My Mother in Law Acts Like She is Married to My Husband (Help!)

mother in law acts like she is married to my husband

Marriage is all about commitment, but one should know that this commitment comes with obligations and compromises. You pledge to build a life with not only your husband but also his entire family,including your immediate in-laws. For many, the new adventure is full of blessings and positive emotions. But for others, this journey of devotion turns daunting if the mother-in-law turns out to be an awful one.

Living with an anxious and possessive mother-in-law can be a nightmare. You may not be obligated to live with her, serve her or see her regularly, but her position as your husband’s mom clearly holds significance. It is a test of your limits, patience and perseverance because you certainly cannot simply ignore her.

What is it Called When a Mother Treats Her Son Like a Husband?

Mothers often become dependent on their children, and in many cultures, it is looked upon as a  fair and tolerable practice. You may have never imagined that it is something you will have to manage on a daily basis and it is quite easy to succumb to the pressure from your mother-in-law.

Why is This a Huge Problem?

A lot of problems in this context can arise when the son, who is now your husband, is the only child or the favorite amongst his siblings. This situation creates a possessive tug of war between you and your mother-in-law. You may be wondering why your MIL feels bothered  by your presence in her son’s life.

You may find it hard to believe that the emotions that your mother-in-law is displaying are very typical in this situation. It’s hard for her to let her son (your husband) go.

The Covert Incest Goes On!

Although not sexual, this type of relationship can be referred to as “covert incest.” This may sound like a harsh term to use for the relationship that exists between your mother-in-law and your husband, and they certainly may not even have such an intention. However, the whole dynamic between you, your husband and your mother-in-law creates a toxic triad that is very much reflective of the components of situations involving actual incest.

The Surrogate-Husband Dynamic

As a matter of fact, your mother-in-law may develop a certain emotional dependency that she views as simply bonding or caring, unaware that this is becoming passive-aggressive toward you. In the worst cases, it influences the mental health of all those who are involved. Your husband has a wife and kids to deal with, and his mother might get in the way by generating a “surrogate husband dynamic” towards her son.

Once this surrogate husband situation takes root in the relationship, you will see your MIL turn toxic. She will become possessive and overbearing and insist that nothing is good enough for her son, besides herself, of course. She may even begin to deliberately overstep parental boundaries.

What is the Impact of This Toxicity?

This is a worrisome and extremely overwhelming situation that may leave you traumatized for a lifetime. Sometimes emotional incest ends up with the mother putting her needs before her son’s. This leads to jealousy towards their child’s newfound relationship with you.

The agitating part is that your husband will feel trapped and burdened or might not understand the situation at all. You can hardly blame him! As a matter of fact, it’s quite hard for anyone to expect his mother to turn into a nightmare.

It will also affect the relationship you share with your mother-in-law. The only solution to this complex and toxic relationship with her is to stay firm and calm.

What Are The Signs of a Jealous Mother-in-Law?

It is quite natural for women to fantasize a life based on their dreams but this involves letting go of various things and turning a blind eye to negativity from time to time. As a wife, you will have to live by the mantra of giving the cold shoulder to negative vibes. You may even be forced to go out of your way to come to terms with your husband’s family.

But what do you do about a jealous and manipulative mother-in-law?

It’s easy to sense it if your mother-in-law doesn’t like you or feels intimidated by you. Still, if you feel that you might be overthinking, read on to learn the signs of a jealous mother-in-law.

  1. The Pretense of Being Nice

She says nice things to you or praises you when you’re alone, but behind your back, she feeds your husband only negative things about you. This is a vicious, heart-wrenching cycle and when you confront her, she denies having said anything bad about you.

  1. Nothing Is Ever Good Enough for Her!

Whether it is the way you cook, clean, or raise your kids, she finds something offensive on which to comment. Anything that you do is never good enough to please your MIL or, in her opinion, your husband. The more you genuinely try to do for her, the more she meticulously criticizes. Denial, refusal, and bad behavior are just a few of her tactics to ruin your sanity.

  1. The Unending Toxicity

When you tie the knot with a man who does not know how to set boundaries to protect his spouse, it’s a certain recipe for disaster. In such situations, mothers-in-law often turn out to be whiny, toxic and unforgiving. Your jealous mother-in-law will hold grudges, taunt you by recalling mistakes you made in the past, or even exaggerate small transgressions, merely to annoy you.

