Dear Mrs. Bluth,
My wife and I have a daughter-in-law who keeps herself very distant from us. She has been part of our family for almost 15 years, yet makes no attempt to connect with us. She is aloof and rarely initiates or participates in conversations (she generally will only interject to correct us). At family events she seldom greets us and barely speaks to my wife. To add salt to the wound, she interacts just fine with her parents and her family.
Mrs. Bluth, my wife and are not domineering, demanding or intrusive. In fact, we are just the opposite. We are warm and friendly, help our son and his family financially and invite them to our home on a regular basis.
I should point out that she is a good wife and mother, and that we are close to our son and grandchildren. It just amazes us that she sees nothing wrong with her unsocial and detached behavior. We believe our son either thinks this behavior is normal in-law relations or ignores it for the sake of shalom bayis (she has on occasion reprimanded him in front of us).
This lack of relationship bothers my wife a great deal. She truly desires a close relationship with her daughter-in-law. She would like to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with her, but I have advised her against it. We know others in this type of situation who have tried this and either nothing changed or the situation worsened. I have told my wife to focus her attention and energies on our son and grandchildren and to just be civil to our daughter-in-law. What are your thoughts?
A Disappointed Father-In-Law
Fifteen years is a long time to be waiting to resolve this, don’t you think? It has become a normalized way of life and now you want to rectify it?
Lets look at the facts as you have presented them, with me playing devil’s advocate on your daughter-in-law’s behalf as we look for a solution.
The first thing that seems a bit odd is that you are writing on your wife’s behalf about her displeasure in the relationship and you are using her to voice your own hurt and displeasure about the affiliation, or lack thereof, with your daughter-in-law. So lets begin by being totally fair and look at the inconsistencies.
You present yourselves as being “friendly,” and “not domineering, demanding or intrusive.” You describe your daughter-in-law as being a “good wife and mother” yet you also mention that she “occasionally reprimands your son in front of you.” You also noted that you have are a source of financial support to her and her family.
You use negative and critical verbiage to describe her contact with you and your wife, yet she seems to have a good social relationship with her parents, family and friends. At this juncture one could believe your daughter-in-law is a most ungrateful, disrespectful. obnoxious and callously, cold-hearted individual. Realistically, however, there may also be a whole other perspective hidden in-between the lines.
Let’s explore another reason why there is such a disruptive divide between you.
A few questions beg to be answered. Was she this way towards you from the very beginning? Did you and/or your wife object to the marriage? Could something you or your wife said or did be the reason she became so? And even at this late date, why would you not have a civil sit-down with your daughter-in-law to hear from her why she reacts to both of you in such a distant manner? Explanations and apologies by either side can be offered and lead the way to a reconciliation and family unity. How much worse can it get if you clear the air and sincerely strive to repair and rebuild your relationship?
I would be the first one to encourage a non-threatening, “over coffee and cake” sit-down with your daughter-in-law where you and your wife, or just your wife, express how much you wish to have a warm and friendly relationship with her. Don’t expect love and devotion right away – that comes with time and practice and being friendly first. Understand that if you hope to have a warm and trusting relationship with her in the future, it starts with baby steps and finding and fixing what went wrong in the past. Her relationship with her own family shows that she is capable of warmth and caring. So make the effort to crack the ice and invite her over for a friendly chat.
I believe that you mean well and have an honest and heartfelt desire to reunite your family. Gather up your courage and make the first move and I’m sure that in the not too distant future you will be happy you did.