Relationship Challenges

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As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, many of us are focused on relationships of all kinds.  Some relationships are full of love and harmony.  Some are not.  A recent inquiry from someone close to me about a challenging situation is worth sharing.  I hope this will prove to be beneficial to you.  And, if you have a “Dear Jenn” question regarding specific relationship issues, feel free to reach out at, and I will do my best to respond.  Happy Communicating and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dear Jenn:

I have a challenging relationship issue and I’d like your advice.  My husband and I are co-hosting an event with our son and his new wife and things are not going well.  She is withholding information from me about things we are supposed to be coordinating together.  I’ve asked multiple times for her to provide information to me and she tells me she will share it, but then she never does.  I’ve asked her if I’ve done anything to upset her or to cause her not to want to work with me on this and she has not responded.  Our exchanges have been tense and difficult and I’m just not sure how to develop a healthy relationship with someone who won’t even be honest with me when we are supposed to be working together.  She’s my daughter-in-law and we should be able to communicate honestly and respect each other.  I need your perspective.  Thanks so much!

Signed – Troubled MIL

Dear Troubled MIL:

I’m sorry that the relationship with your daughter-in-law is challenging.  I do have some direct experience with these types of situations and offer to you a few lessons I’ve learned along the way. 

When someone we love brings someone new into our lives, we are best served by allowing a lot of space for the new person to integrate into our family and into our communication styles.  New personalities introduced to well-established communication patterns challenge our relationships.  We want to be close to the new person because our loved one loves them.  However, we can’t expect everyone to share our values, our experiences, and our love for family. Some people have no desire to be loved the only way we know how to love.  Some people don’t trust easily and are afraid of getting too close too soon.  Some people are intimidated by strong women who speak up and speak directly.  Their response to any of these thigns can be to cling to whatever control they believe they have over their situations.  

So, if it were me in this current situation you have with your daughter-in-law, I think I would back off completely.  Give space.  Go to the edge.  Communicate about the co-hosted event with your son ONLY.  Let him take responsibility for the new person he has brought into the family.  Copy him on any communication you have with her if you must communicate directly with her.  Let him guide you on how to most effectively communicate with her.  Let him deal with her, which may open his eyes to something you see that he does not.  And hardest of all, be willing to let go of the outcome of the situation and relationship.  No amount of desire on your part for her to be different or for the event to be handled differently will change her attitude or perspective.  You deal with your son about any issues of conflict related to what he wants that is different from your desires.  That’s on him, not her.  Let him make his decision and then let him deal with her.  And let him suffer the consequences of his decisions, as hard as that is.   Let your son take the responsibility for all of this, as that is where the responsibility lies.  And, I know you believe that the outcome of this event reflects upon you and your husband as much as it does on your son and daughter-in-law.  Express that to your son and encourage him to make it right.  He’s the only one, in my opinion, who will be able to solve this problem.  Can you trust him to make it right?

Sending lots of love, light and prayers for you in this situation.

Love, Jenn

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