sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Want to Avoid Daughter-in-Law Problems? Let Go to Hold on!

By Pamela Reynolds April 29, 2023 Family

If a mother-in-law has trust and faith in her son, it should give her the confidence to let go and let her son live his own life. She can learn to play a different role and find new interests to occupy her newfound time.

Life changes force us to play a different game with different rules. It can be fun if we are willing to play instead of lamenting the past and turning the game upside down.

Avoiding Daughter-in-Law Problems: Privacy Should Be Considered a Priority

It is important for the mother-in-law to take a step back and allow the couple privacy and space. A mother must consider and respect the fact that her son has a wife to consider. They are now forming their own household and their business is personal.

Probing into confidential affairs is unthinkable. Privacy should always be considered a priority and mothers-in-law should not interfere or ask their sons for information. Many mothers-in-law lament that their knowledge is completely ignored. Unfortunately, they must accept such occurrences as a part of life.

Build Up Your Daughter-in-Law’s Confidence

The lack of trust in the mother-in-law unintentionally hurts many mothers-in-law and sets the ground for disagreements. The wife perceives it as disloyal to her if her husband allows his mother’s influence to dominate the relationship. The mother is faulted if she encourages this behavior.

The best rule is to offer advice only when asked and only at the time one is asked. The son is committed to his wife. He has a place in his heart for both women but his life is continuing forward with a new woman by his side. Peace is achieved when this is respected. Daughters-in-law are insecure and find their confidence increases with less interference from the mother-in-law.

Who Sabotages the Relationship?

Parents on both sides, as well as siblings, can damage relationships by exuding pressure in the form of jealousy and competition. This can be accomplished when the mother of the bride exerts pressure on the daughter out of her jealousy of the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship.

Some mothers have convinced their daughters to refrain from becoming too close to this woman. The mother-in-law’s daughter can place pressure on the mother to keep her distance with the daughter-in-law. Sisters-in-law in all combinations can be guilty of jealousy.

My own mother did not want me to be friendly with my mother-in-law. She wanted to keep track of the hours and minutes I spent with my mother-in-law. I finally had to refrain from telling her when I went to see my mother-in-law to keep peace with her. In research for my book, The Princess and The Queen, this is still a key problem.

Friends are huge culprits because they agree with us without considering if we are right or wrong. They want to cheer us up at any cost. Gossip is started along with assumptions and judgments which are wrong most of the time. We are creating a monster in our minds.

It is wiser to accept the differences and play as fairly as possible without expectations. Having no expectations allows you to always be pleased and never disappointed.

The Mother-in-Law Loses the Most in a Failing Relationship

The mother-in-law does have to give in the most because she loses the most if the relationship falls apart. At an early point in the relationship, daughters-in-law don’t value a mother-in-law, and they are willing to sacrifice the relationship.

Mothers-in-law see the whole picture clearly and don’t want to jeopardize losing their sons or grandkids. These two losses are the genuine fears of the mothers-in-law. Being older and with more experience, mothers-in-law have a greater understanding of the importance of peace to maintain bonds.

Transform Emotional Distance into Positive Interactions

At times, both women can simply be misguided in their thoughts and judgements of a situation. That is the best kept secret. Neither woman wants to upset the elephant in the room, so neither discusses any real issues or problems they have. Mothers- and daughters-in-law have individual fears, as well as desires.

Daughters-in-law want to control their lives and their children. Mothers-in-law feel the same way, but their son is grown up. Control becomes impossible, so the mother-in-law must see the changed playing field.

The mother-in-law fears losing her relationship with her son and grandchildren. She sometimes pushes for what she perceives as her rights, and she makes matters worse.

The daughter-in-law feels threatened and fights back with refusals to visit. Both women dig in their heels and ignore the man-in-the-middle’s suffering. Even when there are visits, if there is emotional distancing, little love is displayed.

Be open, honest and communicate with your daughter-in-law without assuming or judging. Don’t expect to gain all you want, but instead, appreciate what you get and more will flow to you.

Don’t Count the Time You Share with Your Grandchildren but Do Count the Love!

It’s important that everyone understands that grandchildren lose the most when grandparents are not allowed to engage with them. Parents can’t forever control who their kids like or resonate with. When they are grown they may question the reasons for keeping grandma and papa at a distance from them.

Children ask many questions when they are young, but they ask more questions when they are older. They will not be deceived. Kids deserve all the love and attention they can get. Refuse to put them in the middle of any arguments by keeping in mind that kids thrive on love and attention.

Let Parents Set the Boundaries

Parents should set boundaries and rules as well as visit times. Grandparents must be flexible about the restrictions and accept what they receive. With three daughters-in-law and one son-in-law, I have found that the more I accept the conditions the parents set, the more lenient the parents become.

That is a fact. The grandchildren tell me about their visits with their other grandmas and papas, and I cherish the conversation. I am sure they do the same about their visits with me.

Children are open and carefree, and they hold nothing back. They thrive in their open happy environment. The parents and grandparents have peace and are surrounded by the loving atmosphere.

