What to Do When Your Mother-in-Law Hates You | 13 Helpful Things to Do

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  • Difficult and horrible mother in laws can be a pain in any marriage. In this article, we show you all the signs your mother in law doesn’t like you, signs of a controlling mother in law, and how to deal with mother in laws who are hateful, controlling, toxic and selfish.

Relationships with the in-laws can be a tricky affair sometimes. One never knows what to expect from their spouse’s family when they get married. So sticky is it that according to a 2015 survey from the U.K if you as a son or daughter-in-law happened to be a politician, you will most likely have a more difficult time with your in-laws because they will not be as welcoming. Take a look at the chart to see what professions the parent-in-laws surveyed found acceptable and to their taste.

An ideal son/daughter-in-law? Anything but a politician. (U.K., 2015, 1756 respondents). Source: Statista

An ideal sondaughter-in-law Anything but a politician. (U.K., 2015, 1756 respondents)

Here in the States, we don’t have a similar survey at the time of writing, although it is a known fact that some parents-in-law look down on their son or daughter-in-law because they consider what they do beneath their son and/or daughter.

According to another survey seen on Fatherly.com, it would seem that daughters in law have a harder time with the inlaws than sons in law. And in the same survey, it also showed that when it came specifically to the relationship with the mother in law, it seems that both men and women are not that far apart in the extent to which they do not get along with their mother in law (although the relationship with the father in law was not much different either).

Women experience higher rates of in-law related stress than men. Source: Fatherly.com

Women experience higher rates of in-law related stress than men. (2016)

How men and women rate their relationship with their in-laws. Source: Fatherly.com

How men and women rate their relationship with their in-laws. (2016)

What then causes this acrimony and rift between mother in law and her son or daughter in law, and how can you navigate this torturous terrain if you happen to find yourself on it. Those are the questions this article will help you to answer. In this article, we will be showing you signs that one of your in-laws, your mother-in-law, may not like/hate you, signs that she may be a controlling mother in law, and what you should do in each of those circumstances of a bad relationship with your mother in law.

Why Does My Mother In Law Hate Me?

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Hate is a strong word and conveys a deep feeling of resentment and dislike for another person. And we can understand the hurt and frustration behind this question because before meeting and marrying your spouse, you never knew your mother in law otherwise. And so, it is hard to fathom why she would have a deep resentment for you if she did not know you before now. But the reality is that it is indeed the case that mother in laws can hate or dislike their sons or daughters in law.

And it is hard to understand or know the real reason(s) why some mother in laws decide to deeply resent and dislike their son or daughter in law or take issues with them. And that is why this is a question that only the mother in law in question can answer.

For some, it could be that they look down on what the son or daughter in law does, and think or believe that their child deserves better, as the above chart from the U.K shows. This sometimes happens in families where wealth and status are important to the parents in law.

For others, they may just be biased against the heritage of their son or daughter in law, as sometimes happens in interracial marriages.

For others, it could just be their personal preferences of what they think an ideal spouse for their child or children should look like. And if you don’t seem to fit that bill, then they take a disliking to you.

Whichever of these reasons are, ultimately, it is only your mother in law who knows, and it is only her that can tell you what exactly her reasons are for hating or disliking you.

14 Signs Your Mother In Law Doesn’t Like You Or Hates You.

If you have a gut feeling that your mother in law doesn’t like you, or in extreme cases, that she hates you and is just plain horrible to you, you are probably not wrong in that gut feeling. And if there’s anything the last two charts from the survey on Fatherly.com shows, is that you are not alone in that ship. But to put your mind at complete ease and assure you that you’re not imagining it, these are the top 14 signs your mother in law doesn’t like you or hates you.

1. She is dismissive and ignores you.

She could do this in several ways. She could be deliberately and intentionally doing something else when you are speaking with her, to make it clear that she is not listening to you. Or sometimes, she may just cut you off mid-sentence or never allow you to complete sentences without interjecting with her own “great” ideas. At other times, you may say something and she completely ignores it and continues speaking about other things as if you had said nothing.

Such actions are clear indicators of resentment and dislike that is hatred or borders on hatred.

