My boyfriend has terrible boundaries with his mom. And we live with her.

At this point, I don’t know what to do. I want to move out and end the relationship but I don’t because we’ve bonded so much and I love him so dearly.

Here’s The Thing is an advice column/newsletter where I mostly beg people to either stop dating someone or to ask their crush out. Or I talk about weird things that came to my mind that no one is paying me to write about. I can never decide if I should capitalize the “the” in Here’s The Thing or not; apologies on lack of consistency. 

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My boyfriend and I have been together for awhile now--a year and 3 months to be exact. And everything was great with his parents. I’m 18, he’s turning 18 next month and I’ve been staying with them for the last few months.  His dad loves me I’ve never had problems with his dad. It’s just his mom. I love that they’re close; I never really had a real mom, so I love that they have a bond but it’s just too much. They talk about EVERYTHING in our relationship and it’s practically like it’s her relationship too.

She always tells him we’re unhealthy for being together all the time but she never says it to me. She tells him one thing and then tells me another or doesn’t say anything to me at all. And she literally tries to control our relationship and him. We got in an argument the other night and she told me to sleep in the guest room and for him to sleep in his room and told us not to talk to each other at all until the next day when he got home from work when that is NOT how we figure our problems out. We always have our little argument or dispute and then we talk it out and figure out a solution. I get it we’re staying under her roof, but she’s just too much for me. It’s to the point where I love him to death but I don’t even want to be in the relationship anymore.

She treats him like a 12 year old child and babies him and he never sees my side on anything and when he does he doesn’t say anything because he says he can’t because it’s his mom. Like she told him we’re unhealthy because we’re together all the time, like yeah I live here so we’re gonna be together all the time. But even though we’re together all the time we’re not actually spending time together. We do our own thing at the house until it’s time to go lay down for bed. We don’t even go on dates or just lay around or anything together a lot. It takes momma’s boy to a whole other level. At this point, I don’t know what to do. I want to move out and end the relationship but I don’t because we’ve bonded so much and I love him so dearly. I’m just lost it’s like I’m at a stop sign and I can’t figure out whether to go left or right. 

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It makes perfect sense that you’re lost, let me get that out of the way. It’s not like you’re in a situation with one super obvious solution that everyone around you can see and that you have missed. You’re doing your best in a messy situation and that pretty much always sucks. Like much of adulthood, there are no correct answers. It’s not like algebra where there’s on solution and you just have to figure it out. Most things in adulthood are long, confusing, and they don’t have a clear beginning or end. They’re less neat and obvious than we’d like for them to be. Adulthood truly is all about having to choose between two good options or two bad options or two options where you have absolutely no idea what will come next. It’s a lot of just picking a path and sticking with it and taking care of yourself from there. (It’s bullshit, by the way, that this is how life goes, but here we are!)

Let me state plainly that whether you break up with him or not, you will have pain ahead. You will have a lot of work to do. There is no easy, breezy, beautiful way out of this one where no one gets hurt and everything gets fixed. If there were, you would have already chosen that option. Additionally, I’d like to remind you that whatever choice you make right now (today/this week/this year) does not have to be your choice for life. Your relationship may continue to grow and change with your boyfriend and his family in ways you could never have anticipated.

To begin, ultimately, you are living in your boyfriend’s mom’s house and that means you must follow her rules and be respectful of her space. Especially if you are living there rent free. That does not give her license to be cruel or shitty to you, however, you do not have the power in this situation. You are not in a place where you can make a demand of her to the same extent that she can make demands of you. That is the cost of living in this home. You may decide that that cost is too high for you, and that’s ok. If moving out is an option for you and your boyfriend, I would highly prioritize that option.

That said, even moving out is not going to solve the problem at hand. At least not fully. Because the problem you have isn’t really with your boyfriend’s mother. The problem you have is… 📯 with your boyfriend!!!! 📯

The problem is this: he is choosing his mother over you. There are a lot of feelings/theories/attitudes about whether any of us should ever or always choose our partners over our family. In some families, the idea that you would ever side with your partner over your mother is laughable. In other families, the opposite is true. I honestly don’t feel like either extreme is great. I do think, however, that for the sake of a relationship, you often have to take your partner’s side and back your partner over other people. That is in the job description.

Not only is it the job, it’s what you would naturally do if you respected your partner.

Your boyfriend is showing your relationship a distinct lack of respect by not creating boundaries with his mother. I get it, parents are some of the most difficult people to create boundaries with! And parents whom you’re living with are doubly or triply so! But his mother is only treating you this way because he is ok with it.

He does not have to be harsh or aggressive about those boundaries at all. He also doesn’t have to come to the table with ultimatums to his parents. It can simply look like, “Mom, [Your Name] and I are going to solve this disagreement on our own. I know you’re looking out for me and I appreciate that, but this is our relationship and we need to figure out what works for us.” Or, “Mom, I need you to be supportive of our relationship but less involved because it’s not working for me. I know you love me and you’re being protective, but I need to be able to make my choices with [Your Name].” I’m sure that sounds scary to him— probably in large part because he’s a 17 year old. He has to do it anyway if he wants a functional relationship with you.

This is true whether you two stay in that house or not--he will need to draw boundaries with his mom. I want to remind you that for normal, healthy, kind people drawing boundaries is a kindness. It tells other people how they can treat you well. If someone reacts poorly to you drawing a healthy, reasonable boundary, that is on them.

I have some suspicion that your boyfriend will not step up and draw boundaries with his mother, or if he does and she pushes back at all or crosses those boundaries, that he will do nothing. I think this because he has had every opportunity to draw boundaries and hasn’t done so. That said, I also fully understand that it’s difficult with some parents to draw boundaries when you are reliant on them for housing or financial help. That is unfortunate and problematic, but simply true.

So, what I would do, if I were you is set your own boundaries with your boyfriend. Say to him that in order to keep being together or living together, you need him to do X, Y, and Z, and you need him to communicate U, V and W to his mom. Be firm with him. Tell him what is not working. Have him come up with some solutions and ideas, too! Talk through what you both think is a reasonable way to handle this. Then, if he is unwilling or unable to set better limits with his mom, or if he is unwilling or unable to talk to you like an adult and give you the respect you deserve, you walk away.

That you love your boyfriend is fantastic--love seems to be what we’re here for--but it will not save a relationship. Loving someone does not make a relationship good. Would that it did! That would make things so much easier for us all!

The good news is this: you do not have to have this problem any longer than you want to have it. You can walk away. You can change directions. You can demand that your partner treat you better. It will be rough! It will not be easy! But in two years (or even two months) you will be grateful that you insisted on better treatment. You’ve got this!

You can submit your own question—or yell at me about how I’m wrong—by emailing me at