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Death of a Mother in Law

Started by Prissy, May 11, 2009, 07:08:38 pm

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May 11, 2009, 07:08:38 pm Last Edit: September 22, 2009, 08:02:27 am by luise.volta
Stage One

This first stage should be called, laying the groundwork. You think everything is fine and you are completely unaware that the ultimate goal of the DIL is to separate your son from his family and friends. After all, brainwashing takes time and your son has to be convinced that he had the worst parents and upbringing in the world. She will start by tell him that his sister or brother was really the favorite in the family. She will make him think that he was picked on or didn’t have what his friends had. At this point, anything that your son brings up is used as a weapon to convince him of the terrible family he has.

Stage Two

You will start to see less of your son. The DIL will not let him out of her sight and will follow his every move. If he had friends, he doesn’t now. The only friends he has now are her friends. He is now seeing her family more than he sees his and if you call him, you are calling too much, and if you don’t, you don’t care or are not interested in whatever it is that they are doing. At this stage, you may start to see some anger toward you from your DIL. Your son doesn’t speak up to defend you because he now is starting to see things through her eyes. Maybe she is right and you, the son’s parents, really are bad.

Stage Three

This is where you are confronted with the issue; it’s the all out, knock down fight, or the call in the middle of the night telling you how bad you are. She has finally convinced your son that you are no good and you hate her. Even though you have done everything you can think of to get on her good side nothing you do is right. You know her likes and dislikes, yet you continue to do things that she doesn’t like. At this stage, you are walking on eggshells and anything you do is criticized.

Stage Four

You feel like you’re the worst parents in the world. She has finally convinced you that you are the problem. You feel so bad and the guilt is overwhelming. You are probably grandparents at this stage and not only has your DIL alienated your son from you, you are starting to see the same thing happening with your grandchildren. By this time, if your son had siblings, they and their families are no longer speaking to your son and DIL. Or, in some cases, the sons are driven so far apart by jealous DIL's that they are no longer brothers in the same sense. You are just hanging on because you really want to be a part of your grandchildren’s lives.

Stage Five

Your DIL has finally convinced your son that they need to move. She may use the excuse that jobs or schools are better in the new location. Her ultimate goal to have your son all to herself has almost been realized and she is just waiting to deliver the final blow. Any and everything you do or don’t do will be use as ammunition to deliver the deathblow, i.e. complete separation.

If you have a DIL, please know that you are not alone and it is not your fault. It has taken a long time and we are still not over the pain. Reconciliation is probably not an option if you have gone through all five stages. You may have even gone through Stage Three a number of times at this point. I suppose that some type of family counseling may help. If anyone has gone through this type of problem and has sought counseling, I would love to hear the outcome.


I have seen those exact dynamics at play more than once. How painful to be the target of another person's insecurity. There doesn't appear to be any logic, no place for negotiation...no defense. To be systematically discredited must be totally demoralizing. 

I have also seen MILs who similarly set out to discredit and estrange loving DILs with the express purpose of ending the marriage and "retrieving" their sons.

Wherever there is a pathological need for supremacy, tragedy seems likely follow.

Who has seen successful intervention? How did that work? Did it last? 
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


My thanks and gratitude to Luise for caring and for opening this forum to heart broken MILs. You are such a blessing. There really are no words to express the deep sorrow of a mother's heart when a beloved son is lost to a painfully insecure and/or controlling DIL.

I was buried in soul-searching guilt and felt very much alone until I googled the simple yet not so uncommon phrase, "My son hates me". Yes it still hurts, but after 11 long years it's comforting to know I'm not hated alone.

As "hated" MILs unite in this safe little place, I hope we can find solace from our pain as we love and support one another. Mothering is hard work. Maybe it's time for the nurturers to be nurtured. (This "old rose" is tired.)  :'(

