AdviceHey, Bonita!

My Partner’s Mom Is a Little Too Close to Her Son

Hi Bonita,

My partner was raised by a single mom. He has issues (understandably) with dads and his dad in particular. He’s also very protective of his mom, which I also understand. 

His mom has pretty fancy taste, which I totally respect, but I’ve also gotten the vibe that I’m not of the right pedigree for her son, despite being a professional myself. Also, she demands a lot of his time, and he feels pressured and melts down a lot in regard to this or lashes out at me. (I’ll want to spend the weekend together, and he’ll break down because he doesn’t have enough alone time after hanging with his mom every day after work.) He has a hard time managing his time around our relationship and his relationship with his mom. My partner is awesome, but he’s very affected by all this, and I get the brunt of it. There are also times he’s said stuff to me that seems straight out of his mom’s mouth. 

I want to have a good relationship with his mom, so I have no desire to accuse her of anything or him of not knowing how to break away. At the end of the day, I’ve been through enough family drama of my own, and I know that everyone, my partner included, has limitations. There’s a lot of talk of his mom being “old” and alone (therefore needing extra love and attention), which bothers me, as she is several years younger than my parents and has had several partners of her own that she’s sent packing because, as she states, “The only man I need is my son.” I don’t have it in me to challenge this stuff or even think it’s my place. I fear that my partner will put his mom first and never really commit or be fully present in our relationship. Friends raised by single parents have told me that this is just the way it is, and he’s not going to get out of it ever, so best for him to find someone who gets it. Should I say goodbye? It would break both of our hearts, but I can’t see having a third person in the relationship or an ongoing doubt about the quality of person I am. Please help, Bonita, I don’t want perfection, just less intensity.

Three’s a Crowd

Hey there, Crowded,

First off, don’t believe your friends who say that all single parents are clingy, nosy curmudgeons who can’t let go of their kids. The nature of their relationship is clearly problematic, and a single-parent household is not the prerequisite here. Also, statements that equate someone’s progeny with their sexual partners (like “the only man I need is my son”) are a sign of much deeper issues than loving your kid too much, and—honestly? It’s GROSS. Stop saying that, parents!

You already seem to know that your boyfriend needs to lay down some hard boundaries with his mom—the lashing out and breakdowns are not a sign of happiness. But it’s clear he feels beholden to his mom, and you can’t force him to change the nature of that relationship. I’d say that it’s not even your place to demand that out of him, but you can be confident and uncompromising in boundaries that you establish for yourself. Your partner should not be discussing the dirty details of your relationship with your mom, he should not be allowing her to badmouth you, and he should be directing his stress and anger properly instead of lashing out at you, which is the detail here that I dislike the most. I wouldn’t blame you for saying goodbye to a man who likes to take out his anger and frustration on you, but he needs to understand that this behavior isn’t appropriate or tolerable by any means. Stay if you like, but I’d bet you a dollar that he’s been dumped over his mom before. He is walking around here thinking that spending time with his mom to the point of a meltdown is acceptable and that lashing out at his girlfriend about it is OK, too. He needs to grow up, with or without you.

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