Building a relationship with a difficult daughter-in-law

Julia Faulks / 10 September 2015

Sometimes the relationship between a mother and daughter-in-law can be rocky, and you may feel like you can never be friends, but there are ways to build that relationship and make it stronger.



She thinks you’re far too strict, you think she is overbearing. The relationship struggles between a mother and daughter-in-law is an all too common situation. Here we look at how you improve tensions and learn how to see eye-to-eye.

It can be incredibly stressful and upsetting when there are bad feelings between you and your daughter-in-law. This is often made worse when there are grandchildren involved – especially if you feel you aren’t getting enough time with them (or are being expected to do too much when it comes to childcare arrangements).

Connecting with your daughter-in-law

You may wonder how you can ever find a way to connect with your daughter-in-law when it seems that you disagree on everything. 

Sometimes all it takes is an honest and open conversation to break down any feelings that have built up over time and learn to respect one another’s feelings.

“I had a very rocky start with my mother-in-law a few years into my marriage and after a particularly difficult day I just sat down with her and talked it out. I said that we both love him and have to find a way to get on as it was making him unhappy. We chatted for ages and at the end we were such firm friends to the point that when she died I missed her as much as my husband did because I felt like I had lost my best friend,” says Julie, 53.

Steps to improving your relationship

Find common ground

Focus on what you have in common – as well as the fact that you both love your son, if you can find some common ground it could take the pressure off the other parts of your relationship that are more challenging. 

Perhaps you both like going to the cinema, so why not go just the two of you? You shouldn’t try to be a mother to her, but there’s nothing wrong with being a good friend.

Accept your differences

Accept that you have different parenting styles – yes you have raised a child (even if you feel your daughter-in-law has forgotten this very fact!), but you may need to remember that parenting trends change from generation to generation. 

There is nothing wrong with offering advice, but it is about judging the situation and whether it feels right at the time.

Visit our grandparenting area for lots great tips.

Remember when you were her age

Remember what it was like – those first few years of being married and having kids are exciting, challenging and demanding. Your daughter-in-law may have had a very different upbringing to you and that can affect the way she feels about her role as a mother. 

Allow her space so she can gain her trust in you and things should naturally improve over time, especially if she doesn’t feel pressure to do things in a certain way.

“I think it helps that I am not a possessive mother and I stand back appreciating that my daughter-in-law is number one in my son’s life right now. I find it is also a good idea not to volunteer advice unless asked to do so. There have been times when I have been quite surprised at the trust she has put in me,” says Meg, 60.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.