The Family Photograph That Excludes

by admin on September 4, 2013

This past June I made an appointment to have a family photo done. Just me, my husband, and my two grown sons. I called my boys to schedule a date and told them to wear nice blue shirts, dark pants, and nice shoes. (My husband and I were wearing this, too. Family photos in the matchy matchy style.)

Skip to last week my younger son (perfectly in dress code) shows up at the photo and we’re all sitting on a bench, waiting for my older son, C, to arrive.  15 minutes later he arrives with his wife, T, in tow…both wearing blue shirts, dark pants, and nice shoes. I pull T aside and explain that I want just me and my 3 important boys in the picture. However instead of gracefully bowing out what does she do? She starts sobbing and generally throwing a fit. She goes crying to C, and after about 5 minutes he comes over saying that if his wife can’t be in the picture then they were both leaving.  I consent and now I have a picture on my mantlepiece with my smug daughter-in-law staring at me all day.

How can someone be so rude? 0823-13

You did refer to this as a “family photo” twice so there is no mistaking your intent to have a “family photo” done that will be prominently displayed on your mantle.  So, it’s a “family photo” that deliberately excluded the one person who married into the family, i.e. your daughter-in-law.   If actions speak louder than words, you sent the clear message that she is not family and you don’t want her intruding in the family photographs nor do you want to see her face beaming out from that photo.    I suspect from C’s prompt decision to respond as he did to you that this may not be the first time you have expressed a desire to exclude his wife from some family occasion.     It was Shallow Stupid to not have scheduled a complete family photo session with everyone involved and then take other photos of father and sons, mother and sons, two brothers together, C and T, even daughter-in-law and mother-in-law to at least maintain an illusion of family unity.  It would have been profoundly Deep Stupid to have placed a framed photo center stage on the mantle broadcasting to the world that your family does not include spouses.    Because the bottom line is that C has left his nuclear family and started his own which does include your daughter-in-law and while you want to enshrine your nuclear family as it was before C married, that is not the reality as of now and it appears that C has no interest in facilitating your need to remind him, his father and brother that you should be the only woman in his life or this family.


{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

AnaLuisa September 4, 2013 at 2:59 am

I strongly disagree with the Admin.

Why on Earth could a mother not want a picture just with her husband and her sons? It certainly does not have to mean that she does not like her daughter-in-law!

I definitely think that it was rude from the daughter-in-law to throw a fit. I would not blame her husband though, as in my opinion, the right thing is to side with his wife even against his mother (and clear the issue with his wife in private, and in my heart I expect he did do that).

The fact the daughter-in-law came with her husband did not necessarily have to be out of rudeness, perhaps just misunderstanding, or even a Freudian slip meaning that she really wants to belong to the family.

Once she was there, I can see how the requirement “I do not want YOU in my pictures” can be hurtful. I would probably in such a case let the photographer do several pictures as the Admin recommends (we did this with our children and grandparents, and have several nice group photos of just us and kids, grandparents and kids, just the two of us, etc.), and certainly one of these would include just me, my husband and our sons, and later put that on my table. I would not assume that the DIL would insists to be in ALL pictures, this would be super rude.


Lex September 4, 2013 at 3:01 am

Hear Hear. It sounds to me that in turning up in dress code, your son was making a point about including his wife and probably making a point about how you deliberately exclude her – I suspect this is not the first time. She made the effort to dress accordingly in matchy-matchy (and I’m sorry but that whole concept is awful when your children are adults – I personally find it creepy) and she made a point of trying to fit into your family and you rejected her explicitly. The spiteful comment about her ‘smug face’ makes your feelings about her clear.


Margo September 4, 2013 at 3:12 am

It sounds as though C and his wife have been developing a polite spine. Good for C for standing up for his wife.

If you wanted pictures including your daughter-in-law you could have chosen to have a variety of pictures taken – include the opportunity for your son and his wife to have a formal picture of themselves as a couple, one of the whole family etc.

I agree that the question which comes up is “how can someone be so rude?” but the person being rude here was not your son or his wife.


Alazne September 4, 2013 at 3:30 am

I think that this is one of those occasions where it’s very difficult to say anything without knowing the family background, and whether there’s previously been any drama/issues around the daughter in law, or the family in general. There are some phrases that concern me in the writing of the letter, but I’m not going to pass judgement without knowing all the facts.

However, my thoughts would be that firstly, you could have perhaps phrased it in a better way than a family picture, because as admin rightly suggests, a wife is part of the family, and if someone called me and said to come prepared for a family photo, of course I would bring my spouse. It might also have been kind if you could have taken one photo in the way you wanted – your husband and your sons, and one with all the family included. That way everyone might have been happy.

But, on the other hand, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having photos of just wife, husband and sons. Not every family picture I have has every family member in, even though they’re all part of my family. I have plenty of pictures with just me and my parents, and plenty with all the other family members as well. It doesn’t mean that I love them any less.


