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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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous April 14, 2018 at 10:00 pm

NMIL is horrible just like you all describe


Anonymous May 31, 2018 at 8:54 am

I only wish that my son would have had this information before he married and the daughter of a Narcissistic mother. She has destroyed their marriage and has taken captive her daughter and my son’s daughters. I appreciate you sharing this truth and I pray that it will help many couples save their marriages and their Children’s marriages. our whole family is living here because of this Narcissistic mother-in-law.


Ellie June 10, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Yes, my MIL has destroyed our relationship from the beginning. We went and got married and she had tried to prevent it from day 1. Beating on the door and going round and round the house crazy back then and then standing under the windows at night listening beating on the door ordering him around. Problem is that was 32 years ago she is still a problem and successfully turning her side of the family against me and encouraging him to stay away from mine even going so far as to follow him to my mother’s blow the horn for him to come out to her car and give an explanation. He quit his job after his father died and she the MIL then tried to tell me to leave get off her property. I said well you will have to talk to my husband about that first. She said angrily a few times that if hadnt been for me he would still be at home (then at 24 when we married ) and all he had to do was take care of the house for them and didn’t have to work just stay there spend time with his dad when he retired. Said things that when I told my husband we should’ve distanced ourselves but instead he ran to her more because the past 10 yrs of our marriage he stop working and then the past 5 started saying he wasn’t working for nobody and nobody could make him now carries a phone his mother has direct contact with..the phone now rings daily constantly her asking where he is and what did he spend the last 10 bucks she gave him on and it better be good or he won’t get no more.S he pays the few bills it takes to get by light bill water bill insurance and that’s all. I need meds for lupus but she said to him recent when my lupus has been flaring she didn’t give a damn what I needed My health has deteriorated. I can’t fight for a marriage that has been so well destroyed I’ve tried to do everything to make my hus band not feel stressed. Not insisted on the house be fixed or he get a job after once mention I stop I stay because of my son. Why you say? Well I homeschooled him not exactly what I wanted but the husband wanted it and had the mother in law pay for it and our son wanted it and the husband said I was an awful parent if I didn’t so I was torn. I wanted to homeschool of course I did but wanted him to get the best education. I felt like I wasn’t good enough to give him the very best in everything even if it was a good curriculum I used. Through those years of homeschool at some point as children do avoid or try and stop and with the husband backing him constantly when he didn’t want to do it I became enemy #1 and soon he had him on his side. I couldn’t get him to do anything and wWhen there should be no sides.. then the husband started encouraging him to physically hurt me (because he was afraid if he did like many years ago once and I had him arrested as well as another female family member she also had him arrested for assaulting her) when he seen the opportunity present itself hed tell my son when my son was angry at me for any parental correction I tried to instill the husband would sit down beside us while my son had hold of my arm talk so quietly saying she needs to die. She’s at fault here for everything if wasnt for her our lives would be better…Then my son just backed off and I told the husband he was mentally ill for what he was trying to encourage our son to do he would laugh and say maliciously our son ha ha for all I know he’s not mine. Well just for saying such a lie and with our son in the room I knew I’d go get a paternity DNA not for me or the husband because we both knew better. But my son standing there didn’t. I couldn’t get for a few years because the husband took every dime. I finally got it up though and husband refused to do mouth swab for a long time. I finally got him to do after wth holding sex forever. So after I got the results and it said 99.99℅ proving he was the father the son said when I showed to them oh that’s just fake. I said no Vanguard Accumetrics does many types of DNA and I sent him the results to his email and the phone number for him to call them anyrime…I’m tired though I’ve held in here hoping for change..some love shown back that never gets returned and why? What’s wrong with theae people? My son now tortures me pinching hitting screaming loudly at the top of his lungs and laughing at reactions. I’m afraid im in some crazy mentally insane place.

