Q: My new daughter-in-law never says thank you. For anything. Ever. I’m not the only one who has noticed it. She sent out thank-you cards for the wedding gifts, but that was it. If you give someone a gift, along with a “Happy Birthday” and a hug, and she says, “Oh. OK,” then sets the box aside and never mentions it again, I think it’s odd. I knitted her a sweater with yarn she admired. I suppose she might hate the sweater, but I’ve seen her wear it. Not a word. Is it wrong to feel peeved at the lack of acknowledgment? She’s not rude or unkind, but I’m starting to feel hurt by her behavior.
A: Before I say what you don’t want to hear, know that I agree with you. Your daughter-in-law’s behavior is weird and off-putting, and I’d take it personally, too.
But even if mother- and daughter-in-law relationships weren’t some of the most challenging in all familydom, I’d advise you to shake this off. Which I believe you can, if you really want to.
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One reason is that this isn’t personal. That other people have noticed suggests she’s this way with everyone. It’s a quirk, not a slight. Thus the impulse to take it personally is an emotional, not logical, one.
And when your impulse is to add hard feelings to a high-stakes relationship, that’s an excellent time to hand the reins over to logic. Suggested silent mantras: “It’s not me”; “She’s just weird this way”; “Wearing it (equal sign) thanks”; “How about those Sox?”
Another reason is that this hurts her more than it hurts you. Truly. A glaring social deficit like this will compromise her with almost all who experience it, and many won’t know her well enough to have your perspective — that she’s a “lovely” woman who does this to everyone and who probably wasn’t taught any better. (Right? It’s hardly an “only” thing, if that’s what you’re implying.) Or they won’t be as invested in harmony as only the mother of the man she married can be, so they won’t try as hard as you have to forgive it.
As someone who sticks with her, you might even help her. Providing a years-long, low-key model of good gift-receiving behavior could be your most thoughtful gift.
One more thought, offered with caution: This might be worth discussing with your son. As long as your affection for your daughter-in-law is unquestioned (seriously — if you’ve said boo about her, this isn’t an option); your relationship with your son is solid and non-defensive; and your integrity and communication skills are up to the task of asking a charged question that’s credibly untainted by an ulterior motive, then go for it. “You know how much I like and appreciate wifey, so I feel safe asking this. I’ve noticed she’s awkward about receiving gifts. Is it just me? Is there history there? Is there something I could be doing to help?”
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