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.

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

  1. I have started a facebook group about Victims of Undermining Daughter in Laws.
    If you would like to join please do. I am so happy I am not alone. My daughter in law was raised with a silver spoon and thinks that the world revolves around her. At age 33 she has been married to my son for 10 years and progressively alienated him from us and his siblings. . When they first married she loved our family, so I know it is not us that has changed. She blames her parents for the dysfunctional life she has chosen, and projects their faults upon us. She has not worked in a couple of years, and prior to that changed jobs every year, and her parents are to blame for that in her eyes. I am thankful that they have chosen not to have children, because then I would be in a group of alienated grandparents.

    • I would love to join your group. How do I do it? We are devastated by a narssitic daughter in law who has manipulated our only son/child and has convinced him to almost alienate himself from us. A baby is due in a couple of weeks and has just about told us there will be very limited exposure and on their terms. We feel we have lost our world. He was so kind and sweet and we were very close. He seems to have mirrored her mean and hateful spirit. Our hearts are broken.

    • its better to walk away trust me some people are more evil than they or others realize the script they have will not change until they can see it themselves usually from a broken place. Trying to navigate that mess will only distroy you. Walk away, grieve the loss and begin a new life without them. Let go and move on.

  2. My adult step daughter and I have never had a real chance to get to know each other. Her dad is adopted and his only daughter just had twin boys. On a recent visit I attempted to clear the air about a disrespectful comment her husband had made to me regarding my son and 3 yr old granddaughter. The conversation escalated in a horrible fashion and he kicked me out of the house -10 pm, cold rainy night- 4 hours from home. He and my stepdaughter will not allow me to return. My husband is sick over it and I don’t know how to fix it. I did apologize, they don’t accept the apology. The ramifications seem tremendous and could well affect several families. I feel if they were convinced to allow me to visit with her dad, we would all be tense and the visit would be unnatural. Any suggestions????

  3. Praying for you..and all parents who have given so much to their children only to be discarded, used, disrespected. I pray too that these young adults find their way to adulthood, remembering who helped them get there…and realize the importance of generations. I pray they can find their way through the bumps to growing up with causing as little collateral damage as possible.
    Today as my husband left for work he said, “I miss you…I miss us.” Yep…me too. And it is time for me to stop allowing my adult child to have this much control over my thoughts, emotions, and other relationships. I will be here with open arms, and with unlimited forgiveness, when she does in fact grow up. So starting today…I am finding joy in my moments, my husband, and giving more attention to those in front of me than to those I wish that were.
    Blessings All ~

  4. We sadly find ourselves in the same situation after sending a letter to our son inlaw encouraging him to take his role more seriously. 8 moves and 7 jobs, dishonesty about why he loses a job or has to move, collection notices, irresponsibility with money, fits of anger when drinking and more. We had more expectations for a man of 38.
    We owned our enabling behaviors in the letter and said we could no longer do for them what they can and should do for themselves, we desire them to live a life they feel good and independent about and we want to see them succeed. It was not received well and he has taken the victim position now (his mom sent me messages defending him…another unhealthy behavior). Now they do not call, text, allow us to come over and they do not come around. Our daughter has bought into it completely but is also in counseling for depression and we are beyond concerned.
    But…Regardless of the reason for the wedge division between family is tragic. And neither side should perpetuate or encourage it. Yes, we believe in leave and cleave, but respect and appreciation for parents should not have an end date, especially when parents have spent years pouring into their children in hopes of their future happiness. And most parents desire for their children to be successful. However that does not mean parents are then discarded. It also doesn’t mean parents are only welcomed or invited into the lives of their adult children if they open their wallets or only say what adult children want to hear over need to hear. And when a family member is not caring for the ones you love, sitting back and watching them hurt and remain silent is irresponsible. Grand Children are watching and learning how to treat parents in adulthood. For those inlaws feeding strife, this is one game you don’t want to reap what you sew. Mutual love and respect, honoring all relationships AND keeping promises is the only honorable and respectable solution.

