How to Be a Good Daughter-In-Law: Building a Great Daughter-In-Law Relationship With Your Mother-In-Law

“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.

Mother-In-Law/Daughter-In-Law Problems

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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?!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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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.

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74 Responses to “How to Be a Good Daughter-In-Law: Building a Great Daughter-In-Law Relationship With Your Mother-In-Law”

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  1. Stacie p says:

    Hi Lin

    I am married to my husband, 4 years and we have a beautiful daughter who is 18 months old.
    My husband and I have known one another most of our lives since we were both about 7 or 8 and our families grew up really good friends. So my mother-in-law and i were always good friends. When we were dating i would happily spend time alone with her, go for coffees, i even took her on nights out just to bless her (with flowers and gifts).
    I love doing that sort of thing, because i always wanted a really close relationship with my mother in law as ive heard so many stories and always thought “that wont be me and my mum in law” but unfortionately since ive had my daughter (her first grandchild) she has changed. Instead of us being friends she cares nothing about me (or her son for that matter) and only seems to care about her grandchild. I know new grandparents get excited because its there first grandchild, but 18 months later and she still only wants to come around if my daughter is awake, not to see how we are going but just to spend time with her.
    I think she may be a bit jealous of my mum because my mum babysits her while i work two days a week. I would ask my mother in law to but she works full time so she cant anyway. and thats the only time my daughter gets babysat because we take her wherever we go so we dont need her babysat.I think what has been hard on me is that i thought my mil and i were good friends and we used to go out alone but now she doesnt want to go out for coffees/etc unless my daughter is there too.
    I know shes excited about her grand daughter and so she should be, but i wish she wouldnt ignore me in the mean time. they live about 45 mins away and so we dont see them every week (my husband and prefer once a fortnight as my husband works and does uni full time and we like to have our own family time too) but she is always saying we never see them and we never go over. It feels like its all about my daughter and while i love her to bits too, i just wish i wasnt left out in the process. And my husband too as they dont ask him much how he is going. Anything i could do differently to help things get better?

  2. Cheri says:

    Hi! Thank you so much for making this site avalible to daughter in laws. Of course, I am here because I have a very rocky relationship with my mil. It all began when my husband and I were going to get married three years ago and she began probing him with questions about my finances and other personal matters. Since we have been married she has talked to my husband and told him to keep information from me, has provocted me to tell her that I thought she was being childish about a matter by asking what I thought about her behavior (something that I also apologized for), she has specifically encouraged me to be honest with her and then when I wrote her a note explaining that the way her husband was touching my shoulders made me feel uncomfortable she refused to talk to me and when I tried to call and apologize for hurting her feelings she would hang up the phone so I had to drive to her house and she refused to answer the door. In addition, she showed the letter to several people, including her husband and then said that it was something that I risked by giving the letter to her in the first place (so it was not wrong for her to share it). She has gossiped about me to various members of her family, talking about how difficult I am to get along with. We moved across the country recently and I was pregnant with our second child, unknown at the time to her. I asked my husband not to tell his family because they were already very upset that we were leaving. When he did tell them, she said some very nasty things to him because he hadnt told her sooner, even though I feel like when and how we tell people should be my decision since it is my body and my hubby agrees. What it has come to at this point is that I am tired of being treated poorly by her. My husband completely understands and sides with me. He doesn’t want me to be hurt anymore either, My family has been to see us five times since we moved last year and they have not come at all. I have never invited them or disinvited them (although my husband has invited them and I support him, of course), but my mil wants an invitation from me, as well as an apology for I don’t know what this time since I have not spoken to her since we have left. Honestly, this move has been the best thing for me and our marriage. Me and my husband are able to enjoy each other and our girls in peace. My husband has told me that he has tried so hard to understand her, but that he just can’t see where she is coming from. She has threatened to stop talking to him altogether and everytime she talks to him she tries to extract information about me from him (like what I think about her, etc.). I have forgiven my mil for these things, but I do not want them to continue happening. I am afraid that if I invite her and it is awkward she will blame it on me and say that it is my fault because I invited them. So, my thought was that I will leave it up to them if they come or not. However, I did turn down an invitation they gave to my husband for us to go on vacation with them (because we went on vacation with my family this year) because I did not want to be stranded with them somewhere if she starts disrespecting me. It is hard for me to forget what happens with her because she never feels like she does anything wrong (at least she doesn’t apologize for anything- which is strange because she expects me to apologize for everything, which I do even if it is for just hurting her feelings. She has never apologized for hurting my feelings, although there have been times that the things she has said to me have made me cry in front of her. During one attempt to make ammends, I told her that maybe we should just try to avoid giving advice to each other (since what had made her made was that I said I thought she was acting childish since she was not going to attend her inlaws funeral because she has been in a feud with them since the 1980’s) and she said that she never felt like we had the kind of relationship that would warrent adive to be given and then in the same conversation she told me that one of my biggest problems was my inability to deal with conflict and that I had better start working on that. I feel like I have to guard myself becuase at any moment she could snap. At least my husband and other people have been present for most of what she has done, so it is not my word agianst hers and other people are aware off how crazy she can get. She claims to be a Christian and I want to treat her as a Christiam dil would, but I am not sure how to proceed. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

