Surviving holidays like Mother’s Day (or family gatherings with the narcissistic Mother-in-Law on any ordinary day) can be a tough chore for any romantic partner. If that person is you, don’t lose hope. Seeking validation from the in-laws for being a wonderful support system for their ‘Golden Child’ is something wholly unnecessary to do.
It’s totally okay to disregard their opinion and belief systems almost entirely when and if they start to undermine, badmouth you to your love interest, or they begin railing on you (or their beloved grandchildren) in an attempt to upset you.
There are many ways family units are destroyed by rampant Narcissistic Abuse, and toxic relationships between an adult child’s new romantic partner and their new in-laws are most common.
When there is a Cluster B mother in the mix, expect massive fireworks to implode predictably at routine social gatherings for simple things like family dinners and at every holiday or special event.
Before going crazy pointing fingers at toxic mother-in-laws, it’s important first to understand the social dynamic of both families before levying a poorly taxed judgment. First, to make things simple, define the terms of your own family structure.
Who is the hub of any triangulation? Typically the person who creates the MOST discord between their parent and their new spouse is actually the ADULT CHILD (meaning the of-age person who is the new romantic partner of an incoming family member, child of the targeted in-law parent).
LOVERS: Overlooking that the person a new spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend jumps in to defend or enable is the hub of every family argument on a grand scale is the number one cause of toxic family drama. Want to recover from Narcissistic Abuse as an in-law? Get this point absolutely clear in your mind before you ever elect to form an opinion or open your mouth with advice to your partner about their own relationship to their family.
MOTHER-IN-LAWS: If you are a loving mother who raised your child right, understand that once they turn 18, they are fully grown, sentient adults who you have absolutely zero right to expect to control or have influence over in general. If your own child has a child, it is not YOUR right to assume pole position with regard to raising it, nor is it your property (meaning a “thing” you have a right to claim an interest in from a custody or visitation perspective).
If a person’s mother was abusive to them as a child but they, as the hub, still have elected to have a full contact to low-contact relationship with them, a new love interest’s number one obligation as a friend and lover is to simply listen to their partner talk when and if they need a person to listen to them in such a way they can heal their own inner child’s wounds by talking it out.
No advice is needed, aside from offering coping strategies and broad scale perspective on issues. None. As in NADA. As in zippo. As in stay completely Gray Rock with regard to the issue, be there to help your own partner clean themselves up when and if they have gone through a vexing memory or social interaction with their own parent, and stay the heck out of it!
The phrase NOT MY CIRCUS, NOT MY MONKEYS should absolutely be repeated over and over until it clicks and sticks. That goes for the in-laws on BOTH sides — Mother-in-Law as well as for the romantic interest of their adult child.
Remaining GRAY ROCK and uninvolved with family drama that is not at the core your own is crucial to keep sanity in check for all parties.
Because there’s a catch to jumping in to save your spouse as their champion, defending their inner child against their parent or parents. It’s a form of “you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t”, noting that the typical outcome for a romantic partner who interjects themselves in the heart of personal matters between a child and parent tends to destroy their own mate’s natural growth cycle as a person while leaving themselves in the uncomfortable position of being married to or involved with what inevitably becomes an incomplete, psychologically unwell person.
Yes, we said that right. Think about it.
In a normal family, every child has to go through different life stages and life phases of growing up. When they are healthy and normal, family members still experience different times where emotional and physical closeness between parent and child… turned teen… turned young adult… turned mature adult… turned middle age adult… turned senior citizen caretaker of an elderly parent themselves HAPPENS.
In a relationship where a new partner or love interest interjects themselves into the mix, the reason they intend to do so stops mattering. All that happens is the adult child (typically one who is going through a life stage change and entering a new romantic liaison that supports it) has their own life cycle of growth functionally halted and interrupted.
