Dealing with a Narcissistic Mother-in-Law

Some tips and tricks for dealing with less-than-pleasant in-laws.

She boasts, she brags, she thinks she’s GREAT!
She goads, she nags, you’re feeling IRATE!
Intruding, competing, she makes you feel SMALL!
Deluding, defeating, she’s pushed you to the WALL!!
What do you do? You’ve “stolen” her SON!
What do you do? She’s still number ONE!

Our brains are naturally equipped with a fight, flight and freeze switch that activates when we’re faced with an enemy, a threat to our survival. The narcissistic mother-in-law can be a mighty button-pusher of our “red alert” system.
If you are dealing with one of them – welcome! You are now on the “emotionally endangered species” list. But don’t despair …

Here are some of the top tips for dealing with this difficult grand dame:

1. Empathy – understanding (not sympathy and not agreement), and an offer of some benefit of the doubt
2. Confrontation – holding her accountable by confronting unacceptable “performances”
3. Set Limits – making clear the line of demarcation – your space and hers
4. Clarify Expectations – best when you can anticipate potential glitches, but also helpful in the moment; being clear about who, what, when, where and how
5. Compromise – when it does not violate your fundamental values and rights
6. Collaboration – “we” statements are nonthreatening and allow you to model desired outcomes by taking responsibility when appropriate

Here are some examples:

Don’t: Counterattack!
No matter how pushy and intrusive she gets – this strategy gets you nowhere, and her sense of entitlement will flourishes. The narcissistic mother-in-law will only see you as angry, ungrateful or completely unreasonable. She will not hear the real message you are trying to communicate.

Instead of fighting back …

Do: Empathize, Confront, Set Limits and Clarify Expectations
This tip involves understanding, accountability and setting limits while setting and re-setting expectations clearly and firmly. She says, “I insist on inviting (all of her friends) so-and-so, and so-and-so to your housewarming party.” You say, “I know how important your friends are to you, but it is really our wish to keep our housewarming party small and limited to our closest friends and family members. I am grateful for all that you are doing to make this a nice event, but we prefer to manage the guest list. We appreciate your understanding and support, as this is important to us.”

Don’t: Avoid!
No matter how much she brags about herself, butts into your life or belittles you as she competes for her son’s attention and approval, avoiding her will only cause you more internal stress, create conflict with your spouse and enable her to be off the hook for her inappropriate behavior.

Instead of hiding under the covers …

Do: Empathize, Confront, Set Limits and Compromise
This tip involves understanding, accountability and setting limits while proposing options for reasonable negotiation. She says (with a wry smile and a chuckle), “You certainly try hard, sweetie, but you know how much my son (your husband) prefers my turkey stuffing. I guess I was just born with that special touch; ‘some kind of magic’ is what I believe John might call my cooking. How about I just sprinkle my magic on the whole dinner this time around?” You say, “Yes, John has always spoken highly of your cooking, and I know how much you enjoy your reputation (tiny zinger). I also know that your intention is not to put me down but to feel a little closer to your son. I have to tell you, though, that your way of saying it can sometimes feel a bit off-putting. I am really fine with preparing the meal this holiday and plan to do so, and I would certainly appreciate you contributing any dish that you like.”

Don’t: Give In!
No matter how hard she tries to mettle in your relationship – decisions about parenting your children, vacations, career moves, home purchases, home decorating (yikes!), caving in will only lead to potentially intense levels of resentment, feeling subjugated, and a serious loss of marital and individual autonomy.

Instead of surrendering …

Do: Empathize, Confront, Set Limits, Collaborate and Hold Your Ground
This tip involves understanding, accountability, setting limits and taking responsibility while not abandoning your own fundamental nonnegotiable values and lifestyle choices. She says, “No child of mine would ever be allowed to … I think the children should have a bedtime of … The sofa should be on the far wall … Red will never work in this room … Interest rates are a bit high now … This is not the best time to invest … Why Italy? … The best time for traveling in Europe is …” (AGHHH!) Take a deep breath and say, “While I appreciate your concern for us, as I know this is what prompts your very strong, and perhaps even wise, opinions, we can only factor them in as suggestions, as we need to make these decisions on our own. Sometimes the style with which you offer your ideas can be offending and a bit dismissive of my needs, and I really want to feel good about our relationship, so it would be great if we made a pact to pay very careful attention to our mutual styles of communication – I am sure that I am not always as thoughtful as I could be.”

Wendy T. Behary is the author of Disarming the Narcissist … Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed


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40 thoughts on “Dealing with a Narcissistic Mother-in-Law

  1. crazybeachcat says:

    I really don't mean to be disrespectful, but I don't think I could disagree more with this entire article. This is ridiculous. So when my mother-in-law was calling my sister and telling her I'm an unfit mother, when she was having divorce lawyers call my husband's (her son) cell phone, when she was making up the most unbelievable, disgusting lies about me, I should have just empathized? I should have just tried to set boundaries and compromise with her? Have you ever even met a narcissist? Seriously, have you? Have you ever had to deal with a narcissist so determined to ruin your entire life that she would go to any lengths she could possibly think of, create horrible stories about you, try to turn not only your husband against you, but also you own parents and sister???

    You can't set limits or boundaries with a narcissist. You can't hold her accountable…she is incapable of this and doesn't have a clue what it means to do that. You can't clarify expectations–SHE DOESN'T CARE WHAT YOU WANT OR NEED. As for compromise…are you kidding me? And don't give in, really? That contradicts everything else you're saying. If you don't give in then you will endure the wrath of hell.

    And FYI, every example you gave of ways to respond to her would set a narcissist off. Every single one. Your article is irresponsible and I have no idea how on God's green earth you could have ever written a book about "Disarming the Narcissist." You can't survive and thrive WITH the self-absorbed, you can only run like hell and pray that they find another victim.

    I really would love to know what personal experience you have ever had with a narcissist.

