Dear Ms. Meniscus,What to do when a daughter in law is a sneaky bully

I’m a woman in her seventies with RA. I had a hard time financially lately and my son invited me to move in with him and his wife. I thought his wife liked me but whenever my son is not around she’ll say things like –watch it or I’m out on my ass and calls me things like senile old lady. Please advise what to do. I’m afraid if I tell my son he’ll take his wife’s side.

Loretta in Trouble

 

My dear Loretta- it sounds like you have a kind-natured son who seems to have no idea that his wife has a streak of viciousness in her character. What Madame doesn’t understand is why he wouldn’t believe his own mother. With that said, it’s true that many men don’t want to be caught in the middle of a battle between the women they love, and so they pretend they don’t see or hear things.

If you had an old-fashioned recording device you could tape record the nasty comments, but even so that may not put an end to the problem. It might enrage her further. What you have on your hands is a resentful daughter-in-law, and the only way to take care of the problem is with a direct approach. The next time you are home alone with her and you sense that a comment may be on the way, perhaps you could interrupt her before she begins. Say: “Now Sherrie, I understand that our home situation is a difficult one. You have me living with you and it must feel like a terrible intrusion.  I wouldn’t impose on you and Jerry if there weren’t financial considerations.”

This statement, or something like it, should disarm the nasty impulse, at least for the moment. She may not respond, and that will give you the opportunity to offer to help with the household chores in some small way. Perhaps there is something you can do, such as folding the hand towels. Trust Madame when she says it will offset some of the hostility that darling “Sherry” is feeling (and showing) towards you. Try to think of a few little jobs that will help you to feel better as well, and then make your offer specific. If your RA prevents you from handling dishware and glasses so you cannot help with the dishes, maybe you can do some lightweight dusting. You’d be surprised at how a little assistance can disarm an angry person, especially one who feels put-upon.

Madame feels for you Loretta, and wishes you well. Good luck with sneaky Sherry, may you successfully combat resentfulness with a thoughtful offer or two. And if your daughter-in-law persists in being nasty? Then you must tell your son about the bullying. If he cannot put a stop to it then please feel free to contact Madame, who will look to put you in touch with those who are professionally trained to intervene in such situations.

–MMM