“My Boyfriend’s Bipolar Mother is Driving Me Crazy”

I’m 21-years-old and have been dating my boyfriend for over three years. We started out LDR but after about a year and a half he moved in with me. So far it’s been great, we’re talking engagement and marriage, and life is going pretty well. However, I have an issue with his mother who’s bipolar disorder and refuses to take medication for it. She’s always been very sweet and nice, but only to my face. When she found out that boyfriend and I were living together, she flipped out on him and started a screaming match in a parking lot. He told me that she called me a harlot, and that as soon as the word left her mouth he told her the conversation was over and came straight home (which is wonderful, it makes me feel loved that he’s willing to stand up to his mother for me).

She does things like this quite frequently, and I don’t trust her. She told my boyfriend that he needed to get a better job to take proper care of me…and then screamed at him for an hour over the phone one day because he told her that he was paying the rent in full so that I could focus on paying off my medical bills (I have a couple of chronic pain conditions and a spine injury).

I suppose my question is: how do I interact with her? I strongly disagree with her refusal to get treatment for her bipolar disorder — I think it’s disrespectful and borderline emotionally abusive to her family members who have to put up with her screaming at them. I also don’t like that she’s polite to my face but then essentially calls me a whore behind my back to my boyfriend. I’ve talked with my boyfriend about him just not telling her any of our personal business, and he says he’s tried that but then she gets mad at him for “hiding” from her. I can handle being polite to her face, but when important things that affect both of us come up — for example, he’s paying off a car that he bought from them, and his mother alternately tells him not to worry about the payments and then screams at him for not “making the effort” to pay her off immediately — what should I do? My solution was to say that we’re not going to pay another red cent until she picks an agreed upon amount for the car and what she’ll accept as a monthly payment, and then have her sign it, because I’m tired of her flip-flopping on something as serious as $2,000. My boyfriend says that’s rude and won’t work with her, so I’m wondering how I should handle situations like this that will arise in the future? Is there a better way to deal with someone who has a mental problem but refuses to treat it? — Bipolar Disorderly Conduct

Your question shouldn’t be how do you deal with your boyfriend’s mother; it should be how do you deal with your boyfriend. After all, he’s the one who’s sharing personal information about your life together with his mother. He’s the one who keeps repeating the terrible things she says about you. And he’s the one who can’t seem to pay his parents in a timely manner for a car he agreed to buy from them.

If you want a better relationship with his family, start with him. Tell him you will not tolerate him telling his parents your personal business anymore. You two are grownups and it’s time he set some boundaries to protect your privacy. Unless he’s a spineless wimp, I can’t understand why he hasn’t stood up to his mother and told her, “You know, that’s really between my girlfriend and me” when she asks personal information about your lives. I blame him for your anxiety. I blame his mother for not taking medication for her illness, but seeing as your boyfriend is the one who’s supposedly mentally stable, he should know better. He should keep your life private and quit blabbing to you about all the crap his crazy mother says behind your back in a fit of mania.

Furthermore, if the two of you don’t want financial drama with his parents, freakin’ pay them back already for the car you/he bought. I mean, why are you waiting for her to tell you what the monthly payments should be? Decide amongst yourselves what you can afford to pay off each month, put it in writing, show it to her and pay that amount on the same day every month until the debt is paid off. Grow up and be adults already. Not “paying another red cent” until your boyfriend’s unmedicated mentally ill mother starts behaving rationally is a recipe for disaster. You can’t change her behavior. You can’t change the fact that she has failed herself and her family by refusing to treat her illness. But you and your boyfriend can damn well step up and start taking responsibility for your own actions, like paying for something you’ve agreed to buy. It’s not rocket science.

As for interacting with the mother, continue being polite to her face as you have been. You say you don’t have a problem with that, so good. Don’t create one then and you’ll have a better chance of keeping your sanity. Tell your boyfriend that he’s in charge of dealing with her on more personal matters and that you don’t want or need a re-cap of their conversations — especially the ones involving you. If you plan of marrying this man one day, his mother is going to be a permanent part of your life. I suggest you read up and educate yourself on bipolar disorder so you can better able to understand what causes her behavior, how to deal with it and how to spot warning signs that her mood is changing. The National Alliance on the Mental Illness is a good place to start.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.


  1. Your boyfriend needs to grow a backbone and set some boundaries with his mother. He must stop sharing personal details of your relationship with his mother NOW or he will erode the trust between the two of you. Likewise, he needs to stop sharing the crazy rants of his mother with you. If he does not agree to stop sharing personal details of your lives with his mother (or anyone else for that matter), then you have a decision to make about the future of your relationship. Setting AND maintaining boundaries with family and friends is a necessary part of becoming an adult. From your letter, it sounds like he’s not there yet, but with your help, he may be able to get there.

  2. I almost hate to say it, but I didn’t think his mother sounded quite as crazy as LW says. Sure, she yells at her son. That may be off-putting and such, but I don’t think it’s crazy enough to require medication (since we have no other symptoms of bipolar to go by), and from the letter alone, it doesn’t sound indicative of mental illness. Some people just lose their temper and yell. I hate it, LW hates it, but there are people in this world who are like that.

    Furthermore, I thought everything that the mom got super upset about was legitimate. (Not the way she handled it, mind you, but the motivations behind it.) It’s your boyfriend’s decision to move in with you, but it sounds contrary to his mother’s values and I think she’s allowed to be upset by that. Yes, it his life, and he should surely live with LW if he wants to, BUT I don’t think it’s right to deny his mother the right to be hurt or angry that her young adult son has seemingly shunned the family values. Sure, she should handle it better, but I don’t think LW has a right to say that the mother shouldn’t be bothered by it. And guess what, the mom IS handling it well. I think it’s fair for her to have some words with her son about it, but also, I think she is doing the right thing by keeping her problems to her son and ALWAYS BEING POLITE, RESPECTFUL, AND NICE to LW. As far as the mom knows, LW has no idea that she is upset about the cohabitation. And that’s the way it should be–the mom’s hurt feelings are between her and her son, not LW. If she went crazy yelling at LW about it, that would be a different story.

    And I think it’s legitimate for her to worry that her son is fully supporting this girl who makes no effort to pay the rent. And it’s also legitimate for her to want him to get a job to support his future wife/partner/family. Although those sound contrary when you put them next to each other, I think they are both legitimate concerns. Again, it’s the son’s life and he can do what he wants, but most mothers worry about their very young adult children. Those adult children should take it for what it’s worth–a parent who loves them and wishes them the best, but a parent who is no longer running their lives. Again, the mom is not going off on LW, but she is expressing her concerns only to her son. He should take it as her being a nosy mom and move on. It shouldn’t really mean anything to him.

    All in all, I think that LW comes across as being too meddlesome and too all-about-me in her boyfriend’s family’s relationships. When it starts affecting her directly, then I think she has some more grounds to complain. Until then, I think she should expect her boyfriend to stand up to his mom, privately, on his own. And be grateful that, whatever the mom’s concerns are, she treats LW with courtesy and respect.

    1. I agree with most of what you’re saying except the part about yelling. Have you ever dealth with someone who is bipolar? Just curious because the anger and the yelling and flipping out that someone who is bipolar and not medicated is capable of is extremely frustrating and scary. The person who is bipolar can not control their emotions in the same way that someone who isn’t bipolar can. I have family members who are bipolar and when they think they’re better or fine and go off their medications it becomes at times unbearable to deal with them.

      While I agree a Mother can be upset at her son for moving in with someone, is a shouting match in a parking lot appropriate where you call the other persons significant other names? And the back and forth over the car actually sounds familiar. My sister can feel one way at 9am and if something happens that upsets her by 10am she can feel completely different and be in a rage. And this can be the simplest thing that ruins the day and changes her outlook, like chipping a nail or spilling something on her shirt. The smallest thing can upset their day and change the way they interact with everyone for the rest of the day. While your or I might be upset but we would get over it and it wouldn’t put us in a rage. Just an example, but I can see how the Mother’s mood may change about the car. All the more reason why they should follow Wendy’s advice and have something set in writing.

      Having said that I agree that the LW needs to grow up and she and her bf need to set boundaries. They should pay off the car and not be in debt to the parents and learn to keep business that is between the two of them separate from the mother. It may seem meddlesome now but if they are talking marriage then financial obligations are of importance to one another. And they should be discussing them.

      1. Just curious, you all know what bipolar disorder actually is, right? In clinical terms, “bipolar” is no longer used, the term “manic depressive” is used because its a more accurate description of the disorder. People with this disorder are alternatively manic (the yelling and screaming and general mayhem) as well as depressed. In the letter, it didn’t seem as though the LW has experience with the mom in that respect. Its only in pop culture that being “bipolar” equates to periodically freaking out on people. So I agree with Amber that while the mom doesn’t seem to be expressing her emotions in the best possible way, she is not actually bipolar.

      2. StephanieSays says:

        Actually, the DSM IV-TR still refers to types of bipolar disorder, and working in mental health I’ve never heard it referred to as manic depression. I’m assuming the LW refers to the mother as bipolar because she’s received the diagnosis from a doctor and has been offered medication, but does not take it.

