How to Deal with a Narcissistic Mother-in-Law – Protect Your Relationship

Navigating a relationship with a narcissistic mother-in-law can be an arduous journey filled with emotional turbulence. These women often have not accepted the reality that their sons have matured into adulthood, and they resent the idea of sharing their son with another woman.

As a result they view their son’s partner as a threat, which in turn leads them to resort to controlling, critical, and manipulative behaviors.

Successfully managing such a situation can seem like an uphill battle, but there are strategies available that can aid in easing the transition and mitigating the effects of having a narcissistic mother-in-law.

These tactics, which demand a considerable degree of strength and patience, can considerably alleviate the stress associated with such a delicate relationship over time.

Trials and Tribulations of Having a Narcissistic Mother-in-law

One of the most difficult things about having a narcissistic mother-in-law is dealing with the constant criticism, manipulation, and control that can come along with such a relationship.

The narcissist may attempt to undermine you in order to regain some sense of control and power over her son.

This behaviour can be incredibly draining both mentally and emotionally, leaving the daughter-in-law feeling like she has no power to stand up for herself or her marriage.

narcissistic mother in law

Manipulation and Lies

A narcissistic mother-in-law might attempt to destabilize your relationship with her son through various means.

She will criticize you or make derogatory comments about you to him, aiming to sow seeds of doubt.

Furthermore, she will not hesitate to meddle in your relationship by offering unsolicited advice to her son or trying to influence his actions.

This interference can be a persistent source of tension and conflict within your relationship.

Triangulation, a common tactic employed by narcissists, is often at play in such scenarios.

In this strategy, the narcissist seeks to create a divide between you and your partner, manipulating them into siding against you. This can lead to a significant strain on your relationship.

If not navigated carefully, these maneuvers could inflict lasting damage on your relationship. It’s crucial to remain vigilant about such tactics and strive to maintain open and honest communication with your partner to counteract his mother’s toxic influence.

narcissistic mother in law

Trying to Hog the Limelight

One of the challenges of dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law includes her constant attempts to overshadow you.

Think of those infamous tales of mothers-in-law showing up at their son’s wedding adorned entirely in white.Such stories are not merely urban legends; they are typical scenarios when one is married to the son of a narcissist!

Expect that she will endeavor to outshine you in every aspect. This could range from how you present yourself, your culinary skills, or even your parenting style.

This situation is bound to be very upsetting.

However, keep in mind the fact that it’s not about winning or losing against her, but maintaining your emotional health and the harmony within your family.

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!

narcissist mother-in-law

A master of abuse by proxy

Over the years your narcissist 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.

Protecting your Relationship from your Narcissistic Mother-in-law

Dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law can be tough, but it’s important to protect your relationship and maintain your sanity. Here are a few tips that can help:


1. Set Boundaries

Possibly one of the most vital steps in dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law is the establishment of clear and firm boundaries.

Boundaries act as guidelines for acceptable behavior, helping to maintain respect and understanding within relationships.

Firstly, identify your comfort zones in various aspects of your relationship with her.

This could include the frequency of her visits, the topics you’re willing to discuss, or the kind of advice you’re open to receiving from her.

It’s essential that these boundaries align with your personal values, comfort, and mental well-being.

Once you’ve identified these boundaries, communicate them assertively yet respectfully to both your partner and your mother-in-law.

Make sure your partner understands and supports these boundaries, as a united front can be more effective when dealing with narcissistic behaviors.


When communicating these boundaries to your mother-in-law, be firm and consistent.

Use clear, direct language and avoid getting drawn into justifying or arguing about your decisions.

Remember, it’s not about seeking her approval but about maintaining your emotional health.

Lastly, it’s crucial to remember that saying ‘no’ is not an act of disrespect or unkindness – it’s a measure of self-care.

You have the right to prioritize your well-being, and setting boundaries is a key part of that.

If a boundary is crossed, be ready to enforce it by reasserting your stance or taking necessary action.

By setting and maintaining these boundaries, you create a safer space for yourself while also teaching your mother-in-law how to treat you with respect and consideration.


2. Maintain Open Communication with Your Partner

Maintaining open lines of communication with your partner is not just important, it’s essential when navigating the challenges of a narcissistic mother-in-law.

The foundation of any strong relationship is honesty and understanding, and these become even more crucial under these circumstances.

Start by expressing your feelings about your mother-in-law’s actions in a non-accusatory manner.

Use ‘I’ statements to convey your emotions: “I feel overwhelmed when your mother does this…” as opposed to “Your mother always does this…”.

This approach ensures that your partner understands it’s about your feelings, not an attack on their mother.

Regularly discuss your concerns and experiences with your partner.

This doesn’t mean every conversation should revolve around your mother-in-law, but rather that you’re creating a safe space to share your thoughts and feelings when needed.

This practice will help prevent resentment from building up and keep misunderstandings at bay.

Ensure that both of you are on the same page regarding how to handle situations involving your mother-in-law.

Consistency is key, and a united front can often be more effective than individual efforts.

Develop strategies together on how to address her narcissistic behaviors and support each other in implementing them.

Mutual support is crucial in such situations.

Be there for each other emotionally and mentally. Understand that your partner may also be struggling with their mother’s behavior. Encourage each other, offer comfort, and stand as pillars of strength for one another.

By fostering transparent communication with your partner, you not only strengthen your bond but also equip yourselves better to handle the complexities of dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law.

narcissistic mother in law

3. Don’t Take It Personally

When dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law, it’s important to understand that her actions and words are driven by her own insecurities and not a reflection of your worth or character.

This understanding can help you avoid personalizing her behavior, which can be crucial for your mental and emotional well-being.

