Dealing with Your Difficult Daughter-in-Law or Son-in-Law

Many estrangements occur as a result of a conflicted relationship between the parent and their child’s spouse. While there are many reasons, the family history of your daughter or son-in- law may be a cause. In general, whatever issues they have with their own parents, there’s a good chance that they’re going to have them with you.

If they felt over-controlled by their own parents, there’s a good chance they’re going to view you as being overly controlling. If they felt rejected, devalued and abandoned by their parents they may view you as that way, over-react to something that you do or say, and convince your child that you as parents are much more critical and rejecting than that child realizes.

If estranged from their own parents, they’re much more likely to push your child in that direction. You see how this works? When your kid marries somebody they’re not only marrying that particular person. They’re also marrying the psychology of that person and the family relationships that have been built up over the years in that person’s unconscious.

They’re also marrying that person’s sensitivities, vulnerabilities, and the ways that they’re immature, unresolved, undeveloped, problematic or even unfortunately, psychologically disturbed.

The more that parents understand these things, the better they’re able to navigate the often treacherous terrain of having to deal with somebody who has a knife to your kid’s throat, saying, “Choose between your parents or me. You don’t get to have both.”
Often when a baby arrives there’s an increase in anxiety on the part of the son or daughter-in-law, which often leads to stress and a potential estrangement.

9 comments on “Dealing with Your Difficult Daughter-in-Law or Son-in-Law

  1. Our married daughter moved back after living in another country for a year. She had married over there and when her visa expired moved home. A couple of months later she had us pay for a ticket for her husband to join her. They moved into our basement and avoided us like the plague once he arrived. We saw them in the kitchen or coming too and fro from the washroom. He decided a couple of weeks after he got here that when his 6 month visa expired and it was time to go home he was leaving. So for 6 months our daughter worked part time and they avoided us unless there were no groceries in the cupboard or they needed a ride somewhere. In the 6 months he lived here we saw him for maybe 5 hours total. They did not join us for meals or invite us out for a meal. If we saw him he was polite but distant. As the 6 months progressed our daughter became downright hostile to her father and distant from me. Today he went home, with a quick handshake for my husband, but last night he did not come up to say goodbye to me, knowing I had to work. I just don’t understand. We were always nice to him and treated them with courtesy and respect but we got nothing in return. No relationship, no appreciation, literally treated like parasites in our own home.

  2. What is wrong with asking your spouse: “your primary loyalty belongs either to me or your parents. Choose.”?

    When you marry in Judeo-Christian traditions, you VOW that your marital partner comes FIRST.

    Of course. Right? But when parents meddle and criticize then they are interfering and violating the sanctity of marriage!

    If parents want to continue to control their adult son or daughter and then are hurt because the married couple answer to each other and not the parents….well then the parents are creating turmoil with their emotional neediness.

    Instead of demanding so much attention from the married son or daughter, perhaps the parents can re-invest in THEIR marriage? Volunteer? Adopt a pet? Join a class?

    And the knife to the throat reference? Pure hyperbole. Please.

    There needs to be an article on emotional incest. You know, when parents can not accept that their adult son or daughter loves someone else more than their parent. And that their family consists of their spouse and children. Parents become extended relatives.

    This is nothing new. It’s all rooted in our Christian-Judeo traditions!

  3. When my son met Patty, I was their greatest champion. When they told me they were getting married, I was their greatest champion. I feel like I’ve done everything I can to support them. When my DIL was pregnant with her first child, she told a friend in front of my daughter that she wasn’t sure if she wanted me to babysit. Of course this got back to me, especially because I kept talking about the baby all the time and how I couldn’t wait. My daughter finally told me what was said. I was devastated. Unfortunately the only way I could figure to deal with the grief, and it was grief, was to stay away. I felt like if I became too attached, I never knew when the rug would be pulled out from under me. So, then I was told I wasn’t involved enough.

    When I finally confronted Patty about the fact that she said she wasn’t sure she wanted me to watch her child, she flat out denied it, even though four sets of ears heard her say it.

    It seems like whatever I do is wrong. I try hard to follow my son and DIL’s rules, I try hard to jump through the hoops. But it is never good enough. I can’t compare to her parents, who apparently are gods. I know her parents. I get along with them. They are just regular people like me.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m dealing with someone who has mental issues. I think she is on the narcissist spectrum. I don’t mean she is self absorbed, but she uses tactics that narcissists use such as gaslighting, shaming, triangulation, name calling. Yes… she has called me names. Apparently I’m a racist, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Pointing out the truth doesn’t matter to her, because she believes she is right, and there is no convincing her otherwise.

    In the end, it is emotional manipulation. Unfortunately, most therapists and psychologists suggest extracting yourself from a relationship you have with a narcissist, and that isn’t an option for me. I want to have a relationship with my grandchildren, but I don’t want to be a doormat, or someone’s whipping boy.

    In an article I read today, Choices: The undermining daughter-in-law dilemma, from the Naples Daily News, “Local therapist Dianne Durante suggests that this trend is another result of the pampered Baby Boomer generation. Perhaps. There is a certain attitude of superiority projected by many, not all, of today’s young people. They talk back to their parents and grandparents, act impatient, disdainful and critical. Some daughters-in-law “tolerate” their husband’s family and this impatient tolerance is apparent. It is uncomfortable to be in the presence of someone you feel is only tolerating you. During visits, the parents often exert some kind of negative pressure on the situation, making the children feel strange about being friendly toward their grandparents. Grandparents put up with disdainful behavior because they want access to their grandchildren. Wives of male children have the supreme power to withhold this access.”

    In the end, there is no win-win. I cannot compete with a narcissist, unless I want to resort to passive-aggressive behavior, and that would only make matters worse.

    I guess that serenity prayer fits. Change the things I can, accept the things I can’t change, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

  4. We let our sons girlfriend move in for almost a year. She did nothing but disrespect us. Playing xbox live talking loud on with other players during the wee hours when others were sleeping. Started arguments with my Son while everyone was sleeping. Never once volunteered to help clean , leaving dirty dishes in my sons bedroom. Leaving her rabbits cage unattended until someone told her to clean it. Would sleep in until 1:00 everyday , had no drivers license and didn’t try to get a job. We had no choice but to kick her out. Heard her tell my son she has no where to go and will live out on the street. “Manipulative” …Son had told us she was controlling once in private. Soon after our son moved out with her and her drunk Estranged Father and several other drunks. We get a call from my sons girlfriend that my son was having seizures and was going to the ER via ambulance. Son has no history of seizures. Got to the ER son smelled of alcohol and still having convulsions. Girlfriend calls the ER several hours after we got there and told the staff we were to leave when she got there. Staff told her no we don’t have to leave again “manipulating”…when she finally arrives 4 hours later then we got there , I asked her what started his seizures? She said I don’t know. I asked did y’all get into a argument ? Her response,no I hope he didn’t think I was mad but I did go to my moms. Son said yes they did argue as a matter of fact it was so bad he was ready to leave her for good. I asked her why was he drinking alcohol, her response was that my son snuck the beers from her dad, Son later said that was a lie that her father kept handing him beer after she left, 6 beers total. Two weeks later my Son still having seizures tells us she was 4 weeks pregnant. We didn’t believe her, why would we? Son moves back in with her and her drunk father. Which we convinced our son was not a good situation for him to live with a bunch of drunks. They moved into her moms which isn’t much better as her mom and stepdad are drunks too and beat on each other. I pick up our son to see the neurologist to try to figure out why he is having seizures as kepra isn’t controlling them. Neurologist finally witnessed one of his seizures and said it was definitely a pseudo seizure which is brought on by stress. I’m so depressed I can’t think straight feel alone in this matter. My son can’t work due to the seizures, has a controlling girlfriend and has a child on the way June 13th. How can I even be happy about any of this? I just don’t know what to do. Neurologist wants to get my son setup to see a psychologist hopefully that will help.

  5. I can’t bare the pain anymore. Now my son is cutting me out like his sister. I think the stress he received from father, son-in-law, daughter for having relationship with me his mother is just too much fot him. I may kill myself just can’t stand pain anymore. My ex succeeded in alienating my adult children. Now they will never have the strain of me although never see me and totally rejected. I am not a perfect person or parent but I love my children and after 15 years I deserve some peace however I can get it. Truly sorry but they never contact me or respond to my teaching out.

    • Oh dear, how much do I understand you, I don’t understand how much did my daughter change since she got married, and if we could not find a common ground with her Husband why she gets to chose between us

    • I understand what you feel. I have 3 and only the youngest talks to me but she lives with me. I can feel her slipping away and I try so hard. I find myself crying and thinking like you often. Every thing I have ever done was for them and its as if I am no more than a stranger passing them. It hurts in a way that I can never explain but I feel your pain.

    • I understand what you feel. I have 3 and only the youngest talks to me but she lives with me. I can feel her slipping away and I try so hard. I find myself crying and thinking like you often. Every thing I have ever done was for them and its as if I am no more than a stranger passing them. It hurts in a way that I can never explain but I feel your pain.

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