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.


{ 202 comments… read them below or add one }

Ergala September 4, 2013 at 9:21 am

@ The Elf I agree with you.

As for the Smug Look comment….if it’s the one I am thinking of I can sympathize with the OP. There is a smile that is genuine and then there is a smirk that screams “HAHAHAHAHA I GOT MY WAY!” I don’t think the OP comes off as disliking her DIL at all. I think she comes across as irritated that this even happened. They could have had a great relationship before this and the situation has ruined that for the time being. Or they really could not like each other and it’s a constant power struggle.

As for taking several sets….not sure if this photographer is like the ones here but here they charge a sitting fee (and sometimes it’s based on how many are in the photo) and then there is a charge for how many shots are taken and selected. If the OP had budgeted for a few shots why should she foot the bill for pictures she didn’t even want? If it was THAT important to the son and DIL that his wife absolutely be in the photos they could have offered to share some of the cost for the unexpected addition. There is a reason we don’t have a family photo of my husband, sons and I……it’s way too expensive! And we don’t have a Walmart portrait studio here, or a Kmart or a Sears. None of those within 50 miles. Our state doesn’t even have a Target. It would cost us around $150 just for a sitting and a few shots with a local photographer with just the 4 of us.

I’ve seen enough drama in families to last a lifetime. I can see the OP’s side and I can see the DIL’s side….but honestly I think the fault lies more on the side of the DIL and son more than the OP’s. Pick your battles. If you aren’t footing the bill for the photos you have no say in who is in them. If you absolutely MUST have someone in them too then offer to offset the cost. It’s not a family vacation that the DIL was excluded from. It was a photo of a mother, father and their two sons. That’s it. Good grief.


Nichole September 4, 2013 at 9:22 am

My SIL did this when we had family pictures. My parents just wanted 1 picture with just the 5 of us. (Them and us 3 kids) My SIL threw a huge fit and wouldn’t even let us have one family picture with out her in it. Several weeks later they filed for divorce, and now we have all these pictures with her in them. She still brags to mutual friends about how it was her parting gift to us. We never excluded her from anything, but she still had to be the center of attention with everything. She was, quite simply, not a nice person.

OP, you could have tried to get 1 picture with her and 1 with out. She shouldn’t have freaked out, and you should’ve tried to balance her feelings with your wishes.


Elizabeth September 4, 2013 at 9:25 am

OP, you blew it here.

Daisy, how sad for you. How much are you willing to put up with?


Cat September 4, 2013 at 9:26 am

The bottom line is that you drew a line in the sand and demanded to know on which side your son would choose to stand-yours or his wife’s. And now you know.
You have to decide which is stronger: your love for your son or your dislike of his wife. It’s a package deal. If you want your son, you are going to have to embrace, not just tolerate, his wife. They will know the difference. If you are willing to give up your son, realize you may create a breach that you will never heal.
The administrator is correct. You could have taken multiple shots of different groupings and avoided the confrontation. The other thing to need to learn to do is to talk to your daughter-in-law directly. Don’t go to your son and play the, “You tell your wife that I said/want this.” game.


MsDani313 September 4, 2013 at 9:27 am

I disagree admin! OP was footing the bill for this photo shoot and should be able to request the photos she wants. We cannot assume that OP has an unreasonable dislike for the DIL. DIL may be a drama queen, OP may be a MIL from hell or both could be true. Either way OP was paying! I have a great relationship with my MIL so if she asked to have a picture with just “her family” or “her boys” I would not bat an eye. We have taken pictures together and a majority of them include my MIL, FIL, DH and BIL only. Does it bother me…NO! Because there are also pictures of MIL and me; MIL, DH and me; BIL and me, FIL, DH , BIL and me as well as other combinations.

If OP continuously excludes her DIL from family activities then yes she deserves a front row seat in EHell but if DIL is constantly sticking her face where it doesn’t belong then she deserves the seat. As in-laws we are family but we have a boundary that is different from biological family. There are things that my mother can say to me that my MIL knows would be inappropriate and their are things that I would not dream of saying to my MIL that my DH can. Yes, I am family but I recognize and stay in my place as an in-law.


Abby September 4, 2013 at 9:50 am

“However instead of gracefully bowing out what does she do? She starts sobbing and generally throwing a fit. She goes crying to C…”

Well, ‘generally throwing a fit’ is a pretty subjective description. But if she was visibly upset or hurt, it would stand to reason that her husband, you know the guy that loves her, would ask her why she was crying, as opposed to her ‘going crying to her husband’. Alternately, if her husband assumed she was included, he might ask her why she’s going to sit on a bench instead of posing with the rest of the family. I am not sure what OP expected T to do. The implication here from OP is that her son would have been totally fine leaving his wife out, but gave in and demanded she be included only to placate his hysterical and unreasonable wife. OP should probably consider the thought that C was offended himself, and not just carrying out his wife’s orders that he do everything in his power to get her included.

Regardless of whether T overreacted, and how offended the son would have been if his wife hadn’t been so visibly upset, the resentment and dislike for DIL just radiates throughout this submission, and OP would do well to reign it in.


cdubz September 4, 2013 at 9:52 am

I’m an emotional person, so yeah, I cry when things upset me. And if my MIL told me I wasn’t a member of “her” family? Yeah, that would hurt and cause me to cry a great deal. It really hurts when people accuse me of being manipulative because I’m not; I couldn’t cry on command if I wanted to. People who don’t have this level of emotion don’t understand, you really can’t help it. It can get embarrassing and there are times you wish you could stop but you are physically unable to. Both my mom and my ex would yell at me to “stop my blubbering” and that would only make me cry harder because I felt bad for causing a scene. I’m know there are people who do this, but they’re in the minority and saying DIL was using tears to manipulate her husband doesn’t sit well with me.


The Elf September 4, 2013 at 10:02 am

Daisy “if anyone has any ideas where we go from here, please let me know.”

I’m sorry about your cat.

Since you and your husband are in agreement, the only thing to do now is to let MIL get over herself. It should be up to your husband about when – if! – he reschedules the weekend. As for you, I recommend a mantra that I’ve used with some success with my difficult FIL “This is his problem, not mine” preferably said repeatedly to yourself while you are “running some errands” far far away from the house and MIL. It’s amazing how long simple errands take when FIL is visiting.


Shalamar September 4, 2013 at 10:06 am

OP reminds me of my mother-in-law. To be fair, she’s never made me feel like I’m not one of the family, but she definitely has a “my son is MY SON first and foremost, a husband second and a father distant third” attitude. She still tries to order him (and me, and our teenage daughters) around as if we’re little kids, and she gets very huffy when we refuse to do what she wants. I’ve said many times that if she ASKED us to do something for her, we’d be more than willing to at least consider it, but being told “You WILL be here at such-and-such a time, wearing THIS, and doing THAT” gets my back up big-time.


Sarah Jane September 4, 2013 at 10:06 am

Way to go, Admin!

It makes my blood boil to see people nitpick over the organization of “family photos” to the exclusion of FAMILY MEMBERS due to biology or involvement in the family of origin.

The OP’s attitude is not only a slap in the face to the DIL, as some have said, but also to the integrity of the institution of marriage. As someone wrote on this site a while back, a marriage license is a piece of paper that documents that one spouse is to hereafter be treated as the blood-kin of the other spouse, for all legal and social purposes. OP, how is it that you and your husband are more “family” than this woman and her husband?

OP, you may not like your DIL, and maybe even for good reason. But whatever your relationship, you have the opportunity to be the bigger person here. If you had wanted to assume that role, you’d have made it clear from the beginning that you expected your DIL, a MEMBER OF THE FAMILY, to be included in the photo. Instead, you showed it was your intent to exclude her, because clearly you don’t want to look at her “face” on your mantelpiece.

This girl wants to be a part of YOUR family. I don’t blame her for being hurt.


badkitty September 4, 2013 at 10:22 am

My MIL pulled this at my wedding reception, repeatedly referring to pictures of her, FIL, SIL, and my DH as “family only” or “just the family”. My husband actually had to make a bit of a scene to get his point across, which was embarrassing but she simply wouldn’t understand why he kept wanting his WIFE and SON in these pictures. We didn’t begrudge her some with the children she birthed and raised, but we wanted some of the “whole” family and she didn’t understand why.

IF our submitter had said initially that she wanted a picture with her husband and her boys, an updated version of a cherished “family photo” then that would be fine. But I think the admin’s point here is that OP either mis-spoke when she described the photo to us or she told her son to come for a family photo and then rudely informed her daughter-in-law that she was not someone who would or should be included in “family” photos. Yeah, that’s pretty horrible. Her description of the daughter-in-law and her actions/reactions pretty clearly paints a picture of someone intensely disliked by the OP, so I’m inclined to believe that this is something also made clear to the daughter-in-law.

OP, there’s nothing wrong with wanting the photo of you and your husband with your boys, but you need to accept that that’s not really a “family photo” anymore. You can either choose to embrace the growth of your family or you can choose to lose your sons over this and other silly issues; you’ve either gained a daughter or you could lose a son. Trust me on this one: my husband hasn’t spoken to either of his parents in years, and it was just piles of stuff like this incident that finally made *him* decide (without my throwing a fit or even mentioning it) that if they couldn’t accept and respect the family he built, they were choosing to exclude him from the family that they built.


