The 7 Ways Mothers-In-Law Ruin Marriages – With Tips On How To Save Yours

In-Laws | | , Writer
Updated On: February 14, 2024
How mothers-in-law ruin marriages

“My mother-in-law is destroying my marriage.” “I resent my husband because of his family.” “Why do mothers-in-law interfere in marriages?” If your mind is plagued with such thoughts or you’re considering leaving your husband because of your mother-in-law, know that you are not alone. We’re here to help you understand how mothers-in-law ruin marriages and offer tips on how you can save yours.

In the 2005 romantic comedy, Monster-in-Law, Kevin and Charlotte’s perfect love life is almost torn apart by Viola, the former’s merciless mother who despises her son’s fiancé and makes it her mission to throw her out of his life. Viola fakes an anxiety attack and moves in with Charlotte with the sole aim to annoy her. She tricks Charlotte into eating nuts causing her face to swell up, tries to sabotage her wedding plans, body shames her and declares that she’ll never be good enough for her son.

The film may have gone to certain extremes but this is a sad reality for most couples today. Imagine getting married to the love of your life and looking forward to a fresh beginning with him only to realize that your narcissistic mother-in-law is hell-bent on destroying your marriage. It may sound like a cliche but you’ll be surprised at how many marriages end in divorce because of in-laws.

Can A Mother-In-Law Cause A Divorce?

Well, there’s a high possibility. Family dynamics can massively impact our physical and emotional well-being. A relationship is based on mutual love and respect. The lack of it can cause a lot of stress and frustration. If you’re part of a complicated family dynamic or share a rocky relationship with your in-laws, it is bound to take a toll on your marriage at some point.

If you’re struggling with thoughts like “I resent my husband because of his family” or wondering if and how mothers-in-law ruin marriages, you are not alone. A toxic mother-in-law is a sad reality most couples have to deal with. So, how many marriages end in divorce because of in-laws? There’s no exact figure but a 26-year-long study conducted by Terri Orbuch, psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan, found that women who aren’t close to their in-laws have a 20% higher chance of getting divorced.

Complex family relationships can tear apart the strongest of marriages. Another study by law firm Slater and Gordon blamed the in-laws for divorce or tension between partners. Around 28% of the 2,000 people who took part in the study claimed that the relationship got so bad that they considered divorcing their partners. In fact, one in 10 couples took the step. Problems with the in-laws are often cited as the main reason for couples going down the divorce route.

Why do mothers-in-law interfere? Well, if you’re constantly thinking, “Why my narcissistic mother-in-law destroyed my marriage?”, there could be a few reasons. She may feel like she’s only giving you the advice to help you settle into life after marriage better or your presence possibly makes her feel threatened about her position in the family. Another major reason why mothers-in-law interfere is that they feel their relationship with their son will undergo a change and they may not be as important in their son’s life as before.

Related Reading: How I Refused To Be An Evil Mother-In-Law And Unfollowed Tradition

Some mothers-in-law do not want to let go of the control they have on their house and their son’s life. They believe you don’t take good care of their son or are not a good mother to her grandchildren. These are just a few of the myriad reasons why mothers-in-law interfere in your married life. Let’s take a look at how mothers-in-law ruin marriages and what you can do to save yours.

The 7 Common Ways Mothers-In-Law Ruin Marriages – With Tips On How To Save Yours

Mothers-in-law ruin marriages
Mothers-in-law ruin marriages

Mothers-in-law can be critical, overbearing, controlling, judgmental, and toxic; so much so that their interference can spell doom for a marriage. It’s worse if your spouse is ignorant or oblivious to the games their mother is playing or if they’ve made it a habit of always taking their mother’s side whenever there’s a fight or argument. If your spouse is in denial about how toxic their mother is, then you are in deep trouble, my friend.

