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SECRETS CORNER: Rethink in-law decision

Sanka Price

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MOVING HOUSE IS frequently cited as one of the most stressful life events, after the death of a loved one, divorce or illness.
Research has shown that not only is there anxiety over the initial stress of having to show strangers around your own house for them to decide either to rent or buy it, but there is often apprehension and tension about one’s new residence.
According to a report from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Facts for Families: Children and Family Moves, 1999), moving to a new community is “one of the most stress-producing events a family faces”.  
While the reasons for moving may be positive, settling into a new home, connecting with a new environment and recreating a home are almost always chaotic and stressful.
Experts say that as the most expensive and life-changing financial transaction most people ever undertake, the very thought of moving house can fill people with dread because it involves a disruption of routine. That is, nearly every aspect of common family life can change, like the time one has to leave home on mornings to get to school and work, or the nursery or school one’s children attend, or one’s friends.
This disruption in everyday life can manifest itself in a range of reactions like shock, anger, anxiety, sadness, fear, confusion and disorientation. Add to these feelings the chaos of deciding which personal possessions to take and which to dump, transporting family items, then unpacking boxes and the endless task of “settling in” are all hard work. But perhaps the most stressful part of moving is the acceptance of permanent change – your old life at that old address is gone.
That’s why the feelings expressed by the woman in this week’s question – “My husband is uncertain about the future, given the economic situation with its accompanying layoffs and business closures. He is suggesting we rent out our house, for which we are paying a mortgage, and live at his family’s home, where his sister and mum reside. There is adequate room for the two of us and our son, but I don’t feel right about it for personal reasons. What do you think I should do?” – are reasonable.
When this normally anxious event also involves going from a situation where one is in charge of one’s household, like this woman, to sharing with in-laws with whom one may not get along particularly well, it is easy to understand why the thought of moving is so traumatic for her.
The volume of debate on our Facebook site and the emails we received suggest that the majority of people understand the trauma involved in moving house and so they empathise with this woman, although they do see the logic of the husband’s request.
For us, this is a situation where both partners have to carefully weigh the emotional costs involved and honestly answer whether the financial gains from the move outweigh these personal feelings.
For sure, confusion and acrimony can develop between a couple if one partner makes a unilateral decision on this matter. He or she must be cognisant of the trauma that can ensue from moving their family from a situation where they lived as a small unit, interacting only with each other in a designated space with clear lines of authority, to a shared space with others who may affect their routine and “juck their mouth into the family’s business”.
The following are edited versions of comments:
• “First, it was only a suggestion – not a final decision. The lady has personal reasons for not wanting to go and live with her in-laws. The husband should respect that since we all know how some in-laws can be. It’s his side of the family, so it might be easy for him to settle there.”
• “Living with in-laws does not always work out. For one thing, you no longer have any degree of privacy, no matter what anyone says. ‘Come see and come live with me is two different things’.”
• “I agree with him. You have to give and take in this situation. After all, you have a house, which is a good start, but if things are financially bad you must make a drastic decision not only to gain some money but for the relationship’s sake. This is something you have to accept as it is only temporary.”
• “Ride it out for a while. Don’t be too hasty to move in with your in-laws as too many females in one house isn’t always good.”
• “Rent out a part of your house. That way you’re still the queen of your castle. Moving in with your mother-in-law puts you under her rules!”
• “There is no place like home. Re-evaluate your budgets and cut back on some expenses.”
• “Go with your heart! It might sound okay for a time but later down it’s not going to be very good; it’s not going to be like in your “own” home or space – believe it!”