Seeking advice - fiance is his mother's caregiver.

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I am new here and have read a lot on the forums. I think you are all wonderful people and just reading your stories makes me feel selfish for even asking the questions I am about to ask - we need more people in the world like you.

Basically I met my boyfriend about 2 years ago. He lives about 2 hours from me which is not a huge distance but makes seeing each other a struggle sometimes due to our work schedules. We got engaged about a year ago. When I met him he told me how he cared for his sick father (father had cancer 3 times and the situation was awful). My fiance cared for his father until his death, while at the same time caring for his mother who has congestive heart failure and scarring of the lungs. His father died just before I met my boyfriend.

My boyfriend is the type that doesn't express how he is feeling. He just keeps going - he says he's too crazy busy to be depressed. He gets up, cares for his mom, sees his kids (from another marriage) and maintains difficult work hours. Then he drives to see me a lot too which is 4 hours in the car, etc. He gets no sleep and has the attitude that until his mother is gone this is just the way it is (he moved her in with him a few months after we started dating).

I can't talk wedding plans with him. We can't buy a house closer to our jobs and live together (which we would eventually do) because he refuses to move his mom. He says a move like that would kill her. She has anxiety issues and is bipolar on top of her other health problems. I have a huge fear that my life will be on hold for years because his mother seems to sit in a chair and watch tv all day (she's on oxygen 24/7) and just live her life like that. It seems the meds and oxygen just keep her status quo and it's already been this way for 2 years. I know the diseases will eventually take her, but I feel guilty and horrible to be resentful the longer I can't be with him and start our lives together. If my job were closer I would move in and be glad to help (I really like his mother), but I can't commute 2 hours to work.

He wont' talk about our future (which would help me see a light at the end of the tunnel...make me feel we at least have things to look forward to) because it's "disrespectful" to talk about how great life would be if she weren't here.

I feel 2nd. I know I'm 2nd and I have to be. I try to be understanding but sometimes his moods and the stress he's under fall onto me. I have encouraged him to seek counseling and he just started. They gave him valium for when he feels over-stressed but lately he says the appointments cut into his time even more and compound the problem.

If I so much as complain it's as if i'm a bad person, or I'm wrong and not seeing all her does for me. I never get any credit for being patient this long, or supportive (which I believe I have been).

I'm unhappy all by myself 2 hours away (my family is far away and I would move back with them however I met this wonderful man). I do love him and I may just need to be more supportive and less selfish. Or maybe I am cheating myself with a problem that isn't mine. I welcome your advice and appreciate total honesty . Thanks everyone!


You have a very clear picture of what life is going to be like as long as Future Mother InLaw is living. Actually, the present situation will probably get worse, as FMIL's health gets worse.

You don't mention FMIL's age or her prognosis. Congestive Heart Failure can last for decades (my husband has had it for about 25 years). Realistically, what is FMIL's life expectancy?

You are second. Whether that is appropriate or a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of opinion, life outlook, maybe even religious views. But it is a fact. You are second in the life of the man you are engaged to marry. And you aren't getting any credit for your supportive role and patience. Sounds like you are taken for granted. Does that seem to fit?

Your fiance has a serious mental disorder. I urge you to look into BiPolar disorder. There is a huge range of severity within the diagnosis. For some people it is mild and well-controlled. For others it is the dominant fact of their lives, and an ever-present challenge to all who interact with them. I have two relatives with this disorder. One is highly functional, creative, and a delight to be around. She is in a successful long-term committed relationshp. The other struggles daily with the condition. I love him unconditionally but I do not think anyone could have a successful intimate relationship with him. He is extremely self-centered -- which is common with the disorder. (He is generous and kind, but the world absolutely revolves around him and his needs.) I think you should at least know a lot about the condition and look at his behavior in that light. Maybe it is a non-issue for your relationship, but better to go into it with your eyes open.

Personally, I think you are cheating yourself waiting for the chance to be number one in his life. If you were my granddaughter asking for advice, I'd urge you to move on with your life. (And if you were my granddaughter and protested that you love him and you were going to stick it out, I'd respect that and continue to support you.)

Good luck.
Jeanne, thank you for taking the time to give me some advice - I really do understand what you are saying. His mother is 78 years old. Her quality of life is not so great. She watches tv in a chair and occasionally can go out for lunch but it's very hard to walk across a room (without getting winded). She is on oxygen at all times. I know her carotid artery is 95% clogged so she could have a stroke at any time. She gasps for air sometimes too if she walks a little bit. My fiance makes it sound like she is so sick and has so little time left that this is temporary, but I have heard no real prognosis from a doctor that says that. I look online for the stages of CHF and get really nothing...I have no idea what I'm up against as far as how long this could go on, and I never notice what I consider a decline.

Just to play devil's you think there is anything he can really do to make the situation better? I feel as though I can't expect him to change anything in all fairness to how he sees the situation. Every holiday is "probably going to be mom's last christmas/birthday/easter, etc." I can't tell him to ASK doctors how much time she may have because I sound like a selfish person just wanting her out of the picture.

I'm not exactly sure why he sounds bipolar. He's actually so even-keeled that it bothers me....his bad moods are subtle when I wish he would just communicate and talk about how hard it is, or how he wishes it was different.

Sigh....I am not the caregiver and the situation is exhausting. Also, I think it would be really cool to be your granddaughter. Thanks for the help.
You ask a good question, Ms Devil's Advocate.

Realistically, I don't think he can change anything. He is who he is. The pertinent question is, is who he is the person you want to tie the rest of your life to?

