If you have a narcissistic in-law, it can be detrimental to your marriage and well-being. Here are the signs and how you can deal with them.

A narcissistic in-law can create issues within your marriage and affect your mental health. It can also impact other areas of your life, like your relationship with other family members. Recognizing the signs may help you learn how to deal with it and move forward.

Many people who experience this situation initially think their in-laws are great. But as you get to know them better, their dynamic shifts, and they begin to show their narcissistic traits. Their behavior likely impacts your mood and the energy within your relationship with your partner.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) explains that narcissistic behavior negatively affects others, so it’s essential to understand what to look for. Once you identify the issues, you can learn how to cope.

1. Lacking empathy

An in-law with narcissistic tendencies might lack empathy, leading to difficulty acknowledging the emotions and needs of those around them.

You might notice that they explain their feelings and experiences in detail but don’t listen when you try to share yours. They might cut you off, dismiss what you say, and act impatient and uncaring.

2. Taking advantage of others

Taking advantage of others is a sign of antagonistic narcissism, a subtype of overt narcissism. They believe people should help them, although they’ll never be there to reciprocate. Someone with narcissistic traits often only forms and maintains relationships when they gain something.

Other things you may notice include:

  • guilt-tripping
  • lack of commitment to events
  • lying to get what they want

3. Acting entitled

A parent-in-law with narcissistic traits often exhibits entitled behavior. They believe they deserve things more than others and should never get denied. This type of person also doesn’t think they should have to work hard to get what they want.

4. Needing praise and attention

In-laws with narcissistic behaviors may overestimate themselves or think they’re better, more attractive, or more intelligent than they are.

They’ll need praise and attention to fuel that narrative and boost their ego. This person often tries to make themselves seem more interesting so people will like them better.

An in-law like this often craves attention and looks for ways to get compliments. They want other people to think they’re special. Some instances you may notice include the following:

  • interrupting someone to talk about themselves
  • controlling big plans
  • trying to outdo those around them
  • making negative comments about themselves so others will compliment them
  • grandiose behavior, or overestimating themselves, boasting, and exaggerating their accomplishments

5. Aggression and hostility

It could indicate narcissism if your in-law often shows aggression and hostile behavior. They’ll likely behave this way when they don’t get what they want to let out their feelings of being powerless. You might notice that they:

  • seek revenge
  • hold it against you
  • avoid you
  • become defensive
  • spew personal insults or threats

6. Treating certain family members differently

You might notice that your in-law is close to some family members and seems to reject others. They favor those most like them while excluding others or making them feel unwelcome.

When grandchildren get added to the family, you might notice that a narcissistic in-law doesn’t treat them all the same. They may favor the children of one sibling differently than the other, often ignoring them or making them feel unwelcome or unloved.

7. Not respecting boundaries

In-laws who don’t respect boundaries could be narcissists. They might ignore them and get offended when you point it out. They might fail to understand why you need boundaries for the relationship, even when you explain.

You can’t expect someone’s narcissistic behaviors to change unless they admit the problem and decide they want to improve. But you can deal with it by protecting yourself, your partner, and your children.

Here are some things you can do:

  • learn about narcissism and accept the situation
  • set and implement boundaries
  • provide a loving and safe relationship for your partner
  • try to avoid sharing emotions with them
  • learn techniques to stay calm, such as deep breathing
  • use clear and direct language
  • improve communication with your partner
  • turn to your support system
  • talk with a professional learn how to accept the situation

An in-law with narcissistic traits can interfere with your marriage and impact your mental health. Their behavior can cause issues for you and make you feel like you don’t belong. Ignoring the impact won’t help, so consider practicing some ways to deal with it.

Prioritize your and your partner’s emotional well-being as you interact and set boundaries with a in-law.

Talking with a professional can also help because it’ll protect your mental health and encourage fresh insight into the situation. It’s not an easy experience to handle, but you can ease the stress and protect your marriage from toxicity.