Dilemma: My partner is too close to his mother

It’s the old gay cliché about being a mama’s boy, but what happens when Mommie Dearest gets a little too involved for your man’s liking?

Richard writes:

My boyfriend is very close to his mother. Suffocatingly close. He calls her every day and they are on the phone for ages. She lives locally so comes to see us often. I discovered fairly recently that she even has her own key to the house, which caused an argument when I protested. My boyfriend says I wouldn’t understand because my own relationship with my parents has been fractious since I came out, but he says she’s all he’s got and he enjoys spending time with her. The “she’s all I’ve got” really hurt me – am I not important? I feel she’s too involved and most of our social life or free time revolves around including or thinking about her in some way. Am I a bad person?

The Guyliner replies:

Yes, of course you are. Terrible. Well, no, not really, but I can see why you would think so. Each of our relationship with our parents is such an individual thing – even between siblings sometimes – and they can be difficult for us to understand from a distance. And naturally you feel guilty for thinking that it’s all a bit much – but you shouldn’t. But you do need to be realistic about how likely this is to change.

You don’t say what circumstances have made your man and his mum so close, but if he’s saying “she’s all I’ve got”, I’m guessing he may have grown up without a dad, or that some kind of adversity has made them pull tighter than perhaps one might expect. How we grow up and the way our parents behave while we do can have a lasting effect – for better or worse – so I guess you should at least be thankful he has a good relationship with her, especially given you don’t have the same with your nearest and dearest. His attachment to his mum in this way and this idea that she is his rock may well come from previous relationships not working out. You said you had a row when it was revealed she had a key – which he should have discussed you, definitely – but is that all you’ve been arguing about or are things generally not quite right? This, again, could see him looking to his mum as an only constant when things are getting shaky at home.

You don’t say who owns the house – or whether you actually live together – but if she has the key to your home then this needs to be addressed. Asking her to hand the key back would probably be a bit over the top but you can at least set boundaries about when it’s used, perhaps limiting it to watering the plants when you’re on holiday rather than just letting herself in whenever she pops round. It’s not unreasonable of you to ask this of them both.

As for the relationship between mum and son, I think maybe you should consider your own connection with her, perhaps get involved a little bit more, and spend time with her, but make it very clear to your boyfriend that you need alone-time too. If he really has to call his mum every day, ask that he limits this to a few minutes of checking in rather than a deep dive into every single perceived slight from the aunties they don’t like, or that he manages this daily communiqué on his own time, during lunch at work perhaps. He may feel worried that his mum is lonely – if she’s “all he’s got” then there’s a good chance what he really means is “I’m all she’s got” – then do your best to assuage any guilt or worry he might feel about this. See how you can improve her social life, maybe encourage her to date, or join clubs, or hang out with people of her own age or with similar interests and do your best to facilitate this. Not only will this help with her being so focused on your life all the time, but it will show your boyfriend that you also care about someone who matters to him. Because, to be perfectly honest, if you set yourself up as a rival to this woman who is obviously so important to him, it will end badly for you.

She’s not your enemy; she helped create this man who you love. You don’t have to lick her boots, but if you make friends with her and try to change the relationship between mum and son in a positive way rather than setting her up as your nemesis, then you’ll all end up much happier as a result.

Got a dilemma you want me to help with? I now answer these from anyone, not just LGBT people, so if you inexplicably want my help, get in touch and mark your email “Dilemma”.

Here’s what the great and the good on Twitter had to say. I don’t necessarily endorse or dismiss this advice.

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