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My boyfriend and I have been together for ten years, living together for three and a half. Growing up, he had a very dysfunctional relationship with his mom, who chose him to be a surrogate husband. She is controlling and manipulative, and so is his younger brother. Since he moved in with me, though, he has made tremendous progress in becoming independent and walking out from the shadows of his domineering family. For the past several months, I began to take him for granted. First, I was consumed with work, and then I was asked to resign. I became quite depressed, and so I decided to take a bucket list trip with my mom. The day before I was supposed to come back, my boyfriend announced he would need to stay with his mom (who has stage four endometrial cancer and ascites) for the foreseeable future, at least the next few weeks. Now, it's been more than three. With each passing week, he becomes more and more disconnected emotionally, reverting back to a dysfunctional relationship with his mother. He describes her behavior as hysterical, screaming, cursing, and micromanaging his behavior. She also uses the dog as a control mechanism to ensure he's there. She won't allow anyone else to take care of her. Her best friend has offered many times, but she always refuses. She demands that her oldest son - my boyfriend - stay with her constantly and throws a temper tantrum if he leaves. She says that if he brings in a professional caretaker, she would swallow sleeping pills. It reminds me of the time last summer when she needed him to take her to surgery; she said if I came along, she'd call a cab. Now, she refuses to eat or drink anything healthy unless my boyfriend is there. He says he puts up with all this because he doesn't want her to die. I care for him deeply, so it's painful for me to hear him constantly complain about being in this toxic environment. Communication between us has been sporadic. Furthermore, he is acting as though it's him and his mom against the world - but where does that leave me? I feel guilty about taking him for granted and possibly pushing him away. In his absence, I've done a lot of reflection and will make a conscious effort to appreciate him more. He really was very good to me. But counting the time I was traveling, it's been over a month now that we've really had a life together. My questions are: 1) How can I be a supportive partner when he keeps shutting me out? 2) How can I show him I need him and will appreciate all he has to offer so that he'll come home? Thank you!!!

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I'm sorry, but I think you're fighting a losing battle with him and his mom. He clearly has chosen his mom over you. That dysfunction will continue as long as mom is around. Whether you're supportive or appreciate him "enough" won't keep him with you. He's been groomed his whole life to be at his mom's beck and call. You just have to decide if you can put up with that going forward or not. I have sympathy for him with such a controlling and manipulative mom. Unless he's willing to get professional help, I don't see anything changing.
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Treeartist has good advice. I'd say read the book Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud. I'd also consider that he has not found it necessary to marry you after 10 years. Even with his mother gone, it will be hard for him to break long standing emotional patterns of being subject to manipulation. This will haunt him throughout his work life as well as personal life. You might want to consider your best interests not his.
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" Growing up, he had a very dysfunctional relationship with his mom, who chose him to be a surrogate husband. "

This is difficult to recover from. He must want to and be willing to do the hard work in therapy and in life to make it work.

I can recommend a book, but how long can you wait for him to return?

The title of the book is When He's Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment. Another good book to help understand him is Silently Seduced: When Parents Make their Children Partners - Understanding Covert Incest. She's made him her partner.

What you are dealing with here is emotional incest between his mother and him. I wish you the best in dealing with this.
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What caught my attention in this post was your statement that “you had been taking him for granted and that you needed to be more appreciative” as if his behavior was somehow your fault! Tread very carefully with these kind of thoughts. It seems you have already become caught up in their cycle of dysfunction. It reminded me of a woman who catches her husband cheating and instead of blaming him, feels guilty because she must have driven him to it! Wrong! Your boyfriend was going to play out this relationship with his mother no matter how wonderful and supportive a mate you were.
To the best of your ability, maybe with tiny little babysteps at first, try to separate yourself from the madness by focusing on you and your needs. Did you get another job? If not, actively seek one. Get together with friends, go on another bucket list trip with your mom. By the way, I sooooo wish I had been able to do this with my mother. Redirect your thinking and actions away from him and the chaos. You don’t have to let go completely, but as you detach from the situation you will be able to see more clearly and make better decisions. Prayers for peace and assurance for you.
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Is his mother considered to be in the end-stage of her cancer? I found this on what appeared to be a reliable source: "The development of malignant ascites carries a poor prognosis, with the median survival reported anywhere between 1 and 4 months." Does BF understand that his mother is going to die, and fairly soon, regardless of how hard they fight against the world? Whether she stops eating and drinking, or takes sleeping pills, or gets the best care possible, the outcome will be the same. She does not have long to live.

I doubt that there is much that can be done to address the dysfunction in the relationship now. Somehow I don't think Mom's death is going to free BF of his emotional distress. Professional help might. Would he be willing to do that? Has he in the past? He is going to be very busy for quite some time (probably) handling the estate.

His behavior is Not Your Fault. It is not within your power to fix it. You can wait it out (for months) and see whether he is open to "fixing" in the future. Starting to detach a bit and concentrate on your needs is probably a practical course at this point.
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Has your boyfriend considered bring in Hospice care for his mom? As Jeanne points out, she has a short time to live, and comfort is of the essence right now.
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