Survival Guide

We've all heard horror stories about mother-in-laws from hell, whose only goal seems to be striking fear in the hearts of anyone they deem unworthy while tormenting those around them. Whether you know someone who has to deal with a wicked witch of a mother-in-law or you have one of your own breathing down your neck, we've come up with some survival strategies to help you stay sane at your next family dinner – when you're getting yet another icy stare or sugar-coated insult.

Mother-in-law issues

1Smile and nod

No matter what your mother-in law is telling you, shouting at you or insinuating with a snide remark as you reach for a second helping of potato salad (are you sure you need more of that?), just nod and smile. We know it's hard and you'd probably rather share some snide remarks of your own but getting into a post-dinner scrap with your man's mom is not going to do anyone any favors. The smile and nod method works because it doesn't add any fuel to her fire. Because let's face it – anything you say will just be turned against you, so why say anything at all?

2Burst into tears

If all else fails and you've had enough of her passive aggressive comments or can't stand to hear another insult mumbled in passing (and you're afraid you could snap at any moment), may we suggest turning on the waterworks? If you're one of those people who can cry on cue, do it. It will be the last thing she expects and will ideally shock her into submission (at least for a few glorious minutes). Don't offer any explanation (this will only make her angry). Just put on your best sad face and watch as your mother-in-law tries in vain to salvage the evening while trying not to acknowledge the fact there is a grown woman wailing at her dining table. The best time to do this is near the end of the visit so you can leave immediately after your little "episode."


Woman dealing with mother in law

Pretend to listen
– but don't

As soon as your mother-in-law opens her mouth, tune her out. She's just going to make you feel small, inadequate and overweight, so why even bother listening? Look like you're taking in all of her mean-spirited advice but instead of listening, make a shopping list in your head, or think about what you're going to serve at the dinner party you're hosting next weekend – anything to keep you occupied while she explains yet again how you're not getting any younger and why don't you give her son some children while you still can. Sigh.

4Try to find an ally

It might not be easy – or even possible – but look around the table at the other faces there. Do you see anyone there who could possibly be an ally against the she-devil that is your mother-in-law? Your husband should step in if too many lines get crossed but he can't always be going up against his mother (chances are he's scared of her, too). If there's a cousin, aunt or other relative who you can tell is getting equally berated, join forces. Sit with this person at every function and bond over your mutual hatred of the mother- in-law from hell. It won't solve the problem, but it will make all family events much easier to handle.

5Fake an illness

The next time your presence is required at your mother-in-law's house and you just can't bring yourself to sit through another dinner party filled with disapproving glances and thinly-veiled sarcasm, fake an illness so you don't have to attend. Tell your husband you just can't bear the thought of getting anyone else sick (especially his lovely mother), so you better stay home alone while he soldiers on without you. You'll have the house to yourself, an evening to relax and best of all, no one looking at you sideways when you eat more than one helping.

Tell us

Describe your mother-in-law in one word.


The good, the bad, the ugly

Here's how readers described their mother-in-laws on Facebook:

  • Detached
  • Ignorant
  • Clueless
  • Empathetic
  • Does "self-centered" count as one word?
  • Courageous
  • God-fearing
  • Decietful
  • Wonderful
  • AWESOME!!!!
  • Caring
  • Helpful
  • Talented
  • Ditzy
  • Lion-hearted
  • Beautiful
  • Vicious
  • Bi-polar
  • Fantastic
  • Drama
  • Supportive
  • Confusing
  • Shallow
  • Sweet
  • Selfish
  • Angelic

More on dealing with your mother-in-law >>

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Tags: mother-in-law

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Comments on "How to handle the mother-in-law from hell"

Losing the will to live March 20, 2014 | 5:50 PM

My future mother in law is destroying our life! After engagement she barges in and screams i have ruined the family then slaps my fiancé. Then threatens to kill me and is held back from attacking me. Refuses to go to the wedding as 'she doesn't believe in it' will go to the evening party 'just to see the family' and not to celebrate our wedding. Says that the entire family are ashamed of her son and has proceeded to turn all the nans against us. (who are ACTUALLY ---- stirring amongst us and others) yea, i also thought nans were little lovely ladies! Sometimes i feel so bad for my fiancé, that I just think shall i just leave and he can have his family back. If it wouldn't crush him, and also me, i would just leave. I love him to pieces, completely, but i just want the best for him, and this is evil. I have left my city to move to his town, buy a house with him and I know no one in this city apart from his family who all want me gone / dead. They are currently searching for snippets of me on the internet and sharing it around the family like character destroying gossip. I am completely sick of this! Narcissistic, egotistical, Jeremy kyle'esque --------!

