signs your mother in law is manipulative

12 Signs That Your Mother-in-Law Is Manipulative

There is a reason for the term “monster-in-law;” namely, it is that people have experienced them. When you are dealing with a toxic mother-in-law, your life can become miserable quickly. This woman might be judgmental, controlling, overbearing, and critical, and she might push you to your brink. If you are in this situation, the important thing is to recognize the signs so that you can protect your family and learn how to understand her.

Your relationship with your spouse is important, and you will need to learn how to handle your mother-in-law to prevent division in your own house. Most of the time, a mother-in-law acts this way out of insecurity over losing her son. If these signs your mother-in-law is manipulative ring a bell, you are part of the way toward finding a resolution.

#1. She Is Always Right, No Matter What

Whether it’s how you arrange your furniture or how you dress your kids, your mother-in law always has an opinion, and there is no arguing with her. She will actually take little Johnny into the bedroom to change him because he isn’t dressed as he should be, or maybe she will rearrange your family room furniture. If you speak up, she will dismiss what you say and chuckle that you don’t know any better.

Your manipulative mother-in-law is trying to show her son that she is still necessary in his life. She may feel insecure over losing him and feel the need to prove her value. The best thing you can do is thank her for her help and make her feel valuable. Over time, you may be able to win her over and find a healthy role for her in your life.

#2. She Has No Boundaries

A manipulative mother-in-law will show up unannounced and walk right inside more days than not. This is extremely invasive, and it can grow old. She may invite herself along when you have dinner or go on vacation. You might arrive home from work to find her cooking in your kitchen.

The only way to resolve this problem is to team up with your husband and set some ground rules. Be kind when you have the conversation with her, and let her know that she is very important to you and her son. It will be hard to transition her, but if you stick to it, you may see positive results.

#3. She Manipulates Her Son

This type of toxic mother-in-law is very difficult to handle because she is directly interfering in your marriage. This type of woman might call her son and tell him that you hurt her feelings by speaking to her inappropriately or using a harsh tone, even though you may not have done so.

The first difficulty is in getting your husband to see what is happening and stand up for you. You may need to gather evidence, or you may have to wait until he witnesses this behavior himself. Either way, until your husband learns not to fall for it, it will be hard to change.

#4. She Expects You to Be Perfect

When your mother-in-law always has a comment about what you do wrong, it can grow old quickly. If you make a delicious dinner, she will be sure to point out that your meat was not quite tender enough or that the potatoes are cold. This constant criticism can drive you crazy if you let it.

This type of mother-in-law is usually manipulative because she feels as though she is losing her son. It is almost an insecurity that leads her to feel that there is a competition between you as to who can care for her son the best. If possible, you should try to win her over by ignoring her criticisms and asking her to bring over a dish she makes because she makes it so much better. She will feel useful and needed, and this may solve the problem.

#5. She Loves You, But Only in Public

When you are out to dinner or at a party, your mother-in-law will put on an act that indicates that you are super close. She will act kindly and compliment you to everyone who is there. This is clever because if you express your concerns about her, people will think you’re crazy. This can make you feel very alone.

It is hard to change this dynamic, and you really need your husband’s help. The problem isn’t how she treats you in public; the problem is that she should always treat you that way. If your husband sets the rules with her, it may work because she doesn’t want to lose her son.

#6. She Gossips About You

This is a terrible kind of manipulative mother-in-law because it is very difficult to repair this relationship. She will speak badly about you in the community and the family. She will work to harm your reputation, and she will have private conversations with your husband as well.

In this case, you may need to distance yourself. You need to get your husband on board, and there needs to be a clear message that this behavior is not okay. If you don’t address this quickly, she will eventually try to turn her son against you, and it will only get worse.

#7. She Contradicts You with Your Children

When she has your children, they will make comments such as “Mommy won’t let us do this.” Instead of being an adult and making good choices, she tries to put a rift between you and your children. This is very confusing for children and it undermines your parenting. This is another type of manipulation you should stop right away.

You should work with your husband and send her a clear message that if she continues, she will not spend time with your kids. As long as you are serious and willing to enforce it, she will have no choice but to come around.

#8. She Lies to You About Your Husband

You may have a manipulative mother-in-law if she is constantly telling you lies about your husband. She might be subtle, suggesting that he recently spent time with a high school girlfriend, or she may directly make something up about him.

If you have any inkling that she may not be telling the truth, you should simply have a conversation with your husband. It should make him angry enough that he will take care of it. This needs to stop right away because it can leave you confused and create distrust in your marriage.

#9. She Spies on You

You may find that your mother-in-law seems to know every detail of your life. She might be watching everything you do, and she might be pumping your friends and others for information. This can be very unsettling, but it is usually driven by insecurity.

You might want to think about warming up to her. This kind of mother-in-law usually wants to know more about you because they feel very insecure that you have become the most important person in her son’s world. The way to counter this is to let her know that she still has an important role in his life.

#10. She Plays the Victim

Do you find that your mother-in-law always suffers from someone acting unkind? This type of manipulation is difficult because she is trying to gain sympathy from her son. Her goal is for him to reprimand you and tell you to treat her better.

You should try to nip this in the bud quickly. It may be difficult for your husband to see it because she usually calls him privately to recount a situation when he wasn’t there. Be careful with this kind of mother-in-law because this manipulative tactic can truly test the strength of your marriage.

#11. She Plays Emotional Games with Your Husband

She may tell your husband that she just can’t see him because he has chosen you. She will try to get him to invite her over so that she can say no. This kind of mother-in-law plays games with her son to make him feel guilty for choosing you over her.

She might be overly generous or giving with your husband’s siblings as well. This is something he needs to work out. He needs to let her know that he loves her and set strong boundaries for appropriate behavior. The truth is that he has chosen you, and if she can’t respect that, she needs to change. You can be supportive of your husband as he works to change this dynamic.

#12. She Is a Narcissist

This is the worst kind of mother-in-law, and she probably wasn’t a very good mother to your husband either. The whole world revolves around her, and she sees everything as an extension of herself. Since she probably never allowed her son to make his own choices, she will resent you every minute of the day.

You can work this out, but only by holding a firm stance. Most narcissistic people are what they are, and the only way to get through to them is to hold your ground. You and your husband need to set firm boundaries and hold her accountable for her behavior. This may lead to a peace treaty later on.


Recognizing the signs your mother-in-law is manipulative is important for many reasons. She may be a part of your life, but you can manage the relationship and try to improve it. Manipulative mothers-in-law can take a toll on marriage, but if you work with your husband, you can come to an agreement.

Most of the time, your husband’s mother is simply feeling insecure about losing her son. If you include her and show her that she is valuable, you may be able to work it out. If she is a narcissist or simply won’t stop, you may have to take more drastic measures. Set boundaries, and work with your husband to make it better.

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