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.
Great article. Good advice! I have learned to keep my mouth shut about a lot of things.
Oh yes, learn to say nothing!!!
Do all of those points not go with interactions with everyone?
thanks for the compliment,it goes two ways. good article.
Good advice, thank you.
What if you kept quiet for nearly ten years and your daughter-in-law carried on being hostile or aggressive?
Last spring I couldn’t take it anymore and when I heard that she had accused me of having organizational problems because I had asked not to have my three grand- children together for a week, but separately (2 and 1) for two weeks, I sent her a courteous message in which I explained that there was nothing wrong with my organization of the children’s activities, it was just that being 73 and living alone in the country, I found it increasingly tiring,and felt that I would have more time to devote to the children if they weren’t all three together.
Last summer they came separately and I really loved having them for two weeks.
Since then my daughter-in-law, who by the way never greets me, no longer speaks to me and when they all came for Christmas and spent four days here, just before leaving, she shouted at me: ‘ I don’t like you, you don’t like me, I don’t want to see you ever again!
Where did I go wrong?
My daughter in law has antagonized and abused me for 25 years. I finally had to move. I have to admit that I was an overbearing mother in law because I couldn’t let go of my only child
Celia, I am so sorry that you are experiencing this! I am going to email you privately and maybe we can brainstorm some ideas together.
My daughter in law is a great mother and very good at her job. She came to this country as a refugee when she was three during which time she went through many traumatic experiences. She admits to being an anxious person. When she’s under stress, she projects her “bad” qualities onto my son. In other words, anything that is too hard for her to face in herself, she claims my son does. It’s difficult to watch my son being belittled in front of us. We have kept our mouths shut so far. Are we doing the right thing by just letting it go? We want to preserve our excellent relationship with our son and our grandchildren. We really do love her and try to understand her difficult past experiences.
Thank you for your comment. I am not a therapist, so I can’t reply from that perspective. I think preserving your relationship with your son and daughter-in-law is of the utmost importance, so it sounds to me like you’re doing the right thing.
I have always tried to follow the “rules” and respect and love my DIL no matter what. This past Christmas while staying at our house she wanted to talk. She hit me with a diatribe of very hurtful accusations that left me in tears for days. I did not particularly like my own MIL but I never uttered a hurtful word to her. Why have boundaries disintegrated and DILs have no compunctions about abusing their MILs?
I have a son who’s girlfriend lives with him next door to me. So because they have lived together for over two years I feel like she’s my daughter-in-law. I feel she’s disrespectful to my wants and needs. I can’t plan anything with my children for special dates because it all depends on what she wants to do. I even told my son I did not tell her but I did tell her son in private about what we were going to do for Mother’s Day and if anybody could screw things up it would be her everybody else is on board. There’s so much that I can say but it would be so very long I’m trying to keep it short. I guess I’m just very old fashion and my parents taught me to never disrespect my in-laws as they are still older than me and I should respect my elders. There’s sometimes that I want to start traditions or continue with traditions that we have in place now with my grandbaby by the way she does have a child but it’s always up to her on what we are going to do if we’re all trying to do something together. I feel very very sad that I did not get blessed with a great daughter-in-law. I sometimes feel like she’s bipolar. Most of the time we could be in the same room or gathering and she won’t even say hi to me. And I guess I just want to know why would it be that I would always have to be the one to say hi when I’m the older person and I think she should respect your elders and or being that I am the mother to her boyfriend that she should respect me and say hello to me we never know what mood she’s going to be in.
Wow I’m in a similar situation my daughter has been with him for 9 exhausting years he always says passive aggressive things to me and I ignore it but in all the years they have “family” dinners and vacations without me even my daughter’s sister in laws new husbands father comes but I’m never invited this summer when they were all going away for two weeks I decided to invite myself and bought my own ticket that is when my daughter’s significant other lost it and attacked me and made fun of my rape as a child and even said that I have “always been a victim and it’s all I will ever be” I was shocked but I later told him never to speak to me this way and he continued to verbally assault me my daughter was there and did nothing which made me so upset now we are no longer speaking since she is not yet married to him I think she should reconsider do to the fact that she is expected to be extremely polite to his parents once was told she was rude because she didn’t stand to greet his father when he got home how ridiculous from such a rude partner
I am so happy to have found this article; I am so upset by the fact that my daughter in law, who I have known for almost 20 years, is so incredibly rude and inconsiderate to me. The fact that my son allows it, according to my talks with him, is that its easier for him not to get into an argument with her; so I am the one who suffers. I have not spoken to her and shared my feelings, as it will surely make his life miserable.
So boil it down to as short as possible, my biggest heartaches are 1) at their wedding, hair/makeup person was late, but her out of town aunts still got theirs done, while I, the grooms mother, was bumped and had to get ready in a locker room 2) DIL’s mother openly criticized the flowers I purchased and arranged to help them with wedding costs ( I spent about $1500 and 3 days of work; they were beautiful! they had been looking at about a $8000 bill if they paid) 3) I co-hosted baby shower with DIL’s best friend and we consulted on costs all along; when the day came, not only did she not show up to help, but then went and cried to my DIL that it was too much money for her; DIL then told my son I was being mean to her friend, and she never shared the $900 cost with me; 4) have taken her on vacations over the past years with us (never offers to chip in on food, never picks up a dish to take to the kitchen or helps in any way) 5) gave her a job and car-pooled with her for 7 years (never offered to drive or even buy me a cup of coffee in exchange) 6) I give my granddaughter a significant contribution to an education fund I set up for her on birthday and Christmas; in front of family and friends, she looks at the check then drops it on the floor as opposed to sharing with all as she does with other gifts 7) have given her gifts for all holidays for past 20 years, never with a thank you; never wears clothes I give her 8) I will rearrange my schedule to baby sit for her to go out (but no longer!) I could go on and on, and I’m likely wrong for not stopping this for so long, but I was trying to respect my son…..and now I’m just angry and resentful. I recently struck out to my son when another situation happened with her, and now he is avoiding me.