    1. Sue says:

      I agree with you 150%!!!!!!!!
      These people don't care about our feelings….thanks for speaking what is on most of our minds

    2. Missy says:

      I agree with you 100%. This article couldn't be more wrong and it is dangerous advice this author is giving. These people are out to destroy you and your life and will if given the kind of permission granted in this article. I am so tired of people, including 'experts' talking about something they completely do not understand. People in this situation need swift guidance. And the only way is no contact with these people once they've fixed their laser on you.

  2. SassySandy says:

    I have to say I agree with Crazybeachcat. My Mom in Law AND my Mother are both narcissistic. They have each put me through hell for 30 years. I finally "cut the cord" on both of them. I cannot be anyone's scapegoat any longer. These women are extremely mean & vindictive. There's no unconditional love or any love at all.

    1. Suzan says:

      YES! 40 yrs. here with MIL. No. I don't feel ashamed. I feel…..FREE. Some people just don't have the mindfulness to really listen and actually care! Time to move on. Took art work off my foyer wall on her way out. I protested saying.. ..'but you gave that to me'……'mil.' Oh….I'll give it back and took it home and put in on her dining room wall. No. Some people just don't 'get it'. I could write a book. NO one has held her accountable in this family except me. ..the D.in law. ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Family scapegoat……DONE.

  3. wifetobe says:

    I agree with both of the above comments. it’s difficult to really understand how it works until you are in the situation. But the key is that you are just one person of a whole string of people whose lives she has made miserable. You will never change her so it is totally futile. I mean it – there is no hope in changing someone like this as it’s a basic part of thier personality. The trick I use is that every time I think about trying to develop a relationship with her is that I think about the story she told about when she was first out the door of an old age home where she worked when the fire alarm went off without even the slightest thought of helping anyone else. She thought it was funny. I think this is indicative of the entire basis of her personality and she truly is missing empathy for other people. The only way to handle it is to get as far away from her as possible and when you have to be around her, daydream a bit about all the things you love about life and who you are and how much you love the things you do. It’a best just to really make sure that you have hobbies, interests and friends and a full life so that you are too busy for her to wedge her way into it. It’s the only way.

  4. dragonflyus says:

    I also agree pretty much with the above comments. I have dealt with a Narcissistic Mother-in-law and her daughter, who is even worse than her mother ever was. I have gone through 34 years of marriage dealing with this soul destroying issue. These people think they can walk all over you, belittle you, bring you down and and basically destroy every shred of self esteem you ever had. I have even been accused of having no class, by my brother in law, who said this in an attempt to gain points from his pathetically self absorbed, and downright nasty and completely ruthless wife. I could actutally write a book about my years of dealing with this problem. I have searched and searched for answers to dealing with it, and constantly come across bad advice, such as is written in the article here. I am in a position now, where I have decided to have as little to do with this witch as possible. I don’t stop my husband from communicating with her, however I have made it very clear to him, in no uncertain terms, how I feel. If that is bad, then I’m sorry. Like you all, I think this Author has never had to deal with this problem on a personal basis. Good luck to you all, my heart goes out to each and every one of you.

  5. lilbit says:

    I agree with all the comments above. I mean if I give that witch one more inch she would take my face off..
    I think because you really cant win just tell her the reason WHYyou sont wanther in your life and do NO CONTACT

  6. khmersrey says:

    I agree that this article is way off base! " These people think they can walk all over you, belittle you, bring you down and and basically destroy every shred of self esteem you ever. " My mother-in-law-from hell is like this. Just because she gave us $80k for our house, she feels that she has license to just show up whenever she wants and stay for weeks. She goes through my personal items and throws out things. Digs up my garden and replaces my plants with hers. Take my children's toys and gives it to her friend's kids because she says that my children have too much. All the while my husband who I have been with for 12 years doesn't have my back and just tells me that until I pay her back that I should just shut up and "learn my place". How does one deal with a monster like that when their own husband won't cut the cord. I have followed that line of crap this article has shelled out for 12 years and now after working 40 hours a week, taking care of everything in the house including mowing the lawn, going to school at night, gaining 80 pounds, etc..I am tired now. MY mother in law is like a cancer in my system and the worst part is, is that my daughter's get to watch me dies slowly while my mother in law reaps her rewards. I may not be the best and brightest person but I know that no one deserves to be treated like this.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I have a mother in law that doesn't give a rats behind about what I say. I have tried the "nice" thing and it hasn't worked. I'm in a terrible position because she has lived with me for the third time now and has no where else to go. She retired early and she does pay "rent" which is a very small amount to cover her food costs and she thinks she owns part of my home. What's worse is that she uses my husband as a surrogate spouse and is very clingy. My husband has told her that we have our own family now and that if she has an issue with me and cannot talk to me about the issue that she can come tell him and he will talk to me about her issues with me. Do you think that helped? NO! Now when she wants to complain about me she goes to my 16 yr old daughter who in turn comes to me and lets me know that her grandmother is saying or doing things she shouldn't be doing…like telling my 5 year old daughter not to tell me when my dog bites her because then I will have him locked in a cage and killed….I mean…what kind of person does that to a 5 year old. That is teaching my kids not to come to me because they fear I will do something to harm their pet. Which by the way, I never said. Only stated that if she did not stop babying the dog and keeping him from the kids so that he is getting aggressive with them, that I would give him to someone without kids to bite. I'm at a loss. I have told her, my husband has told her, and now she is doing stuff like this to my babies….Do you have any advice on how to deal with a NMIL that lives with you and not only lies to your face but is now poisoning the minds of your children against you as well??

  7. cb1281 says:

    I liked this article. The point is to DISARM the narcissist. Yes, you will never change them, and you have to realize that. What you are doing by following these tips is helping YOURSELF. If you don't give them any ammunition, they can't fight back. I have to constantly remind myself of that.

