15 Clever Ways To Deal With A Manipulative, Scheming Mother-In-Law

mother in law with daughter in law

Marriage brings about many changes and challenges for a woman. One such challenge is building a loving and cooperative relationship with the mother-in-law. Yes, you read that right – while it is largely possible to have a cordial relationship with a generous and loving MIL when it comes to a scheming, manipulative woman, you will have to deal with her accordingly. And we are here to help you recognise the signs of a manipulative mother-in-law and fix the gaps for a peaceful co-existence.

Related Reading: When The Mother-In-Law Tags Along Everywhere

Why do mothers-in-law tend to control?

You must understand why you are unable to get along with your mother-in-law and why she has the urge to control your married life in order to deal with her in the correct manner. Common reasons behind the controlling attitude of the mother-in-law would be the following:

  • A mother-in-law generally becomes controlling and cunning when she feels that she is being replaced as the primary woman in her son’s life. This happens when the son marries and the daughter-in-law comes into his life
  • A share of the son’s attention now goes to the wife, whereas earlier the mother used to be the centre of his universe. So obviously, the mother feels the need to gain control over her son and his married life.
  • Probably, the daughter-in-law is not the partner that the mother-in-law would have chosen for her son. So she develops a dislike towards the daughter-in-law which tends to increase with time
  • A mother-in-law becomes controlling when she sees the daughter-in-law making changes in the way things are done at home. She feels insecure, as she has to compete with the new woman in the household, while earlier, she was the boss of the house

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This means that not only the daughter-in-law but also the mother-in-law must also accept a lot of changes after her son gets married. As she might not be able to handle these changes, she tends to become manipulative and does horrible things. But she does it just because she loves her son truly. Therefore as a daughter-in-law, you must value her and try to make an effort to change her into a loving mother-in-law.

Related reading: How my mother-in-law and I bonded over coffee

Signs of a controlling mother-in-law

It is very difficult to comprehend whether your mother-in-law is genuinely protective about your married life or is just interested in controlling and tormenting you. Manipulative mothers-in-law are good at scheming and they can give you mixed signals. At one point she may seem genuinely interested in your relationship with your husband, while at other instances, she may be poisoning his mind against you. This can leave you bewildered and confused, wondering if she is really manipulating things her way or you have mistaken her concerns for toxicity. Thus, we list down the signs of a controlling mother-in-law which will help recognize the true nature of your mother-in-law.

  1. She spies on you: She keeps a track of all that you do during the day. She asks you questions on and about anything that you may be doing- even for something as trivial as talking to someone on the phone. It is like her spying eyes follow your every move and you can actually feel her watching you
  2. She will wear you down: First, she will engage you in discussions and eventually wear you down through words and actions. The direct attack would soon be on you, cleverly put. She may start of nicely but will actually try to degrade you and look down upon you
  3. She is great at manipulating her son: She becomes easily successful in playing a victim and your husband tends to believe her manipulative stories about you. She is always scheming against you. To get you to apologise, she will cry, refuse food and sulk for hours when her son is around. And she will make you believe that she was trying to stop her son from creating a scene, which in reality she has only been directing
  4. She seeks you to be perfect: Even though she might not be a perfectionist, yet she wants you to be one. So she keeps telling you to follow her instructions, gives you examples of other women – compares you, belittles you and makes you believe you are not good enough
  5. She thinks she knows best: From small things like home décor and dinner menu, to what you should wear and how you should conduct yourself, she thinks she knows everything.
  6. She tends to take important decisions related to your married life without even asking for your opinion because she thinks she knows the best
  7. She doesn’t leave space for privacy: Your controlling mother-in-law will always be around your husband and you. she will make it a point to accompany you to vacations, interrupt you in quiet times and even push herself in your bedroom at odd hours. In this way, you will never get alone time to spend with your husband. The idea of privacy is unknown to her
  8. She acts all loving in public: In front of other people, she will shower you with love. She will go to the extent of even praising you. As a result, you might believe that everything is fine. But actually that is just a façade to manipulate her son and you further

The aim of a manipulative mother-in-law is not to ruin your relationship but to end your domination and influence in her son’s life. She wants the control in her hands, and she wants her son to always priortise her over you. So accordingly, you have to deal with her so that you can turn her into an amiable mother-in-law.

15 ways to deal with a manipulative mother-in-law

You cannot become a puppet in the hands of your manipulative and controlling mother-in-law. You cannot allow her to dictate your married life. You have to build up the courage to deal with her twisted ways and protect your married life. Here are the 15 ways in which you can handle your manipulative and hurtful mother-in-law.

1. Make an effort to understand her

This is the first step that you must take in order to salvage your relationship with your mother-in-law as well as your husband. Being controlling and judgmental does not mean that there is a flaw in her character. It is just that she is possessive and insecure, because of which she is acting like that.

2. Reassure her as much as possible

Since your mother-in-law feels that you are replacing her as a primary woman in her son’s life, it is essential that you reassure her. Let her know that her place and power in the house will not be altered because of your presence. In this way, your mother-in-law might be able to let go of her manipulative tactics.

3. Do not get your husband involved

Getting your husband involved in the conflict between your mother-in-law and you will just make things worse. Even if your mother-in-law tries to involve your husband, you must keep your cool and advice your husband to stay out of it. Your mother-in-law and you are mature enough to deal with the issues on your own.

4. Communicate with your mother-in-law on a daily basis

The idea of communicating with her on a daily basis might seem disagreeable to you. But this will ensure that you both are able to sort out issues by talking to each other honestly, instead of keeping the feelings pent up.

5. Act in a mature manner

If she uses strategies to exploit you and bully you, you need to remain calm. The more you give to respond to what she does, the more she will be encouraged to torment you.