Your MIL simply fails to understand that now her son needs to spend time with his family. Moreover, she will not hesitate to play the victim card to receive your husband’s attention. With the urge to fill the void in her life, she might overlook the fact that her son is in a relationship and is married now.

  1. Making You an Outcast

Since your mother-in-law feels that your husband’s life would be better without you, she will start cutting you off, “forgetting” to invite you to family events or issuing last-minute invitations are a norm with her. She may even start keeping secrets from you with your husband just to make you jealous and feel insecure.

  1. Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Sometimes, although your MIL isn’t directing taunts or sarcasm toward you, you still feel the cold shoulder. You will clearly sense that she never fully appreciates anything you do for her. Overall this is a classic sign that you have a manipulative mother-in-law who will not hesitate to play mind games to sabotage your marriage.

  1. Violating the Relationship Boundaries

Interfering and invading your personal space become the hobbies of your MIL. Shenever hesitates to put you down or blame you for whatever goes wrong. Giving unwanted opinions and meddling in your personal and household matters are clear signs of an emotionally manipulative mother. The sooner her son realizes it, the better it will be for your relationship.

Why Does Your MIL Behave This Way?

The root cause of your mother-in-law becoming a toxic MIL is because she doesn’t like you. To put it in simple words, she is experiencing insecurity and jealousy and wants you out of her son’s life. She acts impulsively and appears excessively possessive. Don’t stay under any false pretense of fairy tales because your MIL will give you a hard time as a daughter-in-law and you have to face it with strong nerves.

These are just a few common traits of the toxic, overbearing mother-in-law. If your MIL is behaving in these ways, it’s critical that your husband starts setting some healthy boundaries for his family members.

How Do You Deal With an Emotionally Manipulative Mother-in-Law?

How Do You Deal With an Emotionally Manipulative Mother-in-Law

You have to realize that marriages are not what you see in Disney movies. There are going to be commitments, obligations, and many compromises that might also involve a little effort from your end. Still, you cannot let your mother-in-law be the boss and allow yourself to become subordinate.

The toxic relationship dynamics will not lead to a successful marriage and will crush your self-confidence, which could be the least of your problems. To help you handle your emotionally manipulative mother-in-law, we have a few strategies. 

  1. Don’t Shut Her Out

This is the worst thing that you can do and it will just add fuel to the burning fire of toxicity. This does not mean that you turn a blind eye to her behavioral manipulations either. 

Observe all of the things that she does and pay attention to the times when she gets particularly toxic. Find out what her triggers are and if there are certain things that you say or do that set her off.

You should also observe how she treats other family members. What is her attitude towards her other daughters-in-law? Is it only you who gets the silent treatment, or does she do this to other in-laws?

Since she is the mother of your husband, you have to try to understand her behavior and work on the negativity that is expressed. You will eventually appreciate going the extra mile to fix your relationship with your MIL.

  1. Extend An Olive Branch

Your mother-in-law’s main concern is probably that she will lose credibility in her son’s life. Reassure her that you do not intend to damage her relationship with him. Encourage your husband to dedicate one-on-one time to his mother. Give her the importance and love that she certainly deserves as his mother.

To make her feel special, take her advice on certain matters, show appreciation for her good thoughts and efforts, and celebrate her on Mother’s Day. Remember, what goes around comes around. The intention should be to make her feel that she is an important person in your life as well as your husband’s.

  1. Be the Mature One

In spite of your patience and attempt to make amends, you may find that toxicity remains. In this case, you will have to change your strategy. Keep in mind that you need to value your peace and mental health.

If your mother-in-law tries to manipulate you, leave the scene. Walk away to avoid conflict and put distance between the two of you for some time. The best strategy is to not comment when you are angry. It is most sensible to remain quiet in an inflamed situation.

Your mother-in-law may be trying to provoke or exploit you, and the most mature way of dealing with it is to stay calm and develop a wise response only when you have had time to think about the situation.

During one-on-one time, once you sense that you are being bullied, try to change the subject. Even praising her would work to keep an argument or fight at bay. Do not let her trigger you or add chaos to your mental stability.

