All Things In-Law...

Dr. Deanna Brann's Blog

How many times have you said, “I thought she would be like a daughter to me.” Or, “I had hoped my daughter-in-law would be like a daughter.”

It seems like a common thought or desire among mothers-in-law that because their son is there child this would translate into their daughter-in-law being like another one of her children – a daughter. This is a misconception and often a dangerous assumption. Dangerous in the sense that you can easily and quickly create a wedge or even wall between you and your daughter-in-law by having such an assumption.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Your son is your child. He grew up with you. You know his quirks, his moods, his way of thinking, likes, and dislikes. You know him inside and out. On the flip side your son knows you too. He knows your quirks, your moods, when you’re joking and when you’re not. He knows you say things that don’t always come out the way you want, but the intent behind your words is one of care and love. The two of you have history together. It is this history you share that allows both of you to overlook things, disagree but come back together again – no harm, no foul. It’s this history that allows your family members to have more licenses with their words and actions than anyone else.

When your son marries he is not bringing home a daughter to you. He is bringing home an adult woman who also has a history; but her history is with her family. She does not know your quirks, your moods. She does not know when you’re joking and when you’re not. She does not know that when you say things the intent is really coming from a place of care and love. To her she hears what you say through the filters of her own history, which is with her family. This means it can be experienced differently from what you thought or meant.

Your daughter-in-law is coming to you as an adult, with her own history, her own life experiences, and her own understanding of how she wants “family” to be. It is not that her way is right. It is that her way is different. She and your son are coming together, bringing with them two different ideas about “family.” It is up to them to decide – together – how they want to blend these ideas to create their own family – one that fits for both of them.

Yes, there is a pulling from both sides – his family and her family – to create the family that they are most familiar with. If both sides could just take their personal anxiety, fear, and panic out of the equation and give the couple time to figure it out for themselves, I think everyone would be pleasantly surprised.

Next week I want to touch on the “other” side of this equation. Daughters-in-law and their mothers and how this relationship can impact everyone.

Share This