9 Things Your Mother-in-Law Should Never Say to You

A gif from Crazy Rich Asians where Michelle Yeoh looks displeased with Constance Wu.

One of the perks of getting married is adding a roster of new family to the line-up. Now, you have two sets of overbearing, neurotic parents you must kindly explain what the metaverse is to (and which input on the remote to press for Netflix).

The truth is that merging families can be a clash of civilizations—“your family has Thanksgiving dinner at what time?!” Things were fine and dandy before you two made it legal, but now that his mom is literally your mother by law, things get more complicated. And while you can handle MIL’s quips about the way you pamper your dog, there are certain comments that are just completely out of line. No, you’re not going crazy. Here, ten things your mother-in-law should never, ever say to you.

1. “I’ll Always Be Number One”

Donna said it in jest after a couple glasses of buttery Chardonnay, but you woke up the next morning still rattled. Why? Because it's not an OK thing to say! Ricky will always love her unconditionally and respect her, but now that he's started a new family unit, it's you who comes first. Sorry, Donna!

2. “You Definitely Married Up!”

Excuse me, Karen, but is your last name Windsor or Kennedy? No? Then I think we can keep the socio-economic class designations at the door. But if MIL insists on pointing out her tax bracket, then please advise your spouse retort: “Neither of us married up or down. We married each other.”

3. “You Weren’t Raised the Right Way”

This is not only a dig at you, but a dig at your family and where you come from. Whether you want to create a carbon copy of your childhood in your marriage or if you confided in your mother-in-law that you prefer her family's way of life, using this sensitive background as artillery is not just mean, it's cruel.

4. “I Brought Up 3 Children, I Know What’s Best for Your Kids”

Your mother-in-law did, in fact, raise three children, one of whom you've married. But as their parent, you know what's best for your kids. Thanks, but no thanks: MIL, your unsolicited advice is not wanted here.

5. “You Were a Lot Skinnier When You Walked Down the Aisle”

You can read between the lines—and now you understand why she's been forwarding you all those Keto and Whole30 recipes. This is hurtful and again, mean. But Maryann caring deeply about your appearance is more about her and her own idea of what makes a person happy. (And if she doesn't cut it out, feel free to filter her email address to spam.)

6. “So When Am I Getting Grandchildren?”

Ugh. She bit her tongue for so long and then the question just exploded off her lips at last Christmas. Subtle much? Look, Ingrid, this is a conversation that is between a couple. To fend off more versions of this question, here's how to respond: “It's a big decision, and when we're ready to include you in it, we will.”

7. “Is Something Wrong with the Baby Factory?”

If you are experiencing infertility or miscarriage or going through IVF, this type of question is a knife to the heart. You don't owe anyone an explanation about yours or your partner's reproductive health, but for self-preservation, it's important that you or your partner steps in and stops this line of questioning. We see a formal sit down in the future.

8. “I’m Surprised You’re Still Working”

When Janette offered to step in for child care on Fridays, you took her up on it! But since she started helping out, she keeps prodding you about quitting your job—after all, that's what she did when she had your now-husband 35 years ago. Does she want you to stop working so she can stop babysitting? What exactly is she getting at? Janette's a hard one to crack, but you can shut her down by simply saying: “Please stop commenting about my work. It's sending mixed messages.”


Executive Editor, Frazzled Mom, Bravo-Holic

Dara Katz is PureWow's Executive Editor, focusing on relationships, sex, horoscopes, travel and pets. Dara joined PureWow in 2016 and now dresses so much better. A lifestyle...