From S. Africa: I have been in a serious relationship with this guy for 2 years now. He is 28 and I am 29. He is Spanish and I am Zimbabwean. We met while working in South Africa where we both currently reside. As far as our relationship goes, we get along quite well but he has such an unhealthy relationship with his mother. The more I get to know him the more I see it and it scares me.

My first impression was that maybe it was a cultural influence. Most African cultures encourage independence especially in males. By the time a boy is 18 he is somewhat an adult and is expected to behave like one. My first encounter with this mother was overwhelming. She is a nice person and we get along but she still treats my boyfriend like he is 6years old and what bothers me is that he allows it. She shows up on some of our dates and she is not there physically she is texting. When I ask my boyfriend to please put the phone away he would make an excuse that his mother doesn’t know the food we are eating, take a send a picture of our dishes to her.

Being in South Africa and his parents in Spain means Skype everyday for my boyfriend. I feel this is too much. I have asked him if he can tone it down a little bit and he has been offended by this saying he is close to his mum and she would get worried if he missed a skype date. Which is shockingly true because she texts me on my phone to ask why his son isn’t online when she expects him to be. My boyfriend normally drops whatever he is doing to go skype with his mum no matter how urgent it was for me or us. She always come first. I again confronted him about this and he went from simply going online to asking for my permission each time before going online.

Recently his parents have been having marital problems. Resulting in his mum sharing intimate details of their relationship with my boyfriend and his younger brother. I thought this to be absolutely revolting. This has driven a wedge between my boyfriend and his father. They hardly speak. I have tried go make him see that he has to remain impartial and treat his parents equally but to no avail. He takes his mum’s side all the time. Now that she is depressed our relationship feels like a threesome. She is always in the picture, we can’t get a moment to just be the two of us. She is always texting, even gets my boyfriend to skype from work which I feel is inappropriate. I work late on most days and whe I get home nothing is done, no help whatsoever with the housework or simple dinner because my boyfriend is on skype with his mum. Please note that he comes home at least 3hours before me on a normal day.

Then the last straw. Recently I asked him to check the civil registration process in Spain in case we decided to get married. Just to know what documents we needed and how long it would take. He couldn’t do that on his own. His mother went with him!!! Putting it into context, in December he had a cold and needed to go for medication at the local clinic, his mum took him to the clinic!!! At 28. I expressed my opinion on the matter and he insisted that it was normal in Spain for adults to be accompanied to tbe clinic by their parents!! Hmm I am yet to go to the clinic and see for myself.

No matter how much I express my concerns things seem to get better the worse than before in a short space of time. Am I being paranoid? Is this normal at some social level I don’t know of?

A: No, you’re not being paranoid. The most important relationship to your boyfriend and his mother is with each other. Boundaries have become blurred to an unhealthy extent. She should not be complaining to her children about her spouse. Your boyfriend should not be asked to take sides. He has two parents who will continue to be his parents regardless of whether they stay married. He deserves to have a relationship with his dad.

Further, it is disrespectful of you when your boyfriend texts and Skypes his mother when he is with you. He has plenty of time to connect with her if he must before you get home.

He may be wonderful in lots of ways, but bear in mind that what you see is what you get. If you marry him, you are also marrying his mom. If he has to chose between spending time with you and talking to his mother, he will put his mother first.

I think you should take a huge step back and ask yourself if the other wonderful things about him are worth being his cook and housekeeper and tolerating this unusual enmeshed relationship he has with his mother. At the same time, your boyfriend should think about whether losing you is worth staying so intimately connected to mom. I can’t answer that question for either of you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Jul 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). My Boyfriend Has a Strange Relationship with His Mother. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/18/my-boyfriend-has-a-strange-relationship-with-his-mother/

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