Is his mom causing problems in your relationship? Here are a few tips for dealing with your boyfriend’s mother – and how to stop her from ruining your relationship.
I was inspired to write this by a reader who loves her boyfriend, but is struggling with his family members. “My boyfriend’s mother controls everything he does, and he does exactly what she says,” says Olive in response to 7 Ways to Know if Your Relationship is Worth Fighting For. “His sisters and brothers are also controlling him, and he just sits back and follows orders. This has put a huge strain on our relationship and he doesn’t listen to how I feel, no matter how many times I tell him. We are now spending our time together discussing how we will get through the family issues, rather than focusing on us and having quality time. I just want to get out of the relationship, but I love him so much. It hurts to think I might have to leave him because of his mother.”
The first thing to remember when your boyfriend’s mom is interfering with your relationship is that she won’t go away. She is a huge part of your boyfriend’s life, and she always will be. Your boyfriend doesn’t see his mother the way you do, and you can’t see her the way your boyfriend does. They have a special, unique connection that you must respect – even if you think their relationship is unhealthy, controlling, or even destructive.
Focus on your relationship with your boyfriend, not his relationship with his mom. All couples have external problems that affect their relationship, and all healthy couples find ways to work through those problems.
Your main focus should not be on your boyfriend’s mom, or his relationship with his mother. Your focus must be on the only thing you have control over: you.
4 Tips for Coping With Your Boyfriend’s Mother
“Families aren’t easy to join. They’re like an exclusive country club where membership makes impossible demands and the dues for an outsider are exorbitant.” ~ Erma Bombeck, Family: The Ties that Bind … And Gag!
Families create a whole different dynamic when it comes to romantic relationships, especially when an “outsider” like you has come into the picture. You may see your boyfriend’s family as the outsider; they probably see you as the outsider. Your boyfriend’s mother has a whole different perspective on your relationship, and she probably doesn’t think anything needs to change!
Remember this when you’re reading through my tips on how to stop your boyfriend’s mother from ruining your relationship: your boyfriend’s mother doesn’t feel the need to change what she’s doing.
1. Know that you will never change your boyfriend’s mother
If you’ve ever tried to break a habit or change something about yourself, you know how hard it is. There are things about me that I’d love to change – I want to lighten up, be more accepting of myself, be less critical of my husband, and say what I think instead of clamming up. I really really want to make these changes in my life, yet I keep reverting to my old ways.
How about you – what have you wanted to change about yourself? Do you make those changes? I bet it was hard. It’s that hard for you to change yourself…and it’s a million times harder for you to change your boyfriend’s mother. People like things the way they are, thank you very much, and there’s no reason to change. His family may not be aware they’re ruining your boyfriend’s relationship with you – or maybe they just don’t care. Maybe they want to ruin your relationship.
2. Accept that you probably can’t change your boyfriend
Relationship problems are difficult to resolve even when everyone involved is willing and wants to change! If your boyfriend isn’t changing how he interacts with his family, it’s not a sign he doesn’t love you. His family dynamics have been going on for decades – since before your boyfriend was even born! Relationship patterns like that aren’t easily broken.
If your boyfriend hasn’t changed his behavior or perspective on his mother yet, then he probably won’t in the future – no matter how much you argue, beg, threaten, or sweet talk. Men who are controlled by their families don’t cut the ties overnight. Some guys don’t ever cut the family ties. For whatever reason, he is part of his family’s complicated dynamics and there’s not much you can do about that.
If you told your boyfriend that his family is ruining your relationship and he doesn’t seem to care, then you’re fighting an uphill battle. Maybe you’re in an unhealthy relationship? If you’re not sure, here are a few warning signs of bad relationships.
Even though I believe you can’t change how your boyfriend’s mother acts – or how he responds to her – you can try a couple ways to stop her from ruining your relationship…
3. Try “I statements”
This is a classic relationship tip because it often works. Instead of focusing on how interfering, controlling, and downright nasty your boyfriend’s mother is, try explaining how you feel to your boyfriend. I’ve learned that “I statements” come in pretty handy in any relationship – marriage, work, and even my neighbors.
Here’s a formal explanation of why I-Statements work, from the Human Potential Center’s website: “I-Statements require healthy self-disclosure, and self-disclosure requires vulnerability. I-Statements de-fuse rather than fuel arguments. It’s very difficult to carry on an argument when both people are using I-Statements; it’s very difficult to stop an argument when both people are using You-Statements. It’s also very difficult to blame others when we’re using I-Statements. They force us to take responsibility for what we’re thinking and feeling, which protects others from our blame, guilt and judgment.”
Examples of I-Statements in love relationships:
- I feel scared when it seems like your family is more important to you than I am.
- I love you, and want our relationship to be strong and healthy.
- I want to learn how to make our relationship better. Can we read books or go to workshops on relationship-building together?
- I am committed to you and our relationship, so I will do what I can. What do you think I could do differently, to help support you and us?
Notice the lack of “you love your mother more than me!” and “you’re wrong for putting your family first” statements. Lead with an honest sentence that reflects how you really feel. Even if it doesn’t work, I can guarantee it’ll help you clarify your own feelings and thoughts about your relationship with your boyfriend. Be specific and clear about how you feel, without blaming your boyfriend or his family.
It can be really difficult to build a healthy relationship – or save an unhealthy one – without external advice or guidance. My husband and I went to couples counseling twice: premarital counseling before we got married, and a one-time therapy session because I was insecure and jealous about his ex-girlfriend.
If couples therapy isn’t your thing, read How to Save an Unhappy Marriage Without Couples Counseling.
4. Love your boyfriend – and his mother – for who they are
This is the best tip on how to stop your boyfriend’s mother from ruining your relationship – and it’s also the most difficult! Some of my husband’s family members aren’t exactly my cup of tea…we’re very different, and we don’t really get each other. For that matter, some of my own family members aren’t my cup of tea and we don’t understand each other! I bet you feel the same way about your own relatives, don’t you?
It’s helpful to read books like How We Love: Discover Your Love Style by Milan and Kay Yerkovich.
This book is a great resource about families, intimacy, and love – it explains how early life experiences affect your current relationships. Knowing why you are the way you are – and why your boyfriend is the way he is – can help you reconnect or let go. It’s important to remember is that your boyfriend’s mother is loving him their way. Your boyfriend is trying to love you his way – and you’re trying to love him your way! Love is the bottom line, but it’s getting in the way of a healthy romantic relationship.
To stop your boyfriend’s mother from breaking you up, you need to get an objective perspective on what’s going on underneath all the drama. Then, you need to figure out if you can do anything to change the situation and stop your boyfriend’s mom from ruining your relationship. If you can, then great! Start moving forward. If you can’t, then you need to decide if you want to love your boyfriend the way he right now – family and all – or if you need to break up with him before his family ruins your relationship.
How to get along with your boyfriend’s mom
Reluctantly Related: Secrets To Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-law by Deanna Brann is a helpful resource for coping with in-laws. I know your boyfriend’s mother isn’t your mother-in-law (yet) — but this is exactly the right time to read this book.
Dr Brann reveals the root causes of mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship problems and – more importantly- offers tools to help solve specific situations.
Is your boyfriend’s mother trying to break you up – or ruin your relationship? I welcome your comments below, but I can’t offer relationship advice. Writing is an excellent way to process your thoughts and emotions, though, so I encourage you to write about your experience.
If a birthday, holiday, or anniversary is approaching, read 10 Gift Ideas for Your Boyfriend’s Parents. You never know what a nice gift might do for your relationship with your future mother-in-law…