Q. I recently got out of a relationship of almost two years (we were also friends for two years prior to dating) and I’m completely torn. He ended things because he felt completely suffocated and probably for other reasons that he may not be mentioning. Anyway, this man was my best friend. His parents loved me and my parents loved him, and everyone seems to be hoping that we’ll get back together. My boyfriend and I were supposed to go to a wedding together the Friday after our breakup. He asked me if I still wanted to go, but I declined, seeing as how I thought it’d be too hard for me to deal with. On Facebook yesterday I saw a picture of him and his mom at the wedding and I felt so bitter and angry.
After doing a lot of reflecting this morning, I’ve realized something huge. I’ve been wondering why none of my relationships ever work out, and I’ve realized that they always end the same way. After getting really close to the guy I’m dating and his family, I start to compare myself to his mom, almost trying to do everything I can to be like her and take over her role. I become angry when boyfriends want to be around their moms and talk/hang out with them. I internalize it and interpret it as them wanting to spend time with their mom rather than me. I become bitter and angry toward their mom and the relationship they share. I begin to obsess over their relationship and lose sight of everything I have with my boyfriend because I’m so tied up in their relationship with their mom. Why do I do this? How can I stop it?
It’s crazy, because my last boyfriend, who just ended things, is one of the sweetest most caring and genuine guys I know. He always wanted me to be happy, no matter what. His parents were so sweet, but I still ended up reacting in the way I explained above. I really don’t like that side of me, and I don’t want it anymore. I want to be close to the guy I’m dating and his family. I want things to work out and for us to all enjoy our time together. I don’t want to be bitter and cold anymore and I want to get rid of this jealousy. Please help me get started.
A. Well, this is a new one.
Are you jealous of your boyfriend’s female friends? Do you feel slighted if he focuses on work instead of the relationship? If it’s really just a mom thing, this is about control. You’re looking to be a powerful parent instead of an equal partner.
My advice? Be single right now, please. You mention suffocation, which means that you have too much time on your hands to maintain balance. I want your life to be so full that you barely have time to date, let alone obsess about somebody’s mom. You need to learn that in your own life, you can have a number of important relationships at once. Alone time will help you figure out what role you really want to play in the life of a boyfriend.
The thing about mom-kid relationships is that they’re often unbreakable. If mom calls, you have to call her back. Mistakes are forgiven. Love is unconditional. If you’re seeking that kind of bond, it means that you’re afraid of being left behind. It means that you want to feel indispensable. I can understand that.
But . . . you’re not going to get that kind of security unless you’re capable of being happy on your own. Prove that you can orbit yourself and you’ll do a better job of sharing someone else.
OK, therapy will help you explore this in greater detail, but if you want a little armchair psychoanalysis, I’ll ask you this: How is your relationship with your own mother? What happened in your past that started this dynamic? By understanding the root causes, you can begin to understand how to change it.
No one else thinks this sounds creepy? Kind of reminds me of a premise for a Lifetime Movie Network Original.
It’s great that you’ve recognized this pattern in your relationships. This shows a lot of insight on your part. Your future relationships will be more succesful if you can accept the reality that your boyfirend will love other people besides you. It will be a different kind of love than he has for you but it will still be love.
In every relationship you carry within you things from the past. When certain reactions are triggered those troubled things you’re carrying spill out of you, usually at no fault from the other person. The first step is to learn these are your things, and I think you’ve realized that, and perhaps a counselor could help you discover why they trouble you so.
Anger and jealously are always cover-ups for sadness and emotional pain. The negative emotions and drama will continue to haunt you until you confront the true source. By recognizing that you have a problem and know your triggers, you are on your way to inner peace.
I get a little jealous of the relationship my husband has with his mum. They are quite close and share an easy banter and comfort that my relationship with my mum lacks. Generally speaking, I try to indulge the jealousy and lament about my family shortcomings for about two seconds then mentally congratulate my M-I-L for raising a good man. I think it’s natural to some extent to have these momentary ugly feelings, but you can’t let them ruin relationships. That’s no good.
Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@