Allie September 4, 2013 at 10:28 am

I have to confess I really can’t relate to anyone here. Studio photos in matchy-matchy shirts? Really? The 70’s called. They want their pictures back. If I were C’s wife, I would have been annoyed to have been dragged to this fiasco in a blue shirt and positively delighted when informed I was, in fact, not required to participate. In 100 years your family photo will be collecting dust in your great-great grandchildren’s attics (if you’re lucky). I am sincere when I say I hope you never have any real problems.


Cammie September 4, 2013 at 10:29 am

Here’s an idea: If the photo is so offensive to you, take it down.

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. But don’t worry, a couple more cute tricks like that and you won’t have to worry about seeing your DIL ever again. Or your son, or any grandchildren they may have. You understand , of course that it goes both ways, right? YOU are not “family” to your DIL if she, like you, choses otherwise. In years to come you will write back that your horrible smug DIL doesn’t invite you to the kids events, or let you spend quality alone time with them or be a part of their lives, or let you move in with them when you’re old and frail because.. wait for it… you’re not her family….

Enjoy the bitter fruit, try not to choke on it.


Alli September 4, 2013 at 10:40 am

I think Admin is spot on. Unless mom specifically told the boys it was just the four of them, the DIL had every expectation to be included. If mom did explain to the boys that this is what she wanted (originally when she told them of the appointment) and DIL showed up dressed to be included, that is another matter.

Assuming she did not say anything to them about her intentions, Mom could have handled it so much better by simply having both shots taken. Instead, she’s driven a wedge between her and her son.


Ergala September 4, 2013 at 10:41 am

I seriously want to see where people get from this post where the OP is stating she hates the DIL, excludes her from everything and that she doesn’t treat her like family and rather an outsider. All from requesting for ONE photo session that it just be her sons, her and her husband. Because I am not seeing that at all nor am I gathering from the tone that the OP excludes the DIL from everything. I seriously hope my future DIL’s don’t act like this… in throwing a fit that I want a picture with just my sons and I and their father once a year. I’d probably quirk an eyebrow and wonder if she has issues, especially if she is included in everything else. Maybe the next time my mom tells me she and her husband had photos taken with his daughter for a family portrait I should stomp my feet and demand we be included in that photo. I mean we’re all adults after all with children of our own. I demand we be included in every single thing. The next time my MIL calls and talks to my husband but doesn’t chat with me for a few minutes (time constraints for all of us) maybe I should pout and declare I feel left out and that I’m not a member of the family.

OP some clarification please would be in order. Do you include her in everything else? Or do you leave her out? If she is otherwise usually included in family stuff what the heck is the problem with ONE TIME she sit out for a family portrait just involving the parents and children? Is she told to get out of the frame for informal pictures? I’m rally curious now because I honestly feel like a LOT of people are projecting their own feelings involving their in laws onto this post. People are reading way too much into it declaring the OP hates her DIL and demands her son pick sides. I don’t see anywhere she said that. Let me paraphrase what she said about it ” 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…”. Where does she say “Either you side with her or you side with me!”. I think the Ehell saying “What an interesting assumption” is pretty spot on here.


Mae September 4, 2013 at 10:47 am

I can see this from both sides…
1. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a picture of just you, your husband and your kids.
2. When children marry and you say “family photo”, 99% of couples are going to think that includes the spouse.
3. When the DIL arrived, OP could have had some photos taken with and without the DIL. Of course, you would have to display one with the DIL as well or that would become an issue when the son & DIL visited and did not see one.
4. From some of the phrases used to describe the DIL, there does seem to be some unpleasant history between the OP and the DIL.

OP, “C” clearly (and rightfully) see his wife as part of the family now. I don’t know what has caused the friction between you two, but maybe you should consider repairing the relationship before it becomes… well… unrepairable. “C” and ‘T” may have children in a few years and if you two are still on bad terms, what is that going to be like for your grandchildren? Would “T” refuse to let you see them? How unpleasant is this rift for your son? I’m sure he doesn’t like being in the middle of whatever is going on between you and his wife. He very clearly told you at the photo shoot that he is going to side with his wife. For the sake of “family”, I would try to get along with my DIL, even if I had to grin & bear it, then go home and have a fit in the basement if I needed an outlet.

Even if the DIL is a scheming witch, if you at the very least put forth an effort to get along with and include her, your son will notice and maybe can help smooth the relationship.


Nannerdoman September 4, 2013 at 10:49 am

When and if OP’s son and DIL produce grandchildren, will OP consider them “family”. And, if so, will she still try to exclude DIL? My grandmother (G-d rest her) tried to do that and nearly lost her son, because my dad quite rightfully put his love for his wife above that for his mother.