    1. anon says:

      Understand, but the narcissist is probably a LOT cleverer than you… she has many years of experience in manipulating, undermining and other nasty behaviours.

      The only "ammunition" you give them is being there – you're the unfortunate sucker she's honing in on. It's not even personal. They move on to someone else when they get bored or found out.

    2. Missy says:

      You can't disarm the narcissist. Not once they have it in for you or have something they want.

  8. JackalHunt says:

    I feel better knowing I am not the only one with a complete two faced, backstabbing, Miss Perfect, nagging, self absorbed, manipulative mother in law. And that was being nice.
    So far my favorite memory of her the last 10 years is her blowing off our children at Christmas this year – didn’t invite us over, didn’t send a card, nothing for the kids (she lives 1 mile away.) Oh, but thats my fault as I didn’t do the shopping for her like I usually do……and her using my 10 year old daughter as her slave then making fun of her hair. Anyway, doesn’t sound so bad as I’m typing, but she’s a narc and sadistic person.
    Finally confronted her after me being extremely nice to her all these years and she called me names and lost it. I love how she makes things up and lies.
    Ahhhh….I’m soooo lucky to have the broad around! I wish she would have kept up her smoking habit. Maybe I’d have seen 5-10 years less of her.

  9. Emily291 says:

    Wifetobe I love your advice, it’s greatly needed in my situation.

  10. Two- worlds says:

    The greatest definds that you cn have againt a narrcissist mother in las is to confront them with facts (face to face). My hate to be confronted. I would havegot the lawyers and her together face to face in stick to the facts.
    Narrcissist mother in law understand a whole lots of talking if you want to aruge with her. Don’t let her suck you into her world. Be Blunt and stick with the facts.
    You can set limits.
    My mother in law was opening up my mail. I looked her straight, “Since you opened up my mail, I will be opened up your mail”. She had a blake look on her face. For one year she left my mail along. The following year, she opened my mail and I opened her. She never oened my mail again.
    They have on going problems. They hate when you said, “What are you going to do about it”
    They really believed that you the fix it person. They scout for good people. People who are close to them in up with bad hearts.
    Mother, Father, Grandmother,Mother in law are all Narrcissist. Believe me I;m not run, and I know who I am. I know both worlds.

  11. angeleyes13 says:

    I thought the same thing about this article… Here I was looking for advice on how to deal with my narcissistic mother in law, and the article was telling me everything that would set her off! My biggest problem is that I suffer from being a people pleaser. I surch for affirmation from the people I love. You can ony imagine my pain as I am constinately surching for approval from a narcissistic mother in law! I have finally come to terms with the fact that she will find fault with me even if there is no cause and their is nothing I can do to please her. I am done surching for her approval and worring if she is mad at me. I have given up the fight and realize there is no one or nothing in the world that can please her. When she starts to bring up how wonderful she is I quickly change the subject, when she tries to tear me down I tell her I have things I have to do and get off the phone as quickly as possible. The article says don’t avoid, but sometimes that is the only way to get peace. I am done making appologies, I am done kissing butt, I AM DONE!

  12. Suzcapri says:

    I have to tell folks what I did to deal with my fiance’s narcissistic mother. She has tried to control everything and I recall her saying one time “he always needed a little more attention and help.” I knew right then what I was dealing with. At first wheenver we visited, she would bring up all the “gorgeous” women from the past “he could have had.” So, I would always say “as opposed to a lovely woman such as me who, I might add has a college degree and makes excellent money, wow, now he has it all!” I find making comments about how great our life is just shuts her right up! Then, each time she has one of her rude fits, talking about his old “conquests” or, how about her friends who think he’s a babe, or, how well endowed he is, finally, he called her after an event where I left when she discussed inappropriate body parts, and he said “you talk about anything like that again and we will say soemthing in front of everyone and leave!” her other adult sons and the wives know she is nuts. So, my fiance and I bought a house together. His mom talked continuously about “if you need any help decorating,” or would say “my son’s new home,” (important to note we bought it together), and “my son like plants so I am going to give you my plants.” So, I told him that she was not to be informed or involved in any of the new house stuff and we would not have one single thing from her in the house! On moving day, his female cousin was helping and she said “why aren’t his parents helping,” so I responded knowing she would tell everyone, of course, “well, it is our house and your aunt tends to be too overbearing and really doesn’t seem to understand that she is not his wife or fiance. This is our house and my fiance and I control it, so, it’s easier to not have her around.” So, the cousin stopped off at my finace’s house on the way and she followed her to my new home. The minute I saw her I said to my fiance, get rid of her. He tried to give in and said “she should help” and I said “we agreed absolutely not, she has to learn boundaries(he’s a semi-narc due to her teenage mothe abuse to him).
    At first when I met her, I wanted to be nice, to have her like me, etc, but as soon as I figured out she was a narcissist and didn’t mature past about age 15, I didn’t give a sh&* any more and I assert myself now and as I have found, she is extremely jealous of me. I have a degree, work in a professional job, have a bright and accomplished daughter, and, I now jump on the mother immediately whenever her narc stuff emerges. It actually feels great! Every time she sees us she brings out some of the junk she collects seems to be OCD too), and offers it and we both say “no thanks we have all we need.” The funny part about a narcissist is that she seems not very bright as she will call to ask for things for other family members, such as our furniture. When we moved, I got rid of all my old krap and wanted new stuff, so, she actually came over and took a bunch of my krappy old scuffed uop furniture! We couldn’t beleive it as she has a house and also a mother-in-law apartment, all full of krap! Then, her neice had a baby and moved, and the mother keeps calling us asking for our nice furniture. I told my fiance “give her nothing.” He finally seems happy because he can trust me and we together can defeat her, obviously a long problem in his life. He admitted that each time he had a relationship, she interferred. He has a child from a one-nighter 18 years ago adn the mother of the child is an alcoholic. It turns out his mother introduced him and so I said to her when she was discussing this at a family gathering in front of everyone, “Well, isn’t it nice that you knew that woman was a severe alcoholic, yet you set her up with your son, wow!” Also, at family events, she tries to get everyone to play cards and wanted gamenight each Sunday. I told my fiance no way and Sunday we are home having dinner! I always refuse to play games, so now, all the family members who hated it also refuse! I told my fiance, gee, I am glad someone has some balls around here!

