I don't have a daughter-in-law. As I have three daughters and no sons, odds are against me ever having one. I'm okay with that, happy about that, even.
I was recently assigned an article for Grandparents.com on why I'm happy I don't have a daughter-in-law. You can find that article here (along with some not-so-nice comments, too, from readers who apparently didn't like my words... or me... at all).
While researching that article, I had the opportunity to glean some grand advice from Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka “Dr. Romance”) psychotherapist and author of The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty. See, I thought the combative relationships between some MILs and DILs were related to overprotective, over possessive, over controlling mothers. Umm, mothers like myself, I admit (which is one big reason I'm glad I don't have a DIL). Tessina told me otherwise and offered tips for those grandmas struggling to right a wobbly relationship.
When it comes to grandmothers and their daughters-in-law, the sticky spots in the relationship aren’t necessarily about being overprotective and possessive, says Tessina. “Usually, it’s power struggles and jealousy about the son/husband.”
And it’s about control, Tessina adds. The union between a son and his wife is “a big change for both mother and wife,” she says. “So people who try to control things instead of learning to relax and figure it out get into struggles with each other.”
The addition of grandchildren has the potential to sour the relationship further, Tessina says. “If mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are already in competition, the arrival of children can make things a lot more tense.”
A daughter-in-law who is jealous of the relationship between her husband and his mother may be wary of letting Grandma connect with the grandchildren. And Grandma certainly doesn’t help curb resentment if she refuses to follow Mommy’s parenting rules — on everything from diet and bedtime to homework and behavior — when she does spend time with the kiddos.
There’s hope for resolution, though, or at least some improvement. Tessina offers the following do’s and don’ts for grandmothers looking to create a better relationship with a daughter-in-law:
DO be warm and welcoming to your daughter-in-law. “She’s as nervous about getting along with you as you may be about her.”
DON’T be difficult, critical or complain to your son about his wife.
DO tell your son what you like about his choice of a wife and her role as mother to your grandchildren.
DON’T panic if you don’t get along right away. “Allow some time for the two of you to get to know each other. If you live at a distance, write or email both your son and his wife.”
DO learn about your daughter-in-law’s tastes, likes, dislikes.
DON’T criticize if you disagree with her preferences, rules or style.
DO ensure that what you do with your grandchildren is okay with their mother, not just your son. “If you do this carefully in the beginning, when your relationship is new, things will relax after a while.”
DON’T gossip with other family members about your son’s wife.
DO invite your daughter-in-law to get together with you and your daughter, if you have one.
DON’T insist your daughter-in-law do things your way. “Your son has a new family now, and you are not in charge. If you want to enjoy your grandchildren, it’s important to get along with their mother.”
The reality is that some mothers-in-law are difficult and some daughters-in-law are difficult. The potential for conflict is especially probable when the mother is too attached to her son or the son’s wife is nervous about marriage or parenting.
“The more immature and selfish both are, the more difficult it is to get along,” Tessina says.
“But if everyone relaxes, things can work out fine,” Tessina assures. “Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law have a lot to gain from getting along.”
What do you enjoy most about your MIL-DIL relationship — either with your DIL or your MIL?