1. Kids & Family

Tell Me About It: Mom's fed up with aloof daughter-in-law

Mom's fed up with aloof daughter-in-law

Q: I have known my daughter-in-law for 14 years, but we have no relationship. We have never had an argument or even any unkind words between us. Their son, our only grandchild, is the apple of my eye and we have a wonderful time with him. The problem is that no matter what I seem to do, my daughter-in-law shuns me. She rarely speaks to me. If I speak to her she responds with one or two words.

I asked my son, in private, what I might do to improve my relationship with her. He said there is no problem; she's like that with everyone, she is just quiet. He seemed annoyed I would even ask. I clarified that if I perceived it to be a problem then there was validity in that, but he simply changed the subject.

I know things could be much worse. It is just so terribly awkward and uncomfortable to be around someone who works so hard to maintain distance. I worry that if I try to address this directly with her, I jeopardize what I currently have. I sadly find myself simply ignoring her during our visits now, since I cannot continue to tolerate what I perceive as her rejection of me.

I vacillate between accepting her "as she is" and being angry at what can only be described as rudeness. Your suggestions?

Never Thought It Would Be This Hard

A: Your son gave you the only answer you need, and an out: This is just the way his wife is.

Forget whether it's actually true that "she's like that with everyone"; for your purposes, it is. She's inert matter: not good, not bad, just there.

I'd also argue this reframing is not optional. Your son's answer is workable only if you choose not to walk yourself out onto the "I cannot continue to tolerate" limb, and choose to rethink "what I perceive." Taking your daughter-in-law personally makes you her adversary. Taking her as socially awkward, and being consistently warm and kind, makes you her ally. Maybe a thaw will never happen, but where's your best chance that it will?