7 Spiritual Lessons From Your Narcissistic Mother-in-Law
Believe it or not, your narcissistic mother-in-law is in your life for a reason. She has lessons to teach you. If you pay attention, you will learn a great deal about yourself, and become a stronger, happier, wiser person. If you ignore her lessons, you'll be stuck in a perpetual cycle of hate, resentment and misery.
1. The lesson of setting boundaries
Are you emotionally sensitive? Do you tend to shy away from conflict? Do you want everyone to just get along?
If you've answered "yes" to these questions, you might find it extraordinarily difficult to set boundaries for your mother-in-law. Yet this may be the very lesson your MIL is teaching you - speak up, set boundaries, take charge of your life.
You may be immensely frustrated by your in-laws' intrusive ways but it takes two to tango. If you've never set boundaries because you didn't want to rock the boat, is it at all surprising that she continuously oversteps them?
2. The lesson of humility
Astonishingly, not everything is about you. When you take everything personally, you're feeding into the idea that you are the center of the universe, and therefore everything that happens around you is about you.
What your mother-in-law says or does is not about you; it's about her. It's about her ability to give or receive unconditional love, it's about whether or not she feels fulfilled, happy, important etc. It's about her unhealed pain. It's about her inner child.
Remember: people who don't love themselves don't know how to love others. And even if they do "love" someone, their love is conditional, judgmental, fragmented. So don't take it personally.
3. The lesson of compassion
She's human. She's not perfect. Neither are you.
Just as you feel that she is intrusive, controlling and manipulative, she feels that you are hostile, ungrateful and argumentative. Or that you're trying to turn her son against her. Or that you're not listening to her valuable advice when it comes to her grandchildren. The list of grievances from both sides can go on and on, and it only proves one thing: we're all human. We all feel insecure at times. We all feel lonely. And we all have a deep need for love and appreciation.
4. The lesson of forgiveness
Spoiler alert: your mother-in-law is not sorry. She doesn't believe she did anything wrong. She doesn't deserve your forgiveness, and she certainly won't ask for it. That's OK. Forgive her anyway.
Most in-law relationships are so wrecked with animosity and blame, neither side is capable of forgiveness. Which is exactly what creates an emotional entanglement - holding on to grudges, inflating the ego, victim consciousness etc.
Forgive and move on. There's nothing more to it. You'll feel lighter, happier, healthier. And you'll learn a valuable lesson: to forgive is to detach.
5. The lesson of self-love
Forgiveness is important, but it doesn't mean that you give your narcissistic mother-in-law a free pass to abuse you. That's where self-love comes in.
When you love yourself, you value yourself and your energy. You have a clear sense of dignity and self-respect. When you don't love yourself, you tend to let people walk all over you. You try to please them by trying to be what they want you to be. And as a result, you give your power away...
Perhaps, your mother-in-law is teaching you to love yourself enough to stand up for yourself. And in some cases, if the relationship has become too painful, to let go of that relationship.
6. The lesson of self-awareness
If you pay attention, you will find that your MIL's most annoying qualities are the very same ones that you don't like within yourself. These "bad" tendencies that we deny need to be brought to light and acknowledged in order to grow. This is our Shadow Self.
On the other hand, your MIL may be triggering your childhood traumas. Do you feel mistreated and rejected by her? Do you feel like nothing you do is ever good enough? Do you feel like she ignores or underplays your accomplishments while constantly criticizing every tiny mistake? Do you often feel bad about yourself after seeing her?
If that sounds true, there may be another parental figure in your life who made you feel that way. You're looking for love and validation from your mother-in-law the same way you were looking for love and validation from your original parent. The in-law just triggers those parts of you that feel insecure, unloved and unworthy. The parts that need healing.
7. The lesson of gratitude
Gratitude may be the last thing you feel towards your narcissistic mother-in-law, and that is precisely why you need to challenge yourself to feel grateful.
For one, she gave life to someone you love - your husband. Be thankful for that.
But more importantly, be thankful for the many precious lessons she has to teach you. She teaches kindness by being unkind. She teaches tolerance by being judgmental. She teaches unconditional love by being withholding and punishing. She teaches honesty by being deceptive. If it wasn't for her, you wouldn't be the person you are today.
And if you don't feel grateful for her at the moment, it's OK too. Give it time. Let yourself feel whatever you feel. And know that you are loved - endlessly, unconditionally, eternally.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
My mother-in-law is a full-blown hoarder. She also wears the pants in her marriage; always has. She is mean and manipulative. Is there a link between hoarding and whatever else she is? I can't entirely put my finger on it, but she definitely will never apologize for her bad behavior, and has her favorites in the family. She recently cut off my husband and I "until further notice." I'm just trying to understand how or if these issues tie in together.
That's an interesting question. Your mother-in-law definitely has narcissistic tendencies, and hoarding can be a by-product of narcissism. There's significant overlap with: the need to control, selfishness, emotional regulation, playing the victim, disregard for other people's needs and well being, angry lashing out when confronted, etc.Helpful 24
How do I put a stop to mo mother-in-law's abuse?
Well, if you've read this article, you know that it talks about a spiritual...purpose, if you will...of having a toxic mother-in-law. Basically, this is about gaining a different perspective that will allow you to see her behavior in a different light. Not making excuses for her, no, but having a less personal approach to it and understanding where that behavior comes from.
What I'm saying is: she will never change, but you can.Helpful 21
My mother-in-law treats me poorly, and talks about me openly. She even told me straight that she doesn't want her son to marry me, and that she wants him to marry a girl from her village. Must I forgive her?
Do you want to forgive her? Is that how you feel? It's ok to be angry, frustrated or hurt; but don't dwell on those feelings.
Forgiveness is a powerful spiritual tool. Just remember: it has to be sincere to work.Helpful 10
How do you find a balance between self-love and forgiveness when it comes to dealing with mother-in-laws?
I don't think it's a choice between self-love and forgiveness. You can forgive your MIL if you want (or not), but it has nothing to do with you standing up for yourself. At the end of the day, the most important relationship you're ever gonna have is with yourself. So don't let your MIL treat you we anything less than respect. She doesn't have to like you, but she has to respect you.Helpful 10
How do you deal with toxic inlaws - MIL, SIL, BIL after spouse's infidelity?
You don't. If you're dealing with infidelity and not sure about the future of your marriage, this is a time for them to support you, or at the very least, to leave you alone. Take as much time as you need, and if you do decide that infidelity is a deal breaker and you want to move on, this is your decision and it should be respected, no matter what.
So if your in-law family is trying to get involved with "advice," politely express your thoughts to them and ask to respect your privacy and your decisions.Helpful 9
© 2017 Lana Adler