How to deal with a narcissistic mother-in-law, that is the question.
Let me tell you something. I’ve been there. I see you. I understand you.
I’m not going to give you a pep talk or tell you sweet stories about how to take care of your mental health and help your mom-in-law adapt and become a better person. Nope.
I’m here to openly tell you the following things: how to recognize her for who she is, what her most powerful tools against you are, and how to deal with her once and for all.
5 Red Flags That Show You Have A Narcissistic Mother-In-Law
1. She enjoys dominating other people
This is a trait of every person who has a narcissistic personality disorder. They will pretend to be whoever and whatever just so they can get what they want out of the people around them.
To exert her power, she’ll demean her family members – her daughter-in-law more than others.
There’s a good chance she openly belittles you or uses fake compliments to hide her true intentions in front of others, yet making sure you know just what she meant.
She won’t strain from using verbal abuse as her most powerful tool. If you feel put down by her for the majority of the time, it’s a definite sign you’re dealing with a narcissist.
Narcissistic people are incredible manipulators. She will go as far as to create a whole situation in which she looks good and other people look bad.
Additionally: If you feel like you can’t handle this on your own, search for abuse support groups in your area.
2. She’s full of herself
You may be trying to share more details of your life with her, hoping that getting to know you better will result in her treating you better.
Guess what? It will never work. Why? Because she only cares about herself.
Everything in her life is about her, and she’d prefer it to be the case in everyone else’s life. When there are listeners around, she won’t stop talking about her life and achievements.
Your father-in-law may be sitting in the corner while she talks, rolling his eyes thinking “here she goes again,” but still thinking that’s just who she is, never blaming her.
If she’s a covert narcissist (doesn’t show her true colors – a narcissist in disguise), her family is likely not even aware of the kind of personality (or better yet, personality disorder) she has.
She doesn’t really care about anybody else’s story. She only wants her own story to be heard.
3. She seems to have no empathy
She is unable to empathize with her family members. The pain she’s causing her own children matters little to her.
Her entire life she’s only cared about her children’s achievements and never about their feelings.
If you complain to her about the struggles in your own life, you’ll get nothing from her. She shows no compassion or understanding.
For her, love is about the exchange of goods and not about the sentiment people have for each other.
When it comes to her kids, she’s proud of their accomplishments, but never really cares about who they are as people.
And when it comes to you as her daughter-in-law, she praises you in public, because, well, you represent her as a part of her family and she doesn’t want to look bad – but in private she’ll criticize you.
4. She’s defensive (about herself)
She’ll do whatever it takes to prove she’s right. She can’t take any kind of criticism and will turn the situation around to make it seem like you or anybody else are attacking her out of spite.
Whenever she does something, she gives additional explanations of the goodwill she’s put into doing that because she cares about the well-being of the family (while she’s actually doing something completely selfish), just in case you try to confront her.
If you find someone to support you in fighting her – your husband perhaps – she’ll attack you with everything she’s got.
Her narcissistic behavior has probably caused your husband to be either overly sensitive and codependent or a narcissist himself.
If he’s sensitive, he’ll understand you, and you two together might handle her easier if he has what it takes to fight her.
If he’s a narcissist himself, we’re sorry for you, but it might be easier for him to deal with her because he already has the tools.
5. She needs to be admired, all the time
Your mom-in-law will want you to appreciate her the way she appreciates herself. She needs constant admiration for anything she does.
She believes she’s the best and doing so much for her family, and that needs to be rewarded.
A narcissist mother-in-law will expect you to praise her and feed her huge ego.
She believes herself to own everything, including her family, and everyone must behave according to her rules because, well, she deserves it with all the love she’s been giving to everyone.
At least that’s what she wants others to believe, and what she usually even believes herself. There’s no being realistic with this one – it’s her way or the highway.
How To Recognize Your Mom-In-Law Is A Narcissist By Everyday Things She Does
– She calls all the time or drops by way too often, checking on things.
– She’s involved in every little detail of your spouse’s life and insists on knowing everything about him.
– She’s always ready to criticize you or your spouse on everything you do or say.
– No matter what happens, she’s the victim in every possible situation.
– She wants to control everything and is very manipulative when it comes to getting what she wants.
– There’s always something new she wants to be done whenever you see her or hear from her.
