Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I have been married for four years, and my husband and I live in another country (an eight-hour flight from our families). We see my family about once a year, either at their home or ours for a few days, and this is fun and relaxing for everyone. My husband's parents want to see us constantly. They have flexible schedules and are wealthy, so there are no constraints on their visiting us whenever they want to, regardless of our objections. My husband agrees that their visits are too frequent, but it is hard for him to enforce boundaries, as they are very aggressive. My mother-in-law has already planned three trips to see us this year, even though we have also planned two trips to visit them for family occasions. Last year she visited despite my husband's clear and repeated statements that we were unavailable at the time. She bought a ticket anyway and stayed elsewhere. We refused to see her. She berated my husband with nasty messages and also misrepresented the circumstances to the rest of his family. I don't want to go through this again but she has just picked dates and bought tickets again for an upcoming visit without consulting us. She said she has reserved a place to stay elsewhere, but she also assumes we will make time for her. How shall we proceed? I want to support my husband being close with his family, but this puts a lot of stress on our relationship.
DEAR VEXED: If your mother-in-law doesn't stay with you when she visits, then there is no reason for her to clear her plans with you far in advance, certainly when she doesn't respect your schedule, anyway.
You should behave as if she lived 10 minutes away. If you can get together, then do. If you can't (or don't want to), then don't. It sounds like your husband is capable of building a boundary and if this results in his being trashed by his mother to other family members, then he is probably not going to want to spend much time with her. He should tell her so.
If you feel better about the boundaries you can establish, you will feel more tolerant toward her.
This is a relationship you will be in for a long time. Your in-laws might even buy a condo in your home country, all the better to be near you.
DEAR READERS: Don't forget to hug a mom today. We literally would not be here without them.
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