Just as there are toxic couples and mothers, there are also toxic daughters-in-law, although it is a figure that is rarely talked about, generally because family dynamics tend to be configured in such a way that the problem is ignored, since no one dares to address it directly for fear of making the situation even worse.
However, in the long term, things often get worse because a toxic daughter-in-law poisons relationships between parents and children, usually through passive-aggressive behaviors that end up generating tension within the family, spreading a veil of discomfort and frustration that sometimes ends up being sealed with a distancing.
Obviously, it is a painful and delicate situation, but in order to solve it and restore family harmony, it is necessary to start by recognizing the problem.
7 signs that indicate that you are facing a toxic daughter-in-law
A toxic daughter-in-law tends to have a narcissistic, selfish and insensitive side, especially with her mother-in-law, most of the time and without compelling reasons. In fact, even if she has the best mother-in-law in the world, this person will find a reason to criticize and even treat her badly.
1. She makes you feel like you’re not part of the family. Toxic daughters-in-law go out of their way to exclude their in-laws from the family dynamic, either through nasty comments to make them feel uncomfortable or by preventing them from being around on a day-to-day basis or even on special occasions. Subtly or more directly, she will try to make it clear that your presence irritates her and that you are not welcome.
2. She tries to control every detail. Toxic behavior in daughters-in-law unfolds through excessive control, which leaves no room for the rest of the family to make decisions or express their opinion. In fact, they not only try to control even the smallest details at home, but they can even try to control the way you dress, how you spend your money or the relationship with your son.
3. She adopts a selfish attitude. Behind the toxic behaviors of most people there is usually a selfish attitude. This inability to put herself in the shoes of others usually leads to “bipolarity”, so it is not surprising that your daughter-in-law is charming when she needs something, but once she gets it, she returns to her usual self-centered and manipulative attitude.
4. She disdains your opinions. One of the preferred weapons of toxic daughters-in-law is disdain and indifference. Therefore, it is likely that whenever you try to express your opinion on any family matter, she will try to ridicule you or belittle your ideas. In extreme cases, she might even pretend that you haven’t said anything or that you don’t even exist, ignoring your presence. That way she makes it clear that she may have married your son, but she don’t care for you.
5. She encourages differences and arguments over trifles. The strategy that a toxic daughter-in-law follows is to turn her partner against the parents. To do this, she highlights the differences and disagreements by adding more fuel to the fire. She will not let even the smallest detail go by, which she will use to generate discussions, often for inconsequential things. In the long run, it is likely that the disagreements and continuous arguments end up creating a distance between you and your son, a distance marked by resentment, frustration and mutual misunderstanding.
6. She manipulates, blames and becomes a victim. Many toxic daughters-in-law play the victim card to get their partner’s attention and blame their in-laws for their problems. They can be true masters of gaslighting as they manipulate events to appear in a more flattering light and cast shadows on others. Even when the evidence is against them, they will refuse to admit their mistakes and claim that you are making things up to make them look bad. It will always be your fault, never hers.
7. She is spreading falsehoods. Some toxic daughters-in-law don’t just twist the facts a bit, but go a step further by launching smear campaigns against in-laws, be it with their partner, family, friends, or even in the broader context of social networks. In the most extreme cases, they can make up lies to turn everyone against you and the worst thing is that sometimes they are so convincing that most people may end up believing them.
Basically, the main goal of toxic daughters-in-law is to hog all the love and attention from their partner. To do this, they will try to sow discord with their parents and family of origin, either by aggravating the conflicts, creating new points of contention or marking a distance. And they will not hesitate to manipulate, play the victim or even resort to emotional blackmail.
How to set healthy boundaries for a toxic daughter-in-law to restore family harmony?
First of all, it is important to remember that if your daughter-in-law exhibits toxic behaviors, it is also responsibility of your son to stop to it. When children assume a passive role, they themselves become victims of manipulation and exacerbate family conflict.
Obviously, resorting to recriminations and reproaches, or opening a crossfire, will not be very helpful as it will only serve to add more tension to the environment and often have the opposite effect: you will push your son away, simply because he feels unable to stop his partner and address the conflict directly.
Although the behaviors of a manipulative daughter-in-law can be hurtful, the ideal is to find your way to a more relaxed relationship, working to create a healthier family dynamic. It will help you to understand that such behavior is probably nothing personal – even if it appears to be. In fact, there are a thousand and one reasons why a daughter-in-law might try to turn her partner against her parents, and many of them have nothing to do with her in-laws.
For example, a daughter-in-law who is hostile to her mother-in-law might have competed for her mother’s attention when she was a child and now she sees her mother-in-law as just another competitor, but this time for her partner’s love. A daughter-in-law who felt rejected by her parents may be envious of her husband’s close relationship with his family of origin and may try to sabotage that closeness so she doesn’t have to face those unpleasant feelings.
In fact, on many occasions behind a toxic daughter-in-law there is an anxious and ambivalent attachment style, which means that deep down she is afraid that her partner will not love her or that he will abandon her, so she will try to keep your son tied. It is likely that she experiences fear and anguish in the face of separation, which is why she demand more intimacy, attention, and bonding with her partner. That means that while she may seem controlling and manipulative, she could actually be emotionally dependent.
It may also happen that this daughter-in-law has grown up with excessively critical parents, so that she has become a very critical person in turn. Even the feeling of not getting enough attention from a partner could make her in-laws the object on which to project her anger or frustration. In practice, the in-laws serve as a “punching bag” when problems in the relationship are not directly addressed, so that they are shifted to someone close. The cold and cutting attitude of a daughter-in-law could even be an insecure response for feeling excluded from the “family clan”.
Obviously, these explanations for toxic behavior are not an excuse and do not mean that you should passively endure it. However, trying to understand your daughter-in-law’s life history and why she behaves this way, might help you create a stronger bond. In fact, it’s a good idea to ask about her concerns about you. Ask her what is bothering her and what you can do to improve the relationship.
Take advantage of that moment to establish your red lines, those limits that you are not willing to let her cross for any reason. Explain it to her gently and lovingly while modeling the type of assertive communication you would like to maintain.
In any case, you should not let anger or fear of losing the bond with your son or grandchildren take over you. That will make you lose patience and see your daughter-in-law as an opponent, when in reality she shouldn’t be, since the truth is that these toxic behaviors reveal that she is the one who feels threatened by you.
In many cases, recognizing mutual vulnerabilities can serve to build bridges. After all, your daughter-in-law is also likely struggling with her own fears, insecurities, and responsibilities. In general, it’s better to avoid power struggles and try to bridge the gap by providing the respect and tolerance you expect. It is difficult, of course, but not impossible.