Narcissists often project their own insecurities onto others. This means that their criticisms, manipulations, or negative behaviors are more about themselves and their issues rather than about you or your actions.

Keeping this in mind can help you detach from the negativity and maintain your self-esteem.

Try not to internalize her words or actions. It’s natural to feel hurt or upset when someone behaves negatively towards you, but remember that her behavior is not a judgment of your worth.

You are not responsible for her actions nor do you have control over them.

Instead, focus on maintaining your own emotional balance.

When faced with her narcissistic behavior, remind yourself: “This is about her, not me.

Repeat it like a mantra if necessary, to help separate her actions from your self-worth.

Also, consider practicing empathy, not as a way to excuse her behavior, but as a tool to depersonalize it.

Understanding that her behavior comes from a place of insecurity can help you see that it’s less about you and more about her struggle with her own self-worth.

By reframing your perspective in this way, you can protect your mental and emotional health from the impact of her narcissistic behavior.

Remember, you have the right to respect and kindness, and her inability to provide that does not diminish your worth.

couple discussing

4. Seek Professional Help

Dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law can be an emotionally draining experience that may lead to significant stress and anxiety.

In such situations, seeking professional help can be a beneficial step towards managing the situation and maintaining your mental health.

Therapists and counselors are trained professionals who can provide valuable insights.

They can equip you with effective coping strategies tailored to your specific situation.

This could involve techniques for maintaining emotional distance, methods for assertive communication, or ways to reinforce your boundaries.

Professional help can also aid in processing your emotions and experiences.

A counselor or therapist can provide a safe, non-judgmental space for you to express your feelings and concerns.

They can help you navigate your emotions, reduce feelings of guilt or self-doubt, and bolster your self-esteem.

In some cases, couples therapy could prove beneficial.

It allows both you and your partner to work together under professional guidance to address the issues concerning your mother-in-law.

This collaborative approach can strengthen your bond, improve communication, and ensure a united front in dealing with her behavior.

bowen family systems therapy

5. Practice Self-Care

Handling a narcissistic mother-in-law can be an exhausting ordeal, often leaving you emotionally, mentally, and physically drained.

Amidst this, it’s crucial not to lose sight of your own well-being. Prioritizing self-care is not just beneficial, it’s necessary for preserving your overall health and maintaining your resilience.

Physically, ensure you are taking care of your body.

This means eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and ensuring adequate sleep.

These basic self-care practices play a significant role in maintaining your physical health and boosting your energy levels, enabling you to better handle stressful situations.

healthy food to boost dopamine

Emotionally, make time each day for activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

This could be reading a book, pursuing a hobby, spending time with friends, or simply enjoying a quiet moment alone.

These activities can serve as a mental escape from the stress and provide a much-needed boost to your mood and emotional health.

Mindfulness practices can be particularly beneficial in managing the mental strain caused by a narcissistic mother-in-law.

Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga can help reduce anxiety, improve your focus, and promote a sense of calm.

They allow you to stay present, rather than getting caught up in past conflicts or future worries.

Also, ensure to maintain your social connections outside the family.

Spending time with supportive friends or loved ones can provide a respite from the tension at home and remind you that there are positive relationships in your life.


6. Keep Your Distance

If your attempts to manage the situation prove ineffective, it might be necessary to consider limiting your interactions with your narcissistic mother-in-law.

While this may not be the most desirable solution, sometimes it’s the most effective way to safeguard your personal well-being and the health of your other relationships.

If direct interaction cannot be avoided, consider using the “grey rock” method.

This strategy involves providing minimal response to the narcissist’s attempts at engagement, thus making you uninteresting and discouraging further interaction.

Respond with neutral comments and avoid revealing personal information or feelings that could be used against you.

no contact

In extreme cases, going “no contact” might be necessary. This means completely cutting off all forms of communication with your mother-in-law.

While this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, it’s sometimes the only option left to ensure your emotional safety.

Remember, distancing yourself isn’t about punishing the narcissist but about taking care of your mental and emotional health. It’s okay to prioritize your well-being and the harmony of your immediate family over maintaining a difficult relationship

no contact

Final Thoughts on Dealing With A Narcissistic Mother-in-law

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 pales in comparison.

So instead of getting sucked into her manipulations, stay focused on what truly matters and ignore the questionable behaviour of your mother-in-law.

This will help to minimize her negative influence and keep your relationship safe from harm.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions about Dealing with a Narcissistic Mother in Law

How can I identify if my mother-in-law is narcissistic?

A narcissist often displays characteristics such as a sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, constant need for admiration, manipulative behavior, and disregard for others’ feelings. They may also be overly critical, competitive, or jealous.

How can I deal with a narcissistic mother-in-law?

Dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law can be challenging. Strategies include setting firm boundaries, avoiding confrontations, not taking their behavior personally, and seeking support from your spouse or a therapist.

Should I confront my narcissistic mother-in-law about her behavior?

Confrontation with a narcissist can often lead to more conflicts as they are likely to deny any wrongdoing and might even project the blame onto you. Instead, focus on setting boundaries and protecting your mental health.

How can I protect my children from a narcissistic grandmother?

Limiting your children’s exposure to negative behavior and explaining that grandma’s actions are not a reflection of their worth can help. It’s also important to provide a supportive environment where your children can express their feelings without fear of judgment.

How can I support my spouse who has a narcissistic mother?

Encourage open communication with your spouse about their feelings and experiences. Validate their emotions and offer emotional support. Suggest therapy or counseling if they’re open to it.

What if my narcissistic mother-in-law is causing problems in my marriage?

If your mother-in-law’s behavior is impacting your marriage, it may be helpful to seek couples counseling. Professional guidance can provide strategies to manage this complex relationship dynamic.

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