8 Signs of a Poisonous Mother-In-Law and 6 Ways to Beat Her at Her Game

Angelina Gupta
poisonous mother-in-law

“He might be your husband but he is my son first” – The tagline of every typical toxic mother-in-law ever.

How many times has your mother-in-law treated your husband like her own personal “property” and made you feel like an outsider? If you can’t count the number of times on your fingers, chances are, you are trapped with a poisonous mother-in-law, who has her mind set on making your married life hellish.

Marriage is anything but easy. It can be called a walk in a park..if the park is Jurassic Park! Don’t get us wrong, being married to the love of your life is an unmatched feeling. But unlike the ideal world of movies, it’s not a ticket to your happily-ever-after. Unfortunately, you don’t just marry your husband, you marry his entire family and that adds a mountain of responsibilities on your plate. You’re suddenly the caretaker of so many more people than you signed up for.

It is also the responsibility of his family to make you feel at home. But more often than not, despite your dedication, toxic-mothers-in-law make you feel like a stranger in your own home.

8 Signs of a Poisonous Mother-In-Law

How many times have you thought, “I hate my mother-in-law”? Well, who loves a jealous and manipulative mother-in-law? A toxic mother-in-law will try her best to make you miserable, drain all your energy and leave you in a world of pain.

Despite your efforts, this tends to have an adverse effect on your relationship with your husband.  It’s almost like having a Step-Mother! If you want to protect your marriage from your manipulative mother-in-law, learn to spot these red-flags and counter them ASAP!

1. She is always judgmental

I hate my mother-in-law for putting me under constant scrutiny. It’s like every opinion and chore performed by you is judged harshly. And it doesn’t end there. A toxic mother-in-law will even judge your clothes, the way you walk, talk, or even laugh. She goes over everything you do with a fine-toothed comb. Be prepared to listen to a lecture on behaviour and the right etiquette.

Judgemental MIL

Judgemental MIL Image Source

What is it, the 19th Century?

2. She will bitch about you

A toxic mother-in-law will leave no stone unturned when it comes to bitching about you. Be it a kitty party with her friends,  a social gathering, or even a family function. It’s evident that she hates you. She loves to push your buttons and belittle you in front of others. This is a clear sign of a jealous mother-in-law. The best course of action would be to recognise her insecurity and stay unaffected by it.

Related reading: Please Don’t Call Her Selfish If She Doesn’t Want To Live With Her In-Laws

3. She is a real Mrs. Nosy Parker

You will find her snooping or lurking around places she shouldn’t be. She will make sure she is present especially when your husband comes back home from work. She will try to barge into your personal space and strike arbitrary conversations with you and your husband and cut into your private time. She won’t give you both space. A jealous mother-in-law can’t stand the idea of someone else spending more time with her son.

Related reading: Pati patni aur woh! – When the mother-in-law tags along everywhere!

4. She loves it when you make mistakes

A manipulative mother-in-law thrives on a sense of superiority. She patiently waits for you to make mistakes and will not stop raving about them as and when she gets the opportunity to. She loves bringing you down and what better way to do that than to highlight your flaws and undermine your qualities? Your mistakes make her feel superior. We received this story about how the mother-in-law refused her a wardrobe and how she gave it back.

5. She is always right

Her decisions, views and opinions are always right (according to her). She will want you to blindly agree to whatever she says or believes in. Any dissent from her views is unacceptable. I hate my mother-in-law for being hypocritical and never accepting her own mistakes.  A poisonous mother-in-law can do no wrong and will constantly make you aware of that.

Related reading: My mother keeps complaining about her daughter-in-law for no good reason

6. She will play the emotional card

A toxic mother-in-law is an expert emotional manipulator. If at any point she feels like she is losing the battle, she will not hesitate to play the emotional card and get the family’s support. She loves playing the victim and raking up the past. Her favourite kind of trip is probably a guilt trip. Your manipulative mother-in-law knows which cards to play.

Related reading: He Hates My Parents, Wants Me To Love His

MIL plays emotionally

MIL plays emotionally Image Source

7. She holds grudges

Forgive and forget are words that do not exist in a toxic mother-in-law’s dictionary. She tends to hold grudges that go deep, even against seemingly insignificant things. She enjoys making you miserable for inexplicable reasons. You can try your best to make her happy but she will still hold fast to her grudges. It is a herculean task to win over a jealous mother-in-law.