I was amazed when I read the stages you posted, Prissy. I last spoke to my 32 year old son over a year ago, just after my husband was diagnosed with advanced cancer. Weary of walking on Stage three egg shells, I tried one last time to relay a message to my son after my husband's 11 hour surgery. I emailed my DIL a second time to ask if she got the message to my son - I had asked that he please call as soon as he got it. Her 2nd reply, "Yes, I already told you he got the message." Not a word more when she had been emailing daily to ask for updates. (My son was working graveyard at a secure site, no cell phones.) A few days before the surgery, my son did call and we had the first heart to heart talk since he married and moved away. There was reconciliation in his voice, in his heart. I FELT it. After that 2nd email from DIL, I'm ashamed to admit that I threw all of those egg shells (years worth of her nasty words) at her and said "No More"! She of course fired right back, then slammed the door tight. She closed her email address. I was at that point exhausted and still in shock. My husband's cancer turned my already topsy world upside down - but I should have held my tongue. After the email exchange, I left a message on my son's phone and told him I was sorry about having to draw a long overdue line between DIL and I. He knew she and I had problems - he used to call after she'd sent one of her ugly emails and say, "I'm sorry she was mean again, mom". I always said "It's okay, I understand and I love her very much." ...egg shells. If only I had walked on them awhile longer. I haven't heard my son's voice since before my husband's surgery. I'm so afraid I'll never hear it again.

Mother's Day came and went silently. I spent the day in my sewing room crying. His birthday is coming up. I have a beautiful, simple card I want to tuck a little money in and send just to say "I Love You and I remember today". Should I send it? I just don't know what to do. Losing my son, the fear I have of losing my husband is too much to bear.


To Rose: I would send the card. Not with any fixed hopes but with endless love. You are carrying so much on your shoulders. My heart goes out to you. We aren't always wise. We stumble and fall. We react and fight back. Then we look back at our humanness and see what transpired as a result...and we can't go back and fix it. No one should have to attempt perfection. It's unattainable. Forgiveness is needed and it's sorely lacking. 

When my eldest son died I got a horrible letter nine days later from my DIL regarding how evil I was. That was nine years ago and I still occasionally run the "If only" tape. If only I hadn't responded. If only I had stepped back and let her bombard me in her grief (with no sensitivity at all from her for my grief.) If only I had been calm and able to rise above it.

We do our best. Sometimes it's exemplary and sometimes it's not. It's still our best.

Blessings, Luise
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Dear Old Rose,

I wish I could say or do something to help ease the pain you have in your heart...but I want you to know I am filled with gratitutde and admiration that you would share this to help others like me cope. I have been the "Evil" MIL ever since my sons marriage eight yrs ago and have gone through all of Prissy's "stages" and have been searching for someone who would understand (without having to pay $100./hr)! I'm not sure how we learn to live with this yet but my guess is after finding you and this website...that writing and sharing is closer to anything out there. Please keep writing and know there are others who share the same pain.  millie


Hi Everyone and Welcome Millie,

Nice to connect with you again.  :) I was thinking as I read your post how it feels to be understood. To be heard is absolutely necessary for most of us...and to be "known" through deep understanding, respect and shared experience is priceless.

When Prissy first wrote, she asked if anyone had tried counseling. I just wanted to comment here that it seems to me that we would need to have all parties concerned willing to work through the issues at hand for that to work. Change is possible in that venue but what we are up against usually isn't that malleable. For that reason, counseling often is about acceptance rather than resolution because those who need it most, don't see the need for it.

For me, having it (whatever "it" is) be how it is often stops me in my tracks. All of my energy seems to go into wanting things to be different. I have just been stopped that way by the death of my best friend on Thursday. I will post about that under another heading...but it seems to me that it's the same basic problem. Until the people who have turned on us and who have successfully rationalized their behavior to themselves and others, (thus making resolution impossible,) have a change of heart...it seems like there has been a death of sorts of the relationship itself. Luise
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


I was shocked when I read the stages -I have two daughters in law -and one is a dream - I love her like my daughter - the other is typical of the described DILs -She has completed all the stages, and is now looking for a home in another state.  She did the huge blow up on Christmas morning in my home - yelling, screaming at me that I am a b..... -I had planned an amazing Christmas, including the arrival ofSanta Claus, I gave their daughter a birthday party -worked my fanny off - and she started yelling at me on Christmas morning - ruined the Christmas for everybody, and my son said nothing -

He is a battered husband, and she rules the roost.  It is bizarre because in order to keep peace, and have open dialogue with my son, I met them in a park several months later, and she was supposed to apologize - I said "What can I possibly do to avoid this ever happening again" and she flat told me that it was all my fault - there was no apology.

I walk on eggs -as many of the other MILs - I avoid them -although I loe my son and his daughter - but if they move, we will probably never see them.

this was amazing to read - Patti


Welcome, Patti. I, too, have had both kinds of daughter in laws. How confusing! When you get a chance, I'd like you to read my story about my own mother in law under the Stories thread. What a gal!  ;D
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Well I've read some of the posts here and I feel for those who have to deal with a woman who is so "cruel" to you.

