Mother-in-Law Questions & Answers
My daughter-in-law thinks I don't like her.
I have two married sons. My oldest son and his wife have two children. My youngest son and his wife have tried and at this time have none. The eldest sons wife feels like “I don’t like her as much” that we don’t have the same relationship as I have with the other daughter in law.
So, after a weekend get together with the entire family it ended in a very sad note. The eldest son’s wife was very hurt, because she felt that some conversation led to her feeling that I was attacking her. She also felt that the other daughter in law and I have more fun together and that I like her better. SO… eldest son calls and wants to know for the sake of both him and his wife if the problem is that I just don’t love her or what ?? Why I act/treat the other differently.
What I said was that when we are together we are in different situations. When with the son w/kids most of the time is spent w/kids. When with the other couple its more adult time. The interaction is totally different. We are on different levels.
How do I get them/her to understand we/I love her, its just that we are on a different level.
It is great that your daughter-in-law wants to have a relationship with you. Actually this is a very easy problem to solve. Being on “different levels” as you say, doesn’t mean she has stopped being an adult woman. The best way to show your older’s son’s wife that you love her and appreciate her for who she is is to spend some adult time with her – on-going. This is what seems to be missing. Yes, there are grandkids now, but she is more than your grandchildren’s mother. She is an adult woman too, and she feels she is not recognized for that.
It is important that you get to know her for the adult she is. This is what the relationship is really based on – the two of you knowing each other as people. The grandchildren are a bonus, but they have little to do with you and your daughter-in-law and the relationship you create with her.
What does she like, dislike, etc.? Go to lunch with her – just her and talk with her about anything but the grandkids. When you talk on the phone with your son, ask to talk with her and when she gets on the phone, again, don’t talk about the grandkids – talk to her about her.
My son married several weeks ago to a young lady that is 13 years his younger. He is 40 and she 27. My concern is that my son has wandered away from his Christian values and even though her grandfather is a preacher from Chicago, she is not interested either in attending church.
My son married several weeks ago to a young lady that is 13 years his younger. He is 40 and she 27. She is a democrat and he is a republican as is my whole family. Relations have been strained when it comes to politics, however that’s not the issue.
My concern is that my son has wandered away from his Christian values and even though her grandfather is a preacher from Chicago, she is not interested either in attending church. She along with my son declares that they are both Christian, but he has admitted he doesn’t pray anymore. Besides prayer, and my continued Christian stance, is there anything you can suggest that I say to him to make an impression that he needs to take his new wife to church.
He had a previous marriage that failed. His ex-wife grew up in the same church as our son and had the same values, but they were not able to make it work for various reasons.
All that to say, he has been on a long ride away from Christianity. He is a good person and a devoted US military person, serving with the Navy Seals, etc. in the military. He is a “He Man” and doesn’t need God is my feeling.
As much as you may want to “help” your son, it is important that you remember he is 40 years old. It also seems (based on your email) that your son was on his own path before he married his current wife. His journey is his own and he needs the time and space to find his own way – whatever way that is. I do not know if you and your son have discussed God or religion, but what he thinks and feels about this subject my not necessarily be reflected in the action of going/not going to church.
You said and believe him to be a good person – then, trust that and trust him.
I love my DIL. It is her mother that is the problem!
I love my DIL and she has been really good to me. My son and DIL had a baby boy last year and he is now one and we all adore him. The problem is with my DIL’s mom… the times that we are together, she takes total control over our grandson. If I ask her if I can hold him, she says “no” or runs away with him. During our last camping trip for our grandsons 1st birthday. I said “I’ll take him swimming while you eat lunch” and she said “No! I’m spending time with my baby”. My first thought was “did you give birth to him?” but I walked away… angry… I got my food and said “Cindy, we need to talk at a more appropriate time” and then she scooted up next to me and said “did I do something wrong” and I said “yes” and went on to ask her how she would feel if I said no to her or ran away with our grandson when she wanted to hold him… She cried and said that she would work on it.
We were going to go on a cruise with my DIL’s family but after that camping trip, our son asked us to cancel (he doesn’t like worrying about how we are treated and he doesn’t want to end up hating his MIL) so we happily cancelled and I feel like it’s an elephant in the room with me and my DIL. I want it not to be awkward for any of us in the future and I to continue to work on and improve my relationship with my DIL’s mother. I feel we need to talk about it in order for things to move forward…
It still hurts and I know time heals or at least softens things. Part of me wonders why I have to suffer for her bad behavior… What can I do?
You are right, you seem to be paying the price for her bad behavior. However, there is a way to deal with that should make things better for you and strengthen your relationship with your DIL.
Since you have a good relationship with your DIL I would let her help you with this. I would go to her (include your son if you want) and let her know that you need her help in how you can resolve this with her mother. Make sure she knows you are not asking her to do it for you, but that you would like some suggestions. Share with her what happened from your perspective as far as what you said to her mother, her mother’s reaction, etc.
