The dos and don'ts with daughters-in-law

I never even gave it thought that there might be rules when there came to daughter-in-laws. Having been a daughter-in-law through three different marriages, I have experienced the worst of mothers-in-law, and swore that I would never turn out like any one of those. I have tried to be interested and helpful, but only when a recent incident evolved, did I look at the research on daughters-in-law, and I discovered a set of rules that applied. Usually, it’s power struggles and jealousy about the son/husband’s relationship with his mother… and of course daughter/father relationship….and it is all about control and competition.

I had a mother-in-law who did not like my marriage to her son and decided to put in every effort to break up my marriage. If we went to visit she had numerous girls lined up to meet him or she would throw a party and have her daughter bring all her friends along and target my husband. She even went to the trouble of putting me at a rear table at her daughter’s wedding function while my husband sat in the wedding party at the main table. If you saw the movie “Mother in Law” she was 10 times worse. Eight years I put up with her disruption to my marriage, and when finally she got a new husband and had new priorities, she left us alone.

The mother-in-law can also cause a lot of disruption to a marriage. You wonder why you are being dragged along to dinner every weekend when you end up doing all the dishes, even when you are eight months pregnant. Everybody else sits down and enjoys the evening, and you are made to feel you were there as the domestic help. When you visit they only seem to be interested in what he is doing…you become the apparition in the background. Then they want to examine the plans to your house and choose and advise on your house designs. I think I remember telling my husband that he could live in the house with his mother if she made any more decisions for us.

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It is however not always the mother-in-law at fault  A daughter-in-law can be very jealous of the relationship between her husband and his mother. Some are so jealous of the closeness of the parent and child, they cannot deal with it in an appropriate way. Jealousy destroys lives and relationships. Let’s all face it, no matter how good a parent is or isn’t, these types of daughter in laws can be lethal to any relationship their spouse might have had with their parent. Some are so insecure, they make sure the parent is no longer in the picture – why not just burn us at the stake?

Other daughters-in-law may be wary of letting Grandma connect with the grandchildren and Grandma certainly doesn’t help curb resentment if she refuses to follow Mummy’s parenting rules. It is a little like learning to win friends and influence people. You need to be friendly and welcoming as your new daughter in law may be very nervous. You should not really be discussing your son’s wife with him or discussing him with your son’s wife. If you are going to be difficult, critical or complain about her, do not talk about it to either of them.

So what can you do to improve the situation? 

  • You can find out what your daughter-in-law likes and dislikes, and do not cross her on her rules or choices. This can also apply to sons-in-law!
  • You need to apply this to the grandchildren as well making sure you have her permission to do something not just your sons permission. 
  • Allow time for you to get to know your daughter in law accepting that you may not get along and she may be taking to others about you. 
  • Do not talk to other family members about your sons wife. 
  • And do not expect them to do things your way. 
  • Ring and book a time to visit, just do not arrive on the doorstep.
  • Take and interest and do not overstay your welcome.
  • Remember: they have a new life now. 
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We have discovered the potential for conflict is especially probable when the mother is too attached to her son or the son’s wife is nervous about marriage or parenting.

So have you found any tensions appearing on the surface of your relationship? Have you been arriving on the doorstep unexpected or do you book an appointment?

What sort of mother in law do you think you are? Are you so lonely with an empty nest that you are following your kids around trying to make contact and connect with the grandchildren  Are you trying to get along with everyone and keep the peace? Are you abiding by the rules, or considered a trouble maker without even knowing? Tell us!