I am writing on here in hopes that I can get some feedback on how to deal with a tricky subject. I've bolded and colored red my actual questions or concerns I'd like feedback on.
My wife and I have been together for 10-11 years (married for 6 months). She is extremely close with her parents - particularly her mother. I've seen a lot of evidence that suggests this may cause some serious strain in our relationship down the road as it already has caused a few arguments when the subject comes up now. Here is some history about our relationship which pertains to my concerns:
We started dating towards the end of high school. Her parent's refused to acknowledge me for the first couple years. She is their only child. After high school, my wife continued living with her parents all the way through the end of college. She was actually interested in going away for college, but her mother sort of manipulated her into staying at home by saying "We can pay for your college if you stay here, but we can't (or won't) if you leave." My MIL might claim that this was a miscommunication after the fact (English is her second language) stating that it is because they couldn't afford to pay for her to go out of state with the added expenses of boarding and such. Though I understood that, I knew in my gut the entire reason behind that was to keep her daughter near her.
I moved into my own apartment a couple months after graduating high school, worked, saved up money, and went to film school, then graduated, and spent a year living with friends afterwards. By this time, we had been dating for 5-6 years. I was considering proposing to her. I wanted us to live together first though. Moving out of her parent's house was a bit of an ordeal. She'd never lived away from them at the age of 24, but eventually they came to accept this realty although I could tell it made them sad. After a few months living together, I began asking more seriously if my wife (girlfriend at the time) was absolutely willing to move to Los Angeles (which was over 2,000 miles away. We lived in the midwest) mostly because my line of work would pretty much require it if I wanted to have the career I went to school for. She was torn because of her parents, but agreed that she'd come out to LA as it would be good for her career as well. The only issue was she wasn't very secure in moving across the country with just a boyfriend.
Shortly after this, I got her parent's blessing to ask her to marry me. After we became engaged, we figured we'd hold off on the wedding until our future residence was more certain. About 6 months later, I got a job transfer to Los Angeles where I could more easily pursue my career. She went back and lived with her parent's while I moved out to become established and help pave an easier path for my wife (finace at the time) to move in with me. During this transition, my wife's father was looking for a new job since he was laid off from the automotive industry. Her mother never really worked before. Much to my surprise, my wife's father got a temp job 1 county away from Los Angeles. Though I was never there for any of the conversations during his extensive job hunt, I'm sure that was no coincident. But hey! I wasn't moving to LA to get away from anyone. So I thought that's great. They'll be not even a few hours away from us. So like me, my father in-law packed up and moved out this way not long after I did. My wife and MIL stayed because my wife's grandmother was very sick and she could not be transferred from her nursing home out of state.
A few months later I was coming back to the midwest to visit for the holidays. Things were not very financially stable yet for my father in-law since he was providing for himself in California, and his wife and daughter back home in the midwest, but he too wanted to come back home for the holidays to be with everyone. So despite money being very tight, he got himself a ticket to come back to the midwest for the holidays. My MIL got so upset over this "pointless" money spending, she FORCED him to get a refund on the tickets and told him just to stay in California by himself for the holidays. So I arrived back home on Christmas Eve and have my wife and MIL come to my parent's home. Somehow with money being tight, my MIL managed to spend more on gifts (including an expensive bike) for me and for my wife than the cost of a round trip plane ticket from California for her husband. This made me furious. The man literally drove across the country alone so that his wife could be near their daughter once she moves there. He made some extraordinary sacrifices, but was denied permission to be with his family on the holidays because that money in her eye was better spent on gifts. To this day it makes my blood boil. I would NEVER tolerate behavior like that. It made me believe that my MIL was only interested in what makes HER happy, which is being with her daughter and spoiling her however she can. No regard for how her husband feels.
About 4 months later, my wife got her job transfer to Los Angeles. After my wife's grandmother passed away, my MIL came out to California as well. Fast forward around 2 years and my wife and I are married.
Things are good, but I have my concerns about my MIL. She is very stubborn and spoils us when ever she can with gifts and all kinds of stuff we don't want or need. It got to a point where I actually asked if they'd stop bringing so much stuff over. Every time they'd visit it was like 3 trips up the stairs of groceries and gifts.
We see the in laws every few weekends. Sometimes I'm not really in the mood to go out and spend the whole day or weekend with them even though my wife already made plans to do that. Anytime I suggest that maybe I'd go out and catch up with friends or do something else, my wife gets mad at me. I always make sure to greet them and perhaps get breakfast or lunch with them, but I figure it's ok for me to spend my day off doing something else for some of their visits, but I'm looked at as being anti-social or rude for this. Her parents are very generous and caring, but to be honest, I'm not completely myself around them. There's not much common ground between us and I have a completely different sense of humor. So our conversations are usually limited to small talk type of stuff, which bores me to tears. Thankfully though - they're not strict and they are very open people.
Sometimes we will go out and visit them. They rent an apartment with a spare bedroom just for this reason. I often try to make our visits on a Sunday since we work Monday-Friday because I'd rather not spend the entire weekend there, which always becomes a suggestion if we go on a Saturday. My wife rarely ever drives out there on her own mostly because her mother hates to have her drive on her own. My dilemma is not knowing how to politely communicate that I'd like to be able to make plans to do something other than spend the day with the in-laws without being considered "rude" or "unappreciative," to my wife. I don't always have an excuse for why I can't hang around all day other than the fact that I just might not want to all day.
There are other reasons I am deciding to post this now and not years ago.
1: My FIL is not in the best shape of his life. He's got bad knees, is getting older, and has a few other health issues. I'm sure their previous financial struggles has made his ability to retire anytime soon very difficult. If his health somehow or another prevented him from being able to provide for my MIL, I wonder what would happen. If the day is to come where my FIL wasn't around anymore, my MIL has never tried to do any kind of work. She's not educated or skilled in any field to get work except maybe cutting hair? I fear that my wife would expect me to welcome the idea of us living with her or even both of them if some circumstances created that scenario. We are likely buying a house in the next year or 2. And as far as I'm concerned, my door is always open to friends and family that need help getting on their feet or whatever, but not as a permanent solution. I'm not sure if my wife will agree there.
2: I have parents back in the midwest still. My mother is going through a separation right now with my stepdad. Her mother (my grandmother) was just diagnosed with terminal cancer. And my mother, myself, and older brother are struggling to cope with the loss of my younger brother who died unexpectedly 2 years ago in Northern California. My older brother has decided to move back to the midwest from Portland - partially to be with my mother and partially because he was already considering it anyway since his career isn't bound by a pricey city. I mentioned the news to my MIL that my brother was moving back and she PANICKED! She immediately started addressing her concerns to my wife asking if we were going to move back too - nearly begging us that we will not do that to which my wife reassured her, we are not. I have no intentions on moving back to the midwest, but hearing this made me feel as though I have to be concerned with the anxiety that my MIL has when she is away from my wife before we could consider moving anywhere outside of driving distance from where they are now.
Sorry for the extremely long rant, but I believe all of this information is important to my concerns. Please give me your feedback and tell me what you think. I have a hard time thinking of how to approach these concerns to my wife since we've already had disagreements about weather or not I need to spend the same amount of time she does with them.