Narcissistic Mother-in-Law Breaks Up Marriages

There are countless victims of psychological abuse perpetrated by the narcissistic mother-in-law. She is the controlling matriarch. One classic situation is the triangulation of the narcissistic mother, her son and his wife. In the beginning she pretends to care deeply about the new member of the family. The NMIL praises her son’s choice of a partner and skillfully pretends that she wants the marriage go to be successful. But this can never be the case with a narcissist in any family role.

The narcissistic matriarch spreads lies about her daughter-in-law, beginning with subtle digs and innuendos about her character and family background. These lies are dropped like pedals on a lawn–meant to be barely noticed. In secret she goes to her son and slowly and skillfully drops poisonous bits of gossip about his wife. She puts doubts in his mind about her. At the same time the narcissistic mother is intimating that his ultimate loyalty belongs with her where it has always been. The wife becomes slowly aware that she is not welcome in this family. She feels a coldness and is ostracized by the narcissistic mother’s inner family circle. She turns to her husband who feels conflicted between loyalty to his mother and love and duty to his wife.

After years of hurt feelings, attempts at bending to the will of this impossible woman, being on the receiving end of insults and false accusations, the daughter-in-law is forced to make a fateful decision. She can stay in the painful triangle, make further attempts to break her husband’s pathological attachment to his mother or she will leave the marriage. These are difficult choices, especially if there is a strong pathological fusion between mother and son. These ties that bind are made of steel and cannot be unraveled.

There are successful  outcomes that involve the wife freeing herself by separating and divorcing her spouse. This is a difficult path but can be accomplished. The individual leaving the marriage often benefits from highly skilled psychotherapy, a support group of close friends and her own family of origin. It is better to be true to yourself than to struggle under the yoke of a woman who is out to destroy your individuality and peace of mind.

Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.

This entry was posted in narcissistic mothers, narcissistic personality disorder, self help. mental health. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Narcissistic Mother-in-Law Breaks Up Marriages

  1. Evelyn says:

    Hi Linda.
    Thank you for this great blog. This was so similar to the situation i was in with my own mother. She tried to destoy my marriage acting like she accepted it in the beginning and then working away in the background trying to destroy the love i felt for my husband. She constantly tried to turn me against him and his family (always in subtle ways cloaked in the pretence of “caring for me”) all the time pretending in only the way a nacissist can that she liked them. She tried to also destroy the good relationship i had with his daughter. My mother broke me down almost to the point of no return and i nearly lost everything my husband, my home, his daughter, her kids and she nearly destroyed my spirit completely. This is such a hard thing for me to write – the tears i have cried and my sadness at discovering she is narcissistic. I have been no contact for 3 years now and the feeling of freedom and joy is amazing. I am finally free to make my own decisions, wear the clothes i choose (instead of her always having her say in what i wear and she even made fun of the way i spoke). Her quest for total control of me was ridiculous. Thank you Linda for all your blogs.

  2. michelle says:

    I am in pain. I have so much anxiety and I am really so hurt by these soulless creatures and my now ex . so much that I feel what they have done to me and my children (my poor innocent babies) is just to much for me to bare anymore. I have picked up the mess and started over so many times I cant count and I just cant help but love my husband even now. how can his mother be so heartless and for nothing. absolutely nothing. I have lost my home kids money job savings and my fight. im so crushed. I take that back those things that I no longer have were litrally stolen behind my back and for no reason. I cant even begin to tell the details of this hell ive been locked in for to long ! ten years. only the last 2 and a half I knew about though. I had no idea there was a war against me . omg help

    • Jean R says:

