Have you ever had a daughter-in-law who just seemed off? Has there been increasing tension and clashes escalating between the two of you?
Maybe she is excessively critical of your son or even downright disrespectful to your entire family. It’s normal for any family to experience challenges, but if the friction is overwhelming, it could be a sign of a toxic personality.
It’s not uncommon for relationships between in-laws to become strained. However, it’s essential to recognize the signs of her toxicity early on to better approach her behavior and avoid further family drama.
Here are key signs to look out for along with effective ways to deal with a toxic daughter-in-law:
Janet Santiago, LCSW, CCTP, C-DBT
Certified Clinical Trauma Professional | Behavioral Health Program Director, Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida
If you have ever Googled “signs of a toxic daughter-in-law,” chances are every article you see online says the same things about toxic daughters-in-law:
- They try to manipulate you.
- They cut off contact with your child and grandchildren.
- They talk bad about you behind your back.
Basically, they do all the things that adolescent bullies do.
There’s one thing most families have in common: In-law troubles. When two people come together to create their own circle, it can be hard for those left outside to accept, especially if the parent being left out is used to being the leader.
So how do you know whether your daughter-in-law is toxic, or just you struggling to let go?
Observe her without judgment. It’s essential to be aware of how she interacts with others, especially when she thinks you’re not looking. This will be the true indicator of her toxicity because it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with who she is as a person.
So, what are those signs?
She’s codependent on her partner
In her mind, your child belongs to her. Your child is the other piece of her, and she cannot be without them. She struggles with sharing their love and attention with anyone else, even their own children, and will pout and whine to ensure your child only focuses on her.
Power and control are very important to her
She will always want to be the one who determines:
- How the family dresses.
- What the family eats.
- Where they go for vacations.
- How they handle their finances.
- Whose family they spend their time with, and on and on.
She’ll make it seem like she is very structured and organized, the perfect mom who’s got it all together. In reality, she is ensuring that she has full control over every aspect of her family’s lives, and she will be damned if she allows you to change that.
She’s never wrong when they argue
She can always make your child feel like they’re at fault and can never do anything right. Even if your child is justified in their feelings and behaviors, she will find a way to spin the argument so that it appears she was right all along.
And forget about apologies; if you’re lucky enough to get one, it will usually be a half-hearted excuse or dismissal during which she will still maintain that she was “technically not wrong.”
She’s negative and judgmental
She’s cynical in her views and rigid in her beliefs. She’s two-faced with people. She’ll act pleasant when in the company of others, and then, as soon as they’re gone, she’ll start tearing them down or sharing things about them that she shouldn’t be sharing.
She can never genuinely be happy for others and will usually point out any flaws she can in an effort to diminish or taint the other person’s achievements and happiness.
She’s always a victim
She acts like she has no control over her life and is completely unaware of how she creates her own circumstances — she has no insight. Everyone is always out to get her or doing her wrong in some way.
She fails to see the common denominator in all of her conflictual relationships: herself.
How to deal with your toxic daughter-in-law
So, how do you deal with a toxic daughter-in-law without damaging your relationship with your own child?
- Remember that it’s not about you. She’s toxic because she’s toxic. If you personalize it, you’ll become defensive and contribute to the conflict.
- Try not to react or offer unsolicited advice. She doesn’t want to hear it anyway, and it’s just going to lead to an argument.
- Strengthen your relationship with your child and grandchildren. Make sure there are no cracks in the relationship that she could take advantage of.
- Stay in your lane but set your boundaries. You can’t get involved in your child’s relationship, but it is your responsibility to make sure that everyone is safe.
- Stay empathetic and hopeful. If you allow her toxicity to make you cold and negative, she’s won.
Remember, your child is living in her darkness; be the light in their life, and hopefully, they’ll make the right choices for themselves. If not, at least they know that no one is getting rid of you, and you’ve always got their back!
Annemarie Lafferty, CECP
Neuro-emotional Therapy Specialist | Owner, Healing Within Wellness
When a child marries, we, the parents, wish them the brightest future and come to love our “child-in-law” simply because we love who our children love. There must be something special about them that shines brighter than the rest, and hopefully, we accept the person our child has brought into the family.
I always say not to ignore our inner voice or that gut instinct. Take time to get to know your new family member but also don’t dismiss certain circumstances that can be detrimental to one’s mental and physical health.
First impressions matter. I didn’t say first judgments!
