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    Do's and don'ts for getting along with your daughter-in-law

    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 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.

    tips for getting along with a daughter-in-law

    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.”

    Today's question:

    What do you enjoy most about your MIL-DIL relationship — either with your DIL or your MIL?

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    Reader Comments (12)

    When we welcomed our daughter-in-law into the family 15 years ago, I determined to make it a positive relationship. My son chose her and loves her very much, so I honored and love him by loving her. I have never said a negative thing about her to any of my friends or my son, and look for opportunities to praise her. When our first grandson was born, I waited to be asked for advice. She has a very close relationship with her mother, so most questions were asked of her mother. I never offer childrearing advice but support her choices. She has been a stern disciplinarian, firm and consistent in her expectations of them. As a result, the grandsons are a delight to be with, well behaved, and respectful of others.
    Slowly we have built a very positive relationship, and recently, when her job took her out of the country for seven days, I was thrilled that she asked me to care for the grandsons by living in their home during that time. Additionally, her mother and I have become very good friends, and for the past five years we have traveled to her parents' home at Christmas to spend the holiday with her family. With the addition of travel trailers and mattresses on the floor, it is one big slumber party (9 adults, 4 grandsons, 4 days) and plenty of grandparent love for all the little ones. It has become the highlight of our year.
    All of the do's and don'ts that you have listed can be summed up in one word--respect. That has been my guiding principle as I have built a relationship with my daughter-in-law, and it has helped us build a beautiful friendship that grows better each day. I am currently caring for my aging mother, and my daughter-in-law confided that in my old age I need not worry as she will care for me as lovingly as I now care for my mother. What a gift those words are!!

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterZack's Grandma

    Ouch! Looks like you touched a nerve at Maybe some people don't understand your wry sense of humor?

    Great do's and don'ts! Since I was both immature and selfish when first married, I look back now with much appreciation for my MIL's tolerance level. She probably learned that while raising her 9 children! I'm very grateful that we enjoy a loving relationship based on mutual respect.

    Since I'm the mother of daughters, I don't have any DILs and never will. At the risk of infuriating people who don't know me, I'd agree that's probably a good thing. I'd pity any woman joining my slightly loud and crazy family:) And I thank God for my tolerant SIL...

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNonnieKelly

    My MIL didn't like me or except me.
    I vowed that when our son married, I would NEVER be like my MIL.
    Your Do's and Don't are perfect and what I have lived by for seven years now. My DIL respects
    me, just as I do her.

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterchristine

    I did go read the original article and comments and must say people amaze me with their judgements! You really don't have to worry about any DIL issues unless one of your girls is gay and that would possibly bring you a DIL!

    My own experience has been that 3 of my DILs (3 sons) were people I could love and take into our lives without issue. However two of them have divorced. After 25 years with the first DIL, I didn't see any need to divorce her from MY life, only to change our relationship to a friends status. Her only child is an adult now so no worries about being cut off from a grandchild. We remain friends, though not close.

    New (wife #2) doesn't care for spending any time with us. They live out of state and she is fine with communicating a couple times a year, but her life does not include us. She is nice to us when we do see them, but it's quite obvious that being included at holidays is not on her agenda. We really have no relationship with her and our son is an infrequent visitor, as well.

    The second separation has been much harder. This DIL has caused a great deal of heartache and pain and pulled herself completely out of my life. We were quite close, but she pretty much hates that I still love my son. She has accused him of many things too horrid to discuss and utterly untrue and her guilt is tearing her up. I see it and frankly, don't care. When someone causes unnecessary pain to your child, it's very hard to accept. It's very hard to forgive. Her motivation is to take his children some distance away and closer to her new interest. She has to show him to be unstable and an unfit father to achieve that goal and she isn't above bending or creating truth to get what she wants. Our relationship is over. My son will be fine when it's over for him. The kids will be fine, but right one is fine. She could have simply filed for divorce and accepted a negotiated custody agreement and all would have gone relatively smoothly, but she chose the all or nothing path and it's a nightmare.

    Exactly the same feelings would prevail if this story was about a SIL, a child of yours is a child of yours, period.

