Following is a recent story shared by a reader with a narcissistic mother-in-law:
Initially, I wasn’t sure if this could be considered a survivor story since as I am still dealing with my narcissist, but I think we might be at a point of no return – meaning, things have come sharply to head like they never have before. This will be long, but I really need to get this story out for my sanity.
In 1998, both of my parents died unexpectedly within five months of each other, and both were fairly young. I happened to be living with them because I had recently ended a 9 year marriage.
Truly it was a year from hell. My mother passed first, then my divorce was final. Then, three weeks before my father passed away unexpectedly, I met the man who is now my husband. (I’ll call him Evin.) I was never luckier than finding him during such a sad time in my life. We’ve been together for almost 16 years. He did, however, come with one huge problem. His mother. Thankfully though she lived across the country.
One time when she came to visit (her first visit after we started dating) she spent all her time going through Evin’s things, telling him what to throw out, reorganizing his house and running him ragged. I thought it was very strange. After she left to go back home, Evin told to me that his mom said that she didn’t think it was fair of me to be in a relationship with him because I had too much emotional baggage. She said he should break up with me so I could heal. I was stunned. He said to her: I’m not going anywhere. Just because she’s going through a lot doesn’t mean she has to go through it alone.”
Shortly after that first visit by her, we went to her place in CA so I could attend the wedding of a friend. I had an awful time. The only ones communicating were Evin and his mom. I was rarely included in any discussion. Evin did a billion errands for her and she kept him very busy. It was as if he was there to everything she asked and to cater to her every demand. We went everywhere she wanted following her like little minions. One evening when Evin walked out of the room his mother told me the same thing she told him several months before. She said: “I believe that you have too much going on in your life right now and I don’t think you are being fair to MY SON. If you have any respect for him you will leave him and let him go.” I had no idea what to even say to that. I was shocked mute. Since we never made any plans because Evin was always at her beck and call, I decided to go out with my girlfriend and get out of the house. I used his mother’s home phone in the house to make the arrangements. My call lasted less than 10 minutes. Later, Evin’s mother told I wasn’t allowed to use her telephone unless I asked her permission. Her demand was so bizarre. I hadn’t asked permission to use a telephone since I was 10!
During the second year of our relationship she doubled down on the nasty behavior. She called him on the phone all the time. Sometimes it was five times a night, interrupting whatever we were doing. She asked him to do all sorts of tasks for her: purchase airline tickets online, make hotel reservations or help her sell things on ebay. He catered to her every whim whenever she had one. I thought it was strange and tried to tell him that I didn’t think all those calls were normal, but I let it go. After all, she was so very far away.
One day Evin told me that his mom fell down and broke her leg. She was drunk at midnight and fell down the steps. Suddenly Evin was the be-all-end-all of her life. He must go visit her immediately and drop everything to attend to her. However, he didn’t because we had vacation plans to fly out and see my sister. He did not alter his plans. We were about to find out just how much hell he was going to pay for being with me instead of her. Upon our return we learned that she needed surgery on her leg. Evin decided to surprise her and fly out at Thanksgiving near the date of her surgery. Before he could even tell her his plans, she called to speak to him at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, 4:00 am her time. When I answered the phone she used a phrase she uses all the time when referring to Evin: “Is MY SON there.” He walked out of the room and I could hear them arguing. She was rebuking him for not visiting her after her accident and that he instead went on a vacation with me. Worse, she was furious that Evin went and saw people he didn’t even know (never mind it was my family) rather than being with her. She shrieked about how horrible I was and that she hated me. I was keeping him away from her on purpose!! She said that she didn’t understand why Evin bothered to date a woman who wouldn’t insist that he go to his mother when she needed him. She barely even knew me, yet I was 18 kinds of horrible. She upset Evin so badly, he was in tears and very shaken up after the call.