First impressions are that gut instinct that says a lot about an interaction:
- Was it warm and friendly?
- Are they grounded in who they are?
- Do they have goals and plans to grow and better themselves and those closest to them?
- What is their body language?
These are gauges to compare to when things come up that show another side to a situation.
She shows co-dependent behaviors
Codependency stems from low self-esteem, possible jealousy, and low self-worth.
People who struggle with these underlying issues become more dependent on those around them for their happiness and self-identity. This becomes an issue when one person in the relationship hinders the growth and sociability of the spouse.
The other spouse becomes limited in their quality of life because the toxic spouse can compete for attention, isolate the healthy spouse by using guilt and shame as leverage, and use gaslighting techniques — phrases that make the healthy spouse question themselves.
She may have the ambition to make everyone around her miserable
A toxic daughter-in-law may have zero ambition or ambition to make everyone around them miserable. The saying “Misery loves company” can be true if their moods and self-talk are diminishing themselves or causing the room they enter to become dark and oppressive.
Toxic people emit toxic energy and toxic thoughts, so clue in to how to speak over you and the impact their thoughts and words have in your circles.
You feel like your life is being sucked out of you
Another sign of a toxic daughter-in-law is if the people closest to them feel like “the life is being sucked out of them.”
- Do those family members who were once active and vibrant become repetitively sick or get weakened immune system?
- Are they missing work or not participating in their regular activities?
- Does the toxic spouse leave for periods of time, and the environment becomes temporarily happier and lighter?
- Do the thoughts running through your mind change to positive ones and then turn back to “gloomy” when she gets home?
- Do even your animals and pets act differently when she is not around?
These are small observations to make because negative people will tarnish their environment, intentionally or unintentionally. We all come from varying backgrounds, and what is tolerated and accepted in one family may not be the norm in another.
Her belief systems were not properly communicated
Belief systems carry a lot of weight in families and need to be debunked.
An example is, “Everyone in my family is broke and poor.” This thinking and belief will weigh heavily in a marriage, and the healthy spouse may wonder where all their money goes!
Another belief is, “No one in my family went to college, so neither will I.” This limited thinking will weigh heavily on the husband, who may have to work extra jobs to pay for the couple since the wife isn’t pursuing jobs with a higher pay scale.
“He will take care of me” is the outdated philosophy that a man has to support the wife at all costs; she is home and perfectly capable of a life outside the home, but she chooses to be a drain on him.
Open communication about expectations within a marriage, whether toxic or not, is advised to keep the marital trajectory in a healthy direction.
What to do with a toxic daughter-in-law:
Explore flags and resentments further
Become curious while in their presence and ask them why do they feel a certain way and how long they have felt this way.
Maybe no one has taken the time to ask, but flags or resentments need to be further explored. Bring it to their attention and, if necessary, set family boundaries on what will be acceptable for your family.
Cynthia King, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist | Founder, FemFwd
She tries to put you in the middle of the conflict she’s having in her marriage with your kid
Having a toxic daughter-in-law can feel particularly troublesome, as issues with her can lead to issues with your kid (her partner). More often than not, the in-laws just let it slide out of fear they’ll lose access to their child and grandchildren if they rock the boat.
While this is usually a successful short-term solution, it doesn’t solve the long-term problem of having a dysfunctional relationship deeply embedded within the family system.
Signs of a toxic daughter-in-law:
- She uses disrespectful communication (i.e., name-calling, gaslighting, yelling, stonewalling, etc.).
- She assigns blame to others.
- She tries to put you in the middle of the conflict she is having in her marriage with your kid.
- She is highly critical.
- Her need to be right overrules other people’s feelings.
- She is defensive.
- She is not willing to take ownership or apologize.
- She is dishonest.
- She is highly reactive.
- She is not willing to include you, or when she does include you, it’s only because it benefits her.
How you feel when you are with her can also clue you into whether or not she is toxic.
For example, warning signs might include the following:
- You often feel like you’re walking on eggshells when you are with her.
- You are hesitant to tell her how you actually feel or what you actually think.
- You are resentful of her.
How to deal with a toxic daughter-in-law:
Use assertive communication
Assertive communication is clear, respectful, honest, and direct. It does not include beating around the bush or using unkind words.
For example, “When you raise your voice, I feel nervous. I’m not willing to engage with you if you are going to yell.”
Set limits and express those limits to her
Set limits and express those limits using assertive communication.
For example, “I am not comfortable hearing about the issues you and my son are having in such detail.”