Liz March 03, 2014 | 11:05 PM

I am literally afraid to go to sleep for fear my mother-in-law will tie me down and cut my kidney out in order to save her sick son.

Rose December 27, 2013 | 8:27 PM

MIL From heck, manipulative, twisted, self pittying, ungrateful, nothing is good enough, Name calling, rude, would be willing to break her own bone just to prove her point.. Would be willing to starve herself to prove a point, determined her life is the worst ever. Can't even get sick without her life being worse. I believe would hurt someone else if she could get away with it just to get the attention.. She's smart enough not to take it to a jail level. I believe mine is narcissistic, maybe psychotic. I have not seen any stories compared to mine. There should be a support group for this.

KLJ October 22, 2013 | 7:52 AM

Constantly plays the victim, takes no responsibility for her actions, blames me for everything, has no respect for me or my husband-she still tries to tell him what to do in his life! calls me all kinds of horrible names behind my back to my husband, but acts so nice to my face, I could go on and on. I've just got to the point now where I couldn't care less, I used to care, but she's not going to change and she is the one missing out on sharing things with us because of her crappy attitude.

Trisha matthams September 08, 2013 | 9:24 AM

All I can say is she's one nasty unthoughtful narrow-minded woman! Has it in for me, but in front of her son makes out she was glad to see me or talk to me but behind his back she's always pushing me out and her own grand kids.

jes August 19, 2013 | 7:59 AM

----, I have the worst fil and mil in the world. They are selfish and thinks the whole world revolves around them. Years ago when I had to attend my brother's wedding, knowing the plane was going to be delayed for 4hours. They left us at the airport (my 5yr old son and 9months old daughter). Now that the old guy was in hospital for over a month, their problem is our problem. The old woman doesn't know how to drive and she orders me around as though i have a turban on my head (free shuttle service). Every sunday we have to buy their groceries too because "he can't drive yet", the old woman didn't even ask me if i want to drive the old guy to his blood check up. She says "oh he will need to go do his blood check up, let me ask him when it is so you can drive him". What the f%ck is that? She doesn't know to ask people to help them but instead demand they put their lives on stand still to help them. Me and my husband only had a wedding with the justice of the peace because they don't like me and vice versa. So the husband told me that his dad have said to him after we were shortly married that he said "I'll accept her if you guys last three years +...". I think there is a god, now that he have so much health problems.

Gayle Livingston August 09, 2013 | 1:27 PM

I'm lucky that my future MIL lives all the way across the country. The biggest issue is her body odor. She works with farm animals all day and I guess only showers a couple of times a week. I can't get near her and her cooking makes me sick.

Jean July 19, 2013 | 5:23 AM

My Mother- in-law is a rude self centered individual. She has never liked me and I am fine with this.... I say for her lack of involvement with her granddaughters HER LOSS!!!!!!!

Karen July 16, 2013 | 5:41 AM

After years of dodging the Monster in Laws' Games and manipulations. My husband who can see what she does has supported my decision to only have bareable amounts of time with her. Which ends up being about once every two months. My partner will attend Christmas however our children and I will not. My partner can only bare a small amount of time there anyway before he misses us and comes homes. I put no pressure on him and he can choose for himself what he does but he knows that I need to keep myself safe and putting myself in her company is not keeping myself safe. I think it is terribly sad that her grand children miss out on a relationship with her because of how she treats me. However as my mother always said "you make your bed and now you have to lie in it".

brenda July 06, 2013 | 9:03 PM

I am a 63 year old my mother in law is 85 she has disrespected me my three grown children my eight grandchildren I was brought up with respect but if I had my life to do over I would of tell her the f u c k o f f she has put me thru hell the day I said I do and it is sad I just celebrated my 44 wedding anniversy to the most wonderful man in the world

