First and foremost let’s just say there are some absolutely wonderful in-law relationships out there, and if you fall into that category, regardless of your age, then congratulations to you.
It’s not always easy.
If your relationship with your daughter-in-law (or your son-in-law for that matter) is a bit troublesome and you feel like you’re having to walk on eggshells every time the family gets together, tread carefully.
Do you remember that old Percy Sledge song ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’? One of the lyrics is “if she’s bad be can’t see it, she can do no wrong. Turn his back on his best friend if he put her down”. Even though you might not understand what your child sees in their partner, it’s their love and you need to respect it. Speaking ill of your daughter- or son-in-law to your child can have awful consequences.
“My son had been in a relationship with someone he knew his father and I would disapprove of. We tried to encourage him to see how manipulative and destructive this person was,” one Starts at 60 reader says. “When things came to a head, our son walked out of our lives; he cut off all contact with us. It was heart-breaking. It was almost a year before the relationship ended and our son came back to us. I’ve learned to celebrate the positives of my son’s partner.”
It’s also important that you don’t try and force a relationship with your daughter- or son-in-law.
“My daughter-in-law isn’t close to me. She and the children are always with her mother,” says a Starts at 60 reader.
If you in-law is close to their mother or father then it’s only natural they will turn to that person first. You need to respect that it takes time to build a relationship and if you become jealous it will only make things more complicated. (This also applies if your in-law is jealous of the relationship you have with your own child.)
By remaining warm and welcoming towards your in-law you can get to know each other better and over time the relationship can strengthen. If you live a distance apart, you should be inclusive of both your son/daughter and his/her partner in telephone conversations, emails or cards.
It’s okay to set boundaries too.
“My daughter-in-law would drop by unannounced and want to leave the grandkids with us, but it wasn’t always convenient and we started to feel like ‘hired help’.”
If you think you’re being taken advantage of you need to address the issue, but refrain from attacking your in-law and instead focus on how that behaviour makes you feel. Identify the problem and request your preferred solution.
Alternatively, if there are things your child and their partner are doing — say for example in the raising of their children — that you don’t agree with, try and be respectful towards them. If you are charged with looking after the grandchildren and you have been given clear boundaries, it’s best if you don’t disregard the message even if you think it’s harmless. Accept that you are the grandparent, not the parent.
There’s nothing to be gained from complaining to your son or daughter about their spouse or partner. If you’ve expressed your feelings, made your boundaries clear and asked for your child to help smooth the rocky path, but things are still a bit bumpy just go with the flow.