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Several months ago, sometime after the start of this grandmother or bubby blog, I started a new site just for mothers-in-law.
My goal for this site has to educate mothers-in-law on how to facilitate a health relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, or MIL and DIL, as we call ourselves. Subscribers to this site that addresses the needs of well-meaning but struggling mothers-in-law, can get lists and tips on how to make their relationships with DIL’s (and even SIL’s) wonderful.
We mothers-in-law have a lot of power; we are the older, more established, wiser and more mature woman. We have life experience. It is in our power to be kind, accepting, and welcoming to our new DIL.
I encourage letters, and many have written. More recently, I received the following insightful, yet painful letter which I was given permission to publish here.
Thank you for your list of Ten Things MIL can do to help the MIL/DIL relationship. I follow about all of these. Do you have any info on when the DIL’s mother is jealous of me, so the mother has turned the DIL against me?
My DIL used to love me. Please let me explain, since you are an expert in this field and I value your input so much: When they were dating and engaged, she was in rebellion with her Mom – she was staying away from her mom. I am very sick and I was just there. They would bring their laundry once a week.
I was too sick to do much and honestly, I was overwhelmed by the relationship. But I really loved her. She would call or text me, she would play Word with Friends with me, it was all my energy to do this but I did it because I really wanted her to feel welcome. Honestly, I would have given her the shirt off my back if she needed it. The mother got very jealous that I was taking her daughter away from her. I tried to reassure her by my actions and words that I was not the type to do that.
After they got married, DIL got closer to her mother, which I thought was healthy. Now, the DIL is judgmental against me for all sorts of things. Her mother was also judging me for the same things and would be mean to me in front of people stating I am not really that sick and that I’m being a whiner. I have nerve pain, so I’m in constant pain – too much pain to stick up for myself. I have been interested in DIL’s life and over looked her critical judgments of me for over 2 years. She was cordial to me, but then she would still be critical. I think I just had enough and backed away.
Also, I am not sure what to do. She doesn’t reply to my texts or she will send a one word answer. She has never taken any of my phone calls since she got married either. She won’t tell me when is a good time for me to call. I have asked her over and over. I took her to lunch once, but it was way too much for me to do, so I can’t do it again.
Even when they were on their honeymoon, she would text me with pictures of their trip. I was astounded as I never expected to hear from them.
During this time, whenever I saw her Mom, her Mom was visibly jealous of me obviously thinking I took her daughter away from her. She would be really mean to me when no one would hear her. At the wedding, I said to her, “now we are family!” and tried to hug her. She made a noise with her mouth open and look at me in disdain. She didn’t hug me.
After the honeymoon, DIL gravitated more toward her Mom as I am sure she did before I knew her. I was honestly happy to get the time off as this was all too exhausting for me. And then, it happened: she would never text me or call me anymore. I always had to text her, but then she wouldn’t reply except maybe a one word answer. At my last surgery, she didn’t even text to ask how I was doing. She used to come over for all my surgeries and visit. Now, she looks critically at me when I talk about my health just like her Mom would do to me. She even told me that she has turned into her Mom to be “just like her.”
I don’t know if this is fixable. I think when I first knew DIL, she was not her true self. She was away from her Mom then. Is this my true DIL that I am seeing now? She seems completely different. Even my husband agrees with all of this. He sees it too. It breaks my heart. I really loved her. She brightened up my dreary life of pain.
What do you think? Perhaps, I should accept it that she will be cordial to me and then critical in the same visit.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so very much for helping me sort this out.
Thank you for writing. I can see how this situation is painful because your DIL and you have had a good relationship and more recently it has gone sour. You mention that she and her mom discuss you in a negative manner and appear to judge you. In addition, you are suffering from physical ailments and they are unsympathetic. In fact, they are critical.
I am going to focus for the purpose of this letter on the fact that you did have a close connection to your DIL. So that tells me that this could continue again. You have things in common with her and it’s not as if the two of you are doomed to fighting (as occurs with many MILs and DILs).
So what I’m going to suggest is that you take her mom out of the picture for now – in your mind. She’s her mom, her biological mother. That’s something you cannot and do not want to change. Just as you wrote that you believe it’s healthy that they are close.
So my best advice to you would be to continue to nurture your relationship with your DIL. Try to ignore what you believe are their judgments of you. If it comes up, you can make a joke in a light way and say “boy do I wish I could be healthy and without symptoms. I’m working on that.”
We cannot change other people’s behaviors. Only our own. Their meanness is their problem. Not yours. You focus on being the best and kindest and considerate person to your dil – while remembering that you are her mil. Not her mom.
It may take time for them to sense that you are just being a nice MIL and that’s always a good thing.
I do agree that your dils mom may have been jealous of you during the time that your dil acted close to you. If your dils mom was jealous, it was because she felt awful that her daughter liked you and didn’t like her. And she was correct. From your description in the two emails, your dil did not get along with her own mother.
I think what happened is that your DIL switched over to her mom’s mean ways because she feels a twisted need for approval from her mother. Your DIL so much wants her moms approval that she follows the bullying ways of her mom. She acts like a puppet of her mother.
Many dils would be thrilled to have such a non critical mil like you. But no, instead of appreciating you, she does the opposite. But we cannot change her or anyone else for that matter.
When they were engaged, she turned you into a friend which is not really what a mil should be. She made it all about her. It was her way of validating herself through you. Then, when she felt a little stronger, she went back to her mom. But her mom has weird rules that in order for her to feel whole and valid, she has to feel that her daughter is against you. That’s how competitive and jealous she is. So her unspoken rule is that her daughter can’t receive love from her mom if she remains close to you, her mil. So when faced with that rule, your dil will obey it because she so badly wants her moms approval. In order to make up for all those childhood years of non approval. It may even be unconscious. But it’s not going to change. Fuhgettaboutit. 🙂
So her daughter is playing this game of splitting which is when people shift to being angry at different people. First you’re the good one. Then her mom is the good one
One or the other. Never both. Right now it seems you’re the bad one. And her mom is the good one. Oh well.
Nothing you can do about it. All you can do is work on enriching your own life – your physical and emotional life.
When her mother for some reason warmed up to her daughter – too late, it became a twisted and warped form of love. Now the mom takes out her negative energy on you, and that works well for her because she gets her daughter back. So sad for them that this is how they relate.
You can’t do anything about it as far as changing them. You are correct in that assessment. Your husband is correct that your dil is not being herself.
If I were you, I would back off from this toxic situation.
When they criticize you, try to realize that it’s their opinion of you. I myself have a very hard time with criticism. But when I tell myself “other people’s opinion is none of my business” it helps.
Work on enriching your own life and try to cultivate relationships that bring you up. You deserve it.
Who knows? Some day your dil may come around. At that time you will decide whether you want to confront her. For now just let it go. It’s hard. Very hard. But it’s not going to change. Try to heal from their mean actions and love yourself.
Tags: criticism from DIL, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship, self esteem, toxic relationship