  13. Suzcapri says:

    …How I am ignoring her battle and finding that works, and, enjoying it!!!
    Setting limits and not being available are key. I ignore her whenever needed and, yes, stick to the facts and point out when she is being mean and unempathetic each and every time no matter where we are. She really doesn’t seem to know and is embarrassed when her cruelty and take advantage type of personality is pointed out and she realizes it. For example, she & her husband asked to keep their huge RV at our house for a get together they were having for more parking. I agreed. Three days later, when I asked when it would be picked up, my husband said “well, I have no problem with them leaving it longer.” Because I realized she is trying to wrest control of even our home and she thinks it is a part of her, and I’ve already watched the past two years of this narc mom trying to control all and totally unsuccessfully as I won’t allow it in my home, I said “heck no, remind them we only agreed for the party and tell them to get it right away.” I realized that within a month of moving closer to them she was extending her “borders” to my home! So I told my husband to tell her “gee, only a month and already you are being rude and insensitive, so, we won’t tolerate it,” which he did!!!
    The narc mother in law told my husband “well, we will never keep anything there again,” and he said “awesome, we can’t allow you to anyway because you can’t use basic common sense to be respectful of our lives!”

  14. sevensigns says:

    If you read any respected psychology book on this issue, they will recommend pretty much the OPPOSITE of what this article suggests. Never empathize with a narcissist. It will only make you feel worse and them feel more like they are the only valuable person in the universe. You may -sympathize- with them, telling them reassuring words – but bringing in their toxic emotions will only make you toxic!! The biggest mistake you can EVER make is to think that the narcissist ever feels any empathy for you or will ever change.

    Trust me, I went through a long agonizing trial with my mother-in-law thinking that maybe if I could show her the light, she would start BEING a nice person instead of just always SAYING she’s nice. (And saying how wonderful of a mom she was and is to my husband, not to mention her poor 18 year old son who lives with her in the basement, has no door to his room, absolutely no friends and no education – he was “home schooled”, which means he plays video games all day… He leaves the house once every six months for probably thirty minutes max, no exaggeration).

    Never confront a narcissist either. Never reveal any weakness in yourself. They will use both of these things to prove how “horrible” you are to them and they will find any and every way to use your weakness against you.

    If you feel like you might be the crazy one, rest assured, they will use every tactic in the book to guilt trip you into thinking you’re just mean. Don’t be fooled by their “poor me” attitude with their “how could you say that??” “If you loved me you would…” “After all I’ve done for you!” Narcissists love to bait you into accepting a “gift” from them…so they can hold it over you forever. Sometimes they drop these gifts on you without even asking you if you wanted anything (like randomly sweeping the floor), and then expect something in return (mostly praise, admiration, worship, and to listen to them monologue for thirty minutes straight about how great they are and also how picked on they were their whole life) for something you never wanted in the first place.

    Best advice: Get as far away from them as possible. Most of these cases it is hard, but definitely do not think you will ever change them.

    This article might work if your MIL is just “mean” and not really a “Narcissist”, otherwise, no.

  15. cinders says:

    I agree w/ most comments above. This approach would backfire completely. I have a feeling that most of the poor women responding are in my shoes. Let things slide, making peace, apologizing to her for what? Who cares just let it be over…right? MAYBE this is why this would fail for so many of us. She got away with it for too long.
    My narcissistic mother-in-law started on me (or I realized it started) when I married her son. We were married out of state. This infuriated her. She could not invite her “friends” (she has no true friends) and show off. PLUS she was told a flat out NO we will not get married here. NO ONE TELLS HER NO. She told every member of her family & friends NOT to buy us a wedding present, send money…nothing. Because: “If they were married in a church, then they could expect gifts.” On a beach, not a real wedding??
    The running joke is to get on her “hate train” or get hit by it. I am in no way her first victim. BUT I am her favorite.
    Now that we have children she uses them as well.
    when I first got pregnant it was: YOU need to use this kind of diaper, bottle, pacifier, how much weight did you gain THIS WEEK, “my God you look huge”. Never, ever in front of my husband.
    After our children were born , we moved out of state. She cut my husband & children out of her life for moving, OH and b/c he was married to me.
    She refused to send Christmas gifts for our children stating flat out: If they lived near me I would. BUT all the while claiming no one loves them more. When it came time to name my son she demanded he be named after my husband. We refused. This fit lasted for weeks until she finally told me she did not like the name we picked and would be coming up with her OWN NAME FOR HIM! what?? I am serious! She would name him, our son! This same son was in the hospital for 2 week @ 6 months of age. Her husband offered to fly her down to be with us. Nope. “if they need or want help or family around them, then they should not have moved”. How do we know she said this? We called from our son’s hospital room to give her an update. He might need a blood transfusion in the morning. “oh Okay, by the way…..” she told us. Saw absolutely nothing wrong with it, any of it. Used our 6 month old son to take a shot at us for moving. You can imagine standing there looking down at your baby listening to that crazy b1tch on the other end of the line. She could care less. That was when I truly realized she had some serious problems.
    Like most victims you are left so bewildered. Huh? what just happened? did I hear that right? Wait a minute… No you heard right. You are worthless, she is perfect. You are not a good enough wife, mother, daughter in law, person. Your house choice- wrong. decor- wrong. Hair color-wrong. Clothes- wrong. Career-wrong. I will quote ” I can’t believe you are sending MY GRANDCHILD off to be raised by someone else!” (I was planning to work part time.) THEN once I decided to be a stay at home mom, she questioned every penny I spent. “Is it Okay with MY SON that you go get a pedicure?” Me: “What? it’s $25.00. Of course he doesn’t mind.” ” Well, after all, you aren’t working”. Which way do you want it? ship my child off to be raised by someone else or stay at home and spend your poor, bewitched son’s every dime?
    It was, and still is never ending. She will stop at nothing. She lies all the time. Even when you tell her…no that was not what happened, you said & did X Y& Z. The answer is the same ” How dare you think of me that way. I didn’t mean it like that. I would NEVER!” Yeah, but you did. There are no apologies, never an admission of wrong doing. If you bust her you are lying, even if the conversation was between the two of you, no one else. WHAT? There have been a few times I questioned my own sanity. Went to see someone. No, she’s a narcissist. I am her victim.
    I can only say to this article…. your mother in law must only have tendencies. b/c your suggestions would send her into a rage. Just one of the “little corrections” the wrath would last a year. No one corrects, even gently, this woman. She does NO WRONG!