  3. Queen Bee Number UNO says:

    Thanks for the article basically supporting and endorsing everything that I have been telling my son that his girlfriend LACKS.

    I did not like her from the beginning because she caused a rift between my youngest son and my oldest due to wrecking a trip to Europe and instead making her own plans with my son to go to Europe with her instead.
    Her insistance with the trip, forcing it down my throat to pay for my son to go to Europe with her (and if I didn’t, I heard her whining and near to crying accusing me of being inhumane, as she left her cell phone on and I learned early on that she was a pure manipulator.)
    Next, my youngest son reacted badly and my oldest son put his brother LAST and put this wench priority compromising their brotherhood over the trip.
    Then, she continued to interfere with any chores or responsibilities my son had with our family (basic family routine for order of normal things, garbage etc.) by constantly calling, texting and telling him to ‘stand up for his rights, as he is an adult now and should’nt have to listen to me.’ (NOTE” he was living rent free here and I was footing the bill for their relationship socializing expenses and ALL GIFTS for her and her family)
    Then she would interfere with my son and my relationship as mother and son by causing him to devalue and disregard me, saying that I am not important and tell me to go @@@@ myself whenever I asked for basic things.
    NOTE” she brownnoses her own family and also expects my son to run errands with her for her own family and visit all of her distant cousins, BUT when he is asked anything, she PROTESTS, calling me unfair and that he doesnt have to do it ‘because he is an adult now.’

    Then she interferred with my x husband from years ago, encouraging my son who was fatherless his entire life to contact him, though this man was a violent abuser to me, owes me child support and never ever sent him a gift for his entire life, not even christmas, nor spend five minutes with him.

    This girl convinced him to get money from my x, who owes me money first and also convinced my son to side with this psychopath which is compromising my lawsuit overall.

    She also undermined the abuse, saying I am lying about the abuse from him, though this girl was not even born, nor even spent five minutes speaking ot me about my personal business.

    SHe has bamboozled, imposed, forced, and destroyed my family.


    She told my son to get rid of me, his mother and she is not even engaged to him.
    She also told me to my face that I would not be invited to their wedding nor see my grandchildren when I reacted to the abuse, exploitation, disrespect and chronic disregard instigated by HER.

    THUS, she is destroying my own dream of having a loving adult son, having grandchildren around and everything that I have worked for being a single mother my entire life.


    Well, it comes down to my son.
    If he can allow a girl to be this way to me, his mother, then he is no son of mine.

    SOmetimes there are situtations such as the one above that a mother just cannot win because of the degree of seriousness and corruption.

    My son was kicked out one month ago and since that time, she has violently physically attacked him leaving scratches and bruises on his neck.
    I forsee that he will be behind bars because one day he will hit her back.