Before you talk with her make sure you are clear within yourself what it is you want – from your DIL, with the situation, from her mother, etc., that way you can be sure you are asking for something very specific. She has known this woman her whole life, and the way her mother behaves with you is not personal…she does this with other people as well.
The key is to be sure you are not putting your DIL in the middle…and I would even bring this up outwardly…prefacing your questions with “My goal is not to put you in th middle, but really to just get some ideas about how I can deal with this better,” and then ask for her suggestions.
If you would like some help getting things clear before you approach your DIL, just let me know.
My Son & DIL travel to spend time with her side of the family, but will not make the effort to go a little bit further to visit with us. We have suggested meeting them in between to make it easier, but it never happens.
Son & DIL live 4 hrs away from us, 3 hours away from her family, and there is only 1 hr distance between her family and us. Son & DIL do a lot with her family (e.g. Camping, boating, partying, etc…). What I struggle with is when my son & DIL come up to visit her family over an extended weekend or take a week of vacation camping with her family at a nearby lake (maybe 40 miles away) and yet make no plans to take a couple of hours off to come visit us or to meet somewhere at a 1/2 way destination point for dinner (we would pay). They are only 40 miles away from us but yet cannot seem to find time to go the extra distance to come see us or make plans to meet somewhere to visit for a couple of hours. My other son (who lives 60 miles away) also expresses frustration why his brother/wife cannot seem to stop by for a visit with them when they are even in the same town. He expressed this fact to his brother which was communicated back “you don’t understand”. These are just a few of many scenarios that have occurred over the last few years and I have just swallowed my hurt feelings telling myself that the important thing is that my son is loved and is happy. Now…..there is a baby on the way which I am sure means more similar situations like this will be occurring. I am frustrated, hurt, and angry that my son doesn’t step up to the plate and think/say/plan about spending some time with his family. I have thought about approaching my son with these specifics examples asking to help me understand WHY our family doesn’t get any time with he& wife since they are in close proximity of us and his brother. With baby delivery being about 1 mth away I don’t feel the timing is good to approach this subject with my son and i certainly do not want to cause any addtl stress at time however I have been feeling for some time now that I have lost a son. And there will be these 2 people that a baby will be scared of because they are strangers. What do I do?
I do think it is important that you talk to your son…but what I really mean is…. ask your son. You mention that when your other son asked his brother why they don’t come visit when they are so close, he said “You don’t understand.” Does he then go on to explain, or just leave it with that one statement? I would say to him, “You’re right I don’t understand and I want to…can you please help me to understand this?” And then listen to what he says.
The fact that there is a baby on the way makes this even more important. It will be key, though, for you to try to take a step back emotionally so that you can keep your anger, hurt and frustration out of the discussion. If these come out in the discussion your son will shut down, get defensive, etc., which is the last thing you want to have happen. This is a time to see if you can problem solve with him to make it work for everyone.
You did not mention if you have any kind of relationship with his wife. Do you? If not, has it always been bad or was there ever a time when you did get along…even if it was just a little?
Son always spends the holidays with DIL's side of the family.
How do I express effectively my disappointment to my married sons how the holidays are mainly spent with their wives families????
Of course it is hurtful to not get the opportunity to be a part of your adult child’s life during the holidays. I would start by asking your son to help you understand how they came up with their new tradition around the holidays. It is important that you do this in a gentle, loving way. Probably the best way is to use the Lisening & Learning skill because you will learn how to approach this with him without causing him to get defensive and the commuication is stays open.
By using this approach you not only learn how they are thinking, but you also help your son understand your struggle without putting it in his face and having him get defensive. It creates a win-win. As you hear what he says it will make it easier for you to share your struggle of feeling left out. It will also give you the opportunity to possibly create a few compromises with him – or at least he can then talk with his wife about other options.
The key is to open the communication by letting him know you want to understand his perspective. People – your son included – are more willing to hear what you have to say if they feel heard first. This is what I’m trying to help you create.
Where to begin???? My daughter in law is controlling..She really doesn't like me..We have tried many times to sort things out by talking but I hate confrontation.
Where to begin???? My daughter in law is controlling..She really doesn’t like me..We have tried many times to sort things out by talking but I hate confrontation. I have 4 grandchildren. The first was a girl, she is 11 now. The marriage was a have to thing and I truly believe she loves my son. I love to see that she does love him..He has had a hard time keeping a job with the car business. My husband has worked with him and says he really does know the car business. The dealerships seem to use him for his expertise then when business slows gets rid of him… Truly!!! I know they have had many problems but I get so frustrated with my daughter n law. She is not loving only to her side, which I have been there too. I try really hard not to be an interfering mother in law and I don’t think I am. When I am around her she avoids even getting close to me, talking to me, looking at me..I speak to her and it’s a very brief quick answer. I can’t be myself around her even when the kids want to play I am watching every move I make so not to rock the boat any more than it already is. The kids love their mamaw.. and I think used to ask a lot to come stay with me. Not so much her mother and dad which are divorced, both remarried but not friends. I am just so confused with what to do, how to do it and if I should just simply forget I exist with all of them.. That’s the way I feel after I see or speak with my son and dil. What the hell to do???
