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How to deal with toxic father-in-law

Community Member

I am having trouble with the way I speak to my father-in-law, and it's starting to cause issues between my wife and I.

I have been dealing with depression and anxiety for 7 years after a severe injury, have been to a psychologist and on medication, on and off over that time, and I am on antidepressants at the moment, mainly due to trying to deal with him.

I know why I am speaking to him the way I am, it's because he is a narcissist, he treats everyone with total disrespect, he never has anything positive to say, and is the most selfish and self centred person I have ever met. He seems to be slowly destroying my house (that he also lives in, as he is broke) and he is not at fault for anything.

His family make excuses for his behaviour, but expect me to change mine, which is extremely frustrating at times.

The reason I want to change the way I speak to my father-in-law, is because I am not the person that I am when I speak to him, (if that makes sense) I am not a nasty person (so I am told) so why can't I control my attitude with him, I don't want to play at his level!

So, anyone have any tips for me on how I can change the way I speak to him, I know why it happens, it's usually after he breaks or damages something, and I get frustrated. I know I can't change him. I know my wife won't stop making excuses for him, and if anyone does point out he is wrong, he goes into a rage, making life hard for everyone. I know he wants everyone to be miserable, cause that makes him happy.

My best defence against him had been to be happy around him, and just brush off his negativity, but I am finding it hard to do that now.

Thanks in advance for any input or advice


4 Replies 4

Community Champion
Community Champion


Welcome to the forum and thanks for starting a very interesting discussion.

I am sure many people like me can relate to your problem,

If you were not related , you could just avoid this person but as he lives with you and is your wife's father, it makes things tricky.

You know want you should do but it is difficult as your father in law knows what buttons to press but you realise he will come out looking ok as everyone will make excuses for him but not for you.

I had a relative who would say things to annoy me and I would often be in tears but the one time I stood up to this person and my children said I was mean and rude and that was not me. I then decided I would nod and smile and not react .

If you find you may react can you just get your wife to talk to him or say I have things to do I will discuss this later and so you limit your interactions and chances are you may react in a negative way.

I admire the fact you are aware of how he makes you feel and how yo want to be the kind person you and not the nasty person you may become when provoked.


Hi and welcome

Some of us have less patience than others, less ability to tolerate and show "softness" in our words and tone. Your FIL is one such challenge for you at this time.

Well I can place myself in your shoes and frankly (bearing in mind I haven't heard the other side) I could not remain in the same home as someone I find toxic.

In this age, anyone with any income even pension/Newstart, would find it difficult to find rental accommodation but it is his problem not yours. The pressure on your marriage will peak and the consequences sad. Your wife is doing a similar thing some parents do with their child to a step parent, their partner. The answer here is his lodgings in your home, remove him and all will be good.

I have strong views on this. Your home is your home not his, your wife should listen to you in terms of seeking alternative accommodation and then, guess what, you don't have to see him at all then.

I don't visit nor ring nor talk to anyone that I find toxic. Please google - beyondblue topic fortress of survival

The only proviso to my method of thinking is compassion. Remain so, be fair, firm and insistent with your wife. Calmly explain that you want you and her to by alone together in your home, that you are not responsible for him being broke and you ask her to work as a team to remove him AND set him up nearby in a backyard bungalow or similar.

That's my view.


Community Member

Hi PJ99,

First up champion, Happy New Year to you and your family.

As quirky words have beautifully mention and written in their post, in laws are a nightmare for most people who are in a relationship.

Your wife like most daughters and son will try to downplay behaviour of their parents due to them having a strong emotional bond since their birth. I say your father in law had been the head of the family so many years and years and they have accepted this whether happily or not.

I think it affect you more as your not direct blood related and have only know him since you dated you wife and this can have a different emotional feeling to your wife who I say only know her father like that all her life.

Try to be strong for your wife, be kind to her dad for her. You don’t have to be a fan of him, if get too much try to find distance time away from him. Eg. Social activity that don’t directly involved your father in law to give you that break. Walking away when he not nice to you give you the true power. It not give him the power that he been freely given. Reacting is what a lot love.

Take care.

All the best.


Community Member

Thanks everyone for their responses, Quirky, yes he knows what buttons to push, and the reason he comes out OK, is because they dont want to deal with the drama he causes when he thinks they are figuring out why he behaves the way he does.

WhiteKnight, I have come to a point earlier(probably 2 years ago) that I got abused in front of my daughter, and suggested that he finds somewhere else to live, as I wasn't prepared to have him living in my house whilst being abusive to everyone in front of my daughter. He started telling my wife, him and his wife will move out and they will never see them again, (classic gas lighting), I had to back down, mainly due to my wife, and even though I explained my reasons for reacting in that way, I also explained that I am dealing with depression and I have my faults, but are working on them. I asked him to explained why he said what he did and admit that he had faults too, guess what, blamed me for everything!

hang10, he definitely feeds off the drama and arguments, I try to distance myself from him and I don't respond to his traps that he seems to drop for me, it's during a seemingly normal conversation that things spiral out of control. To give an example of when I have walked away, I sectioned off a part of my garage for them to store all of their stuff. I was in my backyard a couple of months later, I was doing some gardening, whilst the FIL was asking questions, there was a 2 bits of timber laying in the backyard, I picked them up, and the FIL disappeared, when the penny dropped a couple of minutes later about where the timber came from, I was ropable, he had cut out one of my shelves in my garage, as it didn't fit what he wanted to put in there, but when I told my wife, she responded 'what can I do?', I could have confronted him, but I went to my wife, sometimes I feel like the dismissal of his actions by my wife, is worse than the fallout of confronting him. My daughter has already said a number of times, she 'wants nothing to do with him', 'won't cry when he dies','can move out into his car for all she cares', as he treats her with negativity too, I have never intentionally exposed her to my negativity towards him, the only time she has been exposed to my 'side', is when he causes a direct conflict, that causes the reaction he wants, he has even had his daughter (my wife) tell him he is not a nice person, and he blew her off!

You have nothing to lose, if you value nothing.