14 Signs You Have a Toxic Mother-in-Law and How to Deal With Her

Look, it’s a cliché (and popular movie plotline) for a reason: Conflict with the mother-in-law is most definitely a thing. But how do you know when a rude comment over Sunday night dinner is just your MIL having a bad day or something more problematic? We picked the brain of clinical psychologist and author Dr. Bethany Cook for how to identify a toxic mother-in-law and then handle the issue in a healthy and constructive way.

Worst Thing your MIL Has Said To You | Toxic Mother In Law 2 | TikTok Stitch Compilation

1. She is always right, without exception.

Which means that shes never wrong. Shell never admit being wrong, and she will never apologize for anything. That would surely cause the collapse of the Western civilization and contradict the premise that shes always right. In her eyes, you (and possibly your spouse) are the only one to blame.

2. She is dismissive.

She will ignore you for the most part, conveying that you dont matter to her. She will not listen to a word you say. Shell ask you if youre hungry, hear “no,” and still put food on your plate. Shell also disregard any of your accomplishments as insignificant and unworthy of her attention. Only things that have value to her are important.

3. She makes it clear she doesn’t like you.

She will communicate to you, in a thousand subtle ways, that you are not good enough for her child or for her family. She will not say it to your face, no, but you will hear the message loud and clear. Depending on your self-esteem, you will either feel devastated or slightly amused.

10 Signs You’ve Got a Toxic Mother-in-Law on Your Hands

Is it just me? If you ask yourself that question after every interaction with your MIL, the feelings you’re experiencing definitely warrant a thorough analysis. Of course, the answer to that question could be that it is you—particularly if you have unresolved issues with insecurity or a history of fraught interpersonal relationships. Or it could be that your partner’s parent is downright poisonous. These things are complicated, but according to Dr. Cook, here are ten warning signs to look out for:

Example: You’ve explicitly asked your MIL not to post pictures of you (or your kids) on her social media account but she does so anyway.

If you laid down the law and your family member promptly and consistently flouted it, you have a right to your fury. Boundary-setting is no small project—many of us spend a lifetime refining this valuable skill—but once you’ve made yourself crystal clear, the work should be done. Unless, of course, youre dealing with a toxic MIL. Dr. Cook explains that in many cases, this toxic tactic is designed to set up a power struggle—one that your spouse will likely be roped into at some point as well.

Example: “You know, John actually likes his underwear folded this way.”

Paging Dr. Freud: This one is equal parts reviling and insulting…and it’s not all that uncommon. If you’re familiar with this sort of mommy-knows-best behavior, there’s a good chance that your MIL is creeping into toxic territory by “trying to insert herself into the intimate dyad of a couple’s relationship,” says Cook. This behavior creates a dynamic known as triangulation—and the MIL’s end game is to control and manipulate in order to have her own needs met.

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