My narcissistic 90-yr old mother in law moved near us last year. My husband can't do anything right and has become depressed. Any help?


She is healthy but will not listen to any suggestions. She argues every day and is very lonely. She only wants my husband to help with things and the guilt she gives him is unbelievable. We have difficulty going anywhere as she invites herself to go all the time. If we say "no" she belittles us into trying to get us to change our mind.
My husband's brother refuses to help. He has issues of his own. There is no other family.
She refuses any social services (companions, senior activities, etc.).
She believes we are lying to her, and keeping secrets every day, so my husband tells her everything. (I disagree) She wants to eat out everyday and gets upset if we say "no". If we eat out she complains about the service, food, cleanliness of the establishment.
She still drives, which we feel she should not. We are fearful she will have an accident. Her walking is very unbalanced, but refuses to discuss this with the DR. and refuses to allow my husband to talk to the DR.
She has hearing aids, she needs them, but makes excuses why she does not wear them. She has slight dementia, is paranoid, and has a lot of anxiety. Putting this all together makes life very difficult. Unfortunately (fortunately) my husband is retired, and she feels he should respond to her every beck and call. I know my husband loves his mother, but he does not like her.
Unfortunately my husband does not want to spend money or time on counseling.
Can anyone offer any suggestions?

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Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries...and distance. With these types of parents, every day will be a fight for your life. The more you give in to unreasonable demands, the more you'll find yourself jumping through those hoops in the future.

She belittles you, you say, if she doesn't get her way? She can't belittle you if you walk away and refuse to listen to that mess, can she?

Limits and boundaries are the key to sanity in these situations. And the word NO. She doesn't like it? Too bad. Walk away if she starts. Every. single. Time. You MUST..

I wish you the best, I really do... I get it...
Helpful Answer (23)

SA said what I would have said-I had to detatch from my verbally abusive husband-just walk away-she can not argue by herself-stop helping her-take the keys away or disable the car-you do not want someone to die because of her bad judgements-start with baby steps and when the sky does not fall you will feel empowered to continue-take your power back-she has too much power-let us know how things are going -we teach each other how we want to be treated.
Helpful Answer (7)

Elderly parents tend to get this way. I have found that if you argue with them, they will argue until you're both blue in the face because that is the only power and control they feel they have. My 87-yr-old mother asserts herself in a negative way with everyone because she doesn't want people "walking all over" her. She digs her heels in at every suggestion and finds a problem for every solution. At that point, you have to treat them somewhat like children and tell THEM what is going to happen rather than the other way around. You can do it respectfully but firmly, letting them know that this is the way it's going to be and it's for their own good. I know it's hard to deal with a parent that way, but unfortunately that is the situation when they get to be that way; otherwise, they can drive us crazy. It can be done in a non-derogatory manner, and it actually works as long as they feel like they still have some say in what happens (even if in reality they don't) and that they are still respected. It's a delicate balance of letting them keep the illusion of control and having them behave as you want them to, but deep down they are just afraid and they want to know that everything will be okay, and that no matter what happens they will still be loved and not forgotten. I'm not saying the outcome is 100% ideal, but you must draw your boundaries in order to maintain your own inner peace and sanity and be still able to continue to tend to them.
Helpful Answer (6)

It sounds like what I call emotional bullying. Chances are that she has always been a bit of an emotional bully and it is getting worse with age. Emotional bullies control through intimidation and belittling. The advice that the others gave is spot on. As long as she is able to get what she wants through bullying tactics, she will keep at it. If it starts to be less effective, she may change. Much luck to you in dealing with this stress.
Helpful Answer (6)

How do I put this delicately? Your husband now had to understand that the dynamics have reversed with he and his mother. He is now the patent and she is the child. This doesn't mean he no longer respects her, it just means he will have to be more calculatedly firm with her. Once she knows that her bullying tactics, temper tantrums, are met with consequences not to her liking and she sees the results she will stop. This will result in all of you being much happier. It will take awhile and there will be a lot of tears and tantrums in between but stand your ground and be firm with her until then. Don't let her destroy your lives so she can enjoy hers!
Helpful Answer (5)

195Austin said....start with baby steps and when the sky does not fall you will feel empowered to continue-......and having been through this process with first my Dad and now working on it with my Mom, this really hit home as the truth! I purchased a few books about Boundaries that were recommended to me because my parents heavily controlled my brother and I was very weak on boundaries in all areas. BUT...once I changed my reactions to their demands....I was able to see them change, and life started to get much easier. It doesn't happen over patience is important as is consistency in approach. It helped me to take some common situations that recurred all the time and create for myself some 'pat' answers that automatically get given out in response too. And also, to understand that one does NOT have to respond at all. Now, when Mom gets on certain topics during our daily phone check in times, I just do not 'get hooked' into responding as I know where the conversation will go. I bite my tongue and say nothing and find that she will soon go to the next topic on her litany of complaints that are virtually the exact same thing daily. If I am 'getting hooked' emotionally, I give back one of the 'pat answers', but am getting quite skilled at not getting hooked and into the argument. Once you break the chain of usual communication, by introducing something different, the other person simply must respond differently themselves....and it DOES work!!
Helpful Answer (5)

Your husband doesn't need counseling, he needs to get away from his mother! As a nurse and social worker (therapist), that's my best advice. His mother would do well to be placed somewhere so she cannot drive, and let her belittle everyone else. If your husband doesn't "like" her, how can he "love" her? If his health is what is most important to you stop giving into her demands, set only certain days or hours allotted to her, and the rest of the time, spend with each other. His depression will lift once he doesn't have to hear all the past brought up over and over. That's what adult children do. They hear the broken record from childhood and retreat into that inner child. Time for him to grow up, take a stand, and do not allow this mother to control him as she has apparently done his whole life. Why would anyone subject themselves to that torture? He doesn't have to and frankly if he does, then he deserves what he allows...
Helpful Answer (5)

Sometimes you just have to slap yourself upside the head and say "I refuse to be manipulated by a little old lady"! My own mother is not even five feet tall but she has terrorized our whole family forever. It has been amazing all my life to see how she pushes people, including my father, around and gets them to do what she wants. My dad taught all of us, I guess, to accommodate her every whim while we were growing up by example. I really have no respect left for him because of this. You have to tell yourself that you will never get that carrot of approval she has held in front of your nose forever and you will never be able to please her. So you have to stop trying.
Do what's right and hold to your boundaries. When people advise that you start with subtlety and small steps with an NPD person it's clear they don't know what you're dealing with. These people unfortunately do not get it. A sledgehammer works best; that is about all they understand. Good luck.
Helpful Answer (5)

joannes... I call that, "changing the script" (to the play)...

Seems so often that, she says___, then I say___, then she answers with ___, & then I come back with ___. Its always the same thing. So if you change the script, & come back with a different reply, - it leaves them for a loop (at least temporarily). It takes practice. Plan ahead & rehearse your answers in your head. You might even want to write them down somewhere.

With us it was that Mom (who gets around better than I do), does not have dementia as of yet, can fix herself a simple meal, does her own personal care, etc, - but would not let us leave the house together (without her), not even for a quick run to the store or a meal out. "Something might happen to you, & then what would I do?", she'd say. Duh! The same thing you'd have done, had "something" happened to us, before you came to live with us!

Almost a year to the day that she came to live with us, Mom had minor surgery. A friend took her... it was the first time we got to go out to eat together in this year's time! So now, we just tell her something like, "hubby & I are going out for a while.. I've got the cell phone on me if you need me... we'll be back by 2... you've got the emergency numbers posted on your closet door". No option is given; here's how its going to be. and it's worked! In some things she just doesn't get to make a choice any more. End of story.

Another issue that's come up, is that she has told us kids to make major decisions for her, but then once they were made, she didn't like the fact that sis didn't give her the opportunity to have an input. Haven't had to yet.... but I've got that script already memorized, should it come up. If a major decision needs to be made, such as her going to a facility eventually, - I will narrow the choices down to 3 places that I have already checked out myself... let her visit them, & then give her the choice of one of them BUT WITH A DEADLINE: "I've got to have your decision by next Monday". Come Friday, I'll remind her that she's got to have a decision made by Monday, & if not, then on Tues, I WILL make the decision myself. Then do it!

Change the script, memorize it, & follow through.

Best wishes for you & your hubby in dealing with this. I know & totally understand!
Helpful Answer (4)

I support what the other posters have said as far as not giving in to her demands. If your husband is severely depressed he may not be much help in this new approach. You may have to get the two of them further apart for him to recover. She sounds like a good candidate for assisted living. It will take WWIII to get her into a facility, but you may not have any choice. Stand up to her and let her know what the new rules are. Be consistent. Just like a child, she will sense any weakening in your resolve. And keep in mind that she has been 'training' your husband his whole life so it will be more difficult for him to have a balanced perspective. Good luck and God bless, Loha. You have a tough job ahead, but you can do it.
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