Bad Advice Club: my boyfriend's mum has no boundaries
Woo's resident agony aunt is here to help one reader whose partner is in need of a mummy issues intervention
image Team Woo
words Chanté Joseph
I’m Chanté – writer, presenter, internet addict. I write a lot about relationships, internet trends and being the best, most delusional version of yourself. So welcome to the Bad Advice Club: I’m here to give you some loving advice on your life problems. Listen, I am by no means perfect, but I think that makes me ideal to assist you in navigating tricky issues because nine times out of 10, I’ve been there! Bad advice, bad decisions – these are the twists and turns that make life sweet. So let’s ride it out together: I have some gems to drop, so don’t be shy and send in your stories, woes, dilemmas.
My boyfriend has no concept of boundaries with his mum – at first I thought it was nice that they were so close, especially as his mum is a single parent and he's her only child. But my bf and I just moved in together and she not only came round to ours for literally ten hours at the weekend (despite my subtle hints telling her to leave), she's talking about coming round every weekend to cook for my bf in my kitchen (she has a fine kitchen at home and not only can I cook, my boyfriend should start cooking for himself). I tried to bring it up with him but he doesn't see my point of view and thinks I'm policing his relationship with his mum. It's not just a major turnoff seeing how much a 24-year-old man still relies on his mum, he's brought this into our home. What do I do?
This sounds like my personal hell. I can only apologise that your boyfriend latches onto the teat like a newborn. I find mother/son relationships so bizarre sometimes. I hate seeing videos online of mothers berating their infant sons' future girlfriends or acting like their son is a substitute husband. I'm sure there are several psychological studies and theories about this uncomfortable relationship, but the most important thing to know is that it is not up to you to fix. Don’t get into the habit of psychoanalysing them or making sense of it, your boyfriend is putting his strange codependent relationship with his mother over your feelings, and you have every right to be upset.
I can imagine it’s difficult as a single mum watching your only child, who you’ve dedicated your life to raising, fly the nest to start their own life. My mother was an orderly mess when I left for university and when I moved out of home. However, it started and ended with a few small tears as she understood I needed the space to grow and become my own person. On the other hand, your boyfriend's mother seems tethered to him and will not let go despite the obvious issue it is causing. She is clearly ignoring your wishes, invading your space and attempting to continue mothering her son despite him being an adult. However, your boyfriend is enabling his mother by refusing to speak out, rejecting your feelings and allowing this to go unchecked.
Things will only spiral for your boyfriend if he doesn’t set healthy boundaries with his mother. She will continue to block his relationships and stop him from developing into a self-sufficient adult. This situation is beyond you, and you have to put yourself first because you didn’t sign up to be in a three-person relationship. By allowing his mother to be so overbearing and suck up all of the oxygen in the relationship, your boyfriend is changing the terms of your partnership without considering you. You deserve to have your kitchen to yourself and enjoy all the spoils of sharing a home with someone you care for. You deserve to have the relationship you signed up for and watch it flourish over time. You don’t deserve to feel uncomfortable in your home and watch your boyfriend's mother try to play every role in his life.
The timing of this dilemma is actually perfect: someone I know is moving out of his mum’s house into his own place. He’s been telling me about the struggles of even mentioning leaving his childhood home to his mother because she is so protective of him. He hates the smothering and is aware of the unhealthy attachment, so his way of navigating this has been to build up to the day slowly. He often drops the fact that he’s moving into discussions and has to reassure her, bit by bit, that it will be fine. I’d suggest you pass these tactics on to your bf, but he doesn’t even seem to see it as an issue in the first place, which makes offering advice feel a bit useless.
I love a good 'dump him' solution but it isn’t great for meeting my word count. In this instance, I think you have to express to your boyfriend that his mum encroaching on the relationship is not fun for you at all, and you cannot stick around while she clearly feels dependent on him. He has to make a choice: either he sets boundaries with his mother and focuses on your relationship or he lets his mother command his life forever, to the detriment of all future relationships.