Friday, August 27, 2010

Defusing the Power of the Narcissistic Mother-in-Law

Mothers-in-laws are the subject of innumerable jokes. If you have a narcissistic mother-in-law, it isn't funny. It's painful, unpredictable, exasperating and emotionally draining. There are specific character traits that give these individuals away. The narcissist is consummately self absorbed, controlling, demanding, manipulative, deceitful and, very important-----lacks empathy. If she is very clever, the narcissist starts out with her charm offensive. She's all aglow, meeting your eyes with fascination and deep interest. It feels like this woman actually cares about you and wants to deepen the relationship. This is the lure and bait she uses to convince you that her positive intentions are genuine. There is nothing authentic about a narcissist. These individuals have been operating as false grandiose selves since childhood. Their acts are impeccably played. They fool the best of us.

Unless she is distracted by something monumental in her life, she will stick her nose into yours by meddling in all of our personal business. If you don't cooperate about her orchestrations, she will make every effort to turn her son, your spouse against you with vicious lies, secrets about your family background, the steady clever drip of criticisms about the way you handle your children, balance your career, friends, not to leave out, her opinion of your sordid family background. Much of this sniping is done behind your back---in the shadows where people speak in whispers and say "Don't tell", know that this private information will be broadcasted widely and cause maximum psychological harm to it prospective victim.

In this tough situation, call upon yourself and your spouse. You don't deserve to be treated with scorn and duplicity by anyone, including a family member. Speak the truth and let her know with civility and clarity that you deserve respect. It is you and your spouse's role to make the boundaries clear. He must be assertive with his mother when she has stepped over the line---and if she is a narcissist bent on meddling, she will.
Maintain a sense of psychological steadiness by focusing on your top priorities. Sometimes it is possible to work with a narcissistic mother-in-law by consistently and calmly making the boundaries clear. In other instances, if the in-law is particularly recalcitrant, family interaction is limited or in severe cases, severed.

You cannot change a narcissistic mother-in-law who is out to control and destroy every one's individuality, inner peace and sense of joy. You can be and change yourself. That is what is required of us----to play our parts on this earth with integrity, authenticity, compassion sprinkled with a hearty dose of humor. Visit my website:

Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.
Telephone Consultation: United States and International
Book: Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life
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