I agree confrontation is never easy or something we want to do. And I believe there are ways to handle getting information and resolving issues between you and your DIL without going the whole confrontational route (which never really works anyway). I would recommend you use the Listening & Learning Skill download to really help you be able to resolve some of the difficulties you and your DIL are having. It truly creates a win-win situation and your DIL will feel so differently toward you.
But, let me also address what you’ve written. Your DIL may be angry with her husband and you may be getting some of that as well. Please don’t give up. You have so much to lose if you do that. You cannot fix there marriage, but you can work on your relationship with your DIL and that is where your focus can be. Another suggestion would be writing her letters of appreciation. You mentioned in your email that you love to see her love your son. That is great! Let her know that. And once you’ve shared the different appreciation then you can share with her your confusion and not knowing how to make things better. (You will find a whole section in my book about letters of appreciation).
If you have any more questions, or something is not clear, please just let me know.
Your book is my Valentine's Day gift to myself! I am just wondering why there is a paperback edition dated February 2012 which Amazon.com has in stock and then another dated January 2013 that is unavailable? They seem to be the same product.
Your book is my Valentine’s Day gift to myself! I am just wondering why there is a paperback edition dated February 2012 which Amazon.com has in stock and then another dated January 2013 that is unavailable? They seem to be the same product. I’m ordering it as soon as I hear from you and can’t wait to start reading it.
I was wondering what you think of Dr. Phil’s advice:
If a wife has a problem with her mother-in-law, it’s the husband who needs to step in and help fix it. Likewise, if a husband doesn’t see eye-to-eye with his in-laws, his wife needs to step in. The person with the primary relationship (the son or daughter, not the in-law) needs to be the messenger.
From what I can see on your Q & A page, you advocate that the two people with the problem should fix it between them and also do not recommend a formal heart to heart talk. You do not think the son/daughter should be the go between, right? Or maybe he is saying that the child can report there is a problem (as if we don’t already know!) but it is up to the two with the problem to fix it?
I have already approached her several times to find out if there is a problem and to apologise if I have caused it and she has denied there is a problem but I know from my son that there IS a problem. It is not one thing but a series of little things on either side. I’ve tried praising her but she told him I come across as phony when I do it and it’s annoying. Neither of us feels relaxed with each other and I am too tense to come across as authentic which is making it worse.
I am fully prepared to do all the work and to eat humble pie if necessary in order to fix things.
Thank you for writing in…
Let me answer your questions by numbering them.
1. It is the same book, however I am relaunching the book in a few weeks with a new publisher and a new price. (the new book will be priced at $16.95) The content of the book is exactly the same, with just a few changes on the Resources page and Bio page. It will also be coming out in the different eBook formats. In changing the publisher and the distributor I am able to get the book out into more places – more on-line bookstores as well as actual physical bookstores. I can let you know when the revised book is available on Amazon if you’d like me to.
2. As far as Dr. Phil’s advice. I understand where he is coming from, however handling things the way he says only puts that other person in th middle and doesn’t deal with the fact that you really need to establish a relationship with this other person. Putting the spouse in the middle will only create more problems. The spouse can support you in what you are doing. If for example you are setting a boundary your spouse can be there as well showing his support for what you are doing, which sends a message to the in-laws (his parents) that he, too, is agreeing and setting the boundary as well.
It’s not that I don’t recommend “heart-to-hearts” between people, i just know most people won’t do that because it is so uncomfortable and my goal is to help people change relationships. And because most people don’t know how to do this effectively, it ends up spiraling the situation into something worse. The one particular situation I defintely recommend it is when you are using the Listening & Learning Skill because it requires sitting down with the person; however it is done so in a very controlled situation.
3. As far as your own situation – It’s frustrating knowing there is a problem, just to have the other person deny it, believe me I know. Do you know what those things are you’ve done or not done that has her upset with you? If you do you can start with that. For example – you could say to her, “it feels as though you’re upset with me and I’ve been thinking about what I might have done that upset you…and I thought maybe it was ________,___________, or even ___________, but I’m just not sure. Can we talk about it? I’d really like to understand how my behaviors have impacted you.”
The key here is you want to convey that you are interested in hearing how she has been impacted emotionally…making this about understanding how she is feeling emotionally, not about you apologizing. You really want her to feel that you “hear” the emotional pain you’ve caused her (whether it is true or not, it is how she sees the situation). This is where the skill of Listening & Learning really comes into play because it walks you through exactly how to do this.
Once your DIL feels heard by you then you are in a position to apologize and change things. Only then will she feel your apology is sincere…the reason she doesn’t now is that she doesn’t feel you “get” how you have hurt her.
If you have any other questions, please don’t hestitate to email me back. Or, if you want clarification on something I’ve written above, just let me know.
My question is about navigating value differences between myself and my DIL.
Have appreciated your helpful answers.
