The dos and don’ts with daughters-in-law 204



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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.

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. 

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!


This writer has chosen to remain anonymous.

  1. On a Happy Note – I have had two Mother’s In Law — the first for 12 years – the second for 22 Years. They were the most amazing women I could ever have wished to have in my life – our live(s). I stayed firm friends with the first one – even when married to my second husband – and she continued being the wonderful supportive Nana and Mother In Law she had always been – totally accepting my new child from my next marriage. My second MIL – was warm – generous- loving- and very genuine. I miss them both dearly.

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  2. I did it tough as a daughter-in-law and, as a mother of 3 sons, I also vowed I would be kind and supportive friend to my daughters-in-law. I looked forward to sharing many lovely “girls times” – experience has taught me, life doesn’t always turn out as one wishes.

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    • I agree with you Charmian i think it is so much harder for Mothers of sons I found its easier to agree and try not to rock the boat but I have had some wonderful times with both my mother in law and daughters in law

    • That’s so lovely to hear Annette. Some of my friends also have lovely relationships with theirs. I guess it’s something about me that needs addressing.

    • I thought that also about myself Charmian. I am doing something wrong that I didn’t know I was doing. I don’t know what to do. Thought I was not interfering.

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      • You probably aren’t doing anything wrong at all. My Mum was much loved by three out of four of her children’s spouses. When our youngest brother married however, her family completely devoured him, and he was discouraged from making unnecessary contact with our parents from day. I remember once at a family wedding my brother walking over to greet Mum, who rarely saw him at the time. No sooner had they embraced when his mother-in-law appeared and ushered him away to walk her to her seat! I was stunned at how obvious she was. Poor Mum always wondered what she was doing wrong as well, but with two sons-in-law, and a daughter-in-law who got on really well with her, I suspect the problem was not her. I was blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law for over thirty years as well.

    • Yes I know but some women do not like to join another family I think it’s a jealously thing they also enjoy rubbishing their inlaws I really don’t have a solution for this problem

    • Chairman when I married my late Husband he was an only child I didn’t get on with his Mother as her son worked in a Bank and I was just a shop assistant I was never nasty towards her as I had issues with my own Mother but we had two Sons and have now two great Daughter in laws which are great both different in there own ways but vowed I would not go down the same road as I did with my Mother.

    • I had a great relationship with my daughter in law until our son let her down we tried to help where we could but in the end she sent me a very nasty email & vented all her bad feelings about our son on us so now i don’t see my granddaughter or my son

    • Annette my daughter in law has made it perfectly clear that our side of the family are irrelevant. When they first got engaged after a very short relationship,I suggested we do coffee and shopping, days out etc. the reply was “I don’t do shopping”. They were married in a registry office, that’s their business. When first grand child was born, my hubby and I were told “don’t touch”, yet that afternoon he was nursed by her sister (who I like), nieces, friends. When still in hospital was told didn’t want visitors for a week (to bond with grand son), my sons words were “It’s her idea mum, but I won’t know if her mum or sister visits while I’m at work”. The last remark made about me was to my daughter one day when they were talking about my grandchildren’s future, my DIL said “Oh I hope when the boys get married, that their mother in law is dead or lives a long way from them”. Oh and each year her family all holiday together, the latest was a trip to Phuket. Would you believe my grand sons have never had a sleepover with us? I’m pleasant to her, engage in conversation, don’t interfere, but it hurts so much.

  3. I am a mother in law to three lovely daughter in laws, taken time but after both sides finding our places we get on. I love them dearly and know they love me. I am always a phone call away when needed. I think once the new wife realises we as mothers are not a threat to them then we can all get on. Having said this I myself did not get on with my mother in law and decided I would go out and be the best mother in law I could.
    I do have my little say at times( can’t help it) thankfully they know me, I mean no harm they listen and still do what they want to…

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    • That sounds like a great relationship Brenda.

  4. I have had mothers in law and a daughter in law and found them to be among the most supportive and worthwhile people I have in my life – we are all people, good, bad and indifferent we are all doing our best.

  5. I had a lovely generous mother in law rip and a terrible former daughter in law, different dynamics with different women.

  6. I never had a mother-in-law but have two daughter-in-laws & love them to death, they are wonderful women & am proud to have them as part of our family.

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    • I only have one daughter-in-law who I love to bits. I know she is very fond of me too. Her parents love my son so both lots of parents are best friends. They ( son & family+ all in-laws) do live on the other side of the world to my husband and I so it is comforting to know he is surrounded by love in his new homeland.

  7. I was lucky, I had a great mother in law and I try my very best to be the example she led me, towards my daughters in law and son in law.

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