5 Proven Tactics for Handling a Gaslighting Mother-in-Law

Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez arguing in Monster-in-Law (2005)
Monster-in-Law via New Line Cinema

There's a right way to deal with their wrong behavior.

Gaslighting Mother-in-Law Advice

Many of us are blessed with spectacular mother-in-laws.

They bring so much light and joy to our lives, and we love them as if they were our own.

On the flip side of that, there are plenty who are unlucky when it comes to the family they take in after marriage. They're rude and nasty, often going out of their way to be unkind for no reason at all.

They're called monster-in-laws for a reason, after all.

What you might not know is that they're actually gaslighting you.

At this point, you're probably wondering what gaslighting is, how to recognize it, and how to deal with it.

We're here to answer all of those questions for you and then some. All you need to do is scroll below for our advice on handling gaslighting from your mother-in-law.

Monster-in-Law via New Line Cinema

Gaslighting Definition

In simplest terms, gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation. It is defined by Britannica as:

"An elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation, usually practiced by a single deceiver, or 'gaslighter,' on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim's confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his thinking or feelings."

The phrase was coined from a 1938 British stage play called Gas Light, which was later turned into a movie in the early 1940s, Gaslight. In the film, a husband does everything he can to convince his way she's crazy in order to get what he wants—money and power.

Gaslighting Mother-in-Law Behavior

Now, what does gaslighting look like? We've talked a little bit about what it is, but how do you know if your mother-in-law is manipulating you?

We've rounded up a signs of gaslighting from your mother-in-law to help you better recognize if it's happening to you.

They're Always Right

Even when they're wrong, they're right. They'll never apologize for being wrong either, because, well, they're right. They try to convince you their word is law and will stop at nothing to belittle you into believing every word that comes out of their mouth. Though you may be right, you'll still be wrong, so long as they continue with their gaslighting behavior.

They're Obvious About Their Feelings Towards You

We're not talking about positive feelings either. It's fairly obvious they're not too fond of you and even a stranger could tell. They treat you disrespectfully, never listen to anything you have to say, and do their very best to minimize who you are. They might not flat out say they don't like you, but you'll be able to sense it. Just don't let them see you crack.

They Expect You to Give Them What They Want

Again, gaslighting is all about manipulating someone so the gaslighter can get what they want. If your mother-in-law is constantly expecting you to bend to their every will, she's very clearly trying to use you for her own benefit. She doesn't care about your feelings or what you have to offer, because she needs dominance. She needs to establish that she is above you and you need to be brought up to her level.

They're Self-Centered

This is a rather obvious sign of gaslighting, but if your mother-in-law is only concerned with herself, then she's a master manipulator. Her narcissistic tendencies force her to control not only everything she does, but what everyone else in her life does. If her loved ones aren't following her path, she gets noticeably upset and vows to right their wrongs.

They Do Everything They Can to Spite You

If they don't like you or anything you do, they'll try their hardest to turn others against you. It's not beneath them to drag your name through the dirt, in order to get what they desire—power and dominance. When they don't agree with your lifestyle choices, they'll go out of their way to convince you you've made a horrible mistake, while talking about you behind your back to get others on the same page.

How to Deal With a Gaslighting Mother-in-Law

Now that you have a better understanding of what gaslighting is, it's only fair we discuss ways to deal with it.

Understand Why They're Doing This

There's a reason they're gaslighting you, and it's not just because they're a master manipulator. There's something deep down going on that has caused them to act this way. Understanding why they do what they do will only help you figure out the best way to deal with them. It doesn't make what they're doing right, but it gives you the necessary tools to defeat them, so to speak.

Set Boundaries

Boundaries, we all have them. Even your overbearing mother-in-law has hers. Though they may not align with yours, they're there. Make sure to enforce the ones you have by letting her know when she can and can't drop by your home or what family events she is and isn't allowed to attend. You can even go as far as letting her know how and if she's allowed to parent your child. Yes, she's going to be a presence in your life, wether you like it or not, but don't let her boss you around.

Keep Your Distance

Going off of the point above, if being around her really just ruins your mood, do your best to keep your distance. She's your mother-in-law, not your mother, so she really doesn't need to be a huge presence in your life.

Ask for Help

Always, always, always ask for help when you need it. In this instance, we suggest seeking help from not only your spouse, but your friends and family members. Chances are, they've dealt with a similar situation and can help you get through a gaslighting mother-in-law better than anyone. Don't be afraid to turn to them to diffuse the situation.

Don't Let What They Do Get to You

One of the biggest things you have to remember is to not take anything they say or do personally. Yes, it is personal. Yes, it's going to upset you. But don't let it. Your mother-in-law is doing this to make you upset and assert her dominance. Don't give in to her childish antics. Stand your ground and let everything she says or does roll off you like water off a duck's back.

Cut Ties If Necessary

If your relationship with your mother-in-law is so negative that it is posing a risk to your safety or the safety of your family and children, it might be necessary to completely cut ties and end all communication. It is completely up to you to make whatever decision is right for the safety of you and your loved ones.

Keep the Conversation Going

Have you previously dealt with gaslighting from your mother-in-law? Have any advice you'd like to share? Tweet us @womendotcom or message us on Facebook.