In the case of an adult child with a toxic family unit, if their love interest interjects and demands estrangement or changes the social dynamic, the love interest themselves becomes the new active target for social and emotional abuse by their partner’s family. If the partner fails to protect them from abuse, he enables the family while becoming a Flying Monkey towing the party line.
This leads to him or her sabotaging their romantic relationship while actively seeking validation from their birth family — without realizing that to put them in a position pitted functionally against their mate is nothing more than them undermining.
If the adult child has an abusive MOMMY DEAREST figure with a full-blown Cluster B personality disorder, something like a drinking problem, or addictions issues of any sort, the dynamic for an incoming partner is even more perilous.
If the adult child is not allowed to work through their own childhood issues with their parents in private and without interruption, they are almost inevitably doomed to reenact their birth through toddler year drama they witnessed in their own home life growing up (as repressed memories lurking in their unconscious are guaranteed to leak out and grossly influence all their adult choices and interactions).
If the toxic parent, meaning the Mother-In-Law in this particular scenario, is Cluster B, understand that their child’s role in karmic life is to learn how to emotionally distance themselves from their parent, to go gray rock, and to learn how to set and enforce healthy lifestyle boundaries.
That means taking it upon themselves to think through their own complex layers of feelings and emotional memories from childhood, deciding as an adult how they feel, and setting up their own lives accordingly.
Mother-in-laws who run roughshod over their own children’s emotional rights as children, who fail to show up to parent youngsters but decide they are entitled to a “do-over” as parents to their grandchildren, and or who go out of their way to socially sabotage and undermine their adult child’s romantic relationships are guilty of acting egocentrically with a grandiose sense of entitlement.
A quick search of this website or the internet for the key phrases “narcissist entitlement”, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, “narcissist grandiosity”, and reading the article 100 Personality Traits of Toxic Mothers can quickly bring a person up to speed with regard to what all the terms and implications mean.
Toxic mothers come in all gradations and varieties. Some may be guilty of having culturally biased toxic thinking in some areas but are capable of great empathy in others.
Those with fully manifested Cluster B personalities, meaning NPD, HPD, BPD, or ASPD should always be dealt with in an extremely careful manner, as taking generic advice about how to interact with one can truly be the end of the family (noting the same thing goes for parents of adult children who have personality disorders themselves and even more so for those whose adult kids get mixed up unknowingly with partners who are highly narcissistic or who are prone for whatever reason to narcissistic sociopathy).
If a person is CAPABLE of feeling empathy as an emotion in any area, it’s important to be clear about their ability from a diagnostic perspective. Millions of people have claimed their in-laws (parents or children’s mate) are toxic… but the new trend of leaping to judgement and presuming one is a Narcissist (rather than behaving in ways that are Narcopathic (meaning like a narcissistic Sociopath) or based on social conditioning is a terrible tactical error with regard to psychological positioning.
An NPD or ASPD mother will always put their own needs above their child — unless they are highly Machiavellian and concede a right the same way a chess master gives up a pawn to position themselves more advantageously strategically speaking.
If you are breeding with the adult child of a person with a full-fledged Cluster B personality disorder, be MINDFUL. The adult child is likely to be the genetic apple that does not intellectually fall far from the tree roots when and if they themselves are feeling insecure, are ill, or are stressed out — meaning they are likely to fall back to default behaviors they enacted as children of narcy parents or to emulate their bio parent themselves when and if they are core level reacting.
“What the heck is core level reacting?” one might ask themselves reflectively? It’s the first impulse the body responds with when and if the system is overloaded with an issue like physical pain or it’s vulnerable.
Toxic thinkers tend to respond like angry badgers or wolverines when and if they feel weak, emotionally or physically vulnerable, or cornered.
That means someone with high levels of narcissism or sociopathy who was raised by a toxic family will tend to do things they feel entitled to do socially based on having seen adults in their life during their infancy, toddlerhood, and early childhood years act that way.
Toxic people presume the world and all social actions work a certain way, namely the way things worked in their own households; typically as incredibly young and “no time on the pond” children. Competition and pack animal behavior is the home environment for any child whose parents or primary caregivers were influenced socially or emotionally by Cluster B predators.
