herself the OP’s food – this behavior is escalating and needs to be shut down ASAP.

      Bottom line – I don’t care how long [anyone] has put up with something. One day, when you decide enough is enough, you declare zero tolerance on that behavior from this day on. No discussion.

      • Zellie Crescent September 16, 2014, 5:39 pm

        Next time I see her will be in December but yes, I will put my foot down and let her know it isn’t acceptable.

      • NostalgicGal September 19, 2014, 9:52 pm

        I agree, make enough for her so when she finishes denying she wants some then moves in to attack, hand her her plate. There was an OJ commercial about a gal wanting to just have a sip of someone else’s poured OJ, and while she sucks down the entire glass enjoying it (aka can’t stop) the person is calmly pouring another glassful. She goes ‘oh’ when she hits bottom and says sorry I drank all your OJ, the pourer says no, you drank YOUR OJ. Same attitude. Make the aunt her own even if she is denying she wants some. Then give her HER plate, when she swoops in. No, she doesn’t have to eat it ALL but she can eat all of her plate that she wants. Bet she’ll hit bottom before you do.

  • Pax September 13, 2014, 10:06 am

    This story disgusted me as I have a strong aversion to anyone touching my food. The comments, however, opened my eyes to mother-in-law behavior that seems to be more common than I thought. My dear spouse would tell me stories of things my mother would say, and although I trust my spouse to be truthful, the difference between observed behavior and these ghastly accounts was so much that I questioned it. I would speak to my mother and firmly tell her to change her behavior, but it was always met with wide eyes and “I’m not sure what you’re talking about?”

    It wasn’t until I caught her in the act that I saw exactly how sinister she could be. My question was “Why?” There still hasn’t been a valid answer given to this question. Anyone care to speculate?

    • Lady Anne September 13, 2014, 6:35 pm

      Was/Is she trying to break up your marriage, but doesn’t want to come right out and say so? My mother was a real piece of work, and broke up every high school romance I had by telling my beaux that I was a poor student, couldn’t cook, my room was a mess, etc. She even told one fellow I was seeing somebody else on the side!

      When I would remark that “Tom hasn’t called me in a while” she was all wide-eyed innocence. “My, that’s a shame, honey.”

      Took me a while to discover what was going on, but that’s another story for another day.

      • Ajax October 8, 2014, 5:51 pm

        My mother has finally given up, but she spent years trying to break up my marriage. Not by bad-mouthing me, but by criticizing my husband behind his back — constantly. Supposedly I did all the work, he didn’t do nearly enough of anything, he was not doing anything the right way, he didn’t parent the way she wanted him to, and on and on. She would also deliberately get into huge conflicts with my stepdaughter, who admittedly has a horrible attitude, so I had to keep stepping in the middle. To this day, when my mother is over, she thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to go in my stepdaughter’s bedroom to snoop. Had quite a shock when she went in there the other day and there the girl was, staying home from school sick!

        • NostalgicGal December 30, 2014, 4:25 pm

          I have a SIL that has hated me since I started dating her brother (my DH)-and she still hates she didn’t get our marriage broken up (near end of first year she nearly did succeed and boy was she gloating-DH finally saw the light). That one is long and came to a head holiday 2013; anyways. After over 30 years she still wants me to drop down a crack in the earth. At least others (nieces and nephews) she’s tried to meddle at the same level in their lives; know our story and know when to duck and run. She can’t understand why …. I so understand, Ajax. May some mousetraps on the floor in that room convince her that’s not a good thing to do anymore.

  • Puzzled September 13, 2014, 2:01 pm

    I have indeed stabbed someone in the hand when she grabbed food off my plate. I warned her before I did it.

  • kingsrings September 13, 2014, 4:26 pm

    Add me to the list of people who absolutely can’t stand it when people try to touch or steal my food. You don’t come between me and my food! If I want to share it, I’ll let you know. Or if you want a taste, which I don’t mind, then ask first!
    It’s also not at all cute, funny, or okay for parents to allow their children to steal or beg food from others. I can’t tell you the number of parents I’ve known who thought that this behavior was acceptable because they’re children are “just kids” who don’t know any better. Yes, and it’s your job as a parent to teach them. I wonder how cute or funny they would find it if I smacked little Suzie’s hand when she tried to grab something off my plate, or if I accidentally stabbed said hand with a fork because I didn’t realize her little hand was there, trying to steal my food.

    • just4kicks September 14, 2014, 7:30 am

      Very off topic, but I can’t stand when kids are being brats and their parents think it’s “cute”.
      On the news the other day, a teacher told her students that a “celebrity” was coming the next day.
      The next day, in walk President Obama and the First Lady!!! One little girl (I don’t know 4th or 5th grade maybe) said TO THE PRESIDENT, “oh….I was really hoping Beyonce was coming!!!” President and Mrs. Obama took it in good humor, and everyone, including the newscasters, said “Oh, how ADORABLE, she was wishing it was Beyonce!!!” If that would’ve been my kid, I would have been so embarrassed, I would’ve crawled under a desk, dragging my rude and disrespectful child with me! Unbelievable….