2. She goes out of her way to undermine or embarrass you in front of people.

She could do this at family gatherings in front of her other children and their spouses, or anywhere in public where your path and hers cross. She could do this by passing remarks and comments to berate you and show you as an incompetent or stupid person.

3. She leaves you out of family events.

And she may claim to have conveniently “forgotten” to send your invite. Once may be believable, but if this happens severally, then you can be sure that it is no accident but a deliberate act on her part. Another variant of this is to invite your spouse and leave you out. This is another sure sign that she despises and can’t stand being around you especially when it’s her turf at family gatherings.

4. She likes to discuss your spouse’s exes.

For some reason, she can’t seem to stop herself from bringing up your spouse’s previous partners before you came along. It seems like you are the one who has come between her and the ideal son or daughter in law she thought she could have had. This is not only rude, but it is also disrespectful. If this persists, call her out on it as respectfully as possible and make it clear that you are not your spouse’s ex and do not appreciate being compared to them. Also, take the issue up with your spouse for them to talk to their mother to refrain from doing such.

You can also read our related article on What to do when people don’t respect you for more useful tips on what to do when your mother in law is being disrespectful to you.

5. She subtly takes digs at your heritage.

This especially happens in interracial marriages where the mother in law does not approve of the fact that their child married someone of a different race. She may take to making subtle digs at your heritage. This is also very rude, disrespectful and a disappointing unwarranted bias. Call out her bias if you feel this is the case and ask her if she has a problem with people of your heritage. She is likely to deny it but calling her out on it will make her aware that you know what she’s doing, and this will make her tread with caution.

Talk to your spouse about it too and ask him/her to defend you if they don’t do so. Indeed, your spouse is not supposed to let that happen without admonishing your mother in law about it and making it clear that that is not okay under any circumstance.

6. She is subtly rude, condescending, and patronizing in the way she speaks and interacts with you.

You can tell when someone is being patronizing, condescending, and rude when they speak to you. They talk down on you and adopt a know-it-all attitude like you are daft and know nothing. When she interacts and speaks to you in that manner, she is trying to reduce you to size and assert her superiority.

Knowing who you are and being confident in yourself, you don’t need to engage her or acknowledge this because this is more a reflection of who she is and has nothing to do with you and who you know you are. As we will show you in the next section, some of these battles are just not worth it.

7. She says mean and unkind words to you when you’re alone with her.

Because she wants to be seen as the paragon of perfection and excellence, she will never come out directly to say these mean and unkind words to you except when she’s alone with you in private.

8. She leaves out photos of you and your spouse together in the photos displayed around the house.

This is even more telling if she has photos of your spouse alone and has no photos of you and your spouse after your wedding. For some mother in law, what they do is to have a photo of you and your spouse but make sure that they use other photos to hide you from the picture and only show their child, your spouse.

9. She would sometimes give you gifts with a hidden message of what she thinks about you.

At first blush, this may appear like a sweet gesture on her part until you pay attention to the hidden undertone of the gift. She may buy you a book on parenting because she thinks you’re a terrible parent or she may buy you deodorant because she doesn’t think you smell that great.

This is not to say that every time your mother in law gives you a gift there is an ulterior motive behind it or a hidden message. Usually, this is only the case if the tension already exists between you and your mother in law and she brings a gift out of nowhere even in the face of the existing tension. Such gifts are almost always laced with hidden messages of contempt.

10. She doesn’t care about you or your welfare.

She doesn’t even make any efforts to ask about you or your welfare. The only thing she seems to care about is her child and her grandchildren, and she does not hide that fact from you. That is another clear message from her that as far as she is concerned, you don’t exist. This can be hurtful, but don’t let it get to you. Again, remember that this is more a reflection of who she is as a person than of your character and personality.

11. She never apologizes if she’s wrong and instead puts the blame on you.

She would often do this by “apologizing” that you feel the way you do without any acknowledgment of what she’s done wrong. What she’s trying to say with words like that is that she is right and that your feeling the way you do, is on you. You should also never let it get to you because she’s not worth the energy. Our article on What to do when someone won’t apologize is another good read on other things to do in such circumstances.

