Living in Harmony With Mother or Daughter-Inlaw

Mother-inlaw and daughter-inlaw - AdobeStock_136232249Are you having trouble in your relationship with your mother-inlaw or daughter-inlaw? Join the club. It’s not at all unusual to find yourselves conflicting together in this complicated relationship.

“The mother-inlaw/daughter-inlaw relationship is one of the most complicated human connections. It comes with a built-in conflict before the relationship even begins: two radically different views of the same man. One woman always will see him first as a man. The other always will see him first as her child.

“Understanding these perspectives is the first step to having a smooth inlaw connection. However, as I began visiting with women who have successful relationships, I discovered they all shared an attitude that moves beyond this basic understanding. In each relationship, one of the women involved gave a “gift” to the other woman.”

The above statement was made by Elizabeth Graham (a pseudonym, covering her true identity). She wrote an insightful article featured on the Todayschristianwoman.com web site titled, “The Other Woman.”

Different dynamics in Families

We realize that every family has different dynamics going for it. There are also various cultural differences that can influence your relationship with this important member of the family. However, we encourage you to pray as you read the information given below. Try to be open to having God teach you what you can apply to help you in your family situation.

First off, below are a few additional tips that Elizabeth gives for you. Glean through them to see if there if anything she says that you can use.

Mother and Daughter-InLaw Tips:

“If just one woman takes the initiative to ‘set herself aside,’ whether she’s the mother-inlaw or daughter-inlaw, it will make a tremendous difference to them both. The truth is, setting aside our will doesn’t come easily. It feels like ‘giving in,’ and no one likes to do that. This is especially true when you’re convinced the other person’s wrong. But that’s exactly what Jesus did by dying on the cross for us when we were in the wrong.

I realized that one of the gifts I could give my husband Steve, was to make the added effort to get along with his family. (His mom and Dad are no longer alive.) It’s also something I know God would have me do. Sometimes He wants me to “keep the peace” rather than clinging to my “rights.” Yes, sometimes I needed to give voice to my contrary opinions. But other times, I needed just to give grace and let it go. It’s a matter of prayer and determining what I’ve believed God would have me do.

Here’s something else to prayerfully consider that Elizabeth points out:

“‘The key thing to remember, is that your son has left you and joined with his wife. This is what he’s supposed to do. And anything you do to interfere with that process is against God’s will. No matter how hard this is, accepting this fact will pay off in the long run with your children and your grandchildren.”

Interfering in “Kids” Marriages

We have found this to be SO true in our relationship with each of our sons and each daughter-inlaw. Biblically, we don’t have the right to interfere with their marriages. We can offer our respectful opinions (if they are open to it). But once they said, “I do” to each other and to God, we are then assigned by God to take a backseat position in their lives. We are now to be supportive, encouraging family members in their lives, rather than ones who have any real authority.

It’s sometimes difficult to do this, particularly as it pertains to how they raise their children —our grandchildren. But it is the position we are to take. We are not allowed to “separate” in any way that, which “God has joined together.”

Below are a few more points Elizabeth makes that are important to note.

She Wrote:

“Unconditional love comes naturally between a parent and child. But such a foundation isn’t there between in-laws. What mildly irritates a daughter might deeply wound a daughter-inlaw. What only frustrates a mother can infuriate a mother-inlaw. Because unconditional love doesn’t naturally exist between inlaws, it’s a decision that must be made and then acted on daily. ‘Love your enemies,’ we’re instructed. This command crushes all our legitimate reasons for negative feelings toward an in-law. Regardless of those ‘feelings,’ we’re to act in love.”

And then:

“My favorite piece of advice in this area came from a woman who’d had a difficult relationship with her mother-inlaw. But she had a good relationship with her two daughters-inlaw. ‘Forget everything you know about your child,’ she told me. ‘Let your daughter-inlaw discover him on her own.’ In other words, no matter how wise you are or how valuable your advice might be, until it’s ready to be received, it’s worthless! Keep it to yourself until it’s asked for.”

