Question: Dear Luise: I have a 37 year-old daughter-in-law who is very paranoid and explosive. Whatever I say to her is misconstrued and she sends me a nasty email or leaves a nasty message on my phone. She insists that I am always looking for ways to upset set her or “put her down.” That is the farthest from the truth. I am a very nice, warm-hearted person and I bend over backwards to do things for her, my son and my grandsons. None of my friends understand why she is this way to me. Some of my friends suggest that I just pull away for a while. But I can’t do that. I love my son and my grandsons and I don’t want to pull away from them. But she is very hurtful to me…and I didn’t ever think I was going to spend my retirement years heartbroken over this paranoid, nasty girl. Any suggestions? M.
Answer: Dear M. How clear your daughter in law’s projection is since she is the one who is “always looking for ways to upset you and put you down.”
It is also very clear, at least to me, that your son had no intention of bringing you endless heartbreak when he picked his wife. Since they are still together, something is working in their marriage but she can’t stand the bond between the two of you. Her insecurity is driving her nuts.
In the very near future I am going to be launching my Web Forum on this subject since I have had hundreds of posts concerning it. I hope it will become a place where we can be heard and can offer each other support and understanding. There are mother in laws and daughter in laws who do not have any issues about supremacy. Then there are daughter in laws like yours that have a terrible time and make things equally terrible for mother in laws who actually have no issues. Beyond that is the combination where the mother in laws are at war with their well adjusted daughter in laws, who wonder why and who just want peace. And lastly there is the situation where they are both bonkers.
One of my best friends in this world is an ex-daughter in law. Although she and my younger son didn’t make it, mostly because of financial issues, she and her now-husband are very good friends with my son and his now-wife. They all come to every family gathering. What I’m leading up to is a remark she made after meeting me for the first time. She watched the report between my son and me and later told me that at that moment she said to herself…”OK, I can be number two.” I didn’t see it that way and either did my son, but that’s what she felt. What saved the day was the fact that she wasn’t an insecure person and learned to love me every bit as much as my son does…and visa versa.
It sounds like your daughter in law can’t have you on the planet. I agree that pulling away would be shooting your self in the foot. Also, the many mothers in the same boat who have appealed to their sons for fair treatment have forced them to make a choice and that usually brings disastrous results.
Since whatever you say is misconstrued, I can only suggest that you say as little as possible. I have had that kind of heartbreak with my elder son’s wife. (He died at 52 of sleep apnea.) All I was able to do was to search for and occasionally find compassion for her. What an awful way for her to feel and to have to live her life. She must have had very deep scars from something pretty horrible to be so insecure that she had to make me up to be The Evil Wicked Witch of the West. There were times when I was able to put her heartbreak ahead of my own…but not always. Blessings, Luise