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Toxic Mother-In-Law 2: Five Years Later

Updated on May 19, 2017

When I first wrote "10 Signs You Have a Toxic Mother-In-Law," I was happily married to the man I could see spending the rest of my life with. But our domestic bliss was tainted by his mother's disapproval of me, and her constant passive-aggressive attacks. Her negativity was seeping through every aspect of my life, and there was no escape from it. Sometimes I even wondered if it was all worth it.

Five years later I reflect on how the relationship with my MIL changed.

The Toxic MIL Epidemic

Before I get into that, let me tell you about the "10 Signs" article and the response it received.

Raw, poignant and personal, it was written with no research, all from experience. Although I tried to maintain a lighthearted tone, it reeked of bitter disappointment and pain my family discord was causing me.

I wrote it because I wanted relief from the burden of being a "no-good" daughter-in-law. After all, writing is meant to be therapeutic. So I've exercised my demons. I described being in a relationship with this woman, and I gave a name to what she was to me. This is how the "toxic mother-in-law" was born.

Since it was published hundreds of women (and even men) shared their mother-in-law woes with me. They left comments. They contacted me on social media. Those who wanted to keep our conversations private sent emails. The overarching sentiment was: "I'm glad I'm not alone."

Doris Roberts' character Marie on "Everybody Loves Raymond" had many tell-tale signs of a toxic mother-in-law.
Doris Roberts' character Marie on "Everybody Loves Raymond" had many tell-tale signs of a toxic mother-in-law. | Source

Suddenly it seemed like there is a toxic MIL epidemic. Call FEMA, call CDC, call someone, because the toxicity is reaching dangerous levels!

Moved by their sincerity, I wanted to offer some advice to the battered and emotionally drained daughters-in-law who reached out to me, but most of the time I only managed to offer a compassionate ear. I figured, having your feelings validated can make a difference too, however small.

Still, I tried to distill some sort of wisdom from my "monster-in-law" conundrum and to pass it on.

For me, it was accepting the status quo without ever expecting it to change. This is the path of least resistance, the one I took because it offered some peace of mind. "Take your situation philosophically, treat it with humor and find comfort in the fact that other people love and accept you" was my mantra to those with a toxic MIL problem.

As it says in the article, "she will never accept you, and you can never have a relationship with her."

The Glimmer of Hope

I do not recall having had any hope up until the day my daughter was born. Suddenly there seemed to be a new beginning, inspired by the new life that entered the world. Everything just seemed small and petty compared to this terrifying, overwhelming, exhausting love you feel as a mother. So we were both mothers now. It leveled a playing field (somewhat) and gave my mother-in-law a new perspective on me.

She started treating me better. She'd said things she never told me before, like that I'm beautiful or that her son made a good choice by marrying me. We still disagreed on a lot of things, but we also made an effort to find common ground and to be respectful. The baby became the balancing force, something that kept both sides grounded and more focused on maintaining a positive environment. We had a common goal now: a nurturing loving family for the little one.

All of a sudden there was that light at the end of the tunnel. So I thought: finally!

But it's always one step forward, two steps back with her. All it takes is one fight to turn our fragile temple of peace back into shambles. She's still the same person. She still makes choices that are selfish and unreasonable. She's still demanding and overbearing. She still conjures up drama where there is none. She still injects her opinion into everything.

Parenting became another point of contention between my MIL and me, which was one of my biggest fears about having a baby. Being the arrogant know-it-all, my MIL is often critical of my parenting choices, just like she was critical of everything else. She gives out unsolicited advice like candy and practices new "divide and conquer" tactics.

So is there improvement? There is a slight improvement in the level of honesty between us, and a basic recognition of each other's strong sides. But in another way, it's become more difficult because I find myself being way more emotional when my child is involved. It doesn't take much for me to perceive her as mistreating my daughter, and that is something I find almost impossible to tolerate.

However, I do remain hopeful that we can continue working on being honest with each other instead of shutting down, and that the communication will be there, even if understanding and acceptance won't.

A new baby can change the family dynamics somewhat, but it will not fix a conflict!
A new baby can change the family dynamics somewhat, but it will not fix a conflict! | Source

Let's Get One Thing Straight

I want to reiterate that having a child is not a fix to a family conflict. Not at all! The only thing that made a difference for me is being more upfront with my mother-in-law.

At some point I gave up on trying to impress her or earn her affection. I've accepted that this was never going to happen. So I started being more honest. Say how I feel. (Politely) call her out on her bullshit. Respond to her passive-aggressive manipulative ways with direct communication. I thought: she already hates me, what do I have to lose? Weirdly, it made us closer.

I found that being more honest with my mother-in-law empowers me. If I've managed to let her know how I feel, that something she does bothers me (without being rude or emotional), that's a victory to me, because in my family (and in many families) the status quo is sweeping things under the rug and moving on.

And that's the key: I don't measure our progress by how "nice" we are to each other; I measure it by how honest I can be with her.

Another thing is: boundaries. It's so important to have boundaries with a domineering MIL, otherwise she will take over! I say "no" when she goes too far, and I make sure to be direct. Vague doesn't work!

Hope Springs Eternal

Do you think the relationship with your mother-in-law will ever change for the better?

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Keep Calm and Speak Up

I know some of you come from a culture where you're not supposed to speak up or disagree with the elders. I come from a similar culture, and it's a struggle for me too.

But you have to do it. You have to find a way to speak up in a respectful but firm manner. You have to find a way to be true to yourself - more or less - otherwise a normal relationship is impossible and you will always feel bullied by your MIL.

And I want to reaffirm that you're not crazy, you're not overreacting. The worst part about toxic MILs is that they make us question ourselves, our self-worth. And we are often alone in that feeling, wondering why we aren't good enough. Don't do that. Do stand up to her. Because she will walk all over you if you don't.

So don't lose faith in yourself and in your marriage. The relationship with your husband's mother will change, or can change for the better. She will see you differently some day, and she will appreciate you.

And if she doesn't, it's her loss.


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 months ago from Oklahoma

      Always have had the misfortune of getting along with my in laws, lol.

      Great read.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Excellent!! I just finally read your first part to this. I plan to go back because the few comments I read were both interesting and shocking~~I need to read more.

      You found the key, Lana, even if it resulted in only minor progress. Every little bit helps. Honesty with diplomacy and "boundaries."

      You are a very patient woman. I commend you. One day your MIL from Hell will see that she should Thank you! Peace, Paula

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 2 months ago from Fresno CA

      I experienced the same thing. When I had our first daughter, the MIL changed her attitude and even said anyone who could be mother to such a beautiful baby couldn't be as bad as she first thought. I decided not to be offended. It was at nice as she could muster.



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      Emily Brown 2 months ago

      My relationship with my mother-in-law was fine UNTIL I had my daughter. She did not like everyone's attention on the baby, particularly Grandpa. She became jealous and controlling. Decades later she has ruined college graduations and weddings. The cruel things she has done and said are innumerable. Her beautiful first great granddaughter was born and she broke my husband's heart by refusing to say she was a beautiful baby. There is no solution for this awful woman.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 months ago from California

      Lol. Thank you for bringing humor to this rather serious topic Larry :)

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 months ago from California

      Thank you for the kind words, Paula :) I do hope that it happens, although I wouldn't bet on it. So far being more honest is the only thing that helped me, somewhat. Because the worst part is feeling victimized and bullied.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 months ago from California

      That's something, Denise! My MIL said she was impressed with how I'm handling frustrating or uncertain situations with the baby. I never panic, see. She recognized that and appreciated that. But I'm sure there are a million things she's also critical of.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 months ago from California

      Emily, wow. That is truly awful. Maybe she suffers from some kind of senile brain dysfunction that makes one really-really mean? Sounds like a classic narcissist though.

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      Jen 2 months ago

      If we're talking about Toxic MILS, mine really takes the cake.

      So much that she my Mother, who stood in as my POA, while my husband was trying to get home from deployment, while I was birthing my first child, went so far as to have my SIL go into my Mom's PT job and say very mean things to her; only then to turn around and villify her on Facebook to the while world.

      To this day my MIL and SIL are the most bipolar bitches. They pretend to be concerned about but in reality couldn't care less....

      My husband has always been the black sheep of his family. And because I am his wife and I have his other daughter, I fall into that category as well. We are normal people. They think they are normal, but normal do not go around destroying other people's lives. True normal people go around building up each other. Toxic is such an appropriate yet not fully-encompassing word for what my mother-in-law is.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 months ago from California


      wow! Talking about drama. You're right, "toxic" doesn't even begin to describe it. And yet, to me it's their most defying characteristic - that they poison the lives of people around them.

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      Rashmi 7 weeks ago

      Your first article gave me hope that I am not alone but second article I cant relate to much because this female is so toxic that she could give sarin a complex. Lol.

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      Diane 6 weeks ago

      While the wedding should have given me a massive clue (she yelled at me on that day), I still had high hopes that I would be accepted as part of the family. My husband and I had been together about 4 years prior to marrying. We were both adults and on our own when we married. Paid for most of our wedding (in laws got a horse and carriage for us which I would not have paid for but they "wanted" to do it. My parents paid for the buffet and about 1/3 of the photographer, only because my mom told the photographer NOT to send me the bill). Boundaries immediately became a problem and not just for my MIL, but also my FIL. They are in this together. Just read your first article!! Then we moved to Sicily for 3 years. MIL asked to be around for the birth of our first child, their first grandchild. First words out of her mouth, "I can't wait until she calls you a bitch." Seriously, 9 hours of travel and THAT is what she thought of to say to me after 46 hours of labor. Then the FIL and SIL arrived... I was a terrible mom, could not do anything right. We had to entertain them for a week less than a week after I had my baby. My first Mother's Day was terrible, she had such control, and I barely got any time with my mom even though she lived about 30 minutes away. We moved back from Sicily and had to stay with them for 2 weeks. I was informed I was not raising my child properly (she was not even 2). I was a bad mom. My husband said nothing all this time. When we moved into our new house, and my SIL had her baby, they were always taking care of her child, no time to give special grandparent time for my child. My SIL's child (she was not married and did not even know the father's full name) got all sorts of grandparent time AND was around whenever they would visit with us. My MIL would say my SIL is a really good mother. Anybody who did not have to care for their own child, most of the time, could be a "good" parent. I had a second child. He was treated as secondary, as well. I finally found my voice, but communication needs to be a two way street. They would poo poo my feelings and tell me I was wrong. I tried for about 8 more years, with no support from the husband, either. I really felt I had to try, for my kids sake, so they had two sets of grandparents (my parents are great!). I stopped when I found out what the three of them were spreading about me to all the family members and their friends, I fordbid my husband from talking to his sister and have kept the kids from them. My kids have had their own cell phone numbers and email addresses for YEARS which I sent to them, multiple times, after they got them. Yet, *I* was the problem with their relationship with my kids. I stopped trying. I no longer bought birthday, Mother's or Father's Day, or Christmas cards or presents. I left it ALL on their son, my husband, to take up the slack. He has not wanted to. He never wanted to. I was the reason they had the relationship they did have because I would push him to talk or email them every week or two (he was deployed a lot, so I could not get him to do it weekly). My kids wanted nothing to do with them because they would be blamed for problems caused by my SIL's kids, since my SIL's kids were always around when my ILs visited with us. I got headaches. I had stomach issues. I thought I was the problem and absorbing all of the blame which has led me to so many different anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications and LOTS of therapy, YEARS of therapy, STILL in therapy. 9 years after I abruptly stopped with them and I still have times where I wonder what I did wrong to deserve their treatment (this is not everything, either, only a small sliver). Married 24 years and the *relationship* is worse. There really sin't one. IF they visit, the kids and I are ignored. No, they were not invited to my daughter's high school graduation (her choice and I supported it) since they told her she was not making the right decisions for her life. What I realized, however, is they ALWAYS ignored us, even during the kids birthday parties. They also kept their son from enjoying the kids birthday parties, as well, by hoarding his time. Now it is like they don't have a son, either, just their goldenchild daughter and her daughter (but not her son, interestingly enough). I don't think they see it as a loss, either. Meanwhile, here I still am, wondering what I did wrong that my kids do not have grandparents, or even much other family, on their dad's side. I know, but I still wish it was different.

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      Alyssa 6 weeks ago

      Glad to know I am not alone. Having our first child changed things for the worst with my MIL and I just didn't realize her narssistic behavior until to tried to be overbearing and controlling when our little one arrived. She was jealous of the fact my mom would help me with him . Which my mom and her agreed they would split up days to help. My MIL wouldn't show up instead complain about how my mom was always here. MIL and her MOTHER and CONTROL FREAKS and get mad when we place boundaries for our family . HOLIDAYS are another issue since my fiances parents are divorced that means 2 houses including my parents which makes it 3 houses in one day with a now toddler so we decided to split up holidays so we can keep our sanity and make our own traditions and my fiancé gets the guilt trip I had a talk with my MIL that we will rotate holidays and she was upset and "concerned" how are we going to determine who we get to spend holidays . Which I had already told her " we are Rotating" and then goes on to state how she's super concerned and I told her there's nothing to be concerned about it's a deiscion my fiancé and I make and it shouldn't concern her. This was Easter 2017 till this present day she's been throwing little rude comments to our ONE YEAR OLD! Who does that? Told my son that Mother's Day is grandmas day?!!? There's no win win. I'm damned if I do damned if I don't. So I started to keep my distance even with that and when we do come to visit it's always something. I think it's to the point that I will no longer come around neither will our son. Her behavior is unacceptable towards me because she couldn't get her way for the Easter acting is if I'm not there cutting me out of pictures. LOL it doesn't even get me mad or hurt it's amusing that a 50 year old woman behaves this way. But I am so thankful that my mother respects our family doesn't give us the guilt trip about holidays and has an open door policy. My mom respects and treats my fiancé as one of her own. But I will no longer try to be the "nice" one and brush it off. I'm going to tell it like it is. Communicate with her about my dislikes not that it matters or would I even get an apology which I don't expect. But just to set my foot down on what's not okay it wouldn't matter either way I look like a B*** if I'm nice and I look like a b*** if I mean so I might as well just be one I figured . But a nice b***.. its a blessing in disguise because she's everything i don't want to be when it comes time our son has his own family I will not become that woman! Any word of advice? Should I make it clear we are no longer coming around? My fiancé has spoken on my behalf which he agrees his mothers side treats me horrible because they can't get their way with me and control me . But of course she denies it and says she loves me for him lol what more can we do?

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 5 weeks ago from California

      You are not alone Alyssa! Although in my experience, having a child had a positive effect on my relationship with an MIL, but it's a temporary peace I suspect. I totally support your intent to be more firm and outspoken with your mother-in-law. Be a nice b* who doesn't give a rat's a* about an old woman's mind games :-)))

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 5 weeks ago from California

      You hit the nail on the head Diane: it's all about the boundaries! That's the real issue. For years I thought that the root problem was that my MIL didn't like/accept me, and that if only she got to know me, she'd change her mind. Because of that thinking I engaged in some approval-seeking behavior and never set the boundaries. In hindsight, having proper boundaries is more important than being liked. Boundaries protect you, give you some control of the situation and keep the other person accountable.

      I do admire you for finding your voice and for trying to have a relationship with your in-laws for so many years for your children's sake. It shows that you're a really good mom. I do not believe that you were a terrible mom! But you might have internalized some of the negativity around you. Toxic MILs will do that - criticize you in subtle ways, chip away at your self-esteem, pin one sibling against another, play favorites, and blame everyone but themselves for the eroded relationships. You did nothing wrong. If anything, you did more than anyone would have done in your situation. It's time to let it go...

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      Disor Poky 5 weeks ago

      You said things changed after your child was born. Don't kid yourself. She is on a path to destroy your relationship with your own kids so she can be their favorite. My son and DIL who is in first trimester told me MIL told them three times "your mom and I have a contest going to see who your baby will love the most." Whhaaat???? Who would even consider something like that? Good thing son and DIL know a narc move when they see it. Wishing you the best of luck and always be ready for a surprise!

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 5 weeks ago from California

      Thank you. I'm deeply ambivalent about whether or not the relationship with my mil changed, so I'm not kidding myself. I'm just trying to figure things out as I go. And I think everyone secretly hopes that the baby will love them the most :) They just don't say it out loud :0

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      Alyssa 4 weeks ago

      I'm wondering if anyone has any advice for a MIL constantly. Or including you in photos putting the on insta/Facebook and act is if you were never there. And only wants pic of her son(my hubby) and my son. ? ever since he was born to the announcement of our son I've been cut out.

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      M Olinde 3 weeks ago

      I lost my daughter to my mother in law . It's a long story but my daughter was the golden child and my son, became the scapegoat. My husband was too weak to support me. So when my daughter wanted to leave the house and go live with my mother-in-law she did and she would pull up in the driveway and take her every Friday even against my will. We never got our relationship back and my daughter just moved away from the house to California so we probably never will but my daughter has a great relationship with my mother-in-law. Glad to know I'm not alone

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      dudette 3 weeks ago

      My situation is very different from most here:

      I am the family scapegoat, my mother is the narcissist who has been mistreating me for decades, until I went no contact 2 years ago. My younger brother is the golden child.

      5 months after my daughter was born (first grandchild), he impregnated a girl he only knew for 3 months - he couldn't stand all the attention NM was giving her. Luckily for him, his baby-mama is a lovely girl, so much so, that I am absolutely flabbergasted as how she can stand my needy, lying, manipulative and psychotic mother. My mother's worst fear was always that her golden child would marry somebody she'd disapprove of. Well, they aren't married, she's from a different religion, she has tattoos (horrific for her), and she's always happy and easy going, something my miserable NM will never understand.

      Now, I haven't had contact with any of them for 2 years (when my NM started treating her golden child's child, different to mine), but I can't help wondering: how the F, can this girl even stand to be in the same room with her, let alone get along with her?

      There is no doubt in my mind that my NM treats her better than me, she can't lose her GC, but for how long will she be able to keep up the facade? She's a terrible actress with very little patience.

      I just can't get my head around it.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 weeks ago from California


      I know this hurts. I honestly don't know what to tell you. Only you really know your situation, and only you can figure out what's best for you and your family. I can tell you: don't take it personally, but I'm sure it's hard to do when you're being cut out of family photos...I will say this though - try not to let your MIL take center stage in your life. Don't devote all your time to thinking or talking about her words or actions. Ultimately, this is just noise. You have your own family now, you have a beautiful baby boy, you have a devoted partner, you have other people who love and accept you...nothing else matters. Good luck!

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 weeks ago from California

      hi dudette,

      that's certainly something to ponder...Although I wouldn't dwell too much on it. Most relationships between a MIL and a DIL (or in your case, a mother and a daughter) are eroded by years of resentment, animosity and conflict. But your mother has no history with this girl, and if she is this happy easy going person like you said, she probably has no judgment towards your mother. She simply accepts her, maybe even appreciates her. Give it time, and she will start seeing her for who she is.

    • Karli McClane profile image

      Psycho Free Zone 2 weeks ago from USA

      Another well-written article; thank you for sharing your experience. My MIL stopped talking to my husband (and me, of course) over a year ago, and it's been wonderful.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 weeks ago from California

      Thank you! I ain't gonna lie - it does sound wonderful! :-)

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