My question is about navigating value differences between myself and my DIL. Worse now that they are expecting. She will be the gatekeeper to the child. I feel like it will be necessary to betray my own values to participate. I am feeling no desire to play grandma under these phoney conditions. How to proceed?
Not knowing exactly what you mean, I will answer this in a very general way. Before you make any decision it would be good to spend some time thinking about these questions:
- Which specific values are in question ?- be very specific, not general
- How does my DIL’s values differ from mine? – again, be very specific in how they differ
- Where does my son fit into these differing value systems?
- How do her (their) values betray my values – what exactly does this mean?
- How would your interactions with your grandchild betray your values?
- Putting values aside for a moment, are you willing to not have a relationship with your grandchild, your son?
- How can you build a relationship with your grandchild and not betray your own values? – there are always ways
Please spend some time evaluating where you are, your concerns, and what you really want overall…looking at the bigger picture and not just this one piece of it…it is really more complicated than that.
If you have any further questions, please just email me back.
I just found out my son & his wife are having their first child.
I just found out my son & his wife are having their first child. I can I best support my daughter-in-law. We have a good relationship and I want to do this right.
What fantastic news! I have to say there is nothing more fun than becoming a grandmother. The best way to keep your relationship going well between you and your DIL now that she is pregnant is to let her take the lead. Sometimes having a baby can change things…what once was a good relationship can suddenly become “bumpy.” So talk with her about your excitement, but let her know you want to respect her wants, needs, and wishes. Then ask her how she sees your involvement to be, especially in the beginning. How does she want you to be involved…Let her know that you are here to make things easier for her, for your son, and for their baby. And then listen to what she says…but also listen to how she says things. This will help you get a clearer picture on where she is coming from.
After the baby is born let your DIL guide you. Watch, help, but when in doubt…ask. Make sure that what you’re wanting to do is OK with her before you do it. If you sense tension, frustration, or anything else, deal with it right away. This would be a great time to use the Listening & Learning Skill, because you want this experience to have a position outcome.
Please keep me posted.
My DIL keeps bringing up to me something I did at the rehearsal dinner. And as a result of her feelings, my son has told me they will not be coming to our house for Christmas, but instead, will be going to her parent's house (where they also spent Thanksgiving).
It is 2:20 a.m. and I am up for the second night in a row. This issue has cost me sleep on many occasions but I am at my wits end. My son got married to a girl we had only met a few times as they were both going to law school out of town. When we did meet her she seemed distant, which we perceived at the time as shy. It never improved. We have since witnesssed high anxiety. At the engagement party and shower she needed “breaks” to do deep breathing to get through the anxiety. I was not included in any wedding planning (we were paying half) but every so often would get an email or text from Emily showing me hair styles etc. I would enjoy being engaged and respond. Her mother send me an email and asked me not to contact Emily because she is busy and if I have any questions I should go through her. The family never showed for a night before the shower dinner for them (since they were coming into town). Emily left the rehearsal dinner without saying good bye or thank you because I did not have the photographer “cover” the rehearsal and I had a cake there for my 80 year old father in law for his birthday too.
I have been getting call from my son about what Emily is upset about every couple of weeks (they married in August). At Thanksgiving time he told they are going to her family’s house. He told they would be with us for Christmas. She has been upset about have to come here and spend time with “those people” since Thanksgiving. She is bringing up the cake etc. By the way, she went back to her hotel the night before the wedding and text me yelling that I ruined the rehearsal and how dare me etc. She did not speak to us at the wedding. It was the worst day of my life. Back to now, she does not want to come here now for Christmas. I told my son instead of him being in the middle I would be happy to talk to Emily so she understands that I would never do anything to hurt her and would like to work things out. I called her two days ago and she blasted me with everything that is wrong with me and my family. She said I think everything is and should be all about me, she launched into the cake took away from her day, she said my family jokes with each other too much and she wants it to stop in front of her and she does not want us to joke with Justin (son/husband). She said we have never made her feel comfortable or welcome. All we do is watch football and her family does activities and have made Justin feel welcome. From what Justin tells me this constant finding fault with us has been happening since the beginning. He is also not sleeping well. We were always close to Justin and were looking forward to the next phase of a daughter in law etc. I was shocked to hear how she spoke to me on the phone. She said I was a drama queen the day of her wedding. I asked how and she said because she heard I cried the morning before over the text message she sent me. I told her I could see she is upset and so are we but that we are not going anywhere and need to get along so let’s try. I also suggested we keep Justin out of it because it hurts him and that if she should have issue with me or me with her we contact each other directly. She said okay but seemed very reluctant. Well we hung up and she went beserk to him. He ended up calling his pastor in the morning from work (thank God). He told me he was going to use the bible to guide him. I told him that was a great idea. He also hinted they are not coming here for Christmas but going back to her mother’s house. I am heartbroken that I will not see him for Thanksgiving and now Christmas and they will. Thanksgiving was the first one he has missed