Is my relationship with my caregiving boyfriend doomed?

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Hi everyone, this is going to be a pretty long post so, for those of you who make it to the end, I would like to thank you in advance.


I have been in a relationship for the past two years to a wonderful man, however, I think he might be too close to his mother and it has been negatively impacting our relationship from the start.


His mother has always been dependent on his father, in fact, although she went to school, she has never worked a day in her life, opting instead to be a stay at home mom. She once told my boyfriend that she never got a driver's license so that his father would have to come home and take her to the places she needed to get to.


His father passed away a few years ago, and so now his mother is alone. She is showing early signs of dementia, but for the most part, she is still very independent. She goes out every morning to socialize with her friends, she is able to manage the house with little help and is still capable of taking care of herself in terms of bathing etc.


Before I continue, I just want to say that I acknowledge that caregiving is a very trying thing, and I do realize that she has dementia and needs more help than the average parent. The caregiving is not the issue, their closeness is.



My boyfriend lives about 10 minutes away from his mother, and he and I live in the same condo building. He works fulltime but manages to visit his mom at least four times or more a week and they speak at least three times a day on the phone. Although we live just a couple of floors from each other, we have now settled into a once a week thing mostly because I don't want to pressure him for more time when I know he hardly gets time for himself. If he goes more than a couple days without seeing his mother, she gives him the cold shoulder and only stops after he has showered her with time and attention to make it up to her.
His brother and sister both live relatively close by, but they are not as close to their mom which I am now beginning to suspect is because of how close she is to my boyfriend. It is no secret that he is her favourite so I think there may be some resentment there. In addition, his brother and sister are both married with children - my boyfriend, at 52 has never been married, so I guess naturally it is easily assumable that he would have the most time to give. He has tried to take steps to free up more of his time, but he is always met with resistance. If he mentions having a caregiver come a few times a week, she becomes ornery. Last month he decided to try to have gourmet meals delivered to her place because she wasn't eating enough, and for the whole week, for every meal, he was bombarded with complaints so he has gone back to delivering dinner for her personally. She tells him she feels bad and she wants him to live his life, but any effort he tries to make that will help him to take care of her and still have a life is shot down but he doesn't seem to notice what is happening. I am not at all implying that his mother is an evil genius, but I do think as much as she says she feels bad, she enjoys having him there with her all the time.


I have never met his mother but the first thing she had to say when she learned of me is that I am with my boyfriend for his money. That was the first dig. We got into an argument early on in our relationship and he told her all about it do for months after, even though things were really good with us, she would remind him of the argument we had. I once poured my heart out to him in a letter which he promptly shared with his mother. It made me sick. I spent a month planning an evening for him for his birthday last year, and told him about it a month in advance because I didn't want his mom to get in the way and guess what? He took his mother on vacation with flights leaving on the very day of my plans for him. Our first summer together we decided to go away for a weekend and when he told his mom, she told him to refrain from having sex with me, and when we got back to the city she actually called to make sure he had listened to her. He lied to her to keep the peace but how and why would a mother of a 50-year-old son, feel comfortable enough to control her son's sex life?
When he needs advice, he asks his mom first before asking me, when I compliment him on a shirt, for example, it is not uncommon for his reply to be "thanks, mom likes this one too," when we go out to eat, every waitress asks for his mom because they have only ever seen him there with her, and even when I order dishes sometimes he'll say "you'll enjoy that, my mom likes it a lot."


I feel like there have always been three people in my relationship, and I have always felt like the mistress. I understand his mom's care comes before my wants, but when it doesn't have anything to do with her dementia care, am I being selfish as he's lead me to believe, am I wrong for being mad?
Much more has happened that I can't fit but I'm asking, is this normal for dementia care?

74 Comments

Dear Caregiverlvr1 - I can't say your relationship is doomed, but I can say with relative certainty that it won't go anywhere as long as his mother is alive, and maybe not even once she's gone. There is clearly something very off here - him sharing your private conversations and even letters(!) with his mother, and her advising him whether to have sex or not - SHEESH!!! It's hard to understand why he bothers with a girlfriend at all.

If you are looking for a relationship that will advance to cohabiting and possibly marriage, then I would have to say that this will not be that relationship. If you are looking for a partnership in life and to be somebody's "significant other", ditto. He has a significant other, and it isn't you. If you are looking for someone to have an occasional no-strings-attached lovely encounter with, he might be just the guy.

