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Noni1

dil problems

130 posts in this topic

I don't want to just whine about issues, but I do need some help. My dil and I got along fine until she had her first child. Since then it has been a roller coaster ride, I never know which person I will be seeing. My son and I are extremely close. I was a single parent and his father was never an active part of his life. My son didn't get married until he was 32, and my DIL was also the same age. Once their first child came, I felt like I was walking on egg shells everytime I was around her. I live 300 miles away, and when I would visit for holidays, she frequently would have an explosive episode, usually in front of the rest of the family, directed at me. I seldom call their home, and when I do she rarely returns my calls. When I go to their area, I usually stay with friends to avoid any conflict. I do not interrfere with their lives, I keep my mouth shut even though she frequently berates my son in front of others, and nags constantly. They have 2 beautiful children, my son is very successful, and they live in a gorgeous home in an affluent neighborhood. My son and her have been in marriage counseling for over 4 years, and my son says things are getting better, but I know he is not happy, except with his children. Now, I am moving a short distance from their home. My son has encouraged me to move closer to him and the children. I know my DIL is seething about me being so close. My son and I have discussed the situation numerous times, and I do have some plans on how best to deal with the situation. I do not intend to spend time at their home, unless invited, nor call their house. My son carries his blackberry 24/7 and I can reach him via his cell. I will be available to watch my only grandchildren in my home anytime, I love them dearly and have great fun with them. My son will be coming over a lot, I know this going in. He calls me everyday now, and he will be passing by my home en route to his job, so I imagine he will be stopping over for coffee in the morning and for lunch fairly regularly. The Dil works every Saturday, and he has said that he wants me to hang out with him and the children for lunch, outings, etc. Throughout the relationship, I have jumped through hoops trying to have a good relationship with her, but no matter what I do, she finds fault with every little thing. For example, if I am at their home, and wash the dishes, she doesn't like the way I wash them, etc. So now with me so close, how do you suggest I best deal with her. I want to continue having a close relationship with my son and grandchildren, without conflict. I think my son is just hanging in until the children are older. He is my only child, and this is not the life I hoped for him.

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Noni, rest assured, you are NOT "whining!" And since this group invites people to come in and "dish and vent," I suppose "whining" would fit right in there and be ok, anyhow. As long as you're not whining to DS or DIL (and it doesn't appear that you are), you're doing all right. My heart aches for you, Noni! And for DS (dear son). And yes, even for DIL, who is clearly, unhappy, whatever the reason. And, of course, for the kids, who are caught in the middle of their parents' issues though, hopefully, the parents manage to keep them out of their tensions, as much as possible. Putting this post together with your other one (in the L/D thread), it seems clear to me that there is a definite disconnect between DS and DIL and their respective wishes. Since they've been in marriage counseling, for quite some time, I doubt it's only in relation to you. Unfortunately, some of the fallout of their problems seems to be landing on you. Or maybe DS' tendency to reach out to you is one of the issues they're divided over, even though that's not really your fault. IF you find out this is a problem between them, you MIGHT have to encourage DS to back away from you a little but I know that's hard for a loving mom to do. Hard to say more, though, unless we have more details. For example, I'm sorry that DIL reamed you out in front of others - and on a holiday to boot! Inexcusable! But do you have any idea what triggered her rant? I'm also sorry that she complains after you go to the trouble of washing her dishes. But did she ASK you to wash them or did you do it voluntarily? (Why would that make a difference? B/c some women are very territorial about their kitchens and don't really want anyone else in there, unless asked, period... yeah, I know, sigh... but I confess I'm a little bit like that, myself.) Regardless, I hope moving closer doesn't turn out to be a mistake. But I get that you want to do whatever you can for DS. Whatever happens, we're here for you! Glad you brought your concerns here... Peace...