Do not fall into the trap of being overly accommodating with her
If you find yourself thinking a lot about how to go about things so that your daughter-in-law stays happy or doesn’t start acting out, you’re being overly accommodating, which is reinforcing her behavior.
Don’t design what you say or an event with her interests or well-being at the center. Instead, treat her with the same level of respect and concern that you would anybody else.
Display loving actions and words
Most of the time, toxic people have had hard upbringings or even abusive childhoods. Model what it is like to be loving and let her know that you care about her, even when she is being difficult.
Take breaks at family functions when she is present
If you notice you are getting worked up due to her behaviors, take a break. Go to the bathroom and do some breathing, take the dog out, or go for a short walk.
Model healthy communication
No matter what she says or how she behaves, model healthy and assertive communication.
Most importantly, maintain a strong relationship with your kid.
Andrea Brognano, LMHC, LPC, NCC
Licensed Clinician, Choosing Therapy
Below are examples of signs that a daughter-in-law is toxic:
She shares her frustration without expressing directly and openly
A toxic daughter-in-law may demonstrate passive-aggressive behavior, such as sharing aggression or frustration without expressing directly and openly about how one is feeling or communicating needs.
She demonstrates manipulative behavior
Another toxic trait is manipulative behavior, such as not making time for in-laws and only spending time with their own immediate family. She may also make up reasons that the couple cannot spend time with the partner’s family.
She doesn’t validate your feelings
Dismissive behavior may be experienced by an in-law wanting to share their feelings while the daughter-in-law replies with her own feelings instead of validating others.
You have constant arguments with her
Constant yelling and arguments may present in the relationship, especially over more trivial items in one’s life.
She may encourage her partner to communicate with you less
A toxic daughter-in-law may encourage their partner to have less communication with their own parents.
Here are some actionable steps if you have a toxic daughter-in-law:
Have a discussion with her outside the heat of the argument
Speak directly with her outside the heat of an argument. Explain you want some time together to discuss how you feel and the impact it is on your relationship.
Talk to your son about your relationship with her: Its impact and changes
Speak with your child about how the impact of the relationship has been on the two of you and what changes you have noticed. Be clear with examples and avoid conversing in an attacking manner.
Avoid comparing her to other family members
Do not compare her to other family members, especially other daughters-in-law. Your relationship with each person is different.
Don’t give her any power to manipulate further
Learn to recognize the pattern of behavior and your response to this. Be sure not to do anything that gives her the ability to have any power to manipulate further.
Ketan Parmar, MD, MBBS, DPM
Psychiatrist and Mental Health Expert, ClinicSpots
She shows signs of disrespect
Unhealthy daughters-in-law may show signs of disrespect in several ways.
They might not address their spouse’s parents by their proper titles or refuse to treat them as adults. They may also ignore or belittle the opinions and advice given by their in-laws, speaking to them in an overly patronizing manner.
In extreme cases, they may even engage in verbal abuse and name-calling against family members.
She refuses to compromise
A toxic daughter-in-law may be unwilling to compromise on issues that arise in the relationship. She may insist on getting her way and refuse to budge regarding disagreements or disputes with family members.
This can lead to a lot of hurt feelings and resentment, as other members of the family feel they are not being listened to or taken seriously.
She displays signs of jealous behavior
A toxic daughter-in-law may display signs of jealousy toward her partner’s family. She may try to isolate her spouse from his parents and siblings by discouraging contact or physical closeness between them.
She may also become competitive about who has more time with the children and make it difficult for anyone else to spend quality time with them without her involvement.
She creates constant drama
Toxic daughters-in-law may create drama in the family by conjuring up arguments and constantly stirring the pot. This can lead to much tension and stress within the family, as everyone is left feeling frustrated and confused about what is going on.
How to deal with a toxic daughter-in-law:
Although it can be difficult, there are ways to cope with a toxic daughter-in-law that can help keep peace within the family unit.
Communication is key; keep a level head during an argument
It’s important to remember that no matter how hard it might seem, communication is key when dealing with difficult people. Establishing boundaries and keeping a level head during confrontations can help to reduce the intensity of an argument.
Be patient to de-escalate any potential drama
Furthermore, it’s important to be patient and understanding in order to de-escalate any potential drama before it starts. If all else fails, seeking professional help is always an option.
The most important thing to remember is that no matter how hard it might seem, a toxic daughter-in-law doesn’t have to take over your family life. With communication, patience, and understanding, you can learn how to navigate the relationship in a healthy way for everyone involved.
