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How can I establish some boundaries with my husband's adult daughters?

My husband and I married two and a half years ago, after his wife of 31 years left him for another man. This is my third marriage, and his second. I have no children of my own. He has 3 grown daughters, 3 grandchildren with one on the way, and 2 step grandchildren. We live in the house he shared with his family for more than 15 years. His daughters basically grew up here. But they all moved away several years ago into their own homes with their significant others.

From the very beginning of our marriage his daughters have continued to view "our" home as being "their home" still. The first few months we were married 1 of them walked in on us twice in the middle of a romantic tryst, and another walked in while we were in a bubble bath together. I was shocked, and totally embarrassed and I asked him to please change the locks on the doors so that wouldn't happen again. They thought it was funny. I think he may have mentioned to them once that they needed to call before they visited. But, they continue to just walk in anytime they are around, never feeling the need to knock. That has snowballed to the degree that they even help themselves to any groceries in the pantry, or drinks in the fridge without asking if it is ok. I was taught as a child that was rude. But because they were raised in the house we live in, they still feel like it is "their" home, and they can do whatever they want.

I have tried telling my husband many times how much that bothers me, and crosses a boundary. But he is so passive, he won't say anything to them. Because this issue has continued to snowball, I finally let it fester to the point of exploding the other day on his oldest daughter and her son. I have been tutoring him in the afternoons, as well as, getting him on the bus in the morning since the bus doesn't run by his house. So, he eats breakfast here 4 days a week, then comes in from school, I tutor him, and then he eats dinner here as well.

Because they still feel like this is their home, anytime I have cooked a meal they automatically assume it is ok for them to eat, never asking, and never contributing to a meal or buying sodas. I am now cooking for 4, instead of 2 all of the time.

The other day, not only did she help herself to the casserole I had made, which I always make enough for my husband to take some for lunch the next day...her dad offered her some to take for her lunch. So, I filled a small dish, and gave it to her. She promptly got up, went to the stove, and put more into the dish that I had just filled for her, without asking, which left only a small amount for her dad to have for lunch. She is aware I always fix his lunch! Because she has a good for nothing boyfriend at home who does little for anyone but himself, my feeling is she got extra to take home for him to eat. Even my mother in law found that extremely rude...and she hates the way her granddaughters are taking advantage.

The next day, she came to pick her son up, opened the door, never saying hello to me at all, and the first thing out of her mouth was "where are the boys?" When she came back in with them, she went straight to the stove, and helped herself to dinner. (She is pregnant!) She never asked if it was ok for her to eat, or if we had eaten, or if we were going to eat. She just helped herself. Normally I feed her son around 4:30, which meant he would have already eaten before she got to the house. But because her schedule changed, she gets off earlier, and it was around 3:30. Her son was playing in the floor with some cars (he is 8 and failed the first grade, which is why I have been tutoring him.)

As soon as she had her plate filled, she started filling his plate, and called him to come and eat! It flew all over me, and I finally exploded, which I shouldn't have done. I let it fester, and it got to me all at once. I grabbed her son's plate from her hands, filled it, and sat it down on the bar where he usually sits. She was yelling "what is your problem"...and "why did you do that"? I just walked out! I was so angry I was spitting nails.

Of course, my husband was appalled, and yelled at me for my behavior, and I finally spewed. I have tried talking to him before about the boundaries that I feel are being crossed, but he hasn't heard me, and hasn't done anything about it. His mother TOTALLY agrees with me, and says he should have set boundaries for them the first year we were married. She, too, wanted him to change the locks.

I have busted my tail to "get along", and create a happy environment, and do things for his daughters and his grandkids. But now I am so resentful, I don't even want them around, unless some boundaries are established.

Can someone tell me how to establish boundaries without making everyone mad? I know I have the right to and I have told him that they are disrespecting him, and me! And I think it is up to him to say something but he hasn't. Any suggestions?


Asked by Lynda-Lou at 10:48 AM on Jun. 2, 2011 in Adult Children (18+)

Level 9 (309 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (10)
  • Well, I totally agree with you...Regardless to the fact of your house being the house they grew up in, there's still an order of respect that they should abide by. My children grew up in the house that I live in and upon every visit, they knock on the door and wait until someone lets them in. When I cook dinner, they'll ask if its ok to get a plate or they'll look through the fridge for leftovers. Grant it, one son, shops at my house for groceries and everytime he comes over so before he leaves, I make him a care package to take home...but its still respectful because its the way my husband and I raised our children..its not old fashioned because respect NEVER goes out of style...