If I were your fairy godmother and could sprinkle fairy dust over him, this is what I would like to see changed:
1. He would recognize your patience and value you for sticking by him. He would express this often.
2. You would be number one in his life, at least sometimes.
3. He would be open to building some holidaytraditions and memories with you. Yes, this might be his mother's last christmas/birthday/easter, etc But you know what? It might be your last one, too. Or his. None of us know what the future holds. Deferring living our lives until some event happens (in this case, his mother's death) risks not having a life at all. My magic sprinkles would make him suggest that Christmas Day is Mother's, but here is a wonderful thing you can do together on Christmas Eve. It would make Ground Hog's Day a Big Deal for the two of you.
4. He would be exicited (or at least enjoy your excitement) about planning your wedding. He would discuss your future together. It is disrepectful to talk about these things until his mother dies? What a load of nonsense! How long after she dies will it continue to be disrespectful, in his very strange veiw of protocol?

I think I misread your statement that FMIL is BiPolar and thought you said he was. Sorry.

Why did his first marriage fail? What has he learned from that experience? That is not related to his mother's health, but it could be related to the health of your relationship, and might be worth exploring a little.

Good luck to you!
My advise would be to run not walk out of this situation. Those of us taking care of elderly sick parents know it is one of the hardest and time consuming tasks. I wish you the best.
Jeannegibbs, I think she said the MIL is the one with bipolar...
I think it is a great sign of character that he is willing to do this for his parents. I wonder if you will also get the benefit of that much attention and devotion when he is done caring for her. He will need some healing time and restoration that is for sure!

CHF (Speaking as a nurse) is a catch all diagnosis for lots of things. A lot of the people are wrongly diagnosed frequently. Most people think that CHF is a terminal diagnosis... in reality, like someone else said, they can go on with it for years, even decades.

You need to assume that this could go on for another 10 years. (My mom has o2 24/7 as well, and has had for about 15 years. She used to do like you said with the getting tired after walking from one room to the next, wheezing, short of breath, etc. She rarely does that anymore now! We have recently had to turn her O2 way down, as her need for it has diminished considerably over the last 2 years!) You never know! What if it is another 2 years? Assuming this could go on for another 10-15 years, are you willing to wait that long? I think you need to decide now if this is going to be a deal breaker, if this is something worth waiting for, or if you will end up resenting him after all is said and done for his role in caring for his mom….
This is something only you can determine. Follow your instincts. I think you already know what you should do. Just make sure you weigh out all your options carefully. Once you decide, you may not get a second chance to change it. Either you are committed or not.
Try to get him to understand that if you get a home together and get married, Mom will live with you and still be cared for. This guy sounds like a keeper, just as my own husband is. I had cared the same way for my grandmother, grandfather, mom, and dad and after we married, we did the same for my husband's mother. My father in law is 85 and active though he has battled cancer.

Remember that your fiance's mother brought him in the world and cared for him until he grew up. He is acting like a real son and caring for family. This is not the kind of man who would run away if you ever got to be in the condition his mom is in.

Try to have a quiet dinner together and tell him that it will be beneficial to his mom and even his kids for the two of you to be married and have a home to welcome them to and that they will then have two people to rely on and he will have half the burden. What a fantastic loving man he is!
Dear life good, can you really settle with being #2 for no telling how many years. As a mother, this would make me so sad for my daughter. These are only my feelings, and feel free to disagree. I feel strongly that two people who are in love deserve to be first in each others lives. That's not to say that you won't have time to be loving and supportive to others. Is it possible you will have children with this man you love? Is it possible those children will also come second to mothers needs. If you marry, can you for sure say eventually you will not become resentful and unhappy. Just by you posting this question tells me you are having doubts. So I'm going to urge you to have a heat to heart with your man and tell him no more beating around the bush. Ask him where he sees your relationship in six months or a year. To heck with him not being open about his feelings. These are things you have a right to know. And if you have to make that painful decision to move on, you will heal. Please know I wish you the very best, and you are definitely number 1 in my book, Lisa
This is a tough situation. I think, based on what I have read, that you must move on with your life given the circumstances. You are not going tobe #1 while is mother is alive and once she passes he will be in the grieving process, having to get rid of her items, lega matters and more. Its not that the guy is nice, its just that his mom is his priority now and understandably so. You need to be the priority but unfortunately when you are caring for a LO the LO is the priority esp in a dating engagement situation.
I care for my mother, although she is in a NH I see her all of the time (since I got laid of in June2011) and still have all the legal matters, medical matters and decisions to make. I am divorced and had one engagement after divorcing and a few wonderful significant relationships. I am a giving person but there is no way that I could put into a relationship what is needed to keep it thriving because my focus is my mother. That doesn't make me (or him) callus or mean it just means we are too involved in something very important that we lack the time, energy and devotion to sustaining a relationship.
I would let this go for now and move on as hard as that might be. Falling is love is beautiful but timing has also got to be right. The timing in your situation is not right, it just isn't.
I have also learned since being divorced and engaged that we can fall in love more than once;
You will be living your life on hold until his mother passes and by the time that happens the two of you may have changed quite alot and may no longer be suited for one another.

I urge you to move on with love and compassion. let him do what his heart calls him to do.

Bless you and good luck.
GET OUT NOW! I too went through a situation much like yours. Married the guy, what a mistake. Remember, you have a life to live. Find yourself again. Sounds like you are lost with all his needs to his mothers needs. It took me over 10 years to escape. It will consume your every emotion leaving you empty.

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