Lisa Marie September 4, 2013 at 3:39 am

OP, while the Admin was a little hard on you, she was absolutely right. I believe it would have cost you nothing to have the photos done as she suggested and then only buy the ones you want. Perhaps you could have generously bought C and his wife photos of themselves?


Kirsten September 4, 2013 at 3:39 am

Oh, I’m sorry but this phrase “I want just me and my 3 important boys in the picture” is so grating! And you call her ‘my smug daughter-in-law’…it doesn’t sound as if you like T very much. Maybe that’s why she started crying, I do wonder if this is the first time you made it clear that you don’t have much time for her.

I’m so glad that C understood how disrespectful and hurtful this was – along with how weird, that you don’t want even one photograph acknowledging his marriage. I’m so glad he understood how to stand up for his wife and to be a good husband. It’s really sad you did this and clearly haven’t forgiven T, because you’ll have hurt your son and DIL with your behaviour, and those who hear about it will think poorly of you. It’s really sad you don’t seem to realize what you’ve done wrong, or that you’re pushing your son away from you.

Even my MIL, who jokes ‘that’s my boy!’ about my husband (said while clasping her heart dramatically), admits that it’s hard to let go of her golden boy son, but that she HAS to because it’s her duty as a mother to make her son a man. Your son C is a man from what happened here – you should be proud of him, he did the right thing.


Another Sarah September 4, 2013 at 4:06 am

I agree with admin. But more than that OP, if you are not careful you will drive a wedge between you and your son.
I am not married, but my sister is. My mother includes her husband to a degree, but she is always badmouthing him (unfairly) to me, my brother and my sister. The net result is that my sister is no longer as close to my mother as she once was and my mother of course blames this on sister’s husband.
All of us kids agree the reason comes from mum’s obsession with preserving her family. She is horrible about my brother’s fiance as well (interestingly she liked her until they got serious) so he doesn’t spend as much time with her as he used to. I never tell her about my relationships at all.

So instead of keeping the family together it drives them apart. And mum is the one who loses out.

We have talked to our mum about this (sensitively as it comes from some hard stuff she is dealing with) and she is getting better, but OP I suspect the same situation could evolve with you if you’re not careful.
Your contempt of your DIL is obvious in the few short lines you’ve written, do you think your son, who is close to you and knows you well, isn’t going to notice? And it doesn’t reflect badly on her, it reflects on you. It shows a lack of respect not only for your DIL but for your son and his decision to marry her.

Sorry if this comes off harsh, but it has touched a personal nerve with me. But for the detail this could have been my mother talking. And I hate watching my family disintegrate due to her insecurities.


AnaLuisa September 4, 2013 at 4:48 am

Does no one see the manipulation on the DIL’s part?

She should have asked, in the first place, to avoid a misunderstanding.

I see no reason for “throwing a fit” in a situation which was partly my mistake. Yes, I would probably be sad that my MIL does not like me, and yes, it would probably drive a wedge between her and me, but what on earth do I gain by manipulating her into a situation where she has to cede? Is she going to like me any more if I force her with my tears and fits to do what I want?

I agree that one has to overcome things for the sake of the family unity. But perhaps the OP has a good reason to not like her DIL (and for me, manipulation would certainly be a cause for not feeling good with that person around).

I think I have an absolute right to have pictures of people I want, and not have to scowl every time I look at the portrait of someone I do not like.

OP perhaps should learn to be more diplomatic for the sake of the family. However, I am afraid this is not going to make her like someone who is virtually blackmailing her.


Puzzled September 4, 2013 at 5:31 am

I too had a mother that behaved this way. By the time she died this year, our relationship was so damaged that I rarely spoke to her. Please stop this type of behavior now before one of your boys rarely wants to have contact with you. Learn to be gracious to your daughter-in-law and maybe she will learn to be gracious to you. What a silly thing to get upset about, but it is too late now. You owe an apology to both your son and daughter-in-law.


Ruby September 4, 2013 at 5:39 am

I have family pictures with just my siblings. I have them with my parents and siblings. I have them with my husband and kids. His family has them with just the parents and kids. What’s wrong with that?


Pen^2 September 4, 2013 at 5:41 am

The wording of the request seems to have been everything here.

“C, we’re having a family photo. Please make sure you turn up at the appointed time wearing the following clothes…”

The standard interpretation of this is that “family” is, well, family. That includes C’s wife. If it wasn’t intended to be this, then it needed to be phrased differently, and not described as a family photo. Family changes: it is not always the same set of people. As people grow up and marry and have children of their own, the definition changes, so it is very important to be clear on things.

I like the admin’s suggestion: have a family photo with everyone, then several other photos of couples, parents with their children, and so on. Then no-one is offended. Or call it a parent-children photo, or whatever. But family does include spouses, like it or not.

This might have been a one-time problem due to the poor wording of the request (calling something a “family photo” when it was not actually that). I hope so. But jumping to insult a woman who, if innocence is to be presumed, had turned up at what she thought was your request, dressed up just as you asked and everything, only to be told to leave and that she isn’t a member of the family where photos are concerned? This instant leap to accusatory behaviour (instead of the more reasonable assumption that it was merely a misinterpreted request) implies that this has happened before with other things. I really hope the relationship gets better.