12. She will occasionally try to sow seeds of doubt and distrust between you and your spouse.

She may do this by “accidentally” letting it slip that your spouse expressed certain concerns they had about you to them privately. This would hurt you but before you completely lose it with your partner, remember that your partner is still her child and children often turn to their moms to talk through difficult issues, even if we all grow up and become adults.

Don’t let her see that you are deeply hurt by her “revelation”. Own it and thank her for bringing it to your attention but tell her that it is not something that she needs to bother herself with anymore because your spouse already brought the issue up with you and you have both sorted it out (this does not have to be true at the time, but she does not need to know that because the point is to deny her the satisfaction she thought she would get from your pain).

After she’s gone, calmly call your partner and talk to them about it and tell them what your mother in law said. Make it clear that it is wrong of them to discuss your marriage and the issues in your marriage with your mother in law especially when it is clear she doesn’t like you. Tell them that you would much rather they discussed and ironed the issue out with you.

And if your partner continues with this habit, then it is on them and a reflection that they don’t respect you enough to keep the family issues at home. It is up to you to then decide if you want to continue being with a spouse who it seems talks bad about you with their mother.

Read our article on When should you give up on a relationship for more helpful insights if your spouse continues on this path of disrespecting you by consistently and continually talking about your marriage problems with your horrible mother in law behind your back.

13. She talks bad about you to your spouse behind your back for no apparent reason.

Because she is vindictive and horrible, she will always look for an excuse to malign you to your spouse behind your back. You may get to know of this by accidentally walking in on the conversation or overhearing it. Or sometimes your spouse may bring the issue(s) she’s raised to you. If there is no legitimacy to her complaint, tell your spouse your side of the story and that you feel it is all part of her efforts at trying to paint you in a bad way.

14. She is openly sweet to everyone else except you.

And the saddest thing about this sign is that everyone else can’t seem to see it, except you. But you know when she does this. In family gatherings, she will pay everyone else a sweet compliment but reserve the backhanded compliments for you. She would make it a point to ignore you and make everyone else feel welcome. If you see any of these signs, you’re not being crazy and it’s not all in your head. She doesn’t like you and that is why she does that.

How Do You Deal With A Mother In Law Who Hates You? What To Do When Your Mother In Law Hates You.

It’s never easy knowing how to deal with a horrible mother in law who hates you for reasons beyond your knowledge and understanding. In discussing some of the signs your mother in law doesn’t like you, we give some tips on how to deal with some of those issues. In addition to the tips mentioned above, these are 13 amazing ways to deal with a mother in law who hates you and is horrible.

1. Understand first of all that you don’t need to be her friend.

This is important. As much as the ideal situation you may have always had in your head is one where your mother in law is your best friend and you guys get to hang out occasionally, don’t let that idealism hurt you. If she’s made it clear that she dislikes you, there is no need to try to be her friend.

2. Stop trying to get her to like you.

This usually happens when you feel the need to win her friendship. The more you’re trying to get her to like you is the more she will keep putting you down and making you feel horrible about yourself. This can harm your general confidence and self-esteem, and that is the last negative life influence you need around you.

Once you see one or more of the 14 signs listed in the earlier section, that is her way of telling you she doesn’t like you. Get her message and move right along. Your spouse loves you very much and that is what counts and matters the most.

3. Try talking to her first to understand where she’s coming from and what her issues might be.

To tackle the issue head-on with her, try talking with her first to understand what the issue may be and where she may be coming from.

4. Try and be as calm, understanding, and less confrontational as possible.

In having that conversation with her, it is important that you choose a language that is not confrontational and accusatory, and that you remain as calm and composed as possible. Even if you have all the evidence that she is deliberately horrible, calmly tell her that you have observed or picked up on so and so and that you want to understand if there is anything you may have done to offend her because you want to make it right.

If she’s genuinely interested in building a relationship with you, this should serve to start a process of dialogue that will hopefully improve your relationship with her. But if she has no intention of getting to build that relationship, she may dismiss it and dismiss you too. If that happens to be the case, don’t let it bother you. Let it go. You can at least pat yourself in the back for trying.

5. If talking with her does not help, Pick your battles with her wisely.

If she dismisses you and your concerns when you have that conversation with her, don’t push the issue any further. Let it go but choose your battles with her wisely. Don’t respond to all her actions or indeed react to show her that it got to you.

One thing you must remember about mother in laws who are hateful and do these hateful and horrible things is that such actions are always a reflection of deep insecurities and problems they are dealing with personally. It is not a reflection of who you are, but rather who they are. For some, it is their way of dealing with the problems they have in their marriages.

This is in no way an attempt to justify their action but rather to say to you that you do not need to lose any sleep over it because it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with her. 

And so, when you remember this every time, we can guarantee you that it won’t have as much of an effect as it used to have on you.

You don’t need to engage with her antics all the time. Sometimes just laugh it off and walk away. That would make her all the angrier.

6. Respectfully call her out on some of the underhanded things she does in the moment that she does them.

In picking your battles with her wisely, where she crosses the line and insults you or seeks to undermine you publicly, call her out respectfully on it. So, say for instance at the dinner table she takes a subtle dig at your heritage. Laugh at it casually and as casually and politely as you can, ask her “mother in law am I to take that as meaning you have a bias and prejudice against people of …descent!?” That will both embarrass and call her out on her prejudice especially because she wants to maintain an image of perfection in public. She will definitely not like it, but you can be sure that she will think twice next time about publicly trying to embarrass you on that subject.

7. Talk to your spouse about your concerns.

Usually, your spouse would have picked up on some of these. But before it gets out of hand, the first time you notice some of these signs, call your spouse and have a sit-down and long and extensive discussion with them. Bring all your observations and how you feel to their attention. Tell them that as much as you would love to be friends with your mother in law, it is clear she has no such intentions. That you will remain respectful to her but will not hesitate to call her out if she crosses your lines. That you expect them to also defend you as your spouse because you are supposed to be a team outside. And finally and also very important, that you will not stand in the way of their continued loving relationship with your mother in law and that all you ask is that they defend you and stand up for you when these things happen in their presence.

Once you’ve had this conversation with your spouse, deal with whatever issues that arise subsequently with your mother in law. As much as it is possible, don’t get your spouse involved so that you don’t put them between you and their mother, as this often takes a toll on your marriage. If you feel your spouse is not doing enough in defending you when these occurrences happen in their presence, take it up with your spouse in private.

8. Keep a healthy distance from her.

Like we said earlier, you don’t have to be friends with her or get her to like you. Keep a healthy distance from her. This is also for your health and benefit. You don’t need to attend all family dinners where you will be within proximity with her, especially in those cases where the tension is so visible and clear. Your spouse can attend some alone without you.

9. Don’t descend to her level when she acts out.

If she resorts to making subtle jibes and digs at you, you don’t need to stoop down to her level. Don’t give her the satisfaction. Ignore her and walk away or smile and say something graceful. Your counter approach will completely throw her off.

10. Learn to ignore her jibes and if you need to respond, do so tactfully.

This one would be hard but it is something you should work hard at learning to do. Always remind yourself of what we said earlier, that her acting out has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with her. Let it slide over you like water slides off a hard surface. Ignoring her will infuriate her all the more but when you respond you give her the satisfaction that she is looking for.

11. Be the bigger person and when you have the chance offer to help her both publicly and privately.

This one is important. And helping her in public is also very important. This is important so that you also make it clear to everyone that you are not the one with the problem, she is. In addition to offering to help her in private, always offer to help her in public when your spouse is present and as well as other members of the family. This will put her on the spot and the offensive.

12. Buy her gifts on special occasions to show her that you are not the one on a warpath.

When it’s mother’s day or her birthday, buy her a thoughtful gift to show her that you have no ill-feelings towards her. Our article on Gifts for mother in law first meeting has a good selection of gifts that you can buy her even if you are not meeting her for the first time.

13. Don’t let the tension get to you and focus on your family.

Remember that at the end of the day the most important unit you should be worried about is you, your spouse, and your family. As much as it would have been great that things were rosy between you and your mother in law, the sad reality on the ground and the tension should not get to you and you should not let it.

Keep the healthy distance and work on loving your spouse, being the best partner and parent you can, and hopefully, in time the tension between you and your mother in law will ease up as you apply all the tips in this article.

Related article: How to remain positive in difficult times.

Why Do Mother In Laws Cause Problems?

