Confronted A Narcissistic Mother-In-Law

by Michelle Piper

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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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Aline November 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I wish I had know this years ago. I was married to a classic Narcissist and his mother is an even more classic Narcissist. Every word written has her name attached to it. It I had know about my ex-husband’s disorder, I don’t know that I would have avoided him – he is INCREDIBLY charming, even now. My ex- mother-in-law was like that all the time I knew her but her behavior got worse once her husband died. Then it was left to the living to fill the role of constant adorer. It was hard on her children and hell for her childrens’ spouses. I’m glad I’m out of the relationship, but both my husband and his mother did a lot of damage and it’s taken me a long time to get over it. (Oh, PS – use an editor for your articles. Typos galore here…)

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Michelle Piper November 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Dear Aline,
I hope you continue productively on your healing journey and am glad you are free.
Thanks for reAdinG;),
Michelle
P.S. Thank you for letting me know about the typos.

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Anna November 19, 2012 at 9:15 am

Thank you so much for this post, it really hit home for me. I’ve been searching the web for the past 4 months about NPD and how to deal with a MIL with it. I got married this April after 6 years with my husband, and it still perplexes me how much things have changed from January 2012 through today. My husband has a twin brother who was married a year earlier, and my MIL and SIL had vilified and slandered the other DIL and her mother for years. Unfortunately I was on my MIL’s good side, and she had a way of phrasing everything about the other DIL that it seemed like the truth and my husband and I believed her. Well, my husband’s twin had a baby in February, and all of a sudden my husband and I were accused of being selfish whenever we would talk about our upcoming wedding. We still didn’t know about NPD at this point, so we took it in stride. Our wedding day came, and my MIL said not one word to me all day (even though I had invited her to get ready in our suite, ride in the limo with us, etc). She even threw a scene in the church right before we walked down the aisle because she didn’t like my song choice.
2 months after our wedding, and MIL was still being cold to me, clearly favoring the other twin and DIL and seeming to punish us for something which we didn’t do or know we did to her. My husband finally confronted her about her behavior at the wedding and the months after the wedding and how he felt that , and my MIL threatened to banish my husband (didn’t give a reason why) and immediately played the victim card, that she was there for us despite having had a (small) fire in her home 8 months before, having to worry about a new granddaughter, etc. She hung up on my husband and didn’t talk to him for 6 weeks, instead writing a confusing letter in which she did not apologize for one thing, instead shaming us into takign the blame, we’re the bad ones for speaking up against her emotional abuse. In the meantime, she was slandering my husband and I to my FIL and SIL that they too refused to speak to us (keep in mind they never directly asked us what happened) since we’ve “hurt mother so much”. After being so hurt and feeling guilt and shame, I searched for help online and found out about NPD. For my husband and I, it was like reading the inner diary.
Now it is November, and we are still being ignored in order to bully us into submission. Luckily, my husband has a strong extended family who he has reached out to, and they started to all compare notes. WOW. Let’s just say my MIL has shown her bad side to enough others in the extended family that they know it’s not us but her. It’s comforting to at least have that support system in place despite being essentially banished from my husband’s immediate family.

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Stephanie December 2, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Hi Anna,

I have had similar circumstances of relationship sabotage with my SIL as the aggressor and MIL as the passive. However, I have noticed some interesting narcissistic traits emerge in my marriage as well. It is becoming increasingly difficult to provide for my husband’s narcissistic supply as my respect for him falters. Most of the time I feel misunderstood as he views and treats me as a reflection of himself. The more I try to explain myself, his frustration escalates. Next thing I know he has turned something I needed/wanted to share into his problem and becomes defensive. It’s exhausting.

After spending some time today researching the dynamics of NPD, in males and females, it seems increasingly clear that my husband is a carrier. Have you noticed traits in your husband too?

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Anna December 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Hi Stephanie,
My husband does display some narcisstic traits, but don’t we all? As we are both learning more and more about NPD, we’ve found (and others in the extended family agree) that my husband was almost always the scapegoat in his family. While this was difficult for him as his brother and sister have pretty much been bred to blame my husband for whatever they can, it did give him the advantage of not turning out like his family. My BIL and SIL are showing themselves to be more and more narcissistic as time goes on. Not quite at the level of my MIL, but others in the family have called my SIL “NPD-in-training”. And my BIL just doesn’t see past his own nose. He would walk right by you in the store and not notice you unless you said something to him.

When my husband does display narcissistic traits, I think of some of it as more as a coping mechanism than him malignantly trying to mess with someone for his own gain. He is very stubborn sometimes, getting angry over minor things (just like his father, the passive), but he does have the ability to take a step back and apologize. He doesn’t distort reality either, which is different than his family who like to re-write history to fit their current story. But he does get very defensive as well at other times.

