“Oh, why! Yes.. It’s delightful to spend time with my mother-in-law, said nobody in their life except a few lucky ones who share an understanding relationship with them. On the contrary, it’s worse for those who have to endure a narcissistic mother-in-law, as they can really make your life a living, breathing nightmare. No matter how hard you try and how much you bend over backward, you can never please them or make them happy. 

It’s time you stop taking narcissistic in-laws and family members lightly. They have the ability to ruin a couple’s married life. Studies have shown that narcissistic parents may employ manipulative tactics to maintain control over their adult child’s life and relationships.

They may undermine their partner’s credibility, instigate conflicts, or create a sense of dependency. This manipulation can strain the couple’s dynamic, erode trust, and lead to feelings of resentment or power imbalances. That’s why it’s crucial to identify the signs and take charge before narcissistic mothers destroy your love. 

11 Signs Of A Narcissistic Mother-In-Law

Identifying a narcissistic mother-in-law can be challenging owing to the fact that they are cunning, charming, and creatively clever in disguising their actions. Before she ruins your mental health and the loving relationship you share with your spouse, here are some signs that may indicate her narcissistic personality disorder:

  • An inflated sense of ego
  • A constant need of attention and validation
  • Holding themselves in higher regard and considering themselves superior even though they haven’t got any credible achievements
  • Lack of respect for boundaries, the concept of boundaries is alien to people with narcissist tendencies
  • Lack of empathy, and always feeling they could handle a situation in a better way
  • Suppressed insecurities

While these traits are commonly found in narcissist people, in your relationship with your spouse’s mother these would manifest themselves as below scenarios:

1. She violates your boundaries 

One of the obvious covert narcissistic mother-in-law traits includes boundary violations. She won’t know where to draw the line and doesn’t believe in having healthy boundaries. Your marriage will not be yours alone.

She will want to know everything that’s happening in her son’s life, her daughter-in-law’s life, the maid’s life, and even the poor stray cat’s life. Yes, that’s how much she will invade your privacy. 

A study between narcissism and interpersonal relationships backs this toxic narcissistic mothers traits. The findings suggested that individuals with high levels of narcissism tended to have more difficulty recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others. They were more likely to engage in intrusive or controlling behaviors. 

2. Attention seeking behavior 

One particular trait of narcissistic people is that  they cannot let anyone take the spotlight, no matter what. A narcissistic mother-in-law wants the whole family’s attention. She wants the whole family to attend to her whims and fancies. Here are some ways she will try to hog everyone’s attention:

  • She will dominate the conversation. This is a classic grandiose narcissist trait. She will constantly steer conversations toward herself, seeking attention and validation. She will also interrupt others, talk over them, or shift the focus back to her own experiences or achievements
  • She will interrupt and divert everyone’s attention toward her even during significant events or celebrations. She may do this by making grand gestures, sharing personal anecdotes, or making demands that redirect the focus onto herself
  • Your mother-in-law’s narcissism will become apparent when she displays overly dramatic or exaggerated reactions to situations to draw attention. She may become overly emotional, engage in attention-seeking behaviors during gatherings, or act out to ensure all eyes are on her

3. She is dismissive and lacks empathy 

Lack of empathy toward you and toward her own children is one of the common characteristics in a narcissistic mother-in-law. She will refuse to look at things from your or other people’s perspective. She will be focused on protecting her fragile ego and will refuse to accept when she is wrong.

Furthermore, she will have difficulty recognizing and validating her child’s emotions and needs, often prioritizing her own wants and desires instead. Research has proven that participants living with a relative with NPD were suffering significant psychological symptoms with depression and anxiety leading. This is especially true if you have a maipulating mother-i-law at home.

One of the more subtle narcissistic mother-in-law signs include her being dismissive of others including her own son. She will ignore your opinions, thoughts, and judgments. She will turn a blind eye to everything. It’s a subtle attempt at letting you know that you don’t matter.

For instance, she will ask if you are hungry. You will say you are not. She will still fill your plate with food as if she didn’t hear you say no. That’s not love or care. That’s outright disregard for your feelings.