Lo September 4, 2013 at 5:47 am

OP, honestly how could you not realize this would be an issue?

I’m not particularly “family-oriented”, so when I married into my new family, if I had found out my husband’s folks wanted a family photo with only their biological children it probably would have seemed strange to me, as they’re all adults now and with adults usually come spouses but why not? I mean I get that on some level. I would have totally gone for it. But that’s not what happened.

When I married into my family we had engagement photos taken. Sure enough the next time I visited my inlaws-to-be the photo of my husband on the wall next to his brothers and sisters had been replaced with the newer photo of he and I, casting me as one of the kids. The photos at the grandfolk’s home now included me. The message was clear; I’m one of the family.

Before that simple gesture I could not have told what it would mean to me. Now I know better. And so ought you.

If you want a photo with just you and your sons it’s your right to do so but it should have been cast as; lets take some family photos and we’lll do different groups. Here’s one of the whole family (that’s your daughter-in-law too), here’s another group maybe just the guys, here’s another group maybe just us two girls, and here’s another with just the parents and the sons. Bingo, you’ve done it. The catch is of course that you want to pick two of those photos; one of which has her in it, to display. Otherwise you are missing the point of a “family photo”

For the record, I wouldn’t have started crying like your daughter-in-law did. I would have just stepped back and adjusted my expectations. If I felt like I was a hindrance to your family ideal I’d just keep out of the way and let my husband deal with it.

But ask yourself this. If this union produces a child then is the child your family? And are you going to be asking the new mother to bring the child along to the family photo and then gracefully bow out so that only the ones you are biologically related to are in the photo?


Marie September 4, 2013 at 6:05 am

I am so blessed with my MIL that treats me like her own daughter. She will sometimes bring a gift for me back from vacation and not for my husband because she just happens to come across something she knows I will like. She would never, ever exclude me in anything that involves family.

OP could have avoided this situation and got what she wanted with a different approach. If she had told her sons she wanted to “reenact” an old family photo with the same people only 10/15/20 years after that first picture was taken, no harm would have been done.


Miss-E September 4, 2013 at 6:23 am

@AnaLuisa – why should she have asked? OP tells her son “let’s take a family photo”, C tells T “mom wants a family photo”…and T is supposed to ask “well, did she mean the REAL family or me who apparently doesn’t count because I married in?” If that were me there is no way I’d ask.

She cried, yes, but I don’t think that was manipulative. It probably hurts a lot to show up somewhere to have your MIL basically say “yeah, you’re not family”. As far as pitching a fit…based on the tone of this submission I kind of doubt what MIL has to say about T. Clearly, there is a history of dislike here.


iridaceae September 4, 2013 at 6:52 am

OP, you do realize that if you force your son to choose between you and her the signs are pointing to her? Families don’t stay static and yours hasn’t. Time to admit your son is a man, married and considers his wife as part of the family. If you can’t then I suggest you woman up and don’t ever get into situations where she might be there.

Keep up this whole “she’s not my family” bit and you’ll be lucky to find out you have grandchildren let alone see them.


Angeldrac September 4, 2013 at 6:56 am

One person’s “started sobbing and generally throwing a fit” is another person’s “tearing up, couldn’t talk for holding back years and left the vicinity”. I don’t think we can accurately judge the DIL’s behaviour based on OP’s potentially biased description.


Abby September 4, 2013 at 7:07 am

Oh boy. I don’t think OP handled this well at all, nor do I blame her DIL for being hurt, and I am glad her husband stood up for her. OP’s dislike for her DIL rings loud and clear, and if she is not careful, she will damage her relationship with her son, who has made it clear he chooses his wife first.


Stephanie September 4, 2013 at 7:16 am

For me, the important phrase here was “I want just me and my boys in the picture”. When your kids were just that, kids, that’s fine. You can force them to take a family picture they way you want it because they’re dependant children. But guess what? Your son grew up, got married, and is under no obligation to do what you want anymore. His family includes his wife. The sooner you accept that, the happier you will be, OP.


spookycatlady September 4, 2013 at 7:32 am

When my brother got married, he and his new wife arranged for a studio session for the wedding photos. I was not part of the wedding party and was quite tickled that they invited me along. My sister-in-law had insisted because of her strong belief that marriages unite families.

The photographer had a different point of view– he only called me in to sit with my parents and brother. With all the other foofarah surrounding the wedding day, no one noticed until my brother and sister-in-law got the proofs. She was mad and hurt on my behalf. We ended up with a photo (minus the matchy matchy) that the letter writer seems to have wanted, one nuclear family with no acknowledgement of the new branch. And it saddnes my sister-in-law because it’s incomplete.

Getting excluded didn’t hurt because it was accidental. W what touches me more? And brought me closer to my sister-in-law? Was her dedication to family. The whole family. Which is a value not shared by the letter writer.

The letter writer seems to be a classic example of someone not getting what they wanted and striking out by calling the actual injured party rude.

As a person who involuntarily cries at the drop of a hat, it cuts deeply when people accuse me of crying to manipulate. If I could hold back the tears, I happily would. It would stop people from saying I pitched a fit, or became hysterical when really, my face is just leaking because my body physically doesn’t know what else to do with excess emotion.


Kristen September 4, 2013 at 7:37 am

Bravo, Moderator! To me, photographs are to hold a memory of a time in place, forever. While I personally am not a fan of posed photography and prefer photo journalistic or snap shot style photography, I thought this was still the general idea for why families get group portraits taken – to commemorate a moment in time.

So at this time, you have a new family member. Why would you be interested in capturing a moment in time, that doesn’t truly represent your life as it is now – which includes a daughter-in-law? If you had a new grandchild would you exclude them as well from your “family” portrait?


Ergala September 4, 2013 at 7:42 am

I have to disagree with the admin. I do not expect to be included in every single aspect of my husband’s family. I honestly don’t. If his mother wanted a picture with just him, his sister and her husband I wouldn’t bat an eye. I wouldn’t feel left out or ignored. I’d see it as a nice way for them to have an updated photo of the 4 of them. Not some slap across my face.

I can also say that as a grown woman I would not scream, cry and demand I be included if something like this happened. In fact I’d apologize for the misunderstanding and sit it out.

As much as we all like to say “Once you have a child in law you MUST include them in everything you include your child in” it isn’t true. My mother in law isn’t my mother. My sister in law isn’t my sister. I don’t share the same memories as they do or the same traditions. My first Christmas with them was so brand new because they do it a lot differently than I grew up doing it. I didn’t feel left out or ignored. I went with the flow. They have done pictures where it’s just them. I sit back and watch and smile at the obvious love that is there.

Yes we married into families, but it doesn’t mean we should expect to wedge ourselves into every aspect of their lives. Unless her other son was married and his wife was included yet this DIL wasn’t I don’t see the huge deal. It’s not like they had a huge picture with everyone and the DIL was told she couldn’t be in it. My husband isn’t in 3/4 of the wedding pictures from my mom’s wedding. Neither is my sister’s husband. There are several with my mom’s husband’s daughter, my mom, my sister and I. And then a few with all of us. Nobody felt left out.


KarenK September 4, 2013 at 7:43 am

Angeldrac, I was going to say the same thing. We know that the OPs in these situations always cast the “offender’s” behavior in the worst possible light and their own in the best.

Sometimes, I think the behavior of the OP is so egregious that I almost think that it’s being written by the other side, but I don’t think this is the case. I think the MIL was really offended that her DIL was offended at so clearly being dismissed as “not family.”

This can’t be the first time the MIL has indicated that she did not consider her DIL family, but I suspect that it was the last time that her son and his wife were going to stand for it.


MyFamily September 4, 2013 at 7:50 am

I have to agree with Angeldrac’s assessment of the DIL’s behavior. To be told that you are not part of the family is a slap in the face, and it had to have hurt. And the ‘smug’ look of the DIL could easily have been a shocked and hurt look, because she knows she wasn’t wanted in the picture. Yes, if the OP wanted just a picture of her and ‘her boys’ she could have one, but it should have been presented that way and not as a ‘family’ picture.

I feel bad for the OP because I don’t think she understands what she did wrong, and if she continues she is going to lose her son (and if her 2nd son also gets married and she treats that DIL in the same manner, she’ll lose both of her sons).


The Elf September 4, 2013 at 7:56 am

The best solution would have been to schedule a family photo session from the beginning that allowed for a variety of pictures to be taken. One of the whole gang, one of just that the OP, her husband, and her sons, one of all the cousin kids, one of C’s family, etc. The pricy part of formal photos is purchasing the photos. The session is usually pretty cheap.

My family did this a few years back as part of a charity fundraiser. We had a blast! We have a fairly small family – just Mom, Dad, 2 grown kids, and one spouse. We did Mom & Dad together, my husband and I together, individual portraits, the whole group, and then Mom & Dad & my brother & me. When they were ready, we purchased some and split up copies among the group.

One last word: I agree with Iridaceae that the more OP forces C to choose between wife and mom, the more likely mom is going to lose.


Kiki September 4, 2013 at 7:57 am

I completely agree with Admin. With phrases like “her smug face,” it sounds like there is a history of dislike from MIL. From the tone of her submission, I highly doubt a lot of what the OP said about the DIL “throwing a fit.” I believe that the OP either intentionally or unintentionally hurt the woman and then is ticked off that her son stuck up for his wife. I also believe that she may view herself in a competition with the woman. “My boys?” It sounds like she was trying to make a statement: ‘it doesn’t matter that you married him because he’s still MINE.’ Grow up, OP, before you ultimately lose your son.

As an aside, I’ve been with my husband for almost 14 years. We just got married this April, but, even before we were married, I was always invited to be in family photos as they have always viewed me as part of their family (and the feeling is mutual). I love my MIL and wish that everyone could have that same experience. Fortunately, I believe that we are the rule and not the exception.


Another Sarah September 4, 2013 at 7:57 am

@AnaLuisa there is only one way this could be manipulation, which is if OP called C and said ” I would like a studio photo with just you, your brother and your father”, to which T decided to invite herself.
Whether OP likes it or not, T IS family now and if OP called C and said “I’d like a family photo” T had every right to presume she was included and to show up. Moreover, the implication came across that C presumed the same.
What then happened is that OP turned around and told T she didn’t want her in the family photo. I wouldn’t cry at that, but I can’t blame T for doing so.
And I suspect OP’s biased about the “pitching a fit” because of the language she uses about T: “smug daughter in law”, “T went crying to C”, “What does she do? She starts sobbing”

In my earlier post I mentioned that this sounds like my mother sometimes – don’t get me wrong, my mother is generally a lovely woman and I love her very much but this is the sort of language she would use about my BIL: if he was less than totally over-enthusiastic about doing something, she’d accuse him of “sulking” or “pitching a fit”. If my sister didn’t want to do something, he’d be “forcing her to say no”.
That said, it comes from the fact that she wants to keep our tight-knit family the same as it was when we were younger and is unsure how to deal with changing relationships as we grow up and start our own families. She cannot help but see new additions to the family as interlopers. However, this is fundamentally damaging to her relationships with all her children and it’s a serious cause for concern.

If OP did (unintentionally I am sure) announce a family photo and exclude her DIL there are two things to look at: 1. How she reacted when DIL was upset by it and 2. How she views her family – it is no longer just the four of them. There are 5 now, and that has to be taken into account.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a picture of just her and “her boys” but she needs to account for the change in her family and at the very least manage expectations to avoid this sort of situation.


Visitor September 4, 2013 at 7:58 am

A family photo should include the spouses of the children. That is a family. I would have had the same reaction. If the mother wanted a photo with just her sons, perhaps one without her husband would have been more acceptable. My MIL and I get along great, but the fact that there is only one photo of me in the whole house (our wedding photo, which was over 20 years ago) says to me that I am much less loved that her son. Even if the MIL does not like her DIL a great deal, she is still a member of the family and should be accepted as such. Her behavior is just driving a further wedge, and her son acted appropriately in standing up for his wife.


Zookeeper September 4, 2013 at 8:04 am

I was asked to step out of a photo on my wedding day because my brand new MIL wanted one of “just family.” It stung. It still stings 14 years later. Our relationship had it’s first chip made that day. I have never assumed I am to be included in any family photo since. Sometimes I am, sometimes I am not. At this point my children and I have almost zero contact with the ILs. I have never felt welcomed in the family.


The Elf September 4, 2013 at 8:05 am

Ergala, it could be that DIL is just a drama queen. Or it could be that this was just another on a very long list of slights reminding DIL that she is just a temporary guest that will be gone as soon as C regains his good sense and divorces her. I do agree, though, that the best course of action for DIL would have been to sit it out rather than create a scene.

I know I’m biased here, because that’s what I’ve been told by my FIL. Once more or less directly (“she’s just going to leave you and take your money, you know”) and the rest of the time through a lengthy list of behavioral slights. I wouldn’t have expected to be included in the portrait either, but not because I’m not family. To everyone else on FIL’s side, I am family and am treated as such. I wouldn’t be included because FIL would see it as yet another tool to make it clear that he doesn’t approve of the marriage.


Mer September 4, 2013 at 8:11 am

AnaLuisa: No, based on this description, I don’t see any manipulation. Being hurt after what is basically an insult (“You don’t belong to our family”) is quite natural reaction. So far DIL had respected everything her MIL had asked. Arrived for a family photo dressed as she was supposed to only to be told that she is not really a family member. Only option for manipulation in this case would be if OP would have especially told beforehands that she would like to have a photo with her sons and husband but if she talked only about family photo when scheduling, DIL had right to assume it would be family photo.

I have to admit, based on OP’s tone, I have my suspicions that DIL is not the manipulative person in this family. Of course there are many sides to stories and emotions are harder to express in textual form, but this text shouts out dislike and disrespect towards OP’s DIL. And this is also insult towards her son.

Of course you have a right to state who you want in your photos, but they have every right to dictate their own preferences how they want to be in your photos. Because you are the person demanding something from them and other people are not “circus animals” who one can just arrange in line based on your personal wishes. And (referring to the original post, I don’t know if you have children) if the price to have your son in your picture is to include his family, then that it is. You either pay it or don’t.

This whole mess could have been avoided, had OP respected her DIL as a family member she is. All she had to do, was to originally inform that she would like to have a new picture with her sons and husband and not talk about family photo. Or as admin suggested (and what I would think would be a nice course of action anyways), take few different set of pictures. That is what we do usually with my family.


Hanna September 4, 2013 at 8:12 am

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Admin!