You can read more of what Elizabeth Graham wrote in her Today’s Christian Woman article titled, “The Other Woman.” Just do a computer word search for the title and the author. You can read it in it’s entirety as it’s posted on the Internet.

Concerning Each Daughter-inlaw and Mother-inlaw:

“Lets face it, when two women who love the same man are thrown together, the results aren’t always pretty. Mother-inlaws can have trouble letting go of their sons. Daughter in-laws can struggle to embrace their husbands’ families. Mutual understanding and wise negotiations are required to help mother inlaws and daughter inlaws fuse healthy relationships with each other.” (Whitney Hopler)

In a Crosswalk.com article, Whitney goes on to give tips as as to “how you can get along with your mother-inlaw or daughter-inlaw.” This is an article linked to below, which you can read. Please ask God to give you the wisdom you need, to apply in your family relationship:

BUILD POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR INLAWS

Below is another article that you might find insightful. These “Ten Rules” can be adapted for your situation, but generally, you find the theme of respect and honor and yet good boundaries flowing through them. Please try to extend grace whenever and wherever you can. It’s better to fall on the side of grace than not. Here’s the article. We hope it is helpful:

TEN RULES FOR MOTHER-INLAWS – By Elisabeth Elliot

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

Print Post

Filed under: Dealing with In Laws & Parents

Join the Discussion

Please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.

We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.

Comments

47 responses to “Living in Harmony With Mother or Daughter-Inlaw

  1. (ZIMBABWE) I would like help with my mother in law. She always listens to conversations with my husband, especially when we argue on some issue.

  2. (CANADA) I only know your side of the story, that being said… you came to this site seeking advice, so expect some constructive feedback. I cringed when I read, “The worst thing is she calls herself a Christian! I am a Christian also but I was taught not to be rude and mean to others.” You insinuated that she can’t possibly be a Christian because of the way she treats you and your husband. Please do not profess to know her relationship with God; that is between her and God. Every Christian is on their own spiritual path and many of us have character flaws to overcome, including yourself.

    In the meantime, as a Christian lady, you should focus on your own personal walk, starting with, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44)” and “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Surround your son, DIL and grandchildren with love. Call them on their birthdays… YES even her birthday, celebrate their achievements, go the extra mile. Be patient, it may take many years before they welcome you into their fold.

    Your letter was hurtful in more ways than one. You are willing to give up your relationship with your son and grandkids to prove a point? Clearly your love for them is not as strong as your hatred for your DIL. This is one battle you will not win. If you raised your son to be a strong Christian man, He will stand by his wife and rightfully so. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:22-24)

    According to you, him marrying her was “stupid” and she is “rich and spoiled”. Don’t think for one minute they don’t see how you truly feel. It is pretty tough to hide feelings of disapproval. I know for myself, I can sense from a mile away when someone does not like me. It makes things awkward and uncomfortable. Perhaps your DIL does not have the emotional stability or confidence to deal with your venomous vibes so she copes by staying far far away from you. Now, your son is following suit. A lot of MIL’s need to reflect on their own behavior before assuming it is the DIL with the problem.

    In the future, please do not try to assume, fill in the blanks etc. You said, “She hated us from the get go!… She never could accept that we were not rich… I know he is in the middle! She has turned him against us like oil and water.” These statements are not based on facts, it is hearsay. Are you projecting your feelings or are these your own insecurities? Unless you live in their home and are privy to their pillow talk, please refrain from filling in the blanks and making unfounded assumptions. This can be dangerous and hurtful to all parties involved.

    If she choses to have her mother and stepmother babysit, that is her right as a mother. You don’t have a say. She does not have a personal relationship with you, so why would she entrust you with her most cherished gifts from God.

    I don’t agree with Margie, she seems like another MIL that can clearly benefit from learning how to love the difficult. Being a true Christian is not an easy path, but some individuals are placed in our lives to help us grow in more ways than one. If you chose to follow Margie’s footsteps and pull away or cut your son off, you could be missing out on a beautiful transformation in your faith. We are all children of God, he loves each and every one of us including your daughter in law.

