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daughter in law treats me as if I was invisible

Started by Gizmo778, July 19, 2015, 07:37:39 pm

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My son, granddaughter, daughter in law and I share a home. Sometimes for days to weeks she will not talk to me. If my granddaughter is sitting at one end of the couch and I am at the other she gets all silent and starts brooding and and talking to anybody. This is affecting everybody. She will even behave like this when my granddaughter is sitting beside my son. My granddaughter has to sit on the arm chair with my DiL then she will act happy/ The longer my GD does not sit beside her the longer it for her to talk to my GD. Today I want to help my GD  and myself but I don't know what to do.


July 19, 2015, 09:10:18 pm #1 Last Edit: July 20, 2015, 07:41:19 am by luise.volta
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My experience is that there is nothing I can do about the behavior of another adult, whether young or old, family or strangers. I can't change others and I can't rescue those at the effect of difficult relationaships. It was very hard for me to get that in my own family, since for many years I was a role model and teacher...the mom. That time is over and gone. I did my best and my child rearing assignment is complete. The young adults in my family and extended family get to choose the way they raise their family just as I chose how to raise mine. Sometimes I have to nearly bite my tongue off! That's an exageration...but not by much! I learned that my expectations and standards...observations and suggestions were no longer respected and others didn't want to hear about them. It took a long time for me to make peace with that, but I have. Sending hugs.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Gizmo, the best thing you can do is to be a happy grandmother for your grand daughter. 

Ditto what Luise posted -- I bite my tongue a lot too.  My kids simply do not raise their kids the way I raised them.  And that's okay.  We raised our kids according to our rules and expectations -- we did the best we could.  Once our kids are out of the nest they are on their own and make their own decisions.

Simply focus on nothing else but the moments you enjoy with your granddaughter.  It will bring you peace (and joy too). 

Green Thumb

Your description of the DIL sounds like someone who is trying to gain control over everyone else. If she is not the center of attention, she uses punitive silence to gain attention. She is teaching your granddaughter that it is only okay to love her (the mother). If you don't show me your only love, I will ignore you, is the message. By doing this, the DIL gains control of everyone and thus everyone tiptoes around her bad behavior. 

What can you do? Well, like the others said, you can't change another person's behavior. But you can change your reaction and thinking. Instead of getting upset inside and feeling in conflict or put down by the DIL, realize that she has some kind of "issue" that makes her need to be the center of attention. Try for compassion instead of anger.

Just like with an alcoholic who is using manipulation to control the family so they don't complain about his behavior, you can make sure the DIL experiences consequences of her actions, as best you can. For example, if she is not speaking to you, then you don't ask her what she wants for dinner, you don't go out of your way to keep her happy but you also don't get nasty with her. When she gets silent, you detach and stop caring how she is. Just live your life, focus on you and your granddaughter. Do not focus on the DIL's behavior.

Many on this site say look at it from the other person's perspective. Your son is not going to speak up but you can if you want to. He doesn't want the hate aimed at him so he's learned to be passive. Or perhaps, your son doesn't give her enough attention or show her love so she has figured out how to demand it. For some people, any attention, even bad,  is better than none. You don't have to get in her face but when she is pouting, and thus controlling everyone else's behavior, you don't have to give up your power. You can matter of factly call it what it is, "Oh, Sue is mad at me again" but this has to be said without anger or criticism. Just like you might say the baby needs a diaper changed. Just matter of factly. Or "Go sit by mommy, she needs your love." Just call it what it is without being nasty or angry. You have to be the more mature person. DIL may just need more love, more positive interactions, some compliments.

It depends on what you want and how you feel about the manipulation. No matter what, changing your thoughts and reactions will change the dynamics of the situation for the better. Yet, once you change your behavior and detach from the emotional side of DIL's behavior, the walking on eggshells feelings you probably experience, she may escalate her manipulation and pouting type stuff. You will be tipping the balance of the scales back to a more healthier interaction/family dynamics and she will likely try to grab on to having it tipped in her favor or attention on her, etc. If she is just desperate for love, and is basically a nice person underneath, your kind actions and compliments may swing the dial. If she has a personality disorder, the manipulation is aimed for control of everyone so nothing you do short of strong boundary setting will really work.


Thank you for your responses. My DIL is basically waited on hand and foot by my son. She will not eat anything I cook. If my son isn't at work he is doing things at home.  MY DIL does not cook and the extent of her help is cleaning 2 bathrooms and washing for the 3 of them.  Frequently, my DiL does not eat until my son makes her something to eat at night and on the weekend my son cooks super for all of us.

I know I can't do anything in the way she raises her daughter or how she treats me. I am trying to detach from her responses and the helpless or angry or whatever feelings that rise. I 'm working on it but do relapse. My GD is 9 years old and she feels that she is responsible  for her mom's happiness. That is a lot to bear for anybody especially a child. At this stage I'm trying to demonstrate that we are responsible for our own happiness and that is it.  I will not bad mouth her mom because that also is not fair to my GD but how can I show her that its not her job to give up so much of her childhood to try to make someone happy.


It sounds to me like sharing a home may be contributing to the problem. You know a lot about how they live their lives for that reason. DIL may want her own home and the privacy to set up their patterns without anyone observing them. I loved my MIL but I could never have shared a home with her. I wanted my own space, however humble. I think my MIL would have lived in a tent before considering living with us for the same reason. It never would have worked.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Green Thumb

I think Luise has a point, it is time to not share a house any longer. What is going on in that house is emotionally unhealthy for you, for granddaughter, and for the DIL. Seems like your son is oblivious. She is his wife, and she needs to be respected by him and this living situation does not feel respectful of her in her mind. What you write about DIL wanting her daughter to only pay attention to herself could just be a symptom of the problem and the mature thing is to make a change before things get really ugly. It is not working for your DIL and you must be frank with your son. Kind but frank, have the courage to say this is not working and is not healthy for anyone. 

Whose house do you live in? Yours or theirs? If yours, they need to move out. Respectfully talk to your son alone and work out a deadline for changing living arrangements. If you need financial help, get a roommate your age who does not have the baggage of your DIL. If you are living in DIL's house, then find a small place you can afford. There are many widows or older single women with houses who could use a good roommate to share expenses. When you live apart, you can have granddaughter spend the day or the night alone with you and this will help her decompress from the manipulation.

What you wrote about the cooking issue and how she will not eat your food, google narcissist and narcissistic family dynamics. See if any of it matches.

Green Thumb

The other thing I wanted to mention is that your son chose this woman for a reason. She meets an emotional need inside of him. He caters to her because it makes him feel ___ something, special, manly, the hero for rescuing her, etc. She holds the key to him meeting his sexual needs also -- this is a powerful thing. Your son is as much to blame as anyone else in the house. You have to see HIM as part of the problem. It is not just the DIL. And frankly, if my husband had me and my daughter sharing a house with my MIL, instead of us being independent and alone in our house, I would be mad as a hornet. And she does clean the bathrooms and does their laundry -- she is doing some housework and perhaps clearer roles and duties around the house were not negotiated before everyone jumped into this train wreck. She may be a manipulator and possibly a narcissist but he sounds like the enabler. Look at this for how the problem lies beyond "just her." Not saying you are wrong, just having a wider viewpoint will help.