(The Root) —
"I've had it with my boyfriend's mother. We've been together for two years, and she calls him constantly to ask him to run an errand for her, fix something for her at the house or take her somewhere. Whenever we have a disagreement, I can count on him telling his mother about what's going on between us, and she always sides against me.
"When I complain, he tells me I'm overreacting. She's also made it clear that she doesn't like me and has said in front of me that she preferred my boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, who she remains in contact with. The last straw was when she invited his ex to a family cookout that she knew I would attend. I left, but my boyfriend didn't. He said he didn't want to insult his mother. Before that incident, we were discussing moving in together. Am I wrong for not agreeing to move in until this situation is resolved?" —G.V.
Your main problem isn't your boyfriend's mother; it's your boyfriend. It may be easier for you to blame her for the problems in your relationship so you can avoid confronting him about his behavior. Do understand, though, that she couldn't side with him about an argument the two of you had if he wasn't telling her about the relationship. And she probably would like you a whole lot more if he weren't telling her about your fights. Even if she did like the ex better, she'd show more respect if her son demanded that she did. He doesn't.
No matter how much you have complained, he has continued to make his mother the priority, and he allowed her to disrespect you. When you complained, you allowed him to brush off your concerns instead of addressing and solving the issue.
Despite the lack of boundaries — yours with him and his with Mama — you have chosen to stay for two years. This has sent the message that their behavior is OK. And while I applaud you for putting your foot down now — better late than never — I do think you may have allowed yourself to be treated this way too long to have the possibility of creating a healthy relationship now, if ever there was even a chance.
Surely, it's occurred to you by now that your man is a mama's boy. Just to be clear, there's nothing wrong with a man having a close relationship with his mother or even having her as a priority in his life. I wouldn't trust (without some extreme backstory) a man who wasn't given to occasionally running an errand for his mom, fixing or installing something in her home or spending any time with her. But your guy is taking things way too far.
By the nature of the relationship you describe, I'm going to guess that his father isn't in the picture, Mama doesn't have a man-friend and your man is either her only child or only son or the oldest. And I make that guess because the relationship you describe between your man and his mom sounds more like the relationship of a couple, not a mother and son.
Without a father around, they've probably had to rely on each other a lot over the years, and somewhere in that time, they blurred the lines of their proper roles. Unfortunately, you can't redraw those lines for them. At least one of them has to recognize that it's a problem and begin setting more appropriate rules.
His mother inviting the ex to the family event crossed even the furthest of lines. If your man hasn't recognized that, conserve what will be your wasted breath on trying to get him to see the problem and end the relationship.
Assuming he does recognize that Mom has gone too far, stop complaining and lay out what boundaries you need him to create with his mother if he wants to continue a relationship with you. So we're clear: She should not discuss his ex in front of you, he should not tell her about your disagreements and she should respect you at all times, even if she doesn't ever come around to liking you.
The errands or trips where she needs a driver — unless it's an emergency — should get a designated day and time to be completed, not whenever she feels like they need to be done, which seems to be whenever he is with you.
Their pattern has been in place for a long time — way before you — so he may not even know where to begin solving these issues with his mom. The onus is on him to speak to her about what needs to change, but the two of you should come up with creative ways for how he should address her. Whatever you come up with, when he speaks to her it should be, "What I want is … ", not "G.V. thinks … " That won't solve anything.
Finally, the conversation about whether you should move in should be tabled until you see positive change over a period of time. It doesn't make sense to move this relationship to a higher level when the foundation is so out of place. If you don't see any change between your boyfriend and his mother, remember, you always have the option to change boyfriends.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to 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.