Intentional or unintentional, there are different ways in which mothers-in-law ruin marriages, whether it’s complaining about you to your husband, forcing your spouse to take sides, crossing boundaries or invading your private space. But, worry not. There are ways to deal with a manipulative mother-in-law without ruining your marriage. Let’s take a look at how mothers-in-law ruin marriages and how you can save yours:

1. They are jealous of you and intentionally try to hurt you

Why do mothers-in-law interfere? A lot of times, it is difficult for a mother to accept the fact that there’s another woman in her son’s life, who is equally important to him, if not more. She feels threatened by her daughter-in-law and the fact that her inclusion into the family will change the mother-son relationship for the worse. The thought of it makes her jealous and she intentionally tries to hurt your feelings.

She may turn hostile toward you, say or do things to hurt you, exclude you from family events or conversations, not attach importance to your opinions or make you feel like you’re not good enough for her child. She’ll want her son/daughter to spend time with her and might even force them to cancel plans with you for the same. She probably fears being replaced by you, which is why she turns into this toxic and overbearing mother-in-law who finds faults in everything you do.

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How to deal: Don’t worry. It is possible to deal with such disrespectful behavior. One way is to give her love and attention and make her feel important and special. Try to understand where the insecurity is coming from so that you can figure out how to reverse it. Communication is key to resolving conflict in a relationship. Talk to her about her behavior. You could also ask your husband to talk to her. If nothing works, consider ignoring her or shifting houses.

2. They force partners to choose sides

Wondering how mothers-in-law ruin marriages? They force their children to take sides. They want their children to choose them over their partners. If your partner takes her side instead of defending you, it’s a win for her because she knows it’ll create a rift between the both of you. If partners fail to defend each other against their parents, it is bound to cause a lack of respect in the relationship. In several cases, it leads to divorce.

How to deal: If you’re stuck in a similar situation and resent your husband because of his family, we suggest talking to him about it. Communicate your feelings to your spouse. Tell them you feel hurt by their actions. Figure out a way to deal with the mother-in-law together as a united front. Set boundaries on what is acceptable and what is not. If it’s a mother-son issue, it is advisable to stay out of the matter.

Related Reading: 8 Times Movie Mothers-In-Law Were Worse Than Your Real MIL

3. They overstep boundaries and invade privacy

Another way mothers-in-law ruin marriages is by overstepping boundaries. They invade your private space and find faults with the way you manage your house, how you raise your kids or don’t take care of their ‘child’. They have no respect for your personal space, thoughts or opinions. They’ll turn up at your doorstep at odd hours or uninvited and expect you to entertain them and be grateful for their visit.

A toxic mother-in-law will criticize your children, complain about how dirty and unorganized your house is, and may even go to the extent of gathering negative information about you so she can break your marriage and drive you out of her son’s life. She could also resort to checking personal emails or messages, eavesdropping or tapping phone calls and badmouthing you in front of friends and family. If she’s constantly encouraging her child to talk to her about their marriage problems saying that she could offer advice to better the situation, it’s a sign of toxic behavior.

How to deal: One way to deal with interfering mothers-in-law this is to talk to your spouse and establish and enforce strict boundaries. Don’t want them to turn up unannounced? Tell them you’d like to be informed about their visit beforehand. If she’s meddling too much into your family or parenting style, let her know you appreciate the concern but you would like to do it your way.

4. How mothers-in-law ruin marriages? She tries to control everything

Her urge to control your life and family may be one of the reasons you are plagued with the “my mother-in-law is destroying my marriage” feeling. If she interferes in your decisions as a couple or wants you to do everything the way she likes it, know that it’s her way of creating a rift between you and your spouse. It’s a clear sign of a narcissistic mother-in-law.

She’ll expect you to please her and respect her authority. If you refuse to do so, she’ll complain about you to whoever is willing to listen, complicate things for you and exercise control over other members of the family, including your spouse, just to prove her dominance. She’ll want you to adopt her ways – whether it’s running the house, taking care of her child, parenting style, religion, opinions or cooking meals – because she thinks she knows best.