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Thanks for your response. Usually when she goes bonkers, it's because she hears half of a conversation and assumes it's about her, or gets a bug up because I offer the children something to drink after a nap, saying "I wait for them to ask for something to drink." And the trival complaining goes on and on. In her tirades, she has called me terrible names, etc., thankfully I have kept my mouth shut, but now the situation will be different, I will have the option to leave and go to my own home, not travel 300 miles. She seems to enjoy embarrassing me around family, hers and ours, so now I will have another option, which is to leave. As far as her kitchen, she is not territorial. Dil seldom uses her dishwasher and prefers to do them by hand. When I am there, I also wash them by hand in an effort to accommodate her, but she doesn't like the way I do them. She doesn't cook at all, and expects me to cook when I am there, which is fine, since I love to cook. There is so much pressure being around her, that I feel like I am sitting on a pressure cooker waiting for it to explode. I don't think I will be able to continue the victim role, and keep my mouth shut, since I will have my own home close-by to see the children and my son. I don't want to be igortant, and exclude her. I want to be able to invite my son and his family over for dinner occasionally or meet them out at a restaurant. I know my son would like this too, but I fear she will have another explosive episode if I don't toe the line. What can I do?

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You have more power than you realize. First of all, I am very sorry you are having to deal with such a rotten situation. There are a few ways I think this could be handled, although I'm not sure how the outcome will be, but honestly, I wouldn't be sure of that anyway. If she is unhappy with you moving closer, she will likely not get any nicer. First of all, stop keeping your mouth shut. This is not something I would ordinarily say, and I don't mean just share everything you are thinking and feeling. But no one needs to call you names, and frankly the more you allow it the more you are giving her permission to do so. But then, I just don't like name calling in general. I feel there are better ways to handle problems. Next time she has an awful outburst and calls you a name or uses nasty language towards you, end the visit. If you are at her home, leave. If she is at yours, you will have to ask her to leave. I do understand how hard this concept is, as she is the mother of your grandchildren and therefore has the upper hand. I get that. And I'm not suggesting you attack her back. I'm just saying that you should leave. Don't make a big fuss about it, just do it. If you want, you can say something like "Okay, I think that is my cue. Feel free to call once you have calmed down if you really want to discuss this situation." This way you are still the bigger person, but not a doormat. I'm a firm believer that the first time or two someone treats you in an abusive manner you are a victim. After that you become a volunteer.

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Forgot to add: I understand you may be reluctant to ask DIL to leave. If that just doesn't work for you, you could try calling her out on it. "That isn't necessary." or "Your language is uncalled for." If you still don't want to give her the heave-ho, do yourself a favor and walk into a different room. Let yourself cool down, and hopefully her too. I guess my main point is simply: DON'T just stand there and take it when she is being nasty to you. You are a person with worth and value, and you don't deserve that. No one does.

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Ask your son how to best proceed. It may be that you seldom see her. Just hang out with your son and grandchildren and don't go to her house. Invite her to yours, but don't expect her to come. Just make sure none of the visits are 'secret'. If you are invited to go to her house and she gives you a hard time, smile nicely and go home. What more can you do?

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Thanks for clarifying, Noni! Once again, I'm so sorry that you have to deal with this. The name-calling, especially is cruel and uncalled-for! At first, I was worried that moving closer would make things harder for you. But now I see that it will make them easier, since, as you say, you can always leave and go to your own home, if need be. Or see DS and GC at your home and/or on those Saturdays w/o DIL. I agree with the advice PPs have given. I just want to add that I can see boundary-crossing on both sides, though mostly, on hers. She has a nerve to "expect" you to "cook," whether you enjoy it or not, for example! And she has no business eavesdropping on others' conversations, assuming they're about her, etc. (she sounds very insecure) and then butting in and shooting off her mouth about it! And so on. Ugh! When it comes to how she handles her children, however, I think you need to follow her lead, even when it's something as "trivial" as when you give one of them a drink. You may think your way is better, somehow, but that's a parental decision, not a GP (grandparent)one. I know you're a loving GM and there's certainly no harm in giving a child an appropriate drink, etc. But when DIL says she usually waits till they ask, she really means, "Please don't give them any drinks unless and until they ask for them." Yes,it may seem "trivial" to you (to me, too, actually) but, obviously it's important to her, for whatever reason. And she really should only have to mention something like this once for you to catch on. Since you'll be with the kids more often now, this is even more crucial. Please follow her rules and routines for them, even when she's not there b/c she may hear about any differences from the kids, anyway. And then, I'm afraid, she may begin to object to your seeing them, at all, whether she's there or not. I wouldn't want to see that happen. Beyond that, I really don't envy you this DIL. Although DS says marriage counseling has helped, I suspect he's reaching out to you for a "soft place to land," a sort of refuge from his marriage troubles. It's so good of you to be willing to be there for him. And it's great that now you'll get to see the GC more often. But please listen to the advice about how to gracefully avoid becoming DIL's punching bag. And please keep in touch with us and let us know how it's all working out...