8. She will appear sweet in front of everyone else

A vindictive mother-in-law will never show her true colours in front of the rest of the family. She will not taint her perfect image. Her claws come out when she is alone with you. She might shower you with taunts and harsh words that hurt your feelings and make you question your own decisions. This is exactly what she wants. In such situations, it is best to stay true to yourself and understand that her behaviour stems from deeply nested fear and insecurity. This was a candid piece where the daughter-in-law wrote about how she accepted that she will always be the daughter-in-law only, not ever the daughter. 

Related reading: It’s not the mother-in-law but the father-in-law who’s the villain in my story

6 ways to tackle a poisonous mother-in-law

Poisonous mothers-in-law are like the wild thorns that come along with beautiful roses. In the end, it is your decision to either focus on the lovely fragrance of the roses or on the inconvenience of the thorns. If you want to live a peaceful and happy married life, here are 6 ways to tackle and pacify your poisonous mother-in-law.

1. Talk to her

Your first course of action as a mature adult should be to try to talk things through. Sometimes, an honest heart to heart goes a long way in mending relationships. There might be a deeper reason for your mother-in-law’s toxic behaviour which she is hesitant to share. This is a difficult transition for her as well.

She might feel like everything around her is falling apart and she’s losing control to you. She is scared her son will sideline her for you and that leads to considerable insecurity which might make her lash out. It’s best to talk to her and assure her that you aren’t there to take her position in any way.

Talk to her and sort things

Talk to her and sort things Image source

Related reading: 10 thoughts that come to your mind when your mother-in-law announces her visit next month

2. Talk to your husband

Communicating with your significant other is key to the success of any relationship. This means having a lot of uncomfortable conversations as well. Sometimes your husband might be unaware of the laboured relationship you share with his mother as he is not present when incidents or arguments transpired between you and your poisonous mother-in-law. Men hate being the rope in a tug of war between their mothers and wives. Your husband knows his mother best. You can always ask him how you can keep your mother-in-law happy and win her heart. He might have a few handy tricks up his sleeve. After all, he wants you two to have a healthy relationship.

3. Include her in your plans

Sometimes, your mother-in-law might feel left out as you fail to include her in plans you make with your husband. Her butting into your private time might just an attempt to feel included. It is fair to desire personal time with your husband but an excess of that can lead to your mother-in-law feeling alienated. It’s best to be mindful of her feelings and be as inclusive and welcoming as possible.

4. Ignore your poisonous mother-in-law

If her taunting and attempts to unsettle you emotionally are aggressive and borderline desperate,  ignore them. Being zen is the best way to thwart a poisonous mother-in-law. Your calm composure in contrast to her several attempts to upset you will have more of an impact on her than you. Eventually, when she realises her attempts are futile, she will stop of her own accord.

Related reading: How I stood up to my mother-in-law and kept my dignity

5. Kill her with kindness

Kill her with kindness

Be kind to herImage source

You are a 21st-century bride. You know better! Identify her vulnerabilities and try to respond to them with kindness instead of aggression. You are not fighting a war, you are on a peace mission. If she taunts you about the way you buy readymade spices instead of grinding them yourself, take some spices and tell her you would like to learn from the expert herself! The kitchen is a great place to forge bonds. Come up with innovative ways to understand your “toxic” mother-in-law and her psyche. As mentioned earlier, a lot of toxic behaviour stems from insecurities and fears. You will probably be spending a lot of time interacting with this woman, it is best to turn her into an ally and confidant instead of an enemy.

6. Have a weekend getaway

It is sometimes important for you and your husband to get some time away from all the family drama. Make sure that you both spend quality time as it is an essential part of a marriage. Take short trips away from your toxic mother-in-law. It will refresh your mind and will also strengthen your relationship with your husband.

Toxic mothers-in-law are like craters on the moon and will always come gift-wrapped with your marriage. Dealing with them is often mentally exhausting and can be a tough task. If you want to beat your mother-in-law at her game, be smart, understanding, calm and collected instead of aggressive and hostile. Never give your poisonous mother-in-law leverage by giving in into her emotional plays.

Instead, try to understand where her insecurities arise and embalm them. The best-case scenario is that you emerge from this testing time as more understanding individuals who can coexist despite their many differences!


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