Remind yourself of the fact that the problem is with her and not with you. Therefore deal with the whole situation maturely.

6. Behave smartly when things fail to work out

When your mother-in-law starts to intimidate you and make you feel uncomfortable, you have to be smart enough to change the subject altogether. If things fail to work out and you both move from having a normal conversation to a proper fight, then you have to take a step back. This will allow the situation to be defused.

7. Ask for your mother-in-law’s advice

This step will help you build a good and cooperative relationship with your mother-in-law. By asking for her valuable advice and taking decisions according to it, you will show her the importance she has in your life.

Related reading: 8 times movie mothers-in-law were worse than your real MIL

8. Always show appreciation towards her

Remember that your mother-in-law is just a normal person who has some flaws. So you can actually understand her and appreciate it when she compliments you or praises your hard work. Do not become indifferent to her efforts.

9. Celebrate her special days with all your heart

Whether it is her birthday or mother’s day, you must celebrate these days and make her feel loved. Even if she is never nice to you, she will surely change her behaviour after seeing you make such efforts for her.

10. Understand your husband as well

Do not let the frustration you have against your mother-in-law spoil your relationship. Understand why your husband is acting up and make sure that the bitter relationship with your mother-in-law does not affect your married life. By being happy in your relationship, you might be able to deal with your manipulative mother-in-law with a smile on your face.

11. Evaluate your own behaviour

It is important that you sit back and evaluate the way you behave with your mother-in-law. Honestly, if you find any flaws in the way you behave, you must try to improve them. Probably, the change in your behaviour will instil a change in her behaviour as well.

12. Take advice from trusted people in your life

Trusted people in your life like your mother, your close friends are probably the best people you can turn to for help. They will give you valuable advice on how you can deal with a manipulative mother-in-law and by discussing things with them you will definitely feel light as well.

13. Distance yourself from your mother-in-law

Convince your husband to move to a new place away from your mother-in-law, especially when things get out of control. This will allow you to have your personal space and time with your husband. You can invite your mother-in-law from time to time to make her feel important and cherished as well.

14. Set clear boundaries

You need to set clear-cut boundaries with your mother-in-law. Let her know when she crosses boundaries and becomes too inquisitive. In this way, you both will know how to react to a particular situation and how to restore balance in the deteriorating relationship.

15. Give her the silent and cold treatment

In case, none of the above-mentioned tactics works then you can opt for the silent and cold treatment. When she will notice that you are not affected by the way she behaves, she will probably back off and change herself.

Take away her capability to manipulate and twist your married life. Mind games and manipulative behaviour are toxic to anyone’s life. Therefore, you have to take appropriate steps to remain emotionally and mentally strong and healthy.

Thanks to our Indian daily soaps, a mother-in-law is always portrayed as a judgemental, controlling and irritating woman. But this is not always true. There are mothers-in-law who love their daughters-in-law and put them on a pedestal. It is only in some unlucky situations when a daughter-in-law has to deal with an emotionally manipulative mother-in-law. If you are stuck in such a situation, then the above tips should help you get peace in your life.

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QWERTY September 22, 2019 - 12:06 pm

This is beyond ridiculous. Clearly the author has no experience with a toxic MIL.

Cat August 21, 2019 - 5:28 pm

Sounds more like a how to suck up to your MONSTER IN LAW LIST. The only one good advice was silent treatment.

Don’t waste time trying to play nice, it doesn’t work. Stay away from toxic MIL and do things you enjoy with people you care about. Do what you enjoy.

Whatever the MIL says if it’s rude stand up for yourself. If she hates what you are wearing, you can tell her “well your son picked out this dress.”

Time is too precious to waste on someone that will poison the air with their toxic aura.

Don’t waste your breath trying to argue with a toxic, overbearing, rude, insecure, manipulative, emotional, conniving, two faced, fake and crazy MIL. They won’t change, the only thing you can do is love yourself and be proud of who you are.

Any women looking down or treating their daughter in laws like crap is stupid. They lack EQ and are just plain selfish.

Avoid them when possible. Why would any daughter in law wanna spend time with negative vibes around them and their children. No human needs that in their lives.

Also you SHOULD talk about it with your spouse. They have every right to know what a nightmare their mother is. If they have any logic you plan ways to make it less stressful.

Be cautious when speaking with your spouse. As some think their mother is an angel. When she’s the devil in disguise.

You don’t have to get along with your MIL to love your man!

Sharon June 16, 2019 - 11:37 pm

I think the MIL is the author of this page!!!!

Sati May 21, 2019 - 1:15 pm

What the hell.are you trying to imply these problems can be solved by being all lovey dovey to mil.stupid advices.

L Wright December 18, 2018 - 8:51 pm

This is a list of what NOT TO DO
Total bullshit

Tre February 28, 2019 - 2:57 am

Totally agree that it’s more of a list of what not to do

Deborah April 19, 2019 - 9:28 pm

Totally agree with your post. If a MIL is manipulating/controlling and deliberly scheming then she’s nothing but a BULLY. The silent treatment and distancing is the only way I would handle this type of behavior from anyone particularly a MIL. What’s wrong with a husband growing some nuts and setting the bounderies with his own mother??

Sonal September 18, 2018 - 7:10 am

These don’t seem like “clever tips,” but rather complete capitulation. While I understand empathy and kindness – for any relationship – it seems like you’re suggesting the daughter in law not set any boundaries or defend her marriage, family, sanity? Surely we can be respectful and not feed the mean tendencies?

Vicenta Nott May 31, 2018 - 4:46 am

I am constantly searching online for posts that can aid me. Thanks!

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