All Things In-Law...

Dr. Deanna Brann's Blog

MIL sticking her tongue out to DILHow many times have you said, “I hate my daughter-in-law?” Usually we say it in the heat of the moment to our spouse or a friend after we’ve had an incident with her. And in that moment it seems to express our feelings to a tee. Or, maybe you’ve researched these feelings you are having towards her to learn what to do with them because, again, in that moment this is how you feel. Sometimes this feeling of hate remains for a long time and sometimes it slowly dissipates. Regardless of how you’ve expressed this feeling, you have created a bigger problem than you realize.

Hate is a strong word. It is an intense word. In fact “hate” conjures up more negative feelings than almost any other word. More than that you’ve now attached this word to you daughter-in-law so whenever you think of her this feeling of hate bubbles to the surface as well. It ends up establishing a life of its own – daughter-in-law/hate – all meshed together. You cannot think of your daughter-in-law without also feeling hate.  Not only is this unfair to your daughter-in-law, but more importantly it is unfair to you.

Underneath Those Feelings of Hate

Angry emotions – like hate – are typically secondary emotions, which mean they cover up other, more vulnerable, feelings we are afraid to share, even with ourselves. You may be hurt, devastated, wounded, overwhelmed or whatever about something your daughter-in-law said or did and because this is too scary to show, you protect yourself with feelings of anger, hate, etc. It happens without even recognizing it. So here in lies the problem.

  • You feel hate toward your daughter-in-law. Hate creates a barrier. It creates a dead-end. There is no place to go when you feel hate.
  • You’ve now attached this dead-end feeling to your daughter-in-law.

On top of this,

  • Hate is not really what you are feeling as it is a secondary emotion that protects you from what you actually feel.

So what has happened?

  • You ache to have a relationship with her, but instead, you’ve created this hate barrier between you and your daughter-in-law, which prevents you from figuring out a way to get close. Yet you want just that – for you to be close to her – for you to be able to have a “real” relationship with her.

Instead of hating your daughter-in-law as a way to protect how vulnerable you feel about what your daughter-in-law said or did, it is vital that you get in touch with those feelings. Let yourself know what those feelings are and how they are impacting you. By doing this you will be in a better position to deal with those scary, vulnerable feelings, which in turn will move you closer to creating what you want with your daughter-in-law – a comfortable and/or close relationship.

Moving Beyond – Moving Forward

Steps to help you get in touch with what is underneath your feelings of hate:

  • Think about your feeling of hate toward your daughter-in-law
  • Write down the situation or situations that fostered this feeling
  • Describe this situation in detail
  • What led up to the incident?
  • What did your daughter-in-law do or say?
  • How did you respond – what did you do or say to her?
  • What was the outcome – how did the situation end?
  • What feelings were you actually feeling during this situation?
  • What feelings were you feeling afterward?
  • What is this feeling of hate protecting you from actually feeling?

When you hurt this intensely it can color, and thus affect, every aspect of your life. Moving beyond this hurt can feel impossible. Believe me, it isn’t.


If you would like help to move past the pain consider private coaching sessions or a consultation with me, Dr. Brann. Email me –

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