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Engaged to a Mama's Boy

Engaged to a Mama's Boy

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Dear Rachel,

I am engaged to a wonderful guy, yet I have one concern. He seems overly attached to his mother and I am worried that when I marry him it will be like I am marrying them both. He doesn't even realize it but he is constantly sharing his mother's opinion when we speak about things, and saying that he will ask his mother what she thinks when we are not sure about how to move forward with something. I have never really said anything, since I happen to like his mother a lot and think she is a great woman, but how do I make it clear that I want to make decisions with him, not as the three of us?

Engaged to a Mama's Boy
LA, CA

Dear Engaged to a Mama's Boy,

Well, to be perfectly honest, it could be a lot worse. Fortunately, you like her and think she is great. If you didn't, this would be a nearly impossible situation. Now, the one thing you don't mention is how she feels about his dependence. Does she like it? Encourage it? Demand it? Or is she also a bit aggravated that he won't cut the umbilical cord and is just waiting for you to take over?

It is important for your fiancé to realize that he is about to marry you and that means that you are the focus. The idea that one should leave the house of his father and mother and cleave to his wife is a Torah concept (Genesis 2:24). Likewise, the woman leaves the home of her parent's and attaches to her husband. The two of you together must begin and create your own life your own way. There is no question that the advice and input of loving parents and in-laws should be valued and used when appropriate, but it cannot be the source and starting point for how decisions are made.

I would clearly begin by having an open discussion with your fiancé about how you feel and that you think it is unhealthy for your relationship that he is so dependent on his mother. It is important to establish why he keeps turning to her for advice. If you have never brought this up to him before, then maybe he is asking her to get another woman's opinion, thinking you would appreciate that. Maybe she really gives great advice that he respects and doesn't realize that it is best to not always involve family in details.

This is actually an important lesson for both of you. When it comes to the personal decisions you make in your life, it is vital that you find someone you can turn to, or a few different people, that can be objective and help guide you. But this is extremely hard when speaking to parents as they clearly are not objective and therefore may not be able to separate their personal feelings from what is best for you.

Chassidic philosophy teaches that every person should have a mashpia. The concept of a mashpia is that of finding a guidance counselor, someone who knows you, respects you and gets you, but has distance from your life, so can give advice based on what you need. This person can be a rabbi, a teacher, a friend or even a relative, but ideally someone that is not too closely involved with your lives so that he or she can remain objective.

I would definitely look for others that you both know and respect who you can turn to when in need. And when your husband offers to speak with his mother, you can counter with suggesting that you both speak to someone else in her place.

So as to not strain the relationship between him and his mother and between you and your future mother-in-law, think about things that you wouldn't mind her opinion on (or better yet, would actually welcome her opinion on) and bring that up whenever you can. For example, if you suggest, "I would love to find a nice place to spend next Sunday, why don't we call your mom for suggestions?" then your husband might feel that she has been involved and her opinion is wanted and that might also limit the need to involve her in everything else.

And just remember that as frustrating as this can be, it also shows that you are marrying a man that has tremendous respect and admiration for a woman, his mother, and that he likewise should bestow that upon you. After all, the Torah also teaches us that Isaac specifically looked for a woman who had the characteristics of his mother because he thought so highly of her. So mazal tov on your upcoming wedding and with your marriage you should together build your home and your bond as a couple.

Rachel

"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Discussion (19)
September 17, 2013
My engagement broke with Mama's/Grandmama's BOY
I had been engaged since Feb, 2013 and now in September 2013, I took a decision to break my engagement with my fiance, whom I have known since a long time. His grandmother accesses him like a tool which gets so much controlled that he does not even realizes that there is a distinction between right and wrong; instead he use to say to me to respect them, call them continuously and even if they are wrong just ignore as they are elder. I did that for couple of months. But believe me it ends up no where. He speaks/takes advise for every small thing from either his mother or grandmother. Worse comes when his aunt also interferes and teaches grandmother. Well in fact my engagement ring which he promised that we will go together and buy, turned out that grandmother and aunt already decided to buy for me and he said that he knows that they will buy me the best. Till date I wore that ring on 3 occasions only. I hate getting engaged with a guy who is not decisive. Men never change!
Meg
Sydney, Australia
September 16, 2012
Why cant he just pick me? I need love too
I am engaged to a mama's boy and things seemed to be on the nice and quiet but recently this mama's boy activity has resurfaced. He only asks me to go to lunch whenever his mother cancels, in our conversations its always his mother said this or that, if he spends a day with me, he has to spend a day with his mom to compensate. Its all about balance and not about we are a couple and your mother should not be jealous or needy of this...Its been going on for years and I have been going crazy but I accepted it because I am in love. Recently I started getting cold feet, especially since he asked me to live with his mother for financial betterment and I willingly agreed. I just feel like I am getting caught up and will be miserable but I am scared to consider leaving him. This is unbearable to think of. Why cant he just grow up and let his mother get her own life. I feel like his mother is his wife and I am the mistress. Yes he love me but nonetheless his mother is his top priority.
Scared of Marrying Mama's Boy
July 2, 2011
Second to mom
I am married to a mama's boy. We brought his mother over here from israel. She criticized me from the moment we were married. She even made me wear a dress for my son's bar mitzvah that she picked out. Now she lives at a nursing home and demands to see my husband for two or three hours a day. When I wanted to go out for our wedding anniversary my husband wanted to schedule a dinner after we both visited her. I refused to go out. I am stuck washing her clothes every week and if I refuse I get cursed at by my husband. Work out the issues with his mother now or you will be second fiddle.
Anonymous
Chatsworth, Ca
March 26, 2011
I too feel the raft
I am engaged to a man who is 5 yrs younger than me (32). His mother constantly calls every single day. His argument is your mom calls , and wants to lv=ive with us- which is true, however she has cancer. My mom is too very clingy. Even before she was sick. My mom has helped raise my daughter, which i greatly appreciate, However his mom has no man, no friend, no nothing. SHe talks to him like she's beneath him at his age. Now that he & I are expecting a baby in several months, I've explained that this behavior is soo abnormal to what I've been used to. I am willing to walk away if things don't change drastically. Mama's have lived their lives, regardless of their choices- why not allow their adult children to grow is besides me. So if I do have a son, I will not raise him to be dependant on me! To me that's beyind selfish.
Agitated Pregnant woman
Miamia, fl/usa
January 31, 2011
Chesed...
Clearly there is some pent up frustration for a lot of women...but you might want to think twice before you broadcast it over the internet.