Senior Editor, Tandem
I am one of the fortunate ones who have a great mother-in-law. She is kind and considerate, and she treats me equally to how she treats her son.
Unfortunately, many don’t have the same type of relationship with their in-law. On top of that, though movies and TV shows lead us to believe that it’s always the mother-in-law with all the problems, this isn’t necessarily true.
A daughter-in-law can be just as, if not more, toxic than anyone else. What are some signs of a toxic daughter-in-law, and, more importantly, how can someone deal with her?
Signs of a toxic daughter-in-law can include:
She is selfish
You had hoped that your son or daughter would marry the perfect wife who would do everything in her power to make him or her happy. But from what you can see, this isn’t what is happening.
Instead, you witness the wife making plans without considering existing plans or others’ feelings, which shows that she only truly cares about herself.
She redirects blame
Someone who can’t accept the blame for anything is showing signs of toxicity.
When the laundry detergent runs out, it’s her spouse’s fault that she wasn’t reminded about it or because they didn’t automatically buy more. Or maybe when she can’t find a babysitter, it’s your fault that you aren’t available to watch your grandchildren.
She is disrespectful
She might be disrespectful to you, your son, or even to strangers. When someone disrespects others, this can signify a toxic person.
Granted, if the two of you recently fought and she is still angry, then some disrespect (intentional or not) might happen. But when it is something occurring all of the time, this indicates there is an issue.
She has unpredictable emotions
Yesterday, the two of you went out to lunch alone, and you seemed to have an amazing time. Now that the lunch is over and it’s the next day, she is treating you like Cinderella was treated by her stepfamily. If she has unpredictable emotions, this might be telling you something.
Now that you know what some signs of a toxic daughter-in-law can be, how can you deal with her?
Nicely remind her that others have feelings
Did she make plans without thinking of the rest of the family? Nicely remind her that maybe there is a way where you all can go out together. Even if she doesn’t change the plans she just made, she might realize she was being selfish and may make additional and more accommodating plans.
Related: How to Be Less Selfish?
Lead by example
The behavior she portrays might be due to how she was raised. She might not realize that it’s inappropriate to never take any blame. Show her that it’s okay to make mistakes and to own up to them.
If she sees you exhibiting behavior and not receiving a negative impact from it, hopefully, she’ll realize that it’s encouraged for her to do the same.
Respect everyone, including her
I’ve always said I don’t care if a person is 8, 18, or 80. I respect all people, regardless of their age. Age is just a number, and everyone deserves respect.
Again, you should lead by example. You should be respectful and possibly even overly kind when she is around. Maybe by doing this, you will rub off on her a little.
Realize that being unpredictable is what you can predict from her
This is easier said than done. Still, try not to take it personally each time she is kind to you one day but not as kind the next.
Many reasons can be behind this behavior. If you can, sit down with her and calmly talk about it. She might be letting her emotions out on you without even realizing it.
It can be hard when your child is married to someone you think isn’t all that nice. When your children were growing up, you only wanted to see them get older, find partners, and be happy.
Even if your daughter-in-law is toxic towards you, you can hope that she doesn’t act the same way toward her spouse. Just because she needs to act toxically doesn’t mean that you do. Though it can be difficult to deal with, try to put on a smiling face and be the bigger person.
Founder and CEO, Impact Recovery Center
She is controlling and demanding
A toxic daughter-in-law may demand more from her in-laws than necessary. She may also try to control their decisions, opinions, and behavior. She might pressure them to do things against their will or act in ways that make them uncomfortable.
She tries to create division between family members
A toxic daughter-in-law may try to create a divide between family members by causing arguments, telling lies, or spreading gossip. She might talk badly about other family members or encourage her spouse to take her side in an argument, even if it’s wrong.
Related: How to Deal With a Negative Spouse
She is critical and judgmental
A toxic daughter-in-law may be overly critical of her in-laws or other family members. She may make negative comments about them or their lifestyle choices, and she may judge them for things that are out of their control.
If you’re dealing with a toxic daughter-in-law, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to put up with her behavior.
Here are some tips for handling the situation:
Talk to her about the issues in a calm and respectful manner
Explain how her words or actions impact other family members and let her know that her behavior is unacceptable.
Set boundaries with her
Let her know what behaviors you will and won’t accept from her, and make sure she is aware of any consequences if she crosses these boundaries.