    Answer by mom2mybabes at 12:08 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • I don't live in my parents house but I grew up there, and I am there almost every day. I help myself to food and drinks for myself and my kids. I would also expect my parents to do the same if they came here.I can see why you would feel embarrased if they walked in on you while being intimate. but going in the fridge, really? That seems petty to me.

    Answer by Cassidysmom611 at 11:14 AM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • I kind of would look at it differently. I don't care how many years I am away from my childhood home it will always be my home and none of my sibling would even think twice about walking in. It would feel unwelcoming and awkward to have to knock to go into my Mom's home. And as far as food they are his kids and if the cabinets and pantry were always opened to them growing up that is what they are used to. If I walk in to my Mother's, Father's house or in law anything is up for grabs. That is just kind of the way it is in our family. It sounds like they are just used to a different dynamic. I am sure that it is hard to step into that role but maybe you should look at things from their viewpoint a little bit more. Some step Moms would be very grateful if their stepkids would be that comfortable around them, especially step children that are adults. Usually there is a great amount of resentment that goes along with that.

    Answer by Melbornj at 10:56 AM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • Oh, believe me...there is still a lot of resentment. His youngest daughter attended our wedding in a pair of shorts and a halter top...and we were in a chapel! You are right...they are used to a different dynamic, and so am I. I was taught at anyone's home, you ask. Whenever I visit his mother, my mother in law, I always knock, and I always ask if there is something I would like. The funny thing is she sees it from my perspective. She knows her granddaughters very well, and she has told me they have always taken advantage of their dad. While it is nice that they are somewhat comfortable around me, it still seems a bit awkward to have them walk in when my husband and I are making love! Of course now, I ALWAYS lock the door! lol Thanks for your input. I have actually tried looking at it from their perspective...I guess there is a lot that has built up and I am having difficulty being objective!

    Comment by Lynda-Lou (original poster) at 11:10 AM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • By the way, you said it would feel unwelcoming and awkward to knock at your mom's house...but what if she were remarried? If she had a new man living with her as her husband, would you still feel awkward about knocking? Just wondered? Thanks again.

    Comment by Lynda-Lou (original poster) at 11:15 AM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • Remember, I am the "new" wife....and since I moved in I have felt as though it isn't "our" home, it is still theirs. I suppose everything has kind of built up, and everything is uncomfortable for me. If it were my parents house, that is one thing, if my parents were still together. But what if your mom, or your dad remarried and the new spouse was living there? Would you still feel like it is your home?

    Comment by Lynda-Lou (original poster) at 11:18 AM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • My Father has remarried and I would not think twice about walking in without knocking and actually he does not live in the house that I grew up in. If my Mom were to remarry it would be the same. Just as if she were coming to my home, which we just moved in to a couple of months ago I would not expect her to knock. In my family there is not boundaries I guess. My parents room was not off limits by any means, if it was locked I would knock but that would be about the extent of our boundaries if it was closed I might knock and I might not. If it is normal for them then it is going to be hard to set up those boundaries since you are the addition to the family.

    Answer by Melbornj at 11:34 AM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • I guess I was just raised differently. Even if I go visit my mom or my dad, and neither lives in our former family home...or any of my siblings, or my mother in law...I always knock. Because I don't live there, or even if it was my family's former home, I haven't lived there in over 20 years. Of course, that home is no longer ours....but when I visit anyone who's home is not mine, I always knock. I was just taught that was the polite thing to do. Guess my parents were old fashioned! His mother even knocks when she comes over here. To me that is just being respectful to the homeowner, no matter who they are. The same with helping me it is just respecting the occupants of the home. Guess everyone is different. Thanks for all of your input!

    Comment by Lynda-Lou (original poster) at 11:51 AM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • I was just trying to give you my perspective, hope it helped somewhat. Now I was absolutely taught every one of those boundaries outside of the family setting. I would not even ask for a drink of water at someone elses house never mind touch their pantry or fridge. It was not offered to me than I should just wait until we leave. It is possible to not have any boundaries at home and know exactly how to respect others when at a friends. I guess I just find the need to defend my Mother's parenting skills for some reason, she did raise very respectful children just differently that you were raised.

    Answer by Melbornj at 12:06 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • One more mom lives around the corner from me and when I visit her, I knock on her door. I grew up in that same house but out of respect for her and her privacy, I knock on the door and wait for her to answer. I may look through the pantry to see if she needs to go grocery shopping but I would never take things from her home without asking her first. Like I mentioned before, "respect" for others, regardless if they are your parents are not, never goes out of style...and sometimes, in order to get your point across, you need to get people upset because sometimes thats the only way to get them to understand that you will not be taken advantage of...

    Answer by mom2mybabes at 12:11 PM on Jun. 2, 2011