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"My son and her have been in marriage counseling for over 4 years, and my son says things are getting better, but I know he is not happy, except with his children. Now, I am moving a short distance from their home. My son has encouraged me to move closer to him and the children. I know my DIL is seething about me being so close. My son and I have discussed the situation numerous times, and I do have some plans on how best to deal with the situation. I do not intend to spend time at their home, unless invited, nor call their house. My son carries his blackberry 24/7 and I can reach him via his cell. I will be available to watch my only grandchildren in my home anytime, I love them dearly and have great fun with them. My son will be coming over a lot, I know this going in. He calls me everyday now, and he will be passing by my home en route to his job, so I imagine he will be stopping over for coffee in the morning and for lunch fairly regularly. The Dil works every Saturday, and he has said that he wants me to hang out with him and the children for lunch, outings, etc." Am I the only one who sees this relationship as strange? As a wife, I would be ticked off too. OP, you sound like a mistress. You know he s only in the marriage for the kids. You will be seeing him daily, you only contact him on his cell, you and he discuss how to handle situations, and it seems like all of this is going on behind his wife's back. He is going to be at your house every morning for coffee and frequently for lunch? Why isn't he giving this time to his family? I don't think your DILs treatment of you is correct, but I don't think you are as blameless as you are portraying yourself to be, either. You sound like a 3rd person in their marriage.

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P.S. If she's fussy about how her dishes are washed, you may need to suggest, as graciously as possible, that she do them, herself. In fact, if you do the cooking, why shouldn't she do the dishes? You don't have to risk "WWIII" by saying, "Then do them yourself!" of course. But perhaps, you can just say something like, "I'm afraid you're better at this than I. How about if from now on, I cook but you do the dishes? You'll probably feel better that way and won't feel as if you have to redo them." Then again, now that you can avoid being in her presence, you can, hopefully, keep both the cooking and the dish-washing to your home and there won't be any such conflict. Also, I'm thinking, as much as you'd like to enjoy them as a family, you may have to resign yourself to the fact that it's just not going to work that way. If there's too much conflict when you and she are around each other, and, especially, if she continues to insult and belittle you in front of others (or even in private), you may both be happier if you see DS and GC w/o her. There are other MILs and DILs on this board who handle things this way. Sometimes it's the only solution. One more question - When she "berates" DS in front of you (how awful for him and how hard for you to have to take!), is it about anything specific? And does it ever have to do with his relationship with you? I'm wondering if it's a general pattern in their marriage or if it only occurs, unfortunately, when you're around. NOT trying to suggest that it's, in any way, your fault, but if it only happens when you're there, then that suggests to me that she resents you, for whatever reason. And it may be a sure sign that you need to see DS and GC separately from DIL... Food for thought...

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@the doctor...I noticed also. It sounds like it could be a disaster in the making.

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Well....As a DIL I was surprised to learn, very soon after getting married, that I didn't marry a man who was primarily a husband. I married a boy who was primarily a son/brother. This information, I can assure you, was kept very secret by my husband until after we were married and he could begin to take me for granted-- there really were no signs of it when we were dating, how much he expected his parents to continue to influence his life, and by extension, my own. Maybe your DIL is not a nice person at all. But in reading your post, I notice you have a single focus on your own needs, you don't seem to be particularly interested in promoting a relationship with your DIL. You got along fine until the first child? I'd advise you to try to be more objective about what might have happened on your end that might have triggered the demise of your relationship after her delivery. You are only moving closer to your son because YOU want it for yourself. It will stress their marriage, prevent him from focusing his absolute attention and loyalty on his wife (and by extension, kids), and mending their marriage. But I'm so glad you'll just be able to stalk out of their house and go home if she becomes offended by you and your presence. I don't know why you're a single mom, but I would applaud you for raising your son, except it doesn't seem as if you quite have yet. Doctorisin is absolutely correct in observing you sound more like "The Other Woman" than a mother, mother-in-law or a grandmother. It's nice that he wants to maintain a relationship with his mother, but not at his wife's expense, and that's a situation you seem interested in promoting. Sorry I'm not being as tactful as the others, but I see a lot of professed innocence in your post that I strongly expect doesn't actually exist. And I think it's deplorable to move closer to your son if it's going to break up your grandchildren's parents' marriage.

