Author Topic: Power Struggles with DILs  (Read 9425 times)

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justdontunderstand

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Power Struggles with DILs
« on: June 04, 2010, 09:09:34 AM »
I am new here but I found this site in hopes of finding help for a DIL problem. My son is a newlywed (less than a year). He has not lived at home in over 12 years. We do not know his wife well and they live 1000 miles from us. We do not call our son often nor do we demand visits or anything like that. We supported his marriage and wedding both financially and emotionally. We told his wife we were happy to have her as a DIL. We have done everything we know to do to develop a good relationship yet she persists in being distant and cold.  We have not seen our son in nearly 10 months. Yet we are considered "meddlesome" by his new wife. She seems to us to be engaged in what she sees as a power struggle for his attention---all of his attention. Prior to him meeting, dating and marrying her....we had a good relationship with our son. Now it seems our son is drifting further and further away as he tries to please her need to disassociate from his family.  What gives? I just don't understand. Now my heart is not nearly as open as it once was towards our DIL. I suppose I am trying to protect myself from further hurt and rejection. Is there anyone out there with similar issues? There is no open warfare---no name calling---nothing but stoney silence in our relationship (or lack of relationship) with our DIL.  :(

Offline luise.volta

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2010, 11:10:59 AM »
Welcome! Many here struggle with what you have described. We can't change our DILs or our DS's choice. That leaves us trying to accept "what is." Our DSs get caught in the middle and usually back our DILs to keep the peace.
As a result, on many different levels we are all trying to move on when we never dreamed we would ever have to. Most of us started out open-hearted and supportive only to find out that it isn't about us...not really.

Over the last year, we have also seen graphic evidence of the other side of the coin...a loving DIL and a possessive and neurotic MIL. None of it works...when one person is out of balance...so it the relationship or lack thereof.

We share pain here and we look for solutions. We support each other and believe it or not we often heal without seeing much change in the dynamics that are beyond our control. Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Sassy

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2010, 11:21:45 AM »
Welcome and while it's always "sorry you have to be here" this really is a great place for support, nurturing and understanding.

I am a DIL and your phrase "power struggle" also partly explains what I am also experiencing.  With my MIL it's of the the financial and family alliance variety. (DH used to pay a lot of her bills.  When he started saving for our future, and our assets became combined, she did not accept that he would not continue to pay off her department store charges.  DH's Grandmother and Aunt have been used to deliver her messages of displeasure, which in turn affects our relationship with them.  If we pay her bills, she'll be willing to be kind to us, and so will they.  The great stand-off. )  Yet I understand how distance and silence and coldness can often feel worse than a direct attack.  Because you don't know what you're dealing with, or if there is an unsaid solution that they're waiting for you to "guess" and implement. 

I know exactly what you mean about wanting love and feeling you should to keep your heart open for it, yet having to close off parts to protect yourself.

I realize it's been mostly stony silence, but did your son or DIL tell you DIL felt you were "meddlesome"?  Was it during the time of the wedding planning, or after the marriage?
Generally speaking, I think that attempting to maintain postive communication with your son, even if it's mostly one sided and superficial, and not discussing his wife at all with him, is a safe course of action.   Keeping on the right side of that fine line between interested and nosy,  attentive and pressuring, can be tricky, but only you can determine if it's worth continuing to navigate.  Sometimes, you may need to take a break.  And maybe the echo of silence will reach your son's ears and prompt him to fill it a bit.  Although letting him miss you (hoping he'll miss you) can be a gamble.  For me, managing what could be my own future regret is why I work to keep my door open, despite having other's doors shut in my face.

justus

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2010, 02:02:21 PM »
I have a problem with the term "power struggles". Really, you have no power in this situation, so there isn't actually a struggle for power going on. You are struggling to keep the same level of closeness and attention that you once had from your son and it just isn't going to to happen.  At this point it is a waiting game. This is the letting go part us parents of adult children find so hard to do. If we let go completely will they fly back to us? You never know, but for our child's sake, and for our own, we have to let go. Either way, your relationship with him was going to change once he got married no matter who he married. It is inevitable.   

They are going through the process of becoming a married couple and it isn't always easy going. If she is at all insecure, or if he has given her good reason to be insecure, any outside loyalty could be threatening to her and that may be what is going on. This may have absolutely nothing to do with you, yet. But, if you actually make it into a power struggle, it will become about you. As I said, it is a waiting game, one that requires large amounts of love and patience. Remember, they are just kids finding their way and are still defining themselves as adults.

DH reminds me of this all the time when it comes to my step-daughter and her H, and I remind him of this when it comes to GD. I have to tell him often that our parents didn't give us the room to mess up our children and their interference meant our kids were messed up in lots and lots of different ways we never would have come up with alone. Now it is SD and SIL's turn to mess up their kid.

My own son never calls me. Because of my Mom's helpfulness (read undermining us as parents) he has so many loyalty issues regarding her, me and his Dad (my xH). It would be easy to be hurt by the attention my M gets and that I don't get, but I know it isn't about me, but about her, her manipulation, and him allowing her to manipulate him. I know he loves me and I don't need him to show me constantly, so he enjoys talking to me when I call. I also know that I don't want to be my M, I want him to want to be around me because he WANTS to, not because he was guilted into it. Given Mom's jealous nature, I figure I will be golden when he does get married and Mom pulls her normal stuff. I love him no matter what, and I make sure he knows that. I am making all the effort right now and that is OK.  It is what he needs from me right now.

