Q: From an 18 year old in the U.S. I’ve been with my boyfriend for half a year. I was always okay with his mother, but I did kind of dislike her because he told me how mean she was to him. She used to physically abuse him; now it’s all emotional abuse. She kicks him out of “her” house periodically and for seemingly no reason. About three or four months ago, she kicked him out and tried to involve me. She sent me rude text messages about how she was going to send him to millitary school because he is “stupid” and “worthless.” I ignored the messages, and assumed she must have gotten my phone number from him for some reason. She hasn’t involved me in anything since then. Recently, I found out that she goes through my phone when I leave it around the house. I finally confronted my boyfriend and confessed to him that I strongly dislike his mother. He said that he never gave her my phone number, and she must have gotten it from snooping around in his phone. He then asked his mother about the text messages, and she denied that it ever happened. She also kicked him out AGAIN after he told her that it’s wrong for her to look through my phone. The next day, she took him back in. I will not step foot in his house because I don’t want to see her. He thinks I should just forget about it for the sake of our relationship. What should I do? I need advice!

A. This really is confusing. You would of course like to like your boyfriend’s mother but the way she tries to be close to tell you is to tell you he’s stupid. You also want to be supportive of your boyfriend but when you try to stand up for him, he wants you to leave it alone. These two have a lot of work to do on their relationship. Unfortunately, anyone who tries to “help” in a situation like this often ends up alienating both.

My best suggestion to you is that you make a promise to yourself to take the “high road”. Do everything you can to stay out of their fight. When you are in this woman’s home, treat her politely and with respect. She may be hard to get along with but she is his mother and she is paying his bills. Be polite even if she isn’t polite to you. Then you will never have to apologize for your own behavior. If she tries to engage you in critisizing your boyfriend, politely change the subject to something neutral.

The same thing goes for your boyfriend. If he tries to tell you how awful his mother is, let him know you have faith in his ability to work it out. Then change the subject. Focus instead on the good things about your own relationship with your boyfriend.

If you can remove yourself from their conflict, it will be a gift to your boyfriend. He will not have to feel pulled between the two women in his life and can put his attention on enjoying you and figuring out for himself how to get along better with his mom.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie