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DIL's behavior: depressed or rude?

Started by Romans838, April 02, 2015, 09:00:27 am

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April 02, 2015, 09:00:27 am Last Edit: April 02, 2015, 09:13:27 am by luise.volta
This is a new site for me.  Thanks for letting me vent. My son has been married 8 years to a lovely (and introverted) woman. I admit there were mistakes I made in the beginning. She was my first DIL and there was definitely a learning curve. She is a wonderful, loving mother to their 2 children. I have learned to back off. In the beginning I tried to show an interest in her life; asking how she was, was there anything i could do to help, etc. But she basically avoids me. 
We don't see them often since we live several hundred miles apart. They were here for 3 days and we are grateful they made the trip. But while they were here she did not speak one word to me. Nothing. No hello or goodbye. No please or thank you. No eye contact. She didn't speak with my husband either, who is a very calm and quiet person.
It occurred to me after they left that maybe she is depressed.  She is exhibiting a lot of symptoms of depression.  But i am concerned that my son won't want to discuss this.  We will have an opportunity to speak with him privately and i'm really not sure how to proceed.
I'm really tired of the elephant in the room.  If she is clinically depressed she needs counseling and/or meds. If she only exhibits this behavior with us I feel we need to get it out in the open and discuss it. But, she is one of the most stubborn people i've ever met and i can drag a horse to water. . . .
I guess what really hurts is that I value relationships and expected to have one with her. But she clearly does not. It makes me so sad.

I welcome kind and thoughtful responses and/or suggestions!


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My lesson from going through something similar was that my son is an adult and saw everything in my DILs behavior that we did. What I wanted in a relationship was about my own expectations and there was no obligation for them to follow suit. It took me a long time to get that. They have their own household, make their own rules, just like we did, and learn to handle their own issues in a way that works for them. Sending hugs.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


My thoughts - Rude?  Not likely.  Depressed?  Maybe.  Selectively Mute?  Probably.

I expect you have never heard of the term "selective mutism".  One of our grandchildren was selectively mute for several years and during that time we became "educated" in this disorder.  SM (as it is commonly referred) is an inherited severe social anxiety disorder where a person is so uncomfortable/anxious/nervous that he/she is unable to speak in certain situations.  My guess is that your DIL is able to converse comfortably in her own home but not in other social situations.  If I am correct, this has absolutely nothing to do with you or your husband.  By the way, SM can be treated with therapy (cognitive behavioural therapy) and medication.  Today, our granddaughter is doing fine - but we caught this disorder when only a young child.

So, I guess the next step (after googling and reading up on the term "selective mutism") would be to discuss this with your son.  Remember, if your DIL is indeed sm, she is unable to properly socialize, even though she might desperately want to interact.  Treatment is readily available - beginning with the family doctor - with a good prognosis.  I really hope this is the issue - it is one which can be "fixed".  All the best ....

Green Thumb

My first thought was what happened when you spoke to her? Did she just not answer? Some people are quiet and only open up when they feel really comfortable with people. You said you made some mistakes at first, were you critical of her?  She might feel that the only way to avoid criticism is to not talk. I used to avoid my MIL, cause she was critical and narcissistic and I would cringe when she would finally say let's sit down and talk just you and me and she'd get all into my business. I am much older now and would just set boundaries now but back then, it was just weird. 

I assume she talks to her kids? I think instead of talking to your son and  making it a bigger deal, I would start a campaign to win her over with friendliness, compliments, really caring what she thinks and feels. Make it all about her.  Send her flowers for Mother's Day. Like you would when you are dating someone new. I would tell her what a good mom she is.  How you appreciate all she does for your son with examples.  Maybe write her a loving letter thanking her for visiting and telling her how glad she is the mother of your grandkids, how good a mother she is and give examples. When you go visit them, offer to babysit so they can have a date night, help with the laundry, the children's needs, play with the kids, etc.  Relief her stress a little.

If you are already doing all of this, then that is wonderful! I can tell you are a caring person and want to be friends with her and you love them all.


I am in a situation with a DIL who is extremely quiet when I see her. Many visits go without a word from her. But on Facebook, she is laughing with friends, lip-syncing to songs, writing poetic notes to loved ones and so on. Completely different personality and I only get a glimpse online. In person, she's a mannequin. After 10 years of this, I just accept that I am not part of her "tribe" but I wish I was. I'm friendly, complimentary, love her kids. I have a feeling we would really like each other.  Really sad to hit this wall and never know why it is there.


QuoteCompletely different personality and I only get a glimpse online.

If your DIL suffers from anxiety (and I suspect strongly this is case), the personality you see on Facebook is the "real" her.  Those who suffer from anxiety have an irrational fear (based partially on the inept amygdala in the brain which sends "fear" signals) and this "frozen" appearance in person is the result of that malfunctioning frontal lobe in the brain.  If your DIL suffers from severe anxiety, she was predisposed this way (in other words - genetics).   Keep on being friendly, complimentary and loving the children - it is possible (in fact probable) that she really does like you. Just be very patient and don't comment on her silence (she already is more than aware of this) - through time (and usually this takes years) hopefully she will be "able" to speak and laugh and relax; if not, well - just love her.  Been there .....