This is the result of open communication, which we all strive to achieve, and the ability to share without jealousy. It turns gossip into discussions, judgements into tolerance and assumptions into trust. It is never perfect and has its flaws, but it is positive, honest and worth the effort.

Always Offer Praise in Some Form

Gossip hurts, demeans and causes unending hardships. Most gossip is hearsay or half-truths. Even gossip that is true serves only to bring pain and misunderstanding. If you want people to speak kindly of you, you should speak gently of others. Muster the courage to stop gossip as soon as it begins.

You won’t have to eat your words or be embarrassed when someone repeats your indiscretion. Recall the adage that what we see in others may be rampant in us. I have often learned this lesson by committing the same mistake I criticized another for. It is unnerving to find the fault within one’s self – but very enlightening.

Work on Creating a Harmonious Relationship

In any harmonious relationship the interactions are easy, unguarded and contain more humor. The conversation is relaxed, the stress and anxiety are not present, and the subjects of conversation are varied and interesting. When the visit is over we are filled with a sense of joy. Maintaining a good relationship is for the benefit of all.

We can focus on what is good about each other, and learn to tolerate what we don’t like. Mothers-in-law can help with babysitting, cleaning the dishes after enjoying a meal or shopping with their daughter-in-law to again help with the children. Offering to drive or pick something up is also helpful.

The daughter-in-law may offer to help with dishes, visit or spend a day or evening in an outing with the mother-in-law. In both situations, the women are enjoying and helping each other. Even if it is tense in the beginning of a relationship, put the effort into creating magic and forming a devoted bond. It is so beneficial for both women and therapeutic in so many ways.

The Changes Are Never What We Imagine

Don’t measure or imagine. Imagining is like assuming. There is only one you and nobody else like you. Your experiences, ideas, jobs and talents are unique, and your grandchildren benefit from this.

If you can admit that you love all your children the same, then you can trust that your grandchildren love all their grandparents. If you compare and measure then you will always distrust and feel loss. If you unconditionally love and are grateful for the love you have in your life, then you will never be disappointed.

The good news is that if they are successful, the daughter-in-law values their support and recognizes their importance in the family. This brings the relationship full circle and on firmer ground.

Enjoy a new role and play a different game.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How did you build a positive relationship with your daughter-in-law? What tips would you share with other women in our community about creating and sustaining a strong relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law? How do you avoid daughter-in-law problems? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

My relationship with my DIL was, I thought, indestructible. We were close from the time she was dating my son. I once told here that no matter how things worked out, I wanted her in my life. I received cards that told me I was more her mom than a MIL, I couldn’t believe my good fortune, and what a blessing in my sons life. Yes, this changed. It has been heartbreaking. After their baby was born, strangely, I experienced distance. I never interfered and focused on supporting in any way I could. I can only describe this loss as suddenly being an outsider and feeling like the stereotypical MIL you describe in some passages here. Perhaps one day we’ll be able to talk about this, but I am focusing on having little expectations and finding ways to be a grandmother…something I haven’t felt is a priority for her.

Donna Martin Lupinski

Omg same here after our miracle granddaughter was born

Rosemary Williamson

As the writer says – let go! They are adults, you’ve done all you can, now step back and let them live their lives.


Well I have two sons and two daughters. One son married and I leave them alone and we all get along pretty well. My daughters are single and I have told them to never get close to their husbands mother. Not because I would be jealous, but because she will destroy your marriage like they watched the grandmother do to me and their dad. Be civil and polite but keep a distance from her. She will use everything in her power to destroy your marriage.


Wow, that is tremendously sad that your experience has to inform your kids future relationships with family that may have nothing in common with your history.


Lisa, don’t place your unfortunate experience on your daughters. It’s not prudent or fair.


What a terrible thing to say. Perhaps you married someone that Dr. Laura Schlessinger refers to as a limp d*ck. It was his job to stand up to his mother on your behalf. If he didn’t do so before you were married than he was probably too weak to do so afterwards. What did YOU do to try and establish a boundary with this woman or keep your distance?


Lisa that is a damn lie I’m a mil and have never had intentions of destroying my sons marriage don’t catorigize everybody and get your facts straight I’ve been the one ostracized


Your perspective is very helpful! I needed the reminder that I have much more to lose than my daughter-in-law if we were to have a falling-out…


So relieved to read your thoughts. Before my thoughts were how can I fix the situation. Now I’m thinking differently. You’re right it’s their life. I can adjust mine while allowing them to figure things out on there own. I will be there for support only whenever needed. A baby is on the way. Very happy to shift my focus away from how I think things should be and let them live as they have been. I’m here if they need me. Period!

The Author

Pamela Reynolds is a Connecticut-certified teacher in elementary and Special Education. She taught for over 20 years in public and private schools and is now retired. The author of The Princess and the Queen, Pamela also writes about relationships on her website She is married and has four children, three daughters-in-law, one son-in-law and nine grandchildren.

You Might Also Like