A My boyfriend has his own business, employs staff and has lots of friends. What I don’t understand is how someone who seems to have their life sorted, can be under the thumb when it comes to his mother.
I’ve met her and she was offhand and rude to me. He says it’s just her way and not to let it bother me – but it does.
He’s at her beck and call. Even though she’s in good health she rings him a few times a day, and expects him to drop everything and do errands for her. He’s 43!
When he introduced me to her she said to him (in front of me) ‘you’ll always be mine’ – how weird is that, but he can’t see it.
He’s an only child so I can understand her dependence on him since her husband died 40 years ago (she never re-married) – but this feels more than that.
It’s as if she’s jealous of him having another woman in his life.
She treats him like her property and ‘as the man of the house’ (he still lives with her). She expects him to be more like a husband than a son.
He has told me that she was very controlling when he was a kid and would give him the ‘silent treatment’ if he didn’t jump when she said jump.
I don’t mind him helping her now and then, but she’s really got her claws into him and I worry that she will convince him to break up with me. Why can’t she let him go and have a life of his own?
A I’m pleased that you are aware of what it is about this set up that bothers you the most – being rejected by him on her say so.
He clearly has a strong loyalty to his mother and is willing to be at her back and call – perhaps putting her needs ahead of his own.
I wonder too if this whole scenario has any old links and associations with you and your past?
Has he spoken of any previous girlfriends and how his mother treated them, and why he split up with them?
You could then assess if your fears are valid and the extent to which he complies with his mother’s wishes (which he may have been conditioned to do from a young age since his father died).
How does he describe her? Can he see what their dynamic looks like to an impartial observer? Is he happy with the set up or does he have some underlying anger and resentment about it and towards her?
Like you, I wonder how this might affect his relationship and emotional attachment to you longer term. Does he want and foresee a future with you?
I guess so, because he has now let you meet ‘the other woman’ in his life… unless the meeting was set up at her insistence so that she could ‘check you out’!
You describe a lack of her acknowledgement of him as an individual and I suspect that as she gets older her need for him will increase.
It seems that he should become much clearer on his boundaries… which isn’t easy as he still lives with his mother. Does he want to move out? If not this should be a red flag for you!
Please set up an agreed time to have a chat/update/sharing time with him. Share your observations and concerns (ask beforehand that he hears you out and doesn’t just jump in to defend her). He may not agree with you but at least he should hear you out.
Ask him then to summarise what you’ve said and how it all impacts upon you (including your fears about the future). Ask him to then respond, and include his own perceptions, fears and preferences.
There are many ways that partners can be unavailable for a relationship – and being enmeshed with a needy (and perhaps narcissistic) mother is certainly one of them.
Do you have a pattern of finding unavailable men? If so, it’s time to work out why and what the pay off is.
If you do both want your relationship to blossom, them you need to create a plan for this to happen. Take into consideration how much he will be doing with, and for, his mother (and what could be delegated to someone else). You might both discuss his intentions regarding moving out from her home too.
You both have important choices and decisions to make.
For more information about the different types of mothers and parenting out there, please see the free resources page on my website.
You’ll also find a free e-booklet called How To S.H.I.E.L.D. Yourself From Your Toxic Mother and another called How To Detox From Your Toxic Mother
Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)
www.maxineharley.com Where you will find FREE e-booklets and other free resources designed to help and inform you on your journey of self-knowledge and development