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Difficult DIL

(76 Posts)
Bishop Sun 14-Apr-19 20:30:25

My oldest son and his wife have been married for almost 20 years. They have one child (my only grandchild), a six year old boy. I have three sons total but he is the only one married and living nearby. We lived an hour away until about a year ago when we moved within 15 minutes. The move was for my husband's job but I am certainly happy to be closer to my grandson.

I have never had a close relationship with my DIL although I have tried over the years. She seems to have contentious relationships with almost everyone including her sister with whom she has had physical confrontations to the point of requiring stitches and is often at odds with her parents. She appears to be the type of person that gets satisfaction out of a knock-down drag-out fight followed by making up. I just don't and can't operate that way. I avoid her as much as I can. She has cost me friends by getting into fights with them on social media and everyone in my family of origin just cringes when they know she will be at any event. My son tells me that she is crazy and that, as soon as their son is old enough to choose his own custodial parent, they will divorce. Of course, I also see him be very nice and accommodating and to end phone calls with "I love you". I told him the other day that that is very confusing to me but that it is his business, that I am here if he needs me but I won't interfere.

Here are some examples of the interaction between my DIL and myself. When the grandson was 3, he told me that he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up and wanted to go to the moon. Then he pointed at me and said, "And I want you to go with me, Grandma." His mother said, "Well, she'll be dead by then." She never has a kind word to say to me and has a great deal of resentment for any time I try to spend with my son, even if we do something like meet for coffee in honor of my birthday. In late December, she physically attacked my son, scratching and hitting him to the point that he had to wear turtlenecks for the next several days to work. She also attacked him last September. Those are just the two times I know about. After the last attack, she called me crying because he was upset about it, didn't understand that she felt out of control, and didn't sympathize with her that she was upset it happened. She said they were having a nice weekend and she just flipped out. I was supportive and calm, advising her to see her doctor. That was my behavior toward her, but inside I am incredibly disturbed, angry, and worried about my son and grandson. I found out that she had gotten off her thyroid medication over Christmas. She asked me to accompany her to a counselor's appointment in February which I quickly agreed to in the hope that we'd have a more positive relationship. She spent the hour laying out rules for how I was supposed to act. The counselor had to call her down twice for being so contemptuous toward me and I guess the light came on for me in the session -- no matter how nice, helpful, supportive I try to be, she feels nothing but contempt toward me. My son told me last week that she has been asking him to minimize contact with me because it stresses her out. He also told me that when the three of them walk anywhere together, she insists my son be in the middle because their child should not come between them. That was disturbing to me. And I'll add that the vast majority of her conversations with me are nothing more than her bitching about my son. I HATE that and have tried to get her to stop but she won't. She screams and fights with my son in front of my grandson and I am really worried about him.
Bottom line and questions: Is this the way some people act in families and I have just been too sheltered? My son tells me there is nothing I can do to please her so I shouldn't try but I see myself being edged out of the grandson's life more and more so, until the counselor's session, I kept trying. I don't know how to be able to spend time with my grandson without having to spend time with her. And, honestly, if I asked my son to come over without her, I would fully expect him to say that if she isn't welcome, he won't come over either. He probably wouldn't do that but, on some level, I would respect him if he did. I am worried about my grandson. I feel like giving up but my son tells me the grandson often begs to come spend time at my house (without his parents) so I know he loves his Grandma despite what he might hear about me from his mother. Advice for dealing with a difficult DIL?

agnurse Sun 14-Apr-19 21:24:10

It sounds as if the best option is to ignore her.

Your son needs to put his wife and child ahead of you. I recognize that the marriage is not in a good place, but if he plans to stay in it for their son, he needs to put them first.

I also suggest that you stop taking her calls. She shouldn't be dragging you into their marriage and you shouldn't be getting involved in it. Your instinct will be to protect your DS. That's okay. That's normal. That's what parents do. But it also means that a parent isn't an objective third party in an AC's relationship. Really, I suggest they should get some counselling. If she won't go he should go without her.

MovingOn2018 Sun 14-Apr-19 21:46:01

There's a lot of "my son tells me..." going on and all the stuff he tells you brings you dismay and maybe this should first come to a stop especially if you're the one looking for answers in certain areas. I also doubt that your six year old grandson begs to spend time at your house without his parents parent. If this was going on I as a parent would be extremely worried. You seem to want a relationship with your son and grandson that excludes your DIL. And quite honestly your son shouldn't be telling you a lot of the things that he's saying. Maybe keep your distance and change your expectations with regards to the type of relationship you expect to have for your DILs expectations may never mirror yours.

