Woman Furious After Learning Her Mother-In-Law Uses A 'Code Word' To Hold Secret Family Discussions Without Her Kids' Spouses Hearing

Does she owe it to her daughter-in-law to include her in family business?

mother-in-law and daughter-in-law arguing fizkes / Getty Images / Canva Pro

Dealing with in-laws can be a delicate dance for everyone involved, and it's easy for people to feel excluded, especially in close-knit families. But there are also situations when it's best for things to stay blood-family only. 

Navigating these nuances is no easy task, so one mother-in-law online found a solution that cuts through the grey areas, and that's left her daughter-in-law feeling like there's an "us and them" family dynamic at play.


The mother-in-law uses a code word to exclude her kids' spouses from private family discussions.

For larger, close families, it's easy to make people who marry into the family feel like outsiders. 

There are so many layers of history, memories and dynamics, it can be like listening to two old friends go back and forth about inside jokes you couldn't understand if you tried.

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But there's inadvertently excluding spouses, and there's doing it basically on purpose. 

This mother-in-law has chosen to do the latter — though, as she explained in her Reddit post, it's for a very specific purpose that some felt was justifiable and necessary, while others found it awkward and unkind.

The code word was set up for family emergencies as a way to call urgent family meetings.

To call one of the meetings, a family member texts out the code word to everyone in the family, and "[it] means to meet up at my home because there is bad news. So, emergency family meeting."

She said it is very rarely invoked, but when it is, "it means to drop what you are doing and get over as soon as possible." Crucially, it is for blood relatives only — "no in-laws are invited."


That probably sounds extreme to many of us, but she says everyone has agreed upon it because sometimes there are things that need to stay family-only. For example, the mom described how they used it when her daughter decided to divorce her husband.

Obviously her daughter didn't want her husband included in the emergency family meeting that ensued because she "needed help" getting away from him. So she used the code word, and her siblings then filled their spouses in on the news later.

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But she recently used the code word to reveal that her husband is sick and needs surgery, and her daughter-in-law is furious she was excluded.

A potentially dangerous divorce is one thing. An illness in a beloved family member that is important to everyone, not just his blood relations, is another.

"An emergency meeting was called by my husband. In short, he needs surgery," the mom wrote. "Everyone left, and I got a call from my daughter-in-law, upset that she wasn’t invited to the meeting."

After explaining things, the daughter-in-law was still furious. "She reiterated that she should still be invited, and I am excluding her," the mom said. "That she is upset and expects an invite next time."


The mother-in-law was not having any of it. "I told her that her feelings aren't my problem, and for [expletive] sakes, you don’t need to be invited to everything." That set her daughter-in-law off even more, and even her son said she "could have been nicer."

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People were very divided on whether the use of a code word was appropriate.

Many on Reddit felt there was no way around the obvious undertones — a very "us vs them" perception of what family is. As one Redditor put it, "This is so depressing. You don't consider your kid's spouses as family."

But others didn't really get what was so wrong with it. "​​There are some things I’d feel more comfortable just discussing with my parents/siblings but not my brother-in-law, great as he is," one user wrote.

@yourtango Being called ‘mom’ by her daughter-in-law makes this woman very uncomfortable #motherinlaw #daughterinlaw #family #newyearseve #momsoftiktok ♬ original sound - YourTango

Several others agreed. "I don't get the hate either," one person said. "It's something they want to share with their siblings. Not every in-law is good"—which, as anyone who's ever had a terrible in-law knows, is a very valid point.

Also worth considering is that nobody owes anyone transparency about their health situations. Having your son tell your daughter-in-law about your potentially embarrassing medical diagnosis may not be what many of us would choose nowadays, but that doesn't make it wrong. 


In the end, though, this seems like yet another conflict that probably could have been avoided if everyone involved had acted with a bit more empathy. The daughter-in-law may have overstepped, but it was out of her love for her father-in-law.

By the same token, though, the mother-in-law just found out her husband is seriously ill, and it's unfair to ever expect anyone to handle themselves patiently in a moment of duress — nor is it appropriate to call someone in such a delicate moment and berate them for not telling you about the crisis.

With relations with the in-laws having been proven in studies to have a major, and maybe even make-or-break, impact on a marriage, here's hoping everyone learns something from this for the future.


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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.