“My Ghanaian boyfriend is upset because I left his family’s party without him knowing. The feud between his mother and me came to a head at the event. She told me I wasn’t good enough for her son because I’m African American, I don’t have an Ivy League degree, I have kinky hair, I don’t come from wealth, etc. I told him I was done, but he’s upset because I won’t hear his side. Do I owe him that?” —M.G.
I’m sorry about what his mom said to you. Some people have very ignorant views about what matters in a relationship. Mom is very caught up in ethnicity and status, as if either were an indication of how well you treat her son, which is what should matter. She’s entitled to think what she wants. But she’s all-the-way wrong for saying it to you, especially at an event.
Anyone would be upset after being told to her face that she isn’t good enough. You have every right to be, and if your date said this to you, I would applaud you for leaving and encourage you to stay gone from that relationship. That would be an occasion where storming out is entirely justifiable and acceptable.
But what you’ve described above is not that situation. His mother was out of line, and while she raised him and shares his last name, she is not him; nor is she his representative. You didn’t have an issue with your man; you had an issue with his mother. You took it out on him even though he isn’t the problem.
He obviously feels that you’re good enough, since this “feud” has been ongoing and he’s still proudly bringing you around his family. He isn’t swayed by what they think—or he wasn’t. He may be now.
I ran this scenario by a few sensible guy friends, and they unanimously agreed that they wouldn’t be bothered to contact a girlfriend again who already brought stress because his mother didn’t like her. The mother not liking her wasn’t the issue. The girlfriend walking out was.
Let me explain from his perspective: Being walked out on isn’t only embarrassing, especially in a room full of relatives. It also indicates how little a partner respects you that she didn’t even offer the common courtesy of saying, “I’m leaving.” Imagine how you would feel if he had done that to you.
You wanted to leave, which is entirely understandable. You should have asked your man to take you home or, at least, walk you to the car. If he’d refused, it would have been fine to go.
But you didn’t do that. If he wasn’t listening to what his mother said about your not being good enough before, you’ve given him a reason to listen now (if for different reasons) because you’ve disrespected him, and publicly at that.
His mother definitely noticed that you left, and she definitely told him, “See, I told you.” Again, I get why you’re mad. But you didn’t have to give her ammunition because of it.
As a testament to how much your guy likes you, he is trying to patch things up, despite your antics. And you’re not picking up the phone now?
Yes, you owe him a conversation. He didn’t do anything wrong here, and again, he is not responsible for what his mother says. If you want to break off the relationship because of his mother, you’re entitled to, but you need to tell him that instead of keeping him in the dark about what you’re thinking or the status of the relationship.
Also, on the off chance that you want to salvage this relationship—and it can be salvaged, since he wants to be “heard out”—apologize to him for walking out and ignoring his attempts to contact you. Add that he has to talk to his mother about respecting you. She doesn’t have to like you, but she also can’t insult you.
Whatever you do, don’t ask him to choose between his mother and you (you’ll lose). Do feel free to let him know you’re not attending a family event. He probably won’t ask you to anytime soon anyway.
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. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.