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!!!
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.
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.
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.