COVID has caused my wife to lose her mind and buy a house next to her parents

Like many successful professionals who live and work in and around New York City, my wife and I decided to buy a second home last summer. More accurately, a house in my wife’s parent’s neighborhood went up for sale and she decided to purchase it with her own money.

Now we can afford this well enough. And there are legitimate reasons for buying this house in this particular town that don’t have anything to do with her parents. As opposed to, say, a second beach house down the Jersey Shore or The Hamptons, or a ski house somewhere. Or for that matter, a proper suburban home someplace like Montclair, NJ. A main reason it gives our two small children a chance to spend as much time with their grandparents as possible.

But the fact remains, my wife bought this particular house on this particular street in this particular town because that’s where her parents live.

The thing is, I hate it. I have no interest in rural New Jersey and its people. And worst of all my in-laws are at our house every damn day. They are here in the morning. They eat dinner here. They just show up unannounced. Even when my wife is out of town for work, they just appear in our living room with a ton of produce they just bought, even after we’ve told them repeatedly not to buy food for us because we can’t eat it that fast and it just goes bad. Also because they are on a fixed income and we earn several orders of magnitude more money than they do.

I don’t “hate” my in-laws as that would imply they committed some egregious offense against me. Which they haven’t, I suppose. But they are super annoying. The dad just sort of lumbers around like Hodor, but less useful and with a smaller vocabulary (but with at least comparable ability to just block doorways and entrances). The mom sort of shuffles about, somehow simultaneously being stubborn, passive aggressive, controlling, clingy, and useless. Often the aunt shows up (from the next town over) and when they get to talking, you can add “ignorant” and “casually racist” to the mix.

I feel I’ve made efforts to adjust. I’ve befriended our neighbors. I try to tolerate my in-laws. And as you can imagine, three years of COVID have radically changed New York. A lot of our friends have moved away. There’s a lot of uncertainty, especially with the current economic climate. But it also feels like my wife’s brain has basically reset to moving back to her childhood home because it’s familiar and comfortable. Which is not something I would have agreed to if we had discussed it before marriage.

I don’t think I understand. Which house do you live in? Did you move?

As for your in-laws, boundaries are entirely appropriate, both with visits and with behavior/language. “That language is not allowed in this house” is appropriate for casual racism, IMO. And you should have a long talk with your wife about boundaries for visits (i.e. they must knock, or even better call, before coming over), which you can then inform your in laws about.

Lol city folk.

Welcome to country living. You can set your boundaries if you want to And you’d be perfectly justified in doing so.

But man, you’ll be upsetting a cultural norm And I don’t imagine it will go well for you. At best, you can expect passive aggressiveness to ad nauseam.

That’s been my experience anyway.

Nope, not a “country” thing, more a “family” thing.

I’ve lived in the country (fairly rural to way the hell out there country) for most of my life. I have very very rarely had people ‘just drop by’ more than once. I’m not unfriendly when they do, I just make it clear that I need some advanced notice, please. I still have friends and people don’t hate me.

When my gf and I decided to cohabit, the only problem was an aunt of hers who lived/lives a half mile away and who would often drop by unannounced. I could not abide that kind of thing, and gf was uncomfortable even broaching the topic with her.

Then I learned that passive-aggressive behavior could be used for good as well as evil. Auntie is a prim and proper older widow. I’m pierced and tatted. I sat down with her and confided that I was moving in with her niece. I wanted her and I to have a good relationship, so I wanted to alert her that I often walked around naked. I didn’t want to offend her and promised to grab a robe the moment I realized she’d stopped for a visit.

Long story short, it worked. Auntie has never dropped in unannounced and we have a great relationship.

Oh, Lord, that made my ribs hurt! :rofl:

Judging from the above, your only chance to remain sane is that it is a SECOND home, which means you still have safe haven in your first home if you absolutely need to get away for a couple of days or so. When your own home is no longer safe haven, you’re pretty much subject to endless stress. That’s not good.

Am I the only one who thinks this is weird?


Not really. My wife and I each have our “own” money and have made some fairly significant purchases out of those buckets. We’re not at the point where either of us could buy a second house, but that’s really just a matter of scale, not concept.

Time to buy a third house!

I have nothing for you but sympathy, but that is a WONDERFUL line!

My wife and I have separate checking accounts, and will often buy stuff under $100 on a whim (her, practical things; me, comics and LPs).

But anything pricier than that triggers a “family meeting”, and a lot of discussion. A car or a vacation? Make a chart of pros and cons (Cons: 1.The Drop-In!)

(We’ve been deadlocked on a fridge for months… smaller white one to match everything else in the kitchen, or larger but stainless steel?)

