8 Steps to Taking Your Power Back From a Toxic Mother-in-Law
Do you have a toxic mother-in-law?
The term refers to a particularly malignant in-law that breeds self-doubt, emotional vulnerability and chronic stress.
If you feel worn out from manipulations, verbal attacks and constant drama, struggling to appease your mother-in-law and never quite achieving that goal, chances are, you're given your power away to her.
But it's never too late to reclaim your life. Here are 10 steps to taking your power back from a toxic mother-in-law.
1. Don't get sucked in
First and foremost, don't get sucked into her world!
It's a very twisted place where everyone is a jerk and she is always a victim. And you know what they say: misery loves company.
Your toxic mother-in-law loves to complain: about the weather, the traffic, her horrible boss, the government, ungrateful family members, her back (neck, head, leg) pain, and everything else under the sun. The glass is always half-empty with this one. After spending time with her you'll notice that you feel drained, lifeless and sad.
Stop getting sucked into negativity! Just be your usual happy self. That'll repel her right off.
2. Work on your confidence
Your toxic mother-in-law loves to tear people down. She does it in a subtle way, so that you'll start questioning yourself before you question her. You'll wonder if you're being "too sensitive" or "overreacting." You're not. You're reacting like any normal human being would to being attacked or disrespected.
Putting you down makes her feel better about herself, and allows her to have a sense of entitlement. Don't fall into that trap!
Your mother-in-law simply exploits your insecurities. The more insecure you are, the more hurt you'll feel by her remarks. The more confident you are, the more you'll feel like everything she's saying is total rubbish. A confident woman knows her worth, and the only opinion that truly matters to her is her own. Be that woman!
3. Stop trying to please her
Spoiler alert: no matter how much you try, you will never succeed. Toxic people don't change, and they don't change their minds. Once she's decided how she feels about you, she'll continue seeing you in that way, finding more reasons to prove that she was right.
I know you just want everyone to be happy, and you think if you compromise a little bit, that will have a positive effect. Generally speaking, it's true, but not when you're dealing with a toxic person. It will never be enough. You do one thing, she'll expect ten more.
4. Learn her methods
The reason your mother-in-law is so good at manipulation is because she's had years of practice, and she really perfected certain methods of emotional abuse. Most people in her life don't even see it as abuse - that's how good she is. Toxic people are crafty that way; you'll never see them come out swinging. They're more about stabbing you in the back.
So the best way to deal with her is to learn to recognize her tricks. Once you do, their power with be greatly diminished. For instance, once you learn what gaslighting is, you'll always recognize it when she tries to convince you that you "misunderstood" or "heard it wrong."
5. Learn to be a rock
If you've ever read literature on narcissistic abuse, you might be familiar with the "gray rock method." It's an extremely effective method for dealing with narcissists, and let's face it, your toxic mother-in-law probably has some narcissistic personality traits.
The essence of the gray rock method is to remain as animated as a rock in the presence of a narcissist. What they want is ATTENTION, DRAMA, EMOTIONS, and to be the center of it all. But you can't give it to them. You're just a gray rock. It's an emotional equivalent of playing dead. The idea is, after a while they'll just leave you alone. Similarly, a cat will play with a dead mouse, but then it'll get bored and move on to more interesting objects.
6. Forgive and forget
Let me spare you some suspense: she'll never apologize for anything. But that doesn't mean you can't still forgive her.
I know it seems like a bizarre idea because
- she didn't apologize
- she doesn't deserve your forgiveness
- she'll do the same thing all over again
But you don't forgive people for them. You forgive for you. As long as you're holding on to hurt feelings, anger, resentment towards your toxic mother-in-law, she has power over you. If you're serious about taking your power back, all of it, you have to forgive her. Sincerely. Totally.
Let it GO, once and for all.
7. Set boundaries
Boundaries are essential when dealing with toxic people. Otherwise they'll walk all over you. Not much power in that, is there?
There are two things you need to know about establishing boundaries:
- The boundary has to do with your need, not hers. She may not think that it makes sense, or that it's important. But if it's important to you, it's all that matters.
- Boundaries have to be backed up with consequences. Undoubtedly, your toxic mother-in-law will try to cross the boundaries you set. That's why you need consequences. One cannot exist without the other.
For example: "I know you gave your kids sugary treats but we're doing things differently. If you can't respect that, we can't trust you to be alone with our kids."
8. Find your joy
Joy and happiness are incredibly powerful states. If you're anchored in joy or at least in peace, your toxic mother-in-law will have a hard time shrinking you down to her size.
What makes you happy? What makes your eyes sparkle? What always brings a smile to your face?
Not your mother-in-law, I get it. But what does? Really dig deep inside and find that source of joy. Not to sound like Marie Kondo, but focusing on things (people, activities) that spark joy is empowering and liberating, because you're consciously choosing to shift your attention, change your emotional state, and, therefore, change your reality.
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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.
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© 2018 Lana Adler