27 Signs Of A Toxic Mother-in-Law And How To Deal With Her

People who consider you wrong and show an inconsiderate attitude towards you can be toxic. If you think you have a toxic mother-in-law, it could be because you get negative vibes from her, and she keeps making rude and unwarranted remarks at you. Maybe she is always taunting you or looks unhappy with your work. However, it’s not so easy to deal with her as you are a family now and have to consider everyone’s emotions.

Nonetheless, there are signs of knowing if she is toxic or has some personal problems to be resolved. Knowing them will help you understand the situation better to deal with it the right way. So, keep reading this post for signs and ways to manage the situation.

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27 Signs Of A Toxic Mother-In-Law

Life becomes smooth and easy when you get along with your mother-in-law. But, at times, she could be challenging to deal with. Read these signs to know if your mother-in-law is toxic or it is your assumption.

1. She is too involved in your married life

A toxic and overbearing mother-in-law seeks ways to create trouble in your married life. Does she get involved in your family by giving you unsolicited advice, such as what career path to follow, where to live, and when to start a family? It shows she wants to be actively involved in every decision you make as a couple.

protip_icon Point to consider
A toxic mother-in-law might try to persuade you that you are not deserving of their son or daughter. Her intention behind doing this may be to dominate you.

2. She is always around you and your partner

Interfering is a common trait of a toxic mother-in-law, and eavesdropping is one of the telltale signs. She will somehow be around you, so she can get free news about what you are up to or how your relationship with your spouse is going. She is nosy and enjoys getting secret access to the tidbits of your life.

3. She is too critical of you

A hostile negative mother-in-law is unwelcoming and will look for ways to put you down, and so she may judge your choices and everything you do. For example, she might not like your style, accent, the way you eat, or the way you talk to strangers. Nothing about you pleases her, so she could dislike you.

An anonymous blogger shares her experience with a toxic mother-in-law. She says, “The day my mother-in-law stepped foot in our new marble palace was also the first day I got a real taste of her venom — and it was potent as ever.

“I vividly remember the first dagger she chucked my way, nearly word for word: ‘Most women would kill to live in a house like this. Few deserve it.’ I can still feel her icy cold stare, which seemed to challenge me to prove my worth in that house. My house. The house I single-handedly chose after driving around with countless realtors, viewing and vetoing home after home when Hubby was busy with work. Despite signing the prenup, the NDAs, and every other random document requested before pledging my life to her son, I still couldn’t shake the one and only perception she held of me: a gold-digger (i).”

4. She speaks ill of you

An unkind mother-in-law may have something wrong to say about you. She makes no bones about her feelings towards you and complains about everything you do. Speaking ill of you behind your back reflects her attitude towards you.

5. She argues to win

There is no use trying to reason out when she fights only to have the last word. No matter what you say or do, she shows that she is right. She might not admit her mistake even if it is clear to everyone, including herself.

6. She snubs you most of the time

To make you feel unimportant, the mother-in-law can be unaccommodating and may ignore you most of the time. She may not consider you when planning for the family, and she may even ignore your suggestions, even if they are good.

7. She wants you to comply with her wishes

She may expect you to be docile and submissive to be on good terms with you. She may want you to adopt her lifestyle and follow her orders. And when you refuse to do so, you become a bad daughter-in-law in her eyes.

8. She refuses to give you personal space

You may have a separate house with your spouse and children, but your mother-in-law’s unyielding disapproval looms large. She may arrive at your home anytime she pleases and leaves whenever she feels like it. She may even comment on your lifestyle and point out flaws in maintaining your house and caring for your family.

9. She offers unwanted advice

Toxic mother-in-law gives unwanted advice

Image: Shutterstock

Giving advice is one of the best ways for a toxic mother-in-law to prove her superiority over you. She offers her unsought pearls of supposed wisdom for everything under the sun. She may tell you how to keep the house spick and span, how to tutor children at home, and even how to keep your spouse happy. She tries to highlight your inefficiencies and show off her multi-tasking skills.

10. She gifts expensive gifts to your family

Does she try to beat you in every way possible, including the gifting department? She may spoil your spouse and children with expensive gifts. It is one of the ways to ensure that your family loves her and feels that she is more thoughtful than you.

11. She gets you gifts, with conditions applied

When a mother-in-law, who is demanding and toxic, buys something for you, she wants you to praise her choice and use it the way she wants you to. For instance, she buys you a set of wine glasses, and the next time there is a party at your house, she may expect you to use those glasses for your guest and tell them that it was her gift.

12. She likes to bring up the past

Perhaps you found it difficult to get along with your spouse’s family and made some mistakes when trying to adjust. You might have forgotten your mistakes, but your toxic and unforgiving mother-in-law may remind you of your sloppy first days. She could joke about your nervousness or bring up any of your embarrassing incidents.

13. She sabotages your image

This may not be easy to detect, especially if your mother-in-law acts friendly to you. She may make you do stuff knowing how badly you might fail at it. For instance, she may ask you to make apple pie for your child and then manipulate your child, saying it is not tasty and she could do better.

14. She remains unimpressed by you

No matter what you do or how hard you try, she may find faults and seldom be impressed by what you do for her or others.

15. She acts differently in front of your spouse

What may seem like a dual personality to you could be your toxic mother-in-law acting differently with you in front of your spouse. Around your spouse, she may be cordial and amiable, but the moment they turn their back, she could give you the cold shoulder. This behavior is unreasonable and can be difficult to deal with.

16. She plays the victim card

A toxic mother-in-law may be mean and rude to you, but she becomes the victim when you protest. How does that happen? Well, while narrating a particular incident, she may change her tone and demeanor in such a way that the listener feels that you are the one who hurt her while she was right in doing whatever she did.

17. She plays manipulative games

Playing mental games may come easily to a toxic mother-in-law. She may give you backhanded compliments, dish out sarcastic remarks, guilt-trip you for something you did accidentally, and blame you for anything that goes wrong in her child’s life. And she does it in a way that will earn her the sympathy of her family and your spouse.

18. She is self-centered and controlling

A mother manipulating her daughter against her partner

Image: IStock

She wants everything to be about her, making her behavior toxic. She wants to be the decision-maker for her children. She disapproves of you and will try to break your relationship only so she can choose the supposed right person for her child. This behavior can be intimidating and create a challenging environment to navigate.

19. She tries to turn people against you

If, at any point, a toxic mother-in-law feels that your presence in her family threatens her place, she may try to tarnish your image. She may try to turn her family and friends against you by either exaggerating instances or even lying about you.

20. She makes you feel uninvited during family gatherings

Often, she is likely to ‘forget’ to invite you. Even if she remembers, she may do it at the last minute, so you have no time to prepare for the gathering. When with guests, she may talk to everyone but you and may even enjoy teasing you in front of them. She makes you so uncomfortable that you regret coming to the gathering.

21. She mocks your family

If you are from a humble background and your mother-in-law is toxic, then she may use it to mock you. She may disrespect your family and also ensures that your children are granted more time with her than your family. This behavior is condescending and can be hurtful.

22. She compares you with other daughters-in-law

If your toxic mother-in-law does not like you, she may constantly compare you with the daughters-in-law of her friends. She may complain about how her friends are lucky while she has fallen short on luck. If that isn’t enough, she may even compare you to your spouse’s ex and sigh about the lost opportunity at a good marriage.

23. She holds grudges and seeks revenge

You may accidentally do something that might annoy her. One wrong move from you, and she will find all kinds of ways to spite and insult you. She may keep doing it until she feels vindicated. And only then, she may try to forgive you.

24. She keeps changing her behavior with you

It does not matter if you are in the company of others or alone with your mother-in-law. She changes her behavior around you constantly, making her highly unpredictable. The joke she laughed at yesterday becomes insulting today. You may feel you are walking on eggshells around her because you don’t know how she might react.

25. She seldom apologizes

Firstly, there is no way a toxic mother-in-law apologizes to you. And even if she does, she may do it in such a way that it makes you feel bad. She may say something similar to ‘If you felt insulted, then I will apologize’ or ‘I’m sorry I was only ensuring that my child gets the best.’

26. She harbors jealousy for you

She may not admit this, but deep down, a toxic mother-in-law is jealous of you, and it is her envy that provokes her nasty behavior towards you. She may downplay your achievements and success because she feels insecure about you.

27. She does not mend her ways

A toxic mother-in-law does not mend her ways

Image: Shutterstock

If she misbehaves with everyone, there is hardly any hope for her to change herself. Her toxic behavior is probably deep-rooted, and she may not change for you.

Effects Of Having A Toxic Mother-In-Law

Having a toxic mother-in-law can be challenging for your mental health and your relationship with your husband. It may even damage your marriage. Such mother-in-laws assert unsolicited opinions about their child’s relationship and family decisions. They often criticize their child’s spouse and try to control their family. They may also negatively influence how her grandchildren perceive their mother. These may create misunderstanding, turmoil, and conflict and affect your relationship with your spouse.

How To Deal With A Toxic Mother-In-Law?

If you feel your mother-in-law exhibits all or most of the traits listed above, then know that she is a toxic person. And if you wish to be easy and want your relationship with her to go smoothly, then here are some ways you may try.

1. Identify the reason behind her behavior

There is no justification for toxicity, but it makes it easy to understand her and go forward when you find out why your mother-in-law is negative towards you. It may also help you predict her reaction to specific instances so that you can avoid ugly confrontations.

protip_icon Quick tip
Integrate her into your family so she won’t feel uncomfortable around you. Let her know that you value her relationship with her son and that you do not intend to interfere with or take anything away from that in any way.

2. Show her how happy her child is with you

Tell her what your spouse has been up to and how you have been supporting them. If she feels that her child has a good partner, she may not bother you too much and be happy with her child’s happiness.

3. Avoid trying too hard

You may be a friendly person, but winning over your mother-in-law may seem difficult even for you. After trying hard, if she won’t budge, then let it go. Do not try too hard to impress her, as trying too hard may only annoy her more. And sometimes, time is the only solution.

4. Detach yourself from the negativity

In many cases, the negative behavior of a person has less to do with you and more to do with the person themselves. So, do not bother yourself too much about your mother-in-law’s bad attitude towards you. Also, it doesn’t mean you act the same way. Try to have a positive approach towards her.

5. Avoid reacting to her

Ignore your toxic mother-in-law's

Image: IStock

Most of the time, toxic people behave the way they do, only to get a reaction from you. Perhaps your toxic mother-in-law also thrives on reaction. So, try not to react to her. If she passes a snide remark, do not retort. Do not react in any way that can give her a chance to call you out in front of others.

6. Defend but don’t attack

When you feel that matters are getting out of hand, you can be vocal about how you feel. Talk to her as calmly as possible and make her understand your feelings. She may or may not understand you. Whatever happens, do not seek revenge. After all, she is your family.

7. Note and avoid trigger points

After spending some time with your mother-in-law, look for triggers that evoke sharp remarks or rude comments from her. When you know how she behaves in certain scenarios, avoid it as much as possible.

8. Put some distance between her and you

When someone makes you unhappy, it is best to stay away. You may not entirely avoid your mother-in-law, but try to avoid being in her company. It is okay to skip an unimportant family gathering or an occasional family dinner when you know you cannot take on any negative energy.

9. Seek help from your partner

Try talking to your spouse if you think you cannot handle the negativity. Make them aware of the situation and seek their help. But do not turn them against their mother. Doing so will only create discord between your partner and you.

10. Forgive her

Forgive your toxic mother-in-law and start afresh

Image: Shutterstock

Lastly, forgive your mother-in-law for all the wrong she has done to you. Do it not for her but for your peace of mind. There is no point in having a war with your relatives as you will lose either way. So, you should let it go and not take her bad behavior to heart.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can a toxic mother-in-law destroy a marriage?

Family dynamics may have a massive impact on a person’s physical and emotional well-being. The lack of mutual love and respect between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law can cause a lot of stress in a relationship. If you share a rocky relationship with your mother-in-law, it may also affect your marriage.

2. Is it possible to set boundaries with a toxic mother-in-law?

Setting boundaries is important in every relationship. Before setting boundaries with your mother-in-law, make them aware about it. Communicate your boundaries with your partner and your mother-in-law. Also, stick to them and point out when they breach these boundaries.

3. What can I do if my spouse is not supportive in dealing with their toxic mother?

It can be annoying and challenging to deal with your husband’s toxic mother if your spouse is not supportive. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to handling complex family dynamics. To address the situation and determine a course of action that benefits you and your spouse, be patient, communicate openly, and seek expert assistance.

4. Can therapy help in dealing with a toxic mother-in-law?

Yes, counseling and therapy can help you deal with a toxic mother-in-law. You can explore your feelings, create coping mechanisms, and understand the dynamics of your relationship within the supportive and safe atmosphere of a therapist.

5. What impact can a toxic mother-in-law have on grandchildren?

A toxic mother-in-law can significantly impact grandchildren, as their behavior and interactions can influence their emotional well-being and family dynamics. Their harmful behavior can create emotional stress and put a strain on the relationships. Further, it can provide a negative role model and impact their self-esteem and identity.

6. When should I consider cutting ties with my toxic mother-in-law?

Deciding to cut ties with a toxic mother-in-law is profoundly personal and complex. It is a significant decision and should be made after careful consideration and reflection, like the severity of toxicity and when you have exhausted all the alternatives. Also, consider the long-term implications on your immediate family and seek support from an expert or your loved ones to decide in your best interest.

Your husband is the person who plays an irreplaceable part in both your and your mother-in-law’s life. The relationship you share with your mother-in-law can primarily affect your family’s environment and the equation with your partner. If you notice many of the signs mentioned above in your mother-in-law’s behavior, you may feel suffocated or unhappy. Discuss your apprehensions with your spouse if you think they can help solve your clashes. Try to understand the root cause of her behavior and ignore it while ensuring you do not compromise your self-respect and happiness.

Key Pointers

  • Your mother-in-law may be spilling toxicity if you always get a negative vibe from her.
  • Things like hovering around you and your husband or meddling in your married life too often are signs of toxicity.
  • Pointing out every small mistake, disrespecting your family, or acting innocent when confronted could be some signs.
  • Try not to react too much, stay calm, and discuss with your spouse to seek help.

It is not easy to deal with a toxic mother-in-law. Learn the 8 warning signs to be careful of in this video!

Personal Experience: Source

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Bharat Sharma

Bharat SharmaDCA, MPCC, RPC, CCAC, SAP

Bharat Sharma is a qualified Integrative Psychotherapist in Alberta, Canada with six years of experience. He is currently working as the director at Edmonton Counseling Services. A Master Practitioner in Clinical Counseling, Canadian Certified Clinical Supervisor, and Qualified Substance Abuse Professional, Sharma believes that the mind, body, and soul are intrinsically connected. Therefore, he practices integrative therapy that involves the...read full bio