– Your spouse is obviously agitated by the way she behaves and tries to control his life.
– Still, your partner is constantly looking for excuses for her behavior.
– She’s absolutely certain she’s always right.
– She likes to play favorites, both with her own children but with her grandchildren as well (there’s a golden child, the one who’s best at everything, and a scapegoat, the one who’s always blamed for everything).
– In extreme cases, she can be incredibly aggressive in trying to make her son or daughter-in-law feel unwelcome in the family.
– Finally, you can’t remember a time you’ve felt comfortable around her.
5 Typical Abusive Behaviors Of A Narcissistic Mother-In-Law
Gaslighting is the crown of all toxic relationships.
The very first time she does it, it will seem completely innocent. She’ll lie about small, insignificant things all the time.
She’ll say she didn’t say something that you definitely heard her say.
She’ll pretend to be absolutely certain that you’re the one who made a mistake, so if you notice this and decide to say something, you’ll look like the bad guy in the situation.
She does this to manipulate you and gain power. That’s how gaslighting works. She plays the victim and it seems like you’re the one being unfair.
The only thing you can do to break from this wicked chain she’s trying to put on you is to call her out on her lies.
I’m not saying it won’t get messy, because it most definitely will, but it’s your only way out. You have to show her you won’t tolerate her lies or play along.
2. The blame game
Nothing is ever her fault. No matter what happens, there’s someone else to blame. This has a lot to do with all the negativity she’s carrying inside herself.
She’ll blame her kids, husband, and you for everything. This emotional abuse can be quite hard to handle. Her fragile mental health has her working this way.
She won’t accept any weakness – not in herself or other people. When you do something that triggers the ”weakness” in her mind, she’ll punish you for it.
All the negative energy she has in store from trying to be perfect will come out on you when you “make a mistake.”
This is one of the things you’ll have to learn to deal with through your narcissistic abuse recovery process.
There’s not much you can do about this. The best way you can handle it is to realize you can only pity her for having to live with herself.
3. The silent treatment
When you have an argument with your mom-in-law and refuse to obey her rules, she won’t try to resolve the issue, she’ll give you her famous silent treatment.
Her passive-aggressive behavior has one ultimate goal, and that’s to regain her power over you.
Time will pass, and you may be perfectly fine with her not talking to you, but her “flying monkeys” (family members or friends that narcissists use as tools) will push you to apologize and resolve your issues with her, because she’ll be giving them trouble.
The only way to handle this is to stand your ground. Be confident yet remain kind. If she chooses to stay angry, you can’t change that.
4. Involving a third party to get her way
She’s prone to giving “concerned advice” to someone else in the family – most commonly her son (your husband) – about the way you’re doing something, whether it be about raising the kids, cooking, or your career.
He might listen to her and try to talk to you about doing things a different way, the way she suggested.
This might cause you to argue with your partner, or any other family member she uses (like your sister-in-law), completely unaware that she’s the source of the problem.
Your ultimate goal is to try to remain aware of all the times you’re enabling this triangle and invariably helping unravel all the mess.
5. Guilt trip
This is something all toxic people do. Just like her other tools, this one too is used to gain more power over the victim of her narcissistic abuse.
This is how it works. When you try to live your life and show your independence, she takes that as being unappreciative of her and everything she’s done for you.
When you choose to do what you want to do, that’s painful for her. By guilt-tripping you, she connects your wishes and desires to guilt.
Ultimately, when you want to do something you wish to do, you immediately feel that guilt.
This is a tool narcissistic parents will mostly use with their own children, but it also applies to their in-law relationships.
How To Help Yourself? 10 Tips To Deal With Narcissistic Abuse From Your Mom-In-Law
1. Support your partner
Having a narcissist mother-in-law is hard, but having a narcissist mother is harder. Be compassionate.
No matter how much it annoys you to hear your partner making excuses for his mom’s behavior, try to understand him.
By now, he’s probably developed a coping mechanism to deal with her. Ask him for some tips. Decide together on how to maintain your relationship with her – be open and honest.
2. Set firm boundaries
For every one of her toxic behaviors, you have to set a limit. If she calls too much, make a decision not to answer at certain parts of the day or on certain days.
If she comes by unannounced too often, tell her you had different plans the next time she surprises you.
