7 Toxic Traits of a Narcissistic Mother-in-Law (And How to Survive Them)

Did you know that if a man has a close relationship with his in-laws, the risk of divorce decreases by 20%? Yet if a woman has a close relationship with her in-laws, the risk of divorce goes up by 20%.

It’s obvious that your relationship with your in-laws can greatly affect the happiness of your marriage. And in normal circumstances, these relationships can have their ups and downs.

But if things are particularly bad, there may be something wrong. You might be starting to think: my narcissistic mother-in-law destroyed my marriage.

If this is the case, then read on. In this article, we’ll discuss 7 toxic traits and how to deal with a narcissistic mother-in-law effectively.

1. She’s Very Charming

This may seem like a good trait at first; after all, if she’s charming and you get along with her, that bodes well for the rest of your relationship!

But narcissists are very cunning and know what they’re doing. They’ll manipulate situations to their advantage so they can have ammo in the future.

For example, your mother-in-law may be extremely charming and agreeable toward you, which means you’ll trust her and let your guard down. You may end up confiding in her with some of your marriage troubles, thinking you’ll get a sympathetic ear.

But you have to realize that mothers will almost always be on their children’s sides, especially narcissists. What your MIL is doing, is actually gathering some intel she can use in the future.

You’ll soon realize this when she brings up those private details in public discussions or arguments. Or you may realize that your husband knows about things that you’ve only told your mother-in-law.

Knowing how to neutralize the effects of narcissistic abuse can make all the difference when it comes to your mother-in-law and your marriage. The next time your MIL lays on the charm, don’t take the bait and fall for the narcissistic mother-in-law games they play.

the narcissistic mother in law is very charming

2. She Needs Frequent Praise and Control

Narcissists are extremely self-involved, which means your mother-in-law may require frequent praise from everyone around her. Along the same line, she also expects everyone to acquiesce to her.

You may feel pressured to please your MIL, especially in the beginning, when you want to be accepted and loved by your husband’s family. But you may have noticed that if you fail to meet her expectations in just one area, she won’t hesitate to tell everyone what a bad daughter-in-law you are. She’ll probably also tell your husband what a bad wife you are as well.

If you and your husband don’t address this issue at the very beginning, this may cause the eventual deterioration of your marriage. He may feel like you’re not doing enough to please his mother, which can cause friction between the two of you.

Appeasing a narcissist’s behavior only makes things worse, as they’ll never be happy with what you offer them. Instead, they’ll demand more and more from you.

So even if you’re tempted to give in and do everything to try and please your MIL, you have to nip it in the bud. Communicate calmly and clearly to your spouse about their mother’s concerning behaviors and let them know you won’t play into it.

the narcissistic mother in law needs praise and control

3. She’s Nosy and Butts Into Your Marriage

Because she craves control, a narcissistic mother-in-law may also butt into your marriage. There’s a difference between offering helpful advice and trying to commandeer your partnership.

She may frequently come over unannounced, as well as be very intrusive and ask personal questions. The covert narcissistic mother-in-law will perform these actions subtly at first, but will eventually get pushier and pushier. This is because she’ll lull you into a false sense of security, and in the end, you’ll feel like you have no choice but to give her answers.

The best way to put control back in your hands is to set some boundaries. Limit the time you spend with your in-laws; for example, be firm about your MIL only coming over on certain days and for set periods of time.

You should also limit the information you give her; this is called an information diet.

the narcissistic mother in law is nosy and butts your marriage

4. She Lashes out at and Bullies You

Narcissistic people want to be the center of attention and believe that they have all the best qualities someone can have. So if someone nearby has characteristics or traits that forces them to see what they’re lacking in, they’ll lash out to feel better about themselves.

For instance, your overweight MIL may insult you for weighing too little. Your mother-in-law may especially be lashing out because she’s dealing with aging. So she may belittle you for minor physical imperfections just because you’re younger.

Most likely, you won’t be able to change her behavior. The best thing is to try and not take things personally and brush it off as narcissistic behavior. Limiting interactions with her by setting boundaries may work in reducing these instances as well.

the narcissistic mother in law is a bully

5. She Plays Favorites and Is Manipulative

Remember how we said earlier that narcissistic MILs need frequent praise and admiration? One way they achieve this is through playing favorites.

It may not be noticeable at first, but they may pit their children (or even grandchildren) against one another. For example, they may heap praises on one child while completely ignoring the others.