  3. (MALAYSIA) I married my wife of 4 years after 5 years of courtship. We used to be instantly connected. She’s a wonderful person, pleasant, friendly, easy to speak to. Her mom is somewhat sporting and we had good support from her leading to our wedding, despite some hiccups couples tend to have with families. But thankfully, we beat the odds. During the wedding preps, we discussed about living on our own or at my family’s. My wife proposed to stay at her mom’s apartment because she explained that her mother tends to get ill from time to time. So we decided that we would stay at her mom’s. I discussed this with my mom and asked for her opinion; she agrees to it considering her health. I am a field guy and tend to travel almost 70% of the time. Because of this, I agreed to the arrangement so hopefully I could save up to buy ourselves a place. I know my wife is close to her mom because she cares for her well-being. I did not want to dwell on the history of her past because I respected her private life. Both of them stayed together since her parents got separated when she was a teen. My wife had few brothers and they tend to pop in as much as they could.

    1.5 years ago, we were blessed with a beautiful baby. We had ourselves a maid to assist us and her mom would voluntarily help out where she could. She mentioned it is thanks for staying with and taking care of her. I was fine by it because she is a wonderful granny. She would prepare his breakfast and dinner and would nap him since my wife works and the maid was not baby trained. This is fine too. But when I am around I want to be my son’s father and caretaker.

    While staying there, after a while I can see some pattern about their relationship. They took care of each other so much that they forgot I am there as my wife’s husband. Though I respect their relationship, my wife’s priority should be her marriage. Her mom would ask this and ask that. And my wife obliged sometimes blindly. When I am having a talk with my wife, she will want to join. When I drive and I ask something important to my wife, her mom’ll answer. Where is the boundary? This is even obvious to others but I just kept quiet. I will still defend my wife and her mom.

    On a bad day, my wife throws her tantrum at me because she had to obliged to her mum too much. Since I will be missing her so much I would ignore because I travel a lot and when I’m with her, we will try to forget about it. When it happens, this is one of the things that I really hate but I cannot really say. I love my wife dearly because I thought she is original. She is a caring person and she is a wonderful mother to my son. I try to not make it a fuss because I am a grown up, and living with in-laws at the in-law’s requires some fitting in. Sometimes we can’t even enjoy our private moment to ourselves. My wife’s time is for her mom and for me. Now that a baby is around, our time is even more limited. And she gets tired. Being an understanding husband, I try to be supportive. Always. She would appreciate that. Nowadays, the support I can give is wearing out. It is already thin. This is even so when I am not getting her support when it comes to my family. She knows about my situation with my Family. This issue was just the tip of the iceberg.

    My wife’s mom used to be outgoing, and had lots of friends and all. She used to be a high flying globe-trotter. She would tell me this until I just “auto listen”, just to show respect. When she’s fine, she’s really fine. And vice-versa. Recently her mom’s health degraded a little more. It is understandable because she is old and slowly incapable of doing what she likes. I understand very much that her needs need to be attended to and we’re trying to do just that. My wife is trying too hard so that I sometimes feel this is the origin of our problem. I try to be of assistance as much as I can too, because I believe what goes around, comes around. But there’s a limit too.

    I’ve begun to think that her capable brothers are forgetting their sister has a marriage and a life too. I asked her many times to discuss with her brothers to step in more and have their wives to help out too. We also need to focus on our lives. Nowadays it is very difficult to talk about anything of importance like financials with her because she wanted to be heard. While listening to her opinion she would not focus on the matter but rather on the emotional bit. I tried to communicate better but we ended up fighting. We tried to talk again but it just did not work out. The by-products of these fights were like a layered cake, each layer tells a story and one day, it becomes so much so, that it’s so ugly I don’t even want to think of resolution. Later, if we managed to say sorry, she will tell me that she should have been more open about her family that sometimes I don’t understand what’s going on. At this point, I feel that someone is being too selfish. But who?

