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My daughter-in-law dominates my son

(85 Posts)
Readerjb Wed 08-Dec-21 06:12:31

She is a wonderful mother, and we have lots of access to our grandchildren. They've been married seven years, and she makes all the decisions. My son now just gives up, as it seems to be her way or the highway. Her own mother is an extremely domineering woman, and now we see it in her too. It's making our son very unhappy, and I'd like him to stand up to her. Can I say anything that would actually help the situation?

Pantglas2 Wed 08-Dec-21 06:19:55

No. Simply no, I’m afraid, without making things a whole lot worse than you already think they are.

vegansrock Wed 08-Dec-21 06:33:56

How do you know your son is unhappy? Some men like their wives to make the decisions, maybe he’s one of them. Has he asked for your advice or opinions? She must have some good qualities if he married her and you say she’s a great mother. You shouldn’t say anything to him or her and keep your opinions to yourself - you don’t know everything that goes on in a relationship.

Readerjb Wed 08-Dec-21 06:39:53

He IS very unhappy. He had lunch with my husband (his father) at the weekend, and told him so in great detail. They talked for hours. After a couples counselling session (quite some time ago, I think), she came out of it saying "Well that was all ridiculous"

PerserverencePays Wed 08-Dec-21 06:57:01

The best thing you can do is to be there for him and give him opportunities, like the lunch , to talk. Just being able to talk out loud may be enough for him to think about what to do next. Don’t offer any advice on their relationship or solutions, you want him to realise his own strengths. If he found the counselling useful he might want to have some for himself. It might be a situation of emotional abuse, or it might be that he can learn different ways of communicating so that he is more equal. You are doing the right thing by being there for him and not dismissing his feelings.
And she’s not a great mother if she modelling bullying.

Peasblossom Wed 08-Dec-21 08:09:37

Well there we are. She’s domineering, he’s a grown man who, instead of sorting out his own relationships goes off whining to mummy and daddy to sort it out for him.

And mummy and daddy are ready to step in and “help”.

He’s unhappy. I don’t expect she’s very happy either.

anna7 Wed 08-Dec-21 08:14:32

Not very kind Peasblossom. Is a son not allowed to discuss a problem that is making him unhappy with his parents? If the son was a daughter who was talking a problem over with her parents would that be 'whining to mummy and daddy' too?

Peasblossom Wed 08-Dec-21 08:21:46

Yes, it would.

No I didn’t express it kindly.

Let me put it another way. There is a pattern to his behaviour which is that faced with a problem, he turns to other people to sort it out.
The fact that the OP is seeking ways for her to make things better for him is also a pattern of behaviour that encourages his behaviour of dependence.

Very little behaviour is one-sided. There is a triangle (quadrangle?) of behaviour here that doesn’t encourage adult growth and responsibility.

Peasblossom Wed 08-Dec-21 08:22:34

Yes I would say the same about a daughters behaviour.

sf101 Wed 08-Dec-21 09:05:37

Well said Peasblossom, the person he needs to be talking to is his wife!!

Smileless2012 Wed 08-Dec-21 09:22:01

Great advice from PerserverencePays. It's so hard knowing that someone you love is unhappy Readerjb but apart from being there to listen if and when he wants to talk there's nothing you can do.

This is his relationship and only he can improve his position within it.

Coercive control should never be underestimated, nor should the fact that men can be a victim just as much as women.

In your position, if you know that he felt that previous counselling sessions were beneficial, I would suggest without criticising your d.i.l. in anyway, that he seriously consider having some more on his own. Doing so may give him coping mechanisms and the self confidence if that is lacking, to assert himself in the relationship.

"And she's not a great mother if she's modelling bullying". I agree PerserverencePays.

MissAdventure Wed 08-Dec-21 09:24:55

He has to decide for himself when enough is enough.

It's a huge step to break up, so all you can do is be there for him to offload (without interfering) and hope that he does what makes him happy.

Germanshepherdsmum Wed 08-Dec-21 09:26:31

Excellent post Smileless.

eazybee Wed 08-Dec-21 09:30:01

The son feels his wife over rules him and it makes him unhappy.
The only solution is for him to stand up to her.
He knows it. You know it.
No-one can solve this situation other than him, and his wife.

