If you are married to someone and their mother is a narcissist, then you have my sympathy. Dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law can be very challenging, especially if she lives close by.
In this blog post, I will discuss some of the typical behaviours of a narcissistic mother-in-law and how you can protect your relationship from her.
Trials and Tribulations of having a narcissistic mother-in-law
One of the most difficult things about having a narcissistic mother-in-law is that she will never be happy for you. No matter what you do, she will always find something to criticise you for.
Manipulation and Lies
She may try to undermine your relationship with her son by criticising you or making negative comments about you to him.
She may also try to interfere in your relationship by giving her son unsolicited advice or trying to control him.
In fact triangulation is a big thing when it comes to dealing with narcissistic in-laws. They will try to come between you and your partner by manipulating him or her into taking their side against you.
If you are not careful she could cause irreparable harm to your relationship.
Trying to Hog the Limelight
Another difficult thing about having a narcissistic mother-in-law is that she will always try to compete with you.
Who could ever forget the horror stories of mothers-in-law turning up at their son’s wedding dressed head to toe in white? It’s not an urban myth, this kind of behaviour is par for the course if you are marrying the son of a narcissist!
She will try try to outdo you in everything, from the way you dress, to the way you cook, to the way you parent.
Gaslighting and Innuendo
A favourite tactic of the narcissistic mother-in-law is gaslighting. This is where she tries to make you question your perception of reality and memory of events by denying things that you know to be true.
Did she say your bum looked big, then denied she ever said such a thing when you called her up on it?
Has she ever steered the conversation to “that lovely girl you used to date” a few years before he met you – only to then brush you off as being “overly sensitive” when you tried to change the subject?
She will also constantly “joke” or make sly remarks about you not being good enough for her son.
Yep, you are dealing with a gaslighter alright!
A master of abuse by proxy
Over the years your mother-in-law will have collected and brainwashed a troupe of flying monkeys who obey her every command. And just like the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz, she will not hesitate to unleash them to do her dirty work for her.
Her flying monkeys could be anyone from her friends and her other children, to your own family members, to even your children!
They will do and say things to hurt you on her behalf, or report to her about what you are up to. So watch out for any family member or friend who is suddenly critical of you or starts siding with your mother-in-law against you.
What can you do to protect your relationship from your narcissistic mother-in-law?
It is important to remember that however nasty and manipulative she may be, she is still your husband’s (or wife’s) mother. So you need to tread carefully.
The best way to protect your relationship from a narcissistic mother-in-law is to keep the lines of communication open with your partner.
Make sure you talk to him about how she is making you feel and try to come up with a strategy together for dealing with her.
Of course, you can’t control your mother-in-law and you shouldn’t have to put up with her bad behaviour.
If her behaviour is really affecting your relationship, then you may need to consider some kind of therapy or counselling to help you deal with the situation.
You could also try a mediation service, which can help to resolve conflict within families.
What to do if you have a narcissistic mother-in-law
The woman will always be a presence in your life, because she is your partner’s mother, so try to build a good relationship with her. You could try to engage her in some shared interests or hobbies.
I know it is difficult, but make an effort to see the good in her and focus on the positive things about her. Even narcissists can have a few positive qualities!
Another thing you can do is to try to empathise with her. Narcissistic personality disorder often arises from a deep feeling of insecurity and low self-esteem. So try to see things from her point of view and be understanding towards her.
The best thing you can do is try and stay calm and rational when dealing with her. Don’t engage in arguments or try to compete with her, as this is what she wants.
If she is being particularly nasty, try and take the high road and keep your head held high. This will show her that you are not going to be beaten by her and that she cannot control you.
And finally, don’t take her behaviour personally. I know that is easier said than done, but try to remember that it is not about you, it is about her. Above all else, try to be the bigger person.
In extreme cases, it may be necessary to limit your contact with her or even cut her out of your life completely. This is a decision that you and your partner will have to make together.
Dealing with narcissists is never easy, and when the narcissist in question is your mother-in-law, the situation is even more complex.
At the end of the day, however, the only important thing is your partner and the life you are building with him. Everything else should pale in comparison.
So try to ignore the shenanigans of your mother-in-law and focus on the things that really matter. If you can do that, then you will be able to protect your relationship from her toxic influence.