Sunday, 6 November 2011

Heather's Heartbreak - My Partners Resent My Mother

Hi Babs

I'm quite a logical person but I really can't sort things out in my head. I am 34 year old lesbian and my two year relationship ended a couple of months ago by mutual agreement. I have had two previous serious relationships both lasting roughly the same length of time. The first was ended by my then partner and the second one by me. 

I am an only child and I'm very close to my widowed mother. She doesn't interfere but my partners seem to see her as a problem and I don't know why? I see her every week and talk to her on the phone on a regular basis but we live our own lives. I don't get it? Is it unreasonable to want to maintain my relationship with my mother? The women in my life always seem to get jealous and it then begins to feel like my mother or them? What is their problem? How can I have a good relationship with a partner who doesn't see my mother as a threat? I feel really frustrated and unhappy.

Hi Heather

I would say from the mother-in-law perspective that the secret is to be friendly with your children's partners and only get involved in relationship issues when invited. I wonder what's happening with your mother? You tell me how your partners react to her not how she reacts to them? You say you see her every week and talk to her on a regular basis. How regular and on what basis? What is it you need to speak to her about so regularly? 

Please believe me when I say I am not anti mother or parent but if you are going to have a successful adult couple relationship you need to make that your prime relationship. I am not suggesting you stop being a good daughter but become a better partner. It sounds as if you  and your mother could to do with renegotiating your relationship. It is the norm that children grow up and resolve their own issues and problems they don't stay attached to their mothers. If that sounds weird check out the animal kingdom you don't see animals running back to mother at the first hint of trouble they learn to survive.

I am really sorry that you are unhappy and frustrated but if your mother has been an issue in three relationships don't you think that's telling you something? Is it really the partner's problem? Of course you could also be picking the wrong women and you may want to discuss this with a good counsellor. Perhaps also as a first step you could check out one of the books about relationships on my recommendation page.

Take heart you can learn to have good relationships but perhaps first you could learn about yourself and how to start to loosening those apron strings? 


  1. Heather, 
    it seems that your mum is getting in the way. How many relationships does it take to lose before you realise this?
    There's nothing wrong with being close to your parents, but when you grow up, they don't usually come first.
    It may seem a little harsh, but what will happen when your mum dies? You'll be alone and probably thinking 'What was it all for?'
    Some parents figure hugely in a person's life, but that doesn't mean they should take precedence over your future.
    My father put his mum first on most occasions. it didn't help any relationship he had, including the failed one with my mother.
    Make boundaries and get a life, your own, with your own rules, that benefit you!!

  2. I find both comments on this a little harsh.

    I have a great relationship with my mum. We see each other every week and speak on the phone several times in between. No matter what is going on in my life, I turn to my mum for help, support, guidance and a shoulder to cry on. Apart from my children she is the most important person on my life.

    I also have a husband. We have been together for 10 years and married for five. He has never tried to make me sideline my mum and never would. He knows how important she is to me. The two get on fine, though she thinks he takes me for granted. He is as likely as I am to invite her for Sunday lunch, etc.

    I don't think your relationship with your mum and a relationship with a partner have to be mutually exclusive. And I don't necessarily think that retaining a close bond with one's mum is a sign of not being able to grow up or fly the nest.

    I hope you manage to find a loving, fulfilling relationship that doesn't come with an ultimatum.


  3. Hi Babs,

    This is a really interesting dilemma. It's always about finding balance, isn't it?

    I don't think there's anything wrong with having a close connection with one's parents. However, in this case, it sounds like there's all sorts of reasons why Heather and her mother are so attached - least of all that she lost her father (and Heather's mother lost her husband).

    Whilst I think it's lovely that she and her mother get on so well, I do think it important to take on board patterns in relationships. Perhaps Heather could ask herself why her ex partners reacted with jealousy? If all her previous partners have reacted in this way, I'd say Heather needs to look at why that might be.

    I'm not saying she needs to have no contact with her mother, as that would be ridiculous. But a relationship is about give and take. It is about putting the other person first sometimes. And it is about making that person feel they mean the world to you.

    Perhaps Heather and her next partner could meet up with Heather's mum for coffee every two weeks, so her partner feels involved; perhaps Heather and her mum could email sometimes; perhaps Heather could encourage her mum to start up new hobbies so she has a full/active life.

    So instead of excluding her partner or seeing her mother less, the relationship pattern needs to change so her partner feels they are in a couple, and not just an extra. Sorry to be so blunt, but life is so short. It's important to grab happiness if you have the chance...

  4. You put it it a nutshel here: 'if you are going to have a successful adult couple relationship you need to make that your prime relationship'

    That's the crux of the matter. In my view Mother should be distancing herself, and if she isn't doing that, the daughter needs to gently detach herself. They can still talk frequently, and see each other, but it sounds as if the current balance is not helping daugher to flourish as an independent adult.

    Great post, and thoughtful response. I like that you aren't afraid to say sometimes difficult truths.