Question: Dear Luise; Thank you for this service. I am struggling currently, and I want to make the most informed and conscious decision. I am dating a wonderful man, the man of my dreams in every realm, sans family. We are best friends and have an amazing connection, admiration and respect for each other. The problem lies in that of his family. He is very close with his family and especially his mother. At first glance at their pictures together, and reading the captions—prior to becoming a couple— I felt uneasy about their relationship. I felt perhaps their was something unhealthy going on between their bond. I began to feel like this, but since she lived 8 states away at the time, I did not see a problem. She has recently come to visit and I got to meet her for the first time. She is an incredibly interesting case with many issues which she unloaded on me the first night, to boot. Having been divorced by my partners father, she is still very hurt and bitter about the situation. But the part that is most disturbing, is their physical contact. I am not sure if it is me who is having insecure jealousy type issues, or if their is something unhealthy about it. I showed my father a picture and he thought that she was his girlfriend. A number of people also have commented that it appears that the two people in the picture are in a relationship, not mother/son. But perhaps that is just cultural differences, right? However, I was nauseated once to the point of actual vomiting due to their physical relationship: I could list the things that they do, but it would be biased from my perspective only. For example, as he got out of the shower, still dripping wet and in his underwear, cuddled up next to her, bodies adjacent while he leaned over her lap showing her things on the computer. Also, while on a car trip, she sat in the seat behind him, and for the whole 4 hours was sitting in the on the edge of her seat right up against him, and half the time had her hands on his chest or shoulders gently rubbing or what not. It goes both ways too: When my partner and I were on a bench gazing at the coast embraced, she came over and sat next to us, which he then placed his hand on her thigh, and she started caressing his hands. After we dropped him off for work that same day, I kissed him good bye on the lips and wished him a good day at work. Then, astonishingly enough, she did the same thing, using almost verbatim of what I had said. She tells me she has been practicing how to pose in pictures just like me, and remarked how she had mastered my facial expression. After I commented that we were in the same position in nearly all pictures with her son, (full body embrace, heads touching) she said “I know, I learned from you”. With in the first 20 minutes of knowing her, she popped down into the splits, at 63, and began stretching in very intense ways (Which I must admit, I was thoroughly impressed!) I like the lady, all though I feel for her as I think she is caught in some loops of pain with out the inner technology to get out of them. (IE is constantly ragging on her daughter and other son, and just about everyone that is not present) I feel like she is sweet, and genuinely loves her family, and does not want to be left out. I also feel like perhaps, after the divorce, she emotionally replaced her ex husband with her youngest son, my partner (who returned home to live with his mom, and stayed for 2 years after the divorce.) Please help me, I am open to the possibility that I might just be feeling jealous, I am open to it being an unhealthy relationship, she has enormous amount of control over him and I fear that since I want him to be his own person, a man so to speak. Please shed some light on this situation as to what I can do to cope with this in a way that is going to turn out best for me, and my future family if I do stay with this man, as I love him deeply. L.
Answer: Dear L.: The only way the situation is going to turn out best for you is to get yourself out of it as soon as you can, permanently. You can’t change him or his mother. They have a very neurotic relationship and there is a lot of truth in the saying that “two is company, three’s a crowd.”
It is very possible to love someone we can’t live with. Unless you are hopelessly neurotic yourself, you are not going to survive the pathology they present. You are not jealous of her. You’re just fine. The dynamics are that a man’s first love is his mother. Some mothers get hooked on that and perpetuate it. I’m not talking about conscious, physical incest…but it is a very deadly and totally unconscious variety of incest, none-the-less…and usually untreatable because neither participant wants to let go; not really. The man often finds a “second mother” as a sexual partner but the bond with his primary love, though it may be seriously challenged, isn’t broken. It didn’t start when she divorced and it is often the youngest son or an only son who becomes the unconscious “lover.”
What follows is usually a living hell for the interloper. In trying to copy you, his mother is taking you on as the competition…and she will win. Also there’s no way you can address it with him because neither of them know what’s going on.
This isn’t something a counselor is going to straighten out easily, if at all. It is deep and anyone tampering with it…beware. He may be the greatest guy you have ever met, but he is her guy.
Please consider coming over to my Web-forum for women with issues with extended families at www.WiseWomenUnite.com . I think you might benefit, after telling your story, from the insight of a loving community. Some women there have married into what I hope you are going to escape. And if you find it too difficult to extricate yourself from this triangle, please seek counseling yourself…so that you can act in your own best interest. You deserve so much better. Blessings, Luise