My boyfriend's ex is still close with his mother. She even calls her "Mom." They have been broken up for over a year, and he says they no longer communicate. Am I wrong for wanting this relationship to stop? It is awkward at family functions when both of us are around. —Anonymous
You are not wrong for wanting this relationship to stop. Calling it awkward is an understatement. But you do know that unless there was some extraordinary circumstance that forged the alliance between the ex and the mom, the uncomfortable feeling you have is entirely intentional on their part, right?
His mom likes his ex. A lot. More than likely, keeping the ex in the picture is just a manipulative strategy to run off you or any new woman who comes into her son's life. While his ex may genuinely like his mother, she also genuinely still likes your boyfriend and is hoping for a reconciliation. Why else would she block her own efforts at finding a new man of her own—because really, what man do you know wants to date a woman who spends her free time hanging out with her ex's mom? She's already found the man she wants, and she's trying to get him back. She's there for a reason.
Here's my question for you, though: Why did you sign up for this? If you didn't know about the manipulative mom and the messy ex going in, when you saw what was up, why did you keep signing up for it?
On some level, I get it. Your boyfriend's not really doing anything wrong here. It's not as if he's bringing the ex around. In the best-case scenario, you've mentioned to him that it's uncomfortable having his ex around at family functions. He spoke to his mother, and she—because he can't force her to do anything—told him she'll invite who she wants. His hands are tied. So maybe he's tried to address your concerns but the problem hasn't gone away.
You could draw the line and tell your boyfriend that you're not going to events as long as his ex is there. But that shows division and gives the ex and Mom the extra boost to their plans to break you two up, since the strategy seems to be working. So you go to be with your man, to be supportive and to show a united front, yet the problem remains.
You're in a tough spot. But just so that you know, there is a way to put an end to this nonsense. It ceases when your boyfriend stops showing up at events when his ex is present. He has to give a clear ultimatum to his mother that it's either his ex or him. When he does that and Mom knows he's serious, that mom-and-ex relationship will quickly dissolve. She likes the girl for whatever reasons, but I'd put down good money that she's not willing to lose her son for any length of time to keep the girl around. It ends then or when you leave.
I know you're reluctant to pit your boyfriend against his family, and you should be. It's a big ask, especially when he's not doing anything wrong. But he's also not handling this right. It's ridiculous to ask you to come to his family events with his ex there. And it's ridiculous for him to go, too, and play into his mother's manipulative games. A boundary should have been drawn a long time ago. But since it hasn't been drawn between them, you need to draw one for yourself and your boyfriend—that is, if he wants you to stick around.
Tell your boyfriend that you're tired of being made to feel awkward when you are trying to spend time with him and support him, and that he has to force his mother's hand by not showing up to family events where the ex is present. He needs to take your side instead of playing into his mother's silly games.
Hopefully, by finally putting your foot down, you'll get his attention. If he's not willing to change? Well, then, it's time to change boyfriends.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Follow her on Twitter.