and now Christmas too. Giving into her demand to be with her family for Christmas sets a prescedent doesn’t it? I have told him numerous times I am willing to let things go and be forgiving like the Lord tells me. I don’t know how to handle this. I feel she wants him and not another family, period. I feel like she is getting exactly that. My heart aches. My husband and I are just sick over this. One more important detail, she is accusing my husband of telling her she looked permiscuous at the wedding. She said he said it right after ceremony when we hugged and congratulated them. I was right there and did not hear him say that at all. Also, he is a Godly man. An Army Colonel and has a high profile respectable job. Most important again he is a Godly family man who has never shown any signs of anything like this. He is an attorney who feels he and his reputation are being slandered. He is extremely hurt. My son does not believe he said it. He believes he said she looked beautiful and Emily thinks she heard permiscuous. I think she is making it up to split them from us. I have not told Justin or Emily that I think that. I have expressed he did not say it. I really appreciate you reading this and would love insight on what to do. I keep looking for divine interception. Maybe I found it at 2:43 in the morning
Wow, how painful this must be! I would suggest, if you haven’t already, taking the questionnaire to determine which DIL you are dealing with…it is on here my website. Once you know who she is it will help you understand what is going on and move you in the direction for changing things…
In the meantime…from what I read in your email your DIL is really hurt by your actions (cake for your FIL) and has not been able to put it behind her. She seems to feel as though you are just dismissing her feelings…not really “getting” them…and this is what has caused your stalemate. Until you address this with her and really let her feel you “get” her emotional pain with this, she may not be able to move forward (this does not mean you have to agree with her at all…just that you “get” her emotional pain). I realize you do not see things the same way she does and to be honest, it doesn’t matter if how she is experiencing this is right or wrong…bottom line…this is her reality for now.
Sometimes our intentions are not as clear as we think they are, or they are misinterpreted…regardless, it is our job (when we look at the bigger picture of wanting a relationship with our son & DIL) to break the stalemate…someone has to and you are in a better position to do that.
If you have any questions about what I’ve written, please just let me know.
As a MIL, I answered all of the questions and my results are that my DIL is Weird Wendy.
As a MIL, I answered all of the questions and my results are that my DIL is Weird Wendy.
Our son is waiting to hear if the Federal Aviation Administration is going to hire him to be an Air Traffic Controller (he excelled while earning his degree in the profession). While they are waiting for this to hopefully to happen he has been picking up odd jobs and living with her sister in California. They were miserable so they moved in with us here in Oklahoma City and have been here for about 6 weeks. She is very toxic to our family.
Is it possible to have a relationship with Marilyn (and our son and grandchildren) or is this a lost cause? She is making me physically ill. (While continuing my education I was introduced to the Personality Shape Test and I learned that I am a Circle.)
Any advice would be sincerely appreciated. She looks at me with a cold heart–she tolerates my presence, she tolerates my holding their babies. It is all so sad.
Thank you for your time and for your attention,
Dealing with a Weird Wendy is tough to say the least….BUT not impossible. I think the thing to remember is that she will never be one you can talk to and try to work out your differences. That is just not who she is. The best way to deal with the Weird Wendys of the world is through doing/saying things that will put her in the position to change her behavior. For example, mirroring back her words so she is put in the position to “hear” herself is great; also the double bind…which allows you to take back the power that she seems to take from you (particularly when it comes to your grandkids).
There are a couple of other things you can do as well, particularly when she is extemely distant – one of them I call letters of appreciation, but what they do is help to break the ice between the two of you…start to melt it.
Before I get into detail, I’d like to ask you – has she always treated you this way or has it changed? You mentioned her history and her circumstances growing up (which I did not put in as I wanted to preserve your privacy). Obviously those factors are playing into why she acts the way she does. And because of this I mention the letters of appreciation as she seems to have put up some really thick walls.
Another thought is that she’s found a way to connect with your son so observe that…it may give you some insight into how to reach her.
Please email me back with your answers to my questions and I will get more specific with my response (I prefer specific to general – I think it’s just more helpful)
Thank you for your patience…
I can do nothing right. I mean nothing! Even my breathing is setting her off on a tirade to our son. I know when I am in the dog house because my grandparent privileges are withdrawn... Everyone walks on egg shells around her - the least word offends her.
Our DIL is so difficult to get along with. Sadly, she only has one good friend because of her behavior. Even her Mother has commented to us that her daughter has always been difficult/impossible- and her strategy with her own daughter is to initiate NOTHING. Our DIL reports that she does not like women! She is hyper critical, contrary and plays the porcupine to perfection – all resulting in getting her own way. if she doesn’t get what she wants, she threatens to go back to the US and withdraw her son. She says she is homesick and wants to go home to her parents- even though she has lived away from home since college. They have been back to the US several times since the baby was born. Whenever she gets upset, rather than discuss any problem or display any emotion, she retreats and gets mean. Everyone walks on egg shells around her – the least word offends her. If we apologize for any offense- she gets angry and retreats! Round and round we go. We have seen this routine many times. It is a well entrenched behaviour pattern. All pretty toxic and pathological.