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THANK YOU Doctor!!! I read this post and it made me cringe. This "parent child relationshio sounds very off to me. Is there any wonder why your DIL is lashing out at you...especially since her husband seems to be emotionally emeshed with TWO women

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You ladies made an excellent point. I still stand by the OP not having to be a punching bag, but it does sound....wierd, to say the least.

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I mean "weird". Please Grandparents.com, give us editing abilities. It hurts my feelings when I am constantly reminded that I misspelled a word.

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Mrsslant, I agree with you that the DILs behavior is totally inappropriate and needs to be dealt with. However, I'm viewing the DILs behavior as lashing out because she is incredibly frustrated. She is married to a man who IMO is having an "emotional affair" with his mother. I'm sure attempts to talk with him about it have resulted in her being shut out and shut down. Her husband is married to her in name only. It seems like the emotional aspect of the relationship is bing given to his mom, and not his wife. OP, I don't think your DIL is behaving appropriately. However, I don't think your relationship with your son is healthy at all. You said you were a single mother, and I'll wager quite a bit that you have ( deliberately or inadvertently) been using your son as a stand in husband for years now. If you love your child and grandchildren as much as you say, you will reconsider your move, take a step back from your son and tell him he owes it to his wife and kids to give 110% of his effort to fixing his marriage, and you will then find a therapist and learn about healthy adult relationships. For the record, I am close with both of my parents. However, it is a healthy relationship which in no way competes with my affection ( emotionally speaking, I am not insinuating you have an inappropriate physical relationship with your son) for my husband. Your son, DIL and GK deserve the same.

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Mrsslant, I see what you mean about not being a punching bag.... but, from what was described, this marriage sounds like it has had one too many people overly involved for a LONG time. I doubt the DH's dependency and super close bond with his mother is a new foudn thing. I would think any woman would have a problem with "another woman" beign so heavily invested in her marriage. (and before anyone jumps my rear, I hate to see ANY adult leaning too heavily on a parent. No grown child should be a bestfriend/subsitute spouse to their parent.)

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Doctor and Dirty DIL: I totally agree with you both. I think I just zeroed in on the abuse aspect of things because I am well known as a recovering doormat. That is how my MIL treated me so I think that is what set me off right off the bat. However, you guys made great points,and as I read the post a second time, a lot more stuck out at me.

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OP, one thing I would suggest to help with this situation, is to not discuss your DIL with DS. If he brings up their marital problems, tell him you don't want to discuss it. It is not healthy to discuss your marital problems with anyone, unless it is with your spouse or a counselor. If you have a gripe about her, please don't share it with him. Even though it doesn't seem glaringly obvious, it is sort of asking him to choose sides. Since you are moving closer, make sure you fill your life with other things as well. Get active in the community, or a hobby, try to make friends. It is important you have other things going on than your DS and Grandchildren, and it might help the situation as well.

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My first thought was that if DS has an extra 20 to 30 minutes each morning to stop by your house for coffee...that he had that same amount of time to help with getting the children ready for the day and help his wife around the house. IMHO...time best spent.

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Noni1 - I have to agree with the other posters - it's a little disturbing to read how you describe your relationship with your son. That's an awful lot of information he is sharing with you about his marriage. I would be disturbed if my DH shared that much with his parents. If your son has problems in his marriage he needs to work those out with his wife and not gossip about those problems with you. I would caution you against moving close to your son. I think it will only strain his relationship with his wife. Do you really want to be the source of further strain on their relationship? It's a little troubling to hear that he plans to visit you in secret while his wife is away - stopping by for coffee with you every morning and such. He should be trying to work out problems with and spending time with her. Have you considered that your problems with DIL may have started after she had the baby because you trivialize her concerns about her child? Have you considered that she feels that you don't respect her parenting of her child or her rules for her child since you seem to think her complaints are "trivial"? Even if you think her rule about having her children ask for a drink before offering it to them is silly it's still her rule and her child. You need to respect her rules and not argue with her or criticize or trivialize. I know that if my mother or MIL trivialized my concerns and rules for my child like it sounds you do I would be upset and it would make me not want to be around them. I think that is one of the biggest causes of problems between mothers and grandmothers - when grandmothers don't respect mom's rules - this includes criticizing mom's rules, rolling your eyes at mom's rules, making it clear to mom that you think her rules are silly or trivial, etc. I think you should think long and hard before you move closer. It's clear that your relationship with DIL is strained and possibly a source of tension between her and your son. You moving closer will only intensify the problem. Think carefully.

