Mother-in-Law Bullying: How Do I Find the Courage to Survive?

I have been going through this for more years than I want to admit. It has probably become "normal" for me but I don't think it should be considered normal.

My mother-in-law constantly bullies me. I keep thinking I am doing right by being there to absorb the bullying so my kids don't get bullied but a friend observed that that doesn't stop the bullying, and that my kids are still eventual targets no matter what, unless the bullying stops.

I have had people offer to help, like maybe three or so in thirty years, but they usually help for a day or two and then say it is too much and they need to go to a party with their new friends and less drama (drama that I did not create!).

I wish I could take a break like that! What do I do? How do I stop the bullying but also just make it another day? I've been thinking about suicide a lot more lately. It seems like the only answer.

Bullied Daughter-in-Law

Dear Bullied Daughter-in-Law,

Please do NOT kill yourself.  You are not alone in this, I promise you.  Not only have other people experienced this (too many to count!) but there are many people who DO want to help.  The goal is to get you past this but they likely feel helpless.  Though, that doesn't solve anything for you, does it?


Those who have helped in the past mean well, but it is extremely difficult and not everyone has the capacity to understand the conflict, let alone, help you through it.  But, let's talk about what you can do, ok?

First of all, it is not healthy to "absorb it."  All that does is take on that negativity and absorb it into who you are, as well as into your emotions, your physical body, and your family.  Eventually, you recycle that into yourself and none of that leads to anything good, for you or for your family!  The suicidal thinking is evidence of that.

I imagine (because this really is very common!) your mother-in-law actually wants you, her daughter-in-law, to suffer a lack of control!  It isn't that she wants you to kill yourself but she wants to feel powerful.  It is likely a narcissistic behavioral issue in her and maybe even some pain that she experienced in her past.  It isn't really about you.  You are simply a means by which she can feel good about herself.  And, for her, she feels good about herself when she is powerful.  So, if you are flustered and recycling that negativity within yourself, it means she is powerful enough to have that effect on you and so it makes her feel good that she has that sort of power.

A bullying mother-in-law is not really just about the incidents themselves or a difficult mother-in-law but more so about unhealthy people and unhealthy ways of living.  Bullying behavior involves the whole, bigger picture and in this case, your mother-in-law is all about going out to get what she wants.  She isn't necessarily interested in what is good for you, nor what is best for her son or her grandchildren.  And, it doesn't seem like she is in the mood to change her behavior.

She is not likely to ever admit that but that IS what is happening!

Any way you slice it, this is toxic and it is very detrimental to you and your kids!

My hope is that you have a very supportive husband who stands by you and your kids because you really need to steer clear of this woman because she is like some really bad medicine and unless she gets help, there is not likely to be any sort of cure for your relationship.  It isn't that I am saying that it is all your mother-in-law's fault because first, I would not be in a position to say that, and second, it does take "two to tango," and there are also points for improvement for both parties.  But, if she is bullying you, you really just need to stay away from that bullying behavior and be nice to YOU (and thereby protecting your kids and being nice to them!).

Find a therapist that can help you and your husband, as well, so that this does not affect your marriage and your pulling back from your mother-in-law does not adversely affect your relationship with your husband.  But, the key is, you CANNOT continue to just absorb this negativity from the bully.  It is not good for you.

And, my dear, you need to be good to you!

Deborah E
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Digging Deeper Into the Topic…

Ever feel like your mother-in-law can’t stand you? Maybe she criticizes your parenting, makes snide comments about your appearance or career, or constantly competes for your spouse’s attention. You’re not alone. Many women experience bullying behavior from their mother-in-law that leaves them feeling hurt, anxious, and like an outsider in their own family. But there is hope. You can find ways to stand up for yourself, set clear boundaries, get your spouse on the same page, and make the relationship more tolerable. Surviving a toxic mother-in-law is challenging, but with courage and the right strategies, you can overcome her bullying and take back control of your life. And, it is normal that you are feeling that low self esteem and that you have been bullied. So, let’s change that and attempt to stop it from affecting you and your children, ok?

Recognizing the Signs of a Bullying Mother-in-Law

She criticizes your parenting

There are different types of bullying. In your case, your mother-in-law constantly questions your decisions regarding your kids. She undermines your authority and makes snide comments about your parenting abilities. Stand up for yourself in a calm, respectful way. Say something like, “We appreciate your input, but we make the final decisions about our children.”

She interferes in your marriage

If your mother-in-law meddles in your relationship or tries to cause trouble between you and your spouse, it’s bullying behavior. Talk to your partner and present a united front. Politely but firmly tell her that you will not tolerate her interference. You may need to limit the time you spend with her if she continues her meddling ways.

She plays the victim

Bullying mothers-in-law are manipulative and frequently play the victim. She may cry, complain, and say hurtful things to make you feel guilty. Don’t fall for her manipulations. Stay calm, and remember that you do not deserve to be treated this way. Suggest counseling or mediation if her behavior continues without consequence. You have the power to stand up to her bullying and reclaim your happiness.

