My father-in-law recently moved in, and he insults me and my kids daily. How do I cope with his unappreciative attitude?

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  • Not every insult and complaint from your father-in-law should be handled the same way. You should pick and choose which topics require more serious conversations and which can be quickly solved.
  • Before confronting your father-in-law, talk to your husband about how the arrangement has been making you feel, and explain changes you'd like to make for your mental health. Don't resort to making your father-in-law move out right away.
  • Have a question for Julia? Fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be published anonymously. You can read more Doing It Right here.

My 84-year-old father in law recently moved in with my husband, children, and me. It's ruining my marriage.

My father-in-law always complains about what I cook and has accused me of touching his personal belongings, which is not true. He talks about me all of the time behind my back, has taken over our television, and calls my grandchildren and children 'b-----s,' 'bastards,' and 'brats.'Advertisement

He expects us to wait on him hand and foot, but doesn't make any of his own meals or wash his own clothes. He doesn't even contribute financially to our household.

Because of this, my husband and I never have time for each other anymore.

I've asked my husband about finding another place for my father-in-law to live, but he won't hear me out without getting mad. What do I do?

- Alabama

Dear Alabama, When you open your home and your heart to a relative and they don't seem to appreciate or reciprocate your hospitality, it can really sting.Advertisement

I agree with you that something about your current arrangement with your father-in-law must change, but that doesn't mean he has to move out.

For starters, you and your husband need to find a way to calmly discuss how your father-in-law's presence has been messing with your lives. Rather than jumping to where he should live next, New York City-based therapist Rachel Wright suggested you first tell him how the arrangement has been making you feel.

"She needs to express to her husband what this is doing to her on an emotional and cognitive level, and what she needs for her own mental health," Wright told me. "Ask him to really get on the team of the family."Advertisement

You could say something like, "I want to create a situation that's good for the entire family, but the current situation isn't that. Can we talk about alternatives?"

You should also consider ways to make the existing situation better, and that involves picking your battles and compromising.

When you live with someone (like your father-in-law) who is constantly nit-picking your decisions, every remark or request he makes can feel like a personal attack. But if you take a step back, not all of his indiscretions hold the same value, and you should take that into account.Advertisement

"Each individual thing needs to be addressed and explained in a way that doesn't make them all equal," Wright said.

It's certainly not a pleasant experience to have your cooking insulted, but that doesn't mean it requires the same response as when he called your family 'b-----s' and 'bastards,' which Wright said could be considered verbal abuse.

Try to look at his remarks individually, as hard as that may be, and respond individually.Advertisement

So when he says your meatloaf tastes crappy, you can simply say, "Well this is what my family is eating for dinner, and if you want something else, you can be responsible for that."

When it comes to accusations that you've touched his belongings, you could tell him you agree you won't ever touch his stuff, and leave it at that. And to deal with his television-hogging nature, you could create a schedule that ensures everyone in the family gets TV time, or you can put a TV in his room. Wright suggested you look at him as your roommate when considering how to respond or compromise.Advertisement

"How would you have that conversation? You'd sit down and figure out, 'OK, this thing is a priority for me to watch live. This one I can record.' You kind of figure out a schedule, especially if there's only one TV," Wright said.

But the name-calling warrants a more serious conversation where you explain why he's crossed a line. You shouldn't yell, but should explain that you and your family don't condone that behavior and it must stop if he wants to stay with you.

With these more difficult conversations, the initial talk with your husband can help you get on the same page about what to say to your father-in-law and how to move forward.Advertisement

Confronting your father-in-law in a productive way won't be easy. But in trying to compromise, instead of resorting to kicking him out immediately, you and your husband can come to an agreement and get back to the life you love.

As Insider's resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all of your questions about dating, love, and doing it — no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.

Have a question? Fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be published anonymously.Advertisement

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