Carolyn: My mother-in-law is currently battling cancer and has lately been making passive-aggressive comments to my husband about how shes so disappointed shell never see our kids, and talking about birth details of all of her kids
I dont want kids! Even if I did, the endometriosis and ovarian cysts have rendered me about as fecund as the lunar surface.
It leaves a bad taste in my mouth that shed use her frailty to try to guilt us into something weve already said were not interested in.
Is there a tasteful (or at least less hostile) way to tell her to mind her own uterus?
You could give her the benefit of the doubt and take her comments not as passive aggression but instead as honest expressions of grief at not having grandchildren.
While shes obviously not entitled to a grandchild, she is entitled to her feelings. For a woman wrestling with her mortality who lets that sentiment fly, I think the best response isnt Get out of my uterus, its I know youre disappointed and Im sorry about that. You can validate her feelings while not budging an inch.
If she persists, then with warmth and patience theres this: I hear you and sympathize, as Ive said. But since were not changing our plans, revisiting the subject only has me feeling frustrated/defensive/angry/sad/ (your feelings here). Its an invitation for her to validate you; if she declines, its a boundary. Once set, you can enforce it by not engaging.
Carolyn: I have one lovely husband and two adult kids. Both children live away from us. Over the years, we have been extremely generous, both in terms of our time and our resources.
Our problem is that they have come to expect our generosity as something they are due.
I admit we created these monsters, but my husband and I have had enough. We feel used and irrelevant except for what we can give them. I feel so sad having to admit this.
Our plan is to make sure they understand there will be changes soon in our household. Their father and I will be doing all the things we worked for so many years to be able to do. The result of our new normal means we will be cutting back on monetary gifts. Is there any good way to accomplish this and keep everyone happy?
Keep everyone happy? The goal that launched a thousand monsters.
If you present your new normal as if its unexploded ordnance, then youre all but leading them to conclude its a terrible thing. Present your news as part of a natural progression and they might receive it that way.
When you announce the coming change, keep your disappointment and disgust out of it, and use facts: We will be treating ourselves. That means we wont be sending any more/as much money.
Dont be afraid to plant a few empathy seeds Weve looked forward to this for years, as Im sure you will someday and to deflect any backlash with this gentle door-closer: Oh, Im sorry to hear that.
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