Home Family & SocietyFamily Dynamics The Only Way to Deal With Your Toxic Mother-In-Law

The Only Way to Deal With Your Toxic Mother-In-Law

written by Laura Dabney, M.D. February 6, 2020
The Only Way to Deal With Your Toxic Mother-In-Law

Toxic mother-in-law? My condolences. For starters, let’s get a few definitions straight. Your toxic mother-in-law problem is a parents-in-law problem. No, he’s great, it’s her, you say?  Think again. His passivity is code for silent co-conspirator or enabling spouse. Either way, he is not reigning her in and so they should be dealt with as a toxic team.

Secondly, this is a marital problem for you.  No, she doesn’t bother my spouse, just me, you say? Your troubles are marital troubles because if you’re stressed then the entire family system suffers.  A toxic mother-in-law goes hand-in-hand with toxic family relationships. Therefore, you and your spouse need to work as a team when dealing with toxic in-laws.

Lastly, there is no award for grinning-and-bearing it.  In fact, this do-nothing approach can lead to erosion of all your family ties. It’s okay to admit, “I hate my in-laws,” but it’s not okay to do nothing about it. I understand that it can be daunting to change your approach, but the risk of doing nothing is worse for your marriage and family.

So, now that we got that all straight, let’s look at why mothers-in-law can be toxic, how they cause toxic family relationships, and why they do it.  This will help you understand how to deal with a toxic mother-in-law or any toxic family relationship.

Boundary Crossers

This type of toxic mother-in-law will see your line in the sand and happily step right over it. Explained nap and mealtimes?  They’ll disrupt them anyway. They show up on their time, retell stories you asked them not to, persist on sensitive topics despite your protests, and generally ignore any limit or boundary you mention.

This often takes the form of completely engulfing you and yours into the original family, causing you to lose all your roles and relationships under the larger umbrella of “being family,” or simply ignoring their offspring’s right to a separate life without being constantly checked on. They will not understand that your marriage comes before any other family and will want you and/or your spouse to be a part of everything they do.

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