Justine September 4, 2013 at 10:50 am

I sure hope this was a joke. That this didn’t happen and someone just wanted to see the responses. I have been left out by my in-laws SO many times it isn’t even funny anymore. I married their son. I should be a part of the family. Why doesn’t this woman just grab her 2 sons next Christmas and get a quick, candid shot with just them? It would be just one of many pictures that day and not hurt her DIL’s feelings. Why would you do something that would potentially hurt her feelings and maybe put a rift in their marriage?


Ana September 4, 2013 at 10:53 am

“Footing the bill” is no excuse for such a slap in the face to the DIL. Money can’t buy the right to be rude.

I agree with what was said- OP asked her son to choose between her and his wife, and he did the right thing by standing by his bride.


Michele K. September 4, 2013 at 10:57 am

The OP is a mother-in-law facing a future of few visits with her son and even fewer ones with her grandchildren (if they come along).

I can understand a mother wanting a picture with just her husband and offspring. But, I would also expect to have photos of my children, with their spouses, with my grandchildren, with my living in-laws, etc. That is part of having a family that grows by marriage, birth, and love.

To the OP, you have a choice in life. You can either embrace the fact that your son has found someone to love him and be his companion into the future, or you can embrace the fact that you will likely hardly ever see that son or any grandchildren because you cannot embrace the woman he loves. You don’t have to love her like a daughter, but respect the fact that she is your son’s wife and the potential future mother to your grandchildren.


Wild Irish Rose September 4, 2013 at 11:23 am

Personally, I would have no problem with my MIL wanting photos of just her, my FIL, my husband, and my two BILs. I certainly enjoy photos of just MY immediate family, although I don’t yet have any kids-in-law.

However, to intimate that a “family” photo does not include your DIL is thoughtless at best and mean-spirited at worst. Your son did the right thing by standing by his wife. Certainly she could have handled it better, but I’m with everyone else who suspects that this isn’t the first time you have tried to exclude her from “family” events. You owe your son and your DIL an apology–and you need to wrap your head around the fact that your son’s wife IS family. Are you planning to treat your grandchildren this way as well? You need to fix this, FAST.


Jennifer September 4, 2013 at 11:28 am

I am torn on this one. I can honestly see both sides to the situation. On a few occasions my father’s family, he is one of seven children, have sibling pictures that don’t include spouses/partners. This is usually infrequent because the siblings are almost never all together in one spot at one time. So I can see the desire to take a picture with only your family. I also see the difference from my father’s picture (a ‘hey we’re all together let’s get a picture’ thing) versus the OP’s picture (a scheduled and planned out thing).

As someone else prior to me has said, the OP is paying for the picture and should get what she wants, with in reason. If the DIL’s behavior is something that happens often, as in she doesn’t get her way and she goes crying to her husband, then the OP should have stood her ground and calmly explained to her son that she wants a picture with her boys. However, if the OP is constantly trying to exclude the DIL then the son did the exact right thing. I can’t really make an informed decision on whether or not the OP is deserving of EHell or if the DIL is. I hope OP will update her story with more of the history with the DIL, I also wonder if the other son is married. If he is then it is completely unacceptable that the T’s husband wouldn’t just tell his wife that this is a family thing and keep it at that, or for her to throw a tantrum about not being included.


Garry September 4, 2013 at 11:36 am

I can imagine no standard by which the OP’s behavior is justified. If my MIL pulled that on me, my husband and I would not even wait to sort it out and would simply leave. The OP particularly baffles me as in our family, people go out of their way to include spouses. Family photos are updated within days of a wedding to showcase the new additions. Marriage is what creates a family. Would it be acceptable if a father just took family photos with his children excluding his wife, as she is just a spouse? Even if we leave the DIL is family angle out, whatever happened to ‘couples are a unit’ rule.

And I do not buy the who ever pays calls the shots in this scenario. If the picture only included the OP, she can do whatever she likes with it, but she expected her married son to dress up and be part of a “family photo” , for him family now includes his wife, above all others. If the OP could not afford to have multiple photographs taken to reflect her new family, then she shouldn’t be scheduling family photos. She can open any old album and look at the good old time photos when there was no “smug” DIL to ruin them.


Saucygirl September 4, 2013 at 11:40 am

I used to have problems with my in laws, who excluded me from a lot of things. Including scheduling my sils wedding shower the same day as a major religious holiday (I am a different religion then them). When I called them and asked if they knew it was same day – since they scheduled it six months in advance – I was told they did know and figured I wouldn’t be able to come. I hope your dil finds this photo session as freeing as I found that conversation. I realized at that point that I was never going to be considered family, and I stopped trying to be. Which means I stopped hosting family gatherings at my house for their holidays and celebrations; I stopped offering to bring food or help clean/prepare at gatherings at their house, as after all, I was attending as a guest not a family member; I stopped purchasing the gifts for them; and I stopped encouraging my husband to invite them to “my” family things. And trust me, op, when I say that my husbands relationship with his family isn’t close to what it use to be. Because while I never stop him from doing anything with them if they ask, I don’t instigate doing anything with them either.