    The consequences that follow really made me re-evaluate my position. Recently, I told my wife, in order to be independent, sometimes we need to be assertive, even with moms. She got mad and said that if her mom dies, I would be most at peace. She thought that I will never get it, that her mom is not well. I was asking her to have her brother to get more involved. I was devastated with her blow because I too have a mom. And I also know how it feels when alone with no help. I too had a bad upbringing. What caught my attention this time was that her mom and I had similar star sign. She said she does not need another same *star sign* in her life! I told myself: Fine, if this is what she wants. So what I did the very next moment is to calmly move on, just go with her flow, and not mention anything about her mom or anything about asking for favor or whatever. I was just being around but not around. I try to take care of my son so my wife and her mom can focus on each other. But that proves to be difficult too. Her mom would ask me to do this and that for my son. And I just ignore it politely. I do not need her to tell me what I should do to be a parent. She would be adamant and would still politely ignore. I would say what I wanted to do.

    Now that the incident above has been uttered, nowadays, we’re just bed-mates. The sparks are no more, the chats are no more, and I don’t even want to be in the same room even if I can help it. But the ultimate thing is, we’re bound for life for our son. I so pity him that the image of him without parents is just as devastating as what she had said about me. She used to tell me that I behave like her mom. In many ways I do not agree her mother’s way of leading her daughter. In many ways I failed in leading my wife. What is left is that our son is to be shared.

    The description above is simple but the irony is that it is not. I am thinking of all the legal process and also trying to look for help. I know I can still salvage this marriage but I dare to believe it will not end in my way. I still want to believe that I am in love but I am not in love with my wife. I am in fact in love with someone’s daughter. That’s it.

  4. (MEXICO) My husband and I have been married for 1.2 years. Her mom had always been kind to us. She even helped us saw the house’s curtains when we moved to our new house a few months ago. However, we are in an awful situation I don’t know how to deal with. It all started during New Year’s Eve. We invited my husband’s family to have a New Year celebration. She had argued with her husband and she had driven for 2h in the highway with her car not responding so well. So she was very upset when she arrived to our place. Unfortunately, she transformed her anger into critisism towards our house, lack of decoration, furniture, nibbles, etc. She was commenting all that with the rest of the family while I was finishing the dinner. My husband was sick and he did not help me out.

    I tried to ignore her comments but one of them was too personal to ignore. The details: I told her I would serve a dish from the kitchen as the dinner table was not so big to put it there. She said, disqualifying my aptitudes, that of course it could fit there. Her tone throughout the night had been that of her being wise and me not knowing how to run a house at all. My reaction was to just run upstairs leaving the family on its own. She started discussing with my husband about me being not polite and he told her she had caused it all. I heard her saying I should come back to serve them. He calmed her down and we had dinner. However, the whole family (visitors only) decided they needed to say some things before New Year. So, by 11 pm they all set up to discuss what bothered them. The sister said that she was surprised how little he knew of me. I invited her to approach me more. The mother then said that she was angry and wanted to leave as she did not feel welcome.

    A huge fight started. Just like in the movies. Flower vases almost flew across the room. That’s how horrible it was. Some of them said she should calm down and stay overnight. I was for the idea of her leaving straight away but I said nothing since the highway is not that safe on New Year’s Eve. She calmed down just to have a new anger rage. Twice. In the third one said that the situation was all my fault because in her opinion I am false. The sister said the same. They said I am false because it is impossible I smile quite often. And I do smile quite often because I am a happy person. But they would not get it.

    It is already Jan 10. I feel like not talking to her anymore. She disrespected my home and me. Unfortunately I know this thing should be solved for the sake of my marriage. She rang once a few days ago to apology. I told my husband I did not want to talk to her. Today I received an SMS saying that she really appreciated me and hoped things could be solved soon.

