Dear Dr. Buckingham,
I have been dealing with an issue for quite some time now and find myself in need of some advice. My boyfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship for 2 1/2 years now. He is a Marine. Since the beginning of the relationship, his mother has been jealous, possessive and rude toward me.
She was not excited that her son was spending time with me. I tried reaching out to her to see how she was doing while he was away at boot camp. I went to her home with flowers and gifts for birthdays, and other special days. Unfortunately, she never paid any attention to me and brushed me off quickly. She thanked me and shut the door in my face. I was angry because I traveled all the way to her house in order to bond with her. After trying to bond, but being shut down, I stopped. It has gotten to a point where she continues to disrespect me and makes snide comments even in front of my boyfriend.
In order for man to stand up for you, he must be able to stand up for himself.
He does not do or say anything to his mother. Many of the people I know who have had similar relationship and family dynamics found that the easiest way is to cut off their family and keep them at a distance; and they found themselves very happy and at peace with their lives. I tried telling my boyfriend about how I feel, but he does not listen and keeps putting his family first.
I understand that they have been there for him, but how are we supposed to have a healthy relationship when he does not listen and makes excuses for everything his mother does? How do I convince him that she is destroying our relationship and we need to distance ourselves from them? He proposed to me and I declined because this matter negatively impacts our relationship. How can I get him to tell his mother to stop, and that if she doesn’t then she must be kept at a distance because as a partner our relationship comes first or else we cannot grow? How Do I Get My Boyfriend Stand Up For Me?
Girlfriend of a Marine
Dear Girlfriend if a Marine,
I am sorry to hear about the challenges with your boyfriend’s mother. I will begin by saying that cutting off in-laws and/or family members typically does not work if only one partner wants this. Based on your report, your boyfriend has not expressed a desire to cut anyone off. According to you, he does not “do or say” anything to his mother. With this in mind, your idea of cutting his family off is not realistic.
Unfortunately, I believe that your expectations at this phase of the relationship are unrealistic. You speak of your boyfriend as if he is your husband. You want him to put you before his mother and family. A large percentage of people would argue that this status is typically reserved for a wife. While you may think highly of him because he proposed to you, please keep in mind that he is not willing to place you above his mother or family at this time. This situation will not likely change even if he decides to marry you.
You cannot make or persuade your boyfriend to do something that he does not want to do. However, even if you could persuade him, he would probably resent you at some point in the future. In my work as a psychotherapist, I have learned that change is a personal phenomenon and people have to want to change for themselves in order for it to be healthy and sustainable.
In order for man to stand up for you, he must be able to stand up for himself. If your boyfriend does not defend himself, he will definitely not defend you. The dynamic between him and his mother is not about you. You are just a casualty. Let me explain.
A man who is ready for marriage understands that he will become one flesh with his wife. This understanding positions him to help his loved ones accept his decision to become one flesh. He will assertively ask everyone to respect his decision to marry whom he desires. He will demand that they respect his fiancé, but do not demand that they have to like her.
If a man does not do this, I do not believe that he is ready for marriage. Also, you have to decide what you want from your boyfriend’s mother. Do you want respect or do you want to be liked? Understanding what you desire and can tolerate is very important. Unfortunately, based on your report, it appears that your boyfriend’s mother does not respect or like you.
Overcoming in-law or family conflict can be challenging, especially if you do not have a relationship that is built on unwavering commitment in the beginning. I typically do not advise people to move on, but you might need to keep it moving if your boyfriend is not willing to meet you where he feels comfortable. Mind you, I did not say where you feel comfortable. I did not mention your comfort level because he has to be okay with what you are requesting of him or it will never work.
I highly recommend that you seek professional counseling so that you can gain insight about how to move forward or move on. Also, ask your boyfriend to attend counseling with you. He might need help with addressing his mother’s inappropriate behavior towards you.
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.