Seek support from other family members or friends
It can be helpful to talk to someone who is not personally involved in the situation so they can offer an objective perspective.
Consider professional help if needed
If your daughter-in-law’s behavior has a serious impact on your family or if you’re unable to resolve the situation on your own, it may be helpful to seek the help of a therapist or counselor.
Make sure other family members are aware of the situation and support each other
It’s important that everyone in the family is on the same page when dealing with a toxic daughter-in-law. Make sure everyone is aware of the issues and that they support each other through the process.
By following these tips, you can begin to take control of the situation and create a safe environment where all family members feel respected. With patience and understanding, it’s possible to manage even the most difficult relationships.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do if my son is being influenced by his toxic daughter-in-law?
If you are concerned that your son is being negatively affected by his toxic daughter-in-law, it is important to approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Here are some tips:
Talk to your son: Try to have an open and honest conversation with your son about your concerns. Express your feelings in a non-confrontational way, and avoid being accusatory or critical.
Be supportive: If your son feels torn between his loyalty to you and his wife, it is important to be supportive and understanding. Encourage him to work on his relationship with his wife, but also let him know that you are there for him no matter what.
Set boundaries: If you feel your son is being overly influenced by his wife, it may be necessary to set boundaries and tell him what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. Be clear and firm, but also try to be understanding of his situation.
Seek professional help: If the situation is particularly complex or difficult, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of a therapist or counselor specializing in family dynamics.
How can I prevent my own behavior from contributing to the problem?
It’s important to remember that toxic relationships are often a two-way street, and it’s possible that your own behavior may be contributing to the problem. Here are some tips on how to prevent your own behavior from making the situation worse:
Practice empathy: Try to see things from your daughter-in-law’s perspective and understand why she may be behaving in a certain way. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with her, but it can help build a more compassionate and understanding relationship.
Be respectful: Treat your daughter-in-law with the same respect and courtesy you’d like to be treated. Avoid criticism or negative comments, and try to focus on positive interactions.
Set boundaries: It is important to set boundaries and let your daughter-in-law know what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Be clear and concise, but also try to show understanding of her situation.
Seek support: Dealing with a toxic daughter-in-law can be emotionally draining, and it’s important to seek support. Seek the guidance of a therapist, trusted friend, or support group if you are struggling to cope.
Practice self-reflection: Take time to think about your own behavior and how it may have contributed to the problem. Be open to feedback from others and be willing to change it if necessary.
How do I know whether I am overreacting or not?
It is important not to ignore signs of toxicity in relationships; rather than jumping straight into action, take some time to consider whether the situation really warrants intervention or whether it would be more productive/appropriate to address it at another time (or not at all).
Talk openly with the people closest to you, such as friends or family members, who may be able to tell you objectively how best to proceed.
What can I do if my daughter-in-law refuses to change her behavior?
If your daughter-in-law is unwilling to change her behavior, it may be necessary to take more drastic measures to protect your own well-being. Here are some options you can consider:
Limit contact: If your daughter-in-law’s behavior is causing you significant distress, it may be necessary to limit contact or take a break from the relationship. This can help reduce the emotional strain and allow you to focus on your well-being.
Seek professional help: If the situation is particularly complex or difficult, seeing a therapist or counselor specializing in family dynamics may be helpful. They can help you navigate the situation and develop coping strategies.
Involve your son: If your son is willing to intervene, he may be able to help improve the situation. Encourage him to talk to his wife and voice his concerns, or consider involving a neutral third party, such as a therapist or mediator.
Practice self-care: Dealing with a toxic daughter-in-law can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. It’s important to prioritize self-care and take time for yourself through exercise, meditation, or other activities you enjoy.
Accept the situation: While it can be difficult to accept that the relationship may not improve, it is important to recognize that you cannot change other people’s behavior. Focus on finding peace and happiness in other areas of your life, and try to let go of any anger or resentment toward your daughter-in-law.
Can the behavior of a toxic daughter-in-law’ be influenced by cultural or generational differences?
Yes, cultural or generational differences can sometimes play a role in the behavior of a toxic daughter-in-law. For example, if she comes from a culture where the daughter-in-law is expected to be submissive to her husband’s family, she may feel resentful or overwhelmed by these expectations.
Similarly, if there is a significant age gap between the daughter-in-law and her in-laws, different values or expectations may also cause tension. It is important to approach the situation with an open mind and be willing to understand and respect the other person’s perspective.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?