Monday 21 January 2019

Dear Mary: My partner's mother is a real nightmare

Pic posed by model
Pic posed by model

Mary O’Conor

I've been with my partner now for over four years and have been really close to his mother until the past two years, and I don't understand why she has suddenly turned on me.

She won't even let me change our bed sheets without going crazy about the situation. I stay at my partner's family home at weekends with his mum and brother, and have always had a great time. She is now vandalising my belongings and throwing new bed sheets away that I have bought as a present for him.

She will sit in her usual seat in the living room looking down at her tablet not communicating with anyone, and when she does it's all negativity and I've really had enough of it all by now.

I've always been there for her, cancelled romantic plans to make sure my partner and I can support her when she's having a bad day. Well, I feel like a right idiot now as she's the most ungrateful woman I know.

Nothing her son or I do is good enough. She'll constantly be asking him to build things in the garden or do general other jobs around the house as soon as we get out of bed on a Saturday morning. She allows him no time for breakfast, and he'll do it without question. He works 10 hours a day and overtime at the weekend yet all she does is complain about her little life.

We are currently trying to save for a house but because she is apparently financially unstable my partner is always bailing her out. She's also a control freak. He will stand around her while she's in a mood waiting for approval while I wish he would just tell her how pathetic she is being and get on with his life with me. All she is doing is holding us back.

I don't know what to do any more or how to approach the situation with either of them.

Mary replies: This certainly does sound like a nightmarish situation and you don't seem to know of any reason for the change in her behaviour in the last two years. Your partner's relationship with his mother is quite different to yours because of the very fact that she is his mother, and no doubt he feels a certain responsibility towards the woman who reared him. One has to admire his steadfastness in the face of such moodiness on her part.

You could ask your mother-in-law-in-waiting if there is something that you have done to offend her because you are feeling such negativity from her that you never used to feel. If she denies this then so be it. It is far too distressing for you to have to witness this behaviour every weekend and even though I realise this is the time when you and your partner would like to be together why not have some form of compromise and suggest that he goes there on his own every second weekend.

Could it be that she is unhappy with the fact that you and her son have not got married? I say this because of her throwing away the bed sheets you bought and also not wanting you both to have a lie-in on Saturday mornings. There is also the possibility of her having some sort of borderline personality disorder. If her behaviour is worrying either of her sons, particularly the one who is living with her full-time, then it would be in order for them to have a word with her GP and explain what is going on and ask for advice as to how to proceed.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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