Boyfriend’s mom is controlling
DEAR CAROLYN: My boyfriend’s (of four years) parents do not like me ... or rather his mom doesn’t like me and is a very controlling woman so it’s hard to tell what his dad thinks of me. They just booked tickets to visit us for the second time this year in spite of my boyfriend saying it is a bad time because he is very busy again.
He is overloaded with work, so instead of confronting her when he found out, he has chosen to push the confrontation until later. Last time they claimed they would occupy themselves but of course when they arrived, the “we paid all this money to see you” guilt trip started immediately.
He is younger so he still is working on the standing up to her. Any suggestions for me to help him put his foot down with her? (Suggestions for me to keep calm enough to not give her an actual reason to hate me would be nice too.)
— Unwanted Hosts
No, I will not give you suggestions to help you become the next controlling person to whom your boyfriend outsources his uncomfortable decisions.
He is “younger” so he’s still “working on” it? No to that, too.
You’re clearing two different paths with that rationalization. One is toward taking over the decisions your boyfriend fails to make. This is how people wind up either exhausted and resentful for having to carry the entire mental load both for themselves and a partner — the role you’re training for — or detached and resentful for having little say in their day-to-day lives — the role he’s rapidly slipping into.
The other path leads to treating your boyfriend’s weakness not as a bad thing, but instead as a thing that will be good eventually and he just needs to fix it, yeah, no problem. This is how people find themselves mid-divorce 10 years later and marveling that the marriage-ending problem was one they’d known about all along and yet signed up for anyway.
You don’t want to be on either path. Neither does he. You’re out of balance already. No more rationalizations. Instead, speak only for yourself: “When you decide not to say no to your mom, I end up in the awkward spot of having to host them while you’re busy at work. That’s not fair to me — or to your parents, for that matter.”
Then, see whether (and how) he speaks for himself in response to your concerns.
Then see whether you, he, and the power balance in this relationship are healthy enough to hold up under the pressure of forceful moms and passive dads and overloads of work. Not when he “grows up” — now. When they are, in general, I suspect you’ll find your demeanor takes care of itself. Carolyn Hax writes an advice column for the Washington Post