I started backing off . I ask him the husband why was he doing what he was doing that running in encouraging the son to harm me..hed smirk and ask what was I talking about? Said to my son hey we can Baker act her we just need one more signature I said what? Why? What is wrong with you to say this? I told him he was sabotaging his future his education! There’s so much more but it would be way too much here. Everytime Id say would you be happier if we live somewhere else he’d say no I’m fine here. Says he has everything he needs here because of the mother in law… I stay. Where am I to go. I have no money no home no vehicle. I’ve dedicated my life to here mssed lots of family time with my side I don’t even know the grown children of any of my at one time closest cousins. Missed time with so many only to stay in this mess.a and worry about my son doing all I could preparing class work. I lived and breathed homeschool work only to end up with him quitting and the husband discouraged him from wanting to get his license and I think the mil was behind that. I feel I’ve put all the try I can in this. Don’t think there’s hope for anything or anyone. My son’s 18 now he doesn’t have to do anything. But I’m still here to talk to him the good while the husband tells him women are gold diggers women are all whores they watch negative videos on YouTube about bad women and how the guy runs over them and are triumphant.But I am not like that. But they look at me with disgust because of what they see online…my son says all women are Thots a new word learned online…nice… Just want peace and love at home..not happening. Be nice to have a little camper and escape into the woods..and just die quietly. Quietly no noise…


pat June 14, 2018 at 7:18 pm

You need to leave. you have married a mysogonyst and have inherited a NMIL. The mysogonyst has now skewed your sons views- so unfair but predictable. YOU NEED TO LEAVE. Call a legal help line in your area and start to prepare to leave. You need a lawyer who is well versed in idiots like the jerk you married. Slowly but surely, start to prepare. Xeorx tax returns, your bnk account statements, etc… Tell everyone who you are friendly with that you are being abused- you are! You have RIGHTS! I have an evil MIL who hides behind the fact that she is devout Christen and married to a minister, who is also a mysogonyst ( I am taking a break from religion these days- creepy people preach too). Dont take the garbage being spouted but be SMART and SAFE. You deserve to be happy and the abuse must stop. Narcissitic MILs are incredibly cray cray and needy beyond belief. You will never win. They groom their children to praise every breath they take. If you can, get in her face, so to speak and let her know her boundries. Could work unless her baby boy has kept his balls in her pocket book for too long. He needs to take said balls and strap them back on but alas, he may be too crippled by his mommy. Get a lawyer and follow safe advise. Every city has legal help lines that cost nothing. You can do this- dont take the abuse!. NMILs are products of their own parental abuse. Very sad but it has to stop at some point. Be safe and best wishes.


Lola June 23, 2018 at 1:37 pm

You described my MIL to a T. Spouse aware of the toxicity, but not evolved enough to establish healthy boundaries. It’s been a killer on our marriage. She also married toxic sycophant/dependent person and bore three daughters who all work in tandem (aka are bullies) who carry out her toxic attacks. It’s been a futile family to have any healthy/honest communications with.

It’s hurt the kids, too, that I have put up with so much abuse and passive-aggressive toxic behavior. If I could do it over I’d have left when they were younger so that I could have modeled healthy boundaries.

In the end I tried to spare hurting the kids more than they were already hurt watching the toxic spill over the years.


Pepper December 29, 2018 at 6:54 pm

Thank you for this write-up! I needed this. My MIL is god awful. We’ve had to completely
cut ties on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, the bad behavior keeps coming back. You made some excellent points. People like this will never change. They feel that they are never at fault. They use things against you. Everything is blame. Never accountable for their actions. I’ve got stories you wouldn’t believe!


Salt December 29, 2018 at 10:08 pm

My husband and I are suffering with this exact scenario. Ironic both you and I are reading this article today. Wish you lots of luck. Our stories like yours are probably just as unbelievable


Pepper December 30, 2018 at 8:23 pm

Salt, I feel for you. Unreal that one person can have such a negative and destructive impact.
I’m sending good vibes to you.
It’s comforting knowing that there are other people out there that have experienced/are experiencing the same struggles.
Cheers to you and hugs!


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