Mothers-in-law – how many of you have said or thought these words at one time or another? I’m sure many of you have. You see your DIL demonstrating behaviors that clearly prevent you from spending time with your son. But, even though it seems as though your daughter-in-law is the one preventing you from seeing your son or grandchildren, there is more than meets the eye here and it’s important to take a look at what is behind the proverbial curtain. What you see may look perfectly clear, but believe me it isn’t that simple.
Let’s start with how this makes you feel. Do you feel helpless, hopeless; do you feel like just giving up and backing away? These words that you say to yourself or to others play a key role in how you feel. The words themselves create a sense of helpless, a sense of hopelessness – just pay close attention to yourself when you say them. Notice how your body reacts. Notice how your heart aches. Notice how you feel. Words are powerful.
Now, let’s look at another aspect of this – your son. When you catch yourself saying, “…isn’t allowed to,” “She’s distancing them….” You are really saying, “…my son is a victim. He has no voice, no power in his marriage.” And although that may be the way it appears, it is not the case. Your son has as much power as he wants to have. He is making a choice to either speak up or allow the status quo. And in some cases he may actually be OK with what is happening, but is letting his wife be the “heavy.” Now, I know this is not easy to hear and many of you will want to argue with me and that’s perfectly OK. But think about it – if someone you didn’t know said these things to you wouldn’t you be wondering why the husband is not speaking up? Why he would allow his wife to have so much power?
When I hear these statements from MILs, the first thing I ask myself (and sometimes the MIL), “Where is the husband/son? If he has a problem with things, why isn’t he saying something?” Now, most of the time I hear, “He just wants to make her happy or keep the peace. He doesn’t want to upset her, etc” Really…at the risk of NEVER seeing his family again? Is he that willing to give up his family? Through my years of experience I have found he is either not saying something because he is OK with it, or he is not saying something because he is not comfortable addressing this (and probably other things) with his wife. This is then a marital issue. If he is truly that afraid of his wife – again, it’s a marital issue.
So if you catch yourself saying these things…if you catch yourself believing these things, please stop a minute and think about it. Think about it from this bigger picture – not from a place of wanting to protect your son or not see what’s really going on.
So, OK now what? Well, knowing how you play into your own sense of helplessness, knowing how your son plays a part that only he can change, you are in a great place to start to change things between you and your daughter-in-law. Yes, you! You have more power than you think. It’s just a matter of tapping into it and using it. Start by thinking of one thing…just one thing you can do to begin the process of changing your relationship. It could be using the Listening & Learning skill download, reading the Reluctantly Related book and using the tools in it, or it could even be a short consult with me. It doesn’t matter what you do…just do something!
Ok…what are you going to do to take your first step? Make a commitment to yourself and to our community here that you will take just one step. What will it be?