  16. teency says:

    I have a narcissistic mother-in-law to be. This woman has manipulated her adult kids life so much. I’ve only been in the family for about 5 years, but I can already see the damage she’s done. My fiance is so devoted to her it’s scary. He makes dinner for her every Sunday and Thursday night. He leaves our house to go do this for her. Never has she said, “honey, you have a fiance now…you don’t need to do this all the time”. She talks bad about all her kids ex’s and current spouses,so I know she talks about me too. She is the meanest most miserable person I know. It’s making me have 2nd thoughts about marrying her son because he’s so freakin in the dark about her. Advice needed, please!!!

  17. LookCloser says:

    Dear Teency – My advice to you is to take a long hard look at yourself and ask why you are attracted to your fiance. If he is the son of a narcissistic mother who still has her claws in him so deeply, then he is just an extension of her – and he, like his mother, is also incapable of empathy and true love. It is likely that he also has serious identity and self-esteem issues as well. He was robbed not only of his own personal identity, but maybe even his gender identity also (since he has been raised to provide service the queen, he may also have adopted many of her "female" mannerisms). How do I know this? Well, after 18 years of marriage to a puppet who was raised by a supreme narcissist, I strongly caution you not to get involved. I too loved my husband, but after all these years of dealing with all his serious emotional damage, his poor self-image (or no self image), his inability to make decisions, his inability to have healthy relationships with friends, his complete failure as a role model for our sons (he is more like a ghost), I have made the decision to get out of this very unhealthy situation. Deep down, I think he wants to be a pampered queen, just like his mother and has no idea what it means to be 'male.' I stopped talking to my Super N mother-in-law several years ago – out of self preservation (and after she sent us certified legal documents to 'disown' her son if he joined me overseas in Africa for a one-year job assignment) and have had hundreds of hours of conversations with my husband about his problems and how his N mother is (likely – HA!) the cause of much of them…. but, to no avail. He is her life-long slave, her reflection and he is trapped in her mirror. Don't get involved with a sick family like this. Go to therapy. Figure out what is driving you to be attracted to a man like this. Start your healing journey today and save yourself years of misery and anguish… And most of all, trust your instincts. If something doesn't seem quite right about him and the way he interacts with his mom or others, then don't be afraid to just go with that innner feeling and move on. Best of luck.

    1. anon says:

      Now that is interesting… my husband has a hideous narc mother and sister – and he also has gender identity issues. He's depressed and also not very interested in friends. We don't have kids.

      But he is loving to me, and we moved away from his narc family. Will probably move back home when his mother passes.

  18. happy2befree says:

    What is the point in dealing with Narcissitic relatives of any kind. They have a conditonal love that is hurtful-akin to emotional murder. We recently cut ties after 21 years of attempting to have normal– in every family time or encounter there was some type of criticism, or emotional drama or unconditional love. Husband is military and his mom never called him one time in a year during deployment.A previous deployment she called within 30minutes of his return to say she had serious illness. She then didn’t call him when he returned home this time. Guess she is still mad he set boundaries and no longer puts her on a pedestal. It didn’t hurt me except for seeing how it saddened my husband to realize that his mother doesn’t love him unconditionally. Narcissist are sad, pathetic, emotionally stunted people who can cause alot of abuse. Run as fast as you can…. sad to say, but that is what is best. We tried all the things suggested in the article…they didn’t work for us. They are abusive. Narcissist eat destroy their own. If someone loves you then there is honesty, respect, negotiation,healthy boundaries, forgiveness.Cut ties with the narcissist-enjoy your spouse, kids, the family God gives you (not the woman he was born to)we have an “adopted” mother in law/father in law. Create your own beautiful life and just walk away and into freedom.

  19. AndreasEcon says:

    To everyone that wrote before me re: the narcisstic MIL …your advice is wanted!

    I read your postings on Betty Confidential and could really relate to many, many of the things with which you’ve had to deal. I am not sure of how to deal with my current situation with my NPD Mother-in-law.

    Do any of you have any tips for staying sane and keeping a MIL with NPD in the life of our family unit? I am a Christian and ex-chaplain and am really struggling with our family’s current situation. Ironically, I have worked as a chaplain in assisted living residences and hospitals throughout the eastern United States and am aware of many of the issues that families face regarding aging, death, dying etc.m but I have never dealt with a personality like my MIL, who is a senior citizen.

    About 3 years into our marriage, I figured out that something either than depression, was wrong with my MIL. So, thinking that there was a problem to be addressed for the family, I prompted my husband to go along to family counseling sessions with my MIL and the two of us. I did not realize until latter and long after the counseling sessions had stopped with the MIL and talking with a relative of hers that my MIL was a narcissist.

    About 8 years or so, I stopped visiting my MIL with my Husband and Daughter (then 3+ yrs. old). This was done, after seeking out the help of both secular and pastoral counselors for both my Husband and myself. Our Daughter stopped having visits with her Grandmother when she was about 3.5 or so because these visits resulted in my MIL’s telling our daughter things like, “If you don’t like something your parents tell you to do, come and see me, and I will take care of them.”