A few weeks later on Thanksgiving Day, when he was with her, I called him to say hello. His mom answered the phone. Evin was out running an errand. I wished her a Happy Thanksgiving, asked about her leg, inquired her day and told her what I was doing. It was a normal conversation. When Evin got home he called me back and he asked why I wasn’t nice to his mom on the phone. Confused, I said “what do you mean?” He said that his mother was upset because I didn’t wish her a Happy Thanksgiving, didn’t ask how she was or anything, and that I simply hung up on her without saying goodbye when I found out Evin wasn’t there. I was astonished. I told him none of that was true. He said “well, that’s not her side of the story.” I realized right then that she was a colossal liar and wouldn’t stoop to lie so she could paint me in bad light.
After dating for about two and a half years, Evin proposed. His mother tried hard to get him to take the diamond his dad had given to her for their engagement 30 years before. His parents hated each other, and were only married for five years and three of those years they spent apart as he was stationed in Vietnam as a fighter pilot. They had nothing in common. There was nothing sentimental about the offer of the diamond and Evin didn’t even know he was supposed to have it. She’d never mentioned it before and it was already the setting in a necklace she designed for herself. She had no plans to give him that diamond and I’m pretty sure the idea struck her so she could have some say in my engagement ring and be involved where she had no place being. I said no thank you. During all of this, Evin did not understand why I was so upset when she did things like that. According to him, she was just being nice by offering the diamond. I got her number pretty quickly and saw every one of her manipulations for what they were. He couldn’t see it or didn’t want to see it. One night two weeks before the wedding she called me when Evin wasn’t home. She was drunk and carried on about how “you and I got off on the wrong foot” and “I want to make our relationship work and start again” or “I see how much MY SON loves you.” She used that word again. MY SON. Evin was never Evin – a person in his own right. He is always, and I mean always, referred to as HER SON. After that conversation I was very skeptical. Good thing too because she didn’t mean a word she said.
On the night before our wedding we had an elegant buffet dinner planned for family and out of town guests at a restaurant two blocks from the hotel where everyone, including me and my maid of honor were staying. It was not a kid friendly party and my nieces and nephews were all going to my sister’s house who had a sitter arranged for that purpose. Evin’s nieces and nephews were supposed to go there as well, and I had given Evin’s sister all the information she needed. She ignored me. (The sister is a whole other story). I was getting dressed with only 45 minutes to spare before dinner when his mother barged into my hotel room and said “we’ve got a problem!” She went on to explain that Evin’s niece and nephew didn’t have anywhere to go if they weren’t invited to the dinner and she wanted to know “what I was going to do about it.” I wasn’t about to deal with a babysitter problem! I had dealt with it, but they ignored it. As I was explaining that I had made arrangements, his mom spotted the adjoining room door that opened into another hotel room. It was where one of my out of town friends were staying. She walked right into my friend’s room, sat down on her bed, opened my friend’s purse, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and took one. I stood there astonished at her audacity. After words with my friend and me trying to get her out of my friend’s room, I just gave in and let them bring the niece and nephew to the dinner. I didn’t want them there, but grandma and sister apparently did, because both of them manipulated the situation by conveniently ignoring the previously made arrangements. At that moment, Evin called my room to tell me he was running late but on his way. I told him it was fine but that he should go directly to the restaurant or he was not going to make it time. I would meet him there. As soon as it was clear Evin and I were done with our conversation, his mother grabbed the phone from me and proceeded to counter exactly what I wanted Evin to do, by telling him to stop at the hotel to pick her up on his way to the restaurant. At this point, I was seething and trying not to let this woman get the better of me.
Evin ended up being 45 minutes late. I stood there at our own pre-wedding dinner greeting his family that I had never met before without. I was so angry because I knew she made him late on purpose. When he arrived to get her, instead of being ready to leave, she made him sit there and wait and wait and wait. He was miserable when he arrived. That night MIL-to-be proceeded to get rip roaring drunk. She tried open a locked patio door to get “into the bathroom,” stumbled around and said really rude things to everyone in my family. Worst was the conversation she had with my mother’s sister was a sweet 75 year old lady. My mother had died three years previous, so my aunt was the closest thing I had to a mother. She deserved every respect. This is the brief conversation between Evin’s mom and my aunt after introducing themselves:
Aunt: I am so happy my niece found someone she loves, and of course Evin is very lucky because he’s got our girl and she’s just a peach.. We’re so happy for them.