        I wonder if the mother has had negative experiences taking medication in the past? It can have a lot of side effects. It sometimes takes a very long time to find a combination that works for people, and if their first prescriptions don’t work they understandably won’t be as invested in taking it again. Also, maybe a case manager or more involved psychiatrist or therapist could help her manage her symptoms better.

      3. I think manic depressive is actually the older term for what are now classified as the various types of bipolar disorder. See also: a song by Jimi Hendrix

        *Disclaimer: this knowledge courtesy of a not-even-upper-level psych class in college. (Well, not the Hendrix bit.) But I’m pretty sure its true.

      4. Correct.

      5. Yes. I work for a mental health agency. “Bipolar” is still the official term.

        Although I do agree that pop culture has caused a lot of people to diagnose both other people and themselves as having all sorts of things or falsely use terms in passing. Like… “I’m so OCD- I need to make my bed every day!” (when really, you’re just a good housekeeper). Or “I’m so ADD. I can’t even concentrate on this movie”

      6. SweetChild says:

        True that, I struggle with OCD a lot of the time but I couldn’t give two shits about keeping things all lined up straight or in even numbers or anything like that so it can be difficult to explain.

      7. Agreed. Was diagnosed Bipolar with OCD tendencies at 16 (now 27) and I’m still a terrible slob sometimes.

      8. SweetChild says:

        I think you have that round the wrong way, “manic depressive” is the old term, and not a particularly accurate one which is why it’s now called bipolar disorder. This mom may have been diagnosed as bipolar and chosen not to get treatment.

      9. MasterKat says:

        My uncle is bipolar. When he’s on an uptick he doesn’t go into yelling and screaming fits, for the record. He does, however, tend to give away all his money and worldly possessions to absolute strangers because they “look like nice people.” He’s not in control of his assets anymore, for obvious reasons. So not all people who suffer from bipolar disorder go into raging fits. I just want to disspell that assumption. My uncle is the nicest guy ever.

      10. SpyGlassez says:

        Also, if you grew up in a house with a parent who was bipolar, you know how hard it can be to set boundaries. I did, I’m 30, and it’s only been within the last few years that I’ve gotten good at it. Also, the bipolar parent is now on medication and the rage is…gone. It is literally a miracle.

        If you were the “people pleaser” or the “good child” then you come to view yourself as the barometer of the bipolar parent, and it becomes – to you – your “responsibility” to keep them happy and to take away the rage. That was my place in the family – I felt. It was my “job” to take on Dad’s rage and to tease and coddle and jolly him back to being his positive self. I know this isn’t healthy, and as I said, I have worked on this – but it is a pattern that is very easy for a child to learn and very difficult for an adult child to unlearn. Your boyfriend probably learned that it was easier to give in to Mom to deflect her when he was younger, and that the rages were tolerable because they would go away.

        When you live it, it’s normal.

        Yes, he needs to create boundaries. But he may need help doing that.

      11. Reading through the responses, it’s starting to look like I should have written in with “How do I help my boyfriend create good boundaries with his crazy mom?” instead of “How do I deal with his crazy mom?”

        I managed to deal with my own crazy mom by, once I was old enough, moving the hell out of the house and refusing to talk to her until she went back on her medication and stopped being awful to everyone. Boyfriend doesn’t live with his mom anymore, but I think he’s just so used to her being the way she is that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t have to put up with her behavior. I also think he’s worried about being cut off from his parents and then not being able to help them out when/if they really need it (they’re pretty old).

        You seem really level headed and helpful. Do you have any good advice for how to help him stand up for himself here?

    2. It’s the degree to which she gets upset and out of control that is the issue. It is not unusual for very religious parents to strongly disapprove of cohabitation and stridently voice their opinion to their adult offspring, but an hour-long screaming rant suggests mental instability.

    3. Landygirl says:

      The LW seems very young and immature, in fact, I’d suggest that she move out and live on her own if she dislikes her situation so much.

  3. Just curious… Who came up with the bi-polar diagnosis? If the mother is really mentally ill, then it’s up to her entire family to ensure that she is properly cared for and/or is taking her medication. If it’s only the LW’s opinion, then she should keep it to herself. Because so far, the mother only sounds frustrated about her son’s decisions (I’m not saying that either one of them is right), and nothing more.

    1. From the way LW worded that, it sounds like bf’s Mom has been diagnosed and prescribed meds, but has refused to take them. This is not unusual and there is no way to force an adult to take meds, which she doesn’t want to take.

      1. I agree with you. That’s a big lie to make up if you are writing to an advise columnist for an objective opinion. LW, if you are reading this, can you help clear up this issue pls?

    2. Ehh, I think the fact that she went on a screaming rant with her son, calling his gf a “harlot” just because they were moving in together signifies she’s not “all there.”
      Maybe it’s not bipolar disorder bc it’s true, I’ve noticed a lot of people throw “bipolar disorder” around a lot, when in fact it isn’t.
      I guess we’d have to know if she’s clinically diagnosed or not…But she def. has issues, no doubt about that.

      1. First off, we only have the LW’s version of things, which I am sure is not impartial. Secondly, that is the mother’s opinion, and she is allowed to have one. You can agree or disagree with it, but that doesn’t make the mother mentally ill.

      2. AnitaBath says:

        Then again, most normal people don’t have a screaming match in a parking lot with their son and call their girlfriend a harlot when they’re moving in together.

        Actually, most normal people don’t use the word harlot.

        I agree she probably doesn’t have bipolar disorder (that word is thrown around a lot), but it definitely sounds like she has some emotional issues.

      3. Ya, I’m really questioning that the mother has a disorder at all. Seems like the LW thinks that being two-faced is the same as having bipolar disorder. It’s not.

      4. Exactly what I said, there’s a possibility she doesn’t. The only thing that makes me believe she does is that the LW said she has meds, so unless she’s outright lieing about that, I don’t see why not.
        & @Flake, everyone is entitled to their opinion but it takes a pretty emotionally unstable person to throw around those words for no reason. So far, the only side we have to go on is the LW’s & from what I’ve seen with friends & family, MIL’s get crazy with their son’s S/O’s for no reason. I’ve seen it happen more than once.
        My friend’s MIL came at her with a knife bc she said my friend was “stealing her baby away.”

      5. I guess all those tumbs-down are from people who don’t mind being called names by their MIL’s…

      6. Yeah, I agree that the mother’s reactions are a bit extreme, but then again, I don’t have a barely adult son moving in with a girl and start to pay for all of her (fine, their) expenses. The fact that she is polite to the LW’s face and that there wasn’t any trouble until they decided to live together suggests that the mother’s problem is mainly with her son and his choices and that she realizes that none of this is the girl’s fault (I am sure it has nothing personal to do with the GF, chances are the mother would be upset no matter who her son decided to live with). And you know what, she has a right to be upset. Turning 21 doesn’t automatically mean that your parents should stop caring about your life and what you do with it. I agree that they should find a better way of dealing with the situation, and my guess is this is the first time the BF moved out of his house. That could be very hard for a mother to get used to. My main point is however, none of this behavior suggests mental illness, and it is very rude on the LW’s part to assume that.

      7. Fancy Pants says:

        Ummm, harlot’s my favorite word. Harlot.

  4. AnitaBath says:

    Everyone thinks the mother sounds normal? Really?

    And the LW said that the mom said that they don’t have to pay back the car, and then changes her mind and flip out on them. She said when the boyfriend doesn’t tell his mom his business, it makes her flip out on him. I could see how the boyfriend shouldn’t have told the LW about the whore comment, but everything else *I* would want to know if it directly involves me and I’m in a relationship with the guy, especially if it seems like they’re somewhat sharing finances and it affects their finances.

    I don’t know, it seems like the LW is going to be in the same position she’s in, because it seems like they’re already doing most of the stuff.

    1. I’m wondering if he only told her about the “harlot” comment because he came home upset after the fight, and either she asked him what happened or he wanted to unload. It doesn’t sound like he’s trying to hurt the LW deliberately. But maybe he just has to learn to deal with some of it himself, or at least edit a few things out.

  5. SpaceySteph says:

    Where is the dad/husband in all this? She says her boyfriend bought a car “from them” but then only talks about what the mother says about payments. Does she have a husband or a boyfriend or someone else you could arrange the payments with? It probably wouldn’t stop the mother from screaming about it, but it at least would provide a rational person to conduct the transaction with.

    Also I agree with Wendy that you should put it in writing even if she won’t sign it. In case this ends up with Judge Judy (or, in seriousness, any small claims court televised or otherwise), it would probably help you to show that you made an effort to write a contract. Keep copies of the cancelled checks also so you can show you were making timely payments. It may never get that far, but better safe than sorry.

    And, LW, learn from this mistake… don’t buy stuff from your boyfriend’s mother anymore. Even though its probably alot cheaper to buy from family, its not worth the added strain on an already troubled relationship.

  6. caitie_didn't says:

    So, I’m not actually seeing “bipolar” in this letter. The mood swings in bipolar disorder generally occur over periods of weeks or months, not days or hours (unless they are rapidly cycling, which is significantly more common in children). Anger and self-control issues, yes, but bipolar disorder, no. I’m not saying it’s acceptable for her to call the LW a slut, but she obviously has enough self control to avoid saying these hurtful things directly to the LW.

