16 Toxic Mother-In-Law Behaviors That Deserve A Punch In The Face

16 Toxic Mother-In-Law Behaviors That Deserve A Punch In The Face

February 3, 2020 Updated March 13, 2021

mother in law behavior
Maskot/ Getty Images

A few of my girlfriends and I have developed a sacred vow with regards to our future mother-in-law status that goes like this: If I ever behave like that, please punch me in the face — and I promise to do the same for you.

We created this vow because over the years, we’ve observed patterns of objectionable behavior in mothers-in-law… patterns that we very strongly do not wish to repeat when our own sons grow up and marry. We say this because unlike what they would like you to believe, you really do marry the family and not just your partner. And patterns of unhealthy or toxic micro-aggressions from your in-laws can build up and rot a relationship from the inside out. It will affect your relationship with your partner and add undue stress to your plate.

RELATEDThis Is What It’s Like Growing Up With A Narcissistic Mother

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 15 of the most obnoxious mother-in-law behaviors for which my friends and I would happily invite violent corporal punishment should we ever stoop so low as to commit them. And remember, protecting yourself, your mental and emotional well-being does not make you a bad daughter-in-law.

Want to read more about how to deal with your mother-in-law? We have pieces on toxic mothers- in-laws, a woman who cut hers out of her life, and another about what we wish we could say to one. So if you’re looking for more content to help you deal with your MIL from hell, check out our wedding jokes, mother quotes, and more. 

Ask my son to put me before his wife

Once my son is married, his wife comes first. I am already emotionally preparing myself for this inevitability. I demand to be punched in the face if I dare throw a hissy fit over the fact that my son is putting his wife ahead of me or loves her more than me. He damn well better love her best, as she will be the mother of his children. This is the way of things.

Ask my grandchildren to keep secrets from my son and daughter-in-law

Parents rule. There is no such thing as “grandma privileges,” other than the ones stipulated by the parents, who are in charge. Always. There is no wavering on this rule whatsoever. Please don’t let me piss off my daughter-in-law and lose babysitting rights over a forbidden bag of candy. Stab me with a hot poker first.

Try to mediate my son’s marital disputes

Mothers-in-law don’t get to have the inside scoop on the young marriage. Ew! If you catch me trying to involve myself in my son’s arguments with his wife, give me a stiff uppercut to the jaw.

Rearrange my daughter-in-law’s house

Clearly, the coffee mugs should be stored in the cabinet over the coffeemaker. Any idiot can see that. But it’s not my kitchen, so I don’t get to decide where the coffee mugs go. In fact, my only job is to keep my grubby hands to myself. If you see me reorganizing my daughter-in-law’s kitchen, or any other room in her house, for the love of all things holy, punch me. Hard.

Fold my daughter-in-law’s laundry without her permission

There is something sweet and generous about helping without being asked. But there is also such a thing as period underwear. Tie me to a post and flog me if I ever get up in my daughter-in-law’s lacy thongs without asking her first.

Buy my daughter-in-law clothes only I would wear

Clothes that are clearly not my daughter-in-law’s style, but I obviously have some creepy secret desire to turn her into me, because if my son loves his wife when she dresses like me, then that must mean he also still loves me. No. This kind of jealous mother-in-law behavior is insidious and sinister. Waterboard me if I ever try to pull a stunt like this.

Think my son is perfect

Also known as: “Daughter-in-law is always wrong.” Not. Cool. (Breaking news to all mothers-in-law: your son fucks up. Often.)

Think my daughter-in-law is perfect

This might be even worse than thinking my son is perfect because it sets the stage for bitter disappointment once the poor daughter-in-law slips up and reveals her humanity. No one is perfect, and no one should be held up to an idea they can’t possibly live up to.

Enter my daughter-in-law’s bedroom without knocking

Lots of mothers-in-law think a light knock on the door is all that is necessary before barging into a bedroom or a bathroom. WRONG. I can only hope that if I ever invade my daughter-in-law’s privacy in this manner, I find her butt-ass nekkid, riding my son — just to ensure my corneas are permanently scarred and I am thus forever cured of the compulsion to enter someone’s personal space without permission. This psychological trauma is a more just punishment than any kind of physical torture one could endure, don’t you think?

So for your own good, knock loudly and only enter if I’ve said, “Come in.” Otherwise, turn yourself around and walk the F away.

Offer unsolicited advice

Please, please push me down a flight of stairs if I give my daughter-in-law unsolicited advice. And afterward, while I’m recovering in the hospital, remind me that no one, no one likes unsolicited advice, but especially not daughters-in-law.

Show up unannounced

Like number nine above, this situation could get embarrassing in a hurry. Please, if I forget my manners and start appearing on my daughter-in-law’s doorstep like she’s my best friend — roll over me with a bicycle a few times.

Criticize my daughter-in-law’s cooking

This includes surreptitiously dribbling hot sauce on things that don’t ordinarily require hot sauce, like spaghetti, or slyly adding salt and pepper to the soup my daughter-in-law has been slaving over all day. This is not even passive-aggressive, this is straight-up aggressive behavior. She cooked it how she likes it. She thinks it tastes good. She worked hard on it, and even if she doesn’t admit it, she wants to impress me. If I don’t gag that shit down with a sincere-looking grin on my face, make me walk barefoot across a pile of my grandchild’s LEGOs.

Expect my son to mediate a dispute between my daughter-in-law and myself

Just. No. I can’t even. Get out the frying pan. And make it a good one.

Engage in any behavior that gaslights my daughter in law

Parents can gaslight their children and definitely their daughters-in-law, whether they realize that’s what they’re doing or not. Nip this behavior in the bud.

Behave passive-aggressively

What woman doesn’t love a good ol’ underhanded cut-down while deep in the trenches of social warfare? I know; it’s delicious. But this conduct has no place between a mother and daughter-in-law. If you catch me behaving in this unbecoming manner, I will give you a sledgehammer and carte blanche on my kneecaps.

Compare myself to my daughter-in-law’s parents

Perhaps I believe my son and daughter-in-law prefer spending time with her parents. Maybe they have a higher social status, more money, better educations, a bigger house, or healthier family relationships. If I ever mention any of this in front of my son or daughter-in-law, please… well, you know.

Many of the items on my Punch Me in the Face list are considered a faux pas in any situation. They are a hundred times more egregious when put in the context of a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. I don’t know why these behaviors seem so prevalent in the elder, supposedly wiser generation, but I do know I will keep this list at the ready lest a friend one day feel that ominous tug, that devilish whisper in her ear that falsely emboldens her to put her nose where it doesn’t belong.

So I can give her a good, hard punch to the face.

Funny Quotes About Mothers-In-Law

  • “I can’t believe she’s lived this long. God must be avoiding her.” — Brian Francis
  • “’Surely,’ I said, ‘you don’t think that you are going to die because you dreamed you saw your old father; if one dies because one dreams of one’s father, what happens to a man who dreams of his mother-in-law?’” — H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure
  • “’It’s funny. I thought she’d live through anything.’ Charlie said, ‘Me too. I figured even if there was a nuclear war, it would still leave radioactive cockroaches and your mum.’” — Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys
  • “I told my mother-in-law that my house was her house, and she said, ‘Get the hell off my property.'” — Joan Rivers
  • “Behind every successful man is a proud wife, and a surprised mother-in-law.” — Hubert H. Humphrey
  • “My mother-in-law has come round to our house at Christmas seven years running. This year we’re having a change. We’re going to let her in.” — Les Dawson
  • “When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something.” — Lou Gehrig
  • “Just got back from a pleasure trip: I took my mother-in-law to the airport.” — Henny Youngman
  • “A car is like a mother-in-law — if you let it, it will rule your life.” — Jaime Lerner
  • “My mother-in-law speaks not a word of English. I speak not a word of Tajiki. So I smile at her ingratiatingly, and she fixes me with a beady eye.” — Wilbur Smith
  • “A mother gives you a life, a mother-in-law gives you her life.” — Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words
  • “The only thing more intimidating than a huge international film star is your mother-in-law.” — Benjamin Walker
  • “The mother-in-law came round last week. It was absolutely pouring down. So I opened the door, and I saw her there and I said, ‘Mother, don’t just stand there in the rain. Go home.'” — Les Dawson
  • “Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.” — H. L. Mencken
  • “On Valentine’s Day, I wired flowers for my mother-in-law, but she found the fuse.” — Milton Berle