I wanted to ask a question to the MILs.  What are you expecting/want from your son's wife?  Why do you expect/want this from her? 

I'm very curious because I do not get along with my fiance's mother and I can't figure out how to get this woman to respect me as I would her, not as a mother, but as an adult that I respect.


This all began over when my fiance and I told her I was pregnant and she asked me if I tried to get pregnant to trap her son.  From that point on things went down hill.  I haven't been perfect and I know that my actions and reactions to her havne't been the best.

When I met my fiance's mother, I was going through a hard time with my own mom and my FH mother has tried to be my mother ever since.  She does things like ask my if I want something done or if I need her help.  I would tell her no and she would do it anyway (after my fiance ok'd it).  My fiance has since stopped allowing his mother to do things after I say no. She is very clingy with my children.  She acts exactly how she did with my fiance when he was a child, like she the mother.  She has to go to their school 3-4 times a week and has tried to sign permission slips for field trips, and she tells my children what they will be doing without talking to us. 

I know some of these things are silly but they do bother me.  She tries to give me advice and she feels like I should tell her whats going on in my life.  She thinks we should be friends.  I haven't spoken to her in about a year because my fiance and I seperated last year and I would call her just because at that point I had made a conscious effort to get closer to her.  I helped with her suprise b-day party, took her shopping and other things.  We broke up a few weeks after her b-day.  Well after a couple weeks of talking to my FH mother, I got the feeling she was almost happy we weren't together anymore so I stopped calling her.  She started saying I hated her because I stopped calling her and I was going to take the kids from her.  I have never stopped her from seeing my children even when her son and I were arguing. But I have said some harsh things to my fiance and he would tell her what I said to him so she would assume I was saying it to her and then yell at me.  Well I snapped,  I was tired of her saying that I would take the kids away from her.  Last summer, I had my mother watching my kids while I worked and my FH mother wanted to take the kids over night.  I told her no and she once again went to her son and she laid a guilt trip on me.  Well I caved but then I realized I didn't have to cater to her. So when she came to get the kids I didn't answer my door (childish, I know but it was a sort of stand against her and her guilt trips.  She has done that many, many, many time before.)  SHe began beating at my door, and yelling through my windows and questioning my children through the window.  I told her to leave, I was tired of her getting her way and she called me pyscho.  I called her and gave a big piece of mind (this was my first time EVER yelling at her after 7 years of being with her son).  These were things I had been holding in for a long time.  In the midst of this she said I still think you were trying to trap my son and you see it didn't work.  That was it for me.  I haven't had any contact with her since.  No phone calls, no visits for any reason at all and it has been a calm year for me. 

My fiance and I are getting married in less than 6 months and I don't want to be her friend but just civil.  I don't know how to do this with her.  Maybe I'm exaggerating but I do want to be civil with her.

I understand the her tryng to welcome me into her family, but there comes a point when it starts to feeling like an intrusion.  I had to prove to my own mother I was capable of taking care of my self and that was by not asking her for help or advice until I had a handle on my life.  Now I ask my mom for advice on everything.  I just want my FH's mother to understand I have someone in my life who is my mother and I also have friends.  She is my FH mother and she did a GREAT job of raising her and she is a wonderful grandmother to my children.  How do I let her know understand she wants to help but tell her I'm capable and need her to respect me as she would want to be?


Dear Bride2Be:

I'm still new at this (discussion) due to the fact computers hate me...but I have to agree with Prissy....this woman sounds sad and yes desperate.  Please try to find away to set some boundaries and allow her to spend some time with the children.

As long as you can figure out what you will take and not take ahead of time she will eventually go along with what you want as long as your consistant and stick to your guns.

I can't understand how this MIL could be so cruel to you, you have really tried to befriend her and ingratiate yourself to her..if only I had been so lucky to be your MIL!


I've never stopped her from seeing the kids, even over that last year.  I haven't had any contact with her at all.  She still hovers over my children.  I haven't been the best to her simply because when she would push me for more time with her or to be close, I would push back and shut down.  I won't let her talk to me as if I'm her child.  How do I explain this to her?  How do I tell her I'm willing to be civil as long as she doesn't treat me like she would her child, or expect the same reaction her son might give her? 

I guess this all goes back to my original question, what do MILs expect/want from their son's wives?? Why do you expect/want this from her?


