My mom or my partner?

I want to move in with my partner but my mom says she will disown me. I’m 29!

She is a black hole of neediness, says our elder. I suggest you call her bluff.

Dear EWC

I’m 29 years old. Two days ago, my partner of four years proposed to me and I said yes. Due to current circumstances we haven’t made it official, but what should be a happy time has been once again destroyed by my mother. I haven’t actually told her because she tells me daily that if I marry or have a baby with him, she’ll disown me and her life won’t be worth living. She’s been highly dependent on me for as long as I can remember. I’ve never really had a social life, I don’t have any friends. Only my partner and her. But her attitude is breaking my heart. Since the Covid lockdown, my partner calls me twice a day. My mother gets on my case about it severely, saying we have no valid reason to be speaking, especially not on “her” time. Saying that it “ruins her day” when I’m talking to him instead of her.

I’ve tried so hard to keep her happy. I was supposed to move in with my partner two years ago, but I delayed it because my mother said she’d feel abandoned and lonely. We were going to try for a baby but I’ve delayed that because she says it would destroy her to see me bound to him via a baby. He’s never really done anything against her, except for one time where he called her out on her behaviour and suggested she should give me a break. She hated him before then but since she keeps twisting things, saying he demonstrated an “abusive” attitude and that if I really cared I would have jumped to her defence and broke up with him, which I refused to do. I love my mother but every day has been the same for as long as I can remember. All she wants to do is go shopping and watch TV all day. This is how I’ve lived for so long. I feel like I’ve wasted good years trying to make her happy, and I don’t know if I can handle any more.

Today I told her that I wanted something more, and that she should give me a break because I’ve always remained loyal to her, I’ve never socialised other than with my boyfriend. I was mortified and quite frankly devastated when she accused me of being selfish and only thinking of myself. She says I’ve only ever been interested in myself and I’ve never done anything for her. I honestly don’t know how to respond to this. I’ve given her my life for years. She said that I’m not caring that she has no one else to talk to. I encouraged her to speak to other people but she refused, saying I should be focused on her instead of leaving her alone to cry herself to sleep every night. I’m so torn. I want a life with my partner, but I hate the thought of her being all alone. I’ve told her that I’ll visit her at least twice a week when I move, but she says that’s not enough. I told her I’d call her every day but still, not enough. I so desperately want to be with my partner, but I would feel awful if my mother disowned me because I know she would be lonely. But she won’t compromise or listen to reason. I’m nearly 30, and my time for making a family is running out but she doesn’t care. What can I do? I wish she would be a supportive mother but she views it as an act of great betrayal.

Folk replies

Enough is enough. Your mother’s selfishness has sucked the life out of you for 29 years; it’s time for you to have a life — and home — of your own with your boyfriend. By making you responsible for her emotional wellbeing, your mother has manipulated you into putting her needs first. Denying you the right to a family of your own is a despicable and unnatural thing for a mother to do. Her primary job as a parent, after all, should be to encourage your independence, not impede it. But instead of supporting your choices for your happiness, your mother has used every dirty emotional weapon in her arsenal to make you support hers. You have tried your best to please your mother — without success. She is a black hole of neediness, and everything you have done for her is not enough. Although you have devoted yourself to caring for her, she accuses you of having done nothing for her. The only thing that will apparently satisfy her is for you to give up any prospect of ever having a life of your own. Now that your boyfriend has proposed though, you have a choice to make. You can either decide to move out, marry, and have children. Or you can decide to continue to be your mother’s caretaker and companion. You mother is manipulating you emotionally to keep you from leaving by threatening to disown you. I suggest you call her bluff.

In your heart, you know that your mother is being unreasonable and unfair. She is thinking of her own needs, not yours. You have promised to call her everyday and to visit her twice a week, but she has insisted that this is not enough. She says that if you leave, she will be lonely. If she is lonely though, it will be by choice. She could have friends of her own, but she chooses not to. You know that what she is doing is not right. Leaving your mother and making a home of your own with your boyfriend is the healthy way forward. If you do not choose yourself over your mother now, you will regret it. This may sound harsh, but it is the truth.

I understand that leaving your mother will be an emotionally wrenching thing for you to do. Your mother has used guilt to tie you exclusively to her. And now this burden of guilt is preventing you from making the healthy separation from her you need to make for yourself. It will be hard, and it will pain you, but you can do it. If you are clear with your mother and tell her firmly that you are going, the rest will fall into place. Not easily, or smoothly, but it will happen. By taking the upper hand, you will flip the dynamics of your relationship with your mother. For the first 29 years of your life, your mom held the power. Now it’s your turn.

Instead of asking your mom for her blessing, you have to gird yourself to tell her, “Mom, here is where I stand. This is what I am going to do. If you want to disown me, that is your choice. I love you, and I want to continue to be a part of your life. I want you to be a grandmother to my children. But you will have to decide to accept that from now on, my husband comes first.”

If you do this, you take control of your life instead of hoping that your mother will change.
If you do not take a firm stand with your mother now, if you put off marrying and having children because of your fear of leaving her alone, this opportunity will pass. With a wake-up call, your mother may decide to alter her approach. You won’t know until you try. One thing is for certain though: hoping your mother will change is not a strategy. Whatever her response, by exercising your power in this way, you build your confidence, and start living life on your own terms.
Nothing will ever change unless you do. If you want a life of your own with your partner, you have got to find the grit to make it happen.

I hope this helps. I am always here if you’d like to talk more about this. Please try to write back if you can to let me know what you decide to do and how things work out for you. I will be rooting for you!

Letter #: 458005
Category: Marriage

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