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Where to Start? My daughter-in-law

Started by ginger, June 20, 2011, 04:22:27 pm

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I would like to start a new topic concerning my daughter-in-law.  I had inadvertently butted into a different topic without realizing that this was not acceptable as the subject was very close to my heart. 

My son and I have always had what I would consider a normal relationship.  In high school there were power struggles, in college he learned to take responsibility of his own life.  I'm not overbearing and he is not a mamas boy, while in college he met his future wife.  My daughter-in-law was a little standoffish and pushy, but  I thought our relationship would warm one day. 

Upon the birth of their first child my daughter-in-law seemed to become pushier, more demanding, more belittling of her husband.  I noticed at first that nothing he did was right, if he helped her wash the dishes she complained of the order in which he washed, it always seemed to be little things that just added up.  But after a few years issues are still being tossed onto the pile.  As I said in another post if we plan on me visiting all of a sudden my daughter-in-law gets huffy and informs her husband that I am not there for her so she will not prepare for my visit.  He is left to clean the house, make sure there are clean sheets, he said that he even makes up the bed for my visit, meanwhile my daughter-in-law points and demands.  Stated elsewhere, when he has worked long hours he has been forced to choose between cleaning and seeing me or not getting to visit with me at all.

One time I booked a hotel room thinking I found the perfect solution only to be told that I felt that her house was not good enough for me.  My daughter-in-law is dissatisfied with every move I make be it helping to pick up after dinner or offering to take my granddaughter to the park.  If she were here today I'm sure her story would look very familiar to some as I'm sure my every breath irritates her to no end.

My question is how do I work with this situation?   I would like to hear from other daughter-in-laws who simply can't stand their own mother-in-laws based on silly unimportant issues.  When my daughter-in-law smugly tells me that son better jump do I congratulate her?  He confided in me not long ago and told me that while he loves her and especially his daughter that he has been made to feel less and less like a man.  He  said that his wife is so pushy that he just buckles to keep peace.  I believe he might be falling out of love with her, or that she is pushing him out of love with her.  You hate to see a marriage end but this woman is determined to keep me out of their lives based on convenience and to keep her husband on a leash.


Ginger - You more or less described our ex-DIL.  Eventually, our son divorced her after 15 years (actually she left our son and both children).  He told me that he tried so hard so keep the peace and gave her everything she wanted; it did not work.  But, after 15 years, the "bond" between son and mother/father is not as strong as it was - too much "water under the bridge" so to say.  We were accused, vilified, yelled at, ignored and lied about and to as well as hated.

I don't know what to tell you except that anything you say or do will be construed as "interference".  Even an invitation to our son's family for Christmas dinner was "interfering" and I should not expect our son and grandchildren to attend (after all, they had another "family" and did not need us).  Honestly, the best thing you can do is look after yourself.  You cannot "save" your son - he will need to do that himself.  I found that when we were not available to "blame", then our son was more able to see "who" was to blame.  If so, it will get worse for him before he takes action (but the ball is in his court). 

I believe that our ex DIL suffers from a personality disorder and so logic does not exist for her.  I believe that our ex DIL is incapable of feeling empathy or concern for others (she feels only for herself; even her children did not count) and thus, there was nothing one could say or do to help her comprehend another's postion.  I suspect your DIL also has the same extreme self-centeredness and, if so, you will never have any form of a relationship with her (and really, neither will your son).

So, how do you work with the situation?  You let them come to you.  You don't phone, e-mail, or visit.  You don't expect anything from them or offer assistance unless asked.  When speaking, I've heard the "medium chill" is the appropriate method of conversation - you reply politely and basically say nothing but also give them no opportunity for criticism or negative comment.  Again, if he is "falling out of love with her", then your best recourse is to "back off - way off" (unless he comes to you).  As my husband says "if you give someone enough rope, they will eventually hang themselves".  I hope you do not feel that I have  been too aggressive in this answer; it's just what I would have done 15 years ago (knowing what I know now).  But, please do take care of yourself; if your son needs you in a year or two, you need to be healthy (both mentally and physically).  Perhaps, your situation is not as severe as mine.  I sure hope so.  All the best ....