    I fear I can fall in a trap if I do the wrong thing. I fear I would be suffering her disrespect and forgiving, day after day after day. Too tiring to bear. So, what you reckon would be the wisest thing to do? I’d appreciate your help. Claudia

  5. I hear there about mother in laws. My husband and I have not spoken to her in 7 years. I have been with her son since I was 17, and we married eight years later.

    At first she was ok but then she got weird. Now, after seven years, she is still spreading lies by mouth and on the Internet. She even posted on a new site that I am a bimbo and accused her family of doing sexual things to me, which is not true. My husband came up with an idea to have a letter sent to her by a lawyer as a warning to stop, or legal action will be taken. You would think after seven years she would get the hint.

  6. I stepped aside from day one. She told him what to do from day one and I’ve had my life ripped apart since day one. You know it’s a lot easier said than done, but now that she has trained him way before me that a woman is a dime a dozen and it’s cheaaper to keep her she’s his only love as she sends him to the hospital for liver serosis. I’m still willing to help if he’d notice that’s what I’m here for. She needs to let him go now.

    Find a hobby. It has been 17 years of me being ignored and she wouldn’t continue to encourage him to get drunk as shes done his whole life. Oh and dont forget when things get bad like all the drinking at her house “kiddo” just blame the wife. I’m crazy for letting him go to her house to drink. I don’t drink but I did it. And some are so stupid they are trying to make him drink again. Nope, he may have been a drinker long before I met him but I’m gonna make sure he’s not anymore. :)

  7. We live with my mother in law. We used to get along really good. But after I got pregnant and had my baby I don’t see her the way I used to. It’s like my eyes opened on how she is with my husband and her other son. She takes advantage of my hubby knowing that we are the only ones paying her rent buying food and all that. Plus we have our own bills and she is always expecting my husband to pay for her money mistakes. I don’t know what to do. My husband doesn’t want to move out so we can have our space.

    1. Hi Karen, Hopefully by now your situation has improved. I don’t have any answers for you, however I am dealing with sort of the same issues. Ironically my name is also Karen :) I recently had a baby three months ago. I did not have a relationship with my MIL because she lived in another country.I had only met her once before when we visited his country for our wedding. After I had the baby, she moved to the US to live with us. She doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak her language.

      She’ll be living with us for at least a year before going back home. It was my husband that insisted that she live with us forever. However I pray that is not the case. We support her totally financially. I was working, however after I had the baby I didn’t return back to work. My husband is supporting our family as well as two kids I have from a previous marriage. My husband is wonderful. I couldn’t have found a better man. However since his mother moved in with us, we argue all the time (related to her). I feel blocked out and secluded a lot of times when they speak their language, as I only speak English.

      She doesn’t help much around the house or change diapers as he and I both anticipated she would be a lot of help with the baby. Possibly she doesn’t do much due to health reasons (arthritis, back pain). However, I feel like she manipulates her health to get attention a lot of the time. He puts her needs over everyone. For instance, being from a different country, she doesn’t like air conditioning and other modern conveniences that we have in the US. My husband will cut off the A/C even though it’s 80 degrees, just to make her comfortable. I feel like she has taken over my home.

      I just want my life back with my husband and our kids like it was before her arrival as our home was so much more peaceful and I felt comfortable in my own home. I have voiced this to him, however, he refuses to listen and refuses to compromise. As you can tell there are a lot of issues we’re dealing with since she came to live with us…too many to list. Any advice would be much appreciated!

      1. Is there any way to move her close to your home permanently (in the neighborhood), or put up a casita, a MIL apartment attached or in the basement, or a tiny house near by your home in the yard so you at least have SOME space that is separated for part of the day?

  8. I am having a problem with my future daughter in law. She never speaks unless spoken to and when I ask her a question the answers can be very curt or rude. She comes here every other week. I am finding this very uncomfortable and it hurts because I am happy for my son. My son and I live together in the same house which I gave to him. I am seriously considering moving to an apt. He is 31 and she is 34. She has a 10yr old daughter from a previous relationship.