If she were a client I would know what to do. But she is not. She is my DIL. I am currently the recipient of all of her bile and angst. I can do nothing right. I mean nothing! Even my breathing is setting her off on a tirade to our son. I know when I am in the dog house because my grandparent privileges are withdrawn, her communications are terse and our son, trying to be the diplomat, has shared some of the details of her litany of complaints about me. (I would characterize myself as the Comfortable Carla with some Mothering Margaret tendencies.) I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t!
My “go to” strategy has always been to talk through issues. I realize I can not do that with my DIL. However, I have no idea what to do or how to go about doing it to resolve this ugly mess. This situation is making me so anxious and upset. I want to have a relationship with my son and grandson and my DIL. HELP@!!!!! What do I do?
Your DIL appears to have some Weird Wendy tendencies (even though she mostly presents herself as a Doubting Donna). This would explain her “porcupine” type of behavior/personality. She 1) keeps everyone at such a distance and has no desire and apparently no real ability to sit down and talk about the friction going on, 2) is under so much stress (I did take out the beginning of what you wrote for privacy reasons) right now and these two things make for a difficult situation to say the least. One question I would ask…although I think I know the answer – has she always been like this before all the stressors were in place or is this new behavior? I ask as this could make a difference in my response….but let me respond as if she has always been like this – that this is just part of her personality…
As you have figured out there is no way she will sit down and talk about what is going on…she will not and I would guess can not do it. She does not have the coping skills to do it. Since you have my book I would recommend that you use the double bind with her and all the variations I talk about in the book. Also use humor with her. At this point what you want to do is just change her behavior and not worry about her understanding, agreeing, or “getting” it…because she never will.
The double bind is such a great tool because it gives you some of the power back that her actions have taken away from you and it allows you to make things easier for yourself.
One thing also to keep in mind…your son loves her, has a child with her, AND wants to marry her. He must see something in her that maybe you don’t see – a softer, more gentle side perhaps? Really try to look for what it is that draws him to her. Yes she’s bright, but that would not be enough for someone to want to spend the rest of their life with that person. There has to be more. Once you figure that out, try to incorporate that into your understanding of her too. In other words, let’s say she is supportive of him and that is one of the things that he loves about her…watch when she shows, what’s happening…what is going on that brings that out in her…how can you find a way to ilicit that same type of behavior from her that would fit for your relationship with her.
Start with these things and then let me know how it is going. If you need some more help, please just let me know.
(If this is not her normal behavior, but something that is being created due to her stress level, please let me know that as well and I’ll give you a different answer.)
No matter what I do I cannot seem to win. If I make plans with one son, his wife, and their daughter the other daughter-in-law invariably asks me to babysit for her and when I say I already have plans she is ballistic. What is the best way to handle this?
No matter what I do I cannot seem to win. If I make plans with one son, his wife, and their daughter the other daughter-in-law invariably asks me to babysit for her and when I say I already have plans she is ballistic.
What is the best way to handle this?
The best way to handle this is to head her off at the pass and give her a better way to handle things in the futre…for example you could say to her….”I know you’re going to be upset, and if I had just known a little soon….but I already have plans…. I am so sorry because I really would like to help you out….Can we make plans now for a time when I CAN help you.”
By saying…”I know you’re going to be upset” is a double bind – you are telling her how you anticipate or expect she will behave (which will make it harder for her to then behave that way); you are then letting her know through your words that you really would like to help her out, but you need more notice than what she is giving you – this is “teaching” her a way for her to get what she wants or what she needs to do to get what she wants; and then finally you are giving her an option so it is not so black and white…you are trying to compromise with her to some degree, again showing her you are really trying here.
If you have any questions about what I’ve written, please let me know
I said some things to my daughter-in-law and my son told me I needed to apologize. I went to their house, but she just left the room. I never apologized because I didn't think I said anything wrong.
The big problem started at the end of the party when my son and some other close family members ‘wanted to smoke cigars and the baby was in the room. My DLN said “do not smoke here.” I said “we are not stupid we know we should not smoke in the room near the baby” and she got angry and grab the baby and left then her father got angry and left with his wife. My husband went after them and asked them to come back, but they left and then son got angry and throw things at us and left. After that day my son left a message and asked me to appologize to his wife. One day I went to his house, but as soon as my DIL saw me she went inside and disappeared. I then left. My son then told me to go to a thrapist and he said his wife would come to the future sessions. I did so, but she did not want to go. The therapist said he cannot do anything because she is not willing to see him.
For couple of months I was very sick, but my son came and visited me. He kept telling me I have to appologize to his wife. On father’s day my son called us to go to a resturant to see the baby. My husband invited my DIN’s parents as well. After that night I went to their house with flowers and a card for their anniversary. I also inivited her for lunch. She came with the baby. I never apologize to her, because I never felt what I said was something to be apologized about. Now when I call her she doesn’t answer the phone. My son is busy working until late at night and he said he dosn’t have time to visit us.
I talk to him on the phone or send him email. I really want to solve the problem and be able to see my son and his family more. Do you think I should apologize to her? What should I do? Thank you very much for your help.
