“My Girlfriend Spends Way Too Much Time with Her Family”

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I am in the Army and stationed on the east coast. I’m dating a 29-year-old school teacher. She’s a single mom and I’m a divorced father but don’t have custody. I feel like she is too close to her parents and it’s causing a huge strain on our relationship. They live ten minutes away from us (I moved in with her a few months ago), and there seems to be too much parental involvement.

Every Monday her parents come over for supper and I think that’s wonderful, so that’s not the issue. The issue is her need to eat with them another 2-3+ nights per week. Also, her mom comes over every night to tuck in her granddaughter, and they talk all the time. On the weekend, I know my girlfriend is awake because she instantly FaceTimes her mother from bed, then her cousin. Rinse repeat every weekend.

If I don’t go to family things, they grill her and she hates that I don’t go to everything. Then, if her family has questions about me and my life, they won’t ask me, they ask her. I’m 32 years old, I’ve spent thirteen years in the military and I’ve moved across the country twice, with many more regional moves. I’m close to my parents, but I don’t feel nearly as close to mine as she does to hers.

If I ask her about why she’s so involved with them, she tells me that, when her husband left her, she relied on them and this became normal. I have not asked her to change anything other than to ask her mom not to come by at night. She would come over and sit down for several hours but do nothing to help. It was very uncomfortable for me because I can’t unwind with my girlfriend’s mother over my shoulder every night.

Am I letting this get to me or is there really a problem? — Confused in Connecticut

I think the biggest problem here is that you moved in with a woman whose lifestyle as it was wasn’t a fit for you. And knowing she had a daughter, you both should have been extra cautious about taking such a big step as moving in together. That you made that step before you felt confident in your lifestyles being a match is a big red flag. You’ve both been married before — why would you take such a big step in a relationship without being fully ready? THAT, more than your girlfriend’s relationship with her family, is the biggest issue here.

But, yes, your girlfriend’s relationship with her family is an issue, too, because it’s interfering with your relationship and family life. Your girlfriend is being rude by not respecting your privacy and your time together. And you’re enabling her as long as you don’t “ask her to change anything other than to ask her mom not to come by at night.” So, you expressed your concern about that, your girlfriend talked to her mom, and now her mom no longer spends hours at your place every evening sitting on your couch not helping out, right? That’s great — sounds like communicating with your girlfriend works! So… why don’t you communicate about the rest of your concerns? Tell her you feel disrespected when she Facetimes her mother and cousin every weekend morning from bed (with you right next to her, I’m assuming?). Maybe you could ask her to wait until you’re out of bed/in the shower/at the gym, etc. Maybe she could excuse herself to another room or switch to a quick phone call where you don’t have to be included. If you would like her to spend less time eating dinners with her family, suggest she cut back to the Monday family supper you all enjoy together and maybe one additional dinner without you (and then you could use that time to do something you enjoy on your own).

What you’ve described doesn’t sound that crazy. Is it different from what you — and a lot of other people — are used to? Yes. Is it different from what you want? Yes, obviously. But it also doesn’t sound like anyone is refusing you and your needs. The one time you expressed a concern, it was validated, and behavior was changed. So, continue expressing your concerns and work on compromise with your girlfriend. And in the future, make sure you know what you’re getting into before you make another big step forward in a relationship!


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


  1. dinoceros says:

    What Wendy said. This is who she is. I think you realize that you can’t ask her to stop seeing them as much without her resenting you, and it sounds like you’re not willing for this to be your life. You shouldn’t have moved in with someone who you’re this incompatible with.

  2. Yes, WWS. And so awful for you to try and change her family dynamics now that you live with her, especially since you probably met her and she was like that already.

  3. I hate to pile on, but this is exactly why people tell you to wait till you really know someone before you move in with them. You moved in with her before you fully understood her relationship with her family. That dynamic was set long before you met her, and it’s not going to change much, if at all, because you came along.

    I know that’s hindsight, and doesn’t help you much with your current problem. There’s really no easy solution. You can talk it out with her and see where you can both compromise, but if she won’t, you’re down to two choices. 1) Decide the relationship is worth the annoyance of dealing with her family, or 2) Decide that it’s not, and move on.

  4. Who cares if you aren’t close to your family? She is close to hers. And when times were rough for her, they stepped up. How lovely her grandmother tucks her in every night. How lovely she had support if your job takes you away. Instead of being happy for her, you want her to do things your way. Too bad. You found her like this. She compromised on the mom not coming over for hours. She can compromise on taking calls away from you. Figure out what you are going to compromise on because nothing in her dynamic is off. And not for anything, why wouldn’t they ask her instead of you? You think they haven’t figured out how you feel about them?
    You asked if this was really a problem. I think the problem is you. Accept it or leave her be.

  5. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

    I think Wendy gave great advice but I think there’s a nuance of this relationship that she missed.
    For military folks *, the whole idea of being so reliant on Mom & Dad is a foreign concept. The military is all about learning to operate as a fully independent adult without parental interference. Her family’s involvement is always going to bother him. If they get married and move away, her dependence on her parents is going to get worse because she isn’t used to coping hardships/unhappiness on her own.
    LW, try this…think about this relationship in 5 years. If things are exactly the same with her parents’ involvement, how does that make you feel? Are you OK with it? Or do you see yourself, angry or tired from the struggle? If it’s the latter, (which I think it is), then you should probably move on from this relationship.
    I’m sure she’s a wonderful young woman but she’s not the wonderful young woman for you.

    *I’m a veteran

  6. Avatar photo meadowphoenix says:

    I think it’s pretty clear that this relationship came out of the dynamic of her being a single mom, so I wouldn’t say it was weird, overall, so much as you personally feeling like because the situation has changed (you are now there), the dynamic should too.

    1. I think it’s perfectly valid that you didn’t want her mother over there for hours just hanging out. And I actually think it’s valid that you’re a little aggrieved that adding another person didn’t strike anyone as a reason to reassess norms.

    2. It’s absolutely weird to grill someone because their SO doesn’t come to all family stuff . But if your gf is pressuring you too then this should be a sign that you may not be compatible. It’s not surprising that they address her for your personal business, you’ve probably made it clear that you’re not going to be open with them. If you have a problem with what she tells them, you need to talk to your girlfriend about what you want shared.

    3. It’s cute as fuck that grandma comes over to tuck her granddaughter in. If you want to change that situation, you need to understand that you are changing things not just for your girlfriend or her mother, but also for her daughter.

    4. If you want to spend more time with your gf at dinner, instead of telling her she shouldn’t like her parents so much (which is going to go over well with no one), tell her that you’d like to spend X amount of time with her at dinner.

    5. If you guys are serious, and honestly, if you’re living with her daughter you should be, is your military commission of the sort that means there is a possibility for short notice moves? If so, does your gf know that? If no, tell her immediately, because I’m guessing that might be a dealbreaker for her.

    Like, it’s obviously not going to be the case that you’re going to get your gf to have a relationship with her parents in exactly the way that makes you comfortable. So you need to figure out what about it is clashing against your needs, and talk to your gf about those rather than how you view her relationship with her parents, which, if no harm is occurring, is none of your concern.

  7. whoishere says:

    Your girlfriend has a close relationship with her family. Good for her. Maybe you should be happy for her and embrace it. If you can’t do that you’re probably not the man for her.

  8. for_cutie says:

    I hear you asking her for compromise, but what are you willing to offer? You’ve asked her to change once, and she did. I think you need to ask her “how can I love you better” and be willing to change based on what she asks for from you before you make her change her family dynamic again.

  9. Confused in CT says:

    Hey everyone. Thanks for the constructive criticism. It should be noted that, in the time leading up to me moving in, I wasn’t made aware of her mothers strange behavior. I never saw it. I addressed it with my girlfriend and let it go, at the advice of many of you.

    Two instances have occurred since then, both of which the rest of the family found out about and were floored. We took a trip to Boston with her daughter and her cousins family. Her mother put her through a guilt trip and was crying hysterically because my girlfriend didn’t invite her. She was miserable the entire trip. The second occurrence happened one night when we were getting ready for bed. I had changed clothes and was having a glass of wine before bed and she was reading to Zoey in bed. All of a sudden I hear this noise and the front door flies open and her mom comes barging in the house unannounced and didn’t ask my girlfriend ahead of time. She marches right into the bedroom and starts playing with her granddaughter, which just wakes her up and we had a hard time getting her to sleep after that.

    When the rest of the family found out (I didn’t say anything because I didn’t feel like it was my place to tell everyone) they told my girlfriend that she can’t allow that kind of behavior. They didn’t really “pile on” but they made it a point that she can’t allow this kind of behavior.

    1. I feel you says:

      Hello, I understand your predicament and I don’t think it’s right how some people have bashed you…. you need to be able to express your concerns as well. I don’t live with my girlfriend but I am pretty much in the same situation. I only live a block away from my girlfriend but she lives with her mother. She is almost 40 years old and has lived with her mother for several years. She literally does every single thing in that household, she does not have kids but I am lucky to get one or two dinners a week with her, which she is usually late for because she’s doing stuff for her mother. Every other night she’s eating with her mom and comes over just about time for bed every night. I am a single father of two children that are teenagers and I have full custody of them. I would love nothing more than to move in with my girlfriend and have her be more of an influence in my children’s lives. We have been dating for 3 years now and have had many disagreements over her mother’s involvement in our relationship… I love her and I cannot imagine my life without her. I just don’t know if it will ever become anything more because she refuses to step down from any of the roles she is playing for her mother. There doesn’t seem to be a good solution because as you can see most people side with her and her relationship with her mother. My kids will be grown in 5 years so her time to help raise them is quickly coming to an end. She says, she looks at it like her mother is not going to live forever so she needs to spend as much time with her as possible. I have no leg to stand on in this argument. It just is what it is so ultimately I’m not sure what to tell you about it. I’m not sure what to do about my situation either. We have broken up a few times but we have always gotten back together because we cannot seem to live without each other but the problem Still Remains…. the only thing I can tell you is that if you love her it’s just something you have to deal with. You could move on and find someone else and they may not have the same issue… but is that issue going to be any better??? That is the question you need to answer.. for me, I have answered that question and all I can do is hope that one day it will not be like this and we will have a life of Our Own…. unfortunately that maybe 20 years from now…..

  10. Locks are your friend. If MIL has a key, then a chain lock you use when at home alone is a bigger friend. Your wife needs to handle her relationship with her mother and any necessary boundaries. You can’t do that, so good that you didn’t.

  11. KL Konnect says:

    Just so that you’re aware, a lot of this stuff disguised as “constructive criticism” is you getting verbally beat up by a lot of females who were triggered by your expression of your natural feelings. Also, as typical in many comment sections that follow these type of topics, a lot of people are beating you up and blaming you out of their own personal anger and experiences.

    Yes, it is true, however, that you and she may not be a match because she is overly dependant or attached to her family and you (seem like) you want independence and freedom in life to make exclusive decisions with your partner and be able to just be in a relationship with her.

    It sucks, but regardless of how perfect she may be in other ways, if this is a deal breaker, or if the annoyance of her not being independent outweighs the benefits of you having her in your life, then you have to let her go, especially if the joy of her family always being involved also outweighs the joys of doing what makes you feel comfortable. Keep in mind that even if she’d rather do what makes you feel comfortable, then she may have to become uncomfortable, because her family may guilt her, which will only cause more problems to come. After all, some people simply just don’t care if they are intruding or getting in the way of another’s life (or lives) and will intentionally make things worse if you dare try to bring it up or change it. Just make sure you or your family don’t start intruding theirs though because it would suddenly become wrong and they may even think something is wrong with you if it were the other way around… It’s just the illogical, irrational way in which humans have been psychologically programmed to operate and deal with each other.

    Anyway, bottom line is somebody is going to have to change here or one person will always be uncomfortable if neither of you can accept or be comfortable with what the partner desires.

    I will say this, though. You can be sure that if things were the other way around and you were the one dependant on your mom or family or always had your family around, involved and making decisions that everyone else were pretty much obligated to respect just to keep the peace, you would be criticized BIG time and told you’re not a real man, you need to grow up and you would more than likely be chastised beyond belief for not being independent. I don’t personally have this problem (with being attached to family or dependant on anyone) because I am very big on freedom and independence, even to the point I don’t condone the sheeple lifestyle many people live, often holding rigid social or superficial beliefs that everything must be a certain way and everyone must live accordingly. A lot of that has to do with people trying to intrude and control my life when I was younger, so I have no tolerance for it now that I am old enough to make my own decisions. But, I’ve seen how other guys that are family or “mama’s boys” are treated and talked about. Also, as you already probably know, You are not allowed to try to change her. However, if you want to keep her, you better not complain too much if she tries to change anything about you (unless the things she is trying to change about you bother you more than being in a relationship with her brings you joy and you’re ok with her finding or being told to find someone else).

    Anyway, good luck, and don’t hate me. I don’t create double standards or the rules of any of the games of life. I simply just point them out (and learn to play accordingly when I feel like it).

  12. Get out now and run for your life! Be happy that your GF is so codependent on her family and not on you because that would suck. If she can’t understand the meaning of your relationship with her then she’s already setting the stage for becoming one of those infamous single mother/cat ladies. One day she might be able to pull her head from her rectum but be glad you’ll be long gone cause she’ll be over the hill and her marketplace value will be zero. Find yourself a new younger GF after you get a vasectomy and enjoy the good life of pumping and dumping.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is crazy. Nothings come in between me and my family. If a partner doesn’t understand how close a person is to their family they can hit the road. This sounds very selfish. Sorry to be so harsh.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Just give up and leave her. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable when a friend’s family is around all the time. Her family doesn’t respect your privacy and probably will never like you, no matter how hard you try. If she always has time and makes plans for her family, but no time for friends. She don’t deserve to be in a relationship.

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