    My MIL is now 94 yrs. old and is still trying to control my Husband and various members of our family through a Trust Fund that she set up which states that my Husband and I either have to be divorced or I have to be dead before she dies in order for her son to receive anything that’s left over. Her brother, who will be the Trustee of the estate if those terms aren’t met, has bought into her rewritten version of my treatment of her. (I am the person who is “bad” for her Son and has “too much of an influence” over him.) She had this Trust drawn up over five years ago and signed my FIL’s name to this document; my FIL had Alzheimer’s Disease and, I am sure, would have never agreed to have his Will changed through this kind of Trust. This Trust states that if she comes to a point in life in which she becomes incapable of making decisions that her brother (who is 90 yrs. old and lives 300+ miles from her) will become the person that executes her Trust fund.

    My Husband, who has learned to set boundaries with his mother since we’ve been married (13 plus years), is her only child. I think and feel that she is punishing her son because he has learned to set these boundaries. Her punishment of him has been done with me as an excuse in a way that she can rationalize is socially acceptable and even admirable to those that are not aware of the enormous amount of time and energy that both my Husband and I have spent during the last 13 years trying to placate her and to address her “needs”. She says that she drew up the Trust in order to protect both my Husband and Daughter from me and that this was somehow supposed to prevent me from divorcing him!). It’s sort of the thinking of, “Now, son, your Mother will protect you from the horrible person that you’ve decided to marry and I am going to do this for your own good … without consulting you … without asking you how this will affect you … without asking you if this is something that will be good for you.”

    In addition, my MIL, designated my Husband as her Power of Attorney for health care issues without consulting him. In other words, she wanted him to make health care decisions, but, at the same time was not willing to give him access to her funds to pay for any medical services rendered. Because of this, in writing, he refused to assume her Power of Attorney for her healthcare issues.

    Anyway, my narcisstic MIL has had a number of health problems during the last year or so. My Husband refused, during the last episode, to take her home from the hospital. He said that he was angry at her for putting him in a position in which he was unable to help her; that he could not take care of her medical concerns without direct access to her money to pay for these procedures.

    I concur with my Husband’s thinking … but I have seen too many folks die without any family members around and am not comfortable with seeing anyone, much less my Husband’s mother, in this position … but neither am I comfortable with putting myself and my family on the chopping block for further abuse from her.

    Any positive suggestions would be appreciated.

    And yes … I’ve already asked my Husband to go to an impartial therapist that can help him with his own issues.

  20. daughterinlaw says:

    Hi,
    Both of my in-laws are narcissists. I put up with them for 12 years, and them went no contact with the help of a therapist.

    3+ years later, narcissist mother-in-law e-mails me 2 days before Christmas to invite me to join their family and could we get past the “misunderstandings”. I didn’t go, and suggested we talk after the holidays. Prior to going no contact I did discuss with her some examples of things they’ve done that I found very offensive. She took no responsibility, blamed it ALL on her husband and said I “misunderstood”. When I questioned those replies, the explanations made no sense.

    I think I know the answer to this, but I was acutally considering having something to do with them “on occasion”, but I think after reading the posts, and also my list of greivances with them, I would be foolish to do so. She doesn’t or can’t acknowledge any wrong doing, and has never apologized. And I think it’s more clear to me that she won’t change because of her disorder.
    Any opinions? I made the cut several years ago and should just stick with it? Because the reality is that everything about them is selfish, but heavily cloaked as “very family oriented, loving, AND religious people”.

    Thanks!

  21. notalone says:

    OMG! Narcissists are the worst ppl n the world. And dealing with a Narcissists Mother N Law is the worst. I have to say my husband and sister n law don’t co-sign her crap so it makes it a little easier. It’s still difficult. NO CONTACT. NO CONTACT. NO CONTACT. I told my husband, and Thank God He said” I KNOW SHE DROVE YOU NUTS” What a relief .. Good Luck.

  22. RuthieK says:

    Oh wow! This article does not answer a thing. I work with personalities all day long. Everything above and more has been attempted on my mother in law. 20 years later, we’ve now decided mutually she is far too mentally ill to remain in our lives in any manner. I’ve been gracious, kind, understanding, nothing but empathy pours out of my skin (my husband has seen my loving grace and empathy 1000′s of times over) with ever degrading, demeaning hurtful purposely mean comment, lie, exaggeration, drama, chaos. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked away or yes, stood my ground and very politely laid out the way it will be, not the way she expects.

    We’ve lived a 20 hour drive from her for almost 3 years. After ‘recording’ many conversations, we took it to one of the best Psychologists in Texas and let him listen, in hopes he could have an answer we have not attempted.

    He firmly stated to cut her out completely. Her tactics were terroristic level style attacks, abusive to the core. He asked why would we ever consider someone so incredibly abusive in our lives, around our children? He’s heard many stories over the years and these phone calls shocked him! How do you shock someone so skilled with 30+ years of experience?

    Simply listen to my MIL and how we respond in return. No matter what was said, how it was said, the comeback was pain-filled and deep!

    Now that the cut-out happened, she’s successfully solicited many a family member to attack us. Nothing is working, we are refusing to respond at all costs. All letters are returned, our phone number changed (days ago finally) and we’re thankful to be living where we are. Her response, attacks and insanity because of the ‘cut out’ show what lengths she will go to maintain the control.

    If we were anywhere near her, I would fear for my life with all that continues to go on.

    No way, you cannot negotiate ever with a true narrcissist. I’m very thankful my marriage survived in the face of such level of evilness.

    Run. Run. Anyone reading this. RUN!!

