13 Things Your Mother-in-Law Won’t Tell You

Build a better relationship with his mother by remembering these things she'd like to say but won't (you hope!)

By Maureen Mackey
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine May 2009
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    1. It hurts to be downsized.

    I spent a couple of decades being the leading lady; now I have a character role.  

    2. I know he's your husband now.

    But he’s still my son.

    3. You don't seem very confident about yourself.

    The littlest comment from me is taken as a criticism, so I’m very careful what I say around you.

    4. A little gratitude wouldn't hurt.

    Every year, I send you a birthday present, but you never even pick up the phone to thank me. This year, I said, “That’s it. No more.” Yet look at me: I’m about to send another present. I guess that’s how I am.

    5. I want the best for both of us.

    We mothers say to our children, “I want you to be happy.” And we mean that. What we don’t say is, “But I would like to be happy too.”

    6. I know a little something.

    I’ve bought and sold 13 houses in my life. Why won’t you ask for my advice?

    7. When I visit you, I'm just coming to see the family.

    I’m not coming for a "white-glove inspection.”

    8. I've got his number.

    When I really want to talk to my son privately, I don’t call your house. I call his cell phone.

    9. I'm truly appreciative.

    I’m so happy that you allow my son—your husband—to visit me on Mother’s Day. It’s a long trip and a big expense.

    10. I have a dirty little secret.

    I’m afraid that if I don’t get this right, you’ll cut me off.

    11. I'm in competition with your mother.

    She takes you on vacations every year and buys things I can’t afford. All I can do is love you and babysit for you. I hope that’s enough and that it’s appreciated.

    12. I'm lucky to have you!

    Whenever I stay at your house, you always have my room ready, my towels, everything. You do all the right things.

    13. You know me well.

    I cherish the refrigerator magnet you gave me: “Age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill.”

    Sources: Susan Abel Lieberman, PhD (The Mother-in-Law’s Manual), Jane Angelich (What’s a Mother [in-Law] to Do?), and anonymous mothers-in-law in four states.


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    Your Comments

    • Girlygirl

      Here are 13 things I wish I could tell my mother in-law…

      1) I would ask for your advise if you weren’t so willing to cram it down the throats of me and my husband. Age and wisdom don’t always go hand-in-hand. “Advising” me on how to arrange the dishes in my cupboard is only a small example of the advise you just love to dispense to me when I haven’t asked.

      2) You have no idea that I’ve encouraged your son to visit you on Mother’s Day and to spend more quality, one-on-one time with you. In fact, he thinks I’m a saint because of it. However, it’s your son who doesn’t want to be alone with you unless absolutely necessary and, therefore, skips that opportunity.

      3) Thank you for appreciating the fact that I try to have the bedroom looking nice when you visit. So, why then, do you complain about the color of the room? The type of mattress we have in the spare bedroom? The pillow we provided?

      4) I don’t care that you call my husband on his cell phone. And, I would LOVE to talk to you on the phone, if only you’d treat me with the same love and care that you show your son. (Instead of YOU doing all of the talking, try asking me about my own sick parents, the grandchildren and me.)

      5) You want me to thank you for the gifts you gave me? I have thanked you, but you act like I never thank you enough. And being thankful is a 2-way street. When I have given you gifts, you have “lost” them, given them away or never even opened them. When your son gives you a gift that you think HE picked out, suddenly, it’s the “best give I’ve ever received.”

      6) You think you have to walk on eggshells around me because you’re afraid I think your comments are meant to be critical? Then think about the types of comments you are making. If I said to you what you have said to me (“Your house actually looks clean this visit.” or “You have really weird friends. Can’t you find normal ones?”), you would probably never speak to me again.”

      7) I’m walking on eggshells when I talk to you because you’ve complained to your son about things I’ve said to you. But, when I’ve apologized, you tell me, “Oh…he blew that out of proportion.”

      8) Yes…he’s your son, but there is an intimacy that comes with marriage that you will never and should never share with him. I want you to have a close, loving relationship with my husband, but truth be told…YOU are your own worst enemy.

      9) When your son points out to you that you are being rude to me, instead of becoming defensive, please stop and hear him out. Then come to me and talk to me rather than blowing off the situation. (I’d come talk to you myself, but that hasn’t worked in the past.)

      10) Calling you by your first name doesn’t mean that I don’t love you. You didn’t birth me or raise me, so please don’t be offended that I don’t call you “mom.”
      11) Your other children and their spouses are comparing notes with us. Chances are, I’m not the only one in the family who has problems with you.
      12) Be careful what you say to other people about me and your son…it DOES get back to us.
      13) I LOVE your son and believe it or not, there is nothing I want more than to have a fabulous relationship with you. I know there are other daughters in-law out there who are evil and manipulative, but I’m not one of them.

    • Daughter in law .

      Oh my God yes alot of mother in laws can be and are. What you said but dont just asume take the time to find out befor you make that decision my mother in law is the most beautiful person she has been my mom from the time i was 18 till now i am 46 i was married for 24 yrs and was with my husband for 4 yrs. Befor marriage. So a long time she never left me abandoned even when he did after all those yrs she has stood by me i cant even begin to tell you all the support and love she has given me . I love her so.much she is dieing right now i will never forget the example of the woman she is god bless her i hope all of you have the blessing i have been given someday may god bless all of you.

    • Joe Bender

      too bad about 75 percent of these are NOT true……mothers never let go of their sons…and they never believe his choice is the right one…..most are absolutey rude to their daughter inlaw

    • Joe Bender