MIL-to-be: Yeah, well, he’s going to have to put up with her shit and she’s going to have to put up with his.
Clearly there was no end to the gloom and negativity his mother wanted to inflict on our night. The rest of the night Evin’s family ran around trying to keep her distracted and away from us so she wouldn’t ruin our night. During the wedding she was her typical annoying self, but again got super drunk and tried to hang all over me insisting we got off on the wrong foot and that she wanted to make it right between us. All I wanted to do was shove her off me and take a shower. She didn’t mean anything she said and I knew it.
A little over a year after we got married Evin and I built a house. Two months later I found out I was pregnant. I can’t remember much about the MIL during that time, but I do remember one conversation when I answered the phone and she said “are you fat yet?” She still called Evin all the time — five, six, seven times a day. In preparing for the baby to arrive, Evin and I agreed that we didn’t want any family around the first week after the baby was born. I specifically didn’t want the pressure of guests, even family, hanging and staying in our house while I healed and we bonded with the baby. Everyone in our family understood and respected that request — except her. After a couple of phone calls his mother totally-on-purpose mixed everything up we’d said and suddenly believe that we didn’t want her to visit at all after the baby was born. She was so furious at this imagined slight that she said to Evin: “If I am not wanted then I will have nothing to do with your baby and will walk out of your lives forever!” Evin was understandably upset and called his sister to get the scoop on what she told his mom. According to his sister, she never said anything like that. Again I could see that Evin’s mother lied to turn things into a huge fiasco.
I know this is getting long and I don’t even know how to get this all out but piece by piece. During her visit after the baby arrived, she noticed the lot across the street from our house was for sale. It was the last lot in the neighborhood that had yet to be sold. She bought it. She bought it, picked up her entire life from 2,000 miles away and plopped it 30 yards away. I could do nothing to stop it because she lied her way in. First she stated she was only purchasing the property for investment purposes, which could have been true. She had four other properties in CA, AZ and FL that she owned. A few months later she stated she was actually going to build a house on the property, but not live there. She was going to flip it. A few months later it was that she was going to live there, but only live there a few months out of the year because she hated snow, and by the time the house was finished she’d announced she was living there permanently! I was sick to my stomach about it. Worse I didn’t realize that all that planning and building would require her to fly back and forth numerous times, usually staying each time in our house no less than 10 days at a time. All together she probably lived with us for a total of four months over the span of a year. By the end, I was losing my mind with the constant interruptions. Whenever she came to visit, our life was turned upside down and she demanded all of Evin’s time and it drove me crazy. I tried to get Evin to see how intrusive it was and he never understood. He never set boundaries and he let interruptions upset the flow of our family life. I know some people will not understand why I didn’t stop her or tell her no. But I was kept out of the loop most of the time, and then excuses just kept pouring in and gradually getting worse until it was too late and she was moving here permanently. By this time I was pregnant with our second child.
One night during one of her many visits she had me sobbing after I got away from her because she had the audacity to use my mother’s memory in some bullshit ploy to make me accept her. MIL had never met my parents, never asked about them nor did she have the slightest interest in them. I doubt she even knows their names. But she spoke about my mom that night as if she and my mother had been fast friends. She said in a sickly sweet voice, “I wanted to tell you that your mom came to me in a dream last night and it was clear that she was happy that I was in your life and she wanted me to know that she was sharing you with me as a mother.” I wanted to vomit. My mother was a saint compared to her. This woman couldn’t keep a relationship longer than six months! When my mom died we had to have the funeral service in a ginormous chapel to accommodate everyone and even then, they had to add chairs to the back of the chapel and then the line went out the door into the parking lot where people stood the entire time. She was loved by everyone and everyone’s brother. There won’t even be one person to spit on that woman’s grave when she dies. She has alienated everyone in her life. To even contemplate putting my mother on the same plain as that dried up dishrag was disgusting to me.