4. Self-victimization

I cannot stress how painfully agonizing it is to be with someone who constantly acts like a victim. It’s a classic narcissistic personality disorder trait. Similarly, a narcissistic mother-in-law may frequently portray herself as the victim in various situations, even when she was involved in the issue.

She could have caused or contributed to the issues but she will exaggerate or fabricate incidents to gain sympathy and attention from others. She will act as if everyone in the world is against her and it’s her son’s first priority to save her.

According to research, it’s because narcissists have low self-esteem and they rely heavily on external sources for validation and self-worth. They often engage in self-victimization to elicit sympathy and support from others, using it as a means to bolster their sense of self-esteem and feel validated by the attention received. Hence, their victim narrative will be never ending.  

5. She is overly critical 

You will often find narcissistic mothers-in-law making negative comments against her own family members and loved ones. This is a projection of her own insecurities and by criticizing and pointing out flaws in others, she is trying to gain control by deflecting attention away from her own imperfections and vulnerabilities. This projection allows them to maintain a false sense of superiority and mask their own feelings of inadequacy. 

Don’t assume that just because they criticize others, they are perfect. It’s all a sham. Her outward display of confidence is an indication that they are deeply afraid of criticism themselves.

By being hypercritical of others and by passing passive aggressive comments, she preemptively attempts to protect herself from any perceived criticism. She feels more secure and in control in maintaining an environment where she is the one delivering criticism. 

6. She thinks she is always right

Joanna, a 38-year-old housewife from Seattle, says, “I have a toxic aging narcissistic mother-in-law who thinks she is always right and can do no wrong. Even when I prove to her that she is wrong, she will refuse to take accountability. It’s as if being wrong is unimaginable to her. She is openly taking advantage of her age and enjoys making us feel miserable.”

A narcissistic mother-in-law will always be adamant about her perspective and she’ll think she can think, act, and do no wrong. She will act like a know-it-all. Even when you point out the facts, she will never accept her wrongdoing because admitting it would threaten her self-esteem.

A narcissist mother-in-law will vehemently defend her positions and beliefs to maintain a sense of superiority and protect herself from feelings of inadequacy. 

7. She is selfish and self-centered 

Narcissists don’t care about anyone’s well-being except their own. care about themselves. Others can go suck a lemon. It’s all about them, for them, and to them. Their self-importance is so heightened that you won’t know whether to laugh or pity their situation.

Studies have found a positive correlation between covert narcissism and selfishness. The researchers found that individuals high in narcissism tend to exhibit more selfish behaviors and have a greater focus on their own needs and desires. 

In addition to that, a narcissistic mother-in-law will have difficulty reciprocating care, support, or consideration for others. She will be more inclined to engage in one-sided relationships where her own needs are prioritized, while showing little interest in fulfilling the needs of others.

This lack of reciprocity will reinforce her selfish and narcissistic behavior. For example, she will make sure her son spends quality time with her but not with her wife or his nuclear family. 

8. She is controlling 

A narcissistic mother-in-law will be vindictive, manipulative, jealous, and controlling. She will make sure everyone in the family dances to her tunes and leaves no room for contradiction. And suppose when something doesn’t go according to her will, she will cut off direct communication with that person. She will be hostile or she will try guilt tripping her own sons and children to give in to her wishes and demands. 

Some signs of a controlling mother-in-law include:

  • She will show up unannounced
  • She will use her cooking to undermine you and make you look inferior to her
  • She exaggerates everything 
  • She will cut you off when you are talking
  • She is downright judgmental and makes sure her opinions are accepted and forcefully swallowed 
  • She will never take no for an answer 
  • She won’t solve problems directly. Instead, she will use passive aggression to make her point 

9. She blames you for everything 

Her grandchildren aren’t spending quality time with her? It’s your fault. She has a headache? It’s your fault you were watching television at high volume. She forgot to take her medication? It’s your fault you didn’t bring her a glass of water. She isn’t happy? You forgot to dance for her and keep her entertained.

Trust me, I am not hyperbolizing my words or mincing them with prejudice. It’s as simple as this — people with narcissistic traits blame others for their own bad luck, misery, and misfortunes. If she is cruel, she will accuse you of being cruel.

If she is unhappy, she will accuse you of causing sadness in her life. If she is lying, she will accuse you of lying. That’s how incredibly difficult it can be to live with a narcissistic mother-in-law. 

Related Reading: Cutting Toxic People Out Of Your Life — 7 Signs And 4 Ways To Do It

10. She has a grandiose self-image 

A study has found that, “Narcissists are characterized by high self-esteem, a sense of personal superiority and entitlement, overconfidence, a willingness to exploit others for self-gain, and hostility and aggression when challenged.” Narcissists and their inflated sense of self go hand in hand. What’s more is that she will have flying monkeys in her life who will exaggerate stories on her behalf. 

Moreover, she takes advantage of her position, authority, and old age to make herself feel entitled to special treatment, privileges, and attention. She will believe that others should cater to her needs and desires without question. This entitlement stems from her belief in her own exceptionalism and reinforces her sense of superiority. 

11. She bullies you 

Narcissists believe that rules don’t apply to them. They can hurt people with their words and actions without feeling responsible for the hurt they cause. Hence, they end up bullying people. Similarly, a narcissistic mother-in-law bullies to assert dominance over others, exert control, and maintain a position of superiority.

A narcissistic mother-in-law will bully you by belittling, demeaning, or intimidating you. This will ensure that she is in a position of power and control. She will see what traits she lacks and what traits you have and then she will draw a comparison to make you feel bad about yourself.

For example, if she is overweight and you are not, she will belittle you, pass negative comments, or make fun of you for being too skinny.

Your family life can become exhausting when you are dealing with an aging narcissistic mother-in-law. Eventually, she  attempts to take control of the family dynamics, by pitting you and your spouse against each other. But there are ways you can take control of the situation by charting an escape plan of sorts with your family members. 

Living with a narcissist mother-in-law can be depressing

How To Cope When You Have A Narcissistic Mother-In-Law 

It’s not going to be easy while dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law. You have to make sure you don’t become an unkind person in this entire scenario considering her ailments and old age. You also have to protect your relationship with your spouse, as having a narcissistic mother would have already been hard on them. You can tackle this situation smartly with the help of the following tips:

1. Understand and accept her mind 

The more you understand narcissistic traits, the easier it will be for you in determining why she behaves a certain way and why she wants people to clap and cheer for her. It will also make you feel less stressed, since you would try to understand the cause. Perhaps it has something to do with childhood trauma, insecurity issues, attachment styles, or just low self-esteem. Don’t try to annoy a narcissistic mother-in-law by fighting fire with fire. It will only worsen your problem. Accept that there are less chances of her changing her behavior, ways, and mindset.

Therefore, you can maintain emotional distance and detach yourself from her attempts to manipulate or provoke you. Focus on developing a strong support system and nurturing positive relationships outside of this dynamic. Once you accept this fact, you won’t hold grudges against her. You can learn more about narcissistic traits by reading books, articles, and listening to podcasts.  

2. Disarm her with clever communication 

When dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law, it can be helpful to use specific communication strategies to disarm or defuse potentially volatile situations. Here are some phrases that can be effective in interacting with a narcissist:

  • Express your feelings and experiences using “I” statements. This helps prevent accusatory or confrontational tone.  For example, say, “I feel hurt when…” or “I would appreciate it if…”
  • Reflect her statements when she makes an exaggerated or unrealistic statement about herself without trying to challenge her abilities or without trying to be intimidating. For instance, say, “So, you think you are the best at everything?”
  • Instead of attacking her character, focus on specific behaviors or actions that are problematic. Address the behavior itself rather than making sweeping judgments. For example, say, “When you said/did [specific behavior], it made me feel…”
  • Try to use statements that show empathy. Acknowledge her feelings without condoning their behavior. For instance, say, “I understand that you might be feeling frustrated, but it’s important for us to find a solution together.”
  • Manage interactions with a narcissistic mother-in-law by providing the illusion of control by presenting options or choices that align with your desired outcome. This can help redirect her focus away from a power struggle. For example, say, “We can either approach this issue calmly and find a resolution or continue arguing. What do you think is the best way to handle it?”

3. Reinforce the already set boundaries 

You already drew boundaries but they weren’t respected by her. But it’s time you take strict action against it by talking to your spouse and establishing clear boundaries for yourself and your spouse regarding what behavior you will and will not tolerate. Communicate these boundaries assertively and consistently enforce them. Be firm in protecting your own well-being and the well-being of your immediate family. This will help in cutting off narcissistic mother-in-law and her sly tactics. 

There is a satisfying side to boundaries. They can make you feel good but you will have to struggle a little at first. You will be met with anger, rage, complaining, whining, and feeling threatened, suffocated, and even victimized by your own family members for setting boundaries with your narcissistic mother-in-law. But they don’t know the kind of pain and agony you have been through. Your patience, resilience, and tolerance will be tested but as long as you have a partner who is understanding and supportive, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

4. Communicate with your partner 

Your family life needs to be harmonious and peaceful. You can’t achieve that when you have a flying monkey for a husband and a narcissistic mother-in-law. You need to spend quality time with your spouse and talk to him about this. Go on date nights to strengthen your bond. Use direct language and tell him how miserable you feel when your mother-in-law belittles you and patronizes you. 

Related Reading: 13 Signs You Have A Selfish Husband And 5 Practical Tips To Deal With It

Share your feelings and build a safety net around your relationship. Ask him to support you by having a united front and offering help when your mom-in-law is being difficult. The reason why it’s essential to have a supportive spouse is because it minimizes the negative impacts of your depression or any other external stress. When you have your significant other by your side, you will be able to tackle problems in a healthy and easier way. 

5. Avoid engaging in power struggles

Narcissists thrive on power struggles and manipulation. Hence, you need to refrain from getting drawn into arguments with her to prove yourself right. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone.

You know your strengths and weaknesses. You know hers as well. She is clever at manipulating people but weak at accepting her own mistakes. She is acting out of her lack of self-esteem and insecurity issues. That’s why you need to maintain your own sense of self-worth and avoid falling into the trap of seeking validation from someone who is unlikely to provide it.

You can make all the special efforts you want, she is not going to praise you. She is not going to make you look good in front of her son. She will despise you and make you the villain of her life. So, why bother? Be neutral. Don’t go out of your way to do good things for her and don’t be hellbent on making her life worse. Just show kindness when required and stay away from her life when it’s not. 

Related Reading: 51 Positive Affirmations For Anxiety – Calming Your Mind

6. Practice self-care 

Practicing self-care is crucial for maintaining your overall well-being and managing stress during such testing times. Here are some ways to incorporate self-care into your routine:

  • Prioritize your physical health. Take care of your body by getting regular exercise, eating nutritious meals, and getting enough sleep
  • Engage in activities that make you feel good physically, such as going for a walk, practicing yoga, or taking relaxing baths
  • Dedicate time to hobbies and activities that bring you joy and relaxation. It could be reading, painting, gardening, playing an instrument, or any other activity that allows you to unwind and recharge
  • Set aside time for mindfulness exercises, meditation, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques. These practices can help reduce stress, improve focus, and promote a sense of calm and well-being
  • Identify some people and create a support network for yourself and them. It can be frustrating and depressing living with a narcissistic family member, so lean on your support network when things go south and be their support as the need may be.
  • Maintain and nurture positive relationships. Spend time with loved ones, friends, or engage in social activities that bring you a sense of connection and support. If worst comes to worst, seek professional help. 

Key Takeaways 

  • A narcissistic mother-in-law has a grandiose sense of self and wants everything to happen according to her wishes and demands 
  • She will try to control, manipulate, and will blame you for everything that goes wrong
  • You can deal with a narcissistic mother-in-law by understanding how her mind works and by having a supportive partner.Perhaps your spouse can help you because he is already living with a narcissist parent

When you realize that you have a narcissistic mother-in-law, it may hit you hard at first. You won’t know how to come to terms with it especially when her choice of weapon is harsh words and undermining your efforts as it can make you feel worthless. You may feel unappreciated for everything you do for the family.

Don’t let these things get the better of you. Don’t dwell on negativity and don’t let her toxicity poison you. Let her negative comments and antagonism run in the background while your main focus remains your happiness and well-being.