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