She had a run-in with identity theft a few years ago, and since then she has not used her social security number. Everything she has my boyfriend pays for or it’s in his name. She even works for him, and he pays her by housing her and feeding her. She has literally nothing without him. However, he’s more than open to helping her move out if she would be willing. She just got a boyfriend and they say they want to move in together, but she’s playing all these games with my boyfriend. She can move out, she can’t move out. Blah blah blah. And she’s telling him that he’s “holding her back.” She says she can “start using her social security number in June,” but it sounds like a load of bull all the way around.
I’ve decided that I can’t move in until she’s out because I have two cats to think about and she does not treat her animals too kindly. This is putting a lot of pressure on our relationship, and I’m not sure what to do. Should I talk to her and tell her my struggles and that I feel held back in my relationship with her son? Do I just let her do her thing and hope to God she moves out soon? My boyfriend won’t push her out and I don’t want her pushed out if she’s not ready because she’ll just be back at his door a month later. I’m just hoping for an outside perspective. Thank you!! — Parent Trapped
You can’t move in with your boyfriend because you have two cats to think about?! What about thinking about yourself? This situation is a nightmare and you shouldn’t want to be anywhere near it, regardless of whether you have pets or not. Your boyfriend is a doormat who has enabled his mother’s manipulative behavior for years, and she shows no signs of relenting. He doesn’t want to push or nudge or do anything to upset her. He’s open to helping her move out, but only if she’s willing — only if it’s her idea. And you think if that even happened — which it probably won’t unless she has a sweet deal offered by someone else, like a new boyfriend — that your boyfriend is going to be free and clear of her? No. She’ll continue to manipulate and use him.
You need to make very clear — to your boyfriend, not his mother — that you are not moving forward with this relationship until your boyfriend sets some clear boundaries with his mother and gives you some clear signs he’s prioritizing his own well-being and happiness. This can look several ways, but seeking therapy, kicking his mother out, and learning to stand up and say no to her would be good indications of his commitment to this. Until you see any of this happening, you should put the brakes on this relationship. Certainly hold off on any plans to move forward and move in together. Even should your boyfriend finally get a spine and start setting some boundaries, you should wait at least six to twelve months before moving in to see how well the boundaries are respected and how strong your boyfriend can remain in the face of what you know will be strong resistance from the mother who has had years of getting her own way.
As for taking the initiative to talk to the mother yourself: no. That will solve nothing and will only serve to make you the enemy and to alienate you from the codependent mother-son dynamic. Suddenly the mother will have propaganda to use with her son against you. She’ll tell her son to break up with you and he probably will because he doesn’t know how to say no to his mother and he sounds petrified of disappointing her. So, be clear with your boyfriend that it’s his job to start standing up to her and, if you don’t see clear signs of that very soon (like, in the next month), you should seriously consider moving on already.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.