You do owe your son and daughter-in-law an apology. This is what you said…..I said “we are not stupid we know we should not smoke in the room near the baby”….. Even in your email it sounds harsh and derogatory towards your DIL. And even if you don’t feel you said anything wrong…your DIL does and it’s her perception that you need to consider. The problem that I see is that if you really don’t believe what you send was offensive, then apology will not mean anything and your DIL will feel that when you attempt to apologize. So, it’s important that you try to look at it from her perspective…what if someone said that to you…in the tone you said it…how would that make you feel? It’s important that you try to put yourself in her shoes just for a minute. I’m sure your INTENT was not to be offensive…but your DIL does not know your intent…she only knows the words you used…
My daughter-in-law says things that are incredibly hurtful.
I don’t know if there is anything you can do to help me with my situation. I have a daughter and 2 sons, all are married. When my 1 son married we were all “on board.” She’s a wonderful mother and wife, and we have a nice relationshp (for the most part). The problem is my DIL says things that are incredibly hurtful; not just to me but to her brother-in-law, sister-in-law, etc.(my other kids). For example she will make snide remarks about one of us that aren’t even true — as if they are true. Or, she’ll make a snide comment and then not let it go. She’ll just keep on it. My question is, how can I use my helplessness to my advantage as these situations happen frequently and i do feel so helpless when they happen. By the way I LOVE your website. Thanks.
First, Thank you for your beautiful comment about my website.
Your DIL may think she is being funny during these times and just doesn’t get why the rest of you don’t find her comments humorous. Or, probably more accurately she has angry, hostile feelings that she’s keeping inside and at times they come oozing out. If this is the case it doesn’t matter WHY she’s spewing the anger/hostility, the fact is she’s doing it. Whether it’s the first or second there is something you can do that will make a difference. I think it would be important for her to realize how she’s impacting other people. Obviously no one feels as though they can say anything to her and this just allows her to believe what she’s doing is OK. It isn’t! Prepare yourself in advance (because you know she’ll do it again) that when she does it to you, you say something about how it hurt your feelings, upset you, or whatever it’s making you feel. And you can preface it by saying, “You know, I’m not typically all that sensitive to what people say to me, but when you say____ you cut me to the bone (or whatever it makes you feel).” By prefacing it with you are not all that sensitive to what people say, you’re establishing right up front that it’s not about you. Unfortunately most people don’t want to say anything to a person like this and that just encourages them to continue.
Oh, the other thing…when you say this, there will probably be an awkward pause. PLEASE do not fill that void. Let her feel the discomfort and deal with it for herself.
Please, let me know how it goes. If this doesn’t help to change the dynamic, I have other “tricks up my sleeve.”
My daughter-in-law catches me off guard with her actions or words...
I have tried to behave differently around my daughter-in-law, but often times she catches me off guard with her actions or words, and I either freeze and don’t respond, or I respond in a way that I later regret. What can I do?
When you feel as though the person you’re dealing with is “off-the-wall” or unpredictable in their behavior, it’s important to remember that this — their unpredictability or “off-the-wall” actions — is what is predicitable. You can count on them to act this way. So it will be important for you to always keep this in mind when you are around them. Knowing that this is what you can expect, you can plan ahead with how you will handle their accusations, demands, etc. Each accusation or demand may be unique to the situation, but the fact that they will do these kinds of behaviors is not unique. And this is what you prepare yourself for — the fact that she will accuse you, blame you, demand something of you. This allows you to think ahead with how you will handle an accusation or demand; because it doesn’t really matter what she’s accusing you of or demanding of you, it’s the fact that she’s accusing or demanding.
So if you plan ahead – What will I do/say if she accuses me of something?
For example: If she accuses me of something (anything) I can mirror back to her — repeat back to her what she says to you, but in a question so she is in a position of reflection – “So, you’re saying I’m cold and heartless because I didn’t come over every day when you were sick?”
Now she might say “yes“, with no thought, and that’s fine because it then opens things up for a discussion. If she says yes you can ask more questions to get clarification. For example, “Did you want me to come over every day?” etc. By doing this you are letting her feel heard, but also you are helping her figure out if she is really sure why she’s upset with you. (Sometimes we think we’re upset about one thing when really it is something else.)
The point here is that you don’t have to have each scenario planned out with what you’ll say. You just need to know that she will have general things that she does — accusations, demands — that you CAN plan for.
I am having an issue with my daughter-in-law and would like to talk to my son about it.
I’m having an issue with my daughter-in-law and I’m not really sure how to handle it with her. I would like to talk to my son about it as he knows both of us and could probably give me some good insight into what I should do. A friend of mine said this is a bad idea. What do you think?
I have to agree with your friend – it’s a bad idea. And the reason it is, is that you’d be putting your son in the middle. Remember he loves you both and he might feel the need at some level to “fix” things. It isn’t his responsibility to make the relatonship between you and his wife better. The responsibility for that is between the two of you.