The Emotional Toll of Mother-in-Law Bullying

The constant criticism and judgment from your mother-in-law can really take an emotional toll. You may feel anxious, depressed, and like nothing you do is good enough. This is not your fault – her behavior says more about her than you.

Some days will be harder than others. On difficult days:

  • Practice self-care. Do something kind for yourself, like exercising, journalling, or calling a friend.
  • Remember her bullying is not a reflection of your worth. You are a good, capable person deserving of love and respect.
  • Set boundaries. Politely but firmly tell your mother-in-law that her criticism is hurtful and that you won’t engage further. Then, walk away if she continues.
  • Lean on your spouse for support. Talk to them about how their mother’s behavior makes you feel, and work as a team to establish boundaries.

While it can feel hopeless, you have the power to protect yourself. Focus on surrounding yourself with people who love and support you. Don’t let your mother-in-law’s cruelty define you – you deserve so much more.

Setting Healthy Boundaries With Your Mother-in-Law

Setting Healthy Boundaries With Your Mother-in-Law

Dealing with a meddling or hurtful mother-in-law can be tricky. You need to be firm yet respectful in establishing boundaries. Some tips for navigating this relationship:

Speak up. Politely but directly tell your mother-in-law when she’s overstepped or said something hurtful. Say something like, “I understand you want to help, but those comments weren’t constructive. Please speak to me with kindness and respect.”

Set clear rules. Explain your expectations for her role in your life and marriage. Be specific about what’s okay and not okay. Put it in writing if needed. Share these rules with your spouse so you present a united front.

Limit contact. If she continues to disrespect you after trying to address it constructively, spend less time with her. See her only occasionally and keep interactions brief. You don’t need toxicity in your life.

Get your spouse’s support. Ask them to also speak up when their mother is out of line. Present a united front and stand up for each other. Make sure they understand how her behavior makes you feel and that it’s damaging your relationship.

You deserve to feel comfortable and respected in your own family. Though it can be difficult, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself against a mother-in-law who insists on bullying or belittling you. Set healthy boundaries, limit contact if needed, and lean on your spouse for support. You’ve got this! Stay strong and remember–her actions say more about her than they do about you.

Finding Support When Dealing With Mother-in-Law Bullying

Finding Support When Dealing With Mother-in-Law Bullying

Reach out to close friends or family members and let them know what’s going on. Ask them to provide moral support and lend an open ear when you need to vent or feel upset. Their compassion and understanding can help give you the strength and courage to stand up for yourself.

Consider joining an online support group. It helps to share your feelings of isolation with others who have been there – making connections and provide advice for coping strategies. You may find local meetups in your area as well. Speaking with a counselor or therapist is also helpful for gaining perspective and learning strategies to establish better boundaries.

Don’t be afraid to be assertive and stand up for yourself, as difficult as that may be. Calmly and confidently tell your mother-in-law that her behavior is unacceptable and needs to change. You may need backup from your spouse on this, so make sure you present a united front. If she continues to bully and disrespect you, limit contact with her as much as possible to protect your own emotional well-being.

While dealing with a toxic mother-in-law is challenging, finding the right support system will give you the courage and strength to survive. Don’t suffer in silence – speak up and get help right away.

Moving Forward: Protecting Yourself and Your Family

Moving Forward: Protecting Yourself and Your Family

To survive a toxic mother-in-law, you need to stand up for yourself. Be confident but courteous. Calmly tell her her behavior is unacceptable and needs to change. Don’t engage or argue. Say your piece, then walk away if she escalates.

Set clear boundaries and consequences if she crosses the line. Let her know if she insults you, she’ll be asked to leave. Follow through with consequences if she does not change. Don’t make empty threats.

Find your tribe. Connect with sympathetic family and friends who support you. Their encouragement can help lessen the sting of her cruelty and give you the strength to stand up to her bullying.

Don’t let her manipulate you. Recognize emotional blackmail and guilt trips for what they are. You don’t owe her an explanation for your decisions. Learn to say “no” and stand firm in your resolve.

Protect your space. Don’t share details of your life or engage with her more than necessary. The less ammunition you give her, the less power she has to hurt you.

Though difficult, you need to be proactive to improve the situation. Speaking up, setting boundaries, and protecting yourself and your family can help put an end to her tyrannical reign over your lives. Stay strong, and don’t lose hope! With time and consistency, she may come around, but if not, you’ve done what’s needed to survive.


You’ve been through a lot dealing with a bullying mother-in-law, but don’t lose hope. Remember that her behavior says more about her than it does about you. Stay strong in yourself and focus on surrounding yourself with people who love and support you. Don’t engage or argue; remain calm and set clear boundaries. Find ways to limit contact when possible. You have so much wonderful life ahead of you; don’t let anyone steal your joy. This is your life, your marriage, and your family. You have the power to rise above the bullying and negativity. Believe in yourself, stand up for yourself, and keep moving forward. The only person you need to please is you. You’ve got this! Stay strong and don’t give up. Brighter days are ahead!

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