Dear Dr. Gramma Karen,
Your article, “Mother-in-Law Feels Rejected By Daughter-in-Law,” hit home with me.
My daughter-in-law treats me just like Tracy treats her mother-in-law. No matter what I do, my daughter-in-law Penny disapproves. For example, we just spent the weekend at a beautiful vacation home in the Blueridge Mountains with our two sons and their wives (our daughters-in-law). Penny took every opportunity that she could to be defiant and rude, mostly with me, but sometimes with the others. In fact, she wasn’t nice to our son (her husband) over this same weekend and it made me feel very sad.
At one point she said that she thought that the brand of brownie mix she had brought along was one of the only good things that she had learned from me! Also, over the weekend she told me that she doesn’t read my emails because what I have to say usually isn’t important. Even so, when I send out an email to our sons and our nice daughters-in-law, I include Penny on it just so she doesn’t feel excluded. I am thinking I will not include her in my emails anymore.
It is a shame that people are like Penny. She is cheating herself and our son out of a lot of love and good times. When we all parted on Sunday, Penny and our son stopped at a State Park and took a lovely picture/selfie that our son texted to me. They looked happy together and that helped reassure me that our son is going to be okay.
After all, as your article pointed out, what is most important is that the marriage between the two of them is happy. So, I thank you for that reminder.
Dr. Gramma Karen’s Response
I am pleased that you took the time to let me know that you found one of my columns helpful. Thank you.
You didn’t ask, but if I may share with you some unsolicited advice …
You come across as a very loving and nice person, so I am sorry for the rudeness and lack of warmth you experience with Penny. However, it sounds like others in your family have also been on the receiving end of her not-so-nice behavior, including your son, who is her husband. Under the circumstances you describe, I want to suggest that, as a gift to your son, you continue to include Penny in all communications and get-togethers, and to be as kind to her as possible.
Build on any crumb she tosses your way: she compliments you on your choice of brownie mix — yes, I know, it was probably snide — ignore any barbs and take her at face value. For example, you can say, “I, too, think it’s a great mix. I’m thinking about adding in some dried cranberries. I’ll let you know how it comes out.”
Yes, try to ignore her rudeness and meanness: That is, to the extent you can muster the motivation, treat her with tenderness and kindness. Tell her you love the selfie of your son and her and you’ve put it on your fridge. When you do not take her to task for her rudeness and you continue to include her, you are being kind, even when she doesn’t deserve it. This is a gift to your son. And, just as important, this is a gift to yourself, because you will know in your heart of hearts that you made a choice to go for goodness and decency over nastiness.
And finally, you haven’t mentioned grandchildren, but should they be in your future, you never want to give Penny any excuse to exclude you from your grandchildren’s lives. No matter what happens in the future between them, you want your son to be able to say, “Mom, you were always kind to Penny.”
So, my two cents worth, even though you didn’t ask for it!
Update from Rebuffed Mother-in-Law
Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply! It feels good to hear from someone who understands. I will definitely put your suggestions into practice! Best wishes to you.
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