Also he doesn’t want nor need to hear anything negative you feel about his wife, just as he wouldn’t want to hear from his wife negative things about you. Often times we want to tell someone how we feel because we feel bad and want to feel better. What can happen in these instances is that you walk away feeling better (because you expressed your feelings) and he ends up feel bad because he’s walking around with all that information inside of him. Ugh!
Your best bet is to talk with a friend, or share your information here and let this community help you. That’s what we’re here for!
I would really like to see a therapist about some things that seem to be getting in my way.
I really would like to see a therapist about some things that seem to be getting in my way. How do I go about finding one that is good?
Just like in any other field there are really good therapists, mediocre therapists, and really bad therapists, so I can appreciate your question.
1. You want to be clear on what it is you want to achieve in therapy (as much as possible). By doing this you’ll have a better idea what “type” of therapist you’d want to work with. Depending on the therapist’s philosophy, the methods they use, and their overall style, some will work better for you than others.
2. Ask them questions. You want to get a sense of how this person thinks, how they run their business, how they treat clients, and how confident they are in what they know.
3. Set up appointments with different therapists and try them out. It will be important that you feel comfortable with the person you work with and you should be able to get a feel for this early on.
4. Training of the therapist can also be an issue. Are they trained sufficiently in the “type” of therapy you’re seeking? Do they seem like they are comfortable with your issues, your communication style?
5. Get referrals from people you know. Ask them why they liked the person; what made it work for them?
6. This is important – Do they call you back within 24 hours. (if not… move on!)
Good luck! And if you have more questions about this, please let me know.
I've really messed up! My son and I were talking and I said some things about my daughter-in-law's behavior that were less than favorable.
I’ve really messed up! My son and I were talking and I said some things about my daughter-in-law’s behavior that were less than favorable. I didn’t realize at the time how he might take it because it just seemed like we were “chatting.” Well, it has snowballed into a mess. He must have said something to her because she isn’t speaking to me now. I emailed her, apologizing for what I said, but I haven’t heard from her. Can I fix this? Will this hurt my relationship with my son? Help!
I know when you spoke to your son you were coming from your heart – as a Mom. And sometimes we don’t catch ourselves in time before we make that big mistake. Believe me, I’ve done it too.
But you can definitely fix it. Your DIL is probably feelings extremely hurt and maybe betrayed as she more than likely thought you liked her and now she’s not so sure. And although you apologized, email is rather impersonal and this calls for a personal touch.
I would recommend calling her first and letting her know how sorry you are and that you’d like to come see her (if you live close by) and then I’d bring her flowers and apologize again. Acknowledge how she must have felt when she heard what you said. I would ask her what she needs from you to make her feel better and then listen to what she has to say. If she needs to tell you how she feels…listen and empathize with her. Do not make excuses or rationalize your behavior. Just listen and help her see you “feel her pain.” Be as genuine (and from your email I can tell you are truly sorry)…just let that show as you talk with her.
Also, realize that after you’ve done this, it may take some time for her to trust you again or feel comfortable with you. Please just give her time. Be warm, genuine and open with her.
Now for your son – Obviously one thing you learned is that your son’s allegiance is with her. Important lesson to learn. I would recommend that you talk with your son as well – separately – and apologize to him for saying something to him in the first place. Let him know you trust him and you’ respect him. And that you will be careful not to overstep your bounds again.
I hope this helps. After you try these things, please let me know if I can help in any other way. There may need to be some tweaking of sorts.
I admit I've made some mistakes with my daughter-in-law, yet she seems not to be able to forgive me.
I admit I’ve made some mistakes with my daughter-in-law, yet she seems to not be able to forgive me. I’ve apologized so many times I’m sick of doing so. No matter what I do she seems to be angry with me. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells all the time whenever I’m around her. What’s really hard about this is we used to get along. It seems like it has gotten worse since she had my granddaughter. I don’t know what else to do to mend this. Can you help?
First, I would say she is probably trying to get her footing as a new Mom and that is playing a part in how she reacts and responds to you. It also sounds like she is still upset with you even though you’ve apologized to her. I would recommend you give her some space to gain some confidence as a Mom. Then I would approach her and let her know you’ve made some mistakes and you would really like to hear from her how she feels about them and how these mistakes are affecting her. And then listen – really listen to what she ways. Ask her questions about how she’s feeling so that you are clear on how your actions affected her. Repeat back to her what she told you (in your own words) so that both you and your DIL are sure you understand what she’s feeling.
Once you both a sure you understand her feelings, then ask her what you can do from this point forward. If she is not clear on what she wants from you, then let her know you will make a point to consider her feelings in the future before you do or say things. And then make sure you do that.
This is not about right or wrong. This is about you (inadvertently) doing something that made your daughter-in-law feel bad. It was not intentional on your part. And even though your DIL may know that she is still working out a relationship with you. This relationship is important to you, and just like any relationship that’s important to us, we do what we need to do to make the situation better – now and for the future.
Give this a try and if you need more help, please just let me know.
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