    • OMG I am so sorry for what you are dealing with. I have taken a HUGE step back from my daughter. My husband and I raised our daughter to be an independent and self sufficient adult, as we have raised both of our children, but unfortunately she found a mate who’s mother taught him that is alright to use and expect family to cater to you! I am hoping that by not responding to her demands, that she as a 32 year old woman, realizes that it is no longer my responsibility to make her life easy. We are expected at a wedding 6 hours away in Oct and we were planning on taking my daughter and her two children with us but after the blatant disrespect from my daughter, I decided that I was not willing to spend so much time in a car with her. She all of a sudden has been nothing but sugar and spice because she has realized that her money train has just dried up. I will not budge. If she wants to go to this wedding, she will have to grow up an find her own way. I have not depended on any help from my parents since I was in my early 20”s. I just do not understand this millennial generation. Their expectations that their parents should continue to provide support well into their 30’s blows my mind! Thank you for letting me vent. I read a post from a Millennial last week and I have to say that the response made me very sad. The mindset from this generation is very selfish, no respect of parents and no empathy or self compassion. We are experiencing a change in the generations that are going to carry a huge negative impact for years to come! I feel sorry for future generation!

  5. I feel like our DIL has stolen our son away from us. When she came to live with our son, in our home, she was so wonderful! She was respectful, gracious, always offering to help out. We even “pushed” our son to move the relationship forward after he had been with this girl for 4-years and hadn’t proposed!
    However, once she got that ring on her finger it all changed. She drove a wedge between my son and his sister, whom he used to be extremely close with. She treated our daughter like crap, and barely talked to her when she would come home to visit from college.!).Finally, when the marriage finally happened, my DIL seemed to “tolerate” my wife and I only when we were buying things for her or doing things for her. She always made excuses so as not to have to attend family get-togethers, but was always ready to attend her own family’s events. We gave her a job taking care of my elderly mother, which she took on and accomplished in a loving and caring manner. When my mom passed away, my DIL made snide remarks insinuating I had not been there when my mom needed me, and that I was somehow to blame for her death (at the age of 94). She made a big deal of my daughter not being able to attend the funeral because she was 3000 miles away in college and was facing finals. She even went so far as to ask me at the funeral, “Oh, where’s your daughter?”, knowing damn well why she wasn’t there!
    Once our precious grand-daughter arrived things again improved slightly. However, that didn’t last long. Our DIL will not acknowledge us when we visit, but rather stay in the kitchen or run around doing house work so as not to have to visit with us.
    We recently moved out of state for financial and job reasons, and we haven’t been able to get our DIL to speak to us. Even on the rare occasion that my son will have her put our grand-daughter on for a Facetime visit, she will not speak with us, will now acknowledge us when we ask here a question, and will hang-up without a goodbye or any other notice.
    My son seems to have fallen into this type of behavior now. After a lifetime of being a very loving, compassionate, and devoted son, he now doesn’t contact us and will only answer once or two of the many texts and phone messages we leave for him.
    This whole thing is breaking my heart! The most important people in my life are my children… my life has always revolved around them. My daughter and youngest son are still just as close as they have ever been with my wife and I. I’m at a loss of what to do about my oldest son.
    It helps a bit to get this off my chest, but sometimes I get so down that I can’t stand it.

    • I feel your pain. Our son has been married for four years, and for over a year now he hasn’t spoken to us and we live in the same town of only 3000 people! They have blocked our phones and hang up on us when we’ve tried to call from other phones. Our grandson is over a year old now, we haven’t seen him since he was 3 1/2 months, and she wouldn’t let us hold him. I don’t know what she’s told our son to convince him this is ok. He was always such a kind, helpful, empathetic boy. He had so many friends, none of which he talks to anymore. Her parents live in the same cul de sac as them and they literally run away from us when they see us. It’s so heartbreaking, his little sister got married this summer and he didn’t even come. They’re having another baby apparently, due very soon. I never thought this could happen to our family but it did. Thanks for letting me vent! It’s such a helpless feeling. I should have seen the signs when they were dating but I was giving her the benefit of the doubt.

    • Oh boy. How is it we have found ourselves in this mess!? We gave the kids everything, maybe that is the problem. We find our daughter now married to this horrid clown. I can’t even write the words he called me on Thanksgiving because I asked everyone to the table for grace. It just blows my mind how our daughter married this horrible, antisocial animal. Of course he wanted her pregnant ASAP.