Jaime June 27, 2013 | 8:53 PM

Ever seen the movie monster in law? I have two- two parents in a loveless marriage who are so jealous of their son's relationship that they become jealous and nasty. There favorite game is to interrupt me as if I never said anything ever time I speak, or complain that their son loves me more than them, I may be only 22, but I am already TERRIFIED that these people might be my child's grandparents someday. How could these two pathetic people lcreate someone so perfect? Perhaps he learned from their mistakes?

james June 14, 2013 | 5:06 AM

my sons mil is trying to get the children off him after his estranged wife died only seperated 5 months. She has money and is buying the law plus lying through her teeth. She is doing this as she cant have her own way. She was the main cause of the breakup

kim lawrence June 06, 2013 | 8:43 PM

MALISIOUS!!!! drug addict, theif, 2faced, user, low life, ect ect.. but my soon to b husband adores her n actually believes he owes her his life bc she raised him as a single parent.she has completely made him her sole care giver and when i came along 4 yrs ago her whole purpose in life is to rid him of me so she can go bk to living off him and guilt tripping him enough to actually leave his life behind, move in with her, and care for her as if he is the husband. (not n a gross incest way)he has done this both times we seperated and she has been low enough to hire prostitutes for him n set him up on dates, which he refuses, and becomes worse when we get back together. last week she actually stole my ipod and upon me raising hell about it to my guy she confessed to taking it bc she admitted to wanting to get under my skin bc she disapproves of me being with her son and he thanks her for returning it!! im actually thinking i no longer need to b with him bc he remains sweet to her and has done nothing to take up for me, not even confront her on this incident, and now has went out of town to work and she put me out on the streets literally with no where to go and im so tired of her and him doing nothing about how she does. im to thepoint of leaving him for good but wouldnt want to let her feel as if she won... outside of this huge problem we r perfect,, but the moment she enters our life this hate returns and damages our future. i dunno what to do anymore... he is a mommas boy but perfect for me outside of that... i love him i truly do but absolutely dispise her.. help please

Val January 21, 2013 | 1:21 PM

Snake!!!! She is so manipulative it's an artform. Too bad she couldn't put it to better use. Some of my many friends have called her "pure evil!"

diababsiefri December 29, 2012 | 12:09 PM

I can't believe the word,"manipulative" is not on the list.

Kendra July 23, 2012 | 3:17 PM

Oh mother-in-laws...gotta love them. For me, I just smile and nod and try not to let anything bother me. It's nice to know it seems everyone is in the same boat, haha, and one day we will be the dreaded mother in law ourselves!

regina baylon June 16, 2012 | 5:06 PM

This is a doozy! At least you'll be happy she's not this bad. My husband was in an explosion and had a trache, on I vs and lots of pain meds. He was incapacitated. My mil came to the hospital to stay and the 4th day she went off on me telling me she had been trying to break us up all these 18 years! Then she put her fists in my face and said she was going to kick my ass and I better watch my back. I told her I wasn't afraid of her, and how old was she anyways, like 12? I also said she was the worst mother and she kicked me out of the room. I had to call security. She said sorry later, then when I went home and called her to check on my husband she said she wasn't going to tell me anything and i should call the nurse! What a monster. She is bipolar and crraazzy, and doesn't care to learn from her mistakes. Now I will never trust her and my husband was so medicated he doesn't understand how I can't stand her soo much. At the time we needed her, she was the worst ever. So all you don't fret over the little annoying things, but speak up when it comes to abuse or they will keep hurting you.

Elizabeth June 11, 2012 | 11:29 PM

Oh to have a awesome sweet mother in law :( sigh.... Mine lives with us.. shes a SOUL SUCKING VAMPIRE. If i let it bother me i would be a nervous wreck. I just smile and walk hard as it is. Saying nothing is better than getting yourself into a argument that you are not going to win. I know it erks her to the max when i dont bite when she talks :D

brittany May 29, 2012 | 7:12 PM

horrible she hates me for no reason. Tryed to ruin my daughters first birth day..

TeresaSais July 21, 2011 | 9:18 PM

Unfortunately, we will have to add scandalous, toxic, vile, and DISGUSTING! Sad but true!

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