Thank you for this note. I do see social anxiety/depression symptoms with both her and the kids ("I'm scared" is a common comment in the face of stuff most kids find exciting, like going to the beach).  She has a bi-polar sister and a mother that is a compulsive gambler (gambled away their life savings and are now living in the basement). Her very insular family doesn't venture outside itself (if there is a large gathering, they stay in another room). She may have learned this behavior. Her husband (my stepson) presents kind of like a highly functioning autistic person, staying away from his family of origin and spending hours a day in video games. In a group of people, they are talkative to some but not others.  His side of the family is in the "others" group.  At our dinner table she sits silent while everyone chats. When she visits, she speaks only to her children unless you ask a question and then you get a one-word answer. I have to acknowledge its effect on me to be around someone that is clearly happier if I am not there is really harmful to me. I worry that their kids will model this behavior.



As a dil , I was always quiet , shy (in the begging ) and uncomfortable opening up because of my past and fear of judgement (as she is VERY judgmental) . My DH mom was and IS very uptight . In reality I'm loud and talkative and laughing . After we had our first official falling out , it has never been the same and I would distance myself even more . BUT I would still converse about general things or unless its about her , and not me (  I can not  talk about myself without her ignoring me or changing the subject EVERY TIME literally) I still smile and nod but if she said or did something disrespectful to me I would sometimes talk back in a serious tone and distance myself again.

SO, this is why its hard for a dil to open up. If she is keeping her distance , ignoring you, or being standoffish ... you might be saying or doing things she finds insulting.

If that is not the case then she might truly have an anxiety/depression problem that she really needs to get help for.

or she could still be holding a grudge from your past mistakes and nothing you do will ever make it up to her ,ESPECIALLY if she feels you are "still" meddling or saying hurtful comments to in some way. If you have done all you can to make it right, and still nothing then she is immature and hopefully( and I think she will ) realize and do things differently for the sake of family  :) .

I'm just saying,  this from my perspective and experience as a dil. You sound like you truly want things to change between you two ,  obviously there is a big elephant in the room and maybe talking to your son and asking what the problem  she has with you is and why she avoids you . She might get offended first that you went to her DH and not her (although understandable ) and might feel like you are starting a problem with her but it CAN give her the opportunity to open up since you are wondering about the problem and not bashing on her to your DS.

Wish you all the best!!!
I know there ARE really true MIL's who are good and do want a close relationship with their DIL's just like the true DIL's out there who do want a real relationship just as much.


We have had some disagreements about child health and safety. The kids  (9, 6, 4) are not vaccinated, eat mostly pizza, cereal or ramen for dinner, are always sick but have no doctor, have severe unaddressed dental care issues, ride in the front seat of cars without car seats, and on and on. They own an initialized German shepherd "guard dog" that lives on a rope on the porch and goes crazy when people approach.

It is a real hot button when I talk about these things so I don't anymore out of fear I will totally be locked out. I have decided for the moment to give it all some space. My husband has agreed to be an intermediary and pick up the kids so we can see them. He and his ex wife have also had some discussions with their son about his children's' health and safety but it falls on deaf ears. The parents have expensive electronics and are covered with tattoos - no judgement, but they cost hundreds of dollars a pop to have done. They smoke nonstop (also expensive to maintain) and have weight issues due to poor diet. A wealthy grandmother gave them their house in a will and it is deteriorating under their care. The kids are dressed well because my husband's accusative buys all of their clothes at expensive stores.

On the plus side, the parents have a large circle of close friends with great kids. Our grandchildren get a sense of family there.

I don't doubt there are personality issues but my gut feeling is that the core issue is stubborn immaturity. There are a lot of problems that are too big to fix. I have a really hard time pretending everything is fine  and dispensing "love" when it just isn't fine on any level. My husband stays as detached as possible and says we should not worry about that which we can't change. I try to tell myself that if the kids know me at all we can have a healthy relationship when they are adults. They adore me and I treasure every minute with them. I am grateful for that.


wow mckenzy - you have a lot more going on here than anxiety.  I really feel for your grandchildren (we also had grandchildren who were ignored, abused and neglected).  But, your husband is correct - you cannot fix what you cannot control (God knows I tried - to negative avail).  All you can do is love your grandchildren and let them know this.  When you see them try to set good role models for them (as well as feed them properly).  By the way, I feel "stubborn immaturity" or extreme self-centeredness is a huge red flag for a personality disorder/mental health issues (as well being drawn to addictive substances) - but that is just my opinion.

Take care of yourself - you may need to be healthy and strong in the future - been there ....


The one thing that I am thankful for regarding my son's wife is that she is a wonderful mother.  The kids are cared for, fed, see a doctor, get all sorts of family outings and are enrolled in lots of different activities..  No complaints about that at all.  They are lucky kids. 


I agree with you that there are many signs of undiagnosed disorders, the behaviors of which can be learned, passed on and become a family syndrome.  Until both the mother and the father see something wrong, it's going to continue. They are almost 40, so change is unlikely.

I lose sleep for days every time we see them and hope that these kids develop a sense of wanting something different when they grow up.  And hopefully this will happen before they themselves are covered in tattoos, living in a dark house full of tvs and video games running 24/7 with a big dog to protect them from the world outside the door.


Quote from: Lillycache on July 10, 2015, 06:15:55 am
The one thing that I am thankful for regarding my son's wife is that she is a wonderful mother.  The kids are cared for, fed, see a doctor, get all sorts of family outings and are enrolled in lots of different activities..  No complaints about that at all.  They are lucky kids.

Me too Lilly.  Even though I have no relationship with OS/DIL, I can honestly say I know they are taking care of their kids.

Mckenzey, I feel really bad for you.  Such a tough position to be in when their are children involved that you know are being neglected. 

Love3, You and I would get along great!  Want to switch MIL's????  :)
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell