Perhaps one of the most delicate situations you might encounter with a narcissist is if your mother-in-law is one. Not only will you have to deal with her, but you also have to consider how your spouse feels about it.
People who have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) often project a sense that they believe themselves to be superior to other people. They have an inflated sense of self-importance, but the reality is that their outward projection of superiority is masking a fragile self-esteem inwardly.
As a result of their inward turmoil, narcissists crave admiration and appreciation. They only feel validated by external sources, but they won’t show you any empathy or consideration for your own concerns.
As you can imagine, these traits make narcissists very difficult to deal with, but the problem is compounded if the narcissist is your mother-in-law. The relationship between a spouse and his or her in-laws can be tricky even without a personality disorder in the mix. Add in NPD and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Read on to discover how to recognize and deal with a narcissistic mother-in-law.
How Do You Know She’s a Narcissist?
Before you can put together a strategy for dealing with a narcissistic mother-in-law, you have to recognize the problem. At first, you might just think she’s being unfair to you because she doesn’t think you’re good enough for her son or daughter.
One of the key ways to identify that it really has nothing to do with that is to watch how she interacts with other people. If she’s a narcissist, she may treat them in a similar manner, particularly if they are someone with whom she has a close relationship.
Some of the signs that indicate she suffers from narcissism include a need for constant admiration, the constant demeaning of other people, an overly defensive, hypersensitive attitude, no empathy, and everything is all about her.
You’ll notice that she requires that everyone show her appreciation for what she does. If you don’t comply, she might even fly into a rage and feel as if she has been insulted. She will also be dominating and sarcastic, frequently belittling those she supposedly loves in front of other people.
She will be unable to accept even the slightest criticism, and she can interpret another family member’s defense of you as being criticism of her. She is so hypersensitive because she requires that constant external validation.
That’s also why everything has to always be about her. She wants to demonstrate her inherent superiority. Of course, her inability to feel any empathy means she is oblivious to how all of her behavior might be affecting those she loves.
How Should You Deal with Her?
Once you realize your mother-in-law is a narcissist, these tips can help you to deal with her in a way that is also sensitive to your spouse.
Be Less Accessible
It’s important for your own mental health to create healthy boundaries, and that means being less accessible to your mother-in-law. You won’t be able to win her over because of her mental condition, but you can create some distance between you and her. That will minimize the potential for confrontation.
Don’t Accept Blame
It’s very easy for you to begin to doubt yourself when you can’t seem to make any headway with your mother-in-law. You might think that you could win her over with time, but that’s simply not possible with a narcissist.
She simply isn’t interested in your feelings or even those of your spouse. She is only interested in how she is affected and the image she is projecting. That’s why you have to prioritize your own needs and understand that you are not to blame for the state of your relationship with her.
Don’t Expect Change
You must abandon all hope of being able to change your mother-in-law. For a narcissist to change, it requires an understanding they have a problem as well as the desire to engage in usually years of therapy to be able to truly heal.
You simply won’t be able to change her behavior towards you or your spouse. It’s better to put your energy to helping your spouse overcome any negative effects of having been raised by a narcissistic mother. You also need to look out for yourself so that you don’t become drawn into her insidious web of manipulation.
One of the most important things you can do is to stay assertive in your approach to your narcissistic mother-in-law. If you display any weakening in your stance toward her behavior, she will use that against you.
Setting and maintaining strong boundaries regarding when, for how long, and how frequently you will see her is a good way to manage the situation. This doesn’t have to be done in a negative way, but the boundaries you set have to be consistently maintained.
It’s easy to feel diminished by the criticism and bullying you will undoubtedly endure from your mother-in-law. You are now the target of the same narcissistic abuse she used to manipulate her own child.
This can create a real decline in your mental health, and you must constantly fight to keep that from happening. To combat that, you’ll want to implement consistent, frequent self-care habits. These should include getting together with your support network so they can help you process your feelings.
It’s also important that you take time to yourself so that you can engage in relaxing activities that will boost your positivity and sense of satisfaction. This will help you stay balanced even in the face of constant criticism.
It’s a delicate situation to have a narcissistic mother-in-law. You have to balance your right to be treated with respect with the feelings your spouse might have about his or her mother. You may also need to help your spouse heal from the narcissistic abuse they received in their own childhood.
That can be tricky since your spouse is likely to either be overly sensitive given the years of emotional abuse or they may even be a narcissist themselves. To stay sane and be happy in that kind of environment requires strong boundaries, a generous helping of self-care, and time with your own support network.
Sometimes it’s not easy to identify a covert narcissistic mother (or mother-in-law). To learn the signs, check out the article, “Seven Signs You’re Dealing With A Covert Narcissistic Mother.”
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