Stress is a powerful detractor from your health.
There are many sources of stress that range from physical stress from being tired or sick, to mental stress from financial concerns, to illness in yourself or a loved one, to psychological stress from exams or a relationship in your life.
Stress is an emotional reaction to a situation that leaves you frustrated due to limited or poor options – and it can be a force of toxicity in your life.
Stress can lead to decreased health and to the destabilization of relationships.  With the divorce rate in North America estimated at 60%, it is interesting to note that at least 20% of those divorces or breakups, comes from fighting about Mother-in-Laws.
Statistically speaking, 80% of Mother-in-laws are GREAT, and 20% of them are ….. slightly LESS than great.  Of those 20% “less than great” Mother-in-laws, about 3/4 of them are the Mother of the Male and 1/4 of them are the Mother of the Female.
Interestingly, at least 20% of all “moves” in young couples are done specifically to get away from a Mother-in-Law.
I remember a funny show on TV that was run by Jim Henson’s muppets about 20 years ago.  The Father Dinosaur, Earl, described a much celebrated holiday among Father Dinosaurs, called “hurling day”.  This was the day that you get to hurl your Mother-in-Law into a Tar Pit.  Older Dinosaurs that got to do the act, reminisced about it fondly, while younger Dinosaurs were counselled to “get just the right trajectory” by their older brethren.
Sorry to disappoint, but before you schedule plane tickets to take your Mother-in-law on a “Free Holiday” to Los Angeles to “visit the La Brea tar pits”, you must know that Hurling Day was a factitious holiday that was made up by the writers of that very entertaining TV show.
So, in absence of the “Hurling Day” option, what is one to do?
FIRST:  Start with recognizing if your Mother-in-Law is a “Toxic In-law”.  Often, a Toxic In-law is Narcissistic, but may suffer from a range of personality disorders from Borderline to Narcissistic.  The latter is growing in frequency, however, with the epidemic of Narcissism in our Society – so having some familiarity with the concept of Narcissism can be helpful.
Here is the recipe for how to deal with a Toxic Mother-In-Law:
1)  Meditate on it in a room by yourself, free of distractions.  Allow yourself to feel the range of emotions that are coursing through you: rage, hurt, sorrow, sadness, frustration, etc.  Let all the feelings course over you, and cry if you need you.  Give yourself time and permission to do this until the emotional pressure is less intense and you have the ability to be more intellectual and dispassionate about the issue.
 