If you were from a loving family that worked collaboratively to validate one another on a daily basis, who showed love and mutual appreciation for one another’s unique skill sets, and you were raised to help (rather than strive to harm) one another, landing in a relationship where your lover is enmeshed in an unhealthy level of power and control dynamic psychologically can lead to some pretty disturbing outcomes for both nuclear family units.
The primary unit that used to be healthy is destroyed by the social influence of an incoming partner, while the unhealthy unit is functionally prevented from growing up or into a more right-thinking unit when and if family of origin relationships cannot heal or evolve due to a new mate interjecting themselves as ALPHA with regard to wanting to be their romantic partner’s end all to be all.
Enablers are people who express traits of weak Narcissists. It’s cute and all to be mad at a toxic Mother-in-Law for having an unhealthy level of entitlement issues — but new mates need to check their own behaviors from a psychological perspective as well if and when they ever expect to truly help their mate work through inner child issues.
Hate your Mother-in-Law? Be civil at all times to the very best of your emotional ability, limit interactions to the bare minimum, and talk to a counselor who has expertise in dealing with Cluster B personality types if she’s toxic. Avoid telling your mate how to feel about their parents and start LISTENING to how they truly talk about them.
This is key — LISTEN and OBSERVE. By this, we don’t mean every social interaction between your mate and their parent. We mean listen and observe your mate before, during, and after they interact with their family of origin and really pay attention to how they themselves, as dynamic contributors to the relationship, do just that… RELATE.
Adult Children of Toxic Parents who have the capacity to feel empathy require completely different emotional support and counseling approaches than those who display a reduced capacity to feel empathy due to trauma exposure.
They require a different support system if they, as children of abusive parents, are People Pleasers themselves… and something ENTIRELY different if their personality is the polar opposite flip of the coin, meaning if they develop ASPD traits in response to having grown up in a challenging social environment riddled with pack animals and Flying Monkeys jockeying for positions of social favor.
If a person was raised by a Mommy Dearest figure, there are four typical outcomes for a child’s behavior. Either they become enabling conformists, they rebel, they run (meaning they become socially and emotionally avoidant and withdraw from both positive and social interactions equally), or they themselves become active, elitist thinking ABUSERS.
If you fail to listen to how your partner talks on their own without social pressure to say things that will please or appease a mate, chances are you are likely to find yourself quite miserable.
Most relationships with people who were raised by Cluster B parents end up with the adult children marrying toxic life-mates themselves — and if YOU are interjecting yourself in someone else’s family drama, guess what? BINGO — you are that new pigeonholed person.
Toxic adult child marries enabler who will allow them to abuse their own toxic parents socially and emotionally by proxy using the new mate to do so? Cluster B Machiavellian JACKPOT — like hitting the proverbial Covert Narcissist trifecta when it comes to betting on the come with regard to masterfully positioning themselves in the position of feeling desirable.
No lie — toxic adult children put their spouses in incredible harm’s way all the time socially speaking. But they cannot be held accountable for doing so on a romantic relationship or “maturity” scale when and if their mate flings themselves off a cliff in an effort to voluntarily jump into the middle of a venomous snake pit.
The BEST way to handle “family business” is to let each individual partner in a relationship handle their own proverbial shit. If your spouse cannot stand their parent and gets their panties in a wad every time they talk with them? Be at the ready with validating and supportive emotional commentary like, “Wow… I know that must have hurt to hear…” or “How did that make you feel when she [meaning the MIL] said it?”
Once you ask, listen to their core responses. If the person has toxic thinking, expect anger to be the theme of their response. If they themselves antagonize them complain, understand it’s a major red flag poker tell that they have a tendency toward passive aggression, hiding most likely that they themselves have high traits of Covert Narcissism.
