Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Blows Me Off For His Mother All The Time!”

everybodyloveraymond

I am an independent 48-year-old female Ph.D, with a successful career, nice home and car, great children, and beautiful grandchildren. Although my life is blessed, I do have baggage. I am an alcoholic (currently sober) who was sexually abused as a child and sexually promiscuous as a teen. Relationship commitment has been problematic for me, and I have been married three times. It took me a long time to be comfortable and even happy being alone. Then two years ago I started dating a guy a year older than I who is really great: handsome, funny, loving, well-traveled and adventuresome. We hit it off right away, but a few months into the relationship it became apparent that he has baggage too. He told me when we met that he had moved to our location to help take care of his dad, who was dying of cancer, and that his dad had asked him to stay on to take care of his mom after his passing. My boyfriend has now been here five years, still living with his mom after his dad’s death three years ago and also going to college. At first, his living with his mom and his going to school seemed to me to show compassion and ambition, traits I admire, but then they became red flags for these reasons:

1) He does not have a job (cannot work while also going to school and taking care of his mom, he says). He has never asked me for money — if anything, he has almost always paid for everything and contributed to gas, groceries, etc., but I wonder if his mom has helped him financially and if they are actually co-dependent.

2) He takes care of someone who could take care of herself. His mom, 71, is not disabled. In the past year, she has had two MRIs, a scan, and numerous other medical tests, which have uncovered nothing wrong other than slightly elevated blood pressure. But she is introverted, and it seems her son is her only friend/person with whom she socializes.

3) My boyfriend often chooses to do what his mom wants, when she wants, regardless of what he has already committed to doing with me. For one example, he was recently five hours late meeting me to go out of town for the weekend, because his mom had wanted to take him to a birthday lunch (before his actual birthday) and had to first wait for his sister to get off work. They could have done this the following week when we didn’t have plans, and thereby not have caused me such a miserable weekend of feeling angry, hurt, jealous, and resentful, but he hadn’t told his mom about our plans and instead modified plans with me to accommodate her. Another time he took his mom to a movie that he had told me he and I would see, and his excuse was that the movie was one she really wanted to see and we could still go see it together later. And, again, I felt resentful.

4) He is putting his mother first in regards to holiday plans. Last year at the holidays, when his mom went out-of-state for five weeks, our relationship was the best it has ever been, and my boyfriend promised it would continue to be that way. But this year his mom has chosen to stay in town, and she and my boyfriend have both dropped hints about ME going to stay with THEM even though I live and work an hour’s drive away. And my own family, whom I also want to spend holiday time with, lives near my home as well. I think that my boyfriend should stay with me since he will be out of classes.

So, am I being childish, selfish, or too difficult/demanding? Because I am thinking about drawing a line in the sand and saying, “Either you stay with me and we make a life together as we have both have discussed, or it’s over.” Do I do this, or do I stay on the fence and see what happens?

I have invested two years of my life and my emotions, and I do not really want to walk away. Yet, I do not want to invest more of myself and my time only to see that my boyfriend’s mom never goes her own way in life. I do NOT want a life with the three of us always together. — Everyone Loves Raymond Gone Bad!

Definitely draw the line in the sand, but don’t expect your boyfriend to jump to your side. He and his mother are co-dependent and he has chosen her over you repeatedly over the past two years. This is not likely to change. My guess is he’d prefer to keep things as they are forever (or, at least until his mother dies, which could be another 20 years), or maybe move you in with them. You re not being too difficult or demanding to expect and desire more than what your boyfriend has given you. Despite what you perceived as early signs to the contrary, your boyfriend is not compassionate and not ambitious. He’s lazy. And living with his mother enables his laziness.

