I don’t think my daughter-in-law Susan likes me and I can’t understand why. It really bothers me a lot. My son Bob and I have a good relationship one on one, but his wife doesn’t warm up to us as a family. My husband and I invite them over and pay as much attention as “allowed” to our two toddler granddaughters, but I always feel Susan would rather be somewhere else. She is quite connected to her own family and she and the girls
spend a lot of time with them, especially her mom and dad. My husband and I feel
left out. Although she never says anything bad, Susan makes me feel like a mother-in-law witch!
I should say this is my son’s second marriage and we were very close to his first wife. But, she ran off to “find herself” and he was devastated when she filed for divorce. We never talk about this first marriage with Susan so there shouldn’t be a problem there. Luckily they didn’t have any children so it was a clean break.
I just want to have a fun, solid, and good relationship with my daughter-in-law. I don’t like feeling we don’t matter to her.
(Signed) Feeling Bad
Dear Feeling Bad,
This is sometimes the case with our children’s second marriages, especially when there might be unresolved issues, the proverbial elephant in the room. It could be Susan feels you are comparing her with your son’s first wife – she probably knows you were close and senses you
are still reeling from the void that break-up caused in your family dynamics. It might not be true, but if Susan sees it that way, it’s reality for her.
Has your son noticed Susan’s cool treatment to you and your husband? If so, maybe you could ask him if you’ve done something to distress his wife, possibly even venturing into the first marriage territory.
Bob might be relieved to release his bottled feelings to you – if he still harbors any hurt at all, he won’t be discussing it with Wife Number Two! You are his safe place to bring old hurts. He might be doing more balancing than you realize. As an underlying dynamic, this can affect behaviors.
You might introduce comments subtly relating to their marriage, perhaps something like, “Susan, you make Bob so happy! How lucky we are to have you in our family.” Giving compliments goes a long way, although realistically, it might take a while for them to smooth the way. Don’t push, although I know that’s what you want to do to resolve any issues and get things moving in a positive way.
The closeness your daughter-in-law feels toward her own primary family is really a good thing. If you change the way you view this relationship (not as a jealous threat), you may come to appreciate Susan puts great value on family connections.
Your little grandgirls can be a good bridge to friendship and acceptance by Susan. Don’t try to “buy” the girls, but instead give the gift of time and attention. There’s no reason to compete with the other set of grandparents either – just be yourselves and the girls will love you for what you bring into their lives. Little girls share their affection to stretch as wide as the world.
Genuine in-law acceptance doesn’t always come easy, but if grown bit by bit, will eventually end up in a meaningful relationship for you.