  1. Are You the One to Blame?

You may occasionally need to take a step back to shed some light on your own behavior. It might be the wisest thing that you can do.

Perhaps you need to reflect on your attitude and not your mother-in-law’s. It is quite possible that your MIL is behaving in a toxic way because of something that you are doing.

The idea here is to do your best in trying to mend your relationship with the mother of your spouse. Try to get on the same page without backing down.

  1. It’s Okay to Seek Advice

When nothing’s making sense, there is always the option to seek advice from a trusted friend or family member. Reach out to a person who can relate to both you and your mother-in-law.

Perhaps your mother might help guide you in this situation. As long as your mother does not get carried away and suggests a peaceful and harmonious solution, take her advice to improve your relationship with your mother-in-law.

How Do You Deal With a Codependent Mother-in-Law?

If your mother-in-law is codependent with your husband, it is almost impossible to avoid her or keep your distance. If you cannot avoid her, you have to learn to deal with her. You can’t let her rule you or make you feel miserable every time she is around.

Learn to take a stand for yourself and make sure that she understands that you are here to stay. Confidence and perhaps an attitude adjustment may be required to make this happen. Just be sure that you are coming from a place of love  and with good intentions because, at the end of the day, your MIL is an important part of your husband’s life.

Below are some of the smart things that you can do to deal with your codependent mother-in-law.

  1. Try To Connect with Her

Keep the communication two-way whenever possible. Don’t just assume that she will understand your thoughts on her own.

It is also important that you give her a chance to explain her perspective. If you deliberately try to connect with her, you may be amazed to see how positively things turn out to be.

  1. Set Healthy Boundaries

Set some boundaries when it comes to your personal space and communicate them to your MIL. You have to be decisive about what you want and how much you are comfortable with. You must be firm about your likes and dislikes.

If you do not like her walking into your room abruptly, let her know that you disapprove of it and don’t compromise your privacy. 

  1. Compliments Work Like a Charm

She may not be the mother-in-law of your dreams, but show appreciation for her from time to time because your children also need a grandmother.

Teach your children to respect her, shower her with love, and spend quality time with her. The affection she gets from her grandchildren might be enough to make your mother-in-law feel warm towards you.

If you can go the extra mile and spend time with her regularly, that will show her that she is an important person.

  1. Do Not Involve Your Husband

Getting your own husband involved should be the last thing on your agenda. It is his mother, not him, who is giving you a hard time. Even if he understands the situation, he might not be able to do much.

You can help him by suggesting ways of dealing with his passive-aggressive mother and making everyone’s life easier. Ask him to set boundaries with all of your in-laws without asking him to take sides. 

Don’t let anyone, be it your in-laws or his manipulative mother, take away the happiness from your relationship. Your husband’s peace of mind should also be your top priority.

  1. Keep a Candid Relationship

It is important that you reach out to your mother-in-law in times of conflict or at least keep communication possibilities open at all times. Talking things out can resolve many issues and enables the clearing of doubts and assumptions. Her behavior may be just her way of being concerned for her child.

After all, she is also a human and it will naturally take time for her to accept the changes in relationships and new boundaries. Let her express herself without compromising yourself by candidly conveying any issues that you have.

Summary and Final Verdict

You have to understand that the cards have been dealt and all you can do is give your best. When you can’t escape a situation, you have to brace yourself and learn to deal with it.

If your emotionally manipulative mother-in-law is creating a hindrance in your marriage, you have to nip it in the bud.

When your MIL behaves as if she prefers “her son” over “your husband,” you need to acknowledge that she is struggling with accepting the new family dynamics. Always aim to resolve the toxic situation with your MIL through positive communication. You should also convey to her that this toxicity is creating a rift in your marital relationship.

With a little bit of conscious effort, there is no situation that you cannot handle. Take a deep breath and play your role with utmost positive intentions.

Stephanie Edenburgh

I'm Steph, a mom to 3 beautiful children and lover all things having to do with my family and being a mom. I've learned a lot raising my own children and working in education and healthcare roles throughout my career. Living in beautiful Southern California I enjoy documenting and writing about all of the hard work us mom's do on a daily basis.

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