But seriously, why ask us? Why not ask him? Ask him where he sees this relationship going. Ask him what kind of relationship he's ultimately seeking with a woman-not-his-mother. If he's the type who will tell you to just let it alone and see what happens, then I think you have your answer.
Dementia only gets worse. Is theirs a healthy relationship, not in my personal opinion. That he is 52 and never been married probably says more to me then anything else. He tries to make you the bad guy for wanting more time away from mom, I'm thinking that he has been spoiled by mom. If he is always mom this, mom that it will never change, unless he is prepared for change and it is hard to teach old dogs new tricks. I bet he seems like a super guy, all compassionate, concerned, empathetic, kind, loving, generous and on and on until he has to answer for anything he has done or said, am I right?

As she ages and her needs increase so will her demand on his time. If she evens thinks she is losing part of him to you she has already proven her ability to cast aspersions without ever laying eyes on you. From what you said, mom trumps everyone and everything. I'm not being judgmental but you give him his way as things stand, what motivation does he have to cut the apron string?

I feel bad for the poor guy, you know that he has been trained in fear, obligation and guilt from before his memories began.

Best of luck with whatever you decide, please let us know, feedback from original poster is great. We help support one another. You can even come here to rant😁 welcome to caregiving.
It sounds like he spends much more time and thought in his relationship with mommy than with you, when you say you feel like his mistress it looks to me that your feelings are right on the money.
Hi CarlaCB,

thank you for your reply. I have spoken to him about it but the answer I get is usually along the lines of I'm not being understanding enough, and that it doesn't matter if he shares these things with his mom because it's not a competition between her and me. He says I don't understand dementia so I wouldn't understand how he is choosing to care for her. He makes the things he does and says to her all about her dementia so I thought maybe I really was missing something seeing as I have never had to deal with dementia before.

He always says he sees the relationship going somewhere and lasting, but last week we had another argument about this whole thing and he said he's exhausted and that he believes that I believe that our relationship will not work until she is dead. That broke my heart, I don't want his mom to die, and I am not saying that we won't work as long as she is alive, but for it to work... I just think maybe he has to address how close they are and maybe set some boundaries. He doesn't like when I say that though, he makes it seem like I am asking him to leave his mom all alone to fend for herself. He is thoughtful, and he this mother issue aside, he treats me well, but it gets overshadowed by all of this other stuff.
There is a good article at "psychology today - Are you being gaslighted?" (google it), you might want to read it to see if anything sounds familiar.

"I have never met his mother but the first thing she had to say when she learned of me is that I am with my boyfriend for his money. That was the first dig. We got into an argument early on in our relationship and he told her all about it do for months after, even though things were really good with us, she would remind him of the argument we had"

The first thing this woman had to say to you is NOTHING because you've never met her. What you are saying is the first thing that your boyfriend is telling you she said is XYZ.

Just be aware of that.

And you should watch the movie MoonStruck.  Very instructive in these kinds of situations.

Move on.
CaregiverLvr1, one positive note, if you do continue on and marry this fellow, he is already a very well trained caregiver.... thus if you should become under the weather, he will be right there for you.

He is a already married to his mother emotionally. She has made him her substitute partner. You don't stand a chance. Move on.
Hi Isthisrealyreal,

Her needs increasing is a legitimate concern of mine. She already monopolizes the majority of his time right now when she doesn't necessarily need his care, but when her health does decrease and she requires more of his help, I just can't see this working out. I feel sorry for him. His mom is all he has now. He works too much to have any real friendships and his relationships with his siblings are very strained. I can't imagine what will happen when she passes.
I think they have spoiled each other. I think she likes being able to tell her friends that her son takes her on vacations etc, and I think he likes being told he's his mom's favourite and best friend in the world.
And you are absolutely right, in all other aspects he is the perfect man, and in many ways, this has been the best relationship I have ever had and things are great as long as I don't question him about his mother. When I do, another side comes out. He shuts down and gets defensive immediately and always makes me feel as though I am in the wrong for even asking for more from him. I'm constantly wondering if I am just not being considerate or sensitive enough to his mother's situation.
Thank you for the warm welcome, and for taking the time to reply to my post.
Two years and you've never met his mother?? Run, don't walk!

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