When she goes into being verbally abusive and demeaning towards you or your children, kindly and firmly tell her that’s not going to work out.
She needs to know you’re onto her, but you mustn’t lose your cool. For every limit you set, talk about it with your husband first and make sure you’re both on the same page.
See also: My In Laws Treat Me Like An Outsider: 8 Things To Do About It
3. Don’t encourage her dramatic communication style
Your toxic mother-in-law is a drama queen. From never accepting she’s at fault to always wanting to be right, there’s probably plenty of situations in which she’ll show her dramatic style.
Don’t let her draw you into this. If you allow her to anger you, she’ll only see it as yet another weakness that she can use to gain more power and control.
Always communicate with her in a calm manner. When she punishes you with one of her famous silent treatments, try the soft, reasonable approach. If it doesn’t work, give up.
4. Take control over your emotions, DO NOT blame yourself
A narcissistic parent gets you to feel worse about yourself with each passing day. Persons who have NPD are really good at transferring their own misery to other people.
Don’t allow her to do this to you. She wants to control everything, including your emotions. Don’t give her the satisfaction.
You’re the only one who has control over your own feelings – make sure she knows that. By ruining your self-esteem, she’s making you into her new puppet.
Show her you’re not going to accept that. When she tries to convince you that you are anything you know you aren’t, refuse her opinion, and openly show her you disagree.
5. Try to find out more about her life
If she’s a softer type of a narcissist, it might be useful to find out about her history. Learning about her childhood and her early life might make it easier for you to understand her.
If you understand her life and where she comes from, there’s a good chance you’ll feel sorry for her more than anything else.
6. Do not try to change her
Trying to change her is the biggest mistake you can make. There is no changing her.
If you think your charm, acceptance, intelligence, or whatever you have to offer will help her become a better person, you’re wrong.
There’s nothing you can do to improve her or your relationship with her. NPD is a true mental disorder, you can’t do anything without professional help.
7. Make yourself inaccessible or less accessible to her
The best thing you can do is limit her access to you and your life. The more information about your marriage, job, etc. stays private, the less involved she’ll be.
When there’s no other way, the best you can do is make sure she has very little fuel when you know she’s about to put you on fire.
Related: The Silent Sabotage: How Mothers-in-Law Ruin Marriages
8. Force yourself to stay positive in your approach
Day by day she’s drawing you deeper into her dirty web. What she does is feeds you her own negativity and tries to ruin your life. That’s her ultimate goal, so make sure you never give her that.
No matter how many times she shows you she doesn’t deserve your kindness, still be kind.
Remind yourself that you’re not doing it for her, but that it’s actually your smartest, strongest move against her.
9. Don’t try to maintain a warmhearted relationship with her
You may think that showing her your vulnerabilities is the way to go. Yes, this is something that would almost certainly help your relationship with any other person.
Sadly, when it comes to a narcissistic mother-in-law, it doesn’t work this way. Whatever you say to her can and will be used against you.
10. If you can stay away from her, do so, don’t force the relationship
There are so many people out there who have no contact with their families – the ones they are born into, or their in-law families.
You have to remember that what you’re going through is an abusive relationship and you’d be crazy not to get out of it. Don’t blame yourself for not trying hard enough.
Dealing with a sociopath is something not even a professional does easily, why would you force yourself to do it every day?
If you and your partner have kids, she can see them from time to time or see their pics on social media if there’s no other way.
It can be hard to make this happen, but it’s also relieving and refreshing, and most certainly will change your entire life.
Make sure you’re aware that whatever you decide to do, you’re doing it for yourself and your family. Don’t ever let her guilt-trip you into doing something she wants again.
You need to take control over your own life, and that’s something no one else can do for you. Putting her in her place will take a whole lot of guts, but it will be worth it.
After all this is in the past, you’ll be stronger than ever – a girl who survived narcissistic abuse.
Wednesday 2nd of November 2022
Reading this was like someone had been inside my head and they have just put everything into place. I now realize that it was not me with the problem as I had been lead to believe.The COVID lockdown meant I ended up with MIL in my house everyday for most of the day so no surprise that I ended up in hospital with suspected bleed on the brain as my blood pressure was so high.I have now broken all ties and am trying to heal myself and my partner so thank you so much for this article it has really helped 😃