If they respond in a thoughtful manner, really trying to grasp a functional understanding of their parent’s own life perspective reflectively while seeking to understand their own emotional needs and nature, chances are you might be romantically involved with an Empath coming of age with regard to spiritual and emotional maturity.
But if they consistently express a narrow or tunnel-visioned perspective that does socially immature things like ridiculing, shaming, name-calling, blame shifting, avoiding personal responsibility for their own part or contribution to an unhealthy dynamic, are avoidant, they purposefully engage in acts of ghosting parents or family members (the opposite of going NO CONTACT with a person who is socially destructive), they stonewall, they refuse to validate their own parents perspective (regardless of how crazy or irrational it sounds), they tend to pathologically lie or write revisionist history to self-promote, or they play the false victimization card in order to emotionally manipulate other humans like their new love interest and LOOK OUT.
Empaths are gifted with intellect and empathy. They tend to have a high level of EQ — meaning emotional intelligence. Such people are typically seen as thoughtful, selfless, emotionally sensitive thinkers.
Cluster B personality types tend to share certain traits as well. They all lie to self-promote They have little to no emotional capacity to stop themselves from harming or actively striving to manipulate others due to their egocentric natures, their weak wills, their competitive natures, and their fundamental belief that in order for anyone to “win” in life, someone else must LOSE.
People who have healthy levels of empathy for themselves and others tend to realize that we’re all in the same boat together. They tend to strive to work collaboratively rather than compete socially for things like emotional validation, physical success, and they keep everyone’s eye focused on individual self-actualization.
In an extended family unit, trickle down economic theory from a social perspective always applies. When a family is led by a loving, caring, and emotionally intelligent matriarch, adult children and their elders tend to strive to mutually support one another. When a family has been socially influenced by a Cluster B predator at the top of the food chain, that person will strive to teach young to use and abuse others they encounter in life relentlessly in a quest for social and emotional GAIN.
Mother’s Day, holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving tend to bring out the collective family crazy. So do special events like buying a new home, taking a new job offer, having a child, someone in the family dying or needing serious medical attention, weddings, graduations, and birthdays.
Toxic mothers are the root of ALL family dysfunction. Sorry, men and women who would love to blame men for this harsh truth, but it’s a realization that inevitably comes to nearly all Narcissistic Abuse survivors who succeed in healing themselves while staying sane.
A toxic mother is a woman who, for her own selfish purposes, does a handful of extremely toxic things both to and in front of her kids. Either she enables her romantic partner or she abuses him, either way placing her own lifestyle needs and personal preferences above that of her own children’s best interests. Either she promotes sibling rivalry between her own children or she uses and abuses them (treating them like chattel or personal property, much the way she might claim ownership of furniture).
A toxic MOTHER IN LAW takes it upon herself to demand things like a right to see or micro manage the lives of her adult child and grandchildren. A toxic MIL prefers to remain the most important female in their child’s life on a day to day basis, rather than realizing she truly is and was the most influential person in their child’s social and psychological development, a person whose true role in life is to be there to SUPPORT and encourage his mate as their new life partner.
Toxic mothers defend their child’s right to abuse others. Toxic MILs manufacture drama for their adult child, typically targeting a new son-in-law or daughter-in-law (or that person’s family members) for extreme social and emotional abuse.
Loving parents are totally willing to take the side of their child’s mate when and if their offspring behaves poorly or treats their partner in an abusive way. That does not mean they will stop loving or striving to help their child make better choices in life.
It does mean that when it comes to moral issues regarding things like social dynamics and the ethics of being in a romantic relationship that they will tend to see the big picture and strive to help both their own child and their child’s partner succeed in a romance for — if no other reason — than their current or future grandchildren’s and society’s sake.
Toxic in-laws hate the “other side of the family”, doing all they can to insult, enrage, and offend the new mate’s parents, grandparents, and siblings. They strive actively and on a daily basis to manufacture triangulation between their own child and their mate, between the mate and the mate’s family of origin, and to position themselves as the only humans whose rights as parents and grandparents MATTER.
Their adult children are left in a position of being the “desired” trophy to win, meaning a toxic in-law will strive to keep themselves in a position of socially exclusive ownership of their child’s affection. If the new family is liked by their child, that’s typically when toxic in-laws will do or say whatever it takes to ensure their manipulated child learns to hate, socially mistreat, and mistrust the healthy parent or family members of their offspring’s mate.
Why? Because MY GOD, can you imagine if an adult child of a toxic mother ever realized that living life under the controlling thumb of an obnoxious, Cluster B thinker did not have to be that way? GASP! It would truly bring about the social end of their reign of terror if their own child decided to rebel rather than conform to their toxic family ways.
But truly, the most likely scenario is an adult child with pent up hostility likes making themselves the center of attention. If they are sick in the mind, they will feel pleasure at the sensation of having their mate and parent compete for their interest, affection, respect, love, and attention.
A MIL actively abusing their own child or making their child’s mate a preferred scapegoat or target for family problems is a dysfunctional person, that’s absolutely true. But a Daughter-in-Law or Son-in-Law who strives to pit a parent against their adult child with regard to affection or interest is equally or more morally and psychologically at fault for family toxicity being promoted ad infinitum, too.
Defending a loved one from being harmed is the first biological impulse of a person who cares. But showing enough personal restraint to stop oneself from doing all the emotional heavy lifting for your partner when it comes to learning how to socially and emotionally process life from a mature, adult perspective can be tough for a person who themselves has had their mind polluted by natural but unhealthy levels of toxic thinking with regard to moral responsibility.
A person who thinks that in order to be moral, they must help their romantic partner work through personal issues with a toxic parent, an ex, a contentious sibling, or some other person of emotional importance has their heart in the right place but their thinking misguided. To be a moral agent, one simply cannot DO another person’s worrying and emotional steering or life processing for them.
Children of toxic parents who conform to parents elitist thinking feel entitled to being put on a pedestal. However, if they were raised by a strong Cluster B, they would have always felt their parent was elevated while they were placed on a lower platform with regard to status. If a toxic mate comes in and puts them on a pedestal, telling them their needs are more important than all the fundamental human rights of others and encouraging them to be narcissistic thinkers, if they have a tendency to become Abusive, they are likely to fall for the gaslighting hook, line, and sinker.
Grandiosity — meaning thinking you are better and somehow more socially important than other human beings to an extreme, gross, and abusive level — comes into play when and if an adult child of a toxic parent turns out to be an abusive adult thinker.
Unfortunately, many people destined to manifest Cluster B personality disorders by or before the age of 28 tend to enter into relationships early on with romantic interests who have themselves been raised to enable, are narcissistic, or who are “ready, willing, and easy to use and abuse” People Pleasers.
The pattern that tends to emerge is the adult child actively triangulates between their targeted parent or parents and their love interest. The love interest is told all the horrible things the person can think to say about their family member, while the parent is told every disconcerting detail about the new partner’s personality, family of origin, and the way they are treating either them or the grandchildren.
What that triangulating person net gains is making themselves the constant center of attention. They also virtually ensure that their mate and their parent — a person who like it or not knows most of their deepest, darkest, personality traits and secrets — will never be able to compare notes about their behavior.
If a person (meaning the adult child who the parent and new mate are obsessing over) is a pathological liar, expect them to estrange their new romantic partner from all the friends and family members who have known them for years.
Expect them to smear campaign actively against their own parent relentlessly, never once showing any remote sign they care whatsoever about that targeted person’s feelings or making any effort whatsoever to improve the quality of the relationship with them.
New partners should be incredibly skeptical of any claims made by such a person, as they are most likely looking at a Covert Predator in the making at best — or at worst, a Sociopath who is willing to sell out flesh and blood in order to win extra favors and attention from them the same way a con artist targets a mark. It’s THAT SERIOUS.