Have you shared with your husband that you see your SIL and MIL as displaying NPD traits? Perhaps if you talk to him more about his past relationship with them (not necessarily pointing out the NPD if you don’t think he would take it well), you can figure out whether the way he treats you is a reflection of how he coped with his family, so he very quickly goes to that same place in arguments?

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Suzie Johnson January 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Anna, your mother-in-law sounds just like mine! But I don’t think that we have support from the rest of my husband’s family. They seem to think that my mother-in-law is perfect and can do no wrong! If she’s in a conflict with anyone (which is me at the moment), that person is always “wrong”. My father-in-law (her ex) and his wife are the only ones who recognize that my MIL is irrational.

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Anna January 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Hi Suzie – We have support from my husband’s extended family because they unfortunately have been burned by her at some point, or someone close to them has been burned! The stories we heard after we were ostracized were stomach-churning, but at the same time maddening because my FIL and SIL don’t see the pattern! Or maybe they’re part of the pattern…
I know what you mean about always being wrong, no matter what my husband (or I) do to try to fix the situation and get back to “normal” relations with everyone, we’re the jerks in my FIL and SIL’s eyes.
No wonder your FIL is your MIL’s ex! Hopefully you can both have support from him in getting through this…

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Michelle Piper December 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Hi Anna,
It was a smart move to get more information from the extended family. Sibling and in-law relationships suffer when a narcissist divides and conquers. The more you can address the narcissist’s behavior as a predictable phenomena, the better. Getting support from healthy others will continue to fuel a more stable support network for you and your husband. Thanks for reading!

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tatum December 26, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Anna,

Reading your story is like reading my own experiences with my husband. My narc MIL has destroyed my husband’s relationships with his siblings, using her bullying tactics and divide and conquer strategies to keep them and us apart. To this day, my husband’s siblings (his brother and sister) have not once reached out to him to ask him his side of the story and see what’s going on. They just clearly listen to my MIL and believe everything she says. It’s really sad. I have been doing the no contact thing for the past year, and I can’t see myself doing anything differently to change that. She is toxic and has manipulated everyone into believing we are the bad ones when she is the one doing all of the damage. Sooo glad I found this blog!

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Anna December 27, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Hi Tatum,
I’m sorry that your husband is going through the same thing as mine. You’re right, there isn’t anything that we can do to change things other than stand by our husbands, offer them the unconditional love that their mothers have never given them, and keep things in perspective (i.e., let them know when things aren’t normal, not let them go off the deep end, etc.).
I only hope and pray that one day the law of natural consequences catches up to my MIL, and any other narcissistic MILs out there. It already seems to be happening to my MIL, thank goodness… if you’re a vile person to enough people, no one will want anything to do with you!
This blog really is wonderful, and has been a great source of strength and knowledge!

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tatum December 27, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I agree. He is forming a letter to them as we speak, telling them why he is choosing to keep his distance. He is expecting major denials and anger from them, but that is exactly what he expects. He has detached emotionally from this woman. I admit I still struggle with how they treat him because he is such a great husband and father…but we can’t allow this woman to “ruin” our lives.

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Anna December 28, 2012 at 7:31 am

I think he’s doing the right thing putting his thoughts and words down in writing. My husband’s initial contact with his mother was via phone, and boy did she twist things around when relaying them to my FIL (which is why he’s not speaking to my husband). At least a letter has the words written down in black and white, can’t be denied or changed. From experience, don’t accept anything but a letter back in response, at least initially. At the very least, it will give him time to process a rational response rather than an emotional one.
It sounds like your husband has a lot of support from you, and that you’re able to see him and treat him the way he deserves to be treated. That will be a huge help to him! Good luck!

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tatum December 29, 2012 at 2:38 am

Thanks! I told him to be prepared for the anger and denials to come our way. He is sending the letter to both his parents and his siblings; that way, she cant twist things when she retells the story…I will keep you posted!

Anonymous June 29, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Hi this is all v interesting reading. I have been married to my husband for 13 years. We have a relatively good marriage and on the whole I am happy. However, I have battled (mentally) for years with my, what I now believe to be NMIL. When we first met, I began to feel confused by her passive aggressive manner, she has a very gentle, calm demeanor coupled with intelligence, a good education and charm. She would subtly put me down about my figure (too thin), how I dresses, far too material and just about anything she could find. Soon. I began to notice that all of my achievements were minimized and my perceived failures maximized. Not only that, she would spin any attempt by myself to rational,ize her arguments. Poor me is her speciality, then spin and lie. Just this evening my husband bought a new phone, she called insisting she had left a message (I know she has not and this is just another attempt of trying to suggest I have whiped off her message). Every now and then I heard her gentle voice over the phone and I think that I should maybe relent and try again then a few weeks later something else will surface and I am reminded of her illness. My message to anyone who vaguagely gets the hunch that something isn’t right is to follow your gut instinct and get away from them as quickly as you can, these people are highly skilled manipulates who will stop at nothing to meet there own needs. Run now.

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Jamie Bevan January 2, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I am sooooo glad to read all of your comments. You all have helped me so very much. How do we help our hubby’s?

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tatum January 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I think the best way to help is by listening and just being there for them. One thing I also did was find sites like these and others that discuss narc behavior. My hubby (the scapegoat in his family) just needed reassurance that he wasn’t crazy. So I would print out articles about other people’s journeys and that would help him…just knowing that what was going on in his family is a very real phenomenon.

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Freed DIL January 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Relate to all been said. My NMIL even got engaged at our wedding breakfast!! Ha! I’m only just learning to laugh at the sadness of it all because we’ve had a blissful year of no contact and my SIL has recently seen the light & cut her off too. FIL is just relieved to have escaped and so it looks like monster in law has finally been consigned to history! HAPPY DAYS!! Hang in there…..it was worth playing the waiting game, gave her enough rope and eventually she got caught up & hung herself. Nasty bit of work. My poor hubby can start to build up his confidence now. Work in progress. Be strong ladies (& men too!) ;-)) HAPPY DIL

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Lynn January 18, 2013 at 11:50 am

My MIL is a narcissist. Reading about the characteristics is like reading a psychiatrist’s report on her – just put her name on the blank line. Some examples include:
– Saying she had “enough credit” for a college degree when she’s never taken a single college class ever. This was said when I graduated college, because she wouldn’t allow anyone to talk about it in her presence. We had to talk about her “credit” from the classes that she never took.
-Saying she was a twin and that her twin died at birth. She said this ONLY after my husband and I had twins, and she saw the attention they and we were getting. Even members of her own family confirmed she wasn’t a twin, but she still insists that she was and THAT is the reason we had twins.
-My MIL got pregnant by her long-time boyfriend and had her first baby at 18. She gave the baby up for adoption. When the child reached the age of 18, she wanted to get to know her. However, she wouldn’t admit what she had done. She then decided to tell everyone that she was raped, and never had sex. So it wasn’t even her fault that she got pregnant, she said. Then she said that her mother and sister held her down in the hospital and made her sign the adoption papers. That wasn’t true either, but she said it wasn’t her fault that she got pregnant or that she gave the baby away. Both her mother, sister and all family members say it is all a lie. She was not raped, and she gave the baby up for adoption because she was so young.

She tells big lies, but she’ll also lie about little things or things that don’t matter just to take all of the attention in any given situation. One day my husband and his father were talking about someone being in an accident and losing part of their finger. She then holds her finger up and says, “look, look, I had the end of my finger cut off as a child and reattached.” There was no scar, and no one had ever heard of this story. Ever! She only said this, because she couldn’t handle everyone in the room talking about someone else and not her.

I could give COUNTLESS examples, but there just isn’t enough time in the day. This has damaged me emotionally. I was very young when I married her son, and never even heard of someone like her. I kept trying to be the dutiful wife. My husband is her golden child, and his sister is the scapegoat. My MIL loves division, and leaves a path of destruction wherever she goes. And she is NEVER WRONG or never at fault. She is always a victim. Always right. Always in charge. Always the one who was there first and did it bigger and better.

I WISH I had known about this before I married her son. I have not been equipped with the tools to even remotely handle this crazy woman. As much as I love her son, he refuses to see his mom for what she is. Everyone else sees it, but she always cowtows to her. He either doesn’t see it or doesn’t want to see it. Help! Any suggestions you have in gaining peace while setting boundaries with this woman would be helpful. After 22 years of marriage, she is used to manipulating me/him and I hope it isn’t too late to get him to see her for what she is: a true narcissist.

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Denise January 28, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Lynn,

Reading your post is like therapy for me. First of all, I am sorry for the mental torture you have been put through. I can relate 10000000%. My husband is the GC and my SIL is the SG. My MIL was awesome when I was dating her son. She was so charming and sweet and fun. Everything changed after we walked down that aisle.

One night when it was just me and her, she had a lot of wine and started balling. She told me she felt totally unloved by us because of all of the time we spent with my FIL (they are divorced). She said we always put her last during the holidays, and we continuously break her heart. It didn’t matter that she went on a cruise with her boyfriend every Christmas. She said she only did that because we made her feel unwanted. Now, keep in mind, my parents and FIL live in the same town. MIL is the one that decided to move away. So it’s hard to see all three families on a regular basis, especially when she is the one who moved away. But that didn’t even make her flinch.

She then proceeds to tell us that we and SG SIL have hurt her so badly, we caused her to get breast cancer from all of the stress we have put on her. The sad thing is, I really believed this. I cried and begged for forgiveness. After that, we put her first. We revolved each holiday around her. When I brought my newborn home from the hospital, I asked MIL to stay with me and I know that hurt my mom’s feelings, but I was really trying to prove something. I bent over backwards to make her feel “loved” so to speak. But nothing was ever good enough.

Finally on one Christmas night, she snapped. We were with my parents Xmas eve, FIL Christmas morning, and her house Xmas evening (always travelling to please other people). She had way too much to drink and started screaming at us…we always put her last, we didn’t love her, she would never be close with her grandkids because we never brought them around, we were horrible, unloving, hateful…

I could go on and on and on with examples of victimization. She ruined my first born’s christening because my FIL brought his girlfriend to the church. Even though MIL and FIL have been divorced for 25 years, in her eyes, girlfriend is a whore. So she made a big scene and pulled me to the side and said she would never attend any family functions if this woman was there, and how I put this woman before her, etc. etc.

I could go on and on and on. Thank God for forums like this. I know that I am not crazy, although I am getting there ;)

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Lynn January 30, 2013 at 10:46 am

Thank you for sharing this, Denise. You’re not crazy, but it strange how someone with a mental disorder (such as narcissistic personality disorder) can make you feel that you’re the problem. They’re extremely manipulative people. I wish I had been armed with this information years ago. Once you know what to look for, it becomes so apparent. The selfishness of these people goes beyond what any rational person can comprehend. I would like to hear from a professional, but from what I’ve read it doesn’t seem that many of these people ever seek treatment. They get far too much enjoyment from what they’re doing, and they lack empathy so they don’t care whether they hurt others by their actions. I’m learning to set boundaries. I can no longer live in a fantasy world where my MIL is everything and has done everything bigger and better and nothing or no one else matters. Ever.

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2C February 2, 2013 at 12:30 am

I just had an hour long (heated) telephone conversation with my husband about his NM. I am getting to the point where we must have these conversations by phone (we are married) so that I don’t get overly upset by his body language. She is the focus of most of our arguments. I have a NM as well, but both are quite different. My NM is very cold and distant at times. My NMIL is overbearing and entitled. My NM is much too busy to spend much time with our family. My NMIL will never leave. When my FIL passed away a few years ago we invited her to live with us (MISTAAAAAAAKE!) for 6 months. During this 6 months I never once witnessed her crying or upset about her husband passing away. She never helped with chores or cleaning, and once gave me $100 to “help with bills” and acted as if she’d just given me a million bucks. Her 6 months stretched into 18 months of absolute HELL for me. During this time I tried to be considerate of the loss of my husband’s father and my NMIL’s husband, but the day-to-day interaction with her and her mindless chatter and inability to just be QUIET once in a while drove me over the brink. My husband told me on numerous occassions that I was being “insensitive” to the fact that they’d lost their family member, simply because I complained (a lot…especially after the 6 month agreement came and went) that I needed our HOME back. Did I mention that we also had a 1 and 2 year old at that time, and that the 1 year old NEVER slept through the night the entire time she lived with us? In addition, I worked full time as a teacher and we were facing SEVERE $$$ issues due to my husband getting laid off (TWICE!) Our marital communication STOPPED altogether, and it got to the point that when I would come home from work I’d feel physically ILL at the sight of her car in my driveway. During this time she refused to look for work as well, so she logged A LOT of time on Judge Judy episodes. Weekends with her hanging around and eating our food and watching endless TV were torture. My husband and I stopped being intimate and we stopped talking. At 18 months I finally gave my husband the ultimatum — HIS MOTHER or US. I was prepared to move out, let the house go and watch them spiral (neither were working at the time.) I even told her “Get the F*CK outta my house! You are RUINING my marriage!” She laughed at me. The next day she found a room to rent (with my husband’s help of course) and got herself an interview. She was out within the week.

Fast forward to now: 3 years later she is still renting that same room, after repeated “plans” to move to a bigger, better, “more cultured” city. She shys away from having our kids come spend the night (probably because she is renting a room and not her own place.) She has my husband on a STRING (he is her only surviving child) and is very competitive with both of us. Just the other day she was asking me what size our flat screen TV was and wondered if she should put an even bigger one (of course!) than ours on layaway. Who cares? She has lied, exaggerated, insinuated that I am a racist (we are a mixed race family) and made up stories told to my husband about things I have NEVER done. She will tell me to my face that I am a great mother to her only grandchildren, yet then say that my husband is a pushover and can’t stand up to me (never to my face…I have seen it in text exchanges between them.) My husband and I are both highly educated. She is not, yet she continually makes up stories about what she “knows” or has “read” or has “heard on NPR.” Right.

Our latest argument causing issue is on her coming over to visit: a dinner invitation by my husband often morphs into staying the night (her vision is terrible for the dark drive home) and breakfast and hanging out ALL DAY the next day. I finally put my foot down tonight and said “NO WAY – she CANNOT stay over.” I feel like I am getting better with the boundaries, but also feel like she is doing her damndest to ruin our marriage. My husband does not put me first. If he must choose between disappointing me or his mother, he will always choose to disappoint me. Tonight I told him that I will no longer stand for being treated like #2 and that I MUST be #1 – ALWAYS. I am willing to compromise on spending some time with her, but it is difficult when you were forced to live with her for sooooo long. I do believe that if I’d not ever given that ultimatum that she might be still living with us. Gah!

I am looking for some ideas to help us build back our marriage. I want our children to grow up in a calm and peaceful home, not a crazy home with NO boundaries and NO respect for other people’s privacy! I am confident that continued therapy (my husband and I both see therapists but I bet he’s NEVER even thought to bring up his NM!) will help me to heal. I want very much just to get some peace on this.

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Lynn January 18, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Oh, and my MIL sneaks into the kids’ school games to avoid paying $4. When caught she still refused to pay, argued and then claimed she was a “teacher” in order to get in free. In true narcisstic fashion, she’ll spend $50,000 on a car for herself, yet won’t pay $4 to benefit her grandchild’s school sports team.

My MIL NEVER attended church during my husband’s entire childhood. Yet when we found a church and became active, she then started telling us and everybody else that she used to be a Sunday school teacher. She then joined our church in order to feed her narcissistic supply (her son). She refused to go to her age group’s Sunday school class. She said she was going to be in our class. She would sit either between us or next to him. She would race us to church in the morning, then look at me and say “where have you been?” She would get there early, sign herself and her son in but not me. She would then say something like, “I didn’t know if you’d be here.” It wasn’t good enough to do it, she wanted to bring it to my attention. She put tabs on each book of the Bible, and then would quickly flip to the book and look and me and say something like, “you’re still trying to find it?” She would then rush to the sancutary, grab and seat and then tell us she “saved” a seat for us and where we were to sit. We found another church. She followed. She said she was going to go wherever her son went. And he refused to even say anything to her.

I suppose I’ve given enough examples for now. I have plenty more. This woman is impossible!

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Leslie Campbell January 22, 2013 at 6:12 am

what does “website” mean after “Speak your mind”?

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Leslie Campbell January 22, 2013 at 6:13 am

Hi Anna…
I am so thankful to have read your letter about your MIL. Can I share my story with you?
Leslie

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Sheila January 27, 2013 at 9:45 am

The above article describes my MIL. Have I ever confronted her? I’ve confronted her many times over the course of my 20 something year marriage to her oldest son but she wasn’t always listening. People like her have their own agenda & if you don’t do what they want, they can get very annoyed with you. They often don’t understand they are not the boss of you & they are not to dictate your life. When you point that out to them, they often view it as you challenging them. In their minds you are not to stand up to them or claim your own life for your very own. When I was young, I didn’t know how to deal with a person like my MIL (as I was raised with a mother whom I believe was also narcisstic). Over time I learned how to deal with different behaviours in people & I learned some things to say to people like my impossible MIL. The following are a few phrases I have used with my own MIL to alleviate a lot of the stress she has had in my life. Using these particular phrases have actually made my MIL less likely to open her mouth because she knows I’m not listening to her. She knows I’m going to do my own thing regardless of what she says.

“Your kids turned out just fine, & my kids will turn out just fine too. Professional people have told me I’m doing a good job”. This statement counteracted all my MIL’s “know it all” child rearing advice, opinions, etc. & she could no longer guilt trip me into feeling like I was a bad parent who was doing everything wrong.

“I’m going to do things differently because I was raised differently. I have different experiences than yourself & I come from a different generation than you. I know what I’m doing regardless of whatever you say to me”. In my situation, I noticed a big difference in my MIL’s narcisstic behaviour when I said this particular statement. My MIL actually backed off quite a bit or she’s definitely been more careful around us. I don’t care that my DH is her son. That’s irrelevant. Her son & I formed a “new” & “separate” family when we married. MIL needed to respect that things were going to be done differently in our home simply because of that union.

In conclusion, I understand some MIL’s are impossible to deal with & you have to cut off all contact. In my case, I’ve learned to “manage” my MIL. It made a huge difference in what was once a very stressful situation. My MIL knows I’m the boss in my life, not her. She is not to challenge me (or my DH) when it comes to our authority in our own home, our children, our life, etc. She had her turn to be in charge. I can only imagine how frustrating it can be for someone like her who obviously has trouble “letting go” & allow someone else to be in charge. No wonder my MIL was often so difficult to deal with.

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mary January 29, 2013 at 4:01 am

Wow, this website is really helping to “Heal” the hurt and anger I have for my MIL. The hurt is because she has abused my husband physically and emotionally. Resulting in a deeply hurt man who struggles with his own emotions, I am totally gobsmacked and appalled at the way she blames us for everything including, her actions of violence towards me, (She slapped me) and for not seeing her grandchildren. She has a Granddaughter who she has never even met and a grandson who she hasn’t seen for half his life. I have never stopped her, she has not bothered. She has never attempted to fix things with the rift she has caused. She is the Ignoring Narc and my husband is the SG whilst his brother, who adores her, is the GC. The GC does not speak to us any more, as he also blames us for causing the family rift that happened 2 years ago. For my daughter’s birthday we received a letter, telling us how happy everything in her life is, she is marrying again. The letter was like a mills and boon story. She is so sad and upset that she does not know her grandchildren and feels unable to buy birthday or Christmas presents for them. Instead she wrote a poem and has asked us, if we do not want it, to send back so she can put it in her keepsake box, and hopefully in the future she will get to share these things and her grandchildren can get to know the real her?! She also asked us, to suggest a way of meeting up in peace and harmony. My blood was at boiling point and my husband has clammed up. I feel I have the opportunity to write back and throw it all back to her… How does she suggest we meet up in peace and harmony, why has she not tried to make contact with her own grandchildren, and why does she not question the sad and upsetting situation for my husband. This woman is pathetic, but she is my husband’s mother after all, and he would like to see her… I have told him that she is not allowed to see the grandchildren until she can be accountable and accept that her behaviour was wrong when she visited us last time (Slapping me, throwing things in my house that hit the family cat, storming out of the restaurant because we dared speak up to her) She gave a “fauxpology” for hitting me. I accept that as Narc person she will never apologise properly though. I would also like to say, without being rude, how she can say that her wedding day will be so happy, when it will be so fractured because she will have family members missing? Eeeekkkk. The scary situation is that she is marrying a very strange man who is a child physiologist. This will be her 3rd marriage and in the time she has been with this man, she has split up 3 times, and moved away from him. Any support and ideas in the letter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks People for reading my gripe moan! Xxx

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Maggie January 31, 2013 at 2:11 am

Michele Piper, this is so enligtening and unfortunatley I do have a mother in law with this disorder. Needless to say, my mother also had it. What I did have in my life was a father who I chose to mentor. He never enabled my mother’s behavior; therefore I knew the difference with my mother in law. I have not spoken to her in years, when her husband passed away, she got worse. I would call her in good faith to ask her how she was doing and she in turn would not answer, but ask me how we were. I would state fine, she would then ask where my husband was? I would state at work. Then she would ask me again how we were?
I again would say fine. Then here come the attacks on me. When I confronted her once after calling our home and leaving this really bizarre and out of content message on our answering machine. Attacking her son my husband stating that she had not heard from him in three months and asked is everything alright? This is your mother demanding that he call her. I walked outside and asked my husband what the heck is this about? It was bizzare. He said I don’t know. I called her back asking her what the phone call was about. She was breathing hard and said, that her son had not called her in three months. I said hes busy, she got upset and hung up on me. I did not appreciate her upsetting our home like this, was not the first time either. Another time, she called attacking me because I was back in college. Theres more, I have refrained from talking to her. When she has been confronted, at another time, she responds with I don’t have to listen to you and hangs up. We live 12 hours away from her. I could write a book about this lady, but I don’t want to empower her by giving her all this attention. You see, narcisstic behavior is all about them wanting attention, anyway they can get it. I don’t exist to her anyway and frankly I married her son, not her. When my husband has confronted her, she apologizes and says she didn’t do it on purpose, this is when she has done things to me. He falls for it too. I don’t, I respond to him to no she does it deliberately, gets your attention and then spins it all out to manipulate her narcissistic fix. These type of people are bad for your health. Blame, blame, blame. Its my fault for marrying her son. Too much.

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TCM March 24, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Hi ladies,

I’m still very new to this as I didn’t become aware of my MIL’s NPD until after our wedding late last year. I was in her good books until that day and now ever since its been hell with her trying to get my husband and SIN to compete for love/attention or guilt tripping my husband in various ways and most recently trying to cause a rift between my husband and I. After the wedding my husband and I became pregnant with our first child and soon after the SIN who was astranged from them for nearly 2 years but living only half an hour away with their only grandchild came back into the mix stating she was pregnant too (surprisingly is not anymore). She had us against my husband’s sister for so long with what she would say that when the SIN came back into the picture and was more golden than ever that we became the “bad” ones with little digs that blame it on me more than anything but also because my husband works so much he “doesn’t have time” for them but his sister does. The main problems came to light when we told them we were pregnant but it was still too early so we didnt want anyone knowing and not an hour later it was up on her facebook page. i was what i believed to be understandably upset with this as was my husband but when she apologized it was always “I’m sorry youre mad that im excited about my grandchild”, and “dont be mad at M(my husband)”, and still is bringing up the fact that i never forgave her for that!! There’s way too much to even get into but I’ve kept peace by keeping my distance, the only thing is it seems as we get closer and closer to our due date she’s trying more and more to create problems or get my blood boiling. I should mention that they are not originally from Canada so she tries to play dumb a lot and act like she didn’t say certain things or it was a problem with her English but of course it always when no one else has heard it. Anyway my husband goes from being aware of how she is to oblivious to it and gets very defensive. I’m looking for some help of how to bring this to light for him once and for all but also of how to deal with her before we bring this child into all of this. Please help!!

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Bluefreckles July 1, 2013 at 11:58 am

Hi, TCM,
The key to your NMIL’s behavior is that she is after ATTENTION in a big way. And, like a small child (because that’s what she is emotionally) it doesn’t much matter if it’s positive or negative attention – ie if you’re ‘in’ or ‘out’ with her, happy or sad at her behavior, so long as you are still paying her attention. And that’s all it is.
Most N’s are profoundly emotionally disabled and will never improve. They have the bodies, minds and powers of an adult but simply no capacity to see the havoc that they cause. Sadly someone who has grown up with a N parent may be so used to this havoc that they view it as normal.
TCM – you are stealing her thunder! You have taken HER son away from her, had a lovely wedding that I suspect she’s a bit jealous of and are about to have a baby! Everyone might be looking at you instead of her! Oh, my!! So she’s swinging to and fro, making sure she’s not forgotten anyway she can. Underneath a thin cloak of cunning, there’s no deeper meaning to her actions than that.
Keep your distance, ignore as much of the stirring as you can and get on with making your own life happy. You’ll never change her and eventually she’ll get her come-uppance. Sadly she’ll never recognise it herself. Never leave your child alone with her for any extended period of time.
I had exactly the same – except I’m looking back on 30+ years of an NMIL. My son is 16 and has got along fine with only one grandparent – my Mum, who is a complete gem.
Good luck and keep taking the vitamins!
Distance is the only thing that works

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Hopeful WSA August 9, 2013 at 10:27 am

Thank you! Have been on a long painful journey along with my Husband, it almost cost us marriage. Until we begin idenifying her characteristic traits of NMIL.
She manipulates and controls her husband, children, and Father in an unbelievable and destructive way. And until recently was doing the same thing to my family (her son and grandkids). My husband now idenitfys her as a Narcissist and has taken drastic measures to protect us from her. It took great courage from my husband to reduce her interference in our marriage. He is the 1st and only person who has stood up to her. We endured severe verbal and emotional abuse as a result of setting up boundaries- from my father-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, uncles, etc.. full-force “splitting” all while she managed to look like a victim. She has done this while living in another country, she came uninvited during the birth of my daughter, also during my 2nd pregnancy, and of course our wedding.and would spend up to 3 months in my home.
While I am aware that this will be an on-going effort as she tries to wiggle her way back into our lives, the only way to block her destructive-diabolic— influence is for my huband and I to be on the same page, seeing eye-to-eye on this issue. My huband and I will do what is right for our family; overlooking the opinion of the “spliting”.

This article has served as a reinforcement to follow though with our boundaries. As a wife it is my God given right to protect and love my children. She is like Carbon monoxide — subtle, u can’t see it or smell it, but invasive and deadly.

If this is helpful to someone else going through a broken marriage due to a NMIL,, I read this and has become my encouragement:”For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. He makes peace in your borders; he fills you with the finest of the wheat.” Psalm 147:13-14

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NPD SIL MIL NIL September 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm

I have a NPD MIL and a NPD sister in law, who is training her own daughter to be an NPD. I have been attacked by my NPD sister in law numerous times, harassment to no end, death threats only when no one else is around….She leaves angry voicemails demanding me to stay away from my husbands family. She has had her daughter and her best friend both harass me as well. This has gone on for years….. Just recently my husband and I came to realize his mother is an NPD as well….she was caught in a number of manipulative lies…..long story short I have been banned from all family functions by my SIL, but only me, not my husband…..my MIL is also behind it… They both believe that God told them to dis invite me from his Grandmothers birthday party ?!? Which is the craziest thing I have ever heard in my life! I have never done anything to provoke any of it….and I really don’t understand it at all……My husband is distraught and I am in tears…We need advice…I have done a lot of research on NPD and believe that we should tell them that until they stop all the craziness, we BOTH will not attend any of his family functions, and not have any contact with his family. He’s not so sure it will help at all…..and I’m not even positive it will work….does anyone have any advice on what we should do? Any advice would be well appreciated!

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Sheila September 23, 2013 at 9:41 am

