BEL MOONEY: Our son"s harridan wife has turned him against us

Our son's harridan wife has turned him against us

My problem is the way my wife has been treated by her son's partner

My problem is the way my wife has been treated by her son's partner


When I met my wife 30 years ago she was the divorced mother of two young children — a beautiful, intelligent, popular, loving woman who lived for her children.

We married, and had a baby — so, with two teenagers as well, she never had time for herself.

Through the years she has looked after elderly relatives, including my parents, and always been there for her own.

When her son had a child with a partner who then abandoned the baby he asked my wife to help by looking after her grandchild in the day while he was at work.

He soon met a woman who made it clear she didn’t want anything to do with his son.

When they lived together she would not take the child, saying she wanted her career, not children.

From the beginning this woman was particularly nasty to my wife. Still we agreed the boy could stay with us all week.

Then her son said his partner didn’t think it fair that she should have to have his child at their house every weekend and could it be every other weekend A few months later he asked could we keep him permanently

This wasn’t an easy decision for me but my wife agreed and we bought him up as our child.

My problem is the way my wife has been treated by her son’s partner. When he visited he told us not to let her know he’d been.

Over the years she’s done and said some really horrible things to my wife — who has taken it for the sake of harmony.

When the woman suddenly decided she wanted children after all, but went straight back to work — who took care of the babies, to save them paying a child-minder

This continued until my wife became ill and was unable to look after them so much.

My wife always had a good relationship with her grandchildren. But if they seemed too happy after visiting us, she wouldn’t then be ‘allowed’ to see them for weeks.

Since they married a few years ago our daughter-in-law has become even more vicious.

My wife was left out of all the wedding arrangements and treated very shabbily, along with the rest of our family. We were told that the groom’s parents didn’t count on the day.

We heard that our daughter-in-law’s own family were shocked. Her husband seems well and truly under her thumb and makes no decisions without her say-so.

He no longer treats his mother with respect and although he knows how ill she is doesn’t bother phoning to see how she is, and hardly ever visits, although they live near.

We’re told they are ‘too busy’ for the grandchildren to visit.

Recently when we saw the children they looked almost too frightened to talk to us.

My wife has admitted that her heart is broken over the way her son has allowed her to be treated.

I know she is now suffering from depression but cannot take any more medication and I worry that she is ready to give up on everything. What can I do


This is a familiar subject I return to because recently I’ve had a number of letters expressing the same bewilderment and sadness.

My own reaction is one of matching confusion, simply because it’s hard to understand why these young women treat their in-laws so badly.

To give just one example of many, Pauline writes: ‘My son is not allowed to see me and also I am not allowed to see my grandchildren.

‘I have been accused of so many things and everything that I have done (thinking that it was the right thing to do) was never good enough!

‘My son has always said he has to do what his wife says to keep the peace but I can’t believe that he even goes as far as not seeing his own mum.

‘He has seen me in secret but visits are very few and very far between and not for long at all. People think that there is an alternative motive to why he keeps in touch, and say that if he really loved me like he says he does he would not hurt me in this way.

‘He has told me he knows that he will regret it when I am gone.’

Pauline confirms what I have discovered through this column: ‘Since this has happened to me I have heard of so many others this has happened to, where parents feel like they are walking on eggshells with their daughters-in-law all the time — frightened what they say in case it is taken the wrong way, and they end up not seeing their grandchildren again.’

Your letter, David, was a marathon — with details I have no room for, painting an appalling picture of a family torn apart because of the harsh, controlling nature of one woman.

Occasionally a reader will point out the blindingly obvious to me — that a letter is only one side of the story. But sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the heartfelt truth within a case like this, and wonder what possible justification the ‘other side’ could offer.


Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or e-mail [email protected]

A pseudonym will be used if you wish.

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Your stepson has shown his mother neither gratitude nor duty, let alone love, and I can’t understand what makes a man sacrifice all his decency and dignity to a hen-pecking harridan. (This is the point at which some rebuke me for using terms like that, but if you had my postbag, you, too, would feel exasperated to the point of fury.)

My reader, Pauline, believes that her daughter-in-law was jealous because she got on so well with her grandchildren, and there’s a hint of that in your letter too. Perhaps your daughter-in-law has mental health problems caused by events in her childhood.

Some men are bullied by their wives. Maybe your stepson was so damaged by being abandoned by his father that he effectively abandoned his own son.

Whatever the reasons for their behaviour, I don’t see what more you can do. You and your wife have been good to the couple, raised one child and been attentive to the others.

Her reward has been hurt and stress. You, who love her so much, are clearly worried. But healing can only come with a degree of aceptance.

Perhaps you should gently tell her the famous Serenity Prayer: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…

It can help us face up to life’s genuinely intractable problems. You have each other, as well as other family members who love you.

This couple’s children will grow and make their own choices about who they see — so it’s important that you keep open the links with them by emails and cards.

Sad Pauline finishes her letter thus: ‘God bless all the people in the world that this has happened to!’ And I second that.

Dear Bel

I’m 24 and about a month ago I started dating a 30-year-old man.

I have never had a long-term relationship, and neither has he.

