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33 Real and Unfortunate Signs Of A Toxic Mother-in-Law

Do you suspect that you may have a toxic mother-in-law? There are some real signs that your in-law fits this criterion. It’s difficult to have someone in your life who always contradicts you or brings you down; you may feel like every time you are around your mother-in-law that you are given a slap in the face. Who does she think she is, treating you this way?

It’s cruel and unfair to have a person that thinks you can accept this behavior quietly, but what are you to do when this person is your mother-in-law? Do you feel overwhelmed and mistreated by your husband’s mom? Do you wish that you could swap mothers-in-law with a friend of yours? I can understand where you are coming from. 

Unfortunately, I cannot change who your in-laws are, but I can help you determine if you have a toxic mother-in-law. Plus, let’s figure out what you can do if she meets the criteria of such a person because you deserve better

You probably can’t change her, but you can change how you react to her actions each time she mistreats you!

Are you ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

Signs You Have a Toxic Mother-in-Law

1. She is a topper

A topper is a person who always tops whatever you have to say. I know my mother-in-law is like this; she always has it worse regardless of what I have to say. For example, I broke my arm last year, and when I told her, she said, “Oh, that’s nothing; I’ve broken both my arms in the past year.” Whether that’s true or not is irrelevant. 

She just always wants to have it worse than what I say. This makes me feel insignificant like my complaints are nothing; they are stupid in comparison to what she’s been through. But, really? Has she really had it worse than me? I know firsthand that most of what she has to say is an exaggeration. She just has to one-up me. 

It is a cruel way to react to another person’s misfortune. I mean, seriously, what do I have to do to get real care and attention from my mother-in-law? It’s like an uphill battle most days, and I’ve learned that there is really no point in trying to compete with her about my sorrows because she’ll just say that my suffering is insignificant.

If your mother-in-law acts this way, you definitely are seeing toxic behavior. She thinks she is better than you, and this is not a fun relationship to be in!

2. She is disrespectful to you

she is disrespectful to you

I have a friend who was opening Christmas presents in front of her children with her mother-in-law there and actually saw her husband open a gift from her mother-in-law that was a book about divorce. Her mother-in-law said something like, “That’s just in case the worst should happen between you two.” How crazy and rude!

If your mother-in-law treats you like that, especially if it is in front of your children and husband, she is exhibiting toxic behavior, and you shouldn’t have to put up with this!

3. She is completely self-centered

Does the world revolve around your mother-in-law? I can relate because my mother-in-law actually makes everything about her. It doesn’t matter what my husband or I say because she turns it around to be all about her. If I just bought a new car, for example, she immediately dismisses me and starts talking about her own vehicle. 

It’s like she is the only person in the room, when really there is a roomful of people who have plenty of news to talk about that doesn’t revolve around my mother-in-law. It doesn’t matter to her, though; she only cares about herself and what she has going on in her life. You would think that she’d care more about her grandkids, right?

If your mother-in-law acts like this, you are dealing with a toxic person who cares only about herself. She may make you feel insignificant or as though she is the center of the whole world, but she’s probably really just insecure. A toxic person only wants the conversations to be about her, and no one else. Just ignore this behavior.

4. She is way too nosy

Does your mother-in-law always make you feel as if your privacy is up for grabs? You may feel like she butts into everything that isn’t even her business. Make sure when you are around her that you do not talk about anything that is confidential because she’ll probably share this information with someone else. That’s how nosy people are.

I know my husband’s mother always wants to know some piece of drama that she can make even worse. She’ll say things like, “Oh, are you and my son having problems?” She says this as though she is hoping it was true even though I am the mother to her grandchildren! Family relationships are tough! Be cautious about what you share!

5. She always says that she knows better

Have you found your mother-in-law to always know what’s best for the entire family? You may think, “This is my family!” You have every right to feel this way. Who is she to tell you how to raise your children? Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s good to listen to people who are wiser than you; they may have an insight you need to hear. 

However, there is a line that should be drawn when it comes to your family life. You are the mother of your children and have every right to raise them in the best way that you know how. You don’t have to take the advice of your mother-in-law if you think that she is wrong. Toxic mothers-in-law often think they are always right and you’re wrong.

Make sure that you and your partner agree on how to do things, and then go ahead and make decisions together. You can be polite and listen to her advice, but you do not have to take it. She isn’t always right; there are probably plenty of times when you do an excellent job at solving problems with your partner without her! Stay strong!

6. She is critical of everything that you do

Do you feel judged and ridiculed every time your mother-in-law speaks? A toxic mother-in-law will make you feel like you are less of a person when you are not. Many times, toxic people think they know the best way to do everything and will judge anyone who disagrees with them. Be confident in your abilities, and know you can do it alone!

7. She is very negative

she is very negative

If your mother-in-law turns everything around to be negative, you may very well have a toxic mother-in-law. Often, when someone is negative about everything, they bring you down to their level. Make sure you and your partner understand how she really is, and don’t let her attitude rub you the wrong way. 

If you let her negativity start to affect everything that you do, you will be brought down to her level every time she speaks. Instead, try to take a positive spin on her negative attitude. If you must, go ahead and contradict her. Forget about what she’s saying if she’s just complaining to hear herself speak; don’t allow it to hurt you at all. 

If you can find a positive way to start to turn her negativity around, you might just rub off on her in a good way. In fact, she might learn a thing or two from you!

8. She embarrasses you

Have you found that your mother-in-law always searches for ways to humiliate you in front of your family? No family member should be treated like that! The next time she does something like that, you should stick up for yourself. You don’t need to be the victim of every family function; you are a human being who deserves respect!

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9. She is sarcastic

Sarcasm is one thing that toxic mothers-in-law can’t resist. She may compliment you in a really rude manner, and you can tell she doesn’t mean what she says to you. The reason she probably does this is that she is jealous of you in some way. She may envy the time you get to spend with her son or wish she was young again. 

10. She lacks boundaries

A toxic mother-in-law doesn’t understand boundaries at all. She may come over unannounced and barge into your lives whenever she feels like it. The problem with this is that she isn’t respectful of you and your family. You and your husband probably have certain rules, and she is ignoring them. It may be time to talk to her about this!

11. She judges you unfairly

Don’t you hate it when people make assumptions about who you are? Do you feel like your mother-in-law places the blame on you all the time? It’s not like she treats you like a victim necessarily, but in reality, you are a victim. I mean, why is she punishing you for being yourself? You may find that the reason is that she is jealous of you. 

Maybe she wishes she could spend time with her son as she did when he lived at home. She might think you are an excellent mother and wishes that she was as smart as you are. There are a number of possible reasons that could be causing her to judge you unfairly, but the fact is that she is exhibiting toxic behavior, and it’s affecting you. 

12. She gives you impossible things to do

Has your mother-in-law set you up for failure? Does she ask you to do things that no one is able to do? Do you feel as though she is purposely messing with the relationship you have with your husband? The problem is that she wants to see you fail for whatever reason. 

She is not being fair to you, nor is she giving you a chance to be the best wife and mother that you can be. Don’t let her shake your confidence, and you certainly should not allow her to come between you and your husband with impossible tasks. Stand up for yourself and only do what you want to do; don’t appease her ego.

13. She is jealous of you

As mentioned, she may be jealous of the relationship you have with her son. She may miss him and the relationship they once had with each other. While this is kind of sad, it doesn’t give her the right to treat you in a rotten way or mess with your marriage. Make sure, if you have a toxic mother-in-law, that you stand your ground and be yourself.

14. She is all about the drama

There is just about nothing worse than a drama queen. They always make everything out to be a serious affair. Perhaps you spilled a drink; it was an accident, not the end of the world. Everything is so important to a drama queen, and she’ll make a big deal over little things that don’t really matter all that much. 

It’s a difficult personality type to be around and a very hard relationship to maintain. One thing you can do to manage the relationship with your toxic mother-in-law is to ignore the theatrical elements. Just pay attention to what is behind the message. What is truly bothering her? Figure that out, and only address what matters the most. 

15. She talks about you behind your back

I hate gossip or a person who won’t tell you how they feel about you to your face. Why do they have to be deceptive? If they have an issue with you, why can’t they just say so to your face? I think a lot of people just enjoy the drama of talking about other people. If you catch your mother-in-law gossiping about you, just try to ignore the behavior.

16. She ignores you

she ignores you

Does your mother-in-law talk around you as if you aren’t even in the room? Does she talk to your husband about everything under the sun, ignoring the fact that you are standing right there next to him? This behavior is truly rude and uncalled for. You should tell her you are there and happy to discuss any issues she is having. 

17. She thinks she is better than you

It is very difficult to be around someone who thinks that she knows more than you when she really doesn’t. Relationships like this are difficult to maintain because she will probably always talk down to you. You can try to earn her respect by being the best person that you can be, but that will not guarantee that she will like you. 

You may find it useful to just talk to your mother-in-law about her behavior. Have a heart-to-heart conversation about how your relationship is going and how you hope it will go in the future. There may be hope for your mother-in-law if she is willing to talk things out with you. 

18. She is manipulative

Sometimes, people think they are smarter than they really are. Often, people like this believe that they can control the behavior of others. If you have been in relationships like this before, you know that your mother-in-law is acting out for whatever reason because she believes she can control the narrative of your life by the things she says. 

If you catch your mother-in-law saying stuff in an effort to control your actions, just ignore the behavior. Talk to your husband about his mother’s actions and words and how they have affected you and your marriage. Don’t allow her to get in between you two. Just because she thinks she can control you doesn’t mean she can. Stand your ground.

19. She holds grudges

It’s hard to be around someone who won’t allow the past to remain in the past. So, you made a mistake once upon a time. That doesn’t mean that your actions today should be discounted. You should let her know, respectfully, that you would like to put the past behind you and only talk about things as they relate to the future.

20. She makes you doubt your abilities

Unfortunately, if your mother-in-law is manipulative and controlling, there’s a good chance that she is making you doubt your abilities as a mother and wife. Make sure you don’t allow her to control how you feel about yourself. You can control the narrative of your life; just allow yourself not to be manipulated by her.

21. She does inappropriate things

I know of some women who have reported having relationships with their mothers-in-law, where she actually tried to set their husbands up with old girlfriends or ex-wives. I think that is crossing a line! If you have similar stories about your mother-in-law, you should talk to your husband. Explain that her behavior is inappropriate and must stop now.

22. She is controlling

A controlling mother-in-law believes that she can dictate your family’s actions. If you believe your mother-in-law is like this, you should talk to your spouse. Discuss what the two of you can do together as a team about her behavior, and work toward finding an amicable solution. 

23. She is overly sensitive

I can relate to this one very much. My mother-in-law tends to be on the sensitive side, so I must be very careful what I say around her. One time I mentioned how much she seemed to love red since she wore the color a lot, and she got deeply offended. A few years ago, she let me know how rude I was for saying that a decade ago! 

24. She is insulting

If your mother-in-law actually calls you names or says you are inferior to your face, you should stand up for yourself and discuss this with your husband. If you allow her to continue to do this, you may find yourself becoming very insecure because of what she’s said to you. Explain to your husband how her insults are hurting your feelings.

25. She tries to turn her son against you

If you have talked to your husband about the problems with his mother and he doesn’t take your side, she may be turning him against you. This could really hurt your marriage if you aren’t careful. Be upfront with your spouse about what’s going on, and request that the two of you attend couples counseling over the issue.

26. She has to always be right

she has to always be right

Even when she’s wrong, a toxic mother-in-law will always insist that she is correct. She will defend herself forever, even if she’s dead wrong. A person who cannot accept their faults has many. Just remember that the next time your mother-in-law insists she is right about something that she clearly is wrong about.

27. She is rude to you

There is really no excuse for your mother-in-law to be rude to you. If her behavior is causing you emotional distress, you may want to talk to a trained professional about it. A qualified therapist can give you the right tools and tips to handle a toxic mother-in-law. Also, you should discuss it with your spouse. He should know what’s happening.

28. She acts like she is the mother at your house

Very often, mothers-in-law think that they should be the primary source of authority even though it is your family. While it is smart to listen to what your elders have to say, you shouldn’t have to listen to them bossing your children around or making up rules for your family, especially if they are in your home. 

29. She is dismissive of you

Do you say stuff to your kids only to have your mother-in-law bark commands over you? Maybe you feel insignificant when she’s around. If she treats you as if you do not exist, be sure to speak up. Stand your ground, and know that you have a voice that deserves to be heard. If you have trouble with this, talk it over with your spouse. 

30. She is a complete narcissist

A narcissist is a person who believes that he or she is the center of the universe. They believe that their voice should be heard above all others. When you are around a person like this, you may feel as if you are talking to a wall because they don't really listen to what you have to say. They are only concerned with what’s on their minds.

If your mother-in-law has a personality like this, you may have bigger problems. What I’m saying is you cannot just ignore her and hope this will go away; it’s a personality issue. You may need to go as a family to a family therapist to talk about the issues you are facing as a group. Get your spouse on board, and that should help!

31. She is two-faced

Like a gossip, a two-faced individual says one thing to your face but does something else when everyone else is around. This is toxic behavior that you should try to ignore. If you can’t, like if she is just lying about you, you may need to confront her about the truth. Ask her to please be honest about her thoughts and feelings.

32. She nags you all the time

Everyone hates a nag. Nagging is when a person brings up a complaint over and over again, relentlessly. She may mention that you do not bleach your rags well one day and then repeat the same complaint later that same day. This kind of behavior is so irritating and may cause you to snap one day if you do not let her know it’s bothering you. 

Be upfront and honest with your mother-in-law about this particular behavior. You may want to explain that you appreciate her feedback and response but that you heard her the first time she mentioned it and would like time to come up with an appropriate response, one that is respectful yet sound in how you feel.

33. She is just plain cruel

she is just plain cruel

Don’t allow anyone to mistreat you, even if that person is your mother-in-law. Speak to your spouse about the actions and words that your mother-in-law has done or said. Explain that you are not going to put up with being mistreated and that you need his support on the matter. You don’t have to gang up on her but meet as a family. 

Discuss what changes need to take place in order to get the family to function as a team instead of in an unfair manner. Explain the specific incidents that have happened that have hurt your feelings and the reasons it has hurt so much. Be as specific as possible so that she will understand what she has done wrong.


Are my in-laws toxic?

Your in-laws may be toxic if they treat you poorly. One sign of a toxic in-law is meanness toward you. I know that sounds like a grade-school complaint, but many in-laws hurt the feelings of their son’s wife; they talk down to her and call her names.

How do you handle toxic-in-laws?

One of the best things you can do is to ignore their behavior. You may have to really swallow your feelings and learn to not let the little things bother you so much, but you can do it. The more you ignore it, the easier it will be going forward.

What to do when your in-laws ignore you?

You can repeat what you have said, or you can ignore them right back. Just go on with what you think is the right thing to do, and let them live their rude lives the way they want to. You don’t have to have a really close relationship with them.

Why should you not live with your in-laws?

Often, the boundaries get blurred when you live with someone. If your mother-in-law is in your home, she may treat it as though it were her house and act like you are a guest. You don’t want any confusion about your role as a mother and wife, so stay clear.

How do you tell if your in-laws hate you?

Your in-laws may talk behind your back if they do not like you. You may catch them whispering about you while you are “supposedly” in the other room, but don’t let it shake you. You don’t have to be best friends with them! Live life how you want to!

To Sum It All Up

Having a toxic mother-in-law can be very unfortunate, but what can you do? Try to adopt some of the suggestions listed in this article. This can be especially difficult if your husband is a mama’s boy, but you can do it. We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment!

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