Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend’s Mother Doesn’t Like Me Because I’m a Single Mom”

I’ve been with my boyfriend, “Daryl” for four years. He’s 30, no kids, never married. I’m a few years older, never married, and a single mom to a boy (my son has a very close relationship with his dad and they see each other regularly). I have a higher level of education than Daryl and am completely financially independent. We mostly see each other only on some weekends because we live over an hour away from each other and also due to the constraints of my being a single mom. Daryl and I have taken several trips together and he always comments about how much I’ve exposed him to. He is respectful, is helpful, and gets along great with my son. We’ve discussed marriage and kids but haven’t made specific timelines. He’s extremely close to his family and is the oldest and only boy. His father passed away when he was young, and his siblings and mom rely on him a lot. This is one of the qualities that attracted me to him – the fact that he’s so family-oriented.

The issue is that Daryl’s mom (whom he is extremely close to) does not like me. She’s not outright rude, but she is cold when I greet her and won’t engage in much conversation even when I try to talk about things related to her. Recently, at a family gathering, I saw her as soon as Daryl and I arrived and we would’ve made eye contact, but she rolled her eyes, had a dirty look on her face, and turned away. (Daryl was saying hello to other family and didn’t notice; I never brought it up.) I still greeted and kissed her hello as I usually do.

I’ve grown tired of the cold shoulder for no reason and feel like I’m too old to try to “impress” someone. I don’t have the energy to keep up appearances when it is clear that I am unwanted. The rest of his family treats me very nicely. Due to her attitude towards me, I was reluctant to go to her house as much when Daryl would invite me (he moved back in temporarily for one year of our relationship). I know she’s made comments about me to Daryl such as, “You’re still seeing that girl? I thought it would be over by now.” And “You’re spending money on someone else’s child like an idiot.” The first time I met her, she outright told me she didn’t “believe” in my profession, which is what I have an advanced degree in.

When I’ve brought up his mom’s feelings towards me, Daryl downplays it or denies it, and that has been really frustrating. Only recently (after three years) has he admitted that she doesn’t like me at all, and the only reasoning he gives me is because I’m older (six years) and have a child, two things I cannot change. It’s not like our relationship is eating away at the time with his family since he lives five minutes from them. We fill out a couple’s journal and one recent question was “Something my parents like about my partner.” His answer was “nothing.” When I brought this up, it turned into an unproductive argument.

My questions are:

Do you think Daryl has a role in helping to facilitate a more positive relationship between me and his mom? Is it appropriate to decline Daryl’s invitations of events that happen at his mom’s home when it’s clear I’m unwanted or at least when it’s not a family gathering and it will just be me visiting? Should I still greet his mom in the same way even if she is cold to me? How likely is this relationship to last beyond bf/gf since he is so close to his mom?

PS. I know how the DW comments usually go and just wanted to add that I’m on birth control so babies would be very much planned if/when they happen. — Not Loved By His Mom

I’m curious how you know about comments Daryl’s mother has made to him about you like the ones you mention (“You’re still seeing that girl? I thought it would be over by now.” And “You’re spending money on someone else’s child like an idiot.”)? I have to assume Daryl told you about them, which is really strange. Why would he tell you that? What was the context? How did he respond to these comments? And what, if anything, did he say to you to assure you that, while his mom may think these things, he doesn’t think that way at all?

It’s telling to me, also, that in the other examples you give of discussing with Daryl his mom’s feelings for you, he either downplays or denies her dismissal of you or the conversation immediately morphs into an “unproductive argument.” It may be Daryl’s mother who is thinking and saying unkind things about you, but it doesn’t sound like her son is doing shit to change her mind or to validate your feelings or to let you know that he totally has your back, and that’s a far bigger problem here.

The thing is, Daryl’s mother’s feelings about you aren’t even personal. She doesn’t seem to know you very well and you say she has “no reason” not to like you. What she doesn’t like is that you are older than Daryl and have a child. If Daryl isn’t validating for you that HE doesn’t have an issue with those things – when he is, in fact, apparently repeating rude things his mother says, dismissing your feelings when you express them, and turning discussions into fights – you have to wonder whether HE also has a problem with your being six years older and having a child. Maybe his mother is a convenient place for him to project some of his fears or concerns without owning them himself.

You need to talk to Daryl about all of this, and frame the discussion around where your relationship is going since that’s what this is all really about. Does he see a future with you? How does your age and your having a child affect, if at all, that potential future? Does he want to have a baby with you? Is he concerned about your age? What is the timetable for have a baby together if that’s something you both want? When he hears and sees his mother disparage you the way she has, what does HE feel about it? How does he defend you, if at all? How would you like him to defend you? If his mother never comes around to accepting you, how does he feel about taking next steps in a relationship with you? What would a long-term relationship look like if you don’t get along with his mother and avoid being around her? How is he prepared to help foster a better relationship between the two of you?

Daryl really needs to be able to answer all these questions and engage in a productive, ongoing conversation with you about them if you two are to even think about moving forward together. The behavior you’ve described of his so far is concerning, and if he can’t say or do anything to convince you that he sees a future with you – one in which he will make much more effort than he has to foster a warmer relationship between you and his mother, then I wouldn’t waste any more time with him.

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

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

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

10 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Ele4phant July 18, 2019, 10:25 am

    What is a “couple’s journal”? Are you guys already in couples counseling or something? That seems like a relevant detail to include, if you guys are having other problems.