When I was younger (before I got married), I would always balk at my older sister who always *insisted* that her husband be in our family photos when it was obvious that mom wanted pictures of “just the kids.” My sister would not have it and I used to think her request to always include her husband in pictures was ridiculous.

Now I’m married, and while I still understand getting a picture of “just the kids” (no mom/dad, but just kids), I don’t understand getting a “family picture” that excludes spouses. Our “original nuclear family” isn’t what it was when we were all single. We’ve created our own nuclear families and now, out of 6 children, 5 of us are married and 4 of us have children. So yes, that is a big family picture, but that is the family now!

If my husband’s parents wanted to take a picture of “just the family” that included dad/step-mom, all the kids, and excluded me and their grandson, I would definitely be hurt, because that is not the entirety of their family. His step-mom married into the family just as much as I did, so I would definitely be hurt.

Great response, Admin!


Shannan September 4, 2013 at 8:12 am

Kudos to C for standing up for his wife!!!! Like many of the previous commenters have said, this does not seem like it’s the first time you have attempted to exclude her from “family occasions”. The way C so quickly responded indicates that loud & clear. On the other hand, the daughter- in- law’s crying seems to be a little overboard if this behavior is normal for you. I would think she’d kind of expect it. The sooner you get it through your head that SHE is family as well, OP, the better off you will be.


Not a member of the family September 4, 2013 at 8:13 am

While I think the DIL’s reaction was a bit much, I do agree with the Admin that the OP handled this very badly. My husband is one of 5 and at one point in time, all of them were married. None of us in-laws were made to feel truly like a member of the family. Right now, my husband and I are the only ones still married and at one family function, I was told “you’re not a member of the family” Now since our marriage is strong, I’m not sure what prompted this.

Regardless, I think the OP could have had several pictures with and without the DIL taken. Everyone would have been happy (well except for the matchy-matchy part) and there would have been no ill feelings. The OP is continuing to put a wedge between herself and her son if she keeps this up. I wonder what will happen when there are grandchildren involved.


Huh September 4, 2013 at 8:23 am

All we have to go on in this story is the letter the OP wrote, and from what she’s saying in it, her dislike of the DIL, and the fact that she doesn’t consider her family comes across loud and clear. And even if she doesn’t like her for good reason, it still doesn’t bode well for anyone.

A good illustration of this, my grandma didn’t like my former aunt and made it clear from the beginning that she was NOT part of the family. My uncle and the former aunt moved away, my former aunt wouldn’t let ANYONE from his side of the family anywhere near them, it became a big mess and my mom always said that perhaps that situation could have been diffused a bit if her mother hadn’t treated the aunt so bad in the first place. From what I’ve heard, yes, the aunt turned out to be a bit nutty, but grandma didn’t make the situation one bit better in the least.

My former MIL was like this too. She made it clear that all of her kids’ spouses were NOT family, said nasty things about all of them and frankly treated her spouse’s kids from a previous marriage like strangers. When you went into her house, the only photos of the family were of her kids, never displayed any of their wedding photos or photos of them and their spouses and kids (her grandchildren!) and never had any photos on display of her spouse’s kids from a previous marriage. All of her children are now multiple-times divorced and her spouse’s kids from a previous marriage have nothing to do with them.


E September 4, 2013 at 8:32 am

Ten bucks says that the OP will write back in with “additional information” about how horrible her DIL is. These things are getting to have quite a predictable arc…


Karee September 4, 2013 at 8:33 am

It sounds like the OP may possibly be living in the past. Re-creating the “original” nuclear family, making everyone where matching clothes (which I’m sure is a tradition). When do adults wear matching clothes for photographs? It sounds like the OP needs to come to terms with the fact that her family has changed and grown. Once her son and daughter-in-law have a child, is she going to exclude her grandson/daughter from the shot? I doubt it. So don’t include his/her mother now.


Daisy September 4, 2013 at 8:36 am

This could be my MIL writing! My DH is an only child and his father died 10 years ago, before we met. This left MIL dependent on DH for moral support which I totally understand – she has siblings, nieces, nephews and old friends in the same small town but her relationship with DH was always going to be the most important one to her, and quite rightly so. I don’t believe a husband has to choose either his wife or mother – they are different, separate relationships and I have no intention of getting in the way. Part of the reason I love him is because he is extremely kind and an excellent listener – she’s brought him up and did a damn fine job!!

Unfortunately she sees me as ‘taking my boy away from me’ and over the past 8 years (5 of which we’ve been married) she’s made her opinion of me very clear. The snide and spiteful personal comments, the oh-so-friendly taking of my arm leading to fingerprint shaped bruises, the outstandingly rude behaviour she’s displayed towards my parents, the way she’ll talk over me or blatantly change the subject while I’m speaking, the constant need to behave as if everything is a competition etc. etc. etc…

I’ve been told that I’m ‘not family’ on several occasions, most memorably when one of her sisters died and DH was told not to tell me anything about the funeral because ‘she’s not part of the family’.

