How Mother-in-Laws Ruin Marriages: 10 Ways

Do you ever wonder how mother-in-laws ruin marriages? A toxic mother-in-law was appropriately portrayed in the 2005 romantic comedy “Monster-in-Law.” The character Viola presents an extreme depiction of a mother-in-law who goes to great lengths to disrupt her son’s relationship with his fiancĂ©.

Marrying the person you love and envisioning a bright future together can be overshadowed by the presence of a manipulative or narcissistic mother-in-law. Such situations can strain a marriage and contribute to its downfall.

It is important to acknowledge that the impact of in-law dynamics on a relationship is a common and significant issue that couples face, and it requires open communication, setting boundaries, and finding ways to navigate these challenges together in order to strengthen the marital bond.

How Mother-in-Laws Ruin Marriages

The subtle acts of sabotage carried out by in-laws can profoundly affect the relationship between a married couple, giving rise to feelings of resentment, mistrust, and hurt. These dynamics are commonly observed in mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships, although challenges can also arise from the wife’s family.

Understanding the ways in which mothers-in-law can potentially disrupt marriages helps shed light on the complexities involved. It is important to address these issues and find constructive ways to navigate and preserve the marital bond amidst the challenges posed by extended family dynamics.

1. Constant Criticism and Judgement

Dealing with a toxic mother-in-law’s persistent criticism and judgment is a common struggle for many individuals. Whether it’s critiques about parenting, clothing choices, or how household tasks are handled, the constant barrage of criticism can be emotionally damaging, particularly when the mother-in-law is always present.

What Does It Imply?

While such comments may be rooted in concern or care, their constant and irrational nature can take a toll on one’s mental well-being. It’s essential to recognize the impact these criticisms have on mental health and take steps to establish healthy boundaries and self-care strategies to mitigate their negative effects.

Possible Solution

Seeking support from a trusted confidant or professional can also be beneficial in navigating these challenging dynamics.

2. Emotional Manipulation

In certain instances, a mother-in-law may employ emotional manipulation as a means of exerting control over not just her own child but also her son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

One tactic used is to make the daughter-in-law feel consistently guilty and ashamed. This can manifest in various ways, including undermining her choices, constant comparisons to other family members, and incessantly highlighting her perceived shortcomings.

What Does It Imply?

The emotional manipulation through guilt and shame takes a significant toll on the daughter-in-law’s self-esteem and mental well-being. Over time, this damaging behavior can even lead to the deterioration of the relationship and potentially contribute to its ultimate dissolution.

Possible Solution

Recognizing these manipulative tactics is crucial in setting boundaries and prioritizing one’s own mental health within the complex dynamics of the family.

3. Inability To Let a Child Go

As children grow up and establish their own families, it is natural for parental relationships to undergo a transformation. However, the process of letting go can be challenging for some mothers-in-law, who find it difficult to accept that their child is entering a new phase of life.

What Does It Imply?

The struggle to release their grip on their son or daughter, after having been an integral part of their lives for so long, can lead to problems. They may struggle to come to terms with the fact that their child now has new responsibilities, commitments, and limited availability.

Possible Solution

Consequently, this emotional difficulty translates into placing excessive pressure on both partners, resulting in conflicts that have the potential to disrupt and even damage marriages. Recognizing and addressing these issues is essential in fostering healthier dynamics and ensuring that the newly formed family unit can thrive.

4. Lack of Empathy

Empathy and understanding are crucial for the success of any relationship, but unfortunately, these qualities may not always be present in the dynamics between mothers-in-law and their children’s partners.

What Does It Imply?

Mothers-in-law are often perceived as intrusive, demanding, and lacking in comprehension of the couple’s needs and desires. Their behavior can make it challenging to establish a harmonious relationship.

Possible Solution

Unrealistic expectations and a lack of consideration for the partner’s feelings can create the impression that the mother-in-law doesn’t genuinely care about their well-being. This can lead to tension and strain in the relationship, requiring open communication and boundary-setting to address these issues effectively.

5. Always Shows Up Unannounced

Creating a happy and peaceful marriage is a shared goal for most couples, but it can become challenging when a mother-in-law consistently intrudes without notice. While it may seem trivial, the impact of unannounced visits on marriages should not be underestimated, as it is a recurring issue in many relationships.

What Does It Imply?

Unannounced visits can be seen as a violation of privacy and trust, displaying a lack of respect for the couple’s boundaries and personal space. It can make the couple feel undervalued and disrespected, especially within the confines of their own home.

Possible Solution

Addressing this issue requires open and honest communication to establish clear boundaries and expectations, fostering an environment of mutual respect and consideration.

By finding a balance between maintaining a healthy relationship with the mother-in-law and preserving the couple’s privacy, marriages can thrive in an atmosphere of understanding and harmony.

