Have you confronted your narcissistic mother-in-law? Ever heard the statement “pick your battles?”
This post will cover some of the predictable tactics of the narcissistic mother-in-law so you may better protect yourself from her dysfunctional behavior.
Narcissistic mothers and narcissistic mother-in-laws play things by their own set of rules.
Her emotional skills aren’t up to par with yours or other healthy, able-minded adults. She won’t step outside herself, see the situation separately from her beliefs, and feel true empathy towards you or anyone else.
Be careful when duking it out with a narcissistic mother-in-law, and know how to do it the right way. Conserve your energy. There’s no point in fighting and arguing with her on every little thing.
Direct confrontation often triggers a “narcissistic monologue” or barrage of words that rarely has anything do do with you or what you are trying to address. She’s in a world of her own, dissociated with agitation.
If you notice this, know there’s little information going in because she’s now self-distracted or walled off in her own intense emotions. You may actually walk away mid-monologue and miss very little content.
She’ll also use tactics ranging from the passive-aggressive variety to talking down to you in an attempt to make you feel small and inadequate.
When asking yourself if you should confront a narcissistic mother-in-law on certain matters, the answer is, “it depends.”
Be prepared for aggression and rage. Narcissists believe they’re always right, so when you inform them otherwise it sets them off. Yet, your opinion will naturally deviate from hers when she acts in a dysfunctional way that’s hurtful to you or the ones you love.
Ask yourself whether your boundaries or values are being violated by the NMIL, and if it’s worth the potential blow up. If so, prepare for the blast. She wants to win her point and will use whatever means necessary.
Sometimes, she’ll try to use your confrontation as a tool to twist your words and attempt to manipulate your spouse or even your larger support system, such as neighbors and other in-laws, against you. This is a tactic called “splitting.”
If you are seen as a threat to her imagined or real power, a narcissistic mother-in-law will attempt to sacrifice your marriage and sabotage your children if she feels it’s in her best interest.
Ideally, you and your spouse need to let her know that what she’s saying or doing isn’t okay with either of you and that there are consequences (such as less time with her grandchildren) if such behavior continues.
Your spouse, however, may naively take her side over the good of your marriage or children. If this is likely to be the case, educate your spouse about his or her mother if you believe your mother-in-law is a narcissist.
Try to describe her pathology to your partner in a detached manner and provide examples of the dysfunction if at all possible.
Depending on where your spouse has progressed in their journey of recovery from the abuse of the narcissistic mother, his or her ability to defend against a narcissistic parent will vary.
As your spouse heals from the emotional abuse of a narcissistic mother and progresses to a higher level of functioning, the more likely he or she will effectively support you in setting healthy boundaries regarding your narcissistic mother-in-law.
She may also project her bad qualities onto you. This can be something like, “You’re not disciplining the kids right. No wonder they’re so hyper.” To, “Your husband is looking a little skinny, maybe you’re not feeding him enough.”
Of course, when she was raising her kid, your “now spouse,” she didn’t do the motherly things she was supposed to, such as properly enforcing rules or offering unconditional love.
Sometimes, you won’t gain anything by confronting your narcissistic mother-in-law as she may be so toxic that confrontation leads to more dysfunctional behavior on her part. If this is the case, no contact or low contact is useful to protect your marriage and children from narcissistic abuse.
She may try to gaslight you into believing you have no idea what you’re talking about, that you’re crazy for bringing up something she insists never happened.
If you do choose to confront your narcissistic mother-in-law, make sure to hold her accountable for her unacceptable actions and performances.
Set proper limits between what is yours, what is hers, and what you are willing to share.
Compromise only if to do so doesn’t violate your beliefs and values. Watch to see if compromise is at all effective with her. Sometimes, narcissists view compromise as a sign of weakness to be exploited and it stimulates their pathological behavior, instead of encouraging better behavior, the opposite of what’s usual in healthy people.
If you feel in any way uncomfortable about how she’s trying to compromise with you, say no. Stand firm about what you feel is right for you and your family.
If she starts yelling at you, don’t join in her narcissistic rage. It only falsely empowers her. When she is in this mode of attack, she’s not listening, no matter if you’re right and her points are completely invalid.
Your narcissistic mother-in-law won’t admit to being wrong because she truly doesn’t believe she is. She cannot see things from any other perspective but her own.
If you can and when necessary, establish low contact or no contact at all with the narcissistic mother-in-law in order to protect self, marriage and children.
Be honest with her on why things have to be this way and let her know that if her behavior becomes more tolerable, contact may increase but only at your discretion.
You’re the one who gets to set the terms of contact, not your narcissistic mother-in-law. Hold firm to what you say. She may try even harder at this point to wriggle her way into your family’s life, but let her know that this won’t be tolerated.
When it comes to narcissistic mother-in-laws, trying to change them is a grueling and impossible task. Narcissists don’t change no matter how much you want them to and how much you try.
Often, all you can do is change how you handle the situation with a narcissistic mother-in-law. Notice the predictability of her behavior. It will give you more power over effectively crafting your response.
Her emotional state is skewed and you are simply a target on her radar for the time being. Brush off her comments and negativeness and move on. Focus your energy about what you and your spouse want for your marriage and children and remain consistent about how you behave toward the mother-in-law.
Consider low or no contact if she is unresponsive to or draining regarding boundaries. You must protect what is valuable to you.
The narcissistic mother-in-law won’t do it for you, thank you for acting healthy, or give you permission to do so unless it satisfies her ever changing needs at the time.
You’re a capable person with the ability to be empathetic and care for your family. You don’t need to tolerate her criticisms inferring you’re an inadequate spouse or parent.
You and your spouse are the appropriate people to lead your family, not her. A narcissistic mother-in-law may attempt to control everyone and everything around her because that may be how it has always been with her but you can be part of breaking the cycle of abuse.
You, and hopefully your partner, can protect your family and your values to ensure you are happy and healthy. Your capabilities as a person far outweigh hers.
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