Ashley September 4, 2013 at 11:58 am

I have to wonder what DIL’s version of the story might sound like?

“My MIL called my husband and told him she was scheduling a family photo and told him what to wear as she wanted everyone to be matchy-matchy. This was going to be a nice professional photo shoot, so we were very excited and did our best to dress just as she’d asked. But when we got there, she pulled my husband aside and told him I was not welcome in the “family” photo. She wanted only herself, my FIL, and her boys in the picture. Apparently, though we are married, I am not a part of the family. I was very hurt and couldn’t help crying. Luckily my husband stood up for me and made sure I was included with everyone else. I can tell though that my MIL is still angry about this and blames me. I don’t know what I did to make her hate me so much.”


VanessaGa81 September 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I am completely flabergasted at some of these comments. I wouldn’t know what to do if I was told I wasn’t part of my husband’s family so I would probably cry too-buy that would never happen because my husband’s family knows that I AM a part of their family, just as they are mine. There is no “wedging myself into every aspect of their family”-because I’m already included. I guess it has to do with differences in families which is understandable. The issue here seems to be that the DIL and her MIL have a different idea of family. Good for the OP’s son for standing up for his wife.


MichelleP September 4, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I saw a letter to Dear Abby once with a similar theme. Son wrote in saying he and his wife showed up for “family pics” and his mother asked wife to stand out. She did, but was hurt. Another incident was detailed, but I don’t remember everything else in the letter. The husband was asking Abby’s advice on how to handle it, as his wife is now his family. Abby told him he should have stood up for his wife.

Your daughter may be yours all her life, but your son is only yours until he takes a wife. I never struggled with in law issues because my ex and his family weren’t close emotionally or physically, but knowing plenty of people who do has made me so glad I’m single.

Admin’s advice is spot on.


ferretrick September 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm

OP, all I can say is if I were your son and you treated my wife in that manner, I’d console my wife, then I would quietly take the picture you wanted with only us, as you were paying the bill. Then, I would tell you to enjoy the photo very much and look at it often, because it would be the only way you’d be seeing my face for a good long while. Then I would take my wife out to a lovely dinner.


CookieWookiee September 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Regardless of the circumstances (and I have my suspicions that this was not the first time the OP tried to exclude her DIL from “family” functions), the OP’s son did EXACTLY the right thing. That is is wife and she is his number one priority.

Some people just have really weird ideas about family. My grandmother (who is otherwise a wonderful woman) very firmly believes that if you’re not related by blood you’re not really family, and if you’re not family you don’t count. When she found out that my husband and I had arranged for certain insurance monies to be left to our nieces (my husband’s brother’s girls) she absolutely FLIPPED OUT and started SCREAMING at me about how THEY’RE NOT YOUR BLOOD and THEY’RE NOT FAMILY and WHAT ABOUT YOUR MOTHER AND YOUR SISTER DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT THEM?! Looking back on it now the vitrol behind those rants must have been the caused by the beginning symptoms of her Altzheimer’s, but I’m sure that they were based in her true beliefs. Growing up my mother and her sisters were not allowed to have friends they weren’t related to. For years my grandmother has talked about wanting to be with her “original family,” i.e. her family of origin, all but one of whom has passed, because that’s her “real” family, never mind us poor schmucks that descended from her and my grandfather and will miss her when she’s gone.

There are people to whom I am related by blood that are complete wackadoos, and I will have nothing to do with them outside of command family performances; OTOH there are people I have nothing in common with genetically, that I love as if they WERE my family. I think that limiting one’s definition of “family” to those related by blood is not only hurtful to those who join a family though marriage or adoption or other means, but it also hurts the person who shuts those people out. They have missed on what could be a wonderful relationship with someone dear based purely on superficial attributes.


Chicalola September 4, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I don’t see the DIL as manipulative….why would she assume that she isn’t part of the family? She married in to the family….it makes her part of it. When they have kids, they will also be part of the family. I was blessed to be welcomed by my in-laws as their new daughter. I’ve never felt excluded. I imagine it would be heartbreaking to be told you can’t be in the “family”picture. I think the husband did the absolutely right thing in defending his wife. This is the person he chose to spend the rest of his life with and create his own family. I think the “smug” look in the picture is really just her smiling, and the mother being ticked she’s there. How sad, to make this girl feel so unwelcome.


Waterwren September 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Team OP all the way! Her money, her decision. Sadly, their relationship will more than likely be cold as snow from now on.


