How Toxic Daughters-in-Law Destroy Families

Most women fear the Monster-in-Law.

The TV stereotype is always the mother-in-law, for whom no woman will ever be as good to him as she is. Doris Roberts on Everybody Loves Raymond embodied that image for 8 years on TV – the grasping, sweet-to-your-face, rude-behind-your-back mother-in-law who only wants her son to be happy, as long as she’s the one behind it.

But what if things were the other way around? What happens when it’s the wife, and not the mother-in-law, that tries to drive a wedge between a man and his mother? That’s what happened to Anne Killinger, author of A Son is a Son Till He Gets a Wife: How Toxic Daughters-in-Law Destroy Families

“In a world where mothers-in-law are frequently made the butt of bad jokes, many people assume that they are the ones that make life unbearable for their daughters-in-law,” Killinger said. “I contend that it is often the other way around, that many daughters-in-law today are selfish, possessive, and narcissistic, and will not rest until they have divorced their husbands from the parents who raised them. It’s a deceptively gradual process, and half the time, you don’t even realize it has happened until it’s too late. It starts with her taking phone calls for the family, or the canceling of trips to visit family. Soon, phone calls go unreturned, and finally you realize that your son is no longer your son. He’s just some other woman’s husband.”

“I estimate that at least one in ten families in the U.S. today has experienced this problem, to some degree or another,” she said. “It’s difficult to assign blame for it, however, because everyone’s relationship is different. Part of me is torn, because I have been a lifelong feminist, yet I cannot escape the feeling that the rampant feminism that women absorb through their education, societal attitude shifts and the popular culture is at least a partial cause for these women believing that it’s perfectly fine to emotionally separate a son from his parents.”

That’s not the only cultural shift that could be leading to this issue, according to Killinger.

“Children in today’s society grow up without a strong sense of respect for their parents and what their parents have done for them,” she added. “With the realities of the two-income family, and most kids being ‘latch-key kids’ throughout most of their upbringing, children are more independent. They tend to seek their own paths earlier in life, and disobey their parents without much hesitation. This part of our culture makes it a lot easier for children to abandon their parents once they are grown. It’s a dark, slippery slope.”

Unfortunately, through her experience, she has discovered that there is little that can be done to salvage the child-parent relationship.

“Once a son becomes capable of completely breaking off his contact with his parents, it is a difficult decision to dial back,” Killinger said. “In our case, the break took three years, from March 2002 to March 2005, to take place completely. That’s a long time to get used to not having his parents around. In many cases, the son may simply stay in the thrall of his wife. On the other hand, even if he realizes he has made a bad choice to let go of his parents, he may be too embarrassed or humiliated to try to repair the relationship. He may feel that things have gone too far for him to ever be worthy of forgiveness, which is tragic.

There is no greater loss for a parent than that of losing a child. If a son should ever seek to turn back that clock, he should know that parents will always accept him back into their lives, no matter what. While 50 percent of all new marriages end in divorce, a son can never truly divorce his parents, because they will always take him back.”

Most sons prefers their mothers when incarcerated depending on the relationship they already have established. Life is a funny thing when one becomes incarcerated. True feelings amass themselves. Dear John letters are not just a statistic.


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  • Joi Cullens says:

    First, I would like to compliment you on your article. As a young woman who recently broke off an engagement with my ex-fiance because of many things but his mother being one; I never considered things from this angle. I certainly don’t want to be the woman that puts a wedge between a son and his mother or who would appear as such… Yet I want to have an independent relationship with my future spouse without too much interference from either side of our families. What are ways that you would suggest from a mother’s perspective to a woman that is not being accepted by her husband’s mother and family? What are things that can be done to strike a balance betweeen protecting the relationship and respecting the mother and family’s pre-existing connection? It seems evident that it healthy for a son to have a damaged relationship with his family due to his spouse’s manipulation. Yet how does the spouse protect themselves from being overrode and abused?

  • Thank you for your comment. From a woman who married into a family of 6 boys, I was very fortunate that I have a mother-in-law who is neutral. Over protective mothers and moma’s boys are a serious issue. The most important advice I can give you is to put your relationship first. Outside influence can be very detrimental. Without severing the relationship with your fiance over his mother, what you should do is strengthen your relationship with him so that he sees you are the type of person who is ride or die and them maybe, just maybe he will shift his trust onto your shoulders. Hope this helps.

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