If you're dealing with a rude daughter-in-law, it can be very difficult to see a way of working things out. Communication can be fraught and you don't want to lose your relationship with your son and any grandchildren you might have. Be calm, take the relationship one step at a time and never close the door on her -- there is always hope things will turn around.
Demonstrate patience, empathy and understanding. According to David Gill, a neuro linguistic programming instructor and life coach, you can't change how another person acts or behaves, but you can have a measure of control over your own experiences, actions and reactions. "All mothers-in-law were once daughters-in-law -- so you really need to look at any issues and what once bugged you about your mother in-law," Gill says, "and also you need to be aware of any situational factors that might cause certain behaviors in a daughter-in-law, irrespective of their personality." Give yourself and her some time, patience and understanding, which is badly needed when relationships become difficult or strained.
Practice reflective listening when your daughter-in-law is being rude. According to Richard Bolstad, psychotherapist and author of "Transforming Communication," reflective listening is a powerful technique to build rapport between two people and support communication. If your daughter-in-law begins to complain, acts badly or becomes aggressive, simply make an empathic restatement of the basic idea of what she has said. For example, if she says, "I'll raise my children the way I see fit," you can reply, "So you want the freedom to make your own decisions as a mother?" This process avoids needless arguments and helps her to feel understood.
Set strong and clear boundaries. When a person's behavior and attitude isn't acceptable, or even destructive or abusive, you must set boundaries to protect yourself. This is essential for any hope of a healthy relationship, and if your daughter-in-law doesn't respect your boundaries, stay calm, reflective listen when appropriate and be assertive. Make a list of behaviors that cross your personal line, such as swearing, accusations, telling lies, hiding things or complaining behind your back. If you're clear from the beginning on the limits of the negative behavior that you'll tolerate, you can communicate these boundaries to others.
Don't give up hope that you can establish a positive and healthy relationship with your daughter in-law. In a study published in the journal "Gerontologist" in 1999, researchers from then-named Beaver College in Pennsylvania (the college became Arcadia University in 2001), studied the differences between daughters and daughters in-law when providing caregiving service for parents. Daughters-in-law had very similar experiences when caring for parents-in-law as daughters had when caring for biological parents. The researchers confirmed that whether a parent was biological or not was a less important factor as the quality of the relationship between the daughter/daughter-in-law and the parent. Keep working to improve the quality of your relationship with your daughter-in-law -- there's no reason why things can't improve and communication, understanding and empathy can't develop.
- David Gill; The Wishing Well; Christchurch, New Zealand
- "Transforming Communication, Second Edition"; Richard Bolstad
- Marriage and Family Encyclopedia: In-Law Relationships
- "Gerontologist"; Children-In-Law In Caregiving Families; Norah Peters-Davis et al
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