Calli Arcale September 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm

It’s hard to know who’s side to take in this one. Yes, OP is paying for the photos and has an absolute right to have them the way she wants them. But how she wants them may convey messages she perhaps should reconsider. Why do you want a picture without your SIL in it, OP? What is the history there? And if feelings are hurt, perhaps a little mixing and matching wouldn’t go amiss. Most photographers charge by the sitting, not the shot, but may charge more for multiple backgrounds. However, they almost never charge more for doing a little mix-and-match with the people involved if it’s a fairly short list. This is because they know they’ll almost certainly sell more prints if there are more poses.

I could see wanting one with just your sons, especially if it was part of a series showing how they’ve grown and changed through the years. But if I were OP, I’d want a family photo including the spouses and any grandchildren as well. If I’m paying for a sitting, I’m gonna get my money’s worth out of it. 😉


hakayama September 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Preface to my position and commentary: My in laws were the cat’s meow. It was the DuH that, after a few years, turned out eminently kickable to the curb.
Also, I grew up in a family “culture” where photos were not displayed on the mantEL, or any other “public” area of the home, so I couldn’t give a rat’s tail about not being included. Much less in a kitschy, kitschy, matchy, matchy type of an image for posterity. Bleh!

@Admin.: Thank you for the wonderful terms “Shallow Stupid” and “Deep Stupid”. I’ll use them often and well, with appropriate accreditation. 😉

@OP, Daisy and Nichole: For your education, edification and amusement, you might consider visiting (if you already haven’t done so) some of the websites dedicated to in laws. Some are very highly interactive, and all quite entertaining: “The DIL Sisterhood”, “Mother in Law Stories”, “I Hate my In Laws”… It’s there that you’ll find MILs that will “include” the grandchildren, but not their mother in all kinds of “faaaaaaaaamily” affairs.
Daisy, Nichole and similarly “blessed” DILs: You will find you are in a big unexclusive club, and you might pick up coping skills.
OP: You might learn to hone and fine-tune the “gifts” that I suspect you were born with, and you use not only with respect to your DIL, but your co-workers (if you have a job, or ever had one), your neighbors and your “friends”.
OR, you might just possibly learn to, perhaps tweak at least your behavior, if not your inner feelings, towards your DIL. Remember, she might some day be involved in choosing your nursing home….


Rosie September 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I think it’s fine for the mom to want to have a picture with her husband and two sons without her daughter-in-law, but it sounds like the whole situation could have been communicated more clearly and unfortunately got out of hand. What we don’t know is whether the OP had innocent intentions when she called it a “family” photo or whether she truly believes that her DIL is not family and makes a pattern of excluding her from the “family.” It’s not like the OP excluded her from Christmas dinner or something (that we know of). The OP can’t live in denial of her sons growing up and starting their own families, but there’s nothing wrong with the OP wanting to recognize her own nuclear family in a single photo. Nobody is jumping on the OP for not including every last aunt, uncle, cousin, and other relative from the “family” photo. Marriage and in-laws are great and can create wonderful new family relationships (or not!), but I think it’s ridiculous to assume that just because a child marries that the child and the spouse are now inseparable and must be treated exactly the same. For grown children, there’s always a balancing act between the family you were born into and the family you create. Yes, those two should overlap but they don’t have to be wholly the same. If we recognize the importance of the family that we create as an adult, why can’t we also celebrate the family we were raised in?
In this case, I think better communication would have helped. The OP should have told her son explicitly who she wanted in the photo, and perhaps not called it a “family” photo, and then the DIL never would have been at the photo studio where the OP, DIL, and son were in a very awkward position. For everyone saying that the OP should have just taken a lot of photos with different groups, that could have worked if she’d thought fast enough, but there could still be bad feelings over hanging the photo of the four of them–minus the DIL–over the mantle, even if there were other photos with the DIL.


hakayama September 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm

@Daisy: So sorry about your kitty. So sorry about your having to deal with a witch on wheels MIL. Many people would find a way to drop the rope with an individual like her: a full blown callous, insensitive, evil, narcissistic awful excuse for a human being.
If your DH is not a momma’s boy, you just might stick around long enough as to attend HER funeral. But I’m sure that she’s not bright enough as to realize her own fragility and mortality.
Cats rule!


AngePange September 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Wow. This could be my ex’s mother writing.

OP, I hate to say it, but you could have handled this SO much better. As others have suggested, have a number of photos taken and then choose to frame only the one with you and your “immediate” family.
As for the “fit” that DIL threw, we only have OP’s version here (to be fair, that is what happens in most cases here, but still). I know that if I had arrived for FAMILY photos and my MIL had said “you ain’t part of this family”, I would have been so profoundly hurt, and if my partner had failed to stand up for me, there would have been serious problems in our marriage. Part of the reason my ex IS an ex is exactly that – his family consistently failing, despite me having been a part of his life for three years, to acknowledge me as “one of theirs”. It hurt, and unfortunately my somewhat childish reaction was to be cold and aloof.
When you marry someone, you take them warts and all – OP, you could be causing irreparable harm to your son’s marriage by causing tension between him and his wife. Because like it or not, there is almost no doubt this will cause tension. And what about when / if grand babies come along? DIL may try to prevent you from seeing them – they are half her genetically speaking and, goodness knows, if you don’t like her, how will you love her offspring? And will they be regarded as “family”?

