Sage Advice: Too Chatty Daughter-in-Law
It's nice to have a good relationship with your in-laws ... unless all they want to do is talk ...
Dear Amy: I have a wonderful daughter-in-law.
She is a great match for my son and a great mom to their daughter.
We all have faults, and I accept that. I know I may sound like a “typical” mother-in- law complaining about my son’s wife, but I’ll risk it in order to get your advice.
She’s a talker. She doesn’t know how to have a conversation. She is wonderful about keeping me in the loop (we live in separate states), but she calls several times a week and talks for 45 minutes to an hour each time.
I can hardly get a word in, and when I do try to tell her something, I can tell she is just waiting for me to finish so she can talk again. She often doesn’t respond to my inquiries.
Additionally, most of her conversation consists of complaints about my son.
I have asked her not to do this, but her response is, “You know him and so you understand.” I have asked her how she would feel if someone did nothing but complained about her daughter. This didn’t help at all – and the next call was again littered with complaints.
When she is with my son, she doesn’t dominate the conversation as much, but if he’s not around — she takes over.
How can I approach this without hurting her feelings?
She has a big heart and I would never want to damage our relationship.
– Tired Ears
Dear Tired: Realistically you will not be able to change the overall behavior of your daughter-in-law, but you should establish some healthy boundaries – always making sure to convey your affection for her.
The one aspect of this that you should shut down thoroughly is her complaining about your son. Not only because he is your son, but because in doing so, she is involving you in her marriage.
I take it as a given that she is venting, and is not seeking (nor would she listen to) any feedback, advice or suggested solutions from you.
When this starts, you should tell her, “I’ve asked you before, and you don’t seem to have heard me. You know I’m very fond of you. But I simply CANNOT handle venting about my son. It is affecting the way I feel about both of you. You’re going to have to find another way to deal with your problems with him. Do you understand my need here?” (Wait for her answer.) “Will you respect this?” (Wait for her answer.)
If she vents during the next call, you will have to interrupt: “Oops. Maybe you forgot our last conversation so let’s change the subject.”
And yes – otherwise, only talk to her when you have the energy for a lengthy update. Let her leave a message and you can call her back when you’re ready, relaxed, and hydrated.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2020 by Amy Dickinson