How to Navigate A Difficult Relationship with Your Daughter-In-Law or Son-In-Law

an exclusive feature by Bonnie Compton*

When your adult child got married, did you envision a wonderful relationship with his/her spouse? Did you draw a picture in your mind of endless visits, traditional family dinners, holidays, and so forth?

Sometimes our dreams and wishes can easily slip into expectations, and that’s what gets us in trouble!

If you struggle with your adult child’s partner, it’s really up to you as to how you want to handle it.  You have a choice.  However, if you hold onto wishing things were different, you’re only contributing to your own suffering.

1st rule of thumb–stop complaining.

I’ve worked with many parents of adult kids, and some are fortunate to have wonderful “in-law” relationships, and some not.  But when asked what is most important to them as a parent, most parents want to have a relationship with their adult child and grandchildren.  Yes, it would be wonderful to also have a good relationship with their partner, but it may look different than you thought it would.

Remember, you must always be aware that reality and personal expectations are categorically different.  Consider that a relationship comprises many personalities and elements.  The fundamental basics to a healthy relationship include communication and compromise, and that’s where it’s easy to fall short!

Although your daughter-in-law or son-in-law may not fulfill your personal expectations and wishes, is only one part of the total picture.  There may be underlying reasons that there is tension in your relationship.  I’ve counseled many a mother-in-law in particular who struggled with their “in-law” relationship.  Maybe their daughter or son-in-law is not considerate or even rude at times.  At the end of the day, you need to find your place while remembering, you are not top priority! (Yes, I know that’s tough to hear).

Here’s the thing–your grown child chose this “person” as their spouse, and they certainly deserve some respect. Ultimately their happiness together is about them, not you. Remember, your child loves their spouse and any negative comments you make about them will not be well received and will only be detrimental to your relationship.

Unless there is evidence of anything abusive in their relationship, or the children are being compromised, it is vital you keep your negative thoughts to yourself.

However, there are some ways that you can improve your communication and learn to compromise so that you can enjoy a relationship with them. Here’s 6 tips to consider:

  • Be calm and cordial. You don’t have to agree with their opinions or actions, however the more reactive you become the more difficult your time with them will be. Rise above and remember the bigger picture, and what you want the outcome to be…to be included in their family.
  • Set your boundaries. You can be kind and cordial, and not participate in or tolerate negative behavior. Don’t let resentments build up.  Set your boundaries and respond when appropriate.
  • If you’re upset with your daughter-in-law or son-in-law, speak to them directly rather than to your child. Be careful how you approach your displeasure or recanting of an incident you’re not happy about.
  • If they plan to have children, or already have children, ask how you can help and be involved in the grandchildren’s lives. Remember, you’ve had your own children, so although you love them and want to be involved, it’s important to give them their space to create their own family. If you feel that they only reach out to you to babysit, then it’s time to set boundaries!
  • Accept what is and try to be grateful for small successes. Although you may want more time with your child or grandchildren, focus on the time you have together.
  • Try to be positive and trust that relationships often work themselves out. Perhaps not as you would like them to be, but better than they’ve been.

Looking for help with your relationship with your adult children? You might want to consider this book:


*How to Navigate A Difficult Relationship with Your Daughter-In-Law or Son-In-Law is an exclusive feature for by Bonnie Compton, APRN, BC, CPNP. Bonnie has worked with families for more than thirty years as a child and adolescent therapist, parent coach, and pediatric nurse practitioner and is passionate about making a difference in the lives of children and families. In doing so, Bonnie helps parents and grandparents create healthy boundaries and relationships. She is a writer, speaker, workshop and retreat facilitator, and hosts her own podcast radio program, Wholehearted Parenting Radio, which is available on iTunes, Web Talk Radio, Radioactive Broadcasting Network, and Stitcher Radio. Bonnie lives in Charleston, SC, with her husband. She is a mom of four adult children and believes that being a mother has been her most important job; and loves being Gramma to her three beautiful granddaughters. Bonnie is also the author of a new book, Mothering with Courage, Available here!, and also has an online course Mothering with Courage Daily OM

Have a question or want to contact Bonnie?