Please reconsider your position OP, and try to be a kind, gracious MIL.


Ashley September 4, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I would love OP to write in a follow up, but I have a feeling it will not e well received.
I too think the DIL was being manipulative. If mother wanted a picture with her two boys grown up, she in entitled to it. She is paying.


Cj September 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Wow this amazes me. I actually had tried to step out of family pictures in the past with my inlaws…so they could have pics with them and their son, incase god forbid we broke up. We were living together for nine years and I felt I was not officialy family. My mother in law insisted that I be in every picture, I was family. I have always been included and am thankful. She has always tried to make me feel part of the family, not seperated. She calls me her Daughter…not daughter in law. She does not like my housekeeping, tattos or faith but she keeps it to her self and we keep the peace and a good relationship. OP should take note….


Natalie September 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm

DH and I have been married for 17 years. In that time, we’ve had three sets of pictures taken with my parents. There were some with just my parents, my siblings and myself. There were some with just my parents and their grandchildren. Some of each family (Sister, husband, two kids, etc). No hurt feelings.
My husband’s family hasn’t had any formal pictures done. At his younger sister’s wedding, the photographer took a picture of his parents and all the siblings, no spouses or grandchildren. No one got angry.
Like someone commented earlier, families are fluid. People get married, die, move away, have children…it’s best to preserve as much as you can when you can. If it means taking two sets of photos, then do it. There are bigger problems to worry about.


kingsrings September 4, 2013 at 1:39 pm

The point is, this is a FAMILY photo. That means the entire family, which includes the spouses, as they are family! To be excluded would be extremely offensive and hurtful to the SIL. For those who don’t understand why this is hurtful and exclusionary, let me put it this way: what if the OP had held a family dinner (or holiday dinner, like Thanksgiving) and had requested that it just be her, her husband, and their kids, no in-laws? That would be wrong, and it would be wrong for the same reasons as the family photo situation is.

Now there is nothing wrong if in that photo session there are a few separate photos with just the parents/kids, or just the kids. But to exclude the SIL or any other family member completely is just plain wrong! And like others have stated, it definitely appears that the OP hates her DIL anyway.


TeamBhakta September 4, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I’m surprised by the first comment that defended the MIL. Can you imagine if the reverse had happened, with the DIL saying “There’s one of you (FIL / MIL / BIL) I don’t want in the picture with the rest of us” ? You wouldn’t be defending THAT, I’ll bet


ketchup September 4, 2013 at 1:49 pm

A family photo is so much more than a photo.
When I was very young, my grandparents (father’s side) wanted a family photo done. Unlike the OP they did want to include all family members; their two children with their spouses and children. My aunt had a little girl and my father had a son and me. However, even though they did include everyone, the fact that they placed their daughter (my aunt) in the middle and shoved my parents into a tiny corner showed how they felt about it all. Their daughter had always been their favourite.
It’s been decades ago, and it still infuriates both my mum and dad. They’re not the best at letting go… Still, they have (or had) a point.


Chinchilla September 4, 2013 at 1:51 pm

It took me a long time to even write a cogent reply to this that didn’t involve some rough wording. I am a DIL who has known since before I got married that my FIL would never consider me family. The Christmas before DH and I got married, but were very much engaged, my FIL bought tickets for him, MIL, DH, and BIL to go to a show. When DH asked if I was to be invited his father’s response was this is family only. Stung a bit, but I figured he wanted one last special event with his boys. The next year DH found out from his brother a week after the event that they had gone again. DH asked FIL why we weren’t invited and his response was, you are your own family now. Yes, he would rather give up his son as family then invite me to be a part of his. He tolerates my presence at family holidays so he can have his son there. He has also said if we adopt a kid instead of having one biologically that the child wouldn’t be his family. He honestly believes that blood is the only thing that makes family.

I come from a family that adopts people right and left, everyone is family and my DH has been included in everything from the first moment it was obvious we were serious. So for me my FIL’s mindset has been hurtful in the extreme. I have cried over it, but never where he can see it, and it has created a noticeable rift between FIL and DH. Fortunately my MIL is a wonderful and loving woman, who has accepted me completely and I’ve actually heard her tell FIL to stop being an idiot. But in their marriage he controls everything so there is little she can do about some of the slights.