    The LW is only 21. If she marries this guy, she has to live with his mother for A LONG TIME. I think for me at least, this would be a deal breaker IF the boyfriend is unable to grow the eff up and stop sharing his personal business with his mother. Telling the LW that his mother thinks she’s “a harlot” is rude, disrespectful and completely unnecessary. The boyfriend needs to learn some boundaries ASAP.

    1. I agree with you, but she did say she was supposed to be taking meds, so maybe she is clinically diagnosed.

      1. She said that she “refuses to get medicated for it”. Which leads me to question that she was diagnosed at all. People in her family might just call her bipolar flippantly, and there could be a notion that she needs meds, even if she isn’t actualy bipolar. I’ve seen this happen in families before. Once you throw out an illness to explain someone’s behavior it can stick to them and start to define the way people interact with them.

      2. I guess you’re right. The first time I read it, I understood that she had been prescribed medication & was unwilling to take it, which is a very big characteristic of bipolar disorder. But now that you’ve pointed it out you’re right. They are not doctor’s so really, they shouldn’t be diagnosing her unless a licensed professional already did…I do agree people throw that term around a LOT & very loosely.

    2. SpyGlassez says:

      It could also be someone who suffers from depression where the depression manifests as rage. Not all depression is sadness.

    3. Temperance says:

      There is a form of bipolar disorder that features rapid cycling moods. I work in domestic violence and because of that I see many people that have mental illness or are abused by people with mental illness. What the LW has described sounds pretty standard for my clients.

  7. While I don’t necessarily disagree with Wendy’s advice I am going to try to give some perspective on this situation as someone in almost the exact same position as the LW. My boyfriend of 4 years (did the LDR, we’re in our early twenties, living together for a year) has a mother with bipolar who also refuses to medicate. It’s very difficult to do anything with her most of the time. She’s become estranged from her family for quite some time (by her own accord) and refuses to see or meet with her children on a regular basis. the few times my boyfriend and I have been to see her she’s been sugary sweet to me, only to scream at him on the phone a week later about all the bad things she thinks about me. One of the reasons I think the LW’s boyfriend tells his mom about some of their ‘personal business’ is because she is showing some interest in his life, something that might come and go per her mood swings. My boyfriend, like the LW’s is just starting off his adult life. I watch him try to position himself in reference to his mother differently than in the past, but it is difficult. He’s fairly traumatized by her and I don’t think she’s been capable of being his mother in quite some time. That being said whenever she does ask after him, his siblings or me he tries to be as forthcoming as possible because at least it is something, at least she is showing some signs of caring about him. I can only guess this might also be part of the LW’s boyfriend’s motivation.

    1. That was definitely some great & helpful perspective!
      I agree that it must be hard for the LW’s boyfriend to withhold stuff from his Mom. You can’t just stop caring about your Mom. You can’t just stop wanting her to be a part of your life.
      What I would REALLY like to know (as other posters have also said) is was this woman ever officially diagnosed? It is hard to know the full story here!

      1. if you look down in the comments, you’ll see the LW has clarified the questions about the mothers diagnoses.

  8. I reread the letter and I’m seeing things from the mom’s perspective this time. She probably thinks LW is taking advantage of both her and her son. This would explain why she was upset about her son paying all the rent for his apartment, and not paying her back for the car. The LW isn’t carrying her weight financially and the money that the boyfriend could have put toward paying back the car is now all going towards rent payments. I’d be miffed about this two. Hells yes I would. The mother probably suspects that the LW is using her son and she wants to protect him. But she also doesn’t want to push him away further to the point where he won’t listen to her advice so she apologizes after her rants, making her seem two-faced to LW. I think this is equally if not more plausible an explanation for the behavior of the mother than her having a mental disorder.

    1. AnitaBath says:

      So where does the LW being a whore factor into all of this?

      1. We moved in together before we were married, so I’m a ‘harlot’ (seriously who uses that word anymore).

    2. TOTALLY understand your point however, at the end of the day, her son will do as he pleases. Yes, if he has an outstanding debt with her, I completely get why she’s pist. My boyfriend’s brother has his gf living with him basically for free. She doesn’t contribute to rent, water, electricity, groceries, or even chores. Oh, she does laundry, my bad. He pays for everything all the time, & while all of us can’t stand her, think she’s a free-loading b**ch, it’s not our place to tell him that. I believe he owes his mom money, but she doesn’t bring it up to him.
      I think there’s a proper way to do things, & regardless of whether or not the mom likes the gf and/or has reasons to, calling her a slut is only going to ruin her relationship with her son.

  9. Skyblossom says:

    When in a relationship it usually works best if you handle your family and your significant other handles their family, meaning he’s the one who has to interact with his mother. On the other hand, I don’t see anything wrong in having him confide in you about his mother and what she says and asking your advice about what he should do. As his girlfriend/live-in-partner you should be there for him emotionally and to give advice if he wishes.

    As a young adult it is very difficult to switch from having your parent tell you what to do to telling your parent what you will do. You have a long dynamic of the parent being in control and it suddenly shifts to you being in control and some parents don’t handle that very well. His mom sounds like one of those who doesn’t handle it well and so she shouts. He may have to try various approaches to see what works best. Maybe telling her very little is the best approach and limiting his contact with her may be what he needs to do. Probably he should walk away and leave when she starts to shout so that he limits the stress she causes him and she will either learn that she can’t treat him that way or she will have to get used to him not being around much. He may also need to limit the amount of time he will talk to her on the phone and also hang up if she shouts or is rude. He will have to draw a line about what he will tolerate and hold to that line. She may hate this at first and be even worse for a while. He cannot cave if she is acting worse because even a little bit of success on her part will only make her behavior worse. You may reach the point where the two of you will need to move to a different community because physical distance can be a real barrier that works to set the limits that you need.

    The car is a problem that needs to be dealt with now. I’m guessing the amount she wants for it varies depending on her mood. You will need to get a set total amount for the car in writing and also a monthly payment in writing that clearly gives both the amount and the date due and then always make sure it is paid on time. Realize that when the car is fully paid off she may still be in a bad mood and not sign over the title. Would the two of you be better off giving her the car back and buying one yourselves? Search for good used cars in your area and decide whether you can handle it financially. If you can I would go that route and never owe her money again. She is a woman from whom you will want to be indepedant.

    Please wait some years before getting engaged because she will cause you constant stress in your relationship and you will need to work this out before getting engaged. Only time will tell you whether you can handle this for the long term.

    1. AnitaBath says:

      I think this is amazing advice that addresses all the problems.

      1. Agreed!

    2. SpaceySteph says:

      I wanted to suggest the same thing about giving back the car, but I wonder what reaction his unstable mother would have if he tried to default on a previous agreement.
      If its possible to just give the car back (and you may have to write any money you already paid her off as a loss) then I think that would be a good idea. Even if another used car of similar type would cost thousands more than she’s “willing” to sell it to you for, it is way worth it to spend a few extra years paying off the car in order to distance yourself from her.

      Also I think your last paragraph is brilliant, Skyblossom. LW- you and your boyfriend need to agree and be comfortable with the mother’s role in your lives before you should plan to get married. It sounds like you want him to take a stand against his mother that he is unwilling to take (limiting how much info he shares, for example). This problem will not go away if you get married, it’ll only get worse.

  10. My biggest issue is with her family. First off, you bf should not be listening hour-long rants from her about what a snotty whore you are. He needs to draw a line somewhere, mental illness or not. Someone in that family needs to take control of her, force her to take her meds & supervise her. I know what it’s like to have a close family member with bipolar disorder & though it’s a very difficult situation, I think if anyone has to do it, it’s her family!!
    However, you need to have a serious talk with your bf. Tell him you are NOT ok with him divulging personal information to his mother about you guys. Do as Wendy says & pay that car off asap. Remember, you will have to deal with her for a loooong time if you marry him & I know of marriages which have ended in divorce because of the mother-in-law. If your bf doesn’t grow that spine now, he never will & you can be sure you’ll be miserable for as long as you’re with him.

  11. One of my immediate family members is bipolar–diagnosed by a psychiatrist and psychologist, receiving medication and therapy. Specifically, the diagnosis is Type II Bipolar Disorder with Borderline Personality Disorder. So, LW, if your boyfriend’s mom has actually been diagnosed by a qualified licensed professional, you and your bf have my sympathy. Unmedicated BP is horrible to see. When complicated by a personality disorder, talking to my family feels like I’m caught in a maelstrom. If, however, she has NOT been diagnosed by a licensed professional, you need to stop saying she’s BP. It’s like calling a tension headache a migraine; it’s a disservice to people dealing with the actual disease.

    Your bf needs to agree to stop oversharing personal information. He needs to understand that business should be conducted in a businesslike manner–i.e., write up a contract for the car, set a payment schedule and be able to document everything you pay towards it (cancelled checks, bank statements, whatever–don’t pay cash without a receipt duly signed and dated). And he needs to stop repeating what his mom says. What possible good can this do?