I think all of that was excellent advice from jdtm.  I do understand ginger, as my DIL is in many ways as you are describing yours.  She is very demanding, self-centered and if it's not about her...then it means nothing to her.  I used to see the frustration and sadness in my OS's eyes and it would tear me apart.  But then he would not call or come visit because she didn't like me, so I would also get angry at him for not taking a stand.  I went back and forth between thinking maybe he just didn't like me and this was just his wishes.  I have done a ton of soul searching over the last couple of years, and regardless why, it is his wishes that he is following.  I think he doesn't want to cause an issue at home and he does it to keep the peace and not have to deal with it, but he is still doing it. 

One of the hardest things I had to come to term with is that no matter what she does, no matter how much she maybe trying to influence him, the bottom line is he has a choice.  He could choose to keep our relationship alive, to visit by himself and to tell her that he loved her, but he was going to see his family. 

I'm very sorry that your son is being treated that way, and very sorry that you are too.  It's hard to believe that the close relationships we once shared with our children can change so dramatically.  I expected change, but not a total turn-a-bout.  Until he decides that he wants to change the rules in his house, I'm afraid all you can do is your best.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


So, so, sorry for these situations.  I know there are really unfair and controlling dils and mils both, and I think we are in agreement here; it's good to be able to tell your story w/o being judged as a "meanie" dil OR mil.

I think that's why we can help each other whether we are dils or mils, in fact, bc of that.

Ginger, you said:
"He confided in me not long ago and told me that while he loves her and especially his daughter that he has been made to feel less and less like a man.  He  said that his wife is so pushy that he just buckles to keep peace."

It seems your son is still wanting to be in contact w you.  I think the best advice you can give him is to see if his wife will go to counseling, to see if she can see what is happening to the love he had for her.  Other than that, you probably can't do much to help.  If he comes to you with these problems, you can't really give advice except to get help.  Otherwise you would either be pushing him to leave her or to continue to take this abuse.

What do you all think?  (In the case of the sons who aren't seeing their FOO bc of their wives, the other two posters, I think, have it down.....

Keys Girl

Ginger, I have a set of circumstances that are somewhat similar to yours.  Long story short a friend of mine told me last year, "Nothing you do will ever be right".  So after that I decided to do nothing for them, and keep myself happy.  I won't go into all the details, there are lots on the site, but my advice is the same.  Let them come to you, and have no expectations for them.

I am no longer in touch with my son, his wedding is coming up and I may not be there, but these hostilities had a profound effect on my health while I let them happen.

My future DIL has what I call the "Princess" syndrome.  As long as the world is revolving around her and everyone is doing everything to please her, exactly as she wishes, she's agreeable.  However, when that doesn't happen, she's verbally, financially and emotionally abuse to the point that I suspect that she might drive my son to suicide or work him into an early grave in an effort to pay for all her "necessities".

My son came to me after the engagement because she turned into the Princess overnight (literally) and he had some misgivings about their marriage.  I advised him not to marry anyone he didn't want to marry.  It's a lot easier to get in than it is to get out but apparently the marriage is going to take place.

Perhaps one day we'll be in touch again, but not while "the Princess" rules the roost and calls the shots, demeaning and humiliating him and me in particular.  I suspect that MILs can be a handy dandy scapegoat for some young DILs.  You get to extract your revenge on your husband via his mother.  That's 2 for 1.  I've decided to move out of the picture and allow her to find another scapegoat, and perhaps she may perceive that in driving me away she's "won". 

Ginger, it's a tough slog, it's not what I planned for, hoped for, worked for and the values that I thought I was instilling in him.  As someone told me last year "That's life", and she was kind enough not to say "Suck it up, buttercup".

i think your choices boil down to what you wish to tolerate in your life because of your son's choice of spouse, but you can count on the fact that anything you tell him will be repeated to her, so just a word to the wise, I found out about that one the hard way.

"Today I will be as happy as a seagull with a french fry." Author Unknown


It is the treatment of my son that I find most concerning and I do understand about not interfering, I am the one who is being approached by my son.  I'm saddened by the fact that even here I am reading conflicting messages. In one message Scoop is being praised for her demands because it is her mother-in-law we are talking about, while in the case of my son his wife is making the same demands and belittling him to the point of making him look like a weak failure and I'm being advised to almost give up temporarily on my relationship with my son but that my daughter-in-law is wrong. 

