Dear Coleen: My husband’s mother is ruining our relationship

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Dear Coleen

My husband and I have been together for five years. I always knew he had a great relationship with his mother and sister (his parents are divorced).

At first I liked the idea of being with a man who loves and respects his family, but things have got out of hand in the past year.

I have come to realise his mum knows everything about us – every detail, even my work schedule.

She wants to see him daily and calls him up to 10 times during the day. She also calls me every day and wants to talk about herself for hours.

She insists on my husband escorting her to different events such as weddings, funerals, coffee mornings with her friends.

And if we decide to go on a day trip she wants to come with us, if she invites someone to her house he has to be there and if he isn’t, she will call him as many times as it takes to make him feel guilty enough to show up.

I realise she has substituted her husband with her son, and she clearly has huge issues, but why is my husband going along with it? After many hours of discussions and arguments, he does admit that he’d like to change things, as long as he doesn’t hurt her in the process.

It’s become a huge issue in our marriage – I’ve tried being nice about it, I’ve tried being tough, I’ve even told him I’m thinking about divorce!

I know he loves me and I hate feeling like I’m on his case all the time, but I need us to live our lives.

I did not sign up for a marriage with three people in it!

Coleen says

Yep, your husband needs to grow a pair and stand up to his mum a bit more.

He doesn’t have to drop her like a hot brick, but he can be unavailable for the coffee mornings with her friends and gatherings round at her house for starters.

And he can speak to her once on the phone – not 10 times a day. I presume he’s at work most days, so all he has to say is that he’s too busy to take personal calls.

There are ways of backing off subtly so that his mum isn’t upset by a confrontation, it just requires a bit of thought.

If your husband really wants to sort it out, he’ll find a way.

His mum is obviously missing the companionship of a partner, but she can’t replace her husband with her son.

And I don’t believe for a minute that she’s not aware of exactly what she’s doing and of the potential damage it’s causing your marriage.

If the backing-off plan doesn’t work, then why not take her for a coffee and drop into conversation that you hardly see your husband these days and that you are worried about the future of your marriage as a result.

That might worry her enough to take a step back.

As annoying and selfish as she’s being at the moment, I very much doubt that she’ll want her son’s marriage to break up too.

* More of our agony aunt Coleen Nolan’s advice on your sex, family, health and relationship problems

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