As my name suggests, I have lost one of my sons to a DIL that made him choose between us.  The stages listed at the beginning of this post are pretty accurate but I went from beginning to end within 4 months.  I never had a chance to get to know my DIL before the cut me out of their life and really don't think I did anything to deserve having to greive for my son for 2 1/2 years as well as never being allowed to know or even meet my only grandchild.

Bride2be - I love my my son very much and wish my DIL had tried even a portion of what you have tried, and I am sorry your efforts have not been appreciated.  Sounds like there are some boundary issues, and there are articles and books that deal with that and might be helpful.

I can tell you this, I wished my DIL had just made it clear what she wanted from me.  I may not have liked it, but I would have at least had the option to either accept it or not.  Believe me some contact with my son would have been much preferred over having him dead to me.



I have been reading this topic and it reminds me of myself sometimes. I still get stuck occasionally in thinking, or maybe it's feeling, that my son's issues are also mine. It's like I can't discern a boundary. ..maybe because from heart to heart there is none. That doesn't and shouldn't necessarily translate into no boundaries in the physical universe. He's a grown man, just as I'm a grown woman and we both  struggle with "life" at times because we are both still learning and growing. That's what life offers us. However, the mother in me sometimes wants to help when the last thing the grown man in him wants is mothering. And I have to admit that I have been known to bristle when he seems to think he knows what is best for me.

Each MIL is unique, as is each son and each DIL (and future DIL.) It sounds like you want your future MIL to be different that she is. I certainly would, too, but that's probably never going to happen. You probably can't tell her how you want her to be and expect much in the way of change. Some women get stuck in the authority that comes naturally and necessarily with raising children and refuse to give it up when it becomes obsolete and even intrusive. It's like it has become part of them, or something. When grandchildren come along, things can get worse instead of better.

What you can do is talk with your FH regarding the tales he has carried to her and the times he has vetoed you in her favor to see if you can get a better level of cooperation from him. It doesn't sound like there is a safe place in your relationship where you can say what you think and feel about his mom's obvious interference, (as in the school stuff), without his taking it to her. That is called triangulation and it will keep everyone stirred up in endless he said/she said brush fires that can never be put out.

Mutual respect between the two of you and a united front is something that could make a world of difference. It won't change his mother's concept that your business is her business, but it could bring you a more peaceful environment in which to decide how to live with a door between you and his mom that is not closed but is not open, either. Your home is understandably your domain. It it can be really complex that you are marrying someone that she feels still belongs to her domain in some way. Touchy stuff.

Your future MIL did a great job of raising your FH and it sounds like he's the guy for you and that you two are working out your issues and going forward.  Respecting his mom may continue to be difficult for you if she can't find it in her heart to respect you. It's very hard for most of us to give what we are denied.

For me, the single most difficult task in my 82 years has been and still is having people and situations be the way they are. They are not under my control...but how I react to them is. I give to family and friends (and situations), what I give...and then I am astounded and perplexed when they don't always give me the same thing back. I often get something back that I don't understand; that doesn't fit my expectations. Then, momentarily at least, I don't see my expectations as the issue. It is so much easier to see my family and friends as flawed. This doesn't always happen, I can see progress...but I have a long way to go. I get so tired of my own limitations.

It sounds like your future MIL wants you to be different than you are. At the same time, you want her to be different than she is. Can you step back and get what kind of am impasse that is? You may never get her to see that's the case but if one person pulls out of a conflict, it loses its energy.

Blessings, Luise
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


I appreciate everyone's comments and suggestions.  I feel bad for you Lostone.  I have never asked that my FH or my children didn't see his mother only that I didn't have to see her.

I do want to say this with all sincerity, MILs, sometimes your love, your time, your wisdom is unwanted by your DIL.  This DOES NOT mean you aren't respected for being the mother of the man we new brides choose to marry.  This DOES NOT mean that you are a hated or an unwanted person.  We young brides and mothers just want to create our own lives, become the women of our own home and create our own traditions.  You must have done something right if your son has a woman who is willing to stick by his side, he must be worth sticking too.  We only want to be respected and acknowledged also, but not as the woman who is "stealing" or "taking" your son away from you.  Most of the time we don't understand those feelings because we feel like we're being persecuted for loving your son and wanting to create a life outside of our original families with him. Always remember you have a special part in his heart as the woman who raised him, loved him unconditionally and still cherishes him and that place can never be taken.  Also remember we don't want to "take" him from you, we just love him differently than you do and it requires a different dynamic to be formed between you and your son.

Thank Ladies!!!