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How to Deal with Your Narcissist MIL Who Is Now Your Kids’ Bad Grandmother

Izusek / Getty Images

When you fall in love with someone, you don’t give much thought about the person’s family. At least not in the beginning. But as time goes on and the relationship progresses, you start to visualize what the future would be like. And when the wedding bells do ring, you find yourself welcomed into the arms of your newly inherited family.

For some of us, we are lucky. We marry into a good family. For us women, we get a second mom (if we are so, so lucky).  And when we have children we can rely on our moms and MILs to help rear our children.


Not all of us ride the lucky in-law train though. I, for one, did not.

My MIL downright sucks. BIG TIME! When I first met her I knew she was someone I wouldn’t feel cozy with. She is crass, opinionated, full of Botox and saline, and is well, a narcissist. My husband (an only child) — who was my boyfriend at the time of our first introduction — had warned me that she was a bit “eccentric.” And in the beginning, she was totally tolerable. Our interactions were always brief. Our conversations were always about her and how she was always mistaken for being younger than she actually was. And I was OK with all of that. It didn’t affect me at all. I loved her son and accepted the way she was. No questions asked.

Fast forward ten years or so and things took a slight turn. My father-in-law passed away suddenly at the age of 52 due to an aneurysm. It was a complete shock to my husband — a pain he is still struggling with to this day. And this man wasn’t even his biological dad. He was just the man who raised him, so he was his father in all sense of the word.

My MIL, she retreated to her sister’s house during that week I remember. Since my father-in-law was an organ donor, we had to wait until he was declared “officially” brain dead so that his organs could be harvested. During that time, my MIL didn’t communicate with the donor organization. She ignored all the phone calls and so they were routed to me and my husband. My MIL also had me call on his life insurance to ensure the policy was up to date. This was before he had been declared officially dead. I recall the person on the other end perplexed by my call. For one, I was not the beneficiary and two, the man wasn’t even dead.

We went to the funeral home and helped my MIL make the arrangements. She had driven with her sister. And when we met back at the hospital, she told us she didn’t think she could “afford” the funeral. She had said, “he wouldn’t want me to suffer. I don’ think I can afford to give him a funeral.”

His life insurance was intact. She knew she would be getting 75K once the paperwork and death certificate was provided. AND, and this is big and… she had over $50,000 in savings. I knew this because she showed me her checkbook. My FIL paid all of the bills. She had no clue how to do any of that. The fact is, he took care of her their whole marriage. She quit her job at the hospital when she turned 40 because she was tired of it. He paid for her breast implants because she wanted them. He took her on trips to Spain, China, Italy — cruises, etc, etc. This woman led a pampered life because of him. And she had the audacity to say that “he wouldn’t want her to suffer.” This man suffered. He died at a young age. There would be so many people that would want to say their good-bye to him.

But, she wasn’t thinking about this. She was thinking about herself. And when we had informed her that people would be hurt, especially his family, if no funeral took place her response was, “I’m only doing this for you then.” His family tolerated her. They had learned who she was when she had an affair when my husband was 16-years-old. They had even divorced for a short period of time. But my FIL forgave her. He loved her deeply.

Years after his death, and a few flings my MIL had later, my husband and I announced we were pregnant. She was engrossed in her new life with her live-in boyfriend who was the same age as me. She barely asked about my pregnancy. But when my husband informed her I was in labor, she just barged into the labor and delivery room. Mind you, we wanted an intimate delivery — just him and I and the nurse and my OB. No one else. My mother wasn’t in the room. I had told my family I wanted a quiet, private delivery. My MIL had never asked me my wishes and thought she’d stay for the show.

My husband asked her to wait in the waiting room so I could have privacy. She had seemed fine about that at the time, ended up leaving because the nurse informed her since it was my first delivery it could be a while. She then went on to spread lies to her family saying that he “kicked her out of the hospital.”

She finally met her first granddaughter when she was almost 8 weeks old. And we went to her house. When I gave birth to my second, she had said she’d just meet her at our house once we got settled, and she did. And all was OK.

We would see her during the holidays or on my husband’s birthday, because other than hers, his is the only one she remembers. She has no clue when my birthday is and this year and last year (with a new boyfriend) decided to spend the holidays in Florida. This year, in particular, she dismissed my daughter’s birthday — which is on December 29th and grew mad at my husband upon her return because we didn’t call her.

About a week after she returned we made plans for her to come to our house so she could give the girls their Christmas gifts. It was a Sunday, we had expected her at 4:00 p.m. My 3-year-old was super excited to open her presents. We waited and waited. But, no Nonna. Around 7:00 p.m., and after hearing my daughter cry about not getting her presents, I told my husband to call her.

He said, “no.” I told him that I would and he asked me not to. She never called, she never showed. These are the only grandchildren she will ever have. Regardless of the relationship she has with her son — which has been shaky over the years, these are innocent children. Related to her by blood.

But as I have always known, and what she has proven to me especially with this last incident, is that some people can downright suck at being a parent. Which means they ultra suck at being a grandparent.

I am unsure of what our relationship will be like as we move forward. But I do know one thing, my kids don’t need that toxic energy in their life.

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