H1954 Wed 08-Dec-21 09:30:13

Personally, I would be concerned about the GC in this situation. What kind of messages are they receiving from their mothers behaviour?

Sparklefizz Wed 08-Dec-21 09:36:40

In your position, if you know that he felt that previous counselling sessions were beneficial, I would suggest without criticising your d.i.l. in anyway, that he seriously consider having some more on his own. Doing so may give him coping mechanisms and the self confidence if that is lacking, to assert himself in the relationship.

Definitely this, Readerjb - excellent advice.

H1954 Wed 08-Dec-21 09:36:44


Well said Peasblossom, the person he needs to be talking to is his wife!!

Judging by her comments following the counselling session she isn't prepared to listen to anyone........apart from herself.

love0c Wed 08-Dec-21 09:42:23

'Bullying', a model mother? A dreadful mother IMO. Very little you can do readerjb. Thank goodness your son is talking to your husband. While he does that there is hope for him. He needs to get the confidence to tackle it head on for himself. Unfortunately one of our sons is ruled by his wife. He actually once shouted at us, 'What do you expect me to do. Leave her and never see my children again?' We thought that says it all. He knows his wife would do everything possible to keep him away from his children if he left. Tread very carefully and do not do or say anything to your son which may stop him talking to you and seeing you.

Luckygirl3 Wed 08-Dec-21 10:07:35

It is difficult when you know that one of your adult offspring is unhappy.

The central thing here is that the OP should voice no criticism of her DIL - if her son decides to stay with her then you will be in a very awkward situation going forward.

You can be a listening ear, but have to confine your statements to neutral ones that mean he knows you are there for him - nothing more. e.g. "I am sorry that things aren't good for you at the moment - I think you need to talk this over together."

Something similar happened with my DD many years ago and I kept my comments neutral, whilst also making it clear I was there for her. They have now been married for many years and have 3 lovely children and a happy family life. So I am glad I kept the lip zipped.

I know it is hard, but it is for him to sort out. Please keep out of it.

DiscoDancer1975 Wed 08-Dec-21 10:11:08

No...sadly you can’t. He picked her, and knew presumably, her mother was the same.

He has to be a man and deal with this. Perhaps he should speak to his father in law? I imagine he had the same problem, perhaps with his mother worrying.

Leave well alone, otherwise you could end up being the bad guy!

Grandmagrim Wed 08-Dec-21 12:30:37

It’s a rare marriage where neither party is ever unhappy with the other at some point for some time.

I’m not saying it’s fine to live in a miserable marriage but perhaps your son was venting to his dad as a way of managing his feelings. If he is really unhappy 100% of the time he will find a way out. He and his wife probably have an equilibrium that now and again tips more one way than the other.
I think the hardest part about being the parent to adults is not being able to fix anything they are going through.

Elizabeth27 Wed 08-Dec-21 12:49:21

He has to sort it out himself, he could tell his wife whatever it was that he told his father.

In the kindest way, he needs to grow a pair.

Daisymae Wed 08-Dec-21 13:39:45

There's nothing you can say or do to make it better. It's up to him to decide what action, if any, he wants to take. So hard to stand back but there's no magic wand to be waved. He needs to find ways to assert himself, it's not really something that can be done for him. He has offloaded onto his father, now maybe he can see things clearer. Divorce causes a lot of misery too.

VioletSky Wed 08-Dec-21 13:47:29

Just keep listening and supporting his needs and decisions but try not to say anything negative about DIL because sometimes that goes horribly wrong.

His happiness is his responsibility and you can't fix this for him

Magnolia62 Wed 08-Dec-21 14:01:53

My husband and I often cringe at the way our dil occasionally talks to our son. We have learned not to comment and hopefully she gets the message that we do not like it and will not get involved. She can be moody and judgemental, but nice and supposedly caring at others, but we do wonder if at these times she is merely saying what she thinks we would like to hear. Her opinions change! We remain neutral but if our son does have a word on his own we tell him he needs to be more assertive, but never criticise dil.

We are not confrontational and our children have grown up in a supportive family where we will always be there for them, to help out practically if they want us. Our son works hard and is a fantastic father, and certainly does his bit around the house but, like his father, does not like arguments and perhaps needs to be more assertive and have stronger opinions. However, the couple have to work things out for themselves. They knew what each was like before they married and it is early days.