MovingOn2018 Sun 14-Apr-19 21:51:15

You also need to remember that husbands will use their wives as scapegoats if need be. Mention this for I just find it hard to believe a lot of the things he's telling you but he's your son and you know him better. Also why are you worried about your grandson!

sodapop Sun 14-Apr-19 22:06:50

This is an abusive relationship and can't be good for your grandson Bishop.
Your son needs to see this for what it is, if it were the other way round then people would be very concerned.

sharon103 Sun 14-Apr-19 22:19:07

No this isn't normal behaviour in families. Your son's being physically and mentally abused and for what reason. What is her behaviour with their son? Daughter -in-law has a deep seated issue, mentally or physically to my mind. She's been referred to a counsellor which is a good thing.

crazyH Sun 14-Apr-19 22:39:17

She's been referred to a Counsellor and that's the first positive step.
In the meanwhile, try and keep out of their marriage. Rightly or wrongly, my sons have never spoken against their wives to me. They may joke about them, in their presence but never behind their backs. Maybe they are happy with their wives, or they don't feel close enough to me to be able to offload. Whatever the case, they seem happy enough.
I see them, when I am invited. I do a spot of babysitting for my younger son's children, but I have never babysat my older son's children. Her Mum does all that.
I practically brought up my daughter's children, but now I hardly see them. They are busy with their lives. I just go along with it all. Life's too short to worry about all this, although I quite understand how you feel.

Bishop Mon 15-Apr-19 01:01:17

Heartfelt thanks to each of you who took the time to answer/comment. You have all made some great points and given me other things to think about and consider. I would have liked to respond to each of you individually but did not see that option. I am new to the website. smile. I need to just take some time to let emotions ratchet down a bit, especially mine.

littleflo Mon 15-Apr-19 08:19:27

Your story made me very sad. My son confided in me something very similar. When their relationship ended he said “If I had done to her what she did to me, I would be in prison”. Physical violence from a woman to a man is never seen as serious. He was so ashamed that even to this day he has never told my DH or his siblings what he put up with.

He is now married to wwonderful woman. I will always be so grateful to her as I believe she saved his life and his sanity.

red1 Mon 15-Apr-19 10:21:45

your dil sounds like she has a mental health problem.I have had a life time of being surrounded by a family with similar issues.It has effected my own mental health too.I used to think that i could fix them.They can only fix themselves if and when thy are ready. Around 7 years ago i got rid of the toxic people in my life,some family members quality of life improved. It is so difficult when there is so much tension in a family.-we dont choose our families!

dianne2265 Mon 15-Apr-19 10:34:08

I think it is very sad that your son cannot put his son first as it will be the child that is suffering seeing what is happening in the home.

eagleswings Mon 15-Apr-19 10:34:08

I am so sorry to hear of your concerns about your daughter-in-law. She sounds very insecure and needs help, for herself, your son and grandson. Her behaviour is far from normal. Your grandson would be my main worry and his safety should be the primary concern. You don't mention your husband. Could he help in this situation? Perhaps it might work for him to take over arrangements/contact for now. As you already know MIL/DIL relationships can often be fraught and you are another special woman in her husband's and son's life which, for an insecure personality, might be difficult for her to manage. Wishing you all the best with this.

GrumpyGrandad Mon 15-Apr-19 10:36:20

And you think it is a good idea to air all this bitterness on here? As you all know I am blind and so therefore must use the computer with specialised audible software but that does not make me soft I will not say what you want me to say, I am not a YES man, I truly think YOU have the problem (I suggest Jermy Kyle Show)
Surely by spouting off on here you are just giving your Daughter in Law amminition to fire back at you.

Sorry to all those reading this but there's nowt in the contract that says we have to agree

Millie1957 Mon 15-Apr-19 10:37:00

Zero tolerance when it comes to abuse. Your son is doing himself and your grandchild no favours by staying in such a relatioship.

jaylucy Mon 15-Apr-19 10:40:30

This woman obviously has a lot of problems, that I doubt have little to do with her not taking her thyroid medication.
The fact that she seems to be attacking your son on a fairly regular basis ( and those are just the times that he tells you about) makes me think that your son needs to leave her sooner rather than later and take his son with him - after all, you have no idea how this will be affecting your grandson.
The idea of your son hanging on for longer worries me - the way your DiL is behaving, I'd doubt if she would get custody of their son and after all, even if your son waits until your grandson is old enough to decide who he wants to live with, there is absolutely no guarantee he won't want to stay with his mum!
The fact that she is seeking counselling is a step in the right direction (if she continues to attend the sessions) but your son and grandson need to be in a place of safety now, not in 7 or so years time !

