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I’m engaged to a lovely 30-something who lives with her aging 70-something mom. Their setup is mutually beneficial financially, and over the course of our relationship, it’s become evident that they have a close bond. As we embark upon marriage and a life together, my fiancé has been reluctant to move in with me and leave her mom behind. Her mom is on government assistance and doesn’t have many great living options. Furthermore, their home life reveals a codependency and occasional toxicity when her mother becomes disgruntled about something. Boundaries are broken, tears are shed, voices are raised, etc. While we could likely find somewhere close (enough) that is safe for her mom to live, my fiancé and her mom maintain that a life alone in such a place is sad and lonely... no way to spend the final years of her life. While I am sympathetic to this, I am terrified at the alternative: living together. I’ve made it clear that a life together under one roof isn’t ok with me, so my fiancé continues to pursue a detached mother-in-law suite as the solution. I’ve heard horror stories about this, particularly with new marriages, and I don’t want mine to cave under this pressure. My fiancé keeps trying to convince me that it’s perfectly fine and normal for her mom to live with us. This is my moment to put my foot down, but I desperately fear my fiancé will choose a life with her mom over a life with me. Help! Any experience or insight?

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I understand about the bond your fiancé has with her mom. I had the same kind of bond with mine. But when it came time to marry the man I love, I knew I had to chose him over her. My future was with him. Your fiancé doesn’t seem to understand this. Living with her mom could be a joy...or pure hell. No one has a crystal ball. I believe it’s time to give your fiancé an ultimatum. Not all places where your future mother -in-law may live would be cold and nasty. Many places have activities and are quite nice. Perhaps she fears living alone and on her own. Does it seem to you she is putting her daughter’s happiness and future second to her own?

If you unwillingly go along with her wishes now and are “desperately fearing” her decisions at the beginning, you are sentencing yourself to a life of “Yes, dear. As you wish, dear.”
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I am sad for this lovely young woman. If she wants to, she could get help to extricate herself from this co-dependency with her mother. I don't think it would be easy, but I hope it would be possible. If marriage is important to her, I would hope she would work on ways to make that possible. She seems to want to have her cake and eat it too.

Mom may be in your lives another 20 years. Think carefully about that! And think even harder if you intend to start a family.
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"I desperately fear my fiancé will choose a life with her mom over a life with me. "

You and your fiance need to have an honest heart to heart talk about this before you say "I do".

In my opinion, two adult women under the same roof with a new marriage is a mixture set for trouble. Has she ever heard of leaving one's parents and cleaving to one's spouse or it that a boundary issue for her?
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If it's not cultural and your fiancee and her mother are still living together, with no plans to change that, it may be that they are heavily enmeshed in an unhealthy way. You have identified co-dependency and toxicity yourself, as well as boundary issues, so you know something ain't right.

Some people do pull this kind of situation off beautifully. But living with one of the parents is normally something that happens when the parent is ailing, and AFTER a couple has had time alone to build their life together as a unit, and make their relationship strong. In this way, they learn to present a united front. You won't even have a chance at that. And it's not like marrying someone with a child and becoming a stepparent. Taking care of aging parents is not remotely like raising kids, even when they are in their childish dementia phase. Because kids grow and develop, become better humans, become more independent as the years go by, and eventually leave home. Aging parents become sicker, forget things they knew how to do, sometimes become worse humans, become more dependent, and don't leave till they go in a care home or die, to be blunt.

Personally, as someone who is staying with my mother (I won't say "living with," because I'm still maintaining my own home, and I wouldn't call this "living," either), I would never bring a new partner into this situation. I don't think it would be fair to that person AT ALL. For one thing, my mom and I have had decades to work on our dynamic together, and it's not all roses and sunshine for ANY mother/daughter. Once my mom started getting dementia, it went straight back to the unhealthiest aspects of our dynamic. How is a new person supposed to even navigate through that? For another thing, it's an obnoxious amount of work once a parent's health and/or mind starts to go, and that's just unfair on the new person, plus that parent likely won't be able to live on their own in an in-law suite forever.

Your fiancee has basically said she and her mother are a package deal. You want your fiancee to change for you. That's the problem, I think. We can ASK for change, but we can't expect others to change for us. We can only change ourselves.
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Listen to Hugemom and Daliobelly. They speak the truth!

To put it bluntly, her enmeshed relationship with her mother is covert emotional incest and is a bond that is not easily broken without much work in therapy. There are books written about this and this is what they call it.

As long as she is enmeshed with mom, she will not be able to emotionally bond with you and thus your marriage will lack the intimacy that it could have had otherwise. When I speak of intimacy, I am not talking about sex. The intimacy that a married couple can have goes far deeper that sex itself, but enriches one's sex life as a couple. 

She's 30 in terms of years and yet has never really left mom emotionally. That is a really deep enmeshment. Some men are likewise emotionally enmeshed with their moms and can't really bond with a wife. 

I suggest finding someone who has their own identity with healthy boundaries in relation to their parents instead of someone who is grown, but is emotionally still their mommy's little girl.
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Im just going to say that.. My MIL with Alzheimers moved in with us 5 or 6 years ago and it has been a total nightmare.. I regret ever agreeing to it.. I must be a terrible person but its driving me crazy.. Literally.. Ive had several breakdowns lately.. Ive grown to resent my wife and her mother because I feel the best years of my life are being taken from me and theres nothing I can do because I agreed to this 5 or 6 years ago and I made a vow to my wife.. I thought the disease would be fast progressing and she would not be here long and I was giving my wife peace by letting her take care of her mother in her last few years but boy.. Was I wrong.. Hers Alz is slow progressing.. She spits on the floor.. I have caught her feeding my dog her VOMIT.. Its terrible.. I have no reason to lie to you but Im warning you that you will regret it if you let her move in.
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This type of living arrangement does work for some people, but, there needs to be a lot of respect for boundaries and good attitudes. You have already mentioned that they have boundary issues and at times raised voices. That might work with some people, but, for me, that would be a deal breaker.

When I was little we had 4 generations under one roof for awhile and it worked great, but, I don't think that is the norm. I'm not sure how old her mom is, but, depending on this, the arrangement could be a 30 year deal. I'd get it straight before the marriage though. Once, mom is included in the arrangement, I suspect it would be hard to change it.
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Daliobelly, your situation speaks to me, and what it says is CHANGE IT! You didn't sign up for what is, you signed up for what was at the time, and this is beyond the pale... If you don't want the rest of your life ruined, you had better sit down with your wife and discuss a nice memory care place for her mom, because she is at that stage, from your description of her behavior - isn't that right fellow posters? You are not a terrible person, of course; no one should have to put up with things like this, and your wife should not expect you to anymore; she should be very grateful for the years you have sided her, and have mercy on you now; I hope she loves you enough to do that....
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Confused, does your future MIL have any health issues? Your profile says age related issues. 70 somethings can have no health issues, or 70 somethings can be in hospice. Perhaps you can elaborate to help us??
It seems to me that finances may be the biggest codependency. Seek information from your office of aging about senior housing. Low income senior housing brings an abundance of benefits. Socialization for the resident as well as access to other needed services can help your MIL now and even more so as she ages. There may be a waiting list, but get her on it now.
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I don't think daughter grasps that she leaves her mother and becomes your wife - in a sense she is already married - to her mother. I think you would not have a marriage - just a house-share arrangement.
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