After about four very innocent sleepovers, I realised that he was inexperienced in the bedroom department. In fact, he has only ever had sex twice.

I like him enough for this not to be a deal-breaker, but as I am not incredibly confident or sexually experienced myself, I worry that it will be the blind leading the blind, and that neither he nor I are confident enough to sensibly and openly discuss sex.

It’s all very British. I really like him and want it to work between us as I think he really likes me and I want to make him as comfortable as possible in the bedroom. How would you suggest I go about this


First, I am not a sex therapist, nor have I ever wished to be. No sex tips on this column, I’m afraid!

As I grow older I find myself less and less comfortable with graphic frankness about sexual matters.

That could be because I am becoming puritanical in my old age — and I confess I’ve always been that way inclined when it comes to pornography. Inclined to puritanism, I mean.

But maybe I’m just bored with the fact that sex is used to ‘sell’ everything, from cars to clothes for little girls. Yuk, I think, just put it away!

The serious point here is that the overkill in sexual imagery does lead many young people who may be very inexperienced ‘in the bedroom department’ to believe that everybody is at it, all the time, and that it’s the norm to ‘perform’ like a stud or a slut. Which it’s not.

More from Bel Mooney…

BEL MOONEY: Why do I still love my cruel uncaring boyfriend

BEL MOONEY: I'm a liberal – but a man giving birth is freakish and beyond the pale

BEL MOONEY: My husband packs me off to bed so he can indulge his secret fantasies

BEL MOONEY: I dread my mementoes of a lifetime being treated like rubbish

BEL MOONEY: Has school bullying clipped my wings for ever

BEL MOONEY: Nine years on, I'm still furious at my husband for leaving

BEL MOONEY: I have betrayed the husband I once adored

BEL MOONEY: I can't forgive my husband's coldness to our baby


Many young men and women (older ones, too) feel desperately shy and insecure about their attractiveness.

Isn’t it ironic that in 2012, when stars discuss their sex lives as if
modesty and reticence died with the dinosaurs, a 24-year-old can tell me
she’s too shy to discuss sex openly

Those who pioneered frankness back in the Fifties did important work. If
you google Masters and Johnson you will see why I say that; the
Wikipedia page has many interesting links.

Since you confess to ignorance, it wouldn’t do you any harm to do some reading about human sexual response.

But I don’t think that passing on your new knowledge to your boyfriend
would be a good idea.

Have you thought that ‘to sensibly and openly
discuss sex’ could be a turn-off to a shy man — almost as bad as a woman
giving instructions during lovemaking

You say you want to make your chap ‘as comfortable as possible in the bedroom’. Well, try pillows.

No, I’m not being facetious, but suggesting that the atmosphere of the
room will go a long way towards promoting the soft, warm closeness which
usually leads on . . . and on.

Soft music, candles, flowers, sweet
words, holding, stroking . . . what’s wrong with those old aides to

And isn’t it a mood of romance which will help your situation rather
than a list of sexual techniques

Gentle kissing may well lead to Kama
Sutra gymnastics, but, if so, the progression will be natural, not
forced. I believe that many men feel as women do — that gentleness and
cuddling is the way to deeper intimacy on every level.

After all, although Lady Chatterley’s Lover caused such a fuss because
of its sexual frankness, D.H.Lawrence first intended to call it
‘Tenderness’. And to me that’s the most sensual word in the language.

You CAN control a Black Dog
One in four people experiences a mental health problem, and often feel very isolated

One in four people experiences a mental health problem, and often feel very isolated.Many feel ashamed to state that they're suffering from depression

Have you ever met a black dog which followed you home, even though you didn’t want him

Did the malevolent mutt dig his paws into your life Can he be controlled

This year handsome Black Dog statues will be appearing in cities throughout the UK — their function to make depression ‘public’.

It’s the 25th anniversary of the mental health charity SANE (, which intends this campaign to raise awareness of the impact of depression.

One in four people experiences a mental health problem, and often feel very isolated. Many feel ashamed to state that they’re suffering from depression, and keep it hidden.

Yet the World Health Organisation predicts that by 2020 this will be the world’s most disabling condition, above cancer and Aids.

We often use the expression ‘I’m feeling depressed’, when sad or miserable about life.

Usually, these feelings pass. But if they are interfering with your life and don’t go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back, over and over again, for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you’re depressed in the medical sense of the term.

To help, I recommend two brilliant graphic books by Matthew Johnson — I Had A Black Dog and Living With A Black Dog — which tackle the sense of stigma with humour and understanding.

You should also look at the MIND website ( and note their helpline for information and advice: 0300 123 3396 (9am-6pm). SANE’s helpline is 0845 767 8000 (6-11pm).

I also want to tell you about a new, free service that fills a gap for those living with depression. The website is — and has been set up by two young women who have suffered bouts of depression, and their partners.

They specifically want to offer support/mentoring not just to sufferers, but also to those living with someone with depression.

They’re running the website with volunteer mentors and have no money for publicity, so the least I can do is let you all know it’s there.

Remember, if the Black Dog is squatting on your life, you can get help to chase him away.