  23. dolalee says:

    RuthieK is 100% correct. The advice in this article will NEVER work with a true narcissist. They feed off of any attention you give them. The only thing you can do to protect yourself and maintain peace of mind is to avoid them at any cost. A narcissist is perfectly happy being hated, empathized with, accommodated, and is delighted if you have paid enough attention, or thought enough about them, to define boundaries for them. They will create more situations that need boundaries if they see this gives them any attention at all. It only feeds them what they desire. If you are dealing with a true narcissistic mother-in-law, the only way to save yourself is to eliminate them from any and all interaction with you.

  24. Mark1981 says:

    Yes, I agree with the majority of the above posters that this author lacks basic understanding of NPD. Again, with narcissists you are walking on egg shells and the advice here will set off a true narcissist! Remember, it is very difficult to get narcissists into therapy and even then therapy does not improve the vast majority of narcissists. You can’t reason with anybody who lacks empathy and understanding of the needs of others.

    All of this being said, many narcissists do respond well in the short term to physically tangible offerings such as fixing things in the house, washing a car, cleaning up the yard, receiving gifts, etc.
    But if you are looking to compromise or have any sort of emotional connection with someone who has NPD it just is not going to happen.

  25. momma2bubbas says:

    I have a N MIL and FIL. I have not spoken to or contacted in any way them in over 4 years. They have not contacted me either– and only my husband 2 or three times- only his father. No communication comes through the mother in law. My husband has only sent them birthday cards. They still send my kids birthday and Christmas presents and it irks me to no end. I told my husband I do not want to accept them, but he doesn’t agree. He figures “it’s money’ so take it. We cant win naturally; if we send the gift back , it adds to them being ‘victims’. If we accept the $$, they can say ‘we sent them gifts and they still don’t talk to us’. I have had a resurgence of ‘guilt’ lately due to a gift they sent this month to my son, who has not seen them since he was 4. My kids don’t know them. I am terrified of them being exposed to them But at the same time, they are the kids’ grandparents. My own mother said all this will come back to bite me–if they don’t know the kids.I resent her a bit for saying that.
    I am seeing SOME characteristics of the N’s in my husband as well, and it is FREAKING me out. My own father is an N (lucky me) and I just feel helpless and surrounded by N’s! I only see my dad 3-5 times a year at best. My mother is his puppet, so she doesn’t acknowledge his ways at all. If I thought I could take the above advice, I would , but I can’t see myself talking that way. It is stressful to me to have to speak in a certain contrived way to these people who don’t give a rat’s arse except that they no longer have their son’s N Supply. The whole situation sucks and even my brother and sister in law dont speak to us. ~ Sad & Disillusioned in LA.

  26. IMSTILLSTANDING says:

    crazybeachcat AMEN! No Disrespect either! What you wrote was wonderful! I don’t know how someone who hasn’t been through it can write a book! I am in the process of writing one and you are so very right crazybeachcat! YOU RUN! My EX MONSTER IN LAW & My Mother including my EX are all Narcissists. I haven’t spoken to my children in 2 & 1/2 years now. She tore my family apart with my ex and she kept on going with my family and now my children. I tried to kill myself several times over what she has done! My Ex was the “GOLDEN CHILD” He could do no wrong even thou he physically hurt me. Had sex with all my friends. I had many abortions from him trying to get away from him and her. Although running home wasn’t an option. When I finally had no choice. I went from the frying pan into the fire! Then my mother and she plotted. They tried to have me put into a mental hospital. Stating that I was sick. I was!!!!! I just didn’t know what was happening. I have searched and searched for the answer. I finally got into counseling and my counselor started putting names on things I didn’t knew nothing about! Everything became so very clear then. I tried to speak to my daughter today. She just shuts me out because of the attempts of trying to take my life. She nor my son talk to me and say I am crazy. They have money and now they have taken over my children. My kids stopped seeing me as soon as they didn’t need me taking them out shopping for things anymore. I know I stated that my ex and his family have money. Although they feed off of everyone else so they keep theirs. As soon as they were done with school they told me they didn’t want anymore to do with me. It’s been hard as hell and I have been in hell! Although I can’t let them do this to me and my daughter and son are not happy about the book! I don’t know why. Other than they are getting this from them. It is the truth and more Women need to know! I just wish I knew about this before it distroyed me! My God! I have papers, tape recordings and much evidence that anyone can see for themselves. My daughter refuses to see it or even consider listening. I told her that I am in counseling and she doesn’t care. I am so terrified that my children have become the cold calculated person he and his mother are. I am sick over it!!!! But I AM STILL STANDING AND I AM GOING TO WRITE MY BOOK!

  27. IMSTILLSTANDING says:

    crazybeachcat AMEN! No Disrespect either! What you wrote was wonderful! I don’t know how someone who hasn’t been through it can write a book! I am in the process of writing one and you are so very right crazybeachcat! YOU RUN! My EX MONSTER IN LAW & My Mother including my EX are all Narcissists. I haven’t spoken to my children in 2 & 1/2 years now. She tore my family apart with my ex and she kept on going with my family and now my children. I tried to kill myself several times over what she has done! My Ex was the “GOLDEN CHILD” He could do no wrong even thou he physically hurt me. Had sex with all my friends. I had many abortions from him trying to get away from him and her. Although running home wasn’t an option. When I finally had no choice. I went from the frying pan into the fire! Then my mother and she plotted. They tried to have me put into a mental hospital. Stating that I was sick. I was!!!!! I just didn’t know what was happening. I have searched and searched for the answer. I finally got into counseling and my counselor started putting names on things I didn’t knew nothing about! Everything became so very clear then. I tried to speak to my daughter today. She just shuts me out because of the attempts of trying to take my life. She nor my son talk to me and say I am crazy. They have money and now they have taken over my children. My kids stopped seeing me as soon as they didn’t need me taking them out shopping for things anymore. I know I stated that my ex and his family have money. Although they feed off of everyone else so they keep theirs. As soon as they were done with school they told me they didn’t want anymore to do with me. It’s been hard as hell and I have been in hell! Although I can’t let them do this to me and my daughter and son are not happy about the book! I don’t know why. Other than they are getting this from them. It is the truth and more Women need to know! I just wish I knew about this before it distroyed me! My God! I have papers, tape recordings and much evidence that anyone can see for themselves. My daughter refuses to see it or even consider listening. I told her that I am in counseling and she doesn’t care. I am so terrified that my children have become the cold calculated person he and his mother are. I am sick over it!!!! But I AM STILL STANDING AND I AM GOING TO WRITE MY BOOK!