It has to be said that not all mother in laws cause problems. The percentage of mother in laws that cause problems are however unknown but there are still mother in laws who are loving and great.

When it comes specifically to the mother in laws that cause problems, they are that way because they like to be manipulative and controlling. They can’t seem to understand or let go of the fact that their mothering ends at a point and is not needed by their child or children in their matrimonial homes. Problematic mother in laws are control freaks that still want to retain control over the lives of their children, even when the said children are married and have families of their own.

If you have a mother in law that is causing problems for you and your spouse who happens to be their child, this is the root issue of why it is so. And if you are not sure if to think too much of those seeming little interferences by your mother in law, read on in the next section, for signs that you have a controlling mother in law.

Signs Of A Controlling Mother In Law and How To Deal With A Controlling Mother In Law.

If you have a problematic and controlling mother in law, these are the 5 signs she will exhibit.

1. She wants to tell you how to raise your children.

As it turns out, this happens to be one of the biggest areas of argument between parents in law and their sons and/or daughters in law, at least according to the early survey from Fatherly.com mentioned in the earlier sections.

The most frequent argument men and women have with their in laws. Source: Fatherly.com

The most frequent argument men and women have with their inlaws.

If your mother in law can’t seem to help herself but give you unsolicited parenting advice about how she thinks you should be bringing up your children, she is a controlling mother in law.

2. She always shows up unannounced at your house and without a care if her timing disrupts your schedule.

She may just drop by your house unannounced, without a care if it is convenient and you want her to stay at your house at that given time. Her thinking is that no one else’s convenience matters, except hers.

Draw your boundaries and ask her to respect them. In such cases, it may be best to get your spouse to talk to their mother about these boundaries and respecting them.

Our article on How to tell someone they can’t stay at your house has additional tips on how you can respectfully handle family members that drop by unannounced and when it is not convenient. You can also adopt those tips in such circumstances.

3. She does not respect your time or schedules or that of your spouse.

This is closely tied with her showing up unannounced. Sometimes, she may call up your spouse while they are busy trying to help you and expect your spouse to leave everything they are doing to come and assist them.

You and your spouse must put your foot down if she makes her request at a time that is not convenient. Point out to her that you will assist her but only after you are done with what you are currently dealing with. Also be sure to point out that if she had asked earlier, it would have given you adequate time to accommodate it in your schedule. In this way, you communicate to her that she should respect your schedules and make advance requests.

4. She wants to have a say in every decision you make with your spouse.

From the chart in this section, we also see that some parents in law want to have a say in the money issues of their sons and/or daughters in law. Sometimes your mother in law may feel the need to give unsolicited advice on the decisions you make with your spouse.

Thank her for her input and suggestion and tell her that you will consider it as you deliberate with your spouse in reaching a decision that is suitable for you, your spouse, and your family.

5. She does not take too kindly to being told “no” and insists on having her way.

If this is your mother in law, then she is a controlling mother in law. Respectfully say no to her and make it clear as respectfully and tactfully as possible, that she cannot always have her way.

Frequently Asked Questions.

1. Why are mother in laws so difficult?

One can never really understand why mother in laws chooses to be difficult. They can choose to be difficult for several reasons and we list some of them in this article. They can choose to be difficult because they hate or dislike you, or because they just want to be problematic and controlling.

2. What are some of the signs of a toxic, difficult, selfish mother in law?

A mother in law who has these characteristics will display all the signs listed in this article because toxicity, being difficult, and being selfish, are all part of being a horrible, hateful, and controlling person.

3. How do you deal with a toxic, difficult, selfish mother in law?

You can adopt any or all of the tips listed in this article on how to deal with a mother in law who hates you or who is a controlling mother in law.

4. How to deal with an annoying and horrible mother in law?

Don’t let the annoying things she does get to you. Ignore her and always respond gracefully to her. And as much as possible, keep a distance from her. You can also adopt all or any of the other tips in this article.


As much as we all want a rosy and perfect relationship with our mothers in law, the reality is not always the case. Observe the actions of your mother in law towards you. And if she shows you any of the signs listed in this article that she is toxic, difficult, controlling, and does not like you, be sure to follow all the tips listed in this article for your sanity and happiness in your marriage. Hopefully, with time, she will change her unbearable stance towards you.





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