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It does seem you trivialize her concerns about her child- I'm furious at ANYONE who does that to Jack or me- be it the teacher, pedi, my sisters, whomever. We know our children and their needs better than anyone else. Tonight- very late- my three 7 year old boys (the jumpin jacks) are flying home to NYC from Texas- they have school tomorrow. O-M-G-can I tell you how many peeps have opinions on their sleep needs? We know they will be the crabby jacks tomorrow- we are adults- we factored that into our decision for this outing. Don't second guess your DIL!

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when I was 19 I dated a man 12 years my senior. His mother was a single mother and even though he was 31 he still lived at home, still slept in his old room (that was still decorated for a young boy instead of a grown man) and still had to ask permission to go out late. his mother treated me like the other woman, as the years went on the curtains were lifted and I saw what a truly messed up relationship it was. Jocasta syndrome, where the young male is used as a replacement husband for his mother. your relationship with your son reminds me a heck of a lot of that relationship. You know waaay too much about their marital issues, and the "fact" that he is only happy with his kids. Don't move closer, seriously, it will NOT help the relationship between you and your DIL. and it will probably kill the relationship between your son and his wife.

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PhalenMum- IDK if I agree- I'd rather visit family and friends in MY City- it's easier for me than bundling up the boys and their gear for a drive out to the burbs. Some family is only over in NJ- but I'd rather stay home of go to my parents or friends here in the city. OP- have your own place- but don't expect the daily coffee and lunch- my maximum with my in-town family is less than daily.

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Noni, I hope you aren't offended by the comments about your sounding "like a mistress" or "The Other Woman" in your DS' marriage. No doubt, those comparisons may be going too far. After all, it's not as if your DS is planning to sneak off with you alone. He's talking about him AND THE KIDS spending those Saturday afternoons with you, while DIL is at work. Men don't usually bring their kids along when they visit with their mistresses! Nor will those afternoons be kept secret from DIL, I don't think. Not when there are kids involved. :-) I know you think DS may stop by for coffee or come over for lunch, on his own. But you say that's what you "imagine" so I'm guessing he hasn't promised or even suggested that, so far. Besides, you've made it very clear that you'd like to visit with DS' family, as a whole, including DIL. The "Other Woman" doesn't usually want to hang around with the wife! I get the point, though - and I hope you do, too - that some PPs are saying that they feel DS is turning to you too much, instead of turning to his DW (dear wife) and trying to work things out with her. I know they're in marriage counseling and that's good. But if DS is still reaching out to you that may prevent the full healing of his marriage. Especially if he makes plans with you (like asking you to move closer) that DIL is "seething" about. (Though I'm not sure how you "know" she's so upset about it. Maybe she, too, is glad you'll have your own place to go to/see DS and GC at.) Then again, IF his relationship with you is causing any of the issues in their marriage, the therapist MIGHT have suggested that DS see you separately, w/o DIL (perhaps not knowing that would entail a move on your part). So DS MIGHT be acting on the marriage counselor's advice and he and DIL may even be in accord about this. It's also possible that, in his mind and heart, DS is getting ready to leave DIL. And he wants you there for support. But that's a very wild guess, on my part, a longshot, which I'm not sure I should have even put out there. Regardless, as long as DIL is in the picture, I repeat, along with PPs, that you need to respect her wishes concerning the GC. And yes, that's true even in seemingly "trivial" matters, such as whether or not you give them a drink. In fact, like mrsslant, I was, initially, distracted by your account of DIL's obnoxious behavior - so much so that I forgot to ask a question I would ordinarily ask: Can you tell us what exactly started the "walking on eggshells" and the "roller coaster" ride? I don't just mean "when" it began - you already told us that - it was when "she had her first child." I mean what were the first two or three incidents/disagreements where you noticed a change. Did she, suddenly, morph into an overly critical, screaming banshee? Or is it possible that you, perhaps with the best of intentions, were undermining her authority as a parent from the first? Trust me, I'm NOT trying to put you down or say "It's all your fault." It's just that if we can pinpoint the "place" where this problem began, we may be able to help you turn things around, something I believe you would love. Also, I agree with PPs that you need to avoid any discussion with DS about his marital problems. Definitely, you need to "bite your tongue" b4 you say anything negative about DIL to him and fan the flames. And yes, you probably should stop him if he begins to complain to you about her and suggest that he (continue to) take up his concerns with her or the therapist. It may be hard for you, as a loving mom, to shut these conversations down, though, I know. But if you "must" be his sounding board, please, at least, be ONLY that (saying things like "I'm so sorry to hear that," etc.) and don't fuel those angry fires by agreeing with him or adding your own gripes about her. I have some more to say... hope you don't mind... but this is getting long, so I'm going to continue in another reply... In fact, thinking this over, I'm a little worried that you may be disappointed by this move, in some ways. You say that you "know...going in" that DS will visit you "a lot" but again, except for those Saturdays, you only tell us that you "imagine" he'll do this/that. Those morning coffees and afternoon lunches may not be in his plans, even if only b/c of his work schedule or whatever. And, after a while, DIL may find a reason (or a "reason," depending on her personality) to object to those weekly Saturday visits. Again, I'm guessing she knows about them, but IF she doesn't, and she finds out through the kids (which she will), she's likely to kibosh them, right away.

