24 answers

Toxic Mother in Law

My husband and I have been married now for almost 4 years. I love him very much but I can't take the toxicity of his family. My MIL is constantly trying to get the rest of his family up upset with me. She lies about me and stirs my husbands family up so that they become spitting mad at me. My husband acknowledges her behavior and will confront her when she behaves this way but it always ends in a shouting match and her hanging up on her son. It is just an impossible situation. My husband just seems to blow it off and says that "she is never going to change." I know if the situations were reversed and my parents treated him like I'm being treated I would give my parents 2 choices; 1. Respect my husband or 2. don't be in my life at all. I feel hurt that my husband doesn't make that stand. It shows me that he values them more.

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Hi J.,

I had a toxic MIL while married to my ex and I felt the same way you did. However, asking your husband to choose sides is not the way to go. It'll make matters worse and it will not solve anything. Sons have a special relationship with their mothers that seems to transcend all her bad behaviors. Just continue to do what you know is right and don't play into her drama. By reacting, you're only giving her the attention she desires.

Good luck,


1 mom found this helpful

My MIL is the same...talks bad and tells lies about me behind my back. Then when her friends met me and the family grew to know me they realized that I am a good person and a good mother. So basically be your kind and polite self (especially to her...meaning don't even get your husband involved or say anything. Just nicely thank her for any form of kindness) and others will see through her eventually...and be sure to tell others of any form of kindness and always talk positively about her...and even if someone else brings up the bad, don't get dragged into it just keep polite or change the subject.

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I don't know that he values them MORE. He just values them enough to not shut them out of his life. Such a hard position. And he DOES stand up to her in your defense! I'm not saying that I would not feel the exact same as you, but as an outsider I can say that he is in a really tough position. Try to be patient and supportive. Don't ask him to choose. A person should be able to have their mother in their life no matter what a toad she is!

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Hi J.,
My heart goes out to you. I know what it's like to have to deal with MIL drama. My advice to you is simple . . . love your husband for the man he is - his love and support will remain strong in spite of his mother. His comment about "she is never going to change" comes from a man who has had to deal with that behavior ALL OF HIS LIFE. You have had 4 years (not including the courtship)- be the breathe of fresh air that he needs. His family will base their thoughts of you according to your actions, not hers. Love your husband - unite with him and one day (might be years from now) he'll be strong enough to take a stance against his mother. It's an unfair place for him to be in the middle just as it is for you but if you are on one accord, things will go smoother. A very easy, yet effective tool I have come to use over the years (I'm going on 20+)is not commenting directly when the MIL says provoking things . . . I remain calm, casually change the subject and act as though she never said anything. It leaves her holding the drama she wanted to create - I just don't feed into it (not anymore :) ).

Hang in there J.! You'll feel relief as time goes by, join forces with him and stay strong together!

Wishing you the best of everything!

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At least he is standing up to her. A lot of guys don't even do that... they just expect their wives to put up with it. He acknowledges it, stands up for you & is even willing to get into shouting matches with his mom over it. That counts for a lot, I think.

Maybe he blows it off because he grew up with her acting that way & knows it's just "how she is" and he's right, she'll never change. I think it's great he can see her behavior for what it is, some sons of toxic MIL refuse to believe their moms are anything but saints.

I'm not sure it's wise to put it into a competition with who he values more. Men value their parents one way & their own families a different way... but you're all family and equally important.

Have you given the MIL the choices 1. Respect me or 2. don't be in my life at all? Maybe if YOU cut ties with her, but don't expect your husband to, that might get her to act differently toward you. However, if you get her son to cut ties with her... then his family will REALLY hate you.

My MIL isn't a bowl of cherries, but I try not to put my husband in the middle of it because his loyalties will be divided. I just ignore most of what she does, defend myself directly to her if I need to and mainly just avoid her as much as possible. I keep in mind that my husband & kid love her and she is good to them if not to me.

Good luck. but be careful. How you handle this will affect your family for the rest of your life.

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Get you & your husband into counseling fast! He needs a professional to tell him that her behavior is not ok!

I have been there and done that I have been married for 38 years and my Huband was the same way (thats just her ignore it) thats ok if you have been raised with all those years but the best thing I did to stop a little of it we went there for Thanksgiving one year and she started in on me no one said a word about it so I picked up the food I took and told me husband I was going home and if he wanted a ride he better come on and I went staight to the car got in on the drivers side and to my surprise he came with me and I told him on the way home if you have a problem with it tell now or dont say anything about it and he told me that he was proud of me for finally standing up to her. From them on he started to defend me on certain thing and worked out great.

What is it that she says you are doing that gets everyone so mad? Since you didn't say, I can only imagine that she says you are saying things about the family or doing things that would upset someone. Have you tried just not talking about or to them? Maybe you can't just not talk to them, but I know in my hubby's family, sometimes people will get upset with someone and then vent to me..."can you believe so and so did this?" If I don't engage, then they stop. Meaning my response is "to each his own." or "I don't" and move on to another subject, but if I engage "I can't believe it either. And the other day she did this..." then it's worse. Stories get told and the lines get changed from person to person and yes, you can end up looking like the bad guy. We moved away a few years ago and that has helped. Basilly, I don't talk to anyone in his family unless they call me. I send pictures of the kids via e-mail and I have a family blog where they can see what's going on with us so I know they are "in touch" with what we are up to, but I don't talk to anyone just so that there are no stories of what I said. Good luck. I agree that your hubby has to take a stand, but it sounds like he is. It would be very hard for me to cut my family out of my life, but maybe he might want to limit contact.

Tough situation to be in. The best thing to do may be to try and stay out of the drama. I would not say much to her other than just about the weather - superficial stuff. Don't give her anything to talk about with the family. I don't think your husband values them more; he just feels uncomfortable. Guys don't like to deal with a bunch of drama and prefer to ignore it. I would just try to let it go and be the better person. At the end of the day it is about your husband and you. If you continue to let the MIL get in the way, then it can come between you and hurt your marriage. Sorry i don't have any more advice. Good luck!

I feel your pain! I have been in your shoes. I have a MIL just like yours. My favorite was when I was pregnant, I found out my MIL told the entire family she questioned what kind of mother I would be. She had no reason to say this.

It took us moving across the country and to get away from my hubby's entire family for him to finally see what his "loyalty" to his family did to our marriage. We almost divorced. And, I can promise you if we hadn't moved we wouldn't have stayed together.

With that said, I would strongly encourage you to get counseling for both of you. We did do this after we moved. It did take a third party for my husband to finally see how his family was affecting us. He is YOUR husband now. Granted, he is still her son, but his loyalty should lie with you now. And, he should expect his mother to treat you with respect.

My parents were in a very similar situation. They have been married for 38 years. My mom just tried to stay away as much as possible. When the toxicity spilled over to me, my mom simply refused to go to my grandmothers house at all. She told my dad that he could go and he did go and visit his mother once a week without us. My mom would also just hang the phone up every time my grandmother would call (she would say "what, I can't hear you" and hang up). Zebras can't change their stripes and people who don't want to change, wont. Your MIL will not change. Your hubby is in a precarious spot. You can't expect a person to completely disconnect from their family. Hope this helps and good luck. BTW...I NEVER got along with my 1st MIL either. Distance works wonders=)

You need to relax. This isn't about you. You said your husband stands up for you and it turns into a shouting match. She doesn't respect your husband so how is he to demand respect for you? Your husband tries but doesn't know how to change the dynamic. I would avoid MIL as much as possible. You may even have to take a stand, but keep your dignity and be kind as the other ladies have suggested. Very classy. Eventually the rest of the family will notice your class and have to question MIL's venom.

MIL sounds like an abuser so it's best to limit your contact. You will probably have to grieve since you may have dreamed of a wonderful family connection. If you have family or good friends, focus on being close with them. I sympathize that you can only be close to your family.

My MIL can be harsh so my sisinlaw and I typically have our husbands deal with their mom. As long as she doesn't go after my kids or niece and nephew I tend to ignore her comments. We are both very close to our families and our husbands seem to enjoy the family dynamics on the pleasant side.