    Anyways, as is true virtually every time there is a problem with the in-laws, you actually have a partner problem. He’s the one not setting boundaries with his mom, he’s the one that should be standing up for you, he’s the one that should be protecting you from hearing every shred of criticism she’s ever said about you.

    Work on this with him, and if he won’t take it seriously, then maybe he’s not the right guy for you.

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    • avatar

      Rose July 18, 2019, 11:38 am

      I bought a couple’s journal for an ex a few years ago. It’s supposed to be a romantic thing to do together, and each partner answers questions about the other (like “what was the first thing you noticed about them?”) with the idea that you’ll look back on it and the memories.

      I’ve typically seen them given as engagement gifts.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant July 18, 2019, 12:30 pm

        Ah, I see.

        Before today, I had never heard of them.

        Regardless – I could see the question “What do my parent’s (or even friends) think of my partner?” as being a potentially loaded question for something that is intended to be a romantic, warm and fuzzy gift. Seems like it could stir up trouble in a lot of relationships…

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  • avatar

    bondgirl July 18, 2019, 10:38 am

    Getting along with your SO’s parents isn’t essential for a successful relationship. HOWEVER, it IS essential for you and your SO to be on the same page regarding relationships with said parents. If your bf is super close to his mom but is unwilling to defend you when she starts acting cold/insulting towards you, that doesn’t exactly bode well for your future. If he’s serious about a future with you and being with you, you need to be the #1 woman in his life. Unfortunately it sounds like his mother holds that spot and isn’t going anywhere. Agreed with Wendy, talk to him about your concerns and if things don’t begin changing — i.e. he keeps letting his mom getting away with her treatment towards you, I’d walk.

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  • avatar

    Essie July 18, 2019, 10:59 am

    If there’s ever a situation where he has to choose whether to side with you or with his mom, you know how it’s going to go, right?

    Oh, wait – that’s already happening. And he’s choosing, over and over again, to side with her. He tells you the nasty things she says about you, and then pretends there’s nothing wrong with the way she’s treating you.

    He doesn’t have your back. YMMV, but that would be a dealbreaker in a relationship for me.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse July 18, 2019, 1:58 pm

    After four years together, you still live far away from each other and only see him on some weekends. Why is that? If you’re honestly discussing the future, when do you guys move in together? It doesn’t sound like you’re really in progress of merging your lives together. Including your son, including building a family. If he was really serious about you, he wouldn’t let his mother badmouth you. He’d also be saying things like, “Mom, I spend my money on (gfs son) because he’s important to me.” How does she even know what he spends his money on?

    He should at minimum be shutting down her crappy comments and defending you. He should be telling her all the things he loves about you. Instead, it really sounds like he doesn’t. I think it’s really mean for him to pass on her rude comments. The only information about you that she has is from him. There’s really not much that I can see that’s positive about this. Your bf sounds really immature and kind of like a jerk. He keeps choosing her and isn’t helping this situation get any better. No, I don’t really think you should drive an hour to go to her house so she can treat you badly. Be busy. Have plans. You can do better than this.

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  • avatar

    Mimi July 18, 2019, 2:27 pm

    Seriously, is this the only single man in your part of the state or what?
    You have taken the high road when you could have gone low, and I think you deserve a man who actually has a spine.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros July 18, 2019, 8:40 pm

    Yes, it’s his job to facilitate this. And, I mean, sure, you can choose to stop going over there and stop trying to be polite. But based on the letters here, I think that most people do not find that doing that solves their problems. Because then, they are disappointed that they are left out of that area of their partner’s life and often find that just as untenable as the original situation.

    You might want to consider whether your plan to stop making an effort is just a way to feel like you are doing something to address this issue. Because as I referred to above, if you find that THAT situation is unbearable in its own way, then essentially nothing will have changed. You’ll still be with a guy whose life you wont’ fully be a part of and who won’t understand your feelings about that and who doesn’t seem all that bothered about how you’re being affected. It just seems like a waste of time and energy to go through this plan to change how you interact with his mom just to get more of the same.

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    • avatar

      dinoceros July 18, 2019, 8:42 pm

      Also, if one of the main qualities you see and like about your boyfriend is that he’s family-oriented, but you know you’ll never truly be accepted by or into his family, that’s sort of concerning. That’s like saying that you love that your boyfriend is so artistic, but he doesn’t let you see any of his art. TBH, your life would probably be better if you were with a guy who wasn’t family oriented because at least he’d empathize with you if his family didn’t like you.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie July 19, 2019, 8:00 am

    Both of my parents remarried. My stepfather was younger than my mom (4 years) with no kids of his own. He really wanted a kid of his own. But he always treated me like his kid. He considered me a bonus. He always referred to me as his daughter. His parents (they lived 3 blocks away) treated me like a granddaughter from the outset. Always. I cried my eyes out when his mom died (before my folks married) because she was so sweet to me. There was never exclusion. Birthday gifts, Hannukah gifts, the whole shebang. My Grandpa – stepdad’s dad – would pick up me and my sister for brunch on Sundays. Grandpa took care of me when I had chicken pox and my folks were out of town.

    I don’t know how old your kid is but if your kid is being treated as “other” as in “not your blood” or “not a real grandchild” then please be kind to your child and move on.

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