    You can’t change her. Be polite, firm and keep a safe distance. And if your bf doesn’t step up and deal with these issues, ask yourself what kind of future you’ll have if you stay with him.

    1. I get tension headaches. They can be just as bad as a migraine (i.e. sometimes I end up in the emergency room to get a shot of narcotic pain medication because they haven’t found any preventative Rx that works yet). But I get what you mean.

      1. I wasn’t trying to be dismissive, and I hope you didn’t take it that way. I was thinking of the many, many people who loudly exclaim “Oh, I have a migraine!” while making plans to hit the bar in an hour.

        BTW, my neurologist refers to headaches like yours as “migraine type tension headaches”. Apparently, the causation is different but the effects can be equally nasty. So no offense, I hope?

      2. Have they tried a regimen of Topamax? I know it works great for migraines, but if you get them as bad as migraines, then maybe it would work to prevent them as well…?

      3. Temperance says:

        I take propanolol as a preventative and Relpax as an abortive. It gave me my life back. I hope that you find your ideal cocktail.

  12. My sister is bipolar and before she was diagnosed and treated, she said that during her mania rages she had no control over what was coming out of her mouth. She was saying things that she knew weren’t true, things that didn’t make any sense, but she couldn’t stop it from spewing out. The sheer magnitude of her furious anger was almost impossible to withstand, and anyone who has been on the receiving end of a rage like this can tell you no snappy phrase or copped attitude can handle it.
    If the mother in this letter is indeed bipolar, her mood swings will only continue to get worse, so along with Wendy’s excellent steps to minimize bones of contention and increase discretion, the LW and boyfriend’s family and friends would do well to educate themselves and get some support. http://www.dbsalliance.org is one resource on mood disorders you can check out.
    I try to keep in mind that my sister’s disorder is not her fault – there is an organic malfunction in her brain that she did not cause. You wouldn’t demand that a diabetic “just get over” their sugar problems or expect someone with Parkinson’s to use will power to stop their shaking – it is impossible. As disruptive as this woman is, you have to know that she is suffering just as much as those around her.

    1. Excellent points. But I will say that even knowing my family member literally can’t help behavior, it still hurts to be on the receiving end. I wasn’t aware of this resource and will definitely check it out.

  13. IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! says:

    From the letter, allow me to paint a faux letter to Wendy from the potential MIL’s perspective:

    Dear Wendy,

    My 21 year old son is dating a seemingly nice girl who is also 21 for a good 3 years.
    After a 1.5 year LDR, they moved in together.
    This is where my worries begin:

    As a good-hearted young man, I questioned him on his moving in with someone he may barely know and only known through a long-distance relationship. Of course, the timeliness of the cohabitation did not line up with what values we’ve instilled in him. I let him know my $0.02 and concluded that he’s legally an adult so there’s no telling him “NO” on this matter.

    Things get worse.
    I soon found out his girlfriend isn’t putting any money in for rent and potentially is not chipping in for expenses in other household arenas (see car story below) leading us to believe he is being taken advantage of. Of course, as his mother, I worry that my son is making some grave mistakes financially with a young woman who is taking him for a ride.

    Occasionally, he has received some help from us. We purchased a car for him and asked that he pay us back in a timely fashion. I suspect with an extra person to foot the bills for, he may not be in position to pay us back, and I’ve urged him to seek better paying work if he expects to take the responsibilities he’s signed up for.

    My question, Wendy is – when and how do I continue to guide my son to make wise decisions (or intervene) without coming of as a bipolar mother?

    Signed – not-bipolar.

    1. AnitaBath says:

      I see you conveniently left out the parts where she screamed at her son in a parking lot for an hour, called his girlfriend a whore, repeatedly yelled at him over stuff that was his business, and then changes her mind repeatedly on a bunch of matters?

      1. Amended:
        I feel the girl is decent enough, but I wish they had gotten to know each other a bit better before moving in together.
        I couldn’t not believe that my son would just throw away the values that I thought (mistakenly) he had. I was so upset over the situation that I may have overreacted and insulted the girl without a reason, for which I have apologized. I do want my son to be able to tell me everything, but it is really hard not to be ‘meddlesome’ and to try to offer some guidance in a situation neither of us has dealt with before.
        I also wish he would stop complaining about not having money to pay for the car we bought for him/them, and then go and spend that money elsewhere. I do not want him to worry about it, but I do want some kind of contribution on a constant basis.

      2. AnitaBath says:

        Wait, wait, wait. Here let me try.

        “Dear Wendy,

        I have this son who really gets on my nerves. He’s dating this whore (and for some reason he gets mad when I call her that!) who apparently has some chronic condition and a painful spinal injury (oh boo hoo, cry me a river, I was in labor with the boy for 72 hours!) He’s paying the rent for them to live together. I’m not sure how else the expenses are being split up, because I couldn’t hear him too well over my screaming. I gave him a car and he was paying me, but then I told him not to worry about it. Except, ya know, now that I think about it I think I DO want him to pay for it. I think I’ll yell at him about it the next time I see him.

        So, how do I go about making sure that he listens to me? I’m not used to being unable to micromanage his life and make his decisions for him, and I’d really appreciate it if you could tell me how I could make sure I have as much influence as I once did.”

        Wow, stretching is fun.

      3. That is actually a perfect example of how small conflicts get out of hand – people refusing to accept that there may be a different side to a story. You can twist and turn this any way you want, but the fact is the problem is between the mother and her son, and the LW has no say in their relationship.
        The son has to find a way to set limits with his mother and stop telling her every detail of his personal life and he should stop complaining to his GF about the mother; the GF should stop trying to control his relationship with his mother (because otherwise she isn’t any better then the controlling/freaky mother), and all of them should stop badmouthing each other behind their backs.

      4. Landygirl says:

        It’s almost like a battle to see who can be more influential on the boyfriend/son. Who will he choose???

      5. IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! says:

        I’m not sure it’s much of a battle so much.
        I think it boils down to respect and control of a flow of information.

        The boyfriend in the letter needs to walk that tight rope but he’s batting a .000 at the moment at it. Since we have no access to him, it’s imperative to let the LW know part of the blame lays squarely on her shoulders if she’s to gain any respect from the future MIL – get a job to help the poor lad out, show your future MIL a little respect and stop badmouthing her.

      6. AnitaBath says:

        The LW never said she didn’t have a job, and I actually thought that she did have a job. She has medical bills to pay, so I’m assuming she has some source of income to make the payments.

      7. She does show the MIL respect (taking from the letter) – polite, etc. And bad mouthing her? She wrote in to an advice column and she didn’t use anyone’s name. I think people are putting their own spin on a situation from which we ALL are missing some info.

        I know I’m going to get a ton of unhappy thumbs from this, but I think it is such crap that it’s suggested “to give her some respect” – Why? Did she raise the LW? Is she deserving of LW’s respect when she isn’t a genuine person to her? Was the mom respecting LW when she called her a harlot? Politeness and attitude go a long way in stretching a difficult situation and I completely support LW being nice and polite to the mom. I don’t appreciate the attitude like this girl is writing in about her prom…she’s 21 and living with her boyfriend. They don’t live in the mom’s house, they don’t live off of the mom’s cash (with the exception of bf’s car) – the bf needs to give the damn car back and get something else and try limiting info about he and LW ‘s lives.

      8. Did I skip over a mention of traditional values in LW’s letter? It’s because she used the word “harlot” – isn’t it?

      9. IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! says:


      10. In response to Flake’s comment. I’m on my phone- it looks like I’m replying to the right comment but stranger things have happened when I browse DW on the old iPhone.

      11. That was just a speculation on why the mother would be upset about him living with a girl.

      12. Ah – understood. My bad.

      13. IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! says:

        Anita, that is the point of the reverse letter.

        We as our own LWers conveniently leave things out when we tell our story. At the time (and audience) deem certain parts inconvenient and leave them out.

        That is why you can’t take all the letters at word. You have to weave between the stories and pick at what is being (and not being) said.
        The LW exposes herself as a free loading and self-centered young girl – nothing wrong with that – but throwing fireballs (bipolar, etc..) at her future MIL is not the way to a healthy relationship with the rest of the in-laws.

      14. AnitaBath says:

        Okay, but the mother isn’t writing in, the girlfriend is. She has the information about the mother’s rude, controlling, and unstable behavior, and so she included it.

        Your letter is a stretch.

      15. I’m sorry but I do not get “free loading, self-centered” girl. Immature, yes, petty, yes, but you don’t know if she contributes to other things. Maybe she doesn’t pay rent, but she probably pays light, water, cable, groceries, etc…I think accusing her of free-loading is way off-base.

      16. IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! says:

        I hope you’re joking.

      17. UMM… where in her letter does it say she doesn’t pay for anything other than her medical bills??
        Assuming shit is probably not the best way to go about things…

      18. IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! says:

        We’re getting way off base if that is the issue we’re harping on.
        In addressing this letter, a certain level of critical thinking needs to be applied.
        It is in absence of that, I hoped you were joking in your comment prior.

        Speaking of assuming… you’re assuming the LW presented a fair account of events without missing an iota of information so… yea.

