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Stuck in neutral

Started by Monroe, December 24, 2012, 09:14:42 am

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DH and I have backed off and backed off from DIL for several years now.  We have good relationship with DS - but he chose for his life partner a woman who has had zero interest in his parents since long before they were even engaged.  We tried and tried, but a couple of years ago simply accepted the status (refer to Serenity Prayer, everyone) - and moved on with our lives with people who value us and their relationships with us.  We remained civil to DIL - and never uttered a word of criticism about her to DS.  From all appearances, they seem to be happily married, and we do want DS to be happy.  So we kept our mouths shut. 

We have become very comfortable with this structure.  Good relationship with DS, non-relationship with DIL.  DS and DIL appear to be quite happy together.  And we get our fair share of family time on holidays - so no issues there.

We bend over backwards to not put DS in middle - therefore we NEVER criticize DIL.  Ever. 

So I'm totally comfortable with this.  Frankly, I kind of like it.  Not having to make an effort towards someone who has made clear her disinterest in us. 

So what's the problem?   Now, after all this WWU therapy, after memorizing and reciting daily the Serenity Prayer, after LIKING the set-up of not having to pretend to care for a woman who set the tone of the relationship nearly a decade ago - now guess what?   DIL is trying to cozy up to me. 

I'm not elated.  I'm not thrilled.  I dialed back to lukewarm long, long, ago.  I am civil.  I don't think I am capable of more than that.  So what do I do? 

I'd like to keep it the way it has been the last few years - I've grown comfortable with that.  Would like advice of what to do.  Help, ladies.  And Merry Christmas.


If you like it the way it is and have worked very hard to support the status quo and she wants to cozy up...any resistance may be seen as rejection and break down what you have worked so hard to create. It's a tough call because she is still running the show. It seems to me, you may have to play it her way even though you distrust it...(for good reason.) Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Monroe, I don't know what I'd do if my DIL suddenly cozied up to me. I'm in a similar situation to yours and have adjusted and come to appreciate "lukewarm." I wonder what's going on? Luise has a point that you may find yourself losing what you've got if you resist her overtures, but I totally understand your reluctance to do so.

Merry Christmas to you too :)
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


Wow, how funny that your post appears just at this time for me to see.  I plan to post about this separately in a bit, but I am in exactly the same place you are as far as DIL goes!  I too have gotten quite comfortable with the zero relationship with her, especially now that my DS is wanting a relationship with his family again.  Suddenly out of the blue yesterday with NO warning or plans, DS and DIL come to my home for a few hours on a Christmas Eve.  I almost fainted from sheer shock.  I understand how you feel about not really wanting a relationship now with your DIL, I feel the same way!  I refuse to spend my time walking on eggshells or wondering what crud she will be saying hatefully about us etc.  It was easier having a non relationship!  It is a dilemma, and I hope the very wise women here can offer suggestions on perhaps what we could do, or not do etc.  I can't answer it, but wanted to let you know there are others facing the same issues.  J


Hello friends.  Thank you for your replies.  I agree with Luise that DIL is running the show  I also agree that any resistance from me would backfire on me, and I have to be careful.  I don't distrust DIL.  I'm just genuinely disinterested after all these years. 

I don't believe DIL has any nefarious purpose.  Pen and JaneF, your DILs are much more difficult than mine.  Your DILs have said and done genuinely hateful things to you - mine has not.  She is good to my DS - and I am glad for that.  She just hasn't given a rat's rear end about my DH or me.   

I am still wearing beige and keeping my mouth shut.  That was the protocol for the wedding, and I never shifted gears after the wedding.  Thank goodness. 

Years ago, I was a bit hurt that our efforts at friendliness were rebuffed.  That hurt is long gone, and we moved on.  Now she is trying to be friendly.  I don't suspect any ulterior motive.  I suspect maybe the more we backed off, the more she could look only to herself for the status of the relationship with us. 

I suspect she finally realized that we are not in competition for DS.  He is hers.  We are not going to intrude into their business - we will not tell them how to run their lives.  They are responsible adults, and we treat them as adults. 

Luise and Pen, you are correct that I am at risk if I resist her overtures.  I think I have to try to respond to her new warmth.  I can even credit this new warmth as genuine, not phony.  It's just that after all these years I am sincerely disinterested.  But I love my son.  I don't want to cause any problems for him.  Which is why I said nothing all these years, and why I will try to warm up to DIL.  I will try.  I am SUCH a LOUSY actress, though. 


Maybe back when you tried and tried to be friendly to DIL, she perceived you as overbearing and that's why she kept her distance.  Or maybe she's the type that it takes a decade or two to get into her inner circle.  You've got to ask yourself how disrupting accepting her "cosying up" will be.  Will she want you two to have lunch two or three times a week?  Are you supposed to go on MIL/DIL weekends together?  Maybe if you give her cosying up a try, you'll develop the type of relationship you wanted at the start.  Good luck with the new thing working out. 

Merry Christmas everyone!


I'm thinking maybe she finally just grew up and decided to treat her elders with respect.  Now that would be a nice thing.

