Narcissistic Sister-In-Law – 6 Signs To Look Out For & How To Set Boundaries

A narcissistic sister-in-law can be difficult to deal with, so you should learn how she behaves and acts. It will give you an edge over her. Notice if she portrays signs of a narcissistic person, but never confront her as it could quickly escalate things making you the family villain. Instead, you can take steps such as talking with your spouse, being mature about incidents, setting boundaries, and letting your spouse do the talking. You must know when to take a stand for yourself and when to compromise as well.

We all dream of having a successful married life, and even though in-laws seem to have a bad reputation worldwide, we still hope ours will be drama-free and different from others.

Finding good and understanding in-laws is like finding gold. You can remain tension free for the entirety of your marriage because you know they won’t interfere with or manipulate your relationship.

But not all in-laws are sweet and understanding. So when it comes to your spouse’s siblings, a manipulative and narcissistic sister-in-law could be your worse nightmare.

Let’s find out if your sister-in-law is narcissistic and toxic and how to deal with her to keep your marriage out of drama and manipulation!

6 signs your sister-in-law is narcissistic

A narcissistic person is someone with unreasonably high self-importance and love for themselves.

When this is extreme, people exhibiting the signs could be diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder.

But some people aren’t actually suffering from this disorder; instead are selfish or toxic to the extent that they would do things deliberately to mess with you.

In this case, it could be a narcissistic sister-in-law who’s out to sabotage your married life at every point.

1. Has a high sense of self-importance

Whatever situation you notice, your sister-in-law seems to have this unreasonable sense of self-worth.

It could be to a point where she believes nothing is more important than her, and she might even show it in different ways.

A woman is trying to talk to her sister-in-law, who is not in the mood and put her finger up as a sign that she's not interested in talking.

It’s as if she isn’t present in any family gathering or celebration, then it can’t take place, or she would sabotage it in any way so she’s not missing out on anything.

2. Constant admiration and attention

Another tell-tale could be that she requires constant attention. Even if a thing is not about her, she turns the situation in a way where she ends up talking about her.

For example, if you’re telling something at a family gathering about a wonderful thing that happened to you earlier, she would jump in and say that she went through a similar thing, and hers was better than yours.

3. Deserving special treatment

Another thing that might get on your nerves is when your sister-in-law demands special treatment for everything. It could be as simple as not giving up something good for other family members.

For example, if you’re going on a family trip, she demands that she deserves the best seat and room available there.

4. Making her achievements sound bigger

So your sister-in-law just earned some appreciation from her manager at work.

A young woman is acting superior after having received a promotion at work

But she makes it sound as if she’s the only one working this hard or the only one at the company hearing this compliment.

Even for a minor achievement, she exaggerates it to the point where she makes it sound like such a big deal that she also fishes compliments on her achievement.

5. Showing herself as superior

When it comes to fitness, you’re pretty good at it, too, and try to put your best foot forward each day to stay healthy.

But when it comes to your sister-in-law, she is always doing something extra and then boasts about it in a way that gets on your nerve.

For example, she does marathons and then rubs it in your face, saying something like, “At least some of us are focussing on our health, unlike others.”

She always shows herself as superior in everything that she does, whether waking up early, working out, staying diligent at work, or having a perfect relationship with her husband.

At the same time, she looks down upon you, doesn’t seem to appreciate anything you do, and seems to criticize everything instead.

6. Obsessed with her appearance

Do you notice your sister-in-law saying things like she feels so pretty and always complimenting herself on her hair, face, features, and body image as well?

A young woman is obsessed with herself as she looks at herself in the mirror

Another narcissistic thing could be complementing herself or flexing her wealth, fame, or reputation.

But at the same time, she’s never ready to accept criticism and always takes pride in what she has accomplished, whether small or insignificant.

Should you confront your narcissistic sister-in-law?

Whenever you try to meet your sister-in-law with a fresh mindset and are ready to put previous meetings’ mishappenings behind you, she does something new to annoy you.

This could make you angry and irritated, even taking out these feelings on her.

Narcissistic people tend to turn back things on you and make you the perpetrator of things while acting as a victim.

It’s better not to point things out to their face but handle it in a less direct way.

While she’s getting on your nerves, and it could be truly satisfying to shout out and even curse her to her face but that would also complicate your relationship with your in-laws and husband.

At the end of the day, she’s your spouse’s family.

A married couple is having fun and preparing dinner with the husbands parents and sister

If you see things are fine between them and your spouse, and he doesn’t see her in a bad light, you’ll become the villain in the family for pointing it out.

It would be easy for your sister-in-law to turn the whole family against you, including your spouse, and she could also manipulate or control your marriage this way.

So it’s better to take a different approach to handling things here.

How to deal with your narcissistic sister-in-law?

Talk with your spouse

The first step towards handling your sister-in-law should include your spouse in what’s happening.

Instead of directly approaching him about things, letting an incident happen where your spouse is present to witness narcissistic behavior is better.

Then when you’re home alone with him, you could approach this topic and make them remember or notice such behaviors. Indulge him in how things that she does or say make you feel.

Avoid name-calling; instead of badmouthing, focus on the traits and incidents. Give your husband some space and time to adjust to the news too.

Let him know you don’t want to confront her directly about her behavior, so you’re coming first to him.

Don’t make him choose; work together as a team to avoid such behavior.

You can’t cut out a family member completely, but you can create healthy boundaries with your partner and not allow any narcissistic behavior from your sister-in-law.

Be mature about incidents

Even a small incident could trigger you to explode in front of the whole family, and you might become a bad person.

So, keep yourself calm and collected and be mentally prepared to sit down with your sister-in-law in front of the family.

You have to remind yourself to be the bigger person in a social gathering, and by this time, you might also have your husband’s support.

So if things start going south, your husband can change the situation.

Setting boundaries

Once you’ve discussed how to set healthy boundaries for your relationship with your sister-in-law, tell her what’s acceptable and what’s not.

A young married woman is having a talk with her sister-in-law about boundaries for their relationship

As long as you won’t set boundaries, your sister-in-law will keep saying or doing things to ruin your life or your relationship.

Being firm in what you can’t seem to accept from her is a clear indication.

It’s important not to be emotional about setting boundaries as she might take it as disrespect or even say accuse you of things by manipulating the situation in her favor.

Your sister-in-law might not even accept these boundaries at first, but you must be consistent and keep enforcing them for her to accept them.

Let your spouse do the talking

Once you have discussed things with your spouse, you no longer have to be the villain. All you need to do is ask your spouse to sit his sister down and talk to her with an open heart.

A sibling bond is entirely different than a relationship that has just been formed between you and your sister-in-law.

Your spouse could be better at conveying things and would know how to handle his sister better.

Sometimes sisters-in-law don’t understand the concept of being married and how life becomes different, which would require privacy.

Your husband must explain and be clear that, as a married couple, you need your own time and can make your own decisions.

Although your sister-in-law’s inputs are appreciated but should be given when asked.

Speak for yourself

At first, this might seem like such a big deal because you don’t want to create any issues within the family, but soon you’ll realize this is the only way to make things right.

Some sisters-in-law are habitual to lying and would do so in a heartbeat. This could put you in a dangerous spot within the family and even ruin your reputation.

So, speaking for yourself becomes all the more important. Telling what’s right from wrong is a good thing because you’re taking a stand for yourself.

Discussing it with your husband first would be better so they’re not put on the spot.

If he supported you, he would help you share your truth or point of view.

If he asks you not to say anything to avoid confrontation, you must look deeply at why your husband is allowing disrespect from his family.

Compromise at times

While it’s hard, try to see things from her point of view as well. It’s not your job to fix her or her behavior, and the best you can do is allow what you’ll indulge in and things that aren’t acceptable to you.

So try to learn some things from her and observe her behavior to find her thinking patterns, her abusive theories, or her plans to degrade you.

When you recognize the pattern, it’s easier to disarm her before she does any actual damage.

When she rarely does something for you, which could be to hear you appreciate her and make her sit on a pedestal, it’s better to do the same.

When she does something worth appreciating, do it wholeheartedly because you can’t always have the energy to fight with her tactics.


How to set boundaries with a narcissistic sister-in-law?

If you believe your sister-in-law has narcissistic tendencies, the first thing to do is recognize her behavior. Get a better understanding of how her mind works in certain situations by observing her.

  • Don’t let them talk down to you
  • Don’t let them treat you in a disrespectful manner
  • Ask them not to share your private and personal moments with anyone else
  • Ask them to respect your opinions and thoughts
  • Make them understand the importance of a no
  • Ask for personal space when you need it
  • Don’t forget to ask for help from your partner and indulge them in your sister-in-law’s behavior

How do narcissistic people react?

Apart from several things they do or say, people with narcissistic personalities could also:

  • Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment or attention.
  • Have problems interacting with others.
  • React with rage or contempt and try to belittle other people to make themselves appear superior.
  • Have difficulty managing their emotions and behavior.
  • Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change.
  • Withdraw from or avoid situations in which they might fail.
  • Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection.
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, humiliation, and fear of being exposed as a failure.

How to get along with a problematic sister-in-law?

  • Find common ground by exploring things that are common between you two
  • Ask her to hang out more
  • Be curious about her likes and dislikes
  • Remember what’s important to her
  • Stand up for yourself when needed
  • Compromise and let go when you can
  • Talk to your partner about it

How do I distance myself from my sister-in-law?

Setting boundaries is essential when you find your sister-in-law toxic, manipulative, or challenging to deal with. The next thing would be to indulge your partner in everything she does or say that’s out of line since day 1.

Doing so will reassure you as you will have your partner’s support from the beginning. You don’t want to badmouth your sister-in-law, but let your partner know what she does or says that hurts you.

Other things you can do include:

  • Setting a time to meet her but not extending the said time
  • Avoid her jabs at you as much as possible, and don’t indulge in what she says
  • Talk to her and let her know what hurts you so she stops doing it
  • Let your partner talk to your sister-in-law

If nothing works, start physically distancing yourself and avoiding any contact unless and until she knows what kind of behavior isn’t tolerable.


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Hi! I’m Saumya, writer and editor at Marriage & Bliss. “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow—this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” —Elizabeth Gilbert. Every marriage faces pitfalls, be they internal or external, and with my words, I hope to help couples find possible solutions and mend their broken relationships. After all, a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
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