Atqui Mon 15-Apr-19 10:44:53

Grumpy Grandad - Some people need to air their feelings anonymously and if it makes Bishop feel better , why not,
- even if she can do nothing about the awful situation. I’m sure her daughter in law will not be reading Gransnet .

moobox Mon 15-Apr-19 10:47:13

It is not normal, but far too common. I never had hostility towards me verbalised directly, and my son did the dutiful thing for a few years and was loyal to his wife. Even if not out in the open the hostility was still vicious, and all came out in the wash when the inevitable separation occurred. Sadly, there seem to be some personality disorders that would probably benefit from individual psychotherapy (if the affected will agree to it), but which relationship counselling just seems to aggravate. As to your own relationship with her, try not to rise to it, and be polite for the sake of your relationship with the other 2. As for the laying down of rules in the counselling session about how people are supposed to act, this sounds all too familiar - not hat I have been present at one as it was marriage counselling, but I gather our family featured highly in the sessions, as we were presented as the bugbear that ruined their relationship. That was after we had stepped back into virtual obscurity, so couldn't possibly be! Step back, but be available, leave them to it, but make sure your son knows you are there when he needs you.

HurdyGurdy Mon 15-Apr-19 10:50:24

I'd be very worried about your poor grandson, living in such a toxic atmosphere. Children are victims of domestic abuse in the home, even if they are not directly involved. Parents may think their children are unaware, but they hear things, and can pick up on tensions within the home.

Your son isn't doing his child any favours by waiting until the child is old enough to decide where he wants to live - and if it goes to court, although his views should be taken into account, it doesn't guarantee that he will live with the parent he chooses.

If your son is being abused - and it sounds as though he is from the incidents you cited - then he can get in touch with Mankind, an organisation for supporting male victims of DV -

But above all else, everyone needs to consider the impact of living in that environment on that little boy.

Marjgran Mon 15-Apr-19 10:50:36

Grumpy indeed! We might assume the post has untruths it exaggerations but maybe it is accurate? Sometimes we forget that there are some very disturbed people in the world. If she is a very disordered personality the respondent’s son has a tough time, and actually I can believe that if daughter in law’s distress is heightened by her relationships, the little grandson may associate joint visits with stress and enjoy times when he is visiting on his own and ask for them. I agree maybe best to ignore and not get pulled in, but support her son as much as she can. I doubt DIL reads gransnet!

Marjgran Mon 15-Apr-19 10:52:34

Spot on, Moobox

Harris27 Mon 15-Apr-19 10:55:14

Read this with interest and some understanding being in similar situation. Distance is the best solution.

Tinydancer Mon 15-Apr-19 10:57:41

I would suggest your son sees his GP and gets advice on how to help himself, protect himself from further attacks from his wife and most importantly gets advice on how best to protect his son. He should also record every incident of aggressive behaviour from your DIL. His wife may need medical help, counselling is a first step buy there could be other underlying reasons for her aggression. If she has not already done so she needs urgent help from her GP for her aggressive outbursts, to protect both your son and grandson. I agree that people should not get involved in others relationships but there is a child involved here and a man being attacked. If it were the other way round people would say she must get help. I wish you and all your family the best of luck.

lizkaz1 Mon 15-Apr-19 10:59:51

My advice is to stay out of it. Your son has been married for 20 years, he's a grown ass man capable of sorting his own life out. Just carry on being a grandma to your grandson, carry on loving your son. He needs to stop running to mommy and sort himself out. He also needs to learn that it is never a good idea to discuss relationship problems with parents because regardless of who you are it will always affect the way you feel about the other person, and that is not fair on them or their children and does not help any future relationship. I have 4 sons and in general get on with all of their wives. One of them not as good but I never let it show, I treat them all the same and with the same affection when I see them. I have learned it is best to stay out of their relationships, it is there business not mine but they also know I would be there if needed.

grannygranby Mon 15-Apr-19 11:07:10

Grumpy Grandad - why are you posting pictures of yourself? and being so hurtful? the main point of gransnet is for women to share their views in a safe place. Sometimes the only place they can safely vent. It is anonymous and honest and the OP's deserve respect and support and gentle advice if they want it. So... as for Bishop and her difficult DIL. I feel great empathy. and thank you for sharing. I too have a difficult DIL who I am very wary of and avoid when I can and am pleasant to when I can't. she doesn't abuse my son only me: I have never been able to have the grandchildren by myself for even an hour. And when they visit and I follow them on their explorations of the house she follows. When I take them all on a treat both my son and her keep hold of the hands of the two children so I am left spare. It breaks my heart. A little girl I had never met stopped me on the steps of a shop yesterday - she was about six, the same age as my eldest GDD and she showed me her shoes which were black patent I admired them and I said I always wanted a pair like that and she said. my granny bought them for me. I'm weeping now. It is these little things.

Conni7 Mon 15-Apr-19 11:10:32

Is she perhaps on drugs? I had this wild behaviour from my ex-daughter-in-law, and it turned out that she was on some illegal drug. When she couldn't get them she became quite vicious.