2) Try an empathetic approach to see if it possible for you to try to understand the perspective of your Mother-in-law.  Few of us are perfect angels, and even fewer of us are capable of seeing the “warts” on our backsides that can be so apparent to others, but invisible to ourselves.
Has your Mother-in-Law suffered a “loss” since you came into the picture?  Could your Mother-in-law being grieving what she perceives to be a loss of quite possibly the most important relationship of her life?  Has your Mother-in-Law experienced a “loss of power” that she was accustomed to as the Family Matriarch?  This kind of loss can be scary and painful for someone that has shepherded their family through tough times.
3) Ask yourself if you may be contributing in some way to the problem.  Are you cool and aloof with your Mother-in-Law, perhaps in relation to your own resentment, insecurities or vastly different Family Culture?  It may be that your own actions are being reflected back at you, setting in motion a toxic positive feedback loop that you have the power to interrupt.  You owe it to yourself to at least consider this.
4) Be at peace.  Realize that you don’t need to be liked by your Mother-in-law.  You may never be liked by them, and you need to be prepared to be at peace with that reality.  Believe it or not – that one acceptance alone, can decrease your stress immensely.
5) Be resolved to take a position.  If you find that your Mother-in-Law is a constant source of negativity and stress in your life, your relationship with your Spouse or partner and perhaps even in the lives of your kids – allow yourself to define your limits.  Define where you will draw the lines in the sand, what poor treatment you will allow and what you will not allow – and keep that line solid and unwavering.  It is perfectly OK to allow absolutely no bad treatment, EVER.  Just be RESOLVED about your limits.
6) Talk to your Spouse or Partner, and describe your feelings about the situation.  Ask to be listened to.  They will often be defensive, so ask them to not defend their Mother – but to simply listen to you without comment.  Then – tell them that you do not want their defence of their Mother’s position.
Quite frankly – any Mother-in-law that is mistreating you, cannot be defended.  Their actions are simply indefensible.  No more discussion about that will ever be more than waste of time and emotional energy – so don’t bother.
7) Think about what you want.
This is the tough one.
You may WANT your Mother-in-law to be shocked, embarrassed and sorry about her behaviour….to wrap her arms around you and to beg your forgiveness with a promise to forever thereafter, consider you as one of her own children, to be loved unconditionally, supported and celebrated as one of the best things to ever happen to her.
But THAT will probably NOT happen.
You should be prepared to settle for a “cold war” if you need to.  No love lost between you and your Mother-in-law, but an END to active and passive hostilities.  Time may fix your relationship with her over the following years, but it may not.  You should be at peace with this.  Quite frankly, your Mother-in-Law will get older and perhaps mellow out a bit.  One guarantee that may bring you peace:  she is almost CERTAIN to die before you and your Spouse or partner!
8) Talk frankly to your Spouse or Partner.  Tell them how you feel and what you expect of them.  The fact that their Mother is hostile to you may not be their fault, but it IS and ALWAYS WILL BE their RESPONSIBILITY.  If your Spouse or Partner disagrees with this, then your relationship with them will probably be doomed to eventual failure.  Quite frankly, if they disagree with this – they don’t deserve you.
9) Above all: NEVER IGNORE YOUR OWN HEALTH OR WELL BEING.  Eat well, sleep well and focus on a great relationship with your Spouse and Kids.  Never let your Narcissistic in-law adversely affect your relationships with your spouse and kids, no matter what.  Don’t be afraid to recruit a counsellor to help you out.  Simply google Family Counsellors or Psychologists in your area and interview 2 or 3 of them to help you through this.  It need not be a long and involved thing.
Talk to your spouse and get them to join you in accepting the diagnosis of your toxic in-law.  Then, make a pact with them: which involves “Family First”, and the toxic in-law last.  Develop clear lines in the sand that you can both agree on – as well as clear consequences when the toxic in-law crosses those lines.
10) Be prepared.  If you married a spouse who is hopelessly under the toxic spell of a toxic parent – you have to draw a line in the sand of your own.  Give them clear expectations and clear consequences.  Staying in a toxic relationship that has no hope of improvement is a waste of a life.  It is not always a terrible thing for a marriage to end – especially a marriage hopelessly rooted in toxicity.
But if you’re contemplating leaving your marriage because of a toxic in-law – take heed:  you have to EARN YOUR WAY OUT.  This means that you owe it to yourself, your kids and your spouse to do as much as possible to get things fixed – until you have exhausted all options.  Only then can you be at peace in talking to a lawyer to make plans to dissolve the relationship.
You should completely expect your Spouse or Partner to keep their Mother in line, and to be extremely unforgiving of their Mother’s poor behaviour towards you….to the point of cutting ties completely if necessary.  If kids are involved, you cannot allow your toxic mother-in-law to treat you poorly in front of them – ever.  If they do this, you must cut ties with them immediately and to inform them why you will not let them see their grandkids again until they can guarantee proper behaviour.
The toxic Mother-in-Law may spout of statements about the movement of “grandparents’ rights” that are increasingly legislated in various Provinces and States in North America.  For this reason, be prepared to document – with details – exactly why your toxic in-law should not have access to your kids.  Be as specific a possible with real life documented and dated examples.
This has been a general synopsis of how to handle a “toxic in-law” situation.  One of the most important pieces of advice above is to ensure that you take great care of yourself through all of the stressful situations that you are likely to encounter on your journey to dealing with the problem.
Good nutrition is a very important part of the equation, and keep JP VITALE in mind as an excellent option for a premium Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement!
Toxic Inlaws

Dr. John Fernandes

B.Sc., M.Sc., M.D., LMCC, CCFP, FCPC Clinical Lecturer, University of Calgary I am a Physician with over a decade of experience in my own Private Clinic as well as a full admitting Physician to a Tertiary Care Hospital in Calgary. Married with two daughters that both want to be Physicians as well. Hobbies include skiing, golf, mountain biking and Karate.

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