What does your son need from you right now? I would bet he needs you to back off a bit and to give him some space. He is negotiating some tough waters right now and the last thing he needs from you is to throw in some guilt and loyalty issues. He knows you love him, you know you love him. Let him figure this out and let go of the expectation that he is going to see you at the same rate he did before.  I know it is hard not to take it personally, but it probably isn't personal. You just aren't the priority you were before and that is natural with newlyweds. The minute you take it personal, you bring hurt feelings into and, well, it is hard to recover from that.  This is the time to take the high road.

Offline luise.volta

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2010, 02:37:02 PM »
Very well put. Simple but not easy. We get stuck (at least I do) in how I want things to be instead of having them be how they are. And I want to vote on change. Sending love...
'
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Offline Pen

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2010, 06:21:58 PM »
I may be coming from a MIL POV, but I think 10 months without seeing DS is more than enough "space." There's something else going on here.

Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Offline luise.volta

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2010, 06:30:13 PM »
Any ideas?
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

DDM

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2010, 10:47:00 AM »
Newly weds, 1,000 miles away. They are probably busy settling in and saving money.

WherehasTimothygone

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2010, 05:58:06 PM »
I may be coming from a MIL POV, but I think 10 months without seeing DS is more than enough "space." There's something else going on here.

I have not seen my son since April 2009.
He has not seen his father since Dec. 25, 2008!
You are not alone.

donewithdrama

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2010, 07:29:43 PM »
justdontunderstand,

There has to be something you are either missing or not admitting to yourself and us. My MIL created a power struggle once DH and I got engaged and she felt like she was losing her power over him. You need to think very hard about whether you are making trouble where there is none before you ruin the possibility of a good loving relationship with your son and dil. Sons are SUPPOSED to get married and focus on being husbands and building a life with their wives.

Offline luise.volta

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2010, 07:45:09 PM »
For me, and it may not apply to anyone else here, I tripped over my expectations. I had a picture and I thought they would mold their lives that way because to me it was the "only" picture. I just didn't get that they would do what they did when they started a separate family unit and started making their own rules. Now, I get it. My surviving son lives in Hawaii...they like the sunshine. I live in Washington State...I like the rain.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Offline Pen

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2010, 10:29:26 PM »
JDU, I feel your pain. Many of us have done everything "right" such as giving space, not giving advice, helping when asked and leaving alone when not, etc. etc. only to be cut off as if we were monsters-in-law. Luise coined the phrase "cutting him from the herd." I wonder if this is what you're facing? There are many MILs here who've dealt with similar situations - some say "move on," some say "don't ever give up" and there are many more schools of thought on this. I hope you find something that works for you! Take care - we're here for you.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Offline Pooh

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2010, 07:12:57 AM »
JDU, welcome.  Just like the other ladies have stated, there are many of us here with the same problem when it comes to sons.  You have already received great insights from the others and I agree with them.  I have had to learn that the close relationship that I shared with my son, just isn't in the cards right now for us.  I think what many of us share is the "head-scratching" scenario that seems to present itself when our Son's marry.  I think we all understand that their wife is now their priority, but have a difficult time comprehending why the DIL can maintain a close relationship with her Mother and family but we can not do the same with the DS. 

Now, that is just my personal experience with my own and some of the others here.  Not all DILS.  Alot of them are very good at maintaining both and have close relationships with both.  I do see a recurring pattern here with the MILs that are having this issue.  It seems that our sons married a female that was either very controlling, insecure or both. 

And as far as donewithdrama goes, she is the DIL we all keep trying to adopt and trade for.  She has the opposite problem with a controlling and insecure MIL.  (Still waiting for my Fed-Ex box DWD with you in it!)
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

Offline Pen

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2010, 08:38:04 AM »
It's so important to think before we speak to DS & DIL when we feel rejected or cut off. When we're in the midst of a big bout of anger or self-pity we can say things that will never be forgotten and are impossible to take back. Scream into a pillow, rant in a journal, post here, or talk to someone who understands and who you are certain beyond a doubt will honor a code of silence (you never know how your words will wind their way back to DS & DIL, but it can happen.)

Do not succumb to the temptation to discuss these issues with DS & DIL while you are still emotional! I figured this out after reading many posts here and making a couple of blunders of my own. Now when I feel tension regarding DIL I tread lightly around her. It seems to reassure both DIL & DS that I'm not going to use emotions to try to control them. DS said a couple of weeks ago after some big life-altering plans had been made that DIL was beginning to see how controlling her own parents were, and she appreciated our hands-off style and acceptance of their adult decision-making abilities.

This doesn't mean that DIL totally accepts us and wants to be around us more - she's still critical, rude, standoffish & rejecting. I still wish we could have a big, happy family. However, she grudgingly lets DS visit (usually with her, but occasionally he comes alone) and has agreed to attend an upcoming family reunion. Last year I was certain this would never happen!

Take care.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Offline Pooh

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Re: Power Struggles with DILs
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2010, 09:55:16 AM »
So glad to hear that Pen!  Sounds like progress, maybe small, but progress! Yay!
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell