Let me start by stating that not all daughters-in-law are rude, and not all mothers think nobody is good enough to marry their sons. I happen to have a terrific relationship with my mother-in-law, and I know of many others who do as well.
End of disclaimer.
According to Dictionary,com, the first definition of “rude” is: “discourteous or impolite, especially in a deliberate way.” Whether intentional or unintentional, impolite behavior happens. Respect isn’t always unconditional. I’ve encountered many a daughter-in-law (not my own — I don’t have any) whose behavior is positively passive-aggressive towards her in-laws. And although I’m referring to the female gender, please understand that this applies in many instances to the son-in-law as well.
So what’s a Mediator to do?
Here are some common sense things to consider:
- Respect your son’s choice. He’s an adult and doesn’t require your approval. So you don’t have to give it nor do you get to withhold it. Remember that he’s found many reasons to be in a relationship with this person, and not a single one has to do with you.
- Bite your tongue. She may be a manipulative, controlling, you-know-what, but you didn’t sign on to raise her, nor will you be able to change her. So keep it to yourself. Better yet, vent to a friend or write about it in your journal.
- Set boundaries. Kindly and firmly express your expectations to your daughter-in-law and, in the same conversation, ask her to voice her own to you. Remember to keep the conversation positive. If you’re tempted to have this conversation in the heat of the moment, think again. Postpone it until you’ve had a chance to calm down.
- Have a talk with your son. Rehearse your words with an effort to cite specifics in the most diplomatic way possible. If you need to, write down what you want to say and read it to your son. Then, remember to listen to what he has to say. There doesn’t have to be a winner and a loser here. Aim for understanding his feelings and helping him to understand yours.
- Accept reality. At the end of the day, you’re all family. There may be grandchildren who will be affected by a strained relationship, so keep that in mind. Then go back and reread points 1-4 above.
We don’t choose our families, and we certainly can’t make those choices for our kids as they grow into self-sufficient adults. What we can choose is how we react and how we allow the bad behavior of others to affect us. If you think it’s too late, think again. Relationships are organic, living, breathing things with infinite ability to evolve. Sometimes taking that evolution into your own hands is appropriate and will be beneficial in the long run. In other circumstances, you might be, excuse the expression, beating a dead horse. If that’s the case, consider giving up, at least for now.
A final (self-serving) thought: If you’ve tried everything to no avail, maybe a Mediator can help.