Marriage brings about many changes and challenges for a woman. One of the bigger challenges is building a loving and cooperative relationship with the mother-in-law. Yes, you read that right – while it is easy to have a peaceful and cordial relationship with a generous and loving MIL, but if unfortunately, you get stuck with a scheming, manipulative woman, you will have to plan your interaction with her with a lot of caution and smarts. In fact not just with her but even with people around her, including your husband, especially in matters concerning her and you. We are here to help you identify the signs of a manipulative mother-in-law and fix the gaps for a peaceful co-existence.
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 feels the need to control your married life so that you can come up with appropriate steps to handle that in a smart manner. Common reasons behind the controlling attitude of the mother-in-law are:
- 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. She feels insecure and lashes out at the new entrant
- Whereas earlier the mother would to be the center of her son’s universe at home, now he cannot wait to escape from family dinners to retire in his room with his new wife. This sharing of attention and time irritates her deeply. The mother-in-law in such a situation feels the need to gain control over her son and his married life. We have received many such queries, read one here.
- In some cases, the mother-in-law may not be happy with the choice her son has made in picking a wife. One person let’s call her M who was from lower economical strata than her husband faced the slack of her mother-in-law day in day out with the words, ‘You did a good job in catching him’, your mother must have taught you this’. After a few months of constant sarcasm (she was a working woman too) she gave her husband two choices, either they move out or she would leave him. She told us that she was at the end of her tether and couldn’t take her dislike towards the daughter-in-law which only seemed to get worse 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. If the daughter-in-law is better at some things, she may feel jealous too!
This means that not only the daughter-in-law but the mother-in-law too must be open to changes that a new entry would make in their home. If she is not prepared for it, it is easy for her to react negatively to this new scenario. It is at this time that a smart daughter-in-law can read signs, made deductions on what is the reason behind the manipulation of her husband’s mother and deal with it in a win-win situation kind of way. Trust us there are many. You do not need to be a psychologist to do this, just read the piece below. Remember she does it because she doesn’t want to lose her son to you. And this is something that you can use to get her on your side. First and foremost value her place in your husband’s life, take time and effort to bond with her, it may take time but she will turn as loving towards you as she is with her son.
Related Reading: When The Mother-In-Law Tags Along Everywhere
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, 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.
- 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
- She will wear you down: First, she will engage you in discussions and eventually wear you down through words and actions. She will keep repeating her own point of view even when you have stated your inclination otherwise, till you either get tired and give in or maybe tell her something in anger which she then holds against you forever. You will find yourself under attack while you think all you did was trying to put your point across. This is a clever way to make you look mean, disrespectful and rude.
- 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. He then always chooses his family over 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 created. One story we got of a mother-in-law suffering from asthma who would always fake an attack whenever her daughter-in-law even used a shampoo that she did not approve her, saying it triggered her asthma. The son then blamed the wife for not being considerate.
- She seeks you to be perfect: No one can be perfect, but from you, she expects perfection, in cooking, decorating, managing the house, making pickles! She expects you to have inhuman energy and faults you for taking some time off for your recreation. For this, she may keep giving instructions, and instances of how things are done at ‘her’ house. She may also give you examples of her friend’s daughters-in-law and compare you to them and belittle you int the process. You may start believing that you are not good enough as she sucks the life out of you
- 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. She tends to take important decisions related to your married life without even asking for your opinion because she thinks she knows the best. One lady wrote to us about how her mother-in-law would make her open her cupboard and show her whether things were kept in neat racks and piles!
- 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. She will be the ‘other woman‘ in your relationship. In this way, you will never get alone time to spend with your husband. The idea of privacy is unknown to her.
- She acts all-loving in public: In front of other people, she will shower you with love. She will praise you and show what a lovely relationship both of you have. You will believe this side of her and think maybe the other negative things were all in your head. But this may very well be a façade to manipulate her son and you even more.
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 control, and for her son to always prioritize her over you. Understanding this psyche of her is what will give you the way out of this tricky situation, you can turn the tables and use her cards to turn her into being amiable and positive towards you. Two can play the game, right?
Related Reading: My Mother-In-Law Is Spoiling My Life but My Husband Loves Me
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, stand up for yourself 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. Check whether her attitude towards you changes after meeting some people. There are negative elements who love to spoil the peace of another household. You have to go to the source of her behavior towards you, where is it stemming from and think of how to nip that in the bud. Remember a mother-in-law who is negative towards you can make your life hell, even when she is not in the same house, make your life goal to work on your relationship with her.
2. Reassure her as much as possible
Since your mother-in-law feels that you are replacing her as the primary woman in her son’s life, it is essential that you reassure her otherwise. Encourage your husband to spend time with her, ask her opinion when on the dining table, offer to take your in-laws out on one of the Sundays. 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 even shut down other people who advise her to be manipulative against you.
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. Else he will listen to his mother and keep you away.
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. The first step is to set boundaries with your in-laws so everyone is on the same page.
5. Act in a mature manner
If she uses strategies to exploit you and bully you, you need to remain calm. Do not respond to her when you are angry or irritated. It is better to clear the room when you are in such a mood, think of what to do with a cool head and then respond. If she is trying to provoke you, do not give in.
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. Feign a phone call or some work and leave the space. 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. She many more years and there must be things you can learn from her. Take the opportunity. Sangita wrote to us about how her mother-in-law was great with home remedies and that became the platform on which they bonded. Sangita also became quote sought after in her own circle for her home remedies tactics!
8. Always show appreciation towards her
Remember that your mother-in-law is just a normal person who has flaws like all of us. How easy it is for you to understand your own mother’s misgivings, extend the same courtesy to your mother-in-law. This way you can break the toxic chain. Genuine appreciation from you will reach her, make sure you acknowledge her efforts. In act make it a point to mention this in front of your husband.
Related reading: 8 times movie mothers-in-law were worse than your real MIL
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. You can even make her special dish or starch her sari. You could make your father-in-law do something for her. A nice way to make way into her heart.
10. Understand your husband as well
Do not let the frustration you have against your mother-in-law spoil your relationship with your husband where he feels stuck between his mother and wife. 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. If your in-laws are disrespectful, deal with them tactfully.
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
If things seem totally unresolvable convince your husband to move to a new place away from your mother-in-law. Joint family does not work for everyone and that is fine. 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.
Related Reading: We relocated to India and in-laws are affecting our marriage
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.