This may cause conflicts between the siblings. And in turn, this can make them fight hard for their mother’s affection. This feeds the narcissist’s ego, so it drives her to do it even more.

Narcissistic MILs may also pit their children’s spouses against one another, so don’t fall for this. Instead, you need to put on a united front with them. That way, you don’t let your mother-in-law’s poison your relationships in the family.

It may be hard to get in between a narcissistic mother-in-law and her children. But if you notice any of the above happening, you might want to bring it up to your spouse.

Many sons of narcissistic mothers-in-law already know this about their parents; they were raised by them, after all. But some may be oblivious, so it’s a good idea to bring this up to them. Once you do, you and your husband can be a united front instead of a split one.

the narcissistic mother in law is manipulative

6. She Tells Lies All the Time

One of the signs of a narcissistic mother-in-law is if she lies all the time. Narcissists will tell lies if it fits their narrative, which usually entails them being the victim. Being the victim garners them the most attention and sympathy, which is what they feed on.

A common technique narcissistic MILs use is gaslighting. She may have responses that have you questioning whether or not you’re remembering things right, especially when in front of other people.

She may also start spreading rumors about you in the community to turn people against you and favor her. In the worst cases, your mother-in-law may even tell lies about you to your own husband.

Don’t try to engage with her behavior, much less return the favor; stooping to her level will only make you look bad as well.

If possible, communicate with the community to let them know the truth, but do so in a succinct, calm, and rational manner. You don’t even have to give them personal details if you don’t want to. Just let them know the things said aren’t true and if anybody has any questions, they can contact you personally.

You should also communicate with your husband to let him know what his mother’s said is untrue. Adult sons of narcissistic mothers may initially side with their parent, but if there are enough trust and love in your relationship, he should trust your word over hers. Should he need proof, be prepared to offer it up.

the narcissistic mother in law lies all the time

7. She Disregards Your Opinion and Is Dismissive

Narcissists have an inflated sense of self, which means they’ll be pretty dismissive of people who they don’t like. They may seem to care about your opinion, but as soon as you give it, they’ll blatantly ignore it.

For instance, she may ask you what your favorite flowers are. If you tell her you’re actually allergic, she may actually bring a vase of flowers over on the next visit because she’s dismissive of your words.

If you ever have any major life accomplishments, she may also be dismissive of them. She’ll also probably try to one-up you in order to push you down and elevate herself.

In these cases, it’s best to detach yourself and again, try not to take it too personally. You’ll probably never be able to change your narcissistic mother-in-law’s behavior, so learning healthy ways to cope is the best option for you.

the narcissistic mother in law disregards your oppinion

Dealing With a Narcissistic Mother-in-Law Is Doable

For those of you who are thinking, “my mother-in-law is a narcissist,” it may feel like your marriage is on the verge of collapse at times. But with our helpful advice, hopefully, dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law is doable.

Whether it’s putting boundaries in place or going completely no-contact, you have to put your foot down when it comes to your narcissistic MIL. Otherwise, this may have a detrimental effect on your marriage and it can even end it.

Did you find this article on narcissistic mother-in-law traits helpful? Then you’ll want to take a look at our popular reads for more information on narcissism.

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  • I have the opposite problem. My daughter in law is a narcissist and queen of gaslighting. She has caused complete estrangement from my entire family for a decade. Mother’s day is always a challenge for my broken heart.
    Any advice would be welcome.

    • Then why are you looking at a site about narcissitic mother in laws? Go to a site about narcisstic daughter in laws and stop trying to get attention here.

    • You may want to examine if YOU are a bit narcissistic also. There may be a reason she doesn’t want to come around, especially if the general “opinion” is that she is worthless from a family she is not blood to. I know that is my story.
      I wish you peace though and hope you can get some enlightenment and healing for your whole family.

  • I have exactly the same problem so I truly sympathise with you. A good book to read is Done With Crying. It helped me a loy

  • Do you know my MIL?.I swear you were in my head. I’ve cut off all communication wirh my MIL and have limited contact with my other in-laws. My husband and I fight very little now. We’re much happier.

  • Oh gosh! I literally suffer a depression ever since I met that woman. She is manipulative, unpleasant, obsessed with looks, and with me, fake, and self absorbed. She takes advantage of us. She is also obsessed with her son, who she calls every 30 minutes and awkwardly occasionally touch on the thighs, which makes him very uncomfortable. Two weeks ago I decided to not visit her anymore. My mariage is suffering from all of this. I cannot stand that woman another day!

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