  28. mom92 says:

    For the original poster, I would like to comment that I believe the bloggers advice is actually meant to be established at the onset of the "relationship." Your situation is way past that point, and your mil is too far gone to even be receptive in any capacity toward u and such is the case with narcs. I am married to a man who I believe has a narc mother and I have seen tendencies in him, which I believe she fostered early on. I believe either low contact or NO contact is necessary, but in any situation with a narc you must operate with them on Your terms not theirs. Set boundaries every time when possible or they will tear you to pieces. When you cannot operate on your terms, do not participate with them at all in such situations. Just tell them what YOU are and aren't going to do and MEAN it.

  29. olderButWiser says:

    I agree with the comments of others. the tactics described in this article would not work with my mother in law. It would however endanger my health.
    After 19 years with my MIL after this last Christmas fiasco, where my sister-in-law was trying to get me to help her sneak a valium into my MIL's drink (yes – the drink of her own mother) as my MIL was stressing us all out… well my daughter just let me know how crazy all this is.
    I have finally come to the conclusion that no contact is the solution. Or, in our case as little as possible. I would never let my MIL look after my kids or grandkids… I tell her as little as possible about anything and realise that I actually have to stop being open with my sisters-in-law whom I love very much, because they are dominated by her.
    19 years and it has taken me this long to realize that she will never be pleased, never be appeased.
    I like what happy2bfree said…. 'walk away and create your own beautiful life'

  30. LJO says:

    I can appreciate your article and guidelines however, I must disagree when you suggest NOT to avoid your NMIL. I have done a lot of reading/research on NMIL and 100% of what I have read about so far has suggested that NO and/or LOW contact is the only way forward when dealing with a NMIL.

  31. asurvivor says:

    Definitely agree with the posts here. I am currently in very low contact with my MIL who has been playing her games for 28 years and is still going strong. She tells lies about me and my husband, isolates us from other family members by lying to them about us, and plots revenge when she doesn't get her way. I have finally realized it doesn't matter how nice I am to her, I am her scapegoat and will continue to be so. I became very depressed after her last cruel stunt, and I finally realized having a relationship with her is not worth sacrificing my own mental health. I will now see her only in a group situation, and if she continues her games, I won't see her at all. I feel emotionally stronger now, but that's because I see her clearly now. Narcissists can be nice to lure you back in – I won't fall for that anymore. The fake niceness is very short-lived. Once they have you back, they start all over again. I really think that they ultimately want to destroy your self-esteem, and they take great pleasure in doing so. It is never about love. Narcissists don't know how to love- they only know how to manipulate, and control others.

  32. Missy says:

    We just went no contact with my mother-in-law. My husband finally woke up. Hopefully. She is trying to break up our marriage. Is meddling in his daughters lives and messing with their already messed up heads. She wouldn't help 10 years ago though, when we were trying to get custody and her involvement might have made a real difference for the better. She is selfish. All the while she pretends she is the sweetest and nicest person ever. Took me years to figure out what was going on. My husband left a message on her voice mail that he's going no contact and no call back. More game playing. Game will be on her though, because hubby just told me if he's giving her a week for one last phone call and then it's too late. Dangerous games these people play.

  33. Marriedin says:

    I believe in having no contact with my NMIL. The night before I married her son, she told me there wasn't going to be a wedding and she told me she was going to tell her son everything. I had nothing to hide and what possibly could she tell him? I did nothing wrong only told her there was going to be a wedding. When her son (now my husband) approached her, she told him she loved him and supported us. She said she wouldn't be there if she didn't support us getting married. That night we had a small family party and I questioned my NMIL about what she said. She called me a liar, which made my family suddenly look from her to me. As all eyes were on me and not her, she was laughing at me. I made everyone aware at that moment that she was laughing at me. I then told her I know what was said, you know what was said and we both know who the lier is. With that said she fell to the floor in tears. She was asking why I would ever say something like that, and what did she do to deserve this treatment from me.
    It was after I got married that I realized that this woman has something very wrong with her.
    Within a year of getting married, I got pregnant. NMIL send a beautiful written letter to me in the mail. It stated how she wanted us to become closer and have a close family for the sake of her grandchild. I did not respond because I knew that she wanted me to fall for her tricks. The day I gave birth my MIL told my husband that I was shutting her out of our lives just as I tried to shut her out of her other grandchildrens lives. When my husband said that to me on the day I gave birth, I responded to my husband by saying how could I possibly do that? That was out of my control! And I asked my husband to remember in the past 16 years of being together all the things I said and offered for us to become close with the kids in the family. I come from a large family and he only has his mom and brother.
    NMIL was successful in banishing my husbands family. My husband grew up hearing stories of how horrible his dad's parents were and how that family had no love. I understand now that she is talking about herself. When my husbands dad died last year, my husband was left in the will. When my husbands grandfather died he received a large amount of money left to him also. How can a family with no love give so much and the giver wasn't even alive to reap the rewards of having a relationship with my husband?
    I decided to go no contact soon after I married. I deleted NMIL from my Facebook. It was just after I gave birth I received message from NMIL's sisters. The messages said that I was cruel and karma would get me because I'm trying to remove my husband and my daughter from the family. Not the case- my husband will eventually see what's happening and he will go no contact. For now, my NMIL has to work very hard to get any info about me.

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