It is possible that I may be the only person he has left to confide in as his wife has effectively removed his friends from his life as well as herself from his list of friends.  I can't help but to feel that this may be part of the problem, she is no longer a friend to him. Yes they have a marriage, they have a precious daughter who is learning how to whip a man into shape at a tender age.  What will this do to my granddaughter will she learn that husbands and wives draw sides and stand their grounds based on who's side of the family is coming into play?  Is this how young women define their independence and find strength? 

Unlike Scoop my daughter-in-law does not hold a job, the inability to have her home company ready is a choice she is making.  With my daughter-in-law this isn't an issue of having her home ready as much as every step I take will irritate this young lady and then I believe she takes out her frustrations on the one and only person that is there for her which is her husband.  Will my granddaughter follow in her mother's footsteps?

lancaster lady

Hi Ginger .........If your son is unwilling to change his life ,there  isn't a lot you can do I'm afraid  . These ladies have been through the same situation  and have learned to cope in the way they've described .You don't want to add fuel to her fire . Your son is the key figure here ,if he is prepared to take this treatment ,as hard as it is you have to stand back .You are his forum to vent ,and be glad he does ,but only he can stop the rot .?  .................I have  to say in my case my future DIL  and I eventually had a showdown , and now we get  along .Each situation is different ,so there are no hard and fast rules .I hope you can relate to others experiences and take comfort that you are not alone .


Ginger - there is one crucial point that has a huge bearing on the outcome of any relationship - that is why you will get conflicting "stories".  And that point is her mental stability.  If she suffers from a personality disorder (and the stats for this issue has been estimated to be between 5-10%), then there will be no relationship, ever.  Whether you "interfere" or not is irrelevant; you will be perceived as such.  A common element in those with personality disorders is to isolate the "loved one" from family, friends and neighbours.  By your own words, it appears that your DIL has been successful in already doing this.  Lying, manipulation, blaming and being devoid of empathy are four other common traits.  It took me years to realize our ex DIL had major mental health issues.

Stress seems to exacerbate mental health behaviours and in our case, the birth of the children set off fireworks.  She was unable to take care of a home as well as care for others.  It appears that your DIL may also react to the stress from the extra "burden" of raising a child  If she does suffer from a personality disorder (and from what you have written, it appears so), she will be incapable of managing a home as well as raising a child.  To help her fragile ego, she will "make your son look like a weak failure" - your words - and it will be everyone else's fault.

No one wants you to give up your relationship with your son, granddaughter, or DIL - far from it.  What we're saying is that we expect you will be "forced" out of their lives.  If your son still comes to you with advice and your DIL "allows" this or he does not "report" to her, then you are very lucky.  Our son did not have the strength to go against his wife; hopefully, your son will never get to this point.  But, as several have already stated, it is up to your son to "save his family and himself"; you will not be able to do it.  The fact you have searched and found this site says a lot.

As to whether your granddaughter will follow in her mother's footsteps?  We have two grandchildren - one who "behaves" like her mother and one who does not.  Mental health issues are partly genetic and partly environmental.  So, no one knows - and frankly, little can prevent it.  There is a mantra many of us repeat daily - "I did not cause this, I can not control this, I can not cure this".  So sorry .....


Quote from: ginger on June 20, 2011, 09:00:03 pm
I'm saddened by the fact that even here I am reading conflicting messages.

Everyone's story here is diverse and different, but with many ringing similarities in some.  What you are seeing as conflicting messages right now are actually the same messages.  It's about support and setting personal boundaries.  When you have people that are treating you badly, it doesn't matter if it's a DIL or MIL, you can only decide what you will tolerate and what you will not.  It's impossible for us to not want to see our DC treated badly and impossible for us to not hurt for them, but they have to help themselves.  All we can do is set our own boundaries. 

Keys also said something that has rang true for most of us.  When our DS's came to us and vented, asked for advice or just talked to us about their relationship, we thought we were doing the right thing by listening, giving advice and "helping".  It backfired on me too, just like Key's.  Everything I said to DS went straight back to DIL.   I think he was doing it not to hurt me, or cause problems with her and I, but it was a defense mechanism on his part.  He was trying to rally against her wishes at times and probably simply stated, "I talked to Mom and she said that I needed to start telling you that I didn't want your Mother here everyday and telling me what to do."  I think he was doing it so he felt like someone agreed with him and instead of saying "I don't..." he probably said things starting with "Mom agrees...".    (And yes, that one happened to me, true story.  My advice when he was complaining about it was to have a talk with DIL and let her know it bothered him.)

So even though I trusted my DS and we had always shared everything about our lives with each other, it ended up causing me major problems when he was going back and repeating things to her.  Have you thought about if your DS is going back and repeating things?
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Dear Ginger, I would like to make a brief reply to your post.  I am usually on the 'Adult Children' Issue forums, as this is the biggest chunk of my suffering, but the other side to the coin is the MIL issue in my life, but as this relates to a marriage occuring late in life w/o any children to consider, it is not such a major issue but its still painful and one I relate to.   I am ashamed of many of the things that went down between my MIL and myself, but it is what it is and I am able now to be more compassionate to myself, and also to my MIL.   In the end though, it was all about my DS and the necessity for him to rise up and find healthy ways of coping with the situation. My mature age H was, and is, very enmeshed with his M.  I gradually grew to resent his relationship with her, and covertly treated her with contempt because I felt an odd and un-definable jealousy - it just felt like another woman was in my territory.  But at the same time I was intensely suffering with the estrangement from my own DS, and depression was gradually reducing me to a vegetable.  My MIL had no way of understanding what I was going through, and she was so microfocused on her DS that she only wanted his life to flow smoothly, whatever sacrifices she felt I had to make.  Eventually we (MIL and myself) became estranged and my DH carried on his relationship with his FOO w/o me.  This does hurt me at times, esp holidays, but I want H to be happy and keep relationship with his family.  I admit to you though, it took several years and a lot of suffering for it to reach this point.  I think it is possible that we could be reunited, but I have made the decision that the potential is still too strong for conflict to break out again as my MIL hasn't owned any of the responsibility for her part in the problem.  I don't have the strength for any more of this conflict.  I'm wasted from years of depression and stress from my DS.  ---All of us have multiple issues we are facing in our lives and those of us who are able to feel empathy and to give and take can grow through them, whether we are MIL or DIL, I love this forum because it just nurtures whoever comes for some nurturing and support, and even enlightenment.  This forum has helped me learn however that some personality disorders are so self absorbed that they are unable or unwilling to experience empathy and therefore can't be open to reason.  I don't think this means never, but it takes a lot of life experiences to rock this.  I hope you can find peace with this and step away.  Maybe your DS needs the growing pains to become much stronger in the long run and this is only a season in his life and yours, not the whole.  be at peace and know that you have not caused this conflict.


First thing - Did you guys know that Stay-At-Home-Moms (SAHM's) sometimes consider their "job" as being the Mom, not being the housekeeper?  That the 'mothering' is what takes up 7.5 hrs a day, just like a paying job, and that, just like a WOHM (work outside the home Mom), the housekeeping is considered shared chores, to be done AFTER regular working hours.  Ginger, maybe your DIL feels this way?  Seriously, I've even seen a SAHMom post "You don't clean toilets at your job do you?"  Eeek!  It's a different way of looking at the situation, that's for sure.

Second thing - A friend of mine once reminded me that sometimes, we see or hear about the fight between the couple, but we don't usually see or hear about the apology or the 'making up' part.  The way she put it was "On the next Oprah - Man Takes Wife Out For Nice Dinner".  That really stuck with me.

Unfortunately, your DS has negotiated his relationship with his wife.  He must be getting something out of it, or else he would change it or he would leave.  Sometimes it's easier to see, sometimes it's not.

Have you talked to your DS about ways that you can make things easier?  Like for me, more notice from the IL's *would* make things better, right off the bat.


I am learning from the postings here.  My dil also dislikes (hates?) us, won't let us into her house (even though ds does most of the cleaning anyway), interprets everything we do in the most negative way possible (I think she has an anti-mil/fil war belt filled with notches), and needs to be the center of attention at every gathering.  Princess.  Yes, that describes it perfectly.  DS exists to make enough money to satisfy her expensive needs, to clean and repair the house and to cook dinner for her (even though she gets home from work 1-2 hours earlier than he).

