She Said, He Said: Time to sit down and have ‘the talk’ with Mom
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
I’ve been dating my girlfriend for about two years and I think I’m ready to make a deeper commitment. We enjoy our time together, have a lot in common and have a good balance with time spent apart with our careers and individual interests. The only problem is that my mother can’t seem to accept her and approve of our relationship. She says things like, “Are you sure you’re ready to settle down?” and “Do you really think she’s the one?” but I suspect it’s more about the fact that she thinks my girlfriend isn’t good enough for me. She has recently started making subtle comments in front of my girlfriend. I feel really awkward when this happens so I try to just brush it off, but my girlfriend has gotten upset with me for not standing up for her. She says I need to resolve this issue before we move forward with our relationship. I feel stuck between the two most important women in my life. What can I do?
Signed, Rock And A Hard Place
Lori and Jeff: You really are stuck and we deeply appreciate how daunting your situation is. The truth is that even though your mother gave you life and invested her whole self into raising you, she’s going to have to create room for you to love another woman and move on.
Lori: There will always be someone in your world who thinks they know what’s best for you, and mothers, for good reason, tend to be in that seat most often. They often have been with us since day one, with a front row view to our development and life journey. However, as an adult, it’s time to cut the psychological cord. The problem is not that your mom has questions about your girlfriend, it’s that you allow her to have such a strong influence that you’re allowing her thoughts to disrupt your own and your relationship. The goal for you here is to gain more confidence in your own judgment and to strengthen your boundaries with your mom. Ultimately, you need to be able to hear your mom’s perspective and decide for yourself if what she says resonates as truth for you or not.
You are the only one keeping yourself stuck between your mom and your girlfriend. Understand that mothers are incredibly perceptive about their children’s happiness, and children want to please their parents. So when mom is expressing her concerns, you may be subconsciously downplaying how happy you are or how much you love your girlfriend. As a result, she’s going to perceive that you’re having doubts, which strengthens her arguments. Take some time to reflect on what you really want and feel, and then stand tall in your decisions.
Jeff: Mother-son relationships are very complex, especially when mothers recognize that it’s time for their boys to grow up. That your mom is feeling this way could be an indication that she intuitively knows that your girlfriend is the “one” and that you truly are making the right decision. You are going to have to sit down with your mom and have what might feel like your most difficult conversation to date. Let her know that you understand her fears and reservations about you committing to a long-term relationship and, ultimately, letting you go. Reassure her that you are truly happy in your relationship and that she will always be in your heart. Then you will have to convey all of this to your girlfriend. Help her understand how difficult it is for your mom to let you go, and that some of her subtle disapprovals she’s been experiencing may be based on these feelings of fear and loss. Reassure her that she’s your priority and you’ll always have her back — even if it means being more forthright with your mom.
Lori and Jeff: Celebrate the connection you have in your relationship, especially in front of your mother. Let her know how happy you are and don’t downplay the joy you feel as a couple as a way to try to avoid hurting your mother’s feelings. At the end of the day she will be happy for you and proud that her boy has grown into a man.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column. For more relationship advice, subscribe to our “Love Matters” podcast on iTunes.