I want to move in with my partner, but my controlling mom says she’ll disown me if I leave her. Surely I should be allowed to move on?

Absolutely, says our elder. You deserve to get on with your life.

Dear EWC

I’m 28 years old, and I’ve been with my partner for three years. We are due to move in together sometime next year. However, my mother has threatened to disown me if I do. My father was controlling and abusive towards me and her. There was often violence, death threats, and he went to jail many times. Despite what he did to her and me, she always let him come back. Despite the police and the social services begging her not to, even for my sake, she still had him back. I cannot stress enough how miserable he made our lives. Despite all that, I always stayed with her. Countless nights of her crying on my shoulder, sleeping in my bed. I left college and had no social life except her, I gave everything up to stay and look after her. Eventually, when I was 24, she finally agreed to take him to court and be rid of him. She gave a big speech about how she was doing it for me, so I could move forward and have a life. We won the court case, and he was gone.

Sadly, she shifted her dependency on him, straight to me. I was keen to start moving forward, but she was apparently stuck in her ways. I began dating my other half, and she made it clear she didn’t like it from day one. Now I tried to accommodate her as much as possible. I wanted to be compassionate since I knew it would be a hard transition for her, but quite frankly it’s been three years now, and I can’t take it anymore! Currently, I see my partner Monday night, Thursday and Friday night, and all day/night Sunday. So I see my mother almost every day, go out with her, and spend Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday night with her. Yet she’s always on my ass about my partner. She demands that I’m not allowed to talk to him over the phone when I’m with her because it’s “her time to have me”. If I so much as glance at my phone all hell breaks loose. She frequently tells me I’m thick and stupid for being with him. And that any kids I have with him would be “dumb and ugly” and she will have nothing to do with anything that has his genetics. She says she doesn’t want to discuss him when we are together but then she always finds a way to bring him up. I can barely say anything without her making it about him.

Now I won’t lie. I and my partner have had our ups and downs like any other couple, but he’s a good man who I want to build a life with. I told her months ago about me and him living together, and she lost it. So I brought it up again recently, and I got the same response — that she’ll cut me out of my life if I leave her. She said that the amount of time I spend with her already isn’t enough. I’ve tried to tell her that despite me not living with her anymore, I’ll still make the effort to come see her as often as possible. I told her to help her transition, I’d try to see her every other day and spend two nights a week with her. She said that’s not good enough. It’s as if she’s already decided that she’s going to ditch me, yet when I say, “You know what, fine”, she gets upset and accuses me of wanting to leave her. Which I don’t!! Obviously my partner is getting frustrated and it’s driving a wedge between us. We are planning to have a child someday, but how can we do that when I already feel like I have a child — my mother.

I feel like I’m being torn in two. I genuinely want to spend time with both of them, but I’m sick of disappointing my partner, and I’m sick of being emotionally punished by my mother. It’s driving me to have horrendous anxiety — which my mum blames on the “stress” of being with my partner — and I feel like I can’t take it anymore. I love my mother to death, but there has to be a limit surely? I’ve tried to get her to socialize with other people, I’ve been nice, I’ve yelled. Nothing works. I suggested she tried to get therapy and she just hit me and cried that I was trying to get rid of her.

I know it sounds selfish but at 28 years old, shouldn’t I be able to move on, and move out, without being punished for it? Shouldn’t she be understanding and somewhat grateful that I’d make the effort to see her a couple of times a week, even if she feels it’s not enough? I don’t want her to cut my out of her life because I can’t bear the thought of her being alone. I know it would only be a matter of time before she tries to kill herself. But I feel it’s unfair for me to have to live this way. I desperately want to find a middle ground where everyone is happy, but I’m devastated in thinking that she’ll ditch me. Living like this is exhausting; it’s at the point where I wish I could just get away from everyone.

Cousin-B replies

Thank you for writing and I hope I can help. Your mother seems to be a very unhappy person and frankly, I don’t think you would please her even if you gave up your partner and spent all your time with her. She would still complain. I certainly do not recommend you do that.
You are 28 years old and you do deserve to get on with your life. If you have made the decision to move in with your partner, then do it. Tell your mother that you are going to do it on a certain day and you will no longer discuss it with her. She is not going to disown you; she needs you. Do not let her make you feel guilty for wanting to live your own life. She will make threats; she will say you don’t love her; she might threaten to kill herself. These are all attempts to control you. She is responsible for her actions, not you.

It would be very helpful if you and your mother could go to counseling together to discuss these issues. But if she won’t go, go yourself. A counselor will help you deal with your feelings of guilt for moving away from your mother. You will have these feelings even though you are doing the right thing for both of you. Accept that your mother is an unhappy, inadequate person and work with a professional to set up and keep appropriate boundaries between the two of you. Do not try to bargain with her; you will not win. You must make your decision, give her your conditions and stick to them.
Perhaps when she no longer has you as the center of her concerns, she will be interested in making a life for herself. But do not let her pathology keep you from living a contented adult life.
I hope these thoughts are helpful and please write again with continued or other questions and concerns. That is why we Elders are here.

Letter #: 446245
Category: Family

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