      I am with you. My in-laws robbed me too and robbed is how I also describe stealing the intimacy, peaceful, safe, happy marriage and family. Personally I wish their could be lawsuits against people who do that. I should’ve seen the warning signs when we dated jealously on mil and sil. Well I did, but underestimate my husband lack of manhood/strength and maturity. I underestimated how they could manipulate and coercively do long distance. We have been married 21 yrs and it’s been a hellish nightmare thanks to them and my immature husband. Stress anxiety over what I couldn’t stop but had to watch them destroy our marriage and our kids lives but I was helpless to stop it. I miscarried a baby over their crap. Putting my foot down on contact with them didn’t help. oh it protected me a little but he resented it which I knew he was and talked to him about that I knew and he should be the one but he refused to do his job and put up healthy boundaries. He should have been on protecting me, marriage and kids not me and without being told. It was the commitment he made with marriage vows. They finally severed us 5 yrs ago when I tried 1 final attempt to talk to my husband to protect us and care I was being abused. He is weak minded and easily influenced. Counselor said he has approval addiction and displaced loyalties. Sick if they only cared what they caused in their sons life and grandchildren. That isn’t love of a child to destroy their marriage and family. But never their fault always the one who doesn’t like treatment (gaslighting). It’s abuse on their part and husband’s part for allowing. Our husband’s sent the sick message it’s OK to treat us and our marriage like that and ultimately put our lives and kids lives in jeapordy. Husband’s are unfaithful to their marriage vows by not honoring and protecting wife marriage and kids as well as leaving and cleaving which means, loyality to wife marriage and kids #1 priority. It’s coercive abuse and destruction and you are probably dealing with narcissistic, passive aggressive people too. Love isn’t self serving and selfish if they loved their son and grandkids they would encourage and help it become a close good marriage. Even if you aren’t a Christian try reading all the Psalms in the Bible it can help comfort you it did me. Shows how God hates plotting and schemes. God is a just judge and they will one day stand and have to pay for tearing a marriage and family asunder instead of being loving and helping it thrive. Look up sermons on marriage and family they will comfort you as well..they have been quite helpful to me. I recommend Adrian Rodgers, Greg Laurie, Jack Graham and David McGee. Some songs that help get me through are from Josh Wilson..Before the morning and Carry me. As well as Steven Curtis Chapmans Take Another Step, Glorious Unfolding and Something Beautiful. Only ways I literally feel like I can breathe somedays. Strange how songs can help but they speak to these issues u and I are facing. Hope so much that it lifts up your heart even a little too.

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  4. BH says:

    This has happened to me. Somehow in ten years, even though all I wanted was loving in-laws, my MIL has managed to turn the ENTIRE family against me to the point where me and my children are not invited to Christmas dinner because “I” will cause trouble, even though I haven’t done anything wrong!! But blood is thicker than water, even if they are wrong, they all stick together. In the beginning, in front of everyone, she made out she was so nice, then she would make nasty comments when no one else was around. It was so casual and out of the blue that I would be speechless – and think ‘ did she really just say that??’ Then she started her campaign to turn all my other in laws against me, the problem is I can’t fight back because I don’t even know what is being said. I find it difficult to understand how anyone can be so needlessly destructive to be honest. It has caused me so much pain over the years, and my children are punished as a result. I have no family and they are the only family my children know.

  5. aperson says:

    Also happens to males.
    Could have stuck with the neutral, you or partner or multitude of other non-gender bias terms.

    On that note, I am a guy who is suffering from the NMIL. And there is no one to help, because basically everyone is sexist. Yes, I am a little jaded right now. 10 years of my life down the tubes. I still love my other half very deeply, but I am on the verge of basically homelessness – because everyone thinks she deserves everything. Actually, more precisely – the NMiL got everything.
    My other half moved in with NMiL a few months ago and took everything. When she moves out, she assumes her mother will keep it all. So everything I worked for, including our love and my life – is now property of the NMiL. After all it was I that failed. While I might have failed in many aspects, it was the NMiL that caused the fall out. (my other half still loves me, but she can’t deal with the social problems arising from all this. Since everyone hates me now, it’s also difficult for her.)
    I am not welcome at their family Christmas, because I give too good of gifts. Apparently I made people uncomfortable – this is about the level I am being judged on. Everything I do is somehow bad, no matter how nice or well intended. I did everything I could to fit in, and worked very hard to make them like me. The NMiL is so pervasive, I don’t even have friends anymore. I am literally alone now, with no one to help. Only wish I was a woman(no I don’t, just a little irritated that there is no help for men).

    It’s really sad, Maine was the only state with a helpline for males. That helpline has been shut down for 6+ months due to lack of funding. Good stuff that. It might be nice to just have someone to talk to. I can’t even get that.

  6. 11B says:

    I can’t agree more with thus helpful statement making sure I am not crazy. I got married 2 months ago and am the only child. My mother is trying to break me and my wife apart and Thank God me and my wife have been threw so much in our lives already with this kind of abuse we realize what is going on. I am 29 years old and a veteran and will have to completely cut my mom out of my life because I just realized I have dealt with someone my whole life who actually has a mental problem. She has told me soo many things that are wrong. If anyone reads this see help as we are from a Phychologist not because we have problems but problems with my mother who thinks she’s always right no matter what. It’s not fair but that life and things you have to deal with in life make you stronger. Thank you for writing this online I feel so much better. Good luck everyone.

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