“Daughter-In-Laws from hell”? Are you a good daughter-in-law to your husband’s mother, or soon to be mother-in-law? Can you honestly say to yourself, “I am a good daughter-in-law”? Being a good daughter-in-law and building a great relationship with your husband’s mother, and maintaining that good relationship, can be easier than you think or more challenging and difficult than you could ever imagine.
Ever since I wrote How to Be a Good Mother-In-Law, I’ve been inundated with emails from mothers who describe their current or future daughter-in-law as the daughter-in-law from hell; jealous; selfish; manipulative; controlling; disrespectful; rude; conniving; evil and psychotic, just to name a few not-so-nice descriptive words about daughter-in-laws.
Some mothers used “daughter-in-law hates me” and “I hate my daughter-in-law” in the email subject line to describe the difficulties and animosity felt between the mother and daughter-in-law. A few mothers wrote about their relationship problems with a son-in-law as well, but the typical problems existing between mothers and daughter-in-laws are much more common than those with a current or future son-in-law.
I’ll be dealing with the issues of being a good son-in-law in an upcoming article, but for now let’s just stick with you, the daughter-in-law.
After reading and responding to many emails, as well as visiting websites, message boards and online support groups where mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws complain about each other and their problems, it became obvious to me that there is a tremendous amount of misunderstandings, misinterpretations, hyper-sensitivity and mean-spirited gossip being said about each other. But rarely any advice or real solutions being shared.
Based on the complaints posted on those sites, it became apparent to me that most daughter-in-laws are not evil or cruel, but are misguided and feel threatened. Daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws are both guilty of not even attempting to understand the others wants, needs and perspective, but are very quick to criticize and ridicule the other.
Members of various support groups for daughter-in-laws have even linked to my leave and cleave article, taking words out of context, in an extreme attempt to prove their personal opinion that communication with mother-in-laws (and sometimes father-in-laws) should be cut to a bare minimum if not completely eliminated.
Now you just wait a cotton-pickin’ minute! If that is your position, you’ve missed the whole point of that entire article and are twisting the meaning of leaving and cleaving for your own selfish reasons, and your attempts to get rid of your mother-in-law will come back to bite you in the end.
Trouble between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law arises far too often when one or both thinks the other is out to get them, which is not necessarily true. The mother-in-law and daughter-in-law both want the same thing! Time spent with the son! Problems between the MIL/DIL (Mother-In-Law/Daughter-In-Law) often occur when one or both women try to get their needs met by attempting to exclude the other from even the simplest things in life.
One mother emailed me about how hurt she felt by not being included in any of the decisions about the wedding plans or budget for her son and soon to be daughter-in-law’s wedding, despite the fact that this mother is expected to pay more than half of the wedding costs!
Daughter-In-Law Do’s and Don’ts
- Remember, your husband was a son to his mother first, and the relationship bond between mother and son should never be trifled with. The harder you try to divide and conquer the relationship between your husband and his mother, the more you will discover that you’ve undermined any and all efforts to get along with your in-laws and will cause your husband and his family to resent you.
- Don’t take everything so personal. Taking every suggestion, recommendation or idea offered as always being a negative against you suggests the existence of very low self-esteem on your part. Why do you choose to take everything so personal? A mother emailed me about her excitement about becoming a grandmother for the first time and how she made a few harmless baby name suggestions, only to receive an email from her daughter-in-law that such suggestions are not wanted or welcomed. What?!
- The relationship with the son is not a competition. He married you because he loves you and wants to spend the rest of his life with you. In a marriage, a husband must put his wife as number one in the relationship, but don’t make the mistake of putting your husband in a position of having to defend his relationship with his mother. If setting limits and boundaries are needed on how often your mother-in-law calls to speak to your husband or visits, it is up to your husband to decide and act on that, not yours.
- Communication is key. Take the initiative to call and chat with your mother-in-law with news and updates, even if you think it’s about mundane, trivial matters. Remember birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and special occasions, just as I bet you want your mother-in-law to do for you. Invite your in-laws to your home for a meal on occasion. Send pictures and cards. Ask for advice and willingly listen to her ideas, but that doesn’t mean you must do everything her way. Ask your mother-in-law for recipes of your husband’s favorite meals while he was growing up – she’ll love it and so will your husband.
- Take good care of her son. Your mother-in-law raised your husband to become the man you fell in love with and married, and she should be thanked, praised and respected for that. Your mother-in-law wants and needs to know that the hard work she put forth loving, raising and caring for her beloved son will continue to be provided in your care. Of course your mother-in-law expects to see your home is well-kept, clean and orderly, just as she worked hard to do while raising him. Of course she expects your husband to have clean clothes and clean underwear to wear at all times. Of course she expects your husband to always be well fed with healthy, nourishing meals, just as she did for so many years. Of course she does! So will you when it’s your turn to play the role of mother-in-law when the time comes.
- Do not be a gossip. Are you a gossip? Do you talk crap about any of your in-laws? Spreading negative gossip about any or all family members will cause you to be labeled as a toxic person, undoubtedly leading friends, family and others to not want to associate with you or trust you ever again. The harmful effects of gossip are well-known, and you would be wise to learn the difference between good gossip and negative gossip before you yourself become a victim to a malicious gossiper and discover the results the hard way.
I know, there ARE mother-in-laws who will do everything within their power to prove you are not worthy of their son and will attempt to drive a wedge between you and your husband or husband-to-be. Develop a thick-skin, be assertive and respectful, but don’t stoop to her level and become anyone’s doormat. But not all mother-in-laws are trying to control you or take over your life; they want to be valued and want to share a meaningful place in your lives.
As the daughter-in-law, you’re trying to protect your “turf”, while your mother-in-law wants a place at your table too. Work on your relationship with your mother-in-law; read daughter-in-law books for further advice, be willing to apologize and sincerely say you are sorry for things wrongly said or done. Work hard to make amends with your mother-in-law and stop seeing her as a threat. Spend your time and energies building a good relationship with your mother-in-law that will last a lifetime.
Are you having MIL/DIL problems you would like to share? Do you have a question about having a good daughter-in-law relationship with your mother-in-law? Feel free to ask your questions in the comments section below.