Building a Relationship With Your Daughter In LawApril 2, 2019
I am too young to be her mother. She is too old to be my daughter. That is where the dissimilarities between my daughter in law, Jami, and my end.
We are both wise women who know the important role of the Matriarch. Building a relationship with my daughter-in-law has been a treasured experience. Ten years ago, after a tumultuous time in the Good family, Jami Good gave me a “gift.”
What Should Be the Mutual Goal Between These Two Women?
Building a relationship with your daughter in law is about agreeing on a mutual goal. The mutual goal of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law should be to build, maintain and sustain mutual respect for one another that will benefit all family members. Jami and I had the same goals. It was our nature that strengthened our bond, mutual respect, friendship and love that established an engaging and loving family atmosphere. It was not always that way. But not because of us.
There are eight Goods. Two grandparents, three grandsons, two of whom are married and Jami. We are a blended multigenerational family of different ages with different viewpoints, but unlike many other blended multigenerational families, we have successfully bonded as a group. I pay tribute to Jami Good, my daughter-in-law and one of my dearest friends, for making this happen.
It Was Not Always This Way
I remember our first meeting. I was dating her widowed father-in-law, my ultimate concierge, Sheldon Good. The Good family, Jami and her late husband Steve wanted to meet the ‘“widowed Hawaiian Princess” ( the name they gave me) from Honolulu so they invited us to their home for dinner, along with Jami’s mother and two young (at that time) sons.
The dining room table was beautifully set and dinner was delicious. I don’t recall the dinner conversation but I do recall my positive feelings toward Jami.
I don’t want to sugarcoat the story. There were years of strife between father and son over ‘“ the new wife who gets how much money” syndrome and my husband’s company which his son wanted to take over. As the conflict deepened and friction escalated between father and son, Jami and I did not see one another for several years. The families became estranged. This had nothing to do with either Jami or me.
And then the unforeseen, unanticipated, sad and awful happened. My son-in-law, Jami’s husband, committed suicide.
Jami Good’s Gift
The day of the funeral Jami reached out to me, put her arms around me and without a word, I put my arms around her and we reconnected. That was 10 years ago. That was Jami’s gift. She welcomed me back into her life and the boys’.
Tea for Tea and Two for Two… Not Always
Without a cooperative daughter-in-law and a cooperative mother-in-law, the entire family suffers. Many mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law compete with one another. Many mothers-in-law want to be the mothers of their daughters-in-law. Many mothers-in-law are difficult women and so are many daughters-in-law. Many mothers-in-law are jealous and vice versa. Many mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law are like oil and water. And many on both sides are manipulative. Many are just plain selfish and think only of their own needs. And let’s not forget, the daughter-in-law’s mother! I am sure many of you could join one of these groups.
I think in most families the biological mother plays the strongest role. It is her voice — of positivity or negativity — that her husband and children hear; it is her actions that make or break up the multigenerational family.
Steps to Try:
- Be a team player. Don’t be afraid to give in even when you feel you are right. Whether you are in a first or second marriage, think of your husband’s and grandchildren’s feelings.
- If you are in a first marriage, accept the fact that your son is supposed to fall in love with a woman so put your jealousy aside. Your son will always love you unless you become “the awful mother-in-law” to his wife.
- Take the back seat. I love riding in the back seat of our car. I feel like Miss Daisy.
- Silence is golden. You will lose if you are a “buttinsky.”
- Remember your daughter-in-law is not your daughter. A daughter usually forgives her mother. A daughter-in-law often won’t. She is an in-law.
- Don’t make her an “outlaw.”
- Act the way you want to be treated.
Upon the unexpected death of my son-in-law, Jami rose to the occasion by showing her boys through positive actions that she wanted to reunite and strengthen the family by supporting and promoting my role as the boys’ grandmother. It is thanks to her that the boys have accepted me as their grandmother.
Jami and I are like-minded women. We are in harmony with one another; we are kindred spirits. We love nature and nurture. We love to do girly things and shop together. We are soulful. We like to travel and just wander. We like to talk on the phone and text and send emojis. We do not like confrontation. This is a blessing for all concerned because Jami and I both want to sweeten the lives of my husband (her father-in-law) and her boys (my grandsons). Over the past 10 years, our multigenerational family has blossomed and bloomed.
As a daughter-in-law to two mothers-in-law, I recall how I felt.
My first mother-in-law — may she rest in peace! — was a very difficult woman. I was always respectful, but I recall I did write her a letter 20-some years later letting her know my feelings. Her actions toward all of us were unpleasant. I never fought with her. I ignored her. I was afraid of her. Very unpleasant.
My second mother-in-law was a pistol. She was very abrupt and yet I loved her and I know she loved me. I remember how I once sent her flowers. She returned them with the explanation that she did not like flowers. She was honest and I would laugh with my ultimate concierge because I knew it was not about me. I would take her shopping and she would be so grateful. I miss her.
Family dynamics can often make it difficult for mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law to blend. I think if family members treated one another with kindness and respect — the way they treat their friends! — there would be far less discord. Words would be weighed and attitudes would be kept in check.
This story is dedicated to Jami Good who give me a great gift…her family, which is now… our family.