I would ask myself “why would I even want to be involved with people who treat me like this?”. When a mosquito bites you, if you don’t swat it dead the first time, you keep trying to look for it in order to get rid of it permanently. You don’t keep it around so it can bite you some more. These people are like mosquitoes, always looking to nip with no consequences to their behaviour. They suck the life out of you until you have scars from their hurtful bites. They want to make you feel weak so you get tired & exhausted from trying to fight back. If you don’t react to them (as I once thought “ignoring” would make my MIL stop her cruelty), they continue to dig deeper & deeper with their stinging behaviour. The more they hurt you, the happier they seem to be. If I could go back in time to when I was 20 something years old (& my MIL was pulling her crap with me. She was definitely at her worst in the early years of my marriage), I would’ve CUT HER OFF & had nothing to do with her. I also would’ve cut her off of seeing my children (less grandchildren time). I wouldn’t have cared about fighting with my DH over this. I was willing to respect his mom, & I expected respect from her in return. I would NOT have given her chance after chance to change her behaviour towards me or ever expected she would eventually treat me with far more respect. You either keep getting bitten or you swat this mosquito where it will sting the most. When these people don’t have you to bite, the game is over for them. My MIL did NOT deserve my respect, my kindness, or visits with my kids, especially after all the negative stuff she put me through. She was old enough to know how to be respectful, & I truly believe she knew better & also knew how to treat me better. She chose a negative & destructive path with me instead of a positive one. Too bad I rewarded her crappy behaviour with being nice over numerous things (hoping she would change). To this day, I tell myself, “she’s lucky I even allow her access to my family”. My DH won’t cut MIL off (he doesn’t want to HURT her feelings). However, I will swat her attitude because after 20 some years of marriage, I’m not going to continue to let her bite me at her convenience. MIL does behave herself better now because she knows her treatment of me does mean more or less grandchildren time, & more or less time with her son (my DH). I have far more power over this situation than I ever thought I did. Too bad I was too busy being “nice” rather than assertive. Who’s the boss now Grandma?! Get out your fly swatter. It’s time to swat this problem away so there aren’t any more bites!

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Sierra February 25, 2014 at 2:08 am

Wow, I am so glad to have found all of you!!! And this article of course!

I am married to the son of a NMIL, and oh what a battle it has been. I can honestly say I had never before in my whole life come across someone like her (or her husband the “enabler”) until the day I started dating my husband. And that was only a year and a half ago. We got engaged after 3 months, and married within 7 months because we needed to marry and get away from her.

I knew my MIL for YEARS before I started dating her son, and thought she was a very sweet lady. In fact, I was working as a stand-in nurse at the same children’s camp as her a year and half before the relationship, when she had a stroke early in the morning before anyone was awake. I found her by chance, woke up her son, and rushed her to the hospital, all in time and she made a full recovery. She loved me after that.

Then the day we let her know we were dating, was the end of the woman I thought I knew for years. Immediately I met with animosity every time I came over, and I lived 3 hours away! She would expect me to spend all my time with her instead of my boyfriend, and do stuff with her instead, day in day out. When I would come over, she would immediately dispatch her son to clean the garage, or do dishes, while I was over until I dragged him away and stopped agreeing to come over. The whole family immediately hated me because I was making their mother upset, but all I wanted was to go to movies and dinner with my boyfriend, who was 26 at the time almost 27 (who had never had a girlfriend).

When he started making conscious choices of me over her, then the lies started to fly. She told him that I had called her to tell her “I want your son, and he’s going to be all mine”. She told everyone in their church that. She started calling everyone she knew to tell all the lies about me to. Lies that I was controlling her son, manipulative, and a liar. (I think this is what is called projection…because she was doing all these things to him). She would always remark to him that I was just a pretty girl and that was all.

When he begin to “doubt reality” and not know what to think anymore, I knew something was TERRIBLY wrong with this woman and her family. His stepfather just enabled my MIL and would shout at me that I was a liar and that I had his son whipped. Little did I know at the time that they had their son paying $1500 a month for rent and neither of his parents really worked. She valued him for the mortgage.

All hell broke loose when he bought a ring and told them he was going to marry me. She did everything in her power to prevent the wedding from happening. She even went to the pastor who was to marry us and told him all the lies till he agreed not to marry us unless we went through pre-marital counseling with him. All while she could keep tabs on our discussions through him. My MIL stooped so low as to tell my husband things like “the family doesn’t trust you anymore” and “your sisters come to me crying because they don’t understand why your fiancee hates them so much.” All lies of course. Something I’ve learned about NM’s…..they like to control information so they can twist it to keep their alliances.

Nobody believed me who were involved in his life or close to his family. She had already gotten through to them and now they had made up their minds. I got severe stomach aches and nausea when we would have to go to their house, or get near them. Even the pastor had his doubts about me until it came to the day of our wedding when he saw her for what she truly was. He still apologizes to this day for the speculation.

My own mother could only feel sorry for me throughout the whole process. She even listened in once to a “skype” call with my MIL while she tried to manipulate me into letting her plan things for the wedding. She warned me to be careful what I was getting into.

Now that we are married, she hardly talks to us, and now keeps us away from his sisters, who are now clueing into what their mother’s game is. I try to take them shopping, and she makes all the excuses in the book as to why they can’t go, and then when they ask her why I never come try to take them shopping, she snidely says “oh it’s probably never going to happen. Just false promise you know.”

I can only imagine what it will be like when we decide to have babies!

To all of you, my condolences. We are all in this together. The best thing we can do is gather more information to better understand the problems our NMIL’s have, so we can protect ourselves from shame, guilt, blame, and anger.

Thanks for the article

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