Dee September 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

OP is missing something here – a typically mentally-healthy person would feel at least a smidgeon of empathy for the DIL’s position when she showed up for the photo. OP SHOULD have felt at least a wee bit of embarrassment and sadness at the possibility that this “misunderstanding” would humiliate DIL. OP doesn’t give any reason for actually hating DIL, or evidence that DIL is so unlikable/manipulative/whatever that OP can be forgiven for deliberately hurting her feelings. So then why didn’t OP experience ANY twinges at the prospect of hurting DIL? That’s the scary $64,000 question.


Mae September 4, 2013 at 2:01 pm

* If this double posts, I apologize. Whenever I use Firefox when trying to comment, it seems to get “stuck” in the comment filter*

I can see this from both sides…
1. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a picture of just you, your husband and your kids.
2. When children marry and you say “family photo”, 99% of couples are going to think that includes the spouse.
3. When the DIL arrived, OP could have had some photos taken with and without the DIL. Of course, you would have to display one with the DIL as well or that would become an issue when the son & DIL visited and did not see one.
4. From some of the phrases used to describe the DIL, there does seem to be some unpleasant history between the OP and the DIL.

OP, “C” clearly (and rightfully) see his wife as part of the family now. I don’t know what has caused the friction between you two, but maybe you should consider repairing the relationship before it becomes… well… unrepairable. “C” and ‘T” may have children in a few years and if you two are still on bad terms, what is that going to be like for your grandchildren? Would “T” refuse to let you see them? How unpleasant is this rift for your son? I’m sure he doesn’t like being in the middle of whatever is going on between you and his wife. He very clearly told you at the photo shoot that he is going to side with his wife. For the sake of “family”, I would try to get along with my DIL, even if I had to grin & bear it, then go home and have a fit in the basement if I needed an outlet.

Even if the DIL is a scheming witch, if you at the very least put forth an effort to get along with and include her, your son will notice and maybe can help smooth the relationship.


AIP September 4, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I don’t always agree with the Admin, but this time I think her response was pitched perfect. I know it’s not what the OP wanted, but straight talking was needed. When you consider how people usually present themselves in a more sympathetic light – often subconsciously- she does come across as a bit of a mare. She *might* have made it clear that it was only meant to be for her “important (grown-up/married/middle-aged!) boys”, and the son took it up wrong, but it’s even more likely she just said it was a family photo which could reasonably have included the DIL.
Others have also noted that “pitching a fit” could be the DIL getting upset at another of a series of intentional or unintentional snubs or put-downs (being called ‘smug’ for example).

In any event, don’t forget to submit the photo to 😉
(I kid, I kid!)


Amanda H. September 4, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Everyone else has basically said the input I have (and count me as one of those people who is very emotional and frequently cries at the drop of a hat or for silly reasons with no control over it).

But to Karee (and others) wondering about what adults actually wear matching clothes for photos, as if it’s the weirdest thing ever…. My in-laws actually do that frequently, as does my own immediate family. It makes the photos look nicer (and is most often something extremely simple like “please wear jeans and a white shirt of some sort”). What’s so weird about staging a photo so you don’t have that one person wearing neon florals while everyone else is in subdued colors? (like my wedding photo, where my husband’s grandmother is in a very bright, noticeable dress while everyone else is wearing shades of blue, black, grey, etc. It amuses my husband and I more than anything, and we’d only recommended the blue-or-close-to colors, but it still stands out a lot in the photo.)


Marozia September 4, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Why not get two photos done, an extended family photo (with DIL) done first and then get an immediate family (without DIL)? In that way, DIL can be in one photo and not get so ‘snitty’ about not being in the second one.
OP should go, get a life and get over herself – after all, there are other people in the world to consider apart from yourself.


acr September 4, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I also disagree with the Admin. If T was that overwrought by not being included in the picture, she should have stepped into the bathroom to compose herself. And while the DiL is certainly part of the family, she is not part of the family of origin. If someday DiL wants a family photo of herself, her hubby and her kids, does the OP get to sob and demand to be included because, after all, it’s a family photo?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to “enshrine” the nuclear family in a photo. It is ONE photo. Many families have a tradition of regular family portraits, and these portraits are displayed in chronological order to show the family’s growth and development.

However, OP, I think the more gracious route for you to have taken was to have several poses done – one of all 5 of you, one of you and your husband and sons, and one of you and your husband with your son and DiL.


anon September 4, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Daisy “if anyone has any ideas where we go from here, please let me know.”

You can’t win with this woman, so free yourself and stop trying. You spend hours cleaning and she complains about your housekeeping? Great, just do your normal cleaning. You cook a nice meal but she still complains about it? Great, order takeout. She wants your husband’s undivided attention when she visits? Great, schedule a spa day, or go out with some friends to vent about your crazy MIL. She’ll complain no matter what you do, so make it less work for yourself.

In short, stop trying to win her over. Less stress for you, with the same end result.


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