Hey J.,
Bless your heart. I am so sorry for what they're doing to you as well as your relationship with your husband. My MIL is the same way and even started making up stuff about my family members. We have been married almost 16 years, and my husband totally cut all contact with her after we had been married 4-5 years, and it has been wonderful. I like your word "toxic"... we didn't realize the stress it was adding to our lives until she was gone. We do keep in contact with some of his other family and since his parents are divorced, it makes it easier. We tried to resume a relationship with her after a few years, but she went right back to her old wicked ways, so he ended it again. People in my family fight and make up, so this severing ties was all new to me (happens frequently in his family). Good luck

I have been in a similar situation, but it was my father-in-law of a now ex-husband who could not stand me. He did everything he could to break up my marriage and he finally won. My husband would not stand up to his dad. He knew he should and said so, but he just couldn't do it.

I've heard the statement "when someone tells lies and rumors about you, the best revenge is to live as if they aren't true". And so I did. Be a lady and remember that it is you who must be respectful. That means also to yourself. You teach people how to treat you. Do not give away your power and get into meaningless arguments with these people or your husband. If they want to be right, let them think they are right and go about your merry life. Do not include yourself in the latest drama. Learn to shake your head yes and agree and say all that they want to hear, and then go live your life the way you want. Pretty soon they will get the picture. They are trying to provoke you into losing your joy. Don't take the bait. If you want to learn more ways to control your reactions...I highly recommend you look into the Basic I and Basic II training courses at ____@____.com's Ridge training. www.sosinc.org. It will change your life and help your marriage in ways you've never thought. AND...AND...it's MUCH cheaper than counseling. Good luck! B. P.

I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. It is not O.K. for them to treat you this way. I would suggest counseling for you and your husband to learn to deal with their behavior. If a counselor tells your husband he needs to stand up against them then you don't have to be the one always suggesting that he do something. Spouses have to put their mate before anyone else. People like your in-laws only act this way because other people put up with it. Your husband should tell them that they respect you or the will not be a part of your lives. You and your husband are adults and deserve to be treated like adults from his parents. I wish you luck!

Sounds like your MIL has been controlling the his family all his life. It may be very difficult for him to stand up for you as you expect. It's not that he doesn't love you, it's that he doesn't know how to change a family dynamic that has been there all his life. I would suggest counseling. If you don't eventually this will tear you apart, it did my 1st marriage. My ex wasn't willing to go to counseling and eventually she drove us apart.

I am the one with the toxic family, my husband deals with it so much better than I. He is the one that encourages me to try and stay calm. I have found what works the best is to not engage with them on that level. When they are upset I tell them I am sorry they feel that way but I would rather not discuss (what ever the issue is) anymore. Then I end the conversation with I love you and will talk soon. is you with all them, especially when they try to drag me into their drama. It doesn't always work on their part, but they have learned I will not engage in it. I don't cut them out of my life, I just cut them short when. I use soft boundaries because my husbands is right, no matter what grief they give me, they are my family and I love them dearly.

My brother and I do not talk at the moment (his choice) because I will not fight with him and codone his behavior.

My suggestion is to encourage your husband not to discuss you with his mom when she is being aggressive. If she yells, have him nicely end the conversation. If she drags othes into, simply tell them you are sorry they are being drug into it, and ask them not engae in it. If they don;t respect that, use the same I am sorry we will talk later.

It is tough, but I would not feel upset about his tolerance of his family. But it is important that you both use a calm and united front.

MIL ie the outlaw will never change. Remember blood is thicker than water ie his family will always take precedence over you. If your husband does not respect you enough to correct instill a better behavior from his mother, then I'd ask myself, do I really need to stay in this marriage and be unhappy? Good luck.

You are not the only one. Just remember that! You have to understand that his family is different than yours and will not react the same way. I married a man with a dysfunctional family. His Grandparents paid his parents bills until the day they died and then they expected the 3 kids to take up where they left off. I came in a couple of years after the fact and didn't understand the situation I just married into. His parents are deaf, so that added the difficulty of communication to the dynamic. His parents are just like spoiled children demanding that he come when they call no matter what. I finally put my foot down after 6 months. They would call..come now need you...I put the boundaries down..is some hurt or bleeding...No..well we will see you on Saturday.
Long drawn out way to say Your family dynamics are different than his. He probably sees the difference now that you are married and it probably bothers him. He might not know how to deal with it to make everyone happy. It is good that he confronts her...I have had to be the bad daugther in law...

Try not to take it personally. I know it is hard, my MIL is a bear and we have had some really big fights in sign language, but I know I can't control her. If she is going to act like a child, I am not going to let her ruin the relationship I have with my hubby.


J....I agree with you. I think your husband needs to stand up for you and make a choice. I don't have a great relationship with my in-laws, but they don't do that kind of stuff...we just don't see eye to eye on things, but life goes on and we still enjoy spending time together. Good luck.

Oh J., do I feel for you!!!!!! I have the EXACT same problems as you do. I have had SOOOOO many issues w/ my MIL over the years b/c she is the most pitiful, dysfunctional person I have ever met. She doesn't know how to behave normally, and as a result, her drama has caused problems. Not only have I had problems w/ my crazy MIL, I have had problems w/ my husband's entire immediate family (his brothers and their wives). They are all horribly mean, and I feel that my husband didn't defend me enough. He defended me some, but not how I would have defended him if the situation was reversed. Just like you said, it also showed me that my husband valued his family more than me. I still think about what happened, and it makes me so mad. But unless I want a divorce, I had no choice but to move on. Men are so different than women. You and I would have taken a much stronger stand than our husbands did. Men just don't want to deal w/ the bad stuff - they are lazy and don't want to have any bad blood w/ their family members so they let them off the hook b/c it's much easier than standing by their wives (the way we wanted them to).

You didn't say what your MIL is saying to the family to get them so upset w/ you. I can give you better advice if you would like to send me a personal message and tell me. I really think I would be able to help you since I unfortunately have SO MUCH experience with family toxicity. From the little info you provided, it seems like your MIL lives a miserable life and is bored to tears w/ her life, so she craves drama and has decided that you are her victim. I am guessing that she is not married and lives alone and is very lonely and miserable. Again, send me a message if you want to discuss this further! Good luck!!

I don't think he is putting his mother before you- I think that he is just a guy and he is handling the situation differently than a woman would. He most likely is just as sick of the situation as you are but doesn't see what else he can do about it, so ignores it whenever possible which equals less stress for him(if not for you!).
It's an awkward situation to be put in on either side for you and your husband. Just don't answer the phone when she calls- I hope you don't live in the same town- being a couple hours away from family(in-laws or not) is great! Long enough drive that you don't see them every day but close enough for a once in a while visit.
I know this is hard, but just don't let her get to you. It sounds like she just wants a reaction, a justification for treating you like she does. Send her a nice card for her birthday and mother's day and a small gift on Christmas and that's it. You are not married to her- you don't have to explain yourself to her or anyone else. You share your life with her son, not her. And then, maybe she will cool down after she realizes that her interfernce is not doing anything to you. If not, at least you will have less stress in your life once you stop letting her be in charge of how you feel. Right now, she's just a fly buzzing around your head trying to upset you. Don't let her bother you- know that your husband has already chosen you- he married you and chose not to stay with his mom but to be with his wife.
go on a date tonight.
have fun!

Luckily, my husband and I are on the same page regarding how toxic my mom is. My question is how is she getting the rest of the family riled up? Is your husband not connected to them? If he IS connected to the family, and if he can't get his mother to back off, he needs to let the family know that mom is an agitator - if they don't already know; they need to talk to him when she does it to get the real story. They're buying into it as well. If you can't get her to stop, maybe you can get them to find out what's really going on. Good luck!

I was in your shoes 10 years ago. (been married 16) My husband and I went through the same thing. He has 8 brothers and sisters and their families and so on. You get the picture of how many people I had to deal with. Well anyway I told my husband that the relationship was too toxic and that I could not and would not deal with it anymore. If he wanted to have anything to do with them he would do it alone without me. To my surprize he agreed they were toxic. He told them NO MORE and we cut them off completely. After about 10 years they came around. It was glorious without them. But they agreed to behave. So far so good. Remember....they are the ones that suffer not you. Your family will be stronger without all the drama. It saved our marriage. Good Luck.

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