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Girlfriend comes with mom attached

I'm in a four-year relationship with a woman I love very much, but I fear her close relationship with her mother is hurting our growth as a couple. Whenever she doesn't get her way in life, she calls her mother. Whenever things aren't exactly right, she goes to see her. Whenever we need to make a big decision, she calls her mom.

I wish she would look to me instead of her mother. But, the more important issue is that she has grown up (admittedly) spoiled. Now, whenever it's an issue of whether she can't get her way, instead of talking with me about it, she calls her mother. Am I crazy, or is there something really not healthy about this? I want a life that we can build on our own, NOT something where it's either her way, or her mother steps in.

The last time I heard the phrase "getting her way" used this many times, I was playing in a sandbox.

Which could suggest your girlfriend is an overgrown child.

Or that you treat her as if she were one.

Or that her mother does.

Or all three.

But the issue that leaps out the highest, at least from here, is that for every "her way" there must also be a "your way" _ one that is apparently at odds with her way. Apparently often.

You are a couple (or threesome). I have a hard time seeing you stay that way happily if the path you take through life needs to be negotiated at every step _ whether the mother acts as her agent or not.

If this reads like a dodge, that's only because it is. I can't say whether your girlfriend's relationship with her mother is indeed unhealthy, or if it's just a happy mother-and-daughter bond that you're too possessive or controlling to bear.

But it's a dodge that stands on its own merit: If you and your girlfriend can't agree on how much Mommy involvement is healthy, that's ultimately a bigger threat to your happiness than any apron strings would be.

Since I highly doubt you've gone four years without stating/arguing/pleading your position on the mom issue, try the only option left: changing it. Accept that it's not personal, you just chose a woman who comes with her mother attached. Accept. And if you're sure you can't love it, then leave.

New mom needs a lift

My boyfriend and I share many friends and usually purchase joint gifts. Two of our friends recently had a baby. The mother's birthday is coming up, and I want to get something for her, to show her that she's not forgotten amid the holidays and the new baby. My boyfriend thinks it's more than appropriate to give her something she can use for the baby. I think this sends a very bad message.

It sends a terrible message: that when your boyfriend becomes your husband, you can anticipate unwrapping a nice, shiny, first anniversary ironing board.

Buy the new mother something for her, yes yes yes. Her body's an all-night diner, her first name is endangered and she hasn't slept since Columbus Day. Buy her the most indulgent, girly, flattering thing you can find that isn't dry-clean only.

Tell me about it! E-mail tellmewashpost.com; fax (202) 334-5669; write "Tell Me About It," c/o the Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Chat online with Carolyn Hax each Friday at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.

Washington Post Writers Group

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