Coming soon: Everybody loves msmith537

It’s sort of fuzzy. Depending on your point of view, we live in the city* and maintain a “vacation house” in the Poconos or live in the country and maintain a pied-à-terre in the city.

For all intents and purposes, I’m treating the Weehawken / Hoboken / Jersey City area of Hudson County NJ as a de facto “sixth borough” of New York.

Try a subtle hint. Every time the relatives come over, have that sitcom on your TV (or alternative viewing device.)

Bonus points if you can get the ones filmed in other countries.

OR - Are your in-laws retired? Because this sounds like the problem often described as “Husband retires, follows wife around the house all day.” Helpful suggestions for that problem may also work in your situation.

Having her own money isn’t weird, but one member of a married couple unilaterally buying a house to live in at least part of the time certainly does.

I don’t think it’s that fuzzy - I have known lots of people who have had similar arrangements (although probably not exactly the same) and there are a few different ways they view those arrangements and mostly it depends on how much of the family lives where for how many days a week. For example - the whole family might spend five days a week in the city and go to the Poconos/Catskills house on weekends. Those people consider themselves to live in the city and the country house is a weekend house. I’ve known other people where one person works in the NYC area and stays in or near the city while working and the rest of the family lives somewhere else all week ( which might be the Catskills/Poconos but could also be somewhere near Rochester) - they think of themselves as living where the rest of the family lives regardless of how many days a week they spend in the city working ( could be one, could be five).

Whether you think of yourself as living in the city or the country doesn’t really matter - who spends how much time where does. But it only really matters in terms of

  1. how annoying your in-laws can potentially be and
  2. how much you can do to put an end to it.

I mean, I’m sure it would more more annoying to have them appear every.single.night than it would be to have them do that only on weekends - but I know if I wanted my parents to be over every day for whatever reason and I was at the country house with the kids full-time while my husband stayed in the city most of the week , I’d be pretty annoyed if he wanted me to change my routine because he decided to stay at the country house on Wednesday when he normally spends Thursday night to Monday morning there.

I do - my husband and I have some separate accounts for convenience and we don’t necessarily check with each other before spending a few hundred dollars. But a house or a car with no discussion because it’s “my own money”? - nope. Although that’s very possibly because when we got together neither of us had anything.

If you’re really bothered by the in-laws you could treat the new house as “hers” and the city place as “his”.

I was kind of assuming that when you said your wife bought it, but when you talked about being alone and having “the folks” drop over, I had to pause and realize that you’re there on your own sometimes.

I’d vote for a “Don’t drop over without calling first” rule. You could be the bad cop and not answer the door until they start over and call. Might cut down on the number of visits…

If I were in your situation, I would put the house up for sale and get the hell out of there. I like most of my relatives, but I don’t want to live within walking distance from any of them.

OMG! This is my worst nightmare. I could not and would not live next to my MIL. She’s very similar to yours. She lives about 10 miles from us, but if she’s within a 5-mile radius of our house for whatever reason (doctor, shopping, friend) that’s a reason in her book to drop in. I can imagine exactly what she’d do if we lived as close to her as you live to yours. Years ago, when we first moved into the house we are in now, we gave her and her husband (he’s since died) a key for emergencies or if we needed them to let the dogs out (which would also be an emergency). They took it upon themselves to come over when we were at work! They’d make themselves at home, sometimes they’d weed the garden or leave something for us like candy, peanut butter, or a package of TP. My husband put a screeching halt to that. But they were kind of offended. They didn’t see anything wrong with it.

I have absolutely nothing in common with her (other than being married to her son!). She’s passive-aggressive, nosey, boring, controlling, racist and homophobic. I love your description of “useless” :rofl: As you said, I try to tolerate her. But it’s hard.

“Dropping in” is one of the rudest things ever and sets my teeth on edge.

I’m not sure I see the connection between COVID and your wife buying the house. Are her parents old or at high risk of COVID complications? Perhaps she’s dealing with the reality that they won’t be around forever and wants to maximize the time she has with them. I can certainly understand the annoyance factor. I would guess you might feel similar if they were your parents, but perhaps not be miffed quite as much. It probably doesn’t bother your wife because they are her relatives. She likely grew up in this sort of environment and it probably feels normal to her. One thing you could do is to “work at home” a lot more when they come by. When they come to the door, have your headset on like you’re in a meeting. Invite them in, but say you need to get back to your Zoom call. Stuff like that would allow you to be in your own space and not have to feel like you have to be with them or entertain them. Hopefully you can find some compromise that works. It’s not easy to come up with solutions where everyone comes away feeling happy.