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Dear Stavroula

My Daughter-in-Law Is Taking Advantage of My Son

Dear Stavroula,

I have three sons, the eldest got married three years ago and has an 11 month old son. My daughter-in-law is from a family that was unable to support her financially, so my son pays for everything related to household expenses and the child’s needs. Not only has she not paid anything in all these years, but she chose not to work so she could take care of the house and now the child. My son works all day in his business and my daughter-in-law lives her life.

My son has never complained to me about his wife, nor did I know details of their lives, but his wife bragged about how accommodating he is to my other daughter-in-law, my youngest son’s wife, and she told me. Among other things, she told her that not only does she not cook anything except what is necessary for the child, but also that when my son comes home from work, he will cook something for dinner, he will bathe the baby and put him to bed, because my daughter-in-law needs to rest from taking care of the child. I also learned that almost every morning her mom watches the baby for her so she can go to the market or for coffee with her friends.

I got very angry when I heard all this, because I think it’s ingratitude not to work, to go around all day and wait for the other person to come back from work to cook for her. To me this is exploitation and I really want to talk to my son to open his eyes but I don’t want to upset him. I know he loves her very much and maybe that’s why he can’t see how unacceptable her behavior is. Maybe it’s better to talk to her so she can understand. What would you advise?

Vasiliki

 

Dear Vasiliki,

When two people create a relationship, they bring into it not only their feelings for each other, but also their personal history, the one that has been formed since the moment they came into the world. That is, everyone enters the relationship with their own experiences, their own values, their own standards.

Therefore, everyone has learned their role as a partner or as a parent in a different way, from their experiences growing up. This does not mean that one way is right and the other is wrong.

Maybe this is what you need to pay attention to in your case. You try to interpret your daughter-in-law’s behavior and think that she is taking advantage of your son. It doesn’t mean it’s her intention either. The fact that your son has chosen to cook for the two of them and give the baby a bath may indicate a self-aware man who wants to provide for his family, who wants to play an active role as a husband and father.

So maybe your daughter-in-law’s intention is not to use your son to make her life easier, but to create a family in which both partners participate, each in their own way, raising their child. What matters is that they feel good about what they are doing and that the relationship works for both of them.

And from what you write to me, your son himself has not shown you that he is suffering in his relationship, that he does not feel good with his wife, that he is facing some problem, so that you would want to help him. Even if this was the case, I don’t know if it would be appropriate to interfere in a relationship between two adults who have a family.

Especially now that all the information you have is through a third-party which means you don’t know how accurate it is.

It would perhaps help to ask yourself why your youngest son’s wife would share details of her sister-in-law’s life with you in such a way and what this might mean for the relationship between them, but also for how she feels about her relationship with her husband, your youngest son.

People do not all interpret an event in the same way. What is of great importance is to be able to distinguish a fact from its interpretation, and stick with the facts, aware that what may mean one thing to us may mean something entirely different to someone else.

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