    Today has been awful and I told my son it might be better for me to leave. I am handicapped and in a wheelchair for the past 2yrs and also have RA. He said he would break it off but that is something I don’t want him to do, he deserves his own life and wants to get married and have a child with her. I feel unwelcome in my own home.

  9. Please help me. My daughter-in-law says very hurtful things when I am around her. She was so sweet and nice before she became engaged and then she changed; she was rude at the wedding to me more than one time and when we make plans way ahead to visit she lets us know real quick they have somewhere to go at 6. When she comes around, which is not much, she looks very unhappy. My son told his brother that nothing he does makes her happy. She was born with a silver spoon; he was not and his brother is middle income and he is in medicine and she is always sarcastic to my other daughter-in-law. I Am at a loss. I need prayer. God bless.

  10. I got married last year July and ever since October my husband got back to abroad. I’ve been staying with my mother in law and sister in law, though she’s nice but complain a lot which makes me feel I don’t know how to do anything, and she always wants to know what’s going one between me and my husband, I have a four month old baby with me, and when it comes to my child issue she always act first, she doesn’t make me feel as if I am the mother to my child, she always refer to me as his aunt while she calls my sister in law his mother. I sleep in the same room with my sister in law so whenever we are about to sleep she always put the fan on highest and it affects my baby a lot, which I have complained but no changes. She receives calls till midnight, laughing on calls and all which also affect me and my baby. And if my sister in law is awake my baby is also awake, she will be signing, going up and down. I am tired of all these and I think I can’t deal anymore. Please help me out.

    1. Hi Omotayo, Your situation sounds very stressful from several different angles… living in close quarters with family is, at best, “doable” on a very temporary basis, and at worst, can tear families apart. I hope you can move out to your own place very soon! Very strange that your MIL does not acknowledge you as your baby’s mother… certainly not healthy… Asking about your private business can be politely handled with “Well, that is really private and I shouldn’t talk about that when my husband isn’t here.”

      Best thing to do is find your own space as soon as possible. In the meantime, it cannot hurt to be nice, try not to get into arguments… and do everything you can to give your SIL and MIL as little cause as possible to find fault with you. It is also true that you are staying in their house… that doesn’t make things any easier… At least you have a roof over your head! Hope you can find your own place very soon! Take care, WP (Work in Progress)

  11. Thank you so much, my husband is so dear to his mom. My mother-in-law is very nice, and pleasant. And I alway tell my husband dont sit at home if you come in early, go visit your parents any time you can give them; they are much appreciate that effort. I try to make sure that both relation my marriage and his relation with his mom and dad are both alive and intact and be as smooth as it can be. God Bless.

  12. Before my son got married, his bride to be came over all the time. We saw them every other week. She wanted to do things together. Just before the wedding she was cold. I was invited to her shower but she hardly spoke to me. I asked her to lunch but she said she was busy. On Mother’s Day she said she was glad that I was in her life but didn’t come over because she had to go shopping for a flower girl dress. At the wedding, she didn’t really interact with me except to say, Did you have fun?

    Before marriage, she said she would always spend sometime with my family but has not been by for the last three holidays. What changed? Did I say something to upset her? I always told her she could tell me if I said things that upset her.

    1. Diane, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we have heard of this exact scenario (although sometimes it’s the son-in-law). All I can say is to pray about talking to her at a non-conflicting time… maybe when she and your son do come over. Ask her if there is anything you have done that has offended her. Tell her that you never want to hurt her and if you do, please tell her. You already said something like this to her before, but maybe you need to word it more specifically and/or differently. So try it.

      It’s probably not you. Perhaps it is… something you did that you don’t see as being offensive but because she has different life experiences and approaches to life, perhaps she’s offended. All you can do is the best you can do. Try not to allow yourself to get caught up in bitterness or pick up an offense over this. It would be easy to do. Pray for her and for your son and be their cheer leaders. Beyond that, there isn’t much you can do. This is sadly, very, very sadly what happens in some families. Do what you know God would have you and hopefully, she will eventually sense your genuine, unconditional love and will eventually respond in a loving manner. …I hope this helps :)