6. She Doesn’t Value Your Opinion

Mothers-in-law often struggle to acknowledge their son or daughter’s spouse as a valued individual within the family, leading them to disregard their opinions and perspectives. Their primary focus is maintaining a strong mother-child relationship, sometimes at the expense of recognizing and respecting the spouse’s role.

What Does It Imply?

This desire for control may manifest in subtle ways, such as consistently undermining or dismissing the spouse’s opinions and treating them as an outsider. These actions reflect the mother-in-law’s attempts to exert influence and maintain a sense of authority within the family dynamics.

Possible Solution

Recognizing these patterns is essential for addressing the issue and establishing healthy boundaries. Open and respectful communication, along with mutual understanding and compromise, can help navigate these challenging dynamics and foster a more harmonious relationship between the mother-in-law and the couple.

7. Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Maintaining a healthy relationship becomes particularly challenging when dealing with a passive-aggressive mother-in-law. Her toxic behavior can hinder the development of strong bonds between newly married couples and their respective parents.

What Does It Imply?

A passive-aggressive mother-in-law may engage in subtle yet hurtful actions, such as making derogatory remarks about her son’s wife, criticizing her choices and perspectives, or avoiding direct communication. These behaviors create an atmosphere of tension and discomfort, making it difficult to establish open and trusting connections.

Possible Solution

Recognizing and addressing this passive-aggressive behavior is crucial for nurturing positive relationships. Setting clear boundaries, fostering open communication, and seeking professional guidance can help navigate these challenging dynamics and promote a healthier and more harmonious family environment.

8. Trying To Control Her Child’s Life

A common challenge that couples often encounter is when the mother-in-law attempts to exert control over her son’s or daughter’s life.

The desire for control stems from a belief that the mother-in-law knows what’s best for her child. While this may initially come from a place of love and concern, it can become tiresome and burdensome for the couple’s relationship.

What Does It Imply?

The mother-in-law’s need for control may also stem from her own upbringing and the expectations she holds for her child. She may have certain standards or ideals in mind that she wants her child to meet, and when those expectations aren’t fulfilled, it can lead to tension and conflict within the family.

Possible Solution

Finding a balance between respecting the mother-in-law’s perspective and asserting independence as a couple is crucial. Open and honest communication, setting boundaries, and establishing mutual understanding can help navigate this delicate dynamic and maintain a healthy relationship with the mother-in-law.

9. Favoritism

Favoritism is a natural inclination for parents, but it can have detrimental effects on the dynamics within a family. When a mother-in-law shows favoritism towards her own child, it can create feelings of resentment, hurt, and exclusion among other family members, including the son or daughter-in-law.

What Does It Imply?

This favoritism often becomes a significant source of conflict and tension within the family, as it can lead to a breakdown of trust and communication. The son or daughter-in-law may struggle with feelings of insignificance or being undervalued as they perceive themselves as less important in comparison to the favored child.

Possible Solution

It’s important to recognize that the mother-in-law’s favoritism may stem from a place of deep love and concern for her own child. However, it is crucial to address these dynamics and foster open conversations about the impact it has on the entire family. Building understanding, empathy, and equal treatment can help mitigate the negative effects of favoritism and create a more harmonious family environment.

10. Rivalry for Their Child’s Affection

The dynamic between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law often involves a complex rivalry for the affection and attention of their shared loved one, the son or husband. This rivalry can create significant challenges in managing the relationship.

What Does It Imply?

The conflict between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law typically stems from a sense of loss and adjustment as the mother-in-law navigates the transition of her child into a new family. There may be a natural instinct to protect and maintain control over her son, unaware that he has established his own independent home and family.

Possible Solution

It’s important to approach this rivalry with empathy and understanding, acknowledging the emotions and concerns of both parties involved. Open and respectful communication can help establish boundaries, foster mutual respect, and promote a harmonious relationship between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Creating a supportive and inclusive family environment can contribute to the growth and happiness of all family members.


Navigating the relationship between mothers and their children-in-law can be challenging, and mishandling it can have serious consequences. Lack of empathy, controlling behavior, and disrespect towards the spouse are common ways in which mothers-in-law can negatively impact marriages.

It is crucial for both sides to acknowledge potential areas of tension and prioritize open, respectful communication. By fostering honest dialogue, empathy, and understanding, the relationship with your mother-in-law has the potential to become a source of support and love.


Can A Marriage Survive Toxic In-Laws?

Toxic in-laws can strain a marriage, causing stress, tension, and resentment. Setting healthy boundaries and maintaining distance can help couples navigate these challenges. With love and commitment, a marriage can still thrive despite the presence of toxic in-laws.

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