The relationship between mother and daughter in law is often a good source of hilarious stories. What crazy thing has the Mother done now, in what way has she belittled or humiliated you today. Sometimes I pass by a group of women and hear them playing the monster in law top trumps and I smirk because I can’t help but wish I could be part of their conversation so that I could impart with them some of my own stories.
I am a family orientated person and have always looked forward to finding a partner who would bring with them, their own family to make mine even bigger. I have always been excited at the thought of being able to go out to lunch with my Mother in Law, going shopping or spending the afternoons learning some of her skills, like the famous dishes that are my partner’s favorite so that I could make it for him when he’s sick.
Having only been in two serious relationships, I’ve not exactly had the best experience with Mother-in-Laws. My first one hated me, she hated me not because of who I was or how I was with her son, and she hated me for what I used to be and what I had done as a kid. I thought her experience growing up, being a completely different person to who she was as a kid would have helped her understand that people change and who I was did not reflect how I felt or treated her son. The relationship I had with my first mother in law wasn’t great and did a lot of damage for my relationship with her son. Problems occurred that probably would not have been a big deal had I had an amicable relationship with the mother.
I remember it was so bad that I thought ‘there’s no way this can happen again’. But it did.
This time it’s much more important that I can reach some kind of civility because I hope to spend the rest of my life with my partner. Despite our strong feelings for each other, and our acceptance that my relationship with my MIL will never be close, things can get a little difficult between us. We’ve fought about the situation a few too many times.
Our main source of grief is because he doesn’t understand why the two most important women in his life can’t get a long, and despite my frequent protest of ‘it’s not me, it’s her’ I understand that there is a certain level of responsibility I have to accept.
I have been trying desperately to be a more agreeable and patient person for her, to eliminate any potential arguments that I could cause, and despite my paying extra attention so I don’t offend her, I have come to the realization that she will never truly accept me as her own, and that she is just point blank, a very difficult person.
My job in trying to be the kind of daughter in law she can learn to respect is difficult, but it would be a little easier if she knew these simple facts:
- Your words and criticism hurt me, and it hurts your son too.
It’s like being in high school when you’ve got someone saying snide and hurtful remarks behind your back, sometimes I’m not even granted the common courtesy of it being behind my back. My MIL is often the first to criticize my choices, mistakes etc. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s not just hurting me with her constant judgment, she’s also hurting her son, after all he has to sit there listening to his Mum belittle the woman that he has chosen to love.
- Upsetting me won’t help you see your son any more; in fact it may make you see him less.
I’ve spoken to so many women who don’t have a good relationship with their MIL’s and they all share a similar story. How their MIL will upset them and there will be a minor family argument, they’ve refused to take their kids to see them, and the MIL has thrown a fit about their DIL keeping their family from them. Whilst that can seem quite harsh, I completely understand how it can happen. MIL’s think they can act how they want and not be reprimanded for it. You can’t throw your toys out of the pram and just except everyone to keep trying to put them back. My MIL would make it uncomfortable for me to be around her, often at family functions I felt like a sore thumb next to her, and if she humiliated me it made it more and more difficult to want to play nice. Eventually I stopped accepting invites ‘what’s the point? I won’t have any fun and she’ll spend the whole night making me feel bad.’ I would tell my partner. Whilst I never stopped him from seeing his family, he begun to reject invites too because he enjoyed being in my company. The thing is this wouldn’t be a problem if my MIL was just at least pretend nice to me, then I would come along to events like her son wants and she would be happy because she would see her son more. Unfortunately most MIL’s don’t understand this connection and they think they’ll still get what they want without putting any effort, no, your son’s love us, they want to be with us, and if you keep making us feel uncomfortable we’re going to stop encouraging them to see you.
- You don’t have to like me but you should respect me.
In the ideal world I would be BFF’s with my MIL, but sadly this is reality and she bloody hates me. That’s okay, I accept it, but unfortunately for the both of us, our relationship is not the center of the Universe and affects a lot more than just us two. It would be a lot easier to play nice with someone if they respected you enough to be civil when around others. Say what you want behind my back but when you’re in front of me, at least muster a small smile so that I don’t feel completely like being around you is the worst place to be. At the end of the day, you being nice to me isn’t benefitting me, it’s making your son happy and isn’t that the one thing we have in common? Our need to make your son happy?
- I’m not trying to replace you.
