Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend’s mother has started introducing me to her friends as her “daughter-in-law.” There’s a long history of her discomfort with the fact that her son and I aren’t married (yet/ever?), and I’m not sure how to address this new wrinkle. Should I just leave it alone, since it’s relatively harmless and probably makes her feel better in her social circle, or correct the inaccurate label?
What has your boyfriend thought or done about it? This is his move before it’s yours. I hope he greets it with a pull-aside and a discreet, “Mom, please cut the (crud). Thank you.”
If she’s doing it when he’s not around to hear it, then I suggest speaking up to her afterward, in private. “I appreciate how welcoming you are, but calling me your daughter-in-law leaves me with two awkward choices: to correct you or to deceive others. I hope you’ll understand that I’d rather not do either one.”
Obviously I disagree that her using this terms is “relatively harmless.” What she’s doing is manipulative and wrong — forcing her views, really, under a veil of propriety, family and apple pie.