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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 16

It could be you.... 

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers.  For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.


We can't get on with our daughter-in-law

Our only son married two years ago and try as we might neither of us can warm to his wife. We felt included during all of the wedding preparations but since then they have visited very  infrequently and we rarely get an invitation to go to their house, even though they live quite near. She is very house proud, everything is just so and I feel she orders our son around in quite a domineering way.

She makes it clear that she disapproves of our cat and dog and of our easygoing ways. My husband says she has used us, that she needed us when we were paying for much of the wedding but she doesn't want to have anything to do with us now. We miss contact with our son who says they are so busy at weekends. We don't know what to say to him, as we don't want to rock the boat.

It is always hard to adjust to seeing our children settling down with their partner, especially an only child. They have their own ways of doing things that are not like ours and there is so much room for misunderstanding.  Also, it isn't always easy to like a son or daughter's chosen partner immediately.
It sounds as though your daughter in law may be trying extra hard to prove herself a good wife and housekeeper and in doing so comes over as rather strident. Is it possible that your relaxed ways make everything look so easy and as she has to put in such a lot of effort she feels threatened by that?

Nothing could be more damaging than to tell your son you do not like his wife. He will feel criticised and rejected and be forced to take sides. You are his parents and he will want to please you. But you could let him know how much you enjoy his company, and miss the opportunity to chat with him in the way you used to, if only for half an hour when he is passing.

You owe it to your son to back him up in his decisions and not undermine them, but you can let him know if you feel he is pushing himself too hard, or is looking tired. This way he will feel you are still looking out for him in the loving way you always have. And then he is more likely to come and talk to you if things worry him. Take care, however, not to let your comments look like a criticism of his wife.

You could also try complimenting your daughter-in-law on her home, even say how hard it it is to keep the home looking spotless when both are working full time. Ask for her secret, acknowledge that we all have different ways of doing things and that you admire her style.  This will reassure her that you have recognised her skills. It might just help her feel she is good at what she does and doesn't have to prove herself to you.

Knowing that the couple are busy at weekends, you could suggest a regular slot to meet, say once a month for tea, or whatever suits you both.  Be prepared for rejection but stick with it.  If you show tolerance, things should improve in time.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years. We hope you find the column useful and interesting... and if you have any comments or suggestions, Maggi would like to hear from you.   Either share some your own experiences in the laterlife forum  or email her on .  

Please don't send any confidential information to

To view previous articles  - see the Relationship Counselling & Advice Index page  



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