Mother-in-law, Age 72
I recently moved near my son to be near him and the grandchildren, and I had an incident the other day with my daughter-in-law that was the last straw. She has ignored me for years, despite my every effort to engage her in conversation or treat her to outings, restaurants, and presents. I have tried to honor her in every way I can think of. I have invited her a couple of times for a girls’ day out, and she hasn’t responded to anything beyond saying that it would be nice. Most recently, I treated her and my son and two grandsons to overnights at a vacation cabin to honor her and the wonderful job she has done coping with issues and raising kids during the pandemic, and I continued to be ignored…without even a “thank you.” Sometimes I withdraw; other times I try and engage. I compliment her cooking. I never offer advice. And I never talk about her with my son behind her back.
The last straw was when we all went out together recently. She and my grandson were sitting at a table while we were waiting to be seated at a restaurant, and when I went over to sit with them, she promptly got up, walked away from me, and went over to where my son was, acting all happy and cuddling up to him. This is fine, and I’m glad their marriage is so loving, but it hurt my feelings that she moved away from me so suddenly when I was simply trying to hang out with her. And as if this weren’t enough, every time we get together, most every Sunday, I continue to be ignored.
Consequently, I don’t know what to do with myself, and because I have allowed her to make me feel so nervous, I invariably say stupid things that may even aggravate the situation.
Several years ago, we were at a family reunion, and she was ignoring me, as usual, and I asked my son if she was OK because she seemed so distant. Naturally, he mentioned this to her, and he told me later that she was highly offended by what I had said.
I understand that my son’s allegiance is to his wife, as it should be. But does he not notice how rude she is to me? She constantly reprimands her children about proper manners, yet she doesn’t exhibit them herself to me. Her behavior, in fact, feels cruel.
Why do I have to be involved in such a stereotypical MIL/DIL relationship? How did this happen? It seemed to start when the grandkids were born.
I just don’t know what I did to create such a state of dysfunction. And now that I’m 72, it’s not so easy to up and move. And besides, am I going to move every time an unpleasant situation in life arises? I would be moving on a regular basis if this were the case.
The precious neediness of my dogs and my volunteer work with Hospice make me feel of some value. My grandkids do love me, but soon, they will become adolescents, and I would imagine the relationship will shift when that time comes as it happened between my own grandmother and me. And yet, I have allowed my DIL to make me feel devalued and unappreciated.
My conclusion is that there is nothing I could have done or can do to rectify this horrible situation. I thought I would see a therapist, so I contacted two via email, and they didn’t respond. They were 30 years younger than I am anyway, and part of me felt as if it would probably be more beneficial to connect with someone closer to my age who has had more life experience.
Jane and Ellen recommended I check out Barbara Greenleaf, who addresses this DIL/MIL relationship, so I bought her book, Parents of Adult Children: You Are Not Alone. The chapter on the dynamics of the DIL/MIL relationship was most informative.
Strangely enough, a woman I had met 20 years ago suddenly came to mind. She has been clearing past life patterns with clients for the past 40 years. She’s got to be in her 80s by now. I’m not sure if I really believe in past lives, but I contacted her anyway, and she gave me a session. And so, my energy has shifted dramatically. I feel much lighter. One of the things she recommended was to forgive my DIL as she is — in my heart — and to forgive myself as well.
I also started listening to YouTube videos of BK Shivani. Her teachings have provided a philosophy that resonates with me. Finally, after years of agony, I am feeling a positive shift — a feeling much more productive than getting nowhere while talking about this problem ad nauseam with friends. Some of the things that Shivani talks about are acceptance and that when people behave with meanness and cruelty, this is simply an expression of their own pain. We will add to their pain when we react to their behavior in anger or talk about them behind their backs. We absorb their pain and make things worse. We must live at a higher frequency of compassion. We must love them unconditionally. Eventually, their energy will likely shift, too.
In no time, I have moved forward from my own state of crippling pain to a much higher frequency. I even feel grateful that my DIL has given me this opportunity for growth. In the meantime, I’m going to live every moment and day as if it were the last. I want to break the old toxic family patterns of anger and abuse and be the positive influence on my grandchildren. I certainly hope that this will be one of my legacies.