Mother-in-law Violates my Privacy

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Recently my boyfriend’s mother and I had to take my boyfriend to emergency room with a leg injury. As he was getting ready she stepped in between him and me to put his socks and shoes on. I took it as a violation of my and his privacy, but she does not seem to understand why. We all live together in her house and she gives us some self time when she feels like it. However, she still buys him clothes including underwear, does his laundry and ironing, and enters our bedroom without invitation. When I confront her she says “He will always be my child”. He is 50 years old and we were a couple for five years, but he also tells me that she is just his mother, and I should not be upset about her actions. How can I explain to them both how unhealthy their boundaries seem to me?
Best regards

A: The answer to your question is that you can’t convince your mother-inlaw because your problem isn’t with her. Your boyfriend hasn’t been willing to redefine his relationship with her. From his point of view, he is getting the benefit of having both lover and mother. What he doesn’t understand is that his unwillingness to put some boundaries around your relationship interfere with how intimately you connect with him.

I suspect that part of the reason that your boyfriend’s mother feels entitled to continue to “mother” is that you live in her home and haven’t married. There may be good reasons for that but she is of a generation that generally doesn’t take a girlfriend as seriously as a wife, regardless of the number of years the couple has been together. It may also be that your boyfriend hasn’t shifted his primary loyalty to you instead of his mother because he hasn’t made the commitment of marriage. At 50, he may see no reason to change. The way he’s living his life works for him. These are just guesses and things for you to consider.

As long as your boyfriend is happy with the situation, you have only two choices if you want to continue in the relationship: resent it or learn to appreciate her care for the man you care about and develop a sense of humor about it. Living in resentment isn’t a very happy option so I hope you can embrace the latter.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Sep 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Mother-in-law Violates my Privacy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/09/24/mother-in-law-violates-my-privacy/