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 from from Reader's Digest | May 2009
  • Loading

    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.


    Become more interesting every week!

    Get our Read Up newsletter

    Sending Message
    how we use your e-mail

    Your Comments

    • Beverly S

      Me, I’m out the door!! Mines (MIL) that is, is a complete narcissist! No bullshit..the woman sends selfies to her son every other week! Calls him on the phone at the very least, TEN TIMES A DAY! I promise you…this is the God’s honest truth!

      I wish posting pictures was possible, so you can see for yourselves. Mother’s 60, son 35. She does not EVER call our children, ever! Only calls for him. He is totally enmeshed with his mother and see’s absolutely nothing wrong with a “mother” that would send selfies and call her son10 times a day!! Say “we’re just close” is all!

      No sweetheart, that’s beyond close! Your mother has crossed the line from son to “fantasy lover” in her mind. Very evident by the smirk (ugh!) in each and every photo! She absolutely despises me! Never said a kind word to me in 11 years! saw the grand kids twice in ten years! To that.. he says: “Oh, that just how she is.”

      Now that she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer..she sends selfies in various decline of her cancer..posing in an off-the-shoulder gown (an 80lb weight loss), without hair, in the hospital bed with her shirt pulled up over her bosom, showing where the ports that was inserted…ALL while grinning into the camera. He never shows me these pictures, I sneak and see them while he sleeps, as he sleeps with his phone and I have to wiggle it from out under his pillow. SICK!!! There’s a new set of pictures every other week. Never seen anything like this in my life!!

      He hides to talk to her when she calls. It’s like he’s ashame to speak with her in front of me…WTF!! Like he’s cheating on me? Her? It’s crazzzy, I tell you!! He goes and visits with her alot, never taking me nor any of his kids (not that I would let them go anyways). The entire family is sick and likes to triangulate, pretty dysfunctional.

      Me,,,took my children and left!!

    • Jaime

      This may be true for some MILs, but NOT my case. For example, my MIL expects gifts but has never given me a gift and only sporadically gives her own son a gift. Despite my DH paying a lot of money for her health needs and giving her a ton of attention/time. She will call him at work balling about how my FIL treats her, but then doesn’t do anything about it, and pretends everything is fine (it’s been like this for the 14 years I’ve known her). She also calls our kids “her kids” and says weird things like “she’s their real mommy”. Now that our kids are 8 and 9, my kids have begun expressing how uncomfortable she makes then feel. And she is the opposite of appreciative–if my husband even complements me in front of her, she finds a way to undermine it. And when we decided to get married, she dyed her hair red (I have naturally dark red hair). Everyone knew she did it because he chose “me over her”

    • Justin Justice

      I only married my wife so that I could have a better chance at hooking up with my MIL and our aunt – The MIL’s sister.

    • Benebeth

      I’m a great MIL because I don’t do anything like my MIL did. I didn’t talk to the woman for 20 years!

    • Ted Ainsworth

      I notice a trend here, men get along with their MIL but women don’t. I have four daughters and not one likes their MIL.
      A mother is very close to her children, the father, not so much. So when a strange women moves in and takes away her son, she balks. not an unusual behavior.

    • my opinion

      Even though my MIL did not deserve it, I have been taking care of her for three years, Her and her Sister, have never tried to get to know me, They have never invited me to go shopping, movies’s , Lunch with them. Even when I was at their house. They always tried to get me to dye my hair or get a perm, fake nails. dress different. Their gift to me were junk, it go to be a joke with my husband and kids, They gave me a blow dryer, but kept the free curling iron and brush, or a robe they got free with something they bought for theirselves, It had cherries all over it. or the gave me something they did not like and they already altered it for them. But they were so nice to everyone one else. I took care of my Aunt until she died on Hospice and now I have to take care of my MIL who is 98 yrs old now. So you MIL better be nicer to your Daughter in-Laws because we might be the only one’s to keep you out of a Old Folks home. MIL should accept your Daughter In-Law’s the way they are. I could tell more Stories, MIL you need to be nicer, and they need to respect your Daughter In-Laws.

    • TruthfulTexan

      My son says he thinks who ever marries him will be so lucky to be a part of our family. (He is an only child and we always wanted a daughter, too.) I chuckle to myself and think “God, I hope so.”

    • Jen Anne Ritter

      who the hell wrote this? Some smarmy,B.S.ing mother in law? #3 really rankles me. Uh no,it’s not lack of self-confidence,it’s not enjoying being torn to shreds(little bit of criticism,my a$$)….. and #4,a little gratitude,i send birthday gifts and get nothing. Yeah,more like the DIL sends and gets no gratitude. Many MILs don’t bother to remember their DILs birthday,or they purposely forget.