I have tried my very best to suck it up over the years. I have excused a huge amount of bad behaviour ‘she’s having a bad time/isn’t very well/is lonely’ – including the time she told me that DH’s cancer was all my fault and I was keeping him away from her on purpose. DH had no immune system due to the chemo and there was a major swine-flu epidemic. The consultant told us that he wasn’t to receive ANY visitors because of the infection risk – in a nutshell, if he got flu he would die. We were 250miles away and she doesn’t drive, so visits us by train…not only might she have ben carrying the virus herself, but a train filled with other germ-ridden people is not exactly a greatly hygenic environment!! I suggested she Skype (DH’s cousin volunteered to help with the set-up so all MIL would have to do would be to speak to the screen) but it wasn’t good enough, she wouldn’t do it and it was all my fault… I get it. She wanted to see her baby and was distraught. You know what? We weren’t having the best time either!! (Incidentally, DH is now 4 years clear :-D) However, DH & I sucked it up, apologised repeatedly and understood that she was having a really hard time dealing with it.

However, the last straw came the other week. There is nothing I can use to excuse this latest outburst. My beloved cat fell seriously ill on a Tuesday. MIL was due to visit on the Friday for the weekend. On the Wednesday, DH called MIL and in the course of the conversation said that things weren’t looking good for the cat. She immediately said don’t worry, if it looks like she’s still ill on Thursday, to let her know and she’d rearrange to come down another weekend. On Thursday at 6pm the vet put the cat to sleep and I was devastated – I’d had her for 12 years and fellow pet owners will understand how much part of the family they become. DH also adored her and more than a few manly tears were shed. I wasn’t in a fit state to prepare the house for a guest (let alone one who delights in pointing out my less-than-perfect housekeeping skills) or be a good hostess and bearing in mind MIL’s earlier offer, DH decided to call MIL and ask her to come down the following weekend when we’d both be better company.

Sound reasonable? MIL used to have border terriers and although she’s not keen on cats, adores dogs so DH thought she’d understand how upset we both were. He was paying her travel expenses so she wouldn’t be out of pocket, but I understood she’d be disappointed. DH called her, explained the situation and she went crazy! After shouting so loudly I could hear from the other side of the room, she put the phone down on him. He was really upset so I suggested I call and explain that we weren’t cancelling completely, just asking if she’d mind coming the following weekend (i.e. 7 days later!) or whenever would be best for her. Looking back this was a big mistake but MIL really let rip at me. We’d just got back from the vet so I was still very weepy and she just unleashed a huge tirade of abuse at me. Memorable snippets include ‘what’s the problem? The cat’s dead now so it’s not as if she’ll be in the way anymore’, ‘just wait till your sister dies then you’ll know what grief is’, ‘you’re not the daughter-in-law I wanted’, ‘you’ve destroyed my son and taken him away from me’, ‘you’ve turned him against me’….

DH heard all this – particularly because he took the phone from me halfway through. He’s not always heard the things she’s said to me in the past, but has backed me up when he has – this was another level entirely. I don’t want to see her at the moment – it’s too raw and I can’t forget the things she said – and don’t want to see her until I feel I can be polite. DH is appalled by her behaviour and told her to apologise but she won’t acknowledge that she’s done anything wrong. So at the moment we’re at stalemate. DH is really chewed up about the things she’s been saying to him since (including not wanting to hear from him or see him ever again, he’s no son of his father, telling him to go to hell and sod off etc etc). DH’s position is that no-one talks to his wife like that, he doesn’t care who it is – he wouldn’t stand for me doing the same to her either!

Sorry for the super long post – if anyone has any ideas where we go from here, please let me know.


skv September 4, 2013 at 8:43 am

OP, imagine this submission: “My mother in law called my husband and said that she would like a family photo taken. She suggested what should be worn and told him when & where is was to take place. When we arrived she took my husband aside and informed him that she did not want me in the picture…..that the “family photo” didn’t include me!! She did not suggest getting a variety of pictures and poses, but rather stated that she wanted only her sons and husband….the people “important” to her. I couldn’t help it – I burst into tears. She was saying, in no uncertain terms, exactly what she thought of me and my place in her family. My husband was furious and told his mother that I was family, too, and if I was not welcome in the picture then he would not be staying either. Eventually she consented and we had the picture taken, which I know she dislikes simply because I am in it. My question is this….was my husband wrong to insist that I was an “important” person, or should he have agreed to leave me out of the picture? ”

So how does it sound from this point of view?


Whodunit September 4, 2013 at 8:53 am

I have never cared when my MIL wanted a picture if just her kids, and I have continued the tradition of just my kids thru the years as well ( we do take whole pics too and smaller groups as well) I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with it if I want a pic of just my kids!


Coralreef September 4, 2013 at 8:55 am

Family pictures can be a lot of things, but cutting off someone is hurtful and will only create distance between people.

I kind of understand the DIL here. She was practically told she was not part of the family. I find this sad.