  • sylviatexas September 13, 2014, 4:51 pm

    I once saw a documentary about wolves;
    when there was a kill, one she-wolf loped in & took the biggest chunk of meat while the rest of the wolves hung back, circling anxiously & waiting for her to let them eat.

    The narrator said something like,
    “This is when we identified the alpha female. She takes what she wants & she isn’t afraid anybody is going to take it away from her.”

    You aren’t dealing with etiquette here;
    you’re dealing with the alpha female in a wolf pack!

    or, as admin says (so politely!), she has boundary issues.

    I’d guess her son, having grown up with this, is as beaten down as the members of that hungry wolf pack, so you’re going to have to make & enforce your own boundaries/private areas/acceptable & unacceptable behavior.

    Put a lock on your bedroom door, move your desk into another bedroom, put a lock on that door if you need to, change the locks on your house if this woman has a key, change the security code, etc.

    & tell her, without a smile on your face, that if she touches your food again she will be embarrassed by the consequences.

    & never let your guard down.

    I wish you the very best.

  • iwadasn September 13, 2014, 6:06 pm

    There are a lot of people in the comments suggesting things like snapping fingers in her face or even spraying her with a water bottle like one would with a misbehaving dog. They seem to be forgetting the “polite” part of “polite spine.” Firmly telling someone that their behavior is unacceptable is polite. Treating someone like a dog is rude.

  • just4kicks September 14, 2014, 6:43 am

    @NostalgicGal: Oh, I can commiserate with you on that. I worked at gas station for a year when my husband lost his job a year or so back. I worked nights and weekends. My husband would bitch that he did TWO loads of laundry and fed the kids and how tired he was and hey, I’m home during the day, he doesn’t understand why I can’t get that stuff done before I leave for work. Seriously???

    • NostalgicGal September 14, 2014, 2:19 pm

      We had our share of each being the housespouse now and the other being the one dragging home the loaf; and when he learned the concept of ‘an hour worked is an hour worked’ whether it is laundry, digging a ditch or answering a phone and being polite despite being called filth… things got better. The early years and the only jobs I seemed to be able to get that paid anything were night or third shift; he finally had to get used to I had to sleep during the day and go to work at night… yes it’s light out and he’s up, I worked while he slept, now I need to SLEEP. He finished his last year of first degree while I worked waitress night shift; and the apartment was always a disaster. He had his own computer and via acoustic modem could call the uni and do a lot of his coursework at home (PDP 11-03, not a PC). I worked 60-70 hours a week (often 70 or more) on my feet at night; and barely did more than sleep, shower, dress, and go to work; then on time off had to clean the house and do laundry… one week I tried very hard not to do anything BUT sleep, do shower, change clothes and go to work after a serious house shovel. My lone day off, place was piled, I picked up two beercans and my last night’s uniform and said okay; that and a towel in the bathroom is it. Why is the place piled? He was just TOO BUSY to even pick up dishes. I told him fine, I would pack my suitcase and leave him the apartment, have a good life. He was home all day, he could learn to pick up after himself. He did, finally. The concept that dirty dishes don’t automatically walk back to the kitchen and wash themselves, that laundry doesn’t crawl to the washing machine by itself… good grief, he could actually find stuff. (no waking me up about day 4 of the week to spend three hours helping him hunt down ManualX he left somewhere and now couldn’t find)

      • just4kicks September 15, 2014, 4:51 am

        I feel your pain. I was a stay home with four kids. Our choice to have a big family, I’m not complaining about that. But, I was a stay home for many years because it wasn’t worth it for me to have a job and turn my paycheck right over to the babysitter. Now we two in high school and two in middle school. That’s a lot of laundry, and dishes etc. I once went to my gas station job for a few days with a kidney stone until it finally passed. And I still got crap that I left for work without finishing the laundry…..Good grief…..

        • NostalgicGal September 19, 2014, 10:18 pm

          Yes unless I was the major breadwinner it usually cost more for me to work than to stay home.
          With kids that age you should have a lot of house chores being done by them.

          If the OP doesn’t want to put a door alarm on the bedroom, put snap mousetraps on the floor so when one opens it and steps in snapitysnapsnapsnap. NOT rat traps, those are a LOT bigger, they hurt! But half a dozen of the cheap wood snap traps. Just remember YOURSELF you set them. She opens door, steps in and gets a serious scare… oh, dear, I set a few traps and I forgot to mention it. (yahright)

  • Marozia September 14, 2014, 7:10 pm

    Coming from a family of 12 there was definitely no privacy. I was always sat between 2 brothers who used to push, shove and eat from each other’s plates. Then they used to do it to me. I stopped that by slamming the fork into one or the other’s hand. Even now, at 56 years old, they STILL do it (but more to annoy mum than anything else!!).
    My MIL used to love bursting into our house and ‘comment’ on certain things. We had a pole (YES – for pole-dancing exercise!) put into our main bedroom and my husband watched me practice, when one day, MIL burst in (without knocking, of course). She saw what we were doing and said, “Oh, I beg your pardon, so sorry” , went red in the face and discreetly waited outside for us. Believe me, she never did that again!!

    • NostalgicGal September 19, 2014, 10:19 pm

      LOVE IT

  • Enna September 15, 2014, 3:53 pm

    MIL needs to know bounderies. Stealing food of people’s plate is rude and a good way to pass germs. If it was me who she had taken the hot dog off she could be in trouble as 1) it’s rude and 2) as a Diabetic if someone takes a significant part of my food I could end up going hypo/faiting of going into a coma.

    I do disagree with admin on the desk – that is still a very personal space for the OP even if it is in a public room. E.g. if someone had left a bank statement on the dining room table it would be rude to go though it. Tables/desks are not for sitting on, chairs are. The idea of a lockable desk is a good suggestion.

    As for the bedroom inavsion I like the sound of the alarm. That might scare her off. Or a lock. Maybe do both but leave the key in a place MIL will see: if she uses it she will get a fright she deserves. I think MIL maybe needs to be met outside the house rather than invited in the house.

  • Pat September 16, 2014, 3:15 pm

    Since you have told your mother in law you do not wish to share your food, the next time she does it, calmly take your plate, bring it over to her, and put it at next to hers (or hand it to her). Then say, “here, you can have it.” Then calmly go and get yourself another plate. If she protests that she just wanted a taste say, “It’s all yours” and then eat your own food off your own plate. Do this once or twice and she will get it that she is making herself look very foolish.

  • Ajax September 17, 2014, 1:56 pm

    This person needs to invest in some bondage gear. A nice collar, maybe a whip or two. Leave them lying around the bedroom in quite visible places. MIL will start hesitating to intrude, especially if she “learns” something new about her son’s marriage every time she enters the room.

    • NostalgicGal September 19, 2014, 10:20 pm


  • Cj September 24, 2014, 5:32 pm

    I had a mother in law that would always snoop around in my bedroom. She is such a nice lady and was always trying to be helpful by cleaning and doing laundry when we were not home. Through her I found out that thongs can indeed be folded. It was an interesting situation. So to teach her a lesson after asking her nicely not to go in there when we were not home and continuing to do so…..I set up a satanic looking altar. Pentagrams, goddess stuff, total white witch stuff but enough to freak a good christian lady out. And to the left of this altar I left out….ummm…phallic adult toys. She never said anything but never put away my laundry again 🙂

    • NostalgicGal September 29, 2014, 11:45 pm

      I just seen this… oh man… [LIKE]

  • Ladyofsighs September 25, 2014, 11:50 am

    OP, I’m afraid my opinion will join the one of other previous contributors: if your MIL cannot be bothered to respect the boundaries of your privacy, it looks like you will have to lock the places you don’t want to find her into. And since your husband doesn’t seem to have grown a spine sturdy enough to stand out to his own mother, locks look even more like a very good option. At the same time, you might want to put your desk chair into your now locked bedroom to avoid anyone but you using it.

    As for your MIL’s food-stealing habits… my goodness that is revolting. If it happened too often, I would be sorely tempted to stop inviting her for a while, until she asks why, and then bluntly tell her the truth. A simple “unless you decide to behave like an adult, and stop snooping in our bedroom or stealing food from other prople’s plate, you will not be welcome into out house anytime soon.”

    OP, could you please keep us posted? I’d like to know if things have taken a better turn for you and yor family.

  • Rebecca October 3, 2014, 7:57 pm

    OP, you don’t have “issues with personal space.” Your need for personal space is normal. MIL’s behaviour would drive me batty. If you have “issues” then so do I.

  • Mikayna November 1, 2014, 9:00 pm

    I had the misfortune of being related by marriage to a woman very similar to this. Her greatest notoriety was taking food from people’s plates with the quip “Oh, I see you’re not eating that” even if that particular piece of food was about to be scooped up onto the innocent party’s fork.
    In sheer exasperation one lunch time, my former father-in-law warned her that if she tried to take his food again he’d stab her with his fork and then asked her if she’d been raised by dogs. She never tried it again.
    I don’t know if FIL’s comments were appropriate but they were certainly effective.