At least ds doesn't leave us out.  He calls us a handful of times each year (always when dil is out of town or he is not with her).  We are lucky that this year he started traveling more for his job, and so the calls are more frequent.  He has also found ways to be with us without her.  Usually this happens when we agree to meet in another city. 

Our gifts to dil are never good enough, and never acknowledged either.  We keep it up because ds expects it.  Once, when I asked ds what dil would like for a birthday present, ds suggested to me that a 400-euro designer purse would satisfy her.  She didn't get it, because designer bags are not in my budget.  His idea of a gift for her is a couple of days at one of the most expensive spas in europe.  Honestly, I don't know how he affords such gifts, because right now he is tearing out walls and doing the cleanup & repair after their basement filled with 1 meter of water in this year's spring rains.  He says he can't afford to hire someone to do it. 

I have learned not to discuss dil with ds.  I think that's one of the keys to keeping a relationship with him.  DH and I don't know what to hope for.  DS is a caretaker, and he dearly loves his little doll, the princess.  We want the marriage to succeed because he would be devastated if it failed.  Yet it's so hard to sit back and watch someone take advantage of his generous nature.


One mother told her adult, married son who was being controlled by his wife to "man up" and insist on not being bossed around..... now if I told my son that I'd not see him again! bc he is very protective of his wife.  So when she gets bossy and irritable, I say not a word and sometimes ds hears this and snaps back at her; so sometimes she sees she can go only so far in being "the boss."

I have just learned that although son isn't abused by wife, he is rather controlled, but that's something I can't get into..... it's their business.  (This isn't nearly as severe as some people's cases stated.)

I do wish ds would "man up" at times in regard to visits w us, etc., but she is quite controlling in this regard and this is not the old fashioned marriage like dh and I have; ds goes a lot further in pleasing his wife and if she is very unhappy in not seeing her FOO instead of us, then he will be unhappy.  (Like I said, opposite of my marriage!)  But there is nothing I can do about it but accept it.  Have already talked w ds and he gets it...... and they are trying to be more equal in visits.....

One thing that sons may realize, maybe subconsciously, is that in telling wife what's what, causing her a lot of unhappiness, if there are children involved, many times the husband will lose contact w his children to some extent; divorce, separation, wife going w children to live w parents...... my son once said, in regard to another couple, that divorce might be possible but if there were children....

So although he wasn't talking about himself, I knew he would step lightly in upsetting wife bc he loves wife and children and won't jeopardize that.

So a lot of things I have let go bc I don't want ds to lose children and dh and I don't want to be denied seeing them either.  So when I get upset over things, I keep saying to myself, "detach, detach, detach!"


Our experience --- and my advice to ginger --- is to back away and not expect anything.  Our relationship with our son improved as soon as he did not have to provide a buffer between his wife and his parents.  I am pretty sure that since dil doesn't have to think about us or interact with us, life is better for ds.

One benefit of backing away, not ever seeing dil, is that I no longer cry at night about her devastating treatment of us.


I think the above posters had some great advice and all I can add, from a DIL perspective, is this.

When I didn't get along with my in-laws, I behaved in the same way as your DIL. If DH's parents were coming to visit, they were HIS problem. Not mine. And vice versa for my family.

Today I've changed this somewhat. We share the responsbilities of entertaining both of our families in our home. However, this is because there is respect and love all around today. Years ago, there wasn't on his side, so our rule, as is the rule it seems in many homes today for young couples, that you tend to your family.

And I see nothing wrong with this if it works for them. Why SHOULD your DIL do the cleaning and preparing for her husbands family when they come to visit? I'm sure when HER family comes she does it for them, and her DH sits back and let's her. But when its his family, its only fair HE do the work. If that's what works for them, nothing wrong with that and I'm saying this in a not to be rude or insulting way but its no one's business but theirs. If he's not used to knowing basic things like - hey, your mom will need clean sheets, etc, then in fact, DIL is HELPING him to ensure your comfort, otherwise you'd end up in a messy room with no clean towels! I hope this makes sense.