I am in my twenties and have been living with my boyfriend for four years. We plan to marry but have not set the date yet. My “mother-in-law” seems to be fighting to maintain control over as much of her only son’s life as possible. All the while making me feel really left out and unimportant. What should I do?
If something doesn’t happen soon, you will have continuing problems. This problem will not go away of its own accord. It will invade your marriage, if you get married, and if you have children your mother-in-law will interfere with you raising her son’s children.
There is nothing wrong with a man having a close relationship with his mother. Such a close relationship can be the foundation of a great respect for women and a caring and warm approach to women.
No matter what you do, your “mother-in-law” will not listen to you. Her primary relationship is with her son. It may be that she was particularly close to him. She may really like mothering. Or it may be that she has little else of importance to do. The reason for her behaviour really doesn’t matter.
You do not mention your boyfriend. He is the only one who can effectively deliver the message to his mother. He has to make it abundantly clear to her that you are the most important person in his life. He has to insist that she treat you with respect and consideration. The first time she doesn’t, he has to firmly speak to his mother about it. If she continues to be interfering or disrespectful, he has to make a choice between being loyal to you or sympathetic to his mother.
The problem is not your “mother-in-law” but with your boyfriend. It may be that he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings. He may enjoy the attention and services from his mother. He may have a distorted view of respect for his mother. It may be that he hasn’t realized that his mother is treating you poorly. Again, the reason doesn’t really matter.
Sit down and talk to your boyfriend. Don’t criticize. Recognize that his mother has good points and that she cares. Lay out the facts. Make it clear that you will not be second best to his mother. If you tolerate him taking his mother’s side, you will always be in her shadow.
He has to stand up and make a clear decision. Does he want to be a “mommy’s boy” for the rest of his life or does he want to forge a relationship with a partner? He can and should love both of you. But if you are going to make a life together, you have to come first.
He has to be firm and persistent with his mother. No matter how many times it takes, he must take the lead and make certain his mother does not interfere. He does not have to be rude or inconsiderate to his mother. He can be kind but firm, but he must be absolutely unwavering.
If he says “Just be patient, she will get better” or “She is only trying to be helpful” or “You are being too sensitive” he is dead wrong.
If he hasn’t made a commitment to you, he may be unwilling to take a stand.
Be understanding that he may feel conflicted, guilty or disloyal about standing up to his mother. But don’t let him off the hook by understanding his difficulty.
You should try and make a relationship with your “mother-in-law” but try as you will, you cannot change her on your own. If he denies it is a problem or thinks it is your problem, then you have some decisions to make.