Ah, mothers-in-law! A recent cartoon here on First Wives World describes her as a MILF – Mother-in-law I’d like to forget.
Narcissism isn’t a genetic disorder, it isn’t in the DNA, and it isn’t something you catch off toilet seats. It is a behavior that stems from a variety of possible situations in early childhood. Needs were unmet, important attachments weren’t made, or some other situation creates a break in the connection. He will spend the rest of his life searching for something that will fill that void in his life and never, ever find it.
You Are the Interloper
No matter what you do or how hard you try you will always be the other woman, an interloper between mother and son. While you are dating she may or may not be quite cordial but after the wedding the gloves come off. She has no filter and no respect for your boundaries. There is nothing that makes her believe that you and her son are a new family that is independent of hers.
It may start off subtly. Perhaps she consistently gets your name wrong or introduces you as “Junior’s wife” and fails to introduce you by name. Maybe she doesn’t introduce you at all and you feel like chattel, a possession that is owned rather than a wife that is a partner. When you complain to your husband he just shrugs it off and tells you that you are making a mountain out of a molehill.
Slowly other behaviors creep in. She may criticize you to your husband, compare you unfavorably to his old girlfriends, or encourage him to divorce you.
It would be lovely if your favorite narcissist would spend a minute and stick up for you. It would also be nice if Publisher’s Clearing House knocked on your door with a giant check. Guess which one is more likely?
For the first couple of years you may feel like you are competing. You’re not –competition implies that you can win and you won’t.
If you live in the same area as your mother-in-law your husband will be spending a lot of time over there. She will fix lunch for him or buy him new underwear. If you’ve ever watched Everyone Loves Raymond you’ve see a comical example of a MILF in Ray’s mom. The difference is that in real life it isn’t funny.
Sometimes the narcissist will realize that it’s about to get real if he doesn’t choose you over mommy once in a while. It’s rare, and while it may happen don’t expect his sudden protective persona to last. She has a weapon to combat that in her arsenal. It goes by the name of “drama”.
Drama comes in many forms and most MILFs can use any, or all of them with unbelievable skill. Guilt, manipulation, and even implication of suicide are in her arsenal. It doesn’t take much to get Darling Boy away from the dinner table and off to fight her windmill.
Don’t wait up.
You Are Merely an Incubator for Grandchildren
How do children fit into this scenario? As long as you remember that you were just the vehicle to get them onto the earth you’ll be fine. They have inherited none of your DNA, none of your characteristics. Just get used to it.
She may try to get between you and your children, subtly or not so subtly undermining your authority. This is a woman who will pick your kids up at school without letting you know and take them shopping for hours while you are frantically calling the school, hospitals, and police departments. When confronted she will smile sweetly and say she thought she had let you know.
Less often she will decide that your children, or one of your children, are as invisible and unworthy as you are. She may choose one child as her special favorite and neglect the others. Of course, the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest is your husband, forever her sun and moon and quite possibly stars as well.
Images Courtesy of C & More (Flickr Creative Commons)
Dealing with Your Narcissistic Mother-in-law (Ex or Not)
If you are still married you are going to have to deal with her once in a while, there is just no way around it. Whether or not you just spend holidays or end up over there weekly will probably depend on how close you live. There are ways you can cope.
You are not going to win. The more you defend yourself the more tangled things will get. You’ll just find yourself frustrated in the end. Accept that you will never be accepted by the mother-in-law. If you are divorced you might as well accept that the entire divorce, her divorce, and World War II were your fault. If you are not yet divorced accept the reality that there is nothing you can do to make her like you let alone accept you.
Accept that You Are an Outsider
Your ex didn’t defend you to her when you were married and he won’t now. Accept it. I found that my ex’s family was much better than the kids in high school at making me feel like I didn’t fit in, nor would I ever. The ex didn’t ever stand up to her in my defense and I let that hurt me far too long.
Make sure there is plenty of space between you are your MILF. There is no law that says you have to return her phone calls, emails, or spend time with her if you don’ want to. Let the ex take the kids to see her if he wants – you maintain your sanity by staying far, far away.
Don’t Accept the Blame
It’s not your fault. Period.
Learn as Much as You Can
It would be difficult to win a war without military intelligence gathering. It is an important strategy to learn as much about the enemy’s tactics as you can. Once you know the (mostly predictable) patterns of behavior she uses you can spot them easily and not fall victim to another emotional minefield.
Do Not Buy into Her Drama
Much like dealing with your narcissistic husband or ex-husband, it is important not to fall into the cesspit of drama that she creates. Her biggest weapon is guilt and if you aren’t affected by it there isn’t much damage she can do.
Refuse to Use Children as Pawns
The most difficult part of dealing with a MILF, as well as your narcissistic ex, is sharing the children with either of them. After all, kids need time with their father and it is good for them to have extended family relationships. It can be hard to know what to do when the mother-in-law constantly cuts you down and usurps your authority with your children.
- Do not play her game. Instead, explain to your kids that you have rules at home and her rules may be different.
- Accept that she will try to “win them over”.
- Do not make remarks about her to your kids or in their hearing if possible.
- Do not let her intrude on your plans – don’t change your plans for her convenience.
Give Her to Him in the Divorce
When everything gets split up in the divorce let your ex have his narcissistic mother, as well as the drama, and the negative emotions that go along with her.
This is easier than it sounds. There are still things that were said to me and about me years ago that pop into my head every once in a while and hurt. Sometimes when things aren’t going well for me I will hear some words of her disapproval in my head.
Your narcissistic ex- mother-in-law is no more important to your life than the nosey neighbor that lives on the corner. The only things that tie you to your ex are your children. There isn’t anything that gives you any responsibility toward your mother-in-law. Let her fade into the past like a bad dream and refuse to allow her into your more emotionally healthy present.
Do you have any insights to share about handling a MILF? Join First Wives World today to share your story and help yourself, as well as others, move into a place of healing.
Lead Image Courtesy of WDW Dorks (Flickr Creative Commons)