His Mom's Way Too Intrusive
Q: Me and my boyfriend have been dating for almost three years as college sweethearts. We have discussed our future lives, and we both agree that we want to spend the rest of our lives with each other. There is only one problem: his mom doesn't seem to know that the umbilical cord isn't still attached! She calls him 3 or 4 times a day and asks the same questions. Recently my boyfriend discovered a feature on his phone that keeps count of calls and she has called over 100 times in the last month! Her phone calls are practically scripted. She questions every decision he makes. To make it worse she has never liked me. I am a "tom-boy" that hates shopping, cooking or anything else usually deemed feminine. She seems to think that I won't know how to "be a good wife or mother."
This woman is causing great stress in our relationship! Because we are still in college she threatens to stop paying for his education if he doesn't make the decisions she wants. She was VERY ANGRY that he decided to stay at school this summer instead of going home to her. I feel that this relationship is on the edge of dependency because I don't believe that she has a very good loving relationship with her husband. Me and my boyfriend are thinking of just moving away so we don't have to deal with her. -- Amanda, 21
Dr. Susan: It's certainly a challenge to deal with a parent who won't let go and who attaches unfair strings to paying for college. Nevertheless, your boyfriend is continuing to keep this weird relationship going with his mom. She might even sense that he hasn't quite grown up yet, which makes her try even harder to control him. Does he have to answer every one of her calls? He needs to be upfront with her and insist that once a day is more than enough for a mother to be calling a son in college. Then simply ignore the rest of the calls.
If the main thing she's pushing for is for him to drop you, that's something the two of you will have to ponder seriously about. He might have to go as far as earning some money to finish college, or digging into any savings he might have. But he should be utterly clear to her that he must live his life his own way, that he truly loves you AND her, and that if she cuts off his college funding, that will irrevocably damage his relationship with HER. Rather than moving away to avoid her, he should stand up to her. She might even need some medical or psychological help, as she sounds over-the-top in her efforts to keep him on that umbilical string. He probably won't be able to influence her to get any help. Thus, do try (both of you) to be patient with her and what she's going through as her son moves emotionally away from her.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.