For the next ten years I dealt with her crap. Even though she lived across the street, nothing would stop her from calling all hours of the day demanding my husband’s attention to replace a light bulb, or look at this new project she was doing, help her pick a paint color, mow her lawn, fix her printer, remind her for the 10th time how to upload a picture or just sit there and have a drink with her — the list is endless. And Evin did it. The minute she snapped her fingers. I felt like I was on an episode of Sister Wives and I had to share my husband with another woman. It felt sick. Worse, whenever she was with him it seemed she would complain to him about me over the stupidest stuff or things that were flat out lies.
Another particular manipulative, hurtful thing she did I can never forgot. His mother likes to garage sale and she purchased a used, plastic Fisher Price kitchen set one day and called me to ask if I wanted it for our almost three year old daughter. I told her no, because I wanted to buy a kitchen set myself for our daughter when she was a little older. This was something I was saving to do when our daughter was about five. I was really excited about it. As a kid I loved my kitchen set and wanted to be a part of the one we got our daughter. About a half hour after I told her “NO” to the garage sale kitchen set, I was coming upstairs with laundry to fold when Evin called me out to the garage. When I got out there, that wench had brought over the kitchen set, with plastic food and toy dishes, set them down, got my daughter and let her start playing with it. As I took in what she did, that evil hag gave me a huge smile and waved her hand at my daughter and the kitchen set and said: “See? See how much she’s loves it?!!” I was so upset. If I took it away now, I’d look like the bad guy to my three year old. Sneaky witch. She knew exactly what she was doing. Again, my husband didn’t understand any of it. It just looked like she was being an awesome grandma and if I were to say anything, I’d look like a complaining brat. A few minutes later she followed me into the house to gloat over how much my daughter liked the kitchen set. I was barely listening to her while cleaning up the kitchen. What I was really doing was trying super hard not to choke her. At one point while she was gloating and trying to convince me what she did was perfectly fine, she reached out and put her hand on my arm/wrist as if to grab me to stop me from walking away from her. Bad move. I was already trying not to rip her hair out, so her touching me was like acid. I stopped, looked at her hand and immediately jerked my hand away from her and my arm flailed in a big circle to get out of her grasp. However, she didn’t even bat an eye or acknowledge what I had just done. She finished her yapping about five minutes later and went home. A few hours later she called Evin to tell him that when she was in the kitchen talking to me I “physically attacked her.” She was twisting the story of HER grabbing ME and my yanking away as “attacking” her. It was absurd. Evin didn’t believe it, but he let his mom get away with behavior like that all the time. He questions me, gets my answer, realizes his mother was lying again, and blew it off.
One more memorable thing (among many) was the very frightening earring debacle. When my oldest daughter was about 3 years old, MIL had taken her to some garage sales with her. We would always send her with a $5 bill so daughter could purchase what she wanted. When they returned home, my daughter came into the house with a tiny package wrapped in tissue paper and was excited to give it to me. When I opened it, it was a pair of silver earrings with a little ruby stone in the center that she had bought me at the garage sale. It was so sweet and they were actually decent earrings that I could wear every day. I loved them. We were getting ready to go out dinner so I put them on the dining room table still wrapped in tissue. A day or so later I wanted to wear them, so I went to the dining room to get them, but they were not there. I looked everywhere, even concerned that maybe one of my cats had battered the tissue package to the floor, but I could not find them. I was bummed. L For weeks I looked, but never found them. About three years ago at Christmas I got a small wrapped package from MIL. I opened it up and there in a little box were those silver and ruby earrings from that I thought I had lost. I was so perplexed. I thought I was losing my mind. I stared in confusion and could not believe my eyes, but I am positive that those are the same earrings. All I can figure is that as soon as we left that night, she snuck into our house, stole them off the table and gave them back to me years later. Whether she knew I’d recognize them or not, I don’t know. I didn’t say anything but it was severely disturbing. I told Evin, and he just thought I was imagining things. He’s wrong. I know those earrings because that was the first gift my oldest daughter had ever given me that she’d picked out on her own. I know those were the same earrings.
Understand that I was complaining to Evin about her behavior as often as I could when she did something obvious and to some degree he did understand. But it didn’t matter. I could see that all that mattered to Evin was that nothing rock the boat with her, because if he did, there would be hell to pay. She would get angry with him or ignore him for a few days and it had the desired effect. His immediate capitulation.
For a long time she seemed to behave okay with our two daughters. She appeared to love them and want to be with them and I never withheld them from her so long as I thought they were safe.. But after a while when they got older, say 6 and 8, they started to whine about not wanting to go to see her, or my youngest would have a fit and not want to stay the night if she was watching them when Evin and I had a night out. Things got worse and worse. They are now 9 and 11 years old and old enough to understand when something isn’t right and old enough to tell me what happens when they are alone with her. Things like: if they spent the night, she wouldn’t get her butt out of bed until 11:00 to make them breakfast or engage with them, she’d make them clean and do things instead of spending time with them, she’d go shopping with them and then get mad at a sales clerk or waitress and be really mean to them or have an enormous fit in public and the girls would get really embarrassed, or she’d see some heavy person and snicker and tell the girls “look how fat she is, she can barely walk” or she’d pick on some handicapped person. My daughters are good hearted people and that upset them. She’d promise to take them to dinner, and then would take them to a fancy inappropriate restaurant they didn’t want to go to just so she could have the type of meal she wanted. She’d drag them to art and museum functions under the guise of giving them some culture. It bored them to tears. What was really happening is that she went to those adult places so she could have wine at dinner or wine during the function and dragged my kids along so she wouldn’t be alone. She didn’t give a hoot about their happiness or whether they had a good time with her. It was never about them.
The last straw was a super creepy thing she did that had me furious. One day when my youngest was sick, MIL offered to pick our youngest up from school and let her stay at her house until we got out of work. My daughter was only mildly sick and it was a warm, rainy summer day. My daughter wanted to go out on my MIL’s back deck and play in the rain. MIL allowed this and then our daughter came back in. When my daughter was taking off her clothes to put dry ones on, MIL told her to go outside naked and dance in the rain. My daughter did not want to. She was self-conscious, of course, and embarrassed and told her grandma no. She argued with my daughter about it for a while and finally ordered her go outside naked, which my daughter did because she always did what she was told by family. In world where I am trying to teach my daughters that their body is their own and that no one has a right to tell them what to do with it, that evil excuse for human made my daughter do something she didn’t want to do that was wholly inappropriate. I found this out months after she did this. God only knows what else she’s made them do. I also found out that she talks bad about me all time making snide comments by insinuating that I’m lazy or that I should be fired from my job because I call my kids during the day or rolling her eyes at my daughters when they talk about me. This had the opposite affect MIL intended. Instead of my daughters believing her tales and start disliking me, my daughters started to really dislike her for talking badly about me. My oldest who is 11, loathes her grandmother right now. MIL is beginning to understand that our oldest daughter is starting to figure her out for what she is. I think MIL knows that she has begun to lose her control of my daughter now that she’s older and MIL is angry with her. On Christmas Eve this year this we had a full house of people including my family members. Early in the evening MIL sat across the living room from my oldest staring at her. Just staring at her like … I don’t know … like a zombie. My daughter whispered to me: “momma, grandma is staring at me and it’s scaring me. Make her stop.” I told her to ignore her. I walked away, turned around and watched what she was doing with my own eyes. Without a doubt, she was drilling malevolent intent into my kid. It definitely was scary.
Within the last few months things have been getting worse with MIL. Probably because she broke her leg again in a car accident she caused. She couldn’t walk and couldn’t drive and she wanted everyone to pity her. She can’t seem to hide her nastiness anymore and it seems to be accelerating. Evin has seemed tired of it. She’s been demanding and horrible even with him and he was reaching his limit of patience with her — which is rare!! In addition, we’ve not encouraged the girls to be with her at all, and they don’t want to anyway. Every time they’d go over to her house to scoop her cats litter box or do a few things to help with her broken leg, they’d want to leave and come home when done. As soon as they’d start to leave, MIL would burst into tears and tell them they were being mean to her. She told them that’s she’s nice to them, but they aren’t nice to her and why won’t they stay and keep her company or “you don’t want me anymore and I’m just going to move away and everyone will be sorry.” It made our girls very uncomfortable and pissed me off because MIL’s emotional well-being is not the responsibility of my children. Screw her for trying to guilt them.
The latest fiasco with MIL and when things really began to change happened in early January when we took her out for her birthday dinner. I was determined to be as pleasant possible so my husband would not be stressed and that that the evening would go smoothly. MIL was seated in the passenger seat in our van. I sat in the back seat with our girls. Right away it seemed like something was off. She was way too friendly. We chatted all the way to the restaurant where we were meeting her friend Judy. This friend she’d had for the last year, but I had been seeing Judy’s car in her driveway less and less as time went on. It had been a year. MIL was past due for losing another friend. That night she was a horror. She started poking me verbally and talking about my alleged shortcomings, she confronted me all pissed off that I didn’t run to her side. She said she knew I didn’t like her and she wanted to know why. I just kept saying that we weren’t going to get into all the now and to stop it. She wasn’t hitting the mark with me, but my daughters were scared that she was jumping all over me verbally. My 11 year old tapped my leg and whimpered “mommy I want to go home.” My 9 year old sat in her chair like a deer in the headlights. MIL complained about me to my husband in voice I could barely make out, but I could hear my name occasionally and something like “fucking daughter-in-law” and once time I heard “I know she is pissed off I moved here, to too fucking bad.” I couldn’t hear most of what she said to Evin, but my nine year old heard every bit of it. She turned from me to pick on both of my daughters – about chapped lips, and bitten finger nails and the way my 11 year old held her fork – ONCE. She complained about her gifts, our parenting skills and carried on and on. My husband was getting angry and telling her to stop it. Her friend Judy was looking at me in horror like “what the hell is wrong with her?” Everyone was uncomfortable and she was starting to get loud. Then suddenly, about 10 minutes after we got our food MIL announced “I want to go home. Right now!” We all had to hurry and eat, which was fine because we wanted to get away from her. She used her four-point walker and moved as fast as her apparently drunk legs could get her. We got in the car and got lost right away because the highway on ramps had been moved during recent construction. When I tried to explain to Evin how to find the highway on ramp, MIL shouts at me from the front seat in a slurred voice “Shuuddup beeetch.” I was so angry at that moment I swear I saw stars. She blabbered nonsense all the way home and I could tell Evin had had it with her.
When we pulled into the driveway, she started to get out of the car while Evin got her walker. She suddenly and very purposefully turned in her seat pinning my 9 year old with stare and said “sweetie, would you like to help Grandma carry her things into the house?” My nine year old looked on at her grandmother wide eyed and frightened and shook her head no. She didn’t want to do anything for Grandma. Grandma got infuriated and shrieked “I beg your pardon!?” I directed her anger at me and said “no, MIL, she doesn’t want to help you, but I will help Evin carry your things.” She got out of the car in a huff and headed into the house while I grabbed the gift bags and her left over dinner containers and followed them into the garage. She had to go backwards up the steps using her walker as leverage and as she did so she stared at me over Evin’s head and was glaring at me with the most hate filled look I have ever seen. Once in the house I walked past her, set her things down on the counter and had to walk by her again on my way out. As I did, she continued glaring daggers at me and screamed as loud as she could:
“YOOOUUUU.AAAAREEEEEE.A.FUUCCCKKING BIIIITTTCH!” I smiled at her as I sailed past her in the doorway and said nothing.
Since that time we have had barely any contact with her. Evin is furious with her and realizes she’s way out of control. That night he told the girls they no longer had to go see her if they didn’t want to. It’s been six weeks and I have not heard her voice, nor has she called the house phone. Evin told her she isn’t allowed to see the girls or talk to them until she gets therapy. He does a few things for her if she needs them, but keeps a good distance. I don’t think it is going to go well, and she’s only going to get worse but at least Evin is on board — for now. I’ve introduced Evin and his sister to NPD and they have both agreed that that is their mother without a doubt. I’m worried that Evin isn’t going to be able to resist this and things will be let go again. She talks to him on the phone and texts, but it isn’t like before. However, I know her and I know him and I’m afraid that he won’t hold his ground. I guess we’ll see.