      I suspect he thought he was marrying into money. When thousands of dollars didn’t come at the wedding dinner I think that is where it all went down hill. We paid for everything, even his nasty suit (omg, all black of course/to match his tattoos!). ugh. My son was so upset when he took the boutonnieres to him and his father. He said, “mom, he’s high and has been drinking”. Who has to smoke pop just before they get married? HIM I guess.

      Now, we think she is pregnant. She talks terribly about her father, brother and I. All we ever did was give to her and love her. We knew he was bad, bad background, jail, drugs, federal prison and so antisocial. BUT, I said this is what she wants, we can’t stop her from marrying him. So let’s all try to get along and make this work. I thought I could teach him social skills.

      Nope, all he does is puff on his stupid vape and guzzle the beer down. So, now we are not talking. I just won’t be disrespected by them anymore. My son said they both told him, “wait until we have a baby! THEN mom will come running!”.

      He told them no, he didn’t think so. He’s right. I won’t come running into that antisocial, insane (and mean) nut house. Thank you, but I don’t need to be called horrible names, yelled at and WTH is this with rewriting history!? Is that something new?

      Eh, I told my daughter if we were to talk now, it would be in writing because she lies so much. She isn’t the girl we so loved. He changed her into this manipulative oddball. I just hope to God if she is preg. that she isn’t drinking & smoking.

      Well guys, we’re not alone. Something has gone off the rails. I can tell you our daughter had the best dad & mom in the world. The children were our world. I guess we go find new things to do to enjoy our lives. What a sorry turn of events!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

    • So you seem to have the answers that I do not. My daughter married a pot smoking, anxiety and depression riddled man 4 years ago. Now two children later, I am a part time nanny but they never visit us in a social manner and instead desire the company of his very large family. Am I wrong to feel that I am being taken advantage of or is this just the current mind set of millennial’s! I really miss the close relationship that I shared with my daughter. She changed the day she met this man. I love the children but I also have a job and chore responsibilities of my own. I have yet to even get a card for holidays or anniversaries much less a thank you for my sacrifice of my time to care for their children.Please help me understand!

    • Sunny: You are missing some of the statements here. Many of us have NO desire to “control or meddle or violate the sanctity of the marriage”. Heaven forbid! What some of us are seeing is (in my case my daughter) choosing an antisocial man that came from a bad background.

      I can’t imagine she would have low self esteem. It’s as if the girls want this new “bad boy” image. She got the top of the line “bad boy”. He can’t rub 2 brain cells together to put together a sentence. Smokes like a pot head, drinks like a fish! He just grunts.

      Now she lies like he does. My Lord, his own mother died and he said he could care less. Both his parents were drinkers so I thought that was the problem. Thought we could help him. Nope, he’s broken. Now, he’ll try to make the family he never had with social skills he doesn’t possess. What a mess.

  8. 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.

    • I feel your pain. I used to drive 40 minutes across town to babysit (for free) my 3 grandchildren.
      To make a long story short, in March, I could only babysit one day ( out of the six she needed, as she works 2 days a week) From that point on, my husband and I have been cut from daily snap chats, blocked from her facebook page. When my husband called our son to ask about her behavior, he responded with “Yes we were made as hell” The conversation ended with my son telling my husband that if he wanted to see the kids more, then he(my husband ) should have picked up the other days.
      I am broken hearted, but glad to know that our doormat days are over.
      My daughter tried to talk to her, but she yelled and ranted right over her. When she got off the phone with the DIL, my daughter was so upset she was crying and shaking.
      Then my daughter was also blocked from all media posting by the DIL.
      I feel like there is no middle road for my DIL.
      We either play by her rules, or we dont get to have a relationship with our grandchildren.

      • I am so sad. I thought being a grandma was supposed to be fun. It was for the first three years of my grandsons life until our privileges were taken away. We were always involved in their lives while I babysat for free and took my grandson whenever my daughter in law was ill. They separated for awhile and while they were apart we as grandparents played a strong role in my grandsons life picking up the pieces that they left behind. They put him through so much and we were always there to,pick up the pieces. He grew very close to,us and now that she wants back I to my sons life and wants them to be a real family…we get kicked to the curb. We are,not allowed to see him,until they reunite as a family and we are left out completely. I just dont want my grandson to think we have abandoned him and that we are not there for him. I am,so depressed…this feels like a death in,our family. She wants to control my son my grandson and,now us by telling us when we can see him,which is I dont know when

  9. 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.

  10. 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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