I want to elaborate, I’m not trying to replace you and but I need you to give me space to do my duties as a partner. I’ve experienced sitting in a conversation where my MIL insists her son used to like this meal, or used to hate this drink and now he’s had a change of heart. Each time she’s been so shocked like he was announcing that he was going to run away and join the circus never to see her again. JESUS! He just doesn’t like it anymore. Each time it’s always felt like my fault that her son has changed, almost like she doesn’t even recognize him anymore. I would like to point out that I am not trying to replace my MIL’s role as my partner’s mother, far from. I’d like him to stop acting like a kid and allow me to be a mother to my own kids. She can keep her baby boy but whilst he’s my partner, he will be a man, the head of our household. I’m not trying to replace her but I would like her to step back on some things and allow me to stay in my place. Whilst it’s nice to share good news or bad news with her, she won’t always be his first point of contact and she should accept that, just because he has another person to share in his day in and day out adventures doesn’t mean he doesn’t need her anymore, but she needs to stop expecting him to only go to her.
- I’m only nice to you because your son needs one of us to be mature.
Whilst this seems a little harsh it is the truth. On an ordinary day if I had somebody disrespect me as much as she disrespects me, I wouldn’t even give her the time of day. I could say some truly harsh and vile things and could spit venom twice as bad as she does, and yet I bite my tongue. Why? Not because I like her or don’t want to upset her. Not because I don’t think she deserves it, but because her son deserves to have peace and he wants at least one of us to be mature. Whilst he does try to have words when she is being unreasonable, he finds it easier to confront me about the relationship and how I can change to make us more civil around each other. I don’t always agree that it should be me making all the effort, but frankly, I just can’t be bothered to continue to argue. All I want her to know is that I’m only polite and sweet to her because of her son and the way she treats me and makes me feel makes my actions feel fake and disingenuous.
- By alienating me, you’re alienating yourself.
The term, happy wife, happy life comes into this. By her making me feel uncomfortable around her, it makes me want to spend less time with her. Her son would rather be around me and therefore if I am not comfortable being near her, neither will he. Unfortunately this is just the fact of relationships. I never actively convince him to see less of his mother but he understands that I never feel welcome so he’s started asking less. If she wants to continue making me feel this way then things will only get worse for her (I realize this sounds like a threat but it’s not!) It’s just when we have kids I already know I will not be encouraging them to have a relationship with her, she will be known as the grumpy grandma and having one of them myself, I know that grumpy grandma won’t be number one on the kid’s list to visit. Sorry but the more MIL’s alienate their DIL’s the more they alienate themselves. And if the belief that women outlive men is true, then one day we may only have each other, and if that’s the case, well…I will probably be surrounded by my kids and she will…?
- I’m not your enemy.
How is it that two women who share a huge thing in common, deep love for one man, can become bitter enemies? That’s the thing I never came into the relationship wanting to be her enemy but with every rude remark and hurtful criticisms, she’s broken down my patience and automatic love for her and made me her enemy. I would like to point out despite your unfair treatment of me, I am not your enemy and you can continue this one sided battle on your own.
- I am not you.
Just like I am not your enemy and I’m not trying to replace you, I am most definitely not you. You have your own life, you make your own choices and have your own opinions, I also have my own and therefore it is natural for us to approach things in different ways. You and I have different versions of normal and neither of us have the right to judge the other for what the other does. I am not you therefore I do not enjoy the same things, just because my preference differs from you does not make me weird, abnormal or strange. Please stop trying to turn me into a mini version of you because your son only needs one mother.
- Despite how many times I say I don’t care, your hatred for me is upsetting and I just wish you could love me like your own.
I’ve said countless times I couldn’t care less about how she treats me or how she feels about me I still overanalyze our relationship and wonder just why I’m such an evil person that she can’t even pretend to like me. I still get upset about how she treats me completely differently to everyone else, even her other children’s partner’s and it can get quite hard for my ego. My Mother would often ask me to move back home because she noticed how badly my confidence had taken a hit. I think it’s been my defense mechanism to cope with so much negativity to say ‘I don’t care how she feels about me’ when deep down I just wish she could accept and love me as her own.
- I love your son and that’s all that should matter.
Above everything else, it is important to remember, the heart of our relationship revolves around her son. He is important to both of us, I love him so deeply and tenderly and hope to spend the rest of my life with him. I hope to make him happy and to love him unconditionally and if she is the caring mother she claims to be, surely that should be all that matters?
I’ve taken this difficult relationship as a learning opportunity for me, I remind my Mum all the time, how not to be as a mother in law, and I also use it as a reminder to myself how I should behave. There’s a difference between being a caring mother and a unreasonable. Unfortunately most MIL’s just don’t want to believe that the problem is with them.