If a MIL is truly awful, meaning Cluster B and Machiavellian, both the adult child and his mate will need counseling from an EXPERT. Generic relationship and family therapy advice is to be avoided, as are family counseling sessions where targeted victims spill their guts about what causes them to feel hurt or insecure — as true Narcissists and Sociopaths will tuck all those personal details back as points of weakness to be exploited like military strategists later.
If a person is normal from a biological perspective — meaning they are intelligent, are interested in reading self-help literature or self-educating themselves about psychology on their own without needing to be prompted, and they truly seek to evolve as people with the capacity to feel and utilize empathy as a skill — then it’s fairly obvious. Anyone who lands on this web page or looking at Narcissistic Abuse recovery websites has probably got a clue when it comes to social skill and is seeking clarity.
But people who refuse to self-educate or validate other people’s perspectives — like, say, Rabid Republicans or Bible Thumping Creationists — they are (for whatever reason) pledging their intellectual and emotional fidelity to a false God. Namely, their own self-centered, psychologically lazy, entitlement perspective. Arguing with a creationist is no different than dealing with a person who refuses to google things like “Narcissism” or toxic parenting.
If the person is a mother, whether mother in law or new mom of a grandchild, the family unit of BOTH sides of the family are likely to be gravely affected by that single person’s antics manufacturing chaos and striving to maintain the illusion they are in control of both their own life and their mate or child/children/grandchildren.
The new partner is at great risk of being sucked into family conflict and drama they truthfully should not even be present to hear, while the adult child lashes out passive-aggressively at their own toxic parent in a twisted, covert, and subtle act of aggression socially that is sure to leave their own partner feeling war-torn and their parent enraged or offended by the interloper’s interjection accordingly.
To avoid problems with a toxic MIL, the answer is simple.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE INVOLVED WITH THEIR ADULT CHILD, then the adult child can and should be both allowed and encouraged to spend time talking with or seeing that parent or family unit without their mate being forced to join them.
Be on the lookout for all the red flags and warning signs the love interest is triangulating or shows a limited or diminished capacity to show empathy to his or her birth family of origin. Be aware that many children of narcy people are inadvertently guilty of being toxic thinkers themselves, prone to abuse or to enable (personality and situationally dependent), and know that grandchildren — while they may share genetics with a grandparent — are the SOLE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE BIO PARENTS.
That means your kids are your kids just like your mate is the child of their own parents. Get it? If you were having a problem with your own child, would some stranger showing up in the middle of a family discussion or argument where YOUR personal life or private business as a human being discussed make YOU feel all warm and fuzzy having to listen to them tag-team insult, criticize, or judge you so that person can win favor with your child at your expense — just or unjust, regardless?
Yeah… ummm. NO. And new mates who fail to realize that when they inject themselves into the private lives of their mate’s PARENTS when and if they refuse to allow their love interest to do things like spend time alone with their mom or participate in family therapy without needing to oversee communications grossly abuse both their mate and their mate’s family members in a way that is INCREDIBLY vain, self-aggrandizing, and narcissistic.
Keep that entitlement-right factoid straight in your mind and heart at all times with regard to in-law issues and you are sure to pull through the process of growing up and maturing socially through various stages of life more gracefully.
But know this… if your mate forces you into a position where YOU are the person looking up psychology articles for THEM to read about their OWN family problems or toxic parent that YOU have already been sucked into a covert vortex of NARCISSISTIC ABUSE — a power and control cycle that positions the mate you are trying to help as able to avoid taking personal responsibility for growing up, learning to live life in a socially healthy way, and places you at risk of later being accused by both your mate and your in-laws of being at fault and scapegoated for THEIR private family issues.
If it’s Mother’s Day, your partner’s primary responsibility is to facilitate your own children doing something nice for you. But it’s also your responsibility as a mate to encourage your mate to deal with their own MOMMY DEAREST issues — especially on holidays like Mother’s Day without abdicating their personal social responsibilities on any other memorial weekend, holiday, or just your average weekday.