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OP, while I can certainly see some issues with your DIL’s behavior – I’m going to have to throw my hat in with the others and agree that if my DH’s relationship with his mother was described the way you describe yours with your son, I might have issues in my own marriage. He is encouraging you to move closer, knowing it will cause problems in his marriage. You feel that if you moved closer he would be spending time with you each day for coffee AND lunch. As others have pointed out – that is time that he could be spending either helping out with his children OR here is a novel idea, maybe having lunch or coffee with his wife just the two of them once in a while. I’m not criticizing you. I realize you are close to your son and that circumstances in his childhood contributed greatly to that relationship. But to be honest – it sounds as if you are happy with the status quo and have already written their relationship off and aren’t bothered by the part that you may play in this, intentionally or not. You may not have realized that you played a part. But can you see now how the intensity of your relationship could interfere with their relationship? Can you see how it could prevent them from developing the type of intimate relationship they are supposed to develop as husband and wife? I’m not a mean spirited person, I’m not confrontational and I don’t get into arguments with people in public as a general rule. But can you see at all where she might feel threatened by your relationship with him, ESPECIALLY by the way he puts you in front of her? He asks you to move closer knowing that it will cause problems in their own relationship. That’s a major red flag. Quite honestly – most adults who suffered through years of their parents “staying together for the children’s sake” will tell you they wish their parents had just gotten divorced rather than waited for them to grow up because it made their childhood miserable. You ask how we suggest you deal with her. If I were the DIL in this situation – I would want you to back off to be honest. I would want my own space to have my DH and my children to myself. I would want to know that my DH wasn’t going to his mommy’s home every day and sharing our private lives with her. I would want her to tell him that she loves him but that she wasn’t going to listen to him talk badly about me that she wasn’t going to talk badly about me. That she was there for him and the children. But that she wasn’t going to be part of the problem any longer. She wasn’t going to be part of the marriage any longer. That he didn’t need to be at her home every day. That he needed to spend some of those times he was with his mother having lunch or coffee with his wife. That I would take the children for a day or overnight so he could spend some private time with his wife. That he didn’t need to bring the children to see their GM every Saturday but maybe surprise Mom at work for lunch one Saturday. Do you see where I’m going here? Be her advocate. Acknowledge the part you play here, albeit innocent. Once you see the part you play –you can no longer consider it innocent if you continue to play that part without change. If you continue along as you have been, you do so with eyes wide open with intent. That’s your choice of course, but you can no longer say that you didn’t realize you were doing it. That’s when the line is crossed. I don’t think you’ve done anything maliciously at this point. But now that we’ve all raised these points I think you’ve got a lot to think about in how you handle your son and your interactions with them. The amount of time he is willing to dedicate to you could be killing his marriage. He needs to be aware of that.

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