• Other Friendship Advice

Keeping peace with the daughter-in-law from hell

Published: July 29, 2011 | Last Updated: January 7, 2016 By | 8 Replies Continue Reading


Hi Irene,

My son and daughter-in-law bought a sailboat and put it in a lake halfway between their home and ours. Our son was deployed for a year during which time our DIL never spoke to us. We couldn’t even see the children at all even though we tried.

When son came home, she acted like everything was fine. Now he’s gone for another year and the marina had storm damage—so whom does she call? Not her folks, who she has over to play on the boat all the time, but us.

I told husband, “Nope, I’m not doing it.” He’s like, “Oh, she’s a sweet girl and needs our help.” I think she’s a sneaky, two-faced—(I’m biting my tongue off here.)

So, do I go along and help or beg off? We’re older and can easily cite health concerns.

Signed, Vikki


Dear Vikki,

Although this isn’t a friendship problem, per se, the relationship between mothers-in-laws and daughter-in-laws is a tricky one. Your son’s deployment has to be difficult on everyone, especially his wife—but your DIL’s behavior towards you and your husband makes me shudder. That said, I still think you want to give her every benefit of the doubt because she is your son’s wife and the mother of your grandchildren.

If you alienate her completely, your losses can be great. And putting your son in the middle of his parents and his wife is also a no-win situation.

It sounds like the storm damage is is a once-in-a-blue-moon situation. If you can possibly afford to help her, try to do so. It can’t be easy for her to have her husband away for a year. Hopefully, when he returns home for good, she’ll get closer to you and your husband. Don’t give her an excuse not to.

Best, Irene

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Category: Family friends

Comments (8)

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  1. Irene says:

    I’m so sorry that your son is dying. This has to be a horrendous time for you—as well as for his wife and children. I don’t know the particulars but as his primary caregiver, his wife is likely to be under considerable strain emotionally. If she has had ambivalent feelings about her marriage, it makes it even worse.

    Explain to her that you want to support her and the children but that you need time to be with your son during these last days. 

    Try not to question her affection for your son. It is what it is—and you want to maintain a close relationship with your grandchildren. 

    This is a time to pull together if at all possible.

    My heart goes out to you~


  2. Anonymous says:

    Our son is dying, yes I said dying and all at once the daughter-in-law is shunning and shutting us out, having to make an appointment to visit them — ten miles away. For eighteen years they have been married, after over and over her lament I want to leave you, how many times our son has told us this. She was abused by family member during teen years, parents said suck it up, this is family secret, so she got no help and letters upons letters for our son to rescue her. So there has been that mental issue, I cannot work, all this time and mama and daddy do so much for us. We have laid out almost 200,000 pulling them out of medical and IRS situations and she never even acknowledges it, so we have wonderful grands, teens, but now she is not letting us interact, always they are not available, Oh you didn’t come for this or that, Oh, that’s right says the other grandparents, we forgot to tell you. Yet this stranger was here, my parents took the grandson out and no, we have plans you can’t come. This is so sad and I understand from reading books this is a power move, but how many nights can you cry of the thought of a son dying and a dIL cutting you out. There is no thank-yous from her, only what mama and dad do for us and they give no money, just show up all the time, To top it off she posted the love story of the she and our dying son, this is fiction, what about all the days you said, this was mistake I want out? Everybody says wait, she has no money now but stands to get big insurance policy and he is in last stages of illness confused on this one for sure.

  3. Sandra McLeod Humphrey says:

    WOW, what a delicate problem! Thinking of the future, however, I think your advice is very sound, and I would encourage the in-laws to include her as much as they can in the entire process. It shouldn’t just be a freebie that doesn’t add anything to helping to cement their relationship. Frankly, she sounds pretty insensitive and I wonder, too, about her maturity level.

  4. Mark Evans says:

    Let her fix the dock on her own. Too many manipulators in society get away with it, again and again and again. This DIL needs to learn some common decency and respect toward her family.

  5. Laurie Lee says:

    Depending on how old she is it could be a maturity issue. I would give her the benefit of the doubt. I like the idea above about not just handing over $$$S but setting the situation up so that DIL has to work cooperatively with the ILs. BTW, when I read this my understanding was that help was needed with manual labor (i.e. using health issues as an excuse not to help) not money?

    Having a son that I love dearly and am close to, I’m so aware of the potentially fragile relationships between MILs and DILs. As my son gets older I hope and pray I have a good relationship with his future wife. Women are the glue in families!

  6. Camilla says:

    Not demanding that the son choose his loyalty is reasonable, but an answer that doesn’t involve him at all is incomplete. Assuming he’s not on a submarine and completely incommunicado, he absolutely does owe his parents an answer to “why can’t we see the grandchildren?” That’s a parenting decision, and is as much his decision as hers, regardless of where he is.

    Does DIL want physical help, or financial help? Maybe granny should offer to babysit while her husband helps out.

  7. Irene says:

    Great idea about involving the daughter in the boat situation~


  8. motherwarrior says:

    Boy do I sympathize with the parents. If they do pay for the boat situation I suggest they involve DIL in process and not just whisk away the problem. It will give a reason for and some practice in cooperating. Good luck!

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