Good luck to you and best wishes in the new year.


Thanks, Didi..  I think you're right on the money.  Now I just have to truly look past her youthful immaturity and find value in her.  I'll start with the fact she appears to make my son happy. 


Quote from: herbalescapes on December 25, 2012, 10:19:01 am
Maybe back when you tried and tried to be friendly to DIL, she perceived you as overbearing and that's why she kept her distance.  .  .  .  .  .   Maybe if you give her cosying up a try, you'll develop the type of relationship you wanted at the start. 

Herbal - DH and I have been respectful of the young couple's privacy and boundaries ALWAYS.  Refer to my "wear beige and keep mouth shut" style, which is the antithesis of "overbearing".  There is absolutely nothing in any of my posts that could lead anyone to think we had been overbearing.  Except you. 

And my point is that I no longer want the type of relationship I was naturally open to at the beginning, many years ago. 

But I will continue to wear beige, keep my mouth shut, and work on being receptive to whatever style interaction (or lack thereof) DIL wants. 


I was going to say the same thing Monroe.  Maybe she has just matured and grown up some?  I understand your wanting things to remain as they are, since they work for you but maybe just be cautious and see where she is going with it?  Maybe not really changing the way you approach her, but trying to be accepting if she approaches you first?

Just thinking out loud here....
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Monroe - can you look at it as a long-time acquaintance stepping up a level into the 'friendship' category?  Or maybe you can think of your DS as having a 'new' wife, one you might like to get to know.

I agree that you don't have to be best friends this late in the game, but acknowledging her renewed efforts with a matched level of effort is what's required here.

What is she doing to cozy up to you?


Monroe, your DIL may have realised. at long last, what good people you and your DH really are. Your DS may have wished she would be more friendly towards you.
I would suggest a wait and see approach.
You may be able to work out a way that will suit you and your DH. This will delight your DS. I am sure. It is entirely possible she has grown up a lot in the past 10 years.
For your DS's sake I think it would be wise to accept her overtures of friendship.
No need for cozy get togethers, just a nicer atmosphere when DS and DIL visit.
I wish you well.


Thank you, ladies.  You make many good points.

Pooh - as usual, I find myself agreeing with you.  She probably has grown up some - and I do need to be accepting.  Hard job for me.

Faith, your comment is along the same lines, and I agree that it will please DS if he sees a connection rather than a chasm in our relationship with his wife.  For all we know, he has been working on her the last couple of years to be less aloof and cold. 

It's just hard after a number of years to care about a woman who has given us the cold shoulder all that time.  I'll go through the motions, but I don't think I can ever really, really care about her like I could have in the beginning. 

Perhaps there is a lesson here - that a person can't push others away, rejecting friendship, and then on a whim, want to cozy up to those very people she has rejected and think those people will be responsive.  This is not just a DIL who can't be cold, then snap her fingers and have her husband's family respond and be loving.  It goes for anyone - a person can't be frosty to the neighbors and then think they want to come to her pot-luck supper.  A person can't be mean at work, then think he can be pleasant for a day and the co-workers will like him, after all.  A MIL can't be rude to a DIL then change course and think the DIL will be warm and loving.  I don't think it is realistic for my DIL to expect anything but distance and aloofness from us.  She set the tone.  Remember Rhett Butler's line in Gone with the Wind?   "Frankly my dear, I don't give a darn."


I think it's possible to be polite & accepting while keeping something back for yourself. My DIL flips back & forth from being distant and critical to being friendly and more a part of our family. Because we've been shunned & treated pretty badly by her in the past, I can't completely warm up to her or trust her, but for my DS's sake & the sake of our relationship I am polite, welcoming and accepting. However, I no longer share my deepest thoughts or memories of raising DS & DD, etc. I don't mention my friends, my interests, my hopes & dreams. I keep it in the moment & very shallow.

This state of affairs makes me sad sometimes because I miss the big, rollicking discussions our family used to have. One of these days perhaps I'll enjoy them again, but as long as DIL seems happier w/the shallow discussions we have now, this is how it will be. I want to maintain a relationship w/DS, so it's OK for now.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


I totally agree Monroe.  When someone has been cold and hurtful to me, I don't ever really want to have anything to do with them.  Once they have broken my trust, it would take years and complete effort on their part to try and earn it back.  I get that because I'm that way too.  Plus, once you have burned me repeatedly, I do learn to stay comfortably back from the fire.

I also do believe people can change, if they want to.  It may not happen often, but I have seen it personally.  It's usually with those that start growing up and gaining maturity.  IMO, people that truly want to change or start viewing life differently which results in changes, can only do so once they have admitted their faults.  They may not admit it to people, but they have to admit it to themselves.

I don't think change happens overnight and I require proof via longevity.  Has your DIL changed?  Who knows.  It could be an act or it could be legit.  The only way for you to find out is by stepping cautiously and letting her prove herself.  You have nothing to prove, she does.  If you can be civil and not aloof, if she's trying, it may continue.  If it doesn't continue, at least you gave her a chance and it's right back in her lap again. 
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell