How do you deal with a self centered, attention craving elderly mother-in-law?


WOW! Where to begin. My husband and I are caregivers to his 83 year old mother. She is diabetic, takes 20 pills a day for other medical issue and had to go on dialysis last year. We have given up our home and moved into her home so that we could provide care and not remove her from her surroundings ~ thankfully our daughters are grown and in college, but it's still a sacrifice when this is the time in our lives when we are supposed to be able to just pick up do what we'd like as a couple. I don't want to sound sound selfish in saying that but everything I'm reading says that we have to take care of our lives too. He is an only child so it's all up to us.

His mother is THE MOST narcissistic, self-centered person I have ever known. It doesn't matter what we do, it's never enough.

My husband is a only child. His mother lost her father when she was 15. I think she never got over it ~ I think that she aged, got married and had this child but she never matured. During his childhood if he did something she didn't like she wouldn't speak with him for days at a time ~ this has continued his entire life, even to this day.

Our relationship got off to a rocky start because he and I were both previously married and she couldn't accept that her son was getting divorced. Suffice it to say that my (at the time) 3 year old daughter suffered at her hands as well. Example ~ at Christmas she would deliberately give more gifts to his daughter in front of my daughter and make a big deal out of it ~ I'm sorry but you just don't treat children like that. I always said if she wanted to spend a million dollars on his daughter I didn't care but there was no need to flaunt it in front of another child.

I think the worst thing ever was when my mother was going through cancer. It was a time when she wasn't speaking to my husband (and that lasted for over a year!!). He saw her and my father-in-law, now deceased, in a store. She said she wanted to take his daughter to the opera and had bought tickets. He told her that my mother had cancer and we had plans to have a party to celebrate the end of her chemotherapy ~ her response ~~~ Rachel is not part of that family so why does she need to go the party. My husband said that she was part of the family and she was my step daughter. Her response ~ she doesn't need a step-mother, she has a mother. Did she make a comment about my mother's cancer, NO ~ not, "I'm sorry to hear that", not "how is she doing", NOTHING!!!!!

Things have improved over the years but there is still so much resentment for so many things.

She is constantly seeking attention, negative or positive, it doesn't matter ~ just attention. Conversations are always turned to her, how wonderful everyone thinks she is, how she has the best doctors in their fields and how much they love her. She can't get over her past and is constantly complaining about how her brothers and sisters abused her. She had a problem with a needle in her arm when my husband was born, 56 years ago, and still to this day has to go through the whole freaking story when someone has to give her a shot about how sensitive her arms are, how she's Johns Hopkins hospital's walking miracle (yeah, in her own mind).

My husband says that every major occasionfor him growing up and into adulthood she would cause a scene to the point where at times he had to ask her to leave his home. We had a major scene this past Christmas and it just totally ruined the entire day.

During renovations she just had to have a new bedspread and curtains so I found something and ordered it for her and then of course it wasn't right and I had to send it back. I flat out told her that it would now have to wait until all of our renovations were done and we could get our lives settled. So, fast forward to now. Just ordered new ones, hung them Saturday, she said they look beautiful. This morning she tells my husband that they don't look right, the sheer panels need to come out further toward the sides of the windows. I want to scream!!!!!

None of her brothers and sisters have spoken to her for years and years. I can see why ~ she needs to be the center of attention wherever she is. I'm sure she was that way growing up.

My husband feels obligated to take care of her and so here we are. I love him very much and want to support him so what to do?!?!?! We are both frustrated and exhausted by her constant need for attention and validation. He has suggested that she speak with someone about her life so that she can face things and let them go, but of course she doesn't see that there's a problem.

Like I said, where to begin? Thanks for letting me vent!!!

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I'm so sorry for your situation! My heart goes out to you, but probably because I have a similar situation!

My husbands mother is just downright crazy! She is SUPER dramatic and plays such awful mind games with her son to where he and I fight like cats and dogs. I'm honestly waiting for my mother in law to ruin my marriage.

The irony? HER mother ruined HER marriage because she interfered too much... "Monster-In-Law much?"

Extending from the "trauma story" you said that she tells and retells, my mother in law is the same way. I think I've heard the SEMI (not really even THAT dramatic) trauma story of how my husband was born AT LEAST 400 times. It makes me afraid to get pregnant because I know when I have a kid (or even during pregnancy) all she is going to do is compare the child to her "Jesus incarnate" (in her mind) son.
What she doesn't get is her son has already had his childhood FULL of accomplishments and praises. It's someone else's turn to have the spot light now. She even told me to my face that my husband and I didn't even need to have kids so that she can be a grandmother. No, because all she needed was the love of her son! (gag!) She's so crazy with this, that when someone brings up their toddlers and something they did, my mother in law will automatically chime in and start regaling EVERYONE on something her son did over 20yrs ago! WHO CARES!?!?!?

She says things to my husband, HER SON, (especially during the holidays) that are just downright hurtful and wrong! She's used to having her son 24/7 (did I mention my mother in law is a divorcee and my husband was an only child? Seems to be a trend here, lol) everyday, as well as Holidays. Well, when I came into the picture, holidays were split to where we spend part of the holiday with my family, then we go to his mother's then his father's. To this day (4yrs later) she STILL has a hissy fit by saying things like, "hunny, you don't need to come up here anymore if you don't want to. You live down with her and have her family. That is your family now. There is nothing left back here for you." WHAT KIND OF MOTHER SAYS THAT TO HER SON!??!?! Oh wait, one who wants to play MIND GAMES so she can win her son back!

I don't know when you posted this or if a huge chunk of time has passed between then and now, but if so I hope you are doing MUCH better and the whole "monster in law" situation has gotten better. Mine has gotten better since the beginning, but I'm just afraid she'll never stop trying to compete with me for her son's attention. We have a LONG road ahead of us!
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@CrazyTrain the OP - I just came across this and I am more or less living the exact same scenario and completely understand how completely powerless you can feel sometimes.

I am hoping everything worked out for you but if not, know that a woman in New York City, (me) COMPLETELY gets it.

I hope your husband understands how this situation has affected you (which I'm sure he does) and hopefully it has helped you two grow closer.

One day it will be worth it. I'm sure.

In the mean time, get yourself to a spa ASAP. 😊

Hang in there.

Everything is temporary.
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This will sound harsh. Your husband needs counseling to get out from under the hold she obviously has on him. You gave up your home and moved in with her???? Your MIL has a personality disorder. She needs to move to nursing care or assisted living-- whichever is appropriate and you and your husband need to get your own home and set some boundaries.
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Put the narcissistic old bag into assisted living, while you and your husband still have time for a life together. The way things are going, the Grim Reaper will be calling for you or your husband and it will be all too late. Harsh but true
Having and wanting a life is not a sin.
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I have a Mother in Law that is exactly the same... She lived with us for a while after we were first married... almost killed our marriage.
I made it very clear that it was her or me, and my wife finally woke up to all of the manipulation and negativity coming from her Mom (over the next couple of years).
Your husband needs help getting out of an unhealthy relationship.... help him... grow a spine or whatever it takes. Get out.
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Also, this lady posted over a year ago so I really hope she's got things under control by now :) - though, to be honest, this sounded to me like a step families problem more than an elder care problem, as such. And that I wouldn't wish on anyone.
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The original post is over a year old.
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Crazytrain, just curious if you are still caring for your mother-in-law, and the boundaries are still in place.
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Somehow, paragraphs got mixed up in my post . . . *shrug*
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Wow. On the one hand, I have to applaud the sacrifices you've made in your own lives to take care of this narcissistic woman. On the other hand, I can't help but ask, "Why??"

Now, see, I love my mom

I do NOT understand why you moved in with her. What's that about? Sorry, I don't get it. You utterly and completely uprooted your own lives. For what?? So SHE wouldn't have to move? The balance of power is so wrong here. Can't help my thinking there's more to this story.

You harbor so much resentment toward his mom . . . and I'm guessing he does as well. Why are you doing this? If she can't live alone, it's time for assisted living, at the very least, and time for you and hubby to get your lives back. Why you ever put yourselves in that position, with the history you all have, is beyond me.

to death. (I'm an only, too.) She was/is a wonderful mom. A child (an adult) couldn't have asked for more. Generous, kind spirited, all the things one considers "great mom." She's in hospice at my home now, having lived here for the past year.

I don't read a question in your post, so I assume you're just venting. Oh, wait! You actually said that! Ha!
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