When my DD got married, I was told I was loosing my daughter. I didn’t loose a daughter, I gained a son. OP, if you keep excluding your DIL, you will loose your son.


Caterlaw September 4, 2013 at 8:55 am

I don’t think that OP was out of line for wanting a special picture of her, her husband, and her children. That’s not the issue. The issue was how to handle DIL showing up in the family uniform for the photo shoot. At that point, OP had a choice: 1. tell DIL she wants a picture with her “very important boys”, which obviously went over like a lead balloon and, I personally think, had more animosity behind it that what OP is willing to admit, or 2. apologize for the misunderstanding and asked the photographer to take a few extra pictures. DIL’s reaction aside (I agree with Angeldrac, too) OP’s decision to blatantly exclude her DIL, bash her for crying, bash her son for taking up for his wife, and complain that she is now forced to have an unwanted picture of this woman in her home, lands her in E-hell.


Abby September 4, 2013 at 8:56 am

I am guessing from the original submission that OP did not explicitly tell her older son that his wife was not included- she said, I scheduled a family portrait for Saturday at noon, please wear a blue shirt, thanks. The son assumed his wife was included, because she is, you know, family. Wife is told on the spot that she is not in fact wanted in the picture. OP, you are actually lucky that your son gave you a chance to change your mind. I think if I had been the older son, I would have been hurt enough to have just left without giving an ultimatum.


just4kicks September 4, 2013 at 8:56 am

Not to speak ill of the dearly departed, but I could write handfuls of stories about my MIL and her hurtful behavior towards me, and the other wives of her “precious sons” in our family. From my hubby taking his mom out for breakfast at least once a week where upon returning home she would call me to tell me about all the beauties at said restaurant eyeing up my husband. EVERY time! To the infamous veal dinner my hubby cooked for his mom and his entire side of the family for her birthday where I dared to put some hot sauce (I put hot sauce on everything!) on my plate. She screamed at me that her Angel had made a delicious dinner and why would I insult him by putting “that crap” on HER SON’S cooking?!? So…Sorry OP…I’m kinda taking the “smug” daughter in laws side on this one!!!


Library Diva September 4, 2013 at 8:58 am

If this happened in my husband’s family, I would not react the way the DIL in the story did. Why? Because from the very first time I met her, when I was just the flavor of the month, my MIL was welcoming and kind towards me. She took the time to get to know me as a person and often inquired about my life and my interests. I love her and all of my in-laws. If I didn’t have that sort of relationship, though, I’d probably react more the way the DIL in the story did — with tears at being excluded “one more time.”


Shawn September 4, 2013 at 8:58 am

Why couldn’t the OP have taken pictures with and without the DIL? She could then have displayed both sets if she wanted.


Wendy B. September 4, 2013 at 9:04 am

OP: If this is your ongoing attitude about your daughter in law, what happens when they have children and she *gasp* actually thinks she has a right to be included in their lives as it pertains to your life? What if she actually dares to be both wife and mother to your son and their children in your presence? Will you schedule a photo shoot with your son and grandchildren and still expect her to stay home? Or will it just be you and “your boys” and the little ones can stay with mom. Just how long do you think it will be before you rarely see your son, not to mention his wife and their children?

When you have family holidays, does she get included? Family dinners? Family outings? At what point did you decide she wasn’t family?

Really, I’m curious.


just4kicks September 4, 2013 at 9:04 am

@Daisy: Good Lord, honey….that’s a tough one! I’m betting if your husband doesn’t cave in, and doesn’t speak to her for a week or two, I’m betting you’ll get a call one day like nothing ever happened. Hang in there, and so sorry about your cat!


just4kicks September 4, 2013 at 9:06 am

Oh my….that was TWO “I’m betting” in the same sentence…..Sorry.


SPuck September 4, 2013 at 9:19 am

I really can’t have any sympathy for the OP in this situation, and why anyone would think that the DIL has any fault as described here. The situation might be different if the DIL was trying to push her way into an impromptu photo at a family event, but a family photo with a professional photographer is a very staged and takes planning. The OP is either very manipulative (creating a situation where her son would have to chose) or ignorant. If the relationship with her son becomes strained (or already is trained) she has no one to question but herself.


Lo September 4, 2013 at 9:19 am

@ Daisy:

“Memorable snippets include ‘what’s the problem? The cat’s dead now so it’s not as if she’ll be in the way anymore’, ‘just wait till your sister dies then you’ll know what grief is’,”

I would have cut that woman out of my life immediately, no apologies, no excuses, no questions asked.

My cats are the closest thing to children I’ll ever have and are treated as no less than family members by my spouse and I. My MIL (who I love) knows that she won’t be getting any grandchildren from us and even still, though she isn’t a cat person, has gone above and beyond to acknolwedge their importance to us. Next to my husband, my pets are my whole world. I would do anything for them. I’ve lost animals before. Is it the same as losing a child? No. But it hurts like losing a family member does. It really does. What a slap in the face. How could any human being lack the compassion to allow you to grieve for a beloved pet?


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