      19. Isn’t that what we do here on DW? We comment on other people’s opinions based on our own.
        You’re assuming the MIL is completely right in her actions & behaviors…I was pointing out that your basis of that assumption, wasn’t 100%.
        Critical thinking does not equal assuming.

  14. From what I understand, all the things that the MIL says/does get to ears of the LW via her bf.
    It might just be me, but I know that after an argument I’m upset, and I guess I would tend to exaggerate what was said. Maybe the bf after getting upset at his mum repeats to LW what he thinks he heard during the argument, it might not even be necessarily the whole truth. Sometimes in the heat of the moment we tend to lash out verbally. I can just imagine the mom telling her son that he should ask LW to help with expenses, him insulting his mom, her responding in kind about LW. Of course LW would only hear about what MIL said.
    I guess I do tend to hae an overactie imagination, and grew up with some pretty crazy family dynamics though!! ;o)

  15. My best friend is bipolar. I love her to bits, but there are some times that I have to remind myself that her reactions have to do with her disorder more than her actual feelings. Generally, I find that the feelings themselves might be there, but not to the degree/severity that she expresses/believes she feels them at the time…along the same lines as MiMi’s sister. Which is probably part of the reason she is very nice to your face, but then these other things come out. It does sound a bit like she’s got the rapid cycling version, which is more common for women.

    LW, all you can do is what you can do. It is you and your boyfriend’s choice to live together. It is his choice to pay rent while you get your debts clear. Your boyfriend needs to come to grips with the fact that there are things best left unsaid to his mother and best left unrelayed to you.

    If you are in fact looking to marry this guy (which IMO you might be a little young for), you need to accept that you are putting yourself in to a position where it will serve you best to take the high road and keep all of your own business unflappable. By that token, you need to be sure that you are managing any financial issues in a way that is responsible and dissipates the potential for arguments.

    Pitting yourself against a disorder will not serve you well.

  16. After first reading this, all I could think was “Wow this is a story that includes a lot of people talking about situations that are none of their business.”

    This mother should not be involved in you and your boyfriend’s living situations/financial affairs. But guess how she got there? Your boyfriend let her in. And continues to do so. He tells her intimate details AND he got himself financially involved with her. He can complain about her “forcing” him to tell her details about your life, but the truth is that he let’s her. He’s probably so used to her flipping out that he chooses the path of least resistance and tell her what she wants to avoid a meltdown. It may work, (not for you) but the problem is that he’s not a kid anymore and he has to chose a mature way to communicate with his mother, otherwise he’ll always get locked in this cycle.

    Lots of people have bi-polar parents (btw, is she diagnosed? Like, your boyfriend has seen the doctor’s note? Because if she isn’t diagnosed, and you’ve just been saying she is “cause like, guys, I watch House, and she’s totally like that…” then you are WAY out of line for diagnosing her yourself and are creating a an ignorance towards her that will forever taint your relationship.) and they learn to how to create a healthy relationship. And guess what that relationship includes? NO FINANCES. If your boyfriend had any sense he’d be shoving money hand over fist to his mother to keep her from having this influence over his life. Or maybe he hasn’t yet because he still subconsciously feels he still needs his mother controlling his affairs? Hmmm? Got a little Freud on you, there, I’ll stop.

    However, none of this stuff lets LW off the hook. Guess who else is talking about things that they should not be involved in? Look in the mirror, LW. Read your letter again and find how many of these discussions between your bf and his mom you were actually present for. Oh yeah, none? She talks to him and he talks to you because she talked to him about you and you talk to him to talk to her and THIS IS RIDICULOUS.

    I know what you’re saying next, but wait, she called me a harlot! BURN THE BITCH! My question is, why do you know? Either you got the information by making your boyfriend tell you (who does that sound like?) or he offered it willingly and apparently doesn’t understand how people react to insults. Either way, you should not have been mentioned/should not have known about what happened. Instead of vilifying your potential future MIL (let that sink in) and getting enraged and promoting petty gossip, you should probably focus on what you can do to change this situation for the better.

    The situation between your bf and his mother is exactly that. Keep yourself out of the equation. If his mother wants to whoririze you (that’s a real word) then make sure you boyfriend knows you don’t want to hear about it. You boyfriend should be looking for understanding and support from you, not another person to tell him what to do. In turn, your boyfriend will begin to stop allowing convos with his mother to go towards you, because what do you have to do with the two of them? Removing yourself from the drama will make you an impartial support system for your boyfriend, which is something he’ll be more and more grateful for when he discovers his and his mother’s unhealthy patterns.

  17. LW here, guys.

    I’d like to thank Anita_Bath, Savannah and SkyBlossom for giving level headed advice and being polite about it.

    Yes, the mother is clinically diagnosed (I don’t know what specific type of bipolar/manic-depressive, I was just told bipolar). She’s been diagnosed for 25 years, used to take medication and then stopped, out of the blue, about 15 years ago because she “didn’t need it anymore.” She also lives over 600 miles away, so I don’t interact with her in day-to-day manner, so I can understand why some of you may have been doubting her being bipolar just from what I’ve written. Her being so far away will make it easier, I suppose, to deal with her, but we only see her during holidays, when she’s even more stressed out than normal. I guess I’m worried about how to interact with her if she blows up at me in person (I know bipolar people can’t always control their behavior, and stressful situations can make it harder).

    And yes, I do have a job, and I’m going to school. I pay the electric bill, half the grocery bill, the internet and my medical problems (which aren’t cheap, even with insurance). My boyfriend has a job, too, and we’re actually doing okay financially.

    I definitely agree with the advice about getting my boyfriend to stop telling personal information to his mother (maybe I should have written in about that). I think he’s afraid of being cut off from her, she disowned his brother over who he chose to marry, and I can see why he’d worry about the same thing.

    The car was given to my boyfriend as a loaner while his was getting fixed. Then his mother decided that he was buying the car, and told us that she would refuse to take it back. So now my boyfriend’s trying to pay off a $2000 car (that is NOT worth $2000) and she alternately tells him to not worry about paying it off, and then a week later will yell at him over not giving her the money. He tried a couple times to have a talk with her about what she wants for it, and she refuses to discuss it. I’m not comfortable with us giving her money (especially that much money) without the certainty that she’s going to accept it, and not change the price on the car.

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      Well you could give the car back and stop paying. I don’t understand how a woman can refuse to “take” something so large as a vehicle. Park the car in her driveway, leave the keys on her kitchen counter, and get the heck out of there (yes you will need another car to pull this off but I assume you got the boyfriend’s car back from the repair shop).
      Then stop paying her, don’t take loans from her, don’t deal financially with her.
      Honestly, and I know this is harsh, but being disowned by her does not seem as bad as the current situation.

      1. She says the mom lives 600 miles away so she can’t just park it in the driveway…unless she’s okay with an eight to ten hour trip just to do that.

      2. SpaceySteph says:

        Um, to get this lady off my back I’d drive to Hawaii.

      3. LOL would love to do that, but we’re not THAT well off.

      4. She lives over 600 miles away. Our options, were we to go with the “we’re not buying the car” would be to scrounge up the funds to pay for gas to drive it out there and then fly/train/bus home or (and this is my suggestion) tell her that we’re not buying the car, and she needs to come pick it up before it’s towed. Boyfriend refuses to do that because his parents are elderly and poor and he doesn’t want the fight with his mom over it.

        I honestly don’t quite get why he goes so far out of his way to remain in her good graces. I think it has something to do with his parents being elderly and his dad is disabled (polio) and he’s worried that if his mother cuts him off/disowns him…that he won’t be there for them when they really need it.

        Which is admirable, but really fucking irritating to see this wonderful guy I love deal with this woman who screams at him all the time.

    2. Sounds like my BF’s mom.

      You didn’t mention her age, whether she was married, divorced or widowed (all can play a role in her mental health), if there are other kids in the house, etc.

      The fact that she disowned one son because he disobeyed her is telling. It tells me she is a control freak. Everything is HER way. Period. Or she makes life a living hell for those who don’t do it her way. You aren’t going to find a relationship with your BF very easy so long as he allows this to continue.
      It isn’t really your place to make him change, either. The only reason I forced a change was because we had a child together. There are still some great battles between his mother and I. Some children of bullying parents with mental illness tend to be enablers. My BF is one of them. It’s his one fault, and one I can’t really blame him for. He did what he needed to do in order to get through his childhood.

      Right now, all you can do is be supportive of your boyfriend and let him talk things out with you. You can give suggestions, but that’s about it. Help, be supportive, give suggestions, but above all, support, support, support. That’s what he needs most. It hurts to stand up against your mother, especially when you know she isn’t quite “right”, and when she’s a bully besides.

      1. Give back the car or pay it off. You are an adult freeloading off of another adult. Making light of her illness is petty and irrelevant. Just because she’s diagnosed bipolar doesn’t mean you can attribute everything she says and does to the illness. I wouldn’t want to pay to have you drive around on my dime either.

      2. Do you even actually read what people write? I’m not going to pay around $2000 to a mentally unstable woman when I have nothing to ensure that she’ll accept the money and actually sign over the title, especially when we didn’t want the damn car in the first place. If she’d stop changing her mind every other week, I’d be more than happy to pay it off. I have budgets planned out for differing monthly payments, and we’ve shown them to her. She refuses to discuss the matter rationally and agree upon a set amount owed and what she wants each month.

      3. Fairhaired Child says:

        At that point I would seek a lawyer or some other outside assistance to deal with the car matter. Since the title is still in HER name its her responisiblity for it, and if you are worried about your money being jacked (for a car you dont want) and her demanding EVEN more money, then get someone else to step in to figure out the matter. I agree that I wouldn’t pay for it unless you have it in writing the transaction, and it is notorized whatever to make sure that she doesn’t change her mind on the price later and then never transfer the title.

      4. SpyGlassez says:

        Yozi very rarely seems to read what people write.

      5. I’m beginning to see that. Christ on a cracker. The whole car situation is honestly stressing me out a lot because I don’t like unresolved issues. I’m just not comfortable paying that much money, without a signed agreement, to his mother when she’s shown that she isn’t trustworthy. The tentative plan is to pay off the car, and then trade it and his old one in, and get a better, more reliable one (both of these cars are old, and neither were well taken care of).

        But aside from us budgeting and setting aside some money each month to go towards the ‘new’ car, there’s not much we can do to move forward with this situation until we figure exactly how much she wants for it, what she’ll accept as a monthly payment, and I want it signed. It was a struggle to get my boyfriend to agree to that (“family shouldn’t make each other SIGN things like this.” I had to point out that family shouldn’t scream at their son and disown them) but he came around. Now his mother refuses to talk about it at all…except when she yells at him over the phone about it.

        We’ve been setting aside $75/month and putting it into an account JUST to pay off this stupid car, but we’re not letting her see any of that money until we can have an adult conversation with her about it. I hate to do it, it just seems…mean, but I don’t trust her, and my boyfriend’s admitted that she isn’t very…responsible about money.

      6. SpaceySteph says:

        I think that is a good plan. If you have all $2000 at once, then you can trade the money for the title in one lump sum rather than as a monthly payment. What about his dad? Can he reason with her? Can he collect the money and then show his wife “look they’ve paid this much” when she starts getting screamy?

      7. Maybe. The last time we tried to get his dad involved (because he’s her husband and knows how to work with her better than we do) she kicked him out of the house for almost two months. Considering he’s elderly and handicapped, my boyfriend and myself are hesitant to keep putting him in the middle of it all.

    3. “Then his mother decided that he was buying the car”

      This is confusing to me. You mentioned she lives 600 miles away, did she feel that the distance would make it harder for her son to give the car back to her and thought it would just be better for him to buy it? Or is her son not willing to send the car back all that way and she is reacting? You can’t just give someone a car and telling them they’re buying it. The other person has choices. I would think her son would much rather drive the car to her and leave the keys in a mailbox and clean his hands of this mess than spend the months it could take to pay her back having screaming phone conversations with his mom.

      My mother is not bi polar, but she uses a classic guilt technique. Mom gives me a fancy new thing, I say “thanks mom, you’re awesome!” next week my mom asks if I would do this thing for her and come see her and she did just buy me a fancy new thing which cost her a lot and I guess I don’t care that she got me a gift. This in a way kinda sounds like an amped up version of that. I know its my mom’s way of controlling how much she needs me and needs me to want her, but all the same I’ve learned to gracefully not accept any more gifts. If she’s looking for ways to force dependency, then its really important for her son to remove that element from their relationship and not treat these decisions of hers as immovable facts.

      1. We don’t really have the money for him to drive the car all the way out there and arrange for transportation back (and we’d have to fly/train/bus back home, even though we do have another working car. I can’t drive because of the nerve damage in my spine). It’s also incredibly hard for him to get time off work, his wisdom tooth was coming in, and cracking the tooth in front of it, and the boss refused to let him leave work early on a Thursday to go see a dentist (we even got a note from the dentist saying that he needs to be seen ASAP). /rambling

        The car was a loaner, was only supposed to be for a couple months, but then his mom decided we wanted to keep the car, and told us she’d sell it to us for $2000. We talked to her about it and she blew up, so then we went to his dad, who said he’d handle the situation. He got kicked out for two months.

      2. Ok so….here’s my thing: you knew borrowing the car that in a few months it would have to go back, right? And its only fair (to me, anyway) that since you are borrowing her car that you and your boyfriend should be the ones to return it. So, viewing this from an outward perspective, I’m trying to imagine a few scenarios:

        1.) You guys borrowed the car but didn’t think about how it would get back.
        2.) You guys borrowed the car and promised to send it back but now can’t.
        3.) You guys borrowed the car and were hoping/expecting his mother to just give it to you since it would be such a hassle to give it back.
        4.) You guys borrowed the car and his mother promised to come to you to get it but then changed her mind.

        If the circumstance is #4, I can understand the inconvenience, but I still think the solution should be finding a way to give it to her back. Have your bf drive alone and fly back, that could easily be done in two days and flights can be very cheap, or offer to fly his mom out and give her gas money to drive back. I know all of this costs money, but I’m willing to bet it costs less than the 2 grand his mother will torture out of you two.

        Now, if the circumstance is #1-3 I still think you need to find a way to give the car back (or pay for the car very soon), but I also think you may need to look at this situation from an outward perspective. #1-3 to me is your boyfriend and you causing unnecessary complication with a woman who has a history of reacting badly to such things. Why feed that drama? If your issue is that you’re dealing with an illogical mother, then you have to become more logical to stop these situations from happening.

        I know its hard to believe, but his mother is probably just as scared that her son will abandon her as much as he is scared she will abandon him (I get the feeling that’s why she’s so fast about disowning before, if an overly emotional person feels that someone could need them less than they need, their first instinct is to be the dumper, not the dumpee) and she is using unhealthy situations like this to keep clinging on. You see, if you remove that element by providing a solution with efficiency and sense (giving the car back, paying for the car ASAP), that power will be removed from his mother. Then after, when her son calls to talk without needing anything, she will begin to understand that she can depend on her son loving her and maybe will realize how pointless it is to try to manipulate him.

      3. SpaceySteph says:

        I think this is a very insightful post. You and your boyfriend entered this ordeal with the car, even though both of you had alot of experience with bipolar people, including this specific person, and should have had plenty of knowledge of how she would react. You KNEW that this was going to cause drama, maybe you didn’t know that this exact thing would happen, but surely from your posts LW this woman was obviously not going to react in a sane, lgical way.
        You guys certainly got yourself into this mess in any of those 4 cases Sarah mentions, because they all start with “you guys borrowed the car.” Figure out a way to give it back or pay it off, and then stop taking anything from her. It will always end the same way.

      4. SpaceySteph says:

        Also… you can ship it to her. Hire a tow truck to drive it there, which would certainly be cheaper than driving it there and paying a way back, mail her the keys, and be done with it. Bonus, you don’t have to see her.

      5. Actually, that sounds like the best way to me, I didn’t think about that.

      6. …That is an AWESOME idea. Thank you. I’ll have to talk to the boyfriend about this one. <3

      7. I actually didn’t know about her mental problems when she offered to lend us the car, or I would have been extremely hesitant to accept the offer, because I have a hard time trusting people who don’t treat their mental problems (courtesy of my own mother). He told me what was going on with her AFTER the screaming match.

        The original plan was to borrow the car for a week or two while his was being repaired, and then his parents were going to stop through our city on their way to his sister down south, and pick the car up then. Their trip got canceled, so the car stayed here while we tried to figure out what to do…and then it all went FUBAR when she decided we were buying the car.

        I definitely agree with not accepting any other offers from her ever again. She offered boyfriend money to pay for college books last semester, and he and I had to have a big discussion about why that would be an incredibly fucking stupid idea.

      8. SpaceySteph says:

        I think that you and your bf lack some basic compatibility, based on your posts. I commend you for getting the hell out of your house as soon as you could, and for recognizing both that and this are toxic situations.
        However, it makes me really sad for you that after essentially rescuing yourself, you are being dragged into the same drama that you managed to escape. Though you love your boyfriend, he clearly does not share your survival instinct.
        I honestly think you need to separate yourself from him and his family until he can realize on his own, as you did, that he needs to draw the right boundaries. You can encourage him to seek counseling, support groups, etc., but the journey is largely his own. I know it would be difficult to back away from a guy I loved because of family issues so I do not advise this lightly but… you have to come first, you have to take care of yourself most of all. And your boyfriend has to learn the same, that he can’t cater to his mother at the expense of himself.

    4. Ahh I hope that Iced-Venti guy reads your third paragraph… Just as I presumed!

      1. AnitaBath says:

        No, no, no. We’re still only getting the LW’s POV. How do we know she’s not lying to us? How do we know she REALLY has a job? How do we even know she’s actually the LW?


      2. Gosh-darnit, there I go assuming again! Thanks for keeping me in check Anita!

      3. I’ve totally been lying about the job. I just sit around all day in my panties, drinking Pibb and eating leftover pizza.

        I’m also secretly the Queen of England. These online persona’s are the only free I have. 🙁

    5. At any rate, LW, I know it’s very difficult dealing with someone with a mental illness, but the plus side is that she does live 600 miles away. Like many other level-headed people said here…Leave the relationship b/w your bf & his mom to them. Stay out of it & expressly tell him you don’t want to hear any ill things she’s spoken about you. I strongly suggest giving the car back or paying it off like, yesterday. Your bf needs to find a way to not tell his mom personal things about you guys, I’m sure you guys can think of something.
      I know it’s very scary with people with bipolar disorder, if they decide to cut you out of their life, they can easily do it & feel no emotion. (My aunt has done it) So I get why your bf has been hesitant to stand up to her (now knowing about his brother), after all, that is his mother. Hopefully you guys can figure something out, just try to be his support & not feed into the drama.

      1. The odd thing is, I know what it’s like to live with someone who is bipolar…my mom is (and yes, she is clinically diagnosed). Her disorder is the reason I moved out. I was tired of her drama, the uncertainty, the tiptoeing around her ever-changing feelings that everyone in the house had to do, and the physical violence that happened with her manic phases. We didn’t talk for 3 months solid after I left, and then she went back on her medication.

        I guess maybe that’s why I’m so confused and frustrated about why my boyfriend won’t just stand up to his mom. I think it’s something to do with him being afraid that she’ll cut him out, and he won’t be there when his parents need him (they are elderly, 60’s-70’s). His mom is not going to change, and become nice and stable, but sometimes I think that’s what he’s hoping for?

      2. SpyGlassez says:

        I imagine it is exactly what he is hoping for. I think in a way it is what we ALL hope for when we grew up in that rage maelstrom.

      3. For the most part it was okay growing up, but every few years she would decide that she didn’t need the medicine and could “handle herself” without it. She’d go off the meds…and turn into this hate-filled crazy dragon (a dragon that sometimes just sat around the house all day, sobbing, because she was depressed). Dad would always get her back on them, but when she wasn’t taking them, it was awful.

        I finally figured out, when I was about 15 years old, that she wasn’t ever going to change. There wasn’t some magical cure out there that would either make my mom stay on the medicine or make her not really need the pills. And I started standing up for myself, and my brother, and my dad, and my relationship with my mom went down the shitter.

        Later, after the moving-out and the not talking and the reconciliation, she told me that when I stopped refusing to tiptoe around her, she felt like she was being attacked, like I was trying to ‘take over’. And that part of her recognized what was actually going on and KNEW she was wrong, but that only made her more upset and more stressed out…which inevitably led to more freak outs on her behalf. It took three months of not seeing me, of not even being able to speak to me (I screened her calls and deleted her emails) to get through to her that her behavior was going to cost her people. She had dad take her back to the doc, and she’s been doing pretty good ever since.

        It sucked. It was awful to not know what was going on with her. I missed her like crazy, and I worried about her all the time, because she has displayed “suicidal tendencies’ and I worried that what I did might have driven her towards it again. But I couldn’t keep letting her control everything.

  18. I don’t know, I truly believe that in adult relationships, the only people that should be involved are the two S/O’s. It’s one thing to ask a third party for advice on a particular situation, it’s another thing for a third party to get completely involved. The bf def. needs to get his act together & realize if he wants to be an adult, he needs to act like one. The LW is also being very immature about this, she too, needs to get her shit straight. The MIL is going as far as her son is allowing her too. Maybe on some level she has a point & her issues w/ the LW are meritted, but calling her a slut is a big no-no & to me, that was crossing the line.
    These people are still too immature to be dealing with these things. They need to get their act together & decided if they want to be grown ups or not.

  19. It’s weird to me that commenters are attempting to diagnose the mother, as either bipolar or not bipolar, based upon this one short, inherently biased letter. I doubt the LW is calling her bipolar (and talking about medication) without some sort of rational basis (ie. professional diagnosis). Other than that, we don’t have enough information to speculate either way.

    1. “Dear LW, How dare you attempt to diagnose your boyfriends mother, shame on you. I can tell from this letter that your diagnosis is all wrong.”

      Not commenting on whether the mother is or is not clinically bipolar, just…just sayin.

      1. AnitaBath says:

        No, YOU’RE wrong. I took psych 101! I know what I’m talking about, dammit!

      2. IcedVentiRedEyeGuy - in Chitown bay-bay! says:


  20. sobriquet says:

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that the LW did not simply decide to label her boyfriend’s mother as bipolar, which seems to be a popular opinion on this thread. Why would she? Wouldn’t she be entitled to more bitching if the rudeness of the mother was not due to a mental illness?

    LW: Regardless of WHY the mother is partaking in hour long yelling sprees, the biggest issue is why your boyfriend is taking it up the ear for an hour and then relaying the conversation word-for-word to you. Tell him to politely get off the phone whenever she starts yelling at him. He didn’t seem to have a problem exiting the situation before, so why is there a problem on the phone?

    Stop caring about how the mother feels. You cannot make her magically fall in love with you. It doesn’t sound like she has any cogent arguments influential enough to persuade the boyfriend, so just understand that she doesn’t really like you and deal with it. Tell your boyfriend to take off the kid gloves around his mother and to shut his trap about all the details.

    Honestly, I tell myself that I want to know exactly how my boyfriend’s family feels about me… but really, I only want to know the good stuff. I don’t want to know if my boyfriend’s mom tells him she has concerns about me or something. She is the most wonderful person around me and that’s all that really matters.

    1. *laugh*

      My BF’s mom is one of those where if you don’t pick up her phone call, she will call the home phone, your office phone, then your cell again, and then call ME to see if I know where he is, and if I don’t pick up, then call his DAD (who is in CO), then call his cell 3x in a row.
      If they get in an argument, and he hangs up because she has said something out of line, then she calls back until he picks up and then continues to yell at him and yells at him more for hanging up on her.

      The BF shrugs it off as “she had a stroke, she can’t help it”, but older relatives say she was always that way and now she just uses the stroke years ago and the hormone imbalance that caused it as an excuse to get away with her behavior.

    2. I guess I really should tell him to stop relaying the bad stuff to me. I just worry that doing so will make me a bad girlfriend, because I won’t be supporting him when his mother upsets him. These rages of hers are really bad. She insults EVERYONE, and it hurts him to hear/see her do this. I want to comfort him but at the same time, I don’t really want to know that his mom thinks I’m a whore, y’know?

      1. Britannia says:

        If he doesn’t have someone to talk to about it (the mother bashing you), it could make things fester… and cause a rift between you and him, because he has to keep some very stressful experiences ABOUT YOU to himself. It may suck to hear all the crap she has to say about you, but it’s better that you let him vent to you so that you two continue to bond from the experience as opposed to having an invisible elephant in the room.

      2. SweetChild says:

        Yeah I agree with you. I don’t understand why everyone is advocating keeping this obviously stressful thing to himself. I can’t see how that could possibly strengthen their relationship. Certainly he doesn’t have to go into all the nasty details but they should be dealing with this together.

      3. I’ve gotten pretty okay at dealing with unpleasant things people say about me (if I couldn’t have handled that, I wouldn’t have written in to Wendy. Love her advice, but sometimes the straight talk can get mean, and some of the comments can be vicious). I think it just hurts to know that someone I was beginning to care about thinks so poorly of me. Especially because she’s someone important in my boyfriend’s life, and he’s so important in mine.

        I worry that her behavior will somehow drive a wedge between my boyfriend and myself. All signs point to no, that he won’t dump me just to make his mom shut up, but I still can’t help but worry. I mean…that’s his MOM.

      4. Britannia says:

        The worry that her behavior will drive a wedge between you two is a legitimate one if you force him to not talk about the fights, because eventually it will. If you let him tell you about it and talk it out, it will keep him from having to be alone with those thoughts, mulling them over by himself. Letting him tell you about it will help him get it off his chest so that he can just move on from it. Forcing him to keep it to himself will force him to deal with the problem on his own, and will mentally push him away from you. Let him talk to you about it, so that you two can become closer through commiseration – making lemonade out of lemons.

  21. Honestly if my older brother had moved in with a girl after 3 years of long distance and had stopped paying back my parents to support the girl, my mom would scream at him in a parking lot. She would be pissed she is stuck making his car payments and not following family values. She wouldn’t call the girl a whore but may imply it. And no, my mother is not bipolar…she’s just a short tempered person who sometimes says thing she regrets in anger (as most of us have done once before). Of course the mother in this letter may be bipolar, but its not the only possibility. As someone raised with a vocal and opinionated mother, I can see how that might not be the case. Not everyone has calm even tempered parents.

  22. First off – we need to know if she’s really bipolar, or if it’s just a label the LW slapped on the BF’s mom. I’m bipolar 1 (meaning I get hyper, tempermental, ec. I’m the “high” rather than the “low”).
    I also am dealing with a bitchy BF mom. The kind that brought a lawyer to the delivery room for her son to try to get him to sign a request for custody and convince him (again) to move back home with her and bring the baby (his first, my youngest) back home with her. Being called a “harlot” would be a nice change of pace.

    You and your boyfriend aren’t engaged yet. He IS standing up for you to his mother. What she does to the rest of the family isn’t your concern. Since this is something she has done for a long time, I am sure they are used to it.

    From one chronic pain sufferer to another – let me give you some advice right now: make sure you lock up your pain medications. If this woman truly is mentally unstable, she may try to self-medicate at some point, or even may take your medications to “punish” you or to “prove” something unworthy about you. Also, keeping them locked up prevents them from being stolen by others who would sell them. It’s a bad economy. I know how much pain pills go for (in my line of work, it’s beneficial to know), and I keep my meds locked up both at home and at the office.
    I know that paying your medical bills down is important, but so is paying your way. If you aren’t helping out with utilities or food, start doing so. If he’s paying the rent, help out with the other stuff. Try to save some money in case the relationship doesn’t last. You never know.

    Lastly, you need to stop letting the mom’s rants get on YOUR nerves like this. That is what they are designed to do. To chase you away. Partially, it’s an Aphrodite/Psyche complex. She doesn’t like being replaced by a younger model. Her son is her “baby”. Even if she has other sons, and they are older than him. The mother/son bond is a big one to a mom (I have four boys, I know this one all too well). Being replaced by a younger woman who will care for them, both as a motherly caregiver and a sexual lover is a stab in the heart to her. She is lashing out, whether she means to or not.

    1. She is clinically diagnosed as bipolar, yes but I don’t know exactly what sort she is. I figured that was personal information and I didn’t really want to dig into it. I hate when people ask all sorts of questions about my health problems, y’know?

      It makes me incredibly happy that he does stand up to her for me. I just…I think I wish I could get him to stand up for himself to her, maybe.

      My pain meds are always locked up. I already had someone steal them once, and the doctor’s office refused to cancel the scrip and write me different ones (they actually accused me of abusing/selling the pills myself). It was this huge stupid ordeal that left me without any relief for almost two months. I’m sorry that you have to deal with chronic pain, too. It’s awful. 🙁

      I do have a job and pay household bills (electric, internet, half the grocery and some gas). I wanted to contribute to the rent, too, but he really wants me to focus on paying off my medical debt first and going to school, since I need to eventually find a job that’s less physical than my current one (which my doctor has actually advised me to stop doing because the strain it puts me through isn’t helping). I figured this was personal info, between me/him, but apparently his mom wanted to know how we were doing, financially, and he told her how we divvy things up. Which was stupid, I think.

      I know I need to stop letting the stuff she says get to me. Whether she means it or not, I should just ignore it. It’s just…frustrating, I guess. I’m so happy with him, I feel safe and secure and loved, that I’m terrified something will come along and mess it up. The one big ‘thing’ we have is his mom. I just wish I knew how to handle it all better, if there was something I could do or say to make her approve of the relationship, or to assure her that I’m not ‘using’ him and that we really are in love, to let her know how much I want to be with him. But…thinking rationally rather than wishfully…there probably isn’t much else I could do, aside from get married before I’m ready to satisfy her wants.

  23. LW-kudos to you for doing your best to handle everything well and be adult about it. I was sorry to see so many judgemental and somewhat irrelevant comments on your situation. I have a friend whose mother is bipolar, and I have an addict for a father, so I do understand how challenging it can be to deal with a parent who is often not rational. My recommendation is that your boyfriend choose to have a more distant relationship with his mother. (i.e.-Don’t do/accept favors, don’t communicate in great detail about your personal life, keep contact brief and less frequent than usual). I have found this is the only way both my friend and I have been able to maintain a relatively stress-free relationship with our respective parents. I understand his need to have a close relationship with his mother, but this (as you well know) is not healthy for HIM. You will need to help him through the process of distancing himself, because he likely will feel guilty about it. You will need to resolve the issue of the vehicle, which will likely take the form of simply deciding upon a payment arrangement and making it, not allowing her to comment or weigh in on your decision. Good luck, and keep us posted. Don’t let the naysayers get you down.

    1. Thank you! I really appreciate everyone here who has been helpful and kind. I still think I messed up a bit when I wrote in (perhaps should have asked how to help my boyfriend distance himself/create boundaries with his mom, instead of “How do I deal with her?” That came off as self-absorbed.)

      The car situation is very stressful. I’m so uncomfortable with the idea of handing over that much money when we have no guarantee that she’ll actually sign the car over. I wish I could trust her to be rational about this but…I just can’t. And it’s bothering my boyfriend to have to acknowledge that his mom does have problems and isn’t trustworthy. No one likes to have to admit that the people they love are messed up, I guess.

  24. Fairhaired Child says:

    1. With the car issues (i’ve skimmed and read most of the LW’s responses to previous DW readers responses) – I agree with you do NOT hand over the money unless it is very well documented and something is signed (notarized even!) stating that once the transaction is complete that the title will be switched over to you

    2. In order to complete number 1, I would seek assistance elsewhere for someone else outside of the two parties (his mom vs Him/LW) who has no previous history elsewhere. While this may cause more money (lawyer fees if it goes that far) I would suggest asking around first to find a notary and also possibly inquire at your bank if they have anyone who IS a notary and if they are able to draw up any froms for a payment plan etc (which is likely to be WAY more cheaper than getting a lawyer if this option is available).

    3. Kill her with kindness. Instead of thinking of all the “bad things” you’ve heard that she’s stated – just smile and act excessively nice (not sarcastic) and actually try to have normal conversations with her when you do see her in person (but be sure to steer the convos in safe directions “What a lovely garden you’ve got going.. I noticed that such and such changed around here… ” light happy easy things that don’t need you to give up any info on what you are doing)

    4. Support your boyfriend. I saw you stated that you also lived with a bipolar mom. Comfort him and acknowledge that sometimes dealing with these fits is difficult but that you just need to take it with a pinch of salt. (I believe someone else up above stated her sister had it and the sister knew that what she was saying was lies etc when she had fits)

    5. If you do plan on going “all the way” with your future with this man. Please remember how difficult it may be once you two are married and having children. He needs to put up those BOUNDRIES NOW. But not in a defensive way. Perferrably in person “Mom you know I love you and I appreciate all that you’ve done for me in the past.. but I’m trying to grow up and I need to make my own mistakes and correct my own errors. If I don’t feel like discussing something, I’d like to be able to tell you that without hurting your feelings. Some things, like me and LW’s personal living things are between us, and for us to work out to what suits US. I do love you and want you to be there in my life for when I need you, but please let me try to figure out life some on my own too. ”

    6. I personally love the word harlot. But everyone’s right.. doesn’t come up in normal conversation often. I’m going to try to change that. Also.. going to use the words strumpet and tart.

  25. Temperance says:


    I have been in a relationship for 6.5 years, cohabitating for 5.5 of those, with a guy whose father has serious, undiagnosed mental health issues. In a lot of ways, it really sucks. We can’t encourage him to get help without taking on the burden of caring for him, since he is already trying to break us up so he can have FH all to himself. I’m going to try and keep this brief, so I’ll put my experiences dealing with his awful father and how we manage contact with him in 2 separate paragraphs.

    His father is delusional, as in, he sees things that aren’t there. He apparently has a guardian angel that appears to him, along with talking ghosts of people and animals. He has other mental health issues as well. He’ll sometimes call FH 10+ times per day … these cycles last for about two weeks each time. He’ll ask bizarre and rude questions on a constant basis. He’s also a raging dick, which makes me totally unsympathetic to his situation. He hates women, particularly women who are taking places in professional schooling and jobs from men. He called me a whore, slut, prostitute and said that I was using FH for his money, and that I would get knocked up on purpose. He demanded to know about our sex life.

    In the first year of our relationship, FH called his father on a weekly basis, and they spoke for 2 or 3 hours. His father then started insulting me, and calling me a whore etc. while on the phone. FH told me about this. I requested that he stop talking to his father until he curbed the gendered insults. FH replied that he couldn’t cut off his father, because his father went “crazy” if no one was “there for him”. This went on for a few months until his father finally said something about me that was so offensive that FH finally cut him off. They resumed contact, and soon enough, his father tried to sneak and move in with us by attempting to “store some things” in our place, which I put the kibosh on. He’s gone back and forth with his random, shitty actions and FH keeps him at arm’s length, not giving him information about us. He tried moving in with us several times because he thinks that FH needs to take care of him.

    We manage it by creating a united front. His father doesn’t know where we live, so he can’t randomly show up at 6:30 in the morning on a weekend anymore. We live in a secured building that you need a key to enter. If he so much and says a rude peep about me, FH hangs up and won’t take any more calls for a week or two.

    The one thing that we still struggle with is that he feels that he owes something to his father. His siblings have all but completely cut their father off due to his glaring mental issues, but he feels extremely guilty about it, because his father “goes crazy” if he doesn’t have “support”. When I point out that his father IS the parent, after all, he backtracks and says that it’s not the way his family works. It’s a constant challenge, but it’s much better.

  26. yooo you sound like a little girl “how to deal w his mother” if you love the guy then she comes w it. she’s not your mother how do u think ur boyfriend feels? i’m sorry but u come off as ignorant to mental illnesses… seems like you’d be facing these SAME issues w her even if she wasn’t “bipolar “ that’s what’s wrong w society today, you hear someone has a mental illness and right away everything they do is because of it, and everything they do is “crazy.” it’s a disorder. i bet she wants help to deal with herself just as much as you do, hunny.

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