Draw a line in the sand if doing so gives you a sense that you tried everything. But when he doesn’t change his ways, MOA. And be glad all you lost over the past two years was some time and not, say, 70K…

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

15 comments… add one
  • avatar

    SpaceySteph December 10, 2015, 3:50 pm

    I’m not convinced that he’s lazy, or that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with any of his behavior here. (Delaying your vacation for the impromptu birthday lunch is a maybe exception, everything else is fairly tame.) When one parent dies, it might be a bit of a wakeup call for someone about how little time they have left with the still living parent AND a wakeup call for the living parent about their own mortality. So maybe their mutual decision to spend a lot of time together is about that.
    But regardless, it seems that your (the LW) own wants/needs/priorities are in a different place than your boyfriend’s. You could try talking to him about it, using some concrete examples like the birthday lunch incident to illustrate that you don’t feel like a priority. But honestly, it sounds like you aren’t really a priority, the mom is. That’s a sign of mismatched priorities/values, not that his are specifically flawed. Perhaps its best to go your separate ways, rather than try to convince him that you should be more important than his mom.
    And as for the college/job situation– it seems a little educational elitist that you judge him for this. He has the money (somehow) to pay for his education without working or asking you for money, and is studying to either benefit his intellect or his economic position. Can’t you as a PhD understand the value of education for it’s own sake? If you want a well educated and well employed boyfriend… go date one.

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    • avatar

      Ron December 10, 2015, 5:09 pm

      The issue is not that he’s back in college as “learning for learning’s sake”, it’s that he’s 49-years old and hasn’t been working. Likely he has a deal with his mother that she supports him and he stays with her and provides non-financial support. If that works for them, sort of fine, but, it sounds like this guy retired at 48, maybe even at 44, when he first moved to help care for his father.

      He may be a Wall Street wunderkind retiree with $50 million banked, but for ordinary folk, even with an inheritance from Mom and Dad, it’s one thing to have enough $$ to coast through your late 40s and 50s and quite another to have enough savings to last through retirement. Unless his is a very unusual situation, leaving the work-force mid-40s is not going to give him either a high social security payout or a big employer pension.

      LW may want to consider whether she is willing to ignore his (possible) financial irresponsibility and support him during his normal retirement years. If they continue their relationship, they are badly in need of a financial planning discussion as well as the ‘where are we going to live?’ and ‘how do you see us spending our time?’ discussions.

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    • avatar

      Ron December 10, 2015, 5:10 pm

      I do think LW is over-reacting on holiday plans. She wants to spend the holidays with her family. It’s only natural that he also wants to be with his. Her solution is that they both spend the holidays with her family, which apparently is what they did last year.

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      • avatar

        Ktfran December 11, 2015, 8:54 am

        Agreed. I don’t understand, while you’re just dating, the need to spend holidays together if both parties like holidays with their respective families. Celebrate Christmas with a nice dinner sometime right before or after Christmas. There are work arounds and if two people really like their family traditions, which only happen a few times a year, it doesn’t mean they love you less.

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  • avatar

    for_cutie December 10, 2015, 4:24 pm

    WWS. LW, you need to MOA. Your boyfriend is honoring his dying father’s wish and he is going to stick with this until his mother is no longer alive. He has clearly made that decision. The fact that they welcome you into their home for the holidays shows that they are willing to have you join their family – albeit on their terms. If you won’t move in with Mom than you need to MOA. You will not have your boyfriend on your terms, and from your letter, you sound inflexible about these terms (which you are totally entitled to be, btw). Next time find a partner who is truly independent, unattached, and willing/able to meet your needs.

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  • avatar

    csp December 10, 2015, 4:49 pm

    LW, I don’t think these things seem that bad. Honestly, he wants to be with is his family for christmas. Most people want that. My husband and I shuffle between families and bend over backwards to accommodate everyone.
    *
    Every relationship has a cost of entry. You can either accept this man and his family relationship or not. But I think making a man choose because he didn’t save a movie for you sounds silly. I mean, as an outsider, it seems silly to break up with a guy because he didn’t save the first viewing of The Wedding Ringer for you. I mean, you brought up some heavy life experience in this letter and have seen some heavy stuff. Comparing that to what you have charged in this letter and I am just not seeing the big deal.
    *
    Honestly, my husband and I are dealing with aging parents and it is a lot. I mean, there were weeks that my husband and I wouldn’t see each other because of hospital visits and dealing with family stuff. In a romantic relationship, you want someone who is going to support you with family, kids, and life’s challenges. You need to feel confident in your love and not see love for his mom as a threat.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph December 10, 2015, 5:03 pm

      I’m with you except that it depends on the movie. If my husband went and saw the new Star Wars without me, I might leave him. This is only about 30% sarcasm.

