Tag Archives: in-laws
My latest book, “Regrettably Related: A Guide to Toxic In-laws” is now available in both print & ebook versions.
The print version is available here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/cynthia-bailey-rug/regrettably-related-a-guide-to-toxic-in-laws/paperback/product-24225183.html
The ebook version is available here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/955631
I’ve been working on a book for a while now about toxic/narcissistic in-laws. I’m struggling to write it for a few reasons. I’ve been really distracted by things going on in my life since I started this book 2 years ago. I also felt that I needed to put it on the back burner to write other books. The topic is such a hard one for me to write about too, because I honestly have been through hell because of some of my husband’s family, & I’m still healing. And, in spite of taking frequent breaks, I’m pretty burned out on all things narcissism. These issues make this one tough book to write. That being said, I believe the topic is an important one so I will finish it. It just may take some time.
Since my book is delayed, here is a post to help identify whether or not your in-laws are toxic. I will write from the perspective of a daughter in-law with a toxic mother in-law, since that is the bulk of my experience as well as the bulk of the experiences of people I’ve spoken with. The information is good for toxic sisters in-law, fathers in-law, etc. though.
Does your mother in-law ignore you? The purpose of this behavior is to show you that you mean nothing to her.
Does she refuse to accept responsibility for treating you badly? Rather than say something like, “I shouldn’t have said that.. I’m sorry,” does she make excuses for her words or actions or deny them completely? This is a big red flag. Functional people accept responsibility for what they say & do.
Does your mother in-law have a different personality depending on whether or not you are alone with her or others are around? Another big red flag! Any abuser will behave differently to their victim depending on whether or not there are witnesses. They want to hide their abuse from other people.
Does she expect you to be blindly devoted to her family, even to the point of rejecting your own family & friends? Many toxic mothers in-law remind me of the Borg from the tv show “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” They expect their son’s or daughter’s new spouse to become completely enmeshed in their new in-law family.
Like the Borg, toxic mothers in-law expect their new sons or daughters in-law to adapt to their opinions, religion, way of life, etc. Individuality is highly discouraged by toxic mothers in-law. I once told my late mother in-law I hate to cook. I do it, but hate it. For Christmas a few months later, she & her 2 daughters gave me nothing but cookbooks, utensils, food & other cooking paraphernalia.
Toxic in-laws show no respect. Toxic in-laws show no respect for personal space, choices, likes/dislikes, parenting, & even boundaries.
And speaking of a lack of respect, your mother in-law makes it clear to you that she doesn’t like you. Unless you abuse your mother in-law’s adult child or your children, if your mother in-law had any respect whatsoever for her child, she would be civil to you no matter how much she disliked you. The inability to be civil even only for the sake of her adult child proves she is toxic.
Is she manipulative & controlling? Toxic people, in particular narcissists, must be in charge. Chances are, your mother in-law controls her spouse & children. Since you married one of her children, she expects you to be as control-able & easily manipulated as everyone else. When you say no, she is NOT happy.
If your toxic mother in-law is nice to you, it’s short lived & in front of others only. Very few people are cruel 100% of the time. Toxic people bring out their nice side when it can be advantageous to them. Being nice sometimes will make their victim want to see it more, so they work harder to please the toxic person. Also, being nice to a victim in front of others helps the toxic person prove to others that if you complain about the relationship, you are obviously the problem.
Mothers in-law like this care nothing of their adult child beyond what he can do for her. They clearly have no respect for him either, since they treat the person he chose to spend his life with so badly. His marriage is nothing more to this kind of mother than an embarrassment, & she would like it simply to go away. Since she can’t file for divorce on his behalf, she becomes extremely destructive to the adult child’s marriage with her abusive ways.
Your spouse no doubt suffers greatly from his mother’s abusive behavior, yet tolerates it anyway. This is because he is accustomed to how his mother behaves. This is his norm & many adults in this situation have accepted this as their permanent reality. By complaining about his mother’s behavior or even confronting her, this threatens his norm. Facing the truth can be incredibly painful for many in this position, which is why many refuse to face the truth. This feeling is known as cognitive dissonance. Rather than face this miserable feeling, many people in this situation will do their best to shut down their spouse. They don’t want to hear about the bad things their mother is doing, so they will tell their wife they don’t believe her, she is over sensitive, she just doesn’t understand Mom, that’s her problem so she needs to leave him out of it & more. They refuse to confront their mother on behalf of their wife.
Naturally, the wife in this position feels rejected, unloved & hurt. She wants to fight for her marriage, but it seems whatever she does is wrong, & whatever his mother does is right. Her trying to save her marriage only causes more problems. The reason for this is she doesn’t know that when you’re dealing with a narcissist, normal ways to cope don’t work.
For anyone in this position, you need to think of this situation more like a game of strategy than a relationship.
As always pray. Ask God to help you to know what to do & to give you whatever you need to enable you to do it. Pray for your husband to see the truth & for God to enable him to be able to cope with it, too.
Cope with your emotions as best you can by journaling, talking to a safe friend, pray.. whatever works for you. Whatever you do, don’t hold in your emotions!
Don’t focus on your mother in-law’s bad behavior when it can be avoided. Instead, focus on being the loving wife that you are. Don’t neglect to remind your husband how much you love him. If he complains about his mother to you for any reason, don’t join in. Listen quietly to him & give him objective advice if he asks for it. The reason being, the mindset of many people in this situation is they can complain about Mom, but if anyone else does, they jump to her defense. This would only cause more problems in your marriage.
Along those lines, if you discuss his mother’s behavior with him, stay calm. State your issues in a matter of fact way, lacking emotion. If you rant & rave, that too will make him feel he must defend his mother, which only will hurt you & possibly your marriage.
Limit your exposure to your mother in-law as much as possible, but especially alone. No narcissist wants to abuse their victim in front of the person they want to think well of them, so stay glued to your husband’s side as much as possible.
Keep your emotions in check around your mother in-law. Narcissists love to twist a victim’s normal reaction around to prove how mentally unstable or even abusive the victim is to other people. In her presence, stay calm. Vent later when you’re away from her as needed though, so you don’t hold in all the bad emotions.
Having to deal with toxic, narcissistic in-laws is tough. I know, I’ve been there. But, with prayer, love, patience & wisdom, you can survive it with your marriage in tact.
Since I’m working on a book about narcissistic in-laws, it’s certainly gotten me to thinking about them. Not exactly a fun topic since I’ve been through a LOT at the hands of narcissistic in-laws, but it’s also a topic that needs to be addressed. I’ll share a blog post when it’s published as well as add the link to my website at: www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com
One thing that recently has come to mind about these dreadful people is how they are with exes. I’ve heard of & read so many stories of narcissistic in-laws who keep in touch with their son’s or brother’s ex, even after he has moved on to another woman & there were no children created in the relationship. They may even have the ex’s picture hanging up in their home or a picture of him with her when they were together. They may invite her to family functions, whether or not the new lady is present.
I’ve been down this road. A woman my husband broke up with in 1991 is still a bigger part of my in-law’s family than I ever have been. In 1997 at an in-law family party, my two sisters in-law spoke a LOT about her (when it was just the three of us together, no witnesses, of course), talking about what a great person she was & how they should hang out with her soon. They never wanted to hang out with me, mind you. Not long after we were married in 1998, my mother in-law told me how disappointed she & my father in-law were that my husband married me instead of this person. Over the years, I learned that at least one of the sisters in-law not only kept in close contact with this ex, but kept my husband abreast of what was going on in her life. Then, when we ran into her in a store two months to the day after my husband’s father died, I saw how comfortable & friendly she was with my husband. It was painfully obvious she’d seen him recently, so I later asked what was going on with her. Turns out not only had she been to my father in-law’s funeral, but also my mother in-law’s & took one of her sons to visit my mother in-law in the hospital. She also lives only a few miles from my late in-laws’ home & attends the church they attended.
As if all of this isn’t awful enough, I also realized when we saw this woman that she obviously is still very attracted to my husband.
This whole situation got me to thinking about these types of situations. If you’re in it, you’re going to need a lot of wisdom on how to cope with it.
I’m not saying all friendships between people & their exes or even their family & their exes are bad. Sometimes they work out just fine or are necessary because of children or other ties to each other such as owning a business together. When narcissistic in-laws are involved though, it’s a whole different situation. This relationship isn’t because these people were genuinely fond of each other. Like everything else, there is a self-serving purpose in it. Never ever doubt that! Your spouse may think his family’s behavior is normal but it isn’t!
If you wonder, watch how this relationship is handled. Your feelings should be considered. Your in-laws should not flaunt this person to you. This person shouldn’t be frequently discussed fondly in front of you or her picture shouldn’t be in a predominant space in the in-law home (especially if it also includes your spouse).
How do they handle this relationship regarding your spouse? Do they keep your spouse up to date on his ex’s life? If your spouse wants no parts of the details of that ex, do they force him to listen anyway? Do they forward her emails to him so he not only knows but has her email address as well?
These behaviors are all red flags, & you are going to need a lot of wisdom on how to handle this situation.
As always, I recommend prayer as the best place to start. Luke 12:12 says, “For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (KJV) & James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (KJV) Seems to me prayer is the best place you can start!
Also never give your spouse an ultimatum. People who do this almost always end up losing because no one wants to feel controlled or manipulated.
Stay calm when you must discuss the situation. If you act angry or hurt, chances are your spouse will discuss the conversation with someone in his family. From there, it would be very easy for your in-laws to convince your spouse that you’re unreasonable, paranoid, even crazy. And, no doubt if he sees his ex, she is on good behavior. She will look even better to him & you even worse. So stay calm during the discussion for the sake of your marriage!
Do NOT tell him what you think his family is up to. Coming from a narcissistic family does quite the number on a person’s psyche as most people know. One thing I’ve noticed is men in these situations have a lot more trouble facing the truth about their family than women. (No guys, I don’t hate you or think you’re stupid. It’s just an observation.) If you’re in this position with your spouse, I know it can be frustrating. You see the truth so clearly but your spouse doesn’t. Don’t work hard trying to convince him of the truth. You telling the truth will come across to him as you criticizing his family, which in turn will make him very protective of them & angry at you. It will drive a huge wedge between you two.
You can, however, gently, let your spouse know that you are very uncomfortable with this situation. Tell him how you feel, & don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. Better for your spouse to see that side of you than the angry side, because it won’t make him defensive. He will be more willing to listen to you & relate to your perspective if you aren’t angry.
Also, what about the ex? Is she obviously still attracted to your husband? This is tough, I know. I really feel your pain. The best I know to do with this is to focus on your spouse. Make sure you don’t stop doing things that he loves or finds attractive about you. Do nice little gestures for him to show him you love him, like slipping love notes into his lunch box, sock drawer, coat pocket or even taping them to his steering wheel while he’s in the shower. If you tell him what a terrible person his ex is instead, you’re only making him defensive of her & angry at you. Yes, I know this one is HARD. After seeing my husband’s ex, every fiber in me wanted to say exactly what I think of her & his family. But, I knew that he wouldn’t believe what I said & would end up passionately defending them while simultaneously being very angry with me.
Lastly remember, all of this isn’t about you. It’s about some pretty dysfunctional people doing what dysfunctional people do. If the ex is still interested, well, she should have tried harder to keep him & is being foolish for not giving up. He moved on & she should too. As for your in-laws, they are getting something out of this relationship. They probably want to split you & your spouse up or at the very least cause trouble between you two. Maybe they think because she’s wealthy or in some sort of position in society, she makes them look good. Who knows? But you can be sure of one thing… whatever sick mess is happening in this relationship, it has nothing to do with you.
I wish you the absolute best in this situation! xoxo
The last couple of days have been difficult for me. Lots of flashbacks & anxiety have been happening. When I said something to my husband about it the day before Mother’s day, he said “Mother’s Day is coming.. that has to be it!” Honestly I don’t know if that’s my problem or not, it sure could be, but anyway….
Part of one of my recent flashbacks was about when I was learning to drive. I told hubby that my ex mother in-law taught me more about driving (including driving a stick shift) than my parents did, yet both of my parents always took credit for teaching me how to drive even though they barely taught me anything. He said, “I think you should give your ex mother in-law a shout out! She did a lot of good things for you.”
Although my ex mother in-law died in 2010 & this post is going to publish a day after Mother’s Day, I agree. I also thought about another mom figure in my life who was so special to me, so I’m giving her a shout out too. I pray God allows them to know about this because they both deserve to know the big positive impacts they had on my life.
A very big thank you to my awesome ex mother in-law!! I appreciate the many things you taught me like how to drive & especially how to knit. I appreciate the encouragement you gave me when I was learning things & your faith that I could do these things. I also appreciate the fun times together, like going to craft & thrift stores, & your help picking out my first sewing machine. (Even though I still can’t sew, I appreciate a nice machine like that little beauty!) I appreciate all the laughs & your fun sense of humor, especially since it was pretty twisted like my own. I appreciate your love, support & lack of judgement. I also appreciate you trying to protect me from my mother when we lived together. I wasn’t used to anyone doing that & it was a very nice surprise.
Most of all, a big thank you for being a wonderful example of your faith & praying for me.
I’m sorry our relationship ended on a bad note & for the things I did wrong. I still remember the good things often & am so grateful for them. Thank you for everything, W. You’re very loved & missed. xoxo
My other mother figure was a dear friend I called my adopted mom. We met on a crochet message board & clicked. She was a wise, beautiful, gentle, loving, compassionate person with a powerful & inspiring faith. When I had an argument with my folks or just a rough day, she was the one I wanted to talk to. She always knew what to say to make me feel better. She also didn’t sugarcoat things- if she believed I was wrong, she’d tell me. She was free with her praise & kind words, but still told the truth even if it wasn’t pretty. She was also the one who got me started reading about Antisocial Personality Disorder which led to me learning about narcissism. We had many laughs together, mostly talking about our furkids who we both adored. She was an inspiration & one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Her death in 2009 still hurts, but I know I’ll see her again one day. Thank you for the years of friendship, love & laughs, K! xoxo
Those of us with narcissistic mothers know that a good mother is a beautiful gift. If you have a wonderful mother figure in your life, please don’t wait til it’s too late like I did- let her know how much you appreciate her now. She’ll love to hear what you say & it’ll make you feel good to tell her just how special she is to you.
Growing up with a narcissistic parent or two builds a very dysfunctional foundation in a child. One of those dysfunctional beliefs created is that you are always the problem in a failed relationship.
I knew the day I met my now mother in-law, she didn’t like me. For the first eight years of our relationship, I tried with her. No matter what I did though, I was wrong & never good enough. My mother in-law even told me shortly after our marriage how disappointed she was my husband married me instead of an ex girlfriend. For most of those eight years, I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong. How could I improve the difficult relationships with her? What could I do to make her see I’m not such a bad person, or that I’m better suited for my husband than his ex? Nothing I did worked, & in fact, things only got worse. My sisters in-law weren’t exactly my best friends to start with, but those relationships also got worse. It seemed like the more time passed & the harder I tried, the worse things got & the more frustrated I got.
Then one evening in the spring of 2002, my mother in-law called about 8:15. She asked to speak to my husband, who was either still at work or on his way home. I told her this, & she screamed at me because she didn’t think he should work so late. She mentioned she thought he was working too much. He looks tired & I said his allergies were flaring up, & she resumed screaming at me because he has allergies. It was a wake up call for me- I realized I can’t be in a relationship with this person. She was mad at me for things I had absolutely no control over. Nothing I can do will make things better between us. I gave up.
A few months later, my husband called one of his sisters for her birthday. He was flustered by the call, because he said she was screaming at him about me- how I keep him from his family & treat them all like “poor white trash.” I used to think she & I were friends, but realized that wasn’t the case. No friend would think such a ridiculous & untrue thing about me.
I haven’t spoken to my in-laws since 2002 & it’s been very freeing! They blame me & even my husband did for a while for being unreasonable. Due to my bad foundation, I blamed me too!
I’d been through this same scenario with every failed relationship in my life. Everything was all my fault. If only I would’ve been smart enough to figure out the solution to make things better. If only I had been nicer, more understanding, etc., this wouldn’t have happened.
It took me a long time to realize, not everything is my fault! Bizarre, huh? Looking at the situations, it seems painfully obvious it wasn’t, yet it took me years to realize I wasn’t a bad person because I couldn’t make these relationships ok.
My point (finally..lol) is I am sure you have similar feelings, Dear Reader. I have yet to meet an adult child of at least one narcissistic parent who doesn’t blame herself for the failed relationships in her life. Are you thinking that this probably doesn’t apply to you? Well let’s look at a couple of things..
First, your bad relationship with your narcissistic mother. How can this be your fault? She’s a narcissist! No one is good enough for a narcissist. Even those she idolizes will show a flaw at some point, & the narcissist won’t be impressed with him any longer. Plus, as a child of a narcissist, you were born with a job- to please your narcissistic mother at all times. This is IMPOSSIBLE! Narcissists deliberately set up others to fail, especially their own children. It amuses them & makes them feel powerful.
Second, as the survivor of narcissistic abuse, other abusers will be attracted to you. This is especially true before you understand narcissism & work on your healing. Chances are good you were abused by others in your life simply because you learned early in life how to be a “good victim”- you learned to keep secrets, have no boundaries & never talk back. That isn’t your fault! That fault lies squarely on your first abuser.
Lastly, no doubt you have made mistakes in your relationships. Being human, that is inevitable. However, what are the chances that you are the sole problem in every single relationship you’ve been in that has gone badly? I would have to say the chances are slim. Very slim. The odds of you winning the lottery are probably better! Relationships are a two way street. Both people have to work on it. One person cannot carry the entire relationship!
Today, Dear Reader, I just want you to think about this. You honestly cannot be the problem 100% of the time. If you believe you are, then it’s time to look at things objectively. If you can’t, try pretending a close friend is telling you about her failed relationships that are exactly like yours. Would you blame her for their failures? What would you tell her? Write it out if it helps- seeing things in writing somehow often makes things clearer. You also can ask God to tell you the truth about what happened. Were you always the problem? What went wrong? He will gently let you know the truth, & chances are, you are going to be surprised to learn that you aren’t the awful problem you think you are.
I truly hope you do this. Living with the undeserved guilt of failed relationships is a miserable way to live. You don’t deserve to carry around false guilt & shame! You deserve to be happy!
Aging narcissistic parents are a very disturbing group of people. While most people mellow out as they age, narcissists often get more vicious. Not easy to deal with for their adult children!
As I write this, I’m waiting for my husband to come home. He’s at the hospital visiting his mother who was admitted today.
Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t go into much detail, so please bear with me a bit. Both my mother in-law & father in-law are narcissistic, her covert & him overt. As they are getting older & their health is failing them, they are making more demands on my husband. Also, he is facing the truth about them & how he’s been abused by them for the first time. It’s not an easy time for him. I’m very concerned how this situation is going to play out for him, & how he is going to deal with his own feelings.
I’m also a bit nervous about how I’m going to deal with my own feelings as well. You see, there were countless times I considered divorcing him earlier in our marriage because of the abuse his mother put me through & his failure to acknowledge it at the time. Honestly, sometimes I still get angry when I remember those dark days.
I’m sure there are others in similar situations, as many of us with narcissistic parents marry someone who also has at least one narcissistic parent. I’m writing about this to share what God has been showing me about how to cope.
Pray. About what? Whatever comes to mind regarding the situation. Personally, I’ve been praying for my mother in-law’s salvation (I’m unsure if she’s a Christian- I don’t believe she is), asking God to give my husband strength, wisdom & anything else he needs right now, & asking God to help me release my old anger at him. Prayers like this can truly help you as well as the recipients of your prayers! I admit, it isn’t easy to pray for my mother in-law, so sometimes I ask close friends to pray for her. It helps me know she’s getting prayer, plus I don’t have to do it at that time- I can do it later when I feel able to do so.
Distractions. I’m hoping to distract hubby when he gets home with a funny video that we love. We’re big fans of the old TV show, “Mystery Science Theater 3000” with its fun, warped humor, & since it always makes us laugh, I think watching an old episode could do us both some good. After all, it’s unhealthy to focus on the more serious issues in life 24/7. The brain needs a break sometimes!
Nice gestures. A little sweet, thoughtful gesture can go a long way when someone is going through hard times. Hubby will be greeted with raspberry herbal tea (we both love it) when he gets home. I’ll come up with other gestures once I gauge the kind of mood he’s in. Sometimes, he isn’t in the mood for interaction- he just wants to be left alone.
Listening. Before I start the movie, I’ll see if he wants to talk. Often when his mother is in the hospital, he comes home very frazzled. The hospital staff at this particular hospital isn’t the best (as I learned when my father was there last December), his parents are demanding & his sisters want constant updates until they come into town. It can be a lot for him to deal with.
Good afternoon, Dear Readers!
I thought I’d add a bit to yesterday’s post….
I didn’t mention it yesterday, but one thing that has made me dislike the holidays is in-laws. I am on my second marriage, & both sets of in-laws I have had share one thing in common- expecting their adult children & their spouses to spend the holiday with them. Period. No excuses. Why that is, I have no clue, but I don’t believe it’s right. For one thing I believe the day should be spent with husband & wife together (& small kids at home too, if they have them). Extended family can be visited within a few days of the holidays. My grandparents always had their Christmas celebration on the Sunday between Christmas & New Year’s. That way, everyone could relax on Christmas day & enjoy it. This always has made so much sense to me.
For another thing, what about my family? What if I wanted to spend a holiday with my family rather than his? I’ve learned that is not something to admit- saying that warranted the evil eye from both mothers in-law. I quickly learned not to say that, & give up hopes of spending the holiday with anyone in my family.
And lastly, if you have a dysfunctional relationship with your in-laws like me, why would anyone want to spend an entire day together? How is that a joyous family celebration? It saps all of the joy out of your day spending it with people who you know dislike you, & who you dislike. It certainly has for me. I dreaded the holidays for years, & got depressed each holiday season knowing I would spend a holiday with people who were less than thrilled I was a part of their family.
I guess I just wanted to say please think before arranging your holiday get together. It’s not fair to demand your adult children run to your home for a holiday. There are 364 other days in the year- why not pick one of them to get together? If you force them or use guilt to manipulate them into coming over, they &/or their spouses will end up resentful. It can damage your relationship greatly! I loved my first mother in-law, but when she knew my ex & I were having car trouble, yet still demanded we drive that car (our only one) well over an hour away, in the cold, to the Christmas get together, it greatly damaged my fondness for her. This was in the days before cell phones, so if the car had left us stranded, I have no idea how we would have gotten home.
And remember, your adult child’s spouse has a family too. Demanding they spend the day with you tells that person they & their family aren’t as important as you & your family. That hurts! It also stirs up strife between the couple. They feel stuck in the middle since both have families who want to spend a day with them. It is NOT a pleasant place to be!
Lastly, I understand not everyone is pleased with their son or daughter’s choice of a mate. Some personalities just clash. If that describes your relationship with your son or daughter in-law, then please, for your adult child’s sake, try to be civil. You don’t have to be phoney. You don’t have to try to become best friends. Just practice basic politeness & civility. Showing your dislike of that person not only hurts him or her, but shows an incredible disrespect for your adult child. It also stirs up problems in their marriage, & makes the adult child feel stuck in the middle. Do you really want to do that to your son or daughter?
As for daughters & sons in-law, this also applies to you!! Practice civility with your husband’s or wife’s parents. I know first hand how hard it can be when an in-law is mean you, but do it anyway!
Also, don’t run to your spouse complaining about his “psycho mom” or whatever other things you’d like to say. I know you want him or her to understand your position, but that is still his/her parent. It’s difficult for someone to accept his/her parent is capable of doing such nasty things, especially to someone they love. Instead, talk to a friend or relative, or write in a journal. At a less stressful, busy time, it is more appropriate to discuss in-law problems with your spouse. Gently & with sensitivity, of course!