What I learnt about daughters-in-law

I never thought that there might be rules when it came to daughter-in-laws. I’ve been a daughter-in-law through three different marriages, I

I never thought that there might be rules when it came to daughter-in-laws. I’ve 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!

Originally published here

  1. My daughter in law is one in a million. Lovely girl who can have her moments but then we all have our moments, probably has a word to say went I’m not there but then again so do I. The tell is going to be over the next 18 months or so when they are living with me ( two lively young school aged kids). If we all survive then we can survive anything.

  2. We had ours live with us for 3 months with 3 children . Started off okay then she was so lazy and did no housework and did not look after the children.I had broken my ankle and put into a wheelchair..but managed to feed the children breakfast before she emerged late from the bedroom saying they were now late and had to hurry. We only charged her 50$ p.w when she moved out she left all dirty bedding ..We had to enlist help to clean up her mess. Never Again!!!

    • I should mention she told horrendous lies about our son to move in with us.She also kept sneaking out of the house to be with other guys. We were left to look after her 2 – 4 – & 6 when they were distressed looking for their mother..it is so nice to vent ! On this site.. it is hard on us to try and have access to the children they love their Nana & Poppa

  3. I can relate to daughter in law real easy. Mine mother in law just didn’t like anything I did. Now I find my daughter in law can’t relate to me on a civil manner. I can’t say or do anything right. Makes it very unpleasant when we’re all together. Still can’t work out what I’ve done wrong.

    • Elise Harrison  

      My son and daughter in law called around to “settle things” after a minor misunderstanding. My son and I both acknowledged our part and it would have been fine, except that my daughter in law dredged up everything I’d done wrong in her opinion over the last five years. My brain was spinning to even remember some of those events and, in the end, I said, “so I guess you don’t like me very much.” “that’s right, we don’t,” was. her reply. Then there’s no problem, I told them. I wouldn’t burden them or their kid with my presence any more. It cut me to the heart to say this but. I’ve lost so many people in my life. I know I can survive losing a few more. I think they expected me to cry and apologise. Our parting was marked by angry cursing on her part as they left. My heart ached for my son as he looked clearly torn and distressed but I couldn’t take the satisfied smirk of “Gotcha” on her face as she listed my shortcomings. I won’t go where I’m not wanted any more.

      • Jan Edwards  

        I am hoping some of the sons will read this. My mother in law finally accepted me when just before our third child I told her I’d had enough of her criticism. We got along quite well after that and she had some very good points. Her daughters used to just say Yes Mum and do their own thing. I refused and stood up to her. I adore my Daughters and Son in law and I hope they find me fair and understanding and even like me a bit. I think my own kids and their partners all do an incredible job and all we parent’s in law get along too. I feel as though I’m blessed.

      • Mia Van Der Stam  

        Elise Harrison- your story sounds like I could have written it- exactly the same scenario. It takes guts to leave, but you have to – its better then turning up again to be abused and belittled- and for what- probably for loving your son. She has the issue and you have the pain. Since that happened to me I dont like Christmas anymore- brings back memories of happier times, and it hurts- I used to think my daughter in law was the best thing since sliced bread(pre marriage)- till she had him hook, line and sinker- then I was history to her- Stay strong

  4. My MiL was a wonderful, warm & loving lady who supported her only child’s marriage to me & was the best grandmother to our 2 daughters – we all miss her ver much

  5. To be quite honest I am offended by this article. Mothers and daughters can have a special bond, yes, but surely that is something worth aspiring to and working towards with a daughter-in-law. I am a mother and mother-in-law and I am so blessed to have a wonderful relationship with them all.

    • I am a great mother in law, but my daughter in law doesn’t think so. I never go to their house unannounced. I only go there if I am invited (which isn’t very often, even though I lived in the same suburb )or to look after the children when asked to do so, which was quite often. I looked after her children(not my grandkids) took them to all their sports training. Followed her parenting rules to the letter, as they are her children. My granddaughter came along, I do the same with her. But apparently I am not a good mother in law. So I decided that I would move away, let them cope without me. They didn’t like it but I was tired of being taken for granted, with little or no thanks. I cannot rely on my son to counteract any nastiness that might ensue, so I keep my mouth shut & visit now & again to see my granddaughter. My mother in law was the best ever. We had the best relationship & when she got dementia, I made sure she was well cared for until she died. She was better to me than my own mother & I miss her terribly. So there are many sides to mothers in law & daughters in law & it all comes down to that nasty wasted emotion called jealousy!

    • I agree in principal but you are not allowing for the woman/man how has a personality disorder, the control freak, the ‘I’m the boss and what I say goes’ the ‘he’s my son/husband!’ These situations exist! They are very real! Some mothers in law and some daughters in law, even sons in law, can actually work towards breaking up previous relationships! I’ve seen it happen and I’ve had it happen to me! Some new partners work to cut their significant other from the pack, to better control them. It seems to be about power and control! You can be lucky and find a new son or daughter to welcome to the family, and I’ve had this experience too! I enjoy my daughter in law very much! Love her dearly. But, even more strangely, I have been able to develop stronger friendships with the others once they become the ex! Not immediately, but eventually, which is driven by the fact there are children involved. One hint I would share, if there is a bust up, don’t condemn the partner! Be supportive, but no derogatory comments, as they might make up and anything you say will be held against you. When my daughters marriage went south, my husband and I made this decision. We were very glad we did!

    • You’re “offended” by this article? Okay, you have a wonderful relationship with your daughter-in-law so are you saying that no one should write about these kinds of situations at all because it’s not about you?

    • Jeannine, I appreciate that many extended families enjoy close relationships, but in spite of a lot of efforts, many just don’t get that result, and it can be that a person coming into an newly extended family relationship has no intention of being part of it, or that the core family are not interested in the new member! It’s a many sided relationship with pressures from all the individual members. I think you are not so much offended, but that you are perhaps a little smug because you have been lucky! I’m not saying you haven’t worked to develop this good friendship, but remember, it takes more than one person to bring a family together make it thrive.

    • Not smug at all Mary. I am deeply blessed by the love of a wonderful extended family. I feel so sad for people who don’t share the same relationship. My children and their partners want to be with us and spend time with us and come to us for advice. I have always maintained that we don’t bring children into this world to not be in relationship with them and these relationships need to be nurtured and worked on. My Christian faith is deeply enmeshed in this too.

  6. My Daughter-in-law is always there for me and I love her for that xx

    • Jan Edwards  

      I have a daughter in law in town, My other one is is the city, and she has been a fantastic help, always buying presents on behalf of those who can’t make it on special occasions and she and my son have me over. We can have a laugh together. My sons were very wise to choose the girls they did.

  7. My daughters in law have brought more love to our family. I would not swap them for anything. They have been a great comfort to me recently as we all grieve for my beautiful daughter who lost her battle with cancer. Bless them!

  8. I don’t go there full stop
    Last time I went there for my son to help me with computer she threw me out
    I had to walk 2 klms to bus stop

  9. We have a daughter in law so attached to her mother that she never visits without her……m.in law. even deciding what the kids do at our house…..don’t know how our son can take it!

  10. My daughter in law is a lovely girl. They live in Hong Kong so don’t see as much of them as I would like. My mother in law was a nasty woman so after her I vowed never to be the mother in law from hell.

    • I think we learn from what we have lived. My mother and my mother in law were not good role models so there was no way I would put any child, grandchild, daughter or son in law what I endured. We can take their crap and come out stronger and wiser and know we are better people.

  11. A daughter in law has every right to run her home as she wishes. We do! I would never assume that I was welcome to just arrive on the doorstep unannounced until a relationship has been built up and it is apparent that it is okay to do so. She is no longer your son’s fiancee, but a homemaker in her own right, so the rules might change. She and her husband have the right to choose how to bring their kids up, so best not to be too forthcoming with ‘good advice’ unless it is sought

    • I treat my daughter in law the same way as my daughters with respect,daughter in laws have to realise your son is part of her family as well as her mum in laws

    • Margaret Monk I get all of that, but my point is that when a couple set up home together, that needs to be respected. So much of the time conflict is caused by ‘well intentioned’ in laws imposing their ideals on a young couple too strongly. Of course the families have to blend, but in a lot of cases conflict comes about by not giving enough space.

    • I never just popped in, never arrived unless invited but it seems that showed my DIL that I don’t care about this son or his children. She doesn’t like my other DIL, so this Christmas said they would not come if the other one was there……when I said I would never tell DIL number 2 she wasn’t welcome the response was ‘well you will never see me or our kids again, you’ve made your choice and my husband and kids come second as usual” and ‘forget about presents, I don’t want them”to be honest I hope I never set eyes on her again.,,,just feel so sorry for my son, he is distraught and physically and emotionally ill and in pain.

      • Diana  

        What a sad situation, but it is up to your son to bring the children to see you and stand up to his wife.

    • Jenny Cathcart 100% right. I stop seing my daughter because I can’t handle seing her not voicing her rights as the lady of the house. Her mother in law like a mayordoma of the house. It’s not my busitness anymore to rules her life. She choices to married that guey. She needs to stand up herself and be independent to make a decission not the mother in law. My self if she was my mother in law I kicked her butt long time ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *