You love your boyfriend, but his mother…yikes! How do you cope when all you can think is, “I hate my boyfriend’s mom”? Here’s how to stop your boyfriend’s mother from causing problems and ruining your relationship with the man you love.
I was inspired to write this article by a She Blossoms reader who loves her boyfriend, but is struggling with his family members. Especially her boyfriend’s mom, who she is having trouble liking.
“My boyfriend’s mother controls everything he does, and he does exactly what she says,” says Olive in response to 10 Ways to Solve the Most Difficult Mother-in-Law Problems. “His sisters and brothers are also controlling him, and he just sits back and follows orders. This has put a huge strain on our relationship and he doesn’t listen to how I feel, no matter how many times I tell him. We are now spending our time together discussing how we will get through the family issues, rather than focusing on us and having quality time. I just want to get out of the relationship, but I love him so much. It hurts to think I might have to leave him because of his mother.”
The first thing to remember when your boyfriend’s mom is interfering with your relationship is that she won’t go away. She is a huge part of your boyfriend’s life, and she always will be. Your boyfriend doesn’t see his mother the way you do, and you can’t see her the way your boyfriend does. They have a special, unique connection that you must respect – even if you think their relationship is unhealthy, controlling, or even destructive.
Focus on your relationship with your boyfriend, not his relationship with his mom. All couples have external problems that affect their relationship, and all healthy couples find ways to work through those problems. If your relationship with your boyfriend is stressful because of his mother, read How to Decide What to Do About a Troubled Relationship.
Your main focus should not be on your boyfriend’s mom, or his relationship with his mother. Nor should you dwell on how much you hate your boyfriend’s mom! It may be true, but it won’t solve your relationship problems. Your focus must be on the only thing you have control over: you. Your response, your words, and your actions are the only thing you can actually change.
How to Stop Your Boyfriend’s Mom From Ruining Your Relationship
“Families aren’t easy to join. They’re like an exclusive country club where membership makes impossible demands and the dues for an outsider are exorbitant.” ~ Erma Bombeck, Family: The Ties that Bind … And Gag!
Families create a whole different dynamic when it comes to romantic relationships, especially when an “outsider” like you has come into the picture. You may see your boyfriend’s family as the outsider; they probably see you as the outsider. Your boyfriend’s mother has a whole different perspective on your relationship, and she probably doesn’t think anything needs to change!
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Remember this when you’re reading through my tips on how to stop your boyfriend’s mother from ruining your relationship: your boyfriend’s mother doesn’t feel the need to change what she’s doing.
1. Know that you will never change your boyfriend’s mother
If you’ve ever tried to break a habit or change something about yourself, you know how hard it is. We all have things we’d love to change about ourselves. For instance, I want to lighten up, be more accepting of myself, be less critical of my husband, and say what I think instead of clamming up. I really want to make these changes in my life, yet I keep reverting to my old ways.
How about you – what have you wanted to change about yourself? Do you make those changes? I bet it was hard. If it’s that hard for you to change yourself, it’ll be a million times harder for you to change your boyfriend’s mother. Impossible, even. We like things the way they are, and we often see no reason to change. So, instead of saying “I hate my boyfriend’s mom” start figuring out how you can make the situation better. Consider the idea that his mother may not even be aware she’s ruining your boyfriend’s relationship with you. Maybe she’s oblivious to everything but herself, and her relationship with her son.
2. Accept that you can’t change your boyfriend
Relationship problems are difficult to resolve even when everyone involved is willing and wants to change! If your boyfriend isn’t changing how he interacts with his family, it’s not a sign he doesn’t love you. His family dynamics have been going on for decades – since before your boyfriend was even born! Relationship patterns like that aren’t easily broken.
If your boyfriend hasn’t changed his behavior or perspective on his mother yet, then he probably won’t in the future – no matter how much you argue, beg, threaten, or sweet talk. Men who are controlled by their families don’t cut the ties overnight. Some guys don’t ever cut the family ties. For whatever reason, he is part of his family’s complicated dynamics and there’s not much you can do about that.
If you told your boyfriend that his family is ruining your relationship and he doesn’t seem to care, then you’re fighting an uphill battle. Maybe you’re in an unhealthy relationship? If you’re not sure, here are a few warning signs of bad relationships.
Even though you can’t change how your boyfriend’s mother acts – or how he responds to her – you can try a couple ways to stop her from ruining your relationship. You can even stop thinking “I hate my boyfriend’s mother” and start focusing on healthier ways to interact with them both.
3. Remember that no one makes you feel anything
Your boyfriend’s mom might make you mad and you might think she controls how you feel. You may even feel like you hate her because of what she says and does. But the truth is your boyfriend’s mother actually doesn’t have that kind of power over you – unless you give it to her. No one can make you feel anything you don’t want to feel. I know this is easier said than done, but it sure can be powerful. You can decide how you want to feel by choosing what thoughts to focus on.
In Kiss That Frog! 12 Great Ways to Turn Negatives into Positives in Your Life and Work, Brian Tracy writes, “Nothing that has happened to you has any control over you. No event, circumstance, or person from your past or present can affect your emotions without your permission. The only one who makes you feel anything is you – by the way that you interpret a past event to yourself.”
If you keep your boyfriend’s mother’s toxic, negative vibes alive by feeding them with thoughts and energy, then you will continue to have a negative and unhealthy relationship with her.
4. Try “I feel” statements when you talk to your boyfriend about his mom
This is a classic tip for coping with your boyfriend’s mother because it often works. Instead of focusing on how interfering, controlling, and downright nasty she is, try explaining how you feel to your boyfriend. I’ve learned that “I statements” come in pretty handy in any relationship – marriage, work, and even my neighbors.
Here’s a formal explanation of why I-Statements work, from the Human Potential Center’s website: “I-Statements require healthy self-disclosure, and self-disclosure requires vulnerability. I-Statements de-fuse rather than fuel arguments. It’s very difficult to carry on an argument when both people are using I-Statements; it’s very difficult to stop an argument when both people are using You-Statements. It’s also very difficult to blame others when we’re using I-Statements. They force us to take responsibility for what we’re thinking and feeling, which protects others from our blame, guilt and judgment.”
Examples of I-Statements in romantic relationships:
- I feel scared when it seems like your family is more important to you than I am.
- I love you, and want our relationship to be strong and healthy.
- I want to learn how to make our relationship better. Can we read books or go to workshops on relationship-building together?
- I am committed to you and our relationship, so I will do what I can. What do you think I could do differently, to help support you and us?
I almost added “I hate your mother” to the list…but I’m not sure it would be helpful. Before you tell your boyfriend how you really feel about his mom, ask yourself if your words have the potential to draw you and him closer together. If your words might hurt or even repel your boyfriend, don’t say them.
Notice the lack of “you love your mother more than me!” and “you’re wrong for putting your family first” statements. Lead with an honest sentence that reflects how you really feel. Even if it doesn’t work, I can guarantee it’ll help you clarify your own feelings and thoughts about your relationship with your boyfriend. Be specific and clear about how you feel, without blaming your boyfriend or his family.
It can be really difficult to build a healthy relationship – or save an unhealthy one – without external advice or guidance. My husband and I went to couples counseling twice: premarital counseling before we got married, and a one-time therapy session because I was insecure and jealous about his ex-girlfriend.
5. Love your boyfriend – and his mother – for who they are
This is the best tip on how to stop your boyfriend’s mother from ruining your relationship – and it’s also the most difficult! Some of my husband’s family members aren’t exactly my cup of tea…we’re very different, and we don’t really understand each other. For that matter, some of my own family members aren’t my cup of tea and we don’t understand each other! I bet you feel the same way about your own relatives, don’t you?
How We Love: Discover Your Love Style by Milan and Kay Yerkovich is a fantastic book about families, intimacy, and love – it explains how early life experiences affect your current relationships. It’ll help you figure out how to cope with your boyfriend’s mom (who could be your future mother-in-law!).
Knowing why you are the way you are – and why your boyfriend is the way he is – can help you reconnect or let go. It’s important to remember is that your boyfriend’s mother is loving him their way. Your boyfriend is trying to love you his way – and you’re trying to love him your way! Love is the bottom line, but it’s getting in the way of a healthy romantic relationship.
To stop your boyfriend’s mother from breaking you up, get an objective perspective on what’s going on underneath all the drama. Remember that by focusing on statements such as “I hate my boyfriend’s mom” you are creating more drama. Then, you need to figure out if you can do anything to change the situation and stop your boyfriend’s mom from ruining your relationship. If you can, start moving forward. If you can’t do anything positive about your boyfriend’s mother, then you need to decide if you want to love your boyfriend the way he right now – family and all – or if you need to break up with him before his family ruins your relationship.
How to get along with your boyfriend’s mom
Reluctantly Related: Secrets To Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-law by Deanna Brann is a fantastic resource for coping with in-laws. Your boyfriend’s mother may not your mother-in-law yet — which means this is the perfect time to read this book! Learn how to live with your boyfriend’s mom instead of hating her.
Dr Brann reveals the root causes of mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship problems and – more importantly- offers tools to help solve specific situations.
If your boyfriend’s parents have a birthday, holiday, or anniversary is approaching, read 10 Gift Ideas for Your Boyfriend’s Parents. Get into the mindset of what you can give his mom instead of what she’s giving or not giving you.