Q&A: Favouring her own daughter over her son’s family

Q: How should I respond when my mother-in-law continually shows partiality to my husband’s sister and her family? Whenever I call – far in advance – about visiting on various holidays, I’m told that she’s already made plans with her daughter or that she’ll “have to let me know” after finding out what’s going on with her daughter’s family. I deeply resent the inequity, and I’m tired of making plans around my sister-in-law.

A: It’s tough to feel like your family comes in “second place” with your in-laws. Unfortunately, it’s possible that in your mother-in-law’s estimation, you will always play second fiddle to her own daughter.

Nevertheless, it’s important that your husband have a candid conversation with his mother. Simple honesty requires that he let her know how the two of you have been feeling. Meanwhile, you should set some firm boundaries regarding future holiday plans. When discussing dates with his mum, the two of you should say something like this: “Mum, we’d really love to spend New Year’s Eve with you this year. We’d like to finalize our plans by the first of December, so can you let us know by then?”

If she can’t commit because she doesn’t know what her daughter will be doing for the holiday, you can say, “Just let us know what you want to do by the first of December or we’ll need to make other plans.” If she doesn’t give you an answer by the deadline, stand firm and arrange something else. If she acts hurt when you tell her you can’t come, don’t buy into her manipulation. Tell her you’re sorry she’s disappointed and that you’d love to get together another time. It shouldn’t take her long to get the message. If she leaves your family hanging because she’s hoping for a “better offer,” she’ll simply lose out on seeing you.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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