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      • avatar

        MissDre December 10, 2015, 5:15 pm

        Omg I totally feel you on the Star Wars thing…

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      • avatar

        csp December 11, 2015, 10:38 am

        Star wars is the exception but if he went opening weekend because you couldn’t go, I would be understanding about that.

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  • FireStar

    Firestar December 10, 2015, 10:05 pm

    Your relationship was the best when his mother was out of the picture. How sad for him. That says more about you than it does him. He is close with his mom. Maybe she supports him. Maybe he supports her. Maybe he is honouring the promise made to his dad. Maybe he likes his life as it is. Whatever the case, this is who he is. Take him or leave him. But stop the tug of war that it doesn’t even seem like the mother is engaging in. Christmas with family is what YOU want. Why would he be different? I don’t mind ultimatums but this one is lame. If he isn’t meeting your needs then find someone who will. Telling him to abandon his mom at Christmas or else makes me want to tell him to move on.

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    • veracityb

      veracityb December 11, 2015, 6:08 am

      Totally agree with this.

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    • avatar

      Seriously? Seriously! December 11, 2015, 12:13 pm

      I kinda disagree. It makes total sense that a relationship “was the best its ever been” when both parties were able to plan and see each other according to just their own wants. Especially because “best” here probably means “easiest” and “most time together without needing to fulfull other obligations.” And for 5 weeks? That can make it feel like it’s normal, and then getting to see way less of your boyfriend and having to take into account someone else’s schedule would be a disappointment.

      But I agree that christmas is the wrong thing to go to the mat about. She needs to change her perspective — instead of being upset that they want her to change her plans for christmas, she needs to look at it like they are inviting her to share their christmas because they like her! She is free to say no, and to spend it with her family, and is free to be a little bummed, and is free to invite them, but she shouldn’t make this the ultimatum thing. She can do that about the regular schedule.

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      • avatar

        Anonymous December 12, 2015, 9:44 pm

        SS – I like the perspective that they are wanting me to spend time with them (albeit on their terms and their schedule) … and I am seeking compromises with the scheduling and such. Thus far, I have made plans with my family as their schedule has allowed — and kept my boyfriend up to date, and invited him to join us. He and his mom’s plans are still up in the air — so I wait. Also, SS hit a nerve with the comment with the ‘feeling normal’ and then not being there! You are so right!! The transition is the tension — I get used to him here, helping, mutual decision making, sharing the little details of daily things — then he is gone for five days or so … I get angry at myself for missing him! This internal tug of war is on me — but yet he should also have some responsibility in all this — right??

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  • avatar

    Sketchee December 10, 2015, 11:55 pm

    I’m surprised that none of the comments yet touched about the five hours where he stood you up. Or that he has repeatedly stood you up and said that those other events are more of a priority. That alone is a sign to MOA.

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  • avatar

    Seriously? Seriously! December 11, 2015, 12:04 pm

    This makes me wonder, has it reached the point where he is no longer “living with his mother,” but rather, that “his mother is living with him”? I know that in this case that his mother owns the home, but I’m not sure that that is dispositive: he was asked to move it for her benefit, not for his own (which isn’t to say that he doesn’t benefit). I think it might be more fair to say that his mother lives with him. Even though she can live alone, in my experience, many older, widow/widower parents prefer to live with their children, at least some of the time/year. I know my grandmother did — it gets lonely.

    (This doesn’t absolve him of his bad behavior — unless it is an emergency or his mother has memory issues, he should be perfectly capable of making and sticking to plans that take his mother’s schedule into account BEFORE committing to time with you. If he can’t or won’t do that, that’s all on him. Blowing you off isn’t cool. )

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