Question: Dear Luise: I have a very big problem that disturbs my life. My son is married to a 29 year-old lady. She lost her mother when she was 5 years old. When my son told me that about her, I decided to be a mother to both of them. I treat her very kindly…even more than my son and his sister. I never hurt her feelings. I always encourage her and respect her and stand by her side. My son spends all his day at work and I cheerfully do all the cooking, cleaning and laundry alone. I never complain even when I am very fatigued. I never ask her to help. When she offers her help, I say “no, no, no, just rest and take care of your baby.” The PROBLEM is her hatred towards me. She always complains to my son that she thinks I am not happy with their living with me and that is not true. She always invents something bad to tell to my son to make him angry with me. My daughter-in-law and I are together during the day. We have breakfast and lunch together and watch TV and talk to each other. When it is time for my son to come back, she goes to her room and makes an angry face. And when my son comes, she starts complaining about me. Then, my son, too, makes an angry face and deals with me very badly. Every time this happens, I give the excuse that it may be because she lost her mother when she was so young and it made her aggressive toward me. However, what made this problem very dangerous is that she has planted hatred between my son and his sister, just as she doing with me. She gets mad when my son kisses his sister or me. Also, she gets angry when she sees me kissing or playing with my grandson but she encourages my husband to kiss him and play with him. M.
Answer: Dear M. Have you heard the saying…”You’ve got a bear by the tail?” That pretty much sums it up. No matter how much you want to make your daughter-in-law’s life better, things will probably continue to get worse. It’s time to stop making excuses for her, she’s almost 30 year’s old and she sits around doing nothing most of the day…making trouble for those who are productive.
It doesn’t look like you can help her with the damage that was done when she lost her own mother. She is too jealous of your position in the family. When no one is around, she has nothing going on with you. But when there is anyone home, she treats you like the enemy and tries to undermine both you and your daughter. She doesn’t want to share her family with either of you, that’s obvious. But, apparently your husband is no threat to her. It’s a “woman-thing.”
Some people fit into a live-in arrangement like you describe but many don’t. The more people that are involved, the more complicated it can get for someone who is deeply insecure like your daughter-in-law. She accuses you of wanting them to leave but that’s probably just a projection of her desire to have her own home and to be the one in charge. She may know on some level that’s the solution.
It may be a mistake to tell her “no” when she offers to help around the house. Your refusal may not be seen as a kindness. It may be taken as a sign that you think she isn’t capable of performing in an adequate, useful way. She may see it as a statement from you that you run things best your own way. If she is offering to help, that may be a good sign. Try taking her up on it.
It’s time for them to move out so they can and take responsibility for their little family no matter what kind of hardship that imposes. Early marriage is often hard. She needs her own domain to rule over. Until that happens, she will probably continue to cause friction and continue to try to alienate your son. “Tough Love” is needed here. Help them find their own place. Blessings, Luise