How to deal: Worry not. There are ways to deal with manipulative, scheming mothers-in-law. Set clear boundaries and politely communicate to her that you would like to do things differently. Maintain a healthy distance from her – shift houses, if needed. It’s best not to get your spouse involved even if your mother-in-law is hell-bent on doing so. Both of you are mature enough to sort issues out yourselves.

5. She bad mouths you to your spouse

If you can’t help but feel “my narcissistic mother-in-law destroyed my marriage”, this may be all too familiar for you. Badmouthing you to your spouse is one of the most common tactics an overbearing mother-in-law uses to ruin marriages. She will constantly try to turn her child against their spouse to get them to always side with her. She’ll find reasons to blame you and show your spouse how disturbed she is by your actions.

How to deal: To deal with such a situation, it is imperative that you keep communication channels with your spouse open. Don’t make it sound like you’re complaining but let them know you’re having a hard time dealing with their mother. Your partner and you have to stay united to deal with this. If your mother-in-law tries to say anything negative against you to your partner, they should defend you and ask their mother to not indulge in such behavior.

6. She will make it clear that she hates and distrusts you

How do mothers-in-law ruin marriages? Well, if she hates you, she’ll make it obvious. She’ll ignore you, make you feel like you don’t matter, treat you like an outsider, give you the cold shoulder or silent treatment, and dismiss your achievements as useless or unworthy. She might also land up at your doorstep with meals or ‘necessary’ things for her child because she doesn’t trust you to take care of your spouse’s needs.

She’ll try to advise you on what your spouse likes or how they like things done. She’ll be critical of the way you manage your house and the kids. Another common way mothers-in-law show hatred and distrust is by either refusing to call you by your name or calling you by the name of her child’s ex-partner she was fond of. She’ll bad mouth you to her friends and family.

How to deal: Well, you can’t change her attitude, which is why it’s best you learn to detach. Don’t take her jibes personally. There’s no point trying to impress your mother-in-law. Practice infinite ignorance. Learn to let go of things. If you always react to what she says or does, she’ll know her behavior is affecting you negatively and she’ll find more reasons to indulge in the same. Limit your meetings, draw boundaries and maintain a distance.

7. Two-faced attitude

If you’re still trying to figure out how mothers-in-law ruin marriages, this one is probably the worst way. They’ll behave all nice and warm in front of you and then, bitch or complain about you to their friends or family. It also works the other way around. They’ll show you their toxic, judgmental and controlling side but save the warm, respectable and understanding side for your spouse, other family members and friends.

This two-faced attitude will make it difficult for you to talk to anyone about it because they’ll all think you’ve lost your mind for harboring negative feelings for such an amazing and understanding mother-in-law. It’ll become difficult to talk to your spouse about it as well because he/she won’t believe you. If you try to confront your mother-in-law, she might act all innocent and play victim when the truth is that she hates you.

How to deal: Try to sit down like mature adults and have a conversation to figure out the underlying reasons behind such behavior. Also, try to talk to your partner about it. Don’t accuse or blame the mother-in-law. It might just lead to a fight with your partner. Be careful about the words you use to put your point across. You could also adopt a zero-tolerance policy or give her a taste of her own medicine.

Marriage isn’t a walk in the park. It’s sad how many marriages end in divorce because of in-laws but if you feel there’s no other way out, go ahead with the split by all means. But if you still wish to work things out and save your marriage, keep your mother-in-law out of your marital issues. The support of your spouse is crucial. Your toxic mother-in-law should know that you and your spouse are on the same side. It might discourage her from resorting to such tactics.

Enforce boundaries, consider distancing yourself from in-laws, move out if needed but don’t allow your mother-in-law to sabotage your relationship. Marriages can last despite toxic in-laws but it will take a strong understanding between you and your partner to make it work. Dysfunctional or toxic family equations can wreak havoc on the strongest of marriages, which is why it is better to adopt suitable measures to deal with the problem than suffer in silence.

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