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Carolyn Hax: MIL regrets being left out of DIL’s life

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

On being the mother-in-law:

I have two sons, one married a year, the other will be married soon, and I am close to both. They have always sought my counsel, enjoyed shared interests, and kept me in the loop. I am very proud of what good men they are.

Before my first son wed, we were still close enough that he made the mistake of confiding in me that his fiancee thought we were “too” close, and she thought it was weird. Almost immediately after the wedding, my son set some pretty well-defined boundaries for me: I could call only at certain times, visiting was at their pleasure, and our conversations devolved into hurried, catch-up, family-business stuff.

I always wanted a daughter or two, so I admit I did fantasize about what a wonderful, close relationship I would someday enjoy with my DIL. Well, it hasn’t happened, and although it hurts in that secret place in my heart that I disclose to no one, I accept it because I know it’s not about me. They are their own family now, and even if it makes me feel lonely, I am just so proud of the boy for being a good husband.

And it’s so obvious that she loves him. What more could I really ask for anyway?

So dear son No. 2 is about to marry and, sadly, I get that same distancing vibe from this young woman as well. Sigh. He didn’t wait until he got married, he set the boundaries while they were dating. I’m cool with that, but I really hate walking on eggshells all the time. Believe me, if there is any perceived issues, I hear about it from my son.

But DIL-to-be so loves my son that I try to give her the benefit of the doubt. After reading some horror-story letters in your column, I think I’m doing OK. I would ask that those daughters-in-law give old Mom the benefit of the doubt. Most of us just want to be loved, have some fun and be a part of their lives. We want to be on the same team.

And I am being very truthful; I really like and respect my DILs. They are so smart, accomplished, ambitious and pretty, and most of all, kind and loving. I truly believe my sons lucked out. I even brag about them! I just wish I could feel the love. – Me (Not So) Bad

On mothering-in-law, continued:

I won’t go into the reasons I was a nightmare daughter-in-law, but I was a horror. My husband’s mother accepted me, loved me and made me feel that I was part of her life. At the time, I never had a clue about the effort she made. Looking back, I wouldn’t want me showing up with one of my sons.

She died 12 years ago. In her final two years she was debilitated, cranky and demanding, so it took a while before I appreciated what she had given me. Now I have two daughters-in-law, and I love them with the full understanding that it falls to me to make the effort, always. This is my precious legacy from my husband’s mother.

E-mail Carolyn at, or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at