    Sorry for the blog sized comment, but I'm in the midst of letting how of a DIL I once loved as a daughter, it's painful.

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJo Heroux

    I have a wonderful DIL who recently gave me a new granddaughter. I admit in the beginning of my son's relationship with his new lady in his life, it was hard for me to "let go" of my son. He is my only son and the youngest child. My son said something to me in the beginning of their relationship that really made me feel good. He said..."Mom, Jenny is just like you!"

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie E.

    Us FILs have the same problems (at least this one does). I don't think I have ever heard better advice than, "DON’T insist your daughter-in-law do things your way. “Your son has a new family now, and you are not in charge."" As for the negative comments you received; just like some people are tone deaf, some people are humor deaf, usually when the humor hits too close to home

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteraxiesdad

    I am so glad I have a son-in-law and don't have to deal with the MIL-wife battle. My own first MIL didn't like me in the least but then she didn't like her son either -- it was lots of fun! Grampy's Mom is gone but she was a wonderful MIL -- of course both of us was older and wiser by then and he had been long gone from home. I think your list is excellent and as for the negative comments -- some people just like to poke the bear.

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Kc

    I was blessed with only 1 biological son, and we have always had a GREAT relationship. When he announced that he was marrying (after knowing the girl only 1 month - and Yes, she was expecting!) I will admit that I was TERRIFIED! I was on marriage no 2 and it was -and had been - in trouble, so I was doubly concerned. I didn't want my son going thru the grief of divorce. Upon meeting my future DIL, I instantly liked her. Sure there were things I wasn't thrilled with - she had been TERRIBLY sheltered and was extremely immature, but beyond that, I liked her. Her parents initially were fine, but as the "family relationship" continued, it has become evident that any "Full" family events will be dicey at best. (I won't go into all that, as I attempt to keep an open mind in this matter.) Anyway, back to my DIL/MIL relationship. My 2nd husband quickly developed a deep dislike of our DIL - despite her being "sheltered" she was/is very direct in her own beliefs and she doesn't take any "guff" off anyone. She stood up to my 2nd husband and that immediately turned him against her. When my 2nd marriage (thankfully) finally ended, my son came to get me. I moved in with my son and DIL (and grandson) for a few months. We had a BLAST!!! I stayed out of their business as much as humanly possible, and kept to my room in the evenings to allow them unrestricted family time. It worked well for us. Eventually I moved to help take care of a dear friend, who will soon be my husband. We are several states separated from my son and DIL, but were blessed to get to visit with and for my soon to be husband to meet -re-meet my son - my DIL last Christmas. God is blessing us, as everyone seems to like everyone else. My son just returned a couple of days ago from a 10 mo deployment, which despite being pregnant and giving birth to my granddaughter during that time, my DIL held up exceptionally well! I couldn't be prouder of her! MIL/DIL relationship CAN be good. I've lived thru 2 separate DIL labels myself, and while my MIL's both cared for me, I can't say that I was ever really comfortable around them. I consider myself extremely blessed to have the wonderful DIL that God graced me with!

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLora C

    My mother-in-law was a challenge and I vowed not to be that woman. So I work very hard at maintaining a respectful relationship with my DIL, even if I have concerns. I have always felt that my role is to support and love my sons, and that means being a positive person in their lives--which means liking/loving their wives! So, I do my best! Your tips are great, and I'm pleased to see that for the most part, I do the right things!

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWalker Thornton

    I'm not a MIL but had the greatest MIL in the world. She had nine married children and I never heard her say an unkind thing about any of them. She also had 22 grandchildren and she loved each and every one and always found something uplifting to say about them. She was a saint. I'm not a saint but I do treat my SIL with respect and don't offer unsolicited advice. Family with the least amount of unnecessary drama is a good thing.

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJudy@grandparentsplus2

    I told my MIL that she's blessed because both of her daughter-in-laws are crazy about her. I actually cried today because we can't see her and my FIL for Thanksgiving. I hope, someday, I have someone as crazy about me as I am about her!

    Nice post, as usual.

    November 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCathy

    I'm one of the lucky ones who actually gets along well with her in-laws. As you suggested, it comes down to warmth, respect, and keeping quiet.

    November 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarpool Goddess
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