    At this point, I am preparing myself to move onward without any dream of how it should have been given I was a wonderful mother and gave him everything to expect respect.

    I will NOT be endorsing abuse of me, in lieu of this psycho bitch from hell girlfriend.

    Putting my foot down, and maybe I will have other hobbies but at least she will not have opportunity to push me over a cliff in my wheelchair when I am 80.

    THIS ONE IS LETHAL, but if my son does not value me and can easily be mislead, I can only say that nature versus nurture and he is just like his father, at the end of the day.

    I told them both that there is no hope for a future with me because if this is how I am being treated now, I will not subject myself for further abuse and disregard.

    REMEMBER THAT I LOSE MY SON, but HE LOSES HIS MOTHER and it will hit home and one day he will blame her for her corruptive ways when they are stuck with kids and no one helping them nor wanting that bitch around.

    I say hold your head up with dignity and just give the ultimateum from the beginning when the first disrespectful thing or action comes out.

    Any future daughter in law who brings these problems to the table BEFORE marriage is just asking for a divorce to begin with…

    She shot herself in the foot causing me not to like her due to her own warped ways, bad influences on my son and there are no second auditions.

    My son has damaged everything in his entire life and he knows better but once pussy drunk, cannot get fundamental values through the thick headedness of sexual addiciton.

    There are plenty of fish in the sea, but ONLY ONE MOTHER.

    Mother’s come first and without BOTH of them respecting it, these type of girls are only mother killers, stealing your hard earned reward after all the sacrifices and also maiking a mockery of you, making an ass out of your family overall and portraying your son to be the biggest jackass for getting himself involved with such a horrible girl.

    and to continue it….

    OVER MY DEAD BODY just move onward and DO NOT SPEAK TO THEM.
    She can explain why his mother hates her frickin gutts to everyone at their wedding.


    Her control of my son, chronic imposition, including emailing my son or calling incessantly during family meetings, chores or events was evidence that this girl was ill-mannered, psychotic and insecure.

  4. Cely says:

    The problems I have with my Mil strewn from a hurtful situation that happened to me before my husband and I got married our had children. The main problem for me, that I can’t seem to get over is that when my husband and I moved in together, an ex girlfriend of his called his mother to see how he was doing. Bring that she had never accepted our relationship, she have her my husbands cell number and proceeded to tell the ex girlfriend that he was single and available. When I found out by talking to his ex, I was furious and could not understand how any mil could do that to a daughter in law. I can’t seem to get passed this and it now has been 4 years. We are now married with 2 children and I have a problem with letting my children have a close relationship with her. I trend to snap at her because I take things really personal. She pries in everyone’s lives, wants to know everything and asks questions about other people not to mention is a huge gossip. My marriage has been on the verge of divorce over these issues and that is obviously not what I want, but am really struggling with making peace with the past. Any advice?

  5. UpsetDaughteriNlAW says:

    My Mother in law and I got into an argument a couple of weeks ago about my daughter staying overnight with her. I tried to put an end to it and told her nicely that she would not be staying anywhere but our house. She kept on egging it on and eventualy she was crying and she left without telling me goodbye. She has step grandchildren that she keeps once a week. I am a working mother and enjoy every minute I can with my daughter, who is only 6 months old. This past week, she wrote my husband (she never writes me when she has a problem) and told him to tell me that she forgave me. I didn’t do anything to be forgiven. Any advice on how to handle this problem?

  6. Eve says:

    Thanks for ur article and I really do love major issue wit my mother inlaw is that she prys akot into her sons life which I am not comfortable issue at hand now is my relationship wit her other son.she complains that I am not close to him and wants me to relate wuth him well as he is d only siblin of my fiance.on the other hand the brothr is really annoyn and I am somene wo lovs to steer clear from trouble.wen I noticed this about hm I gave a clear space betwn I and d bro and now d mom has noticed it and is complainin.i dont know aw to relate hm that it wil not lead to disresipespect.