In any marriage, it is important that you communicate with your spouse. Also, if there are issues between you and your mother-in-law, maybe you should try talking to her about them (and trying to see her perspective too).

(E.g., the mom-in-law who lost her husband and whose only nearby relative is the husband in question...I can understand why she's clingy. If I lost my husband I would be terribly lonely too.)

My father-in-law and I got into a bit of a row about a year and a half ago...we vented a lot of frustrations, and things are much better between us now.
Anonymous
Roanoke, VA
December 10, 2009
Furious
My husband's mother is literally insane and should be in an institution somewhere. For some reason, my husband is convinced that his mother is some sort of saint who has suffered a life of wrong done to her by others. She wails to my husband (her youngest son) about how all of her sons, except him, haven't amounted to much. Her oldest, is a space cadet who drifts from one undercover job to the next, owes a bunch of child support to several baby mamas and generally lives like a bum. The son after him is a lunatic who in one breath, quotes the bible and preaches in the pulpit of his church, only to turn around and sell his house, quit his job and now have to move in with his mom. Son number three can't seem to stay out of jail from selling drugs and running the streets. So, here it is...my husband, son number four who his mother turns to for comfort and protection and any damn thing else she can imagine up in her old, demented mind. If she could, I'm sure she'd be his wife in a second.
Anonymous
Philadelphia
December 1, 2009
Too much drama!
I am not sure if my fiance is a mama's boy or if his mother is just lonely and controlling!!! He feels that she cannot do anything on her own but my CONSTANT question to him is - what is she going to do after we get married!!! We live in separate cities and whenever we are together - as soon as he leaves she is constantly calling him with dumb stuff! She calls him until he returns home. Oh forgot the most important part - his dad died several years ago and he (out of 3 other brothers) moved back home to help her because she had a stroke. I am stuck! I truly love him...he started out being my best friend...he was my best friend for the past 10 years and after several failed relationships on both of our parts, we decided to enter into a relationship...it is great - EXCEPT FOR MOM!
G...
Marietta, GA
July 15, 2009
Same mistake
I married a mama's boy too. And I have only myself to blame. He is sweet and loving and all that but the second his mum is in town I become a non entity to him. More like an afterthought maybe. And she encourages this. She cries to me about how he does not love her enough! Good lord, she is crazy! She is a classic case of passive aggressiveness. You are lucky you like your mother in law to be. You have to speak to him. He needs to know that your opinion counts and the both of you can work things out without any interferences from anyone else. Good luck.
Shan
ny, ny
June 17, 2009
It's always about "Mom"
I'm married to a man like that as well. There have been some changes, but only due to the boundaries I imposed and enforced. I was a 'good girl' until I did that, and then, as soon as I set limits, I became the black sheep. When mom's constant intrusions and criticisms of me, my housekeeping, my parenting, etc. became outrageous, I made it clear to him that his wife and kids come first, and that he needed to step up and defend me, and stop allowing her to run rampant over the relationship. He's done so bit by bit, but it's been a struggle that's taken a toll on us. Would I marry him again? Yes. But I'd have set limits earlier than I did and not tried to be a 'good Jewish girl.' This only works in a non-dysfunctional family.
Anonymous
June 11, 2009
Married to the boy of a saint!
I married a man who has no living parents. One would have thought I would never be posting on this topic. Can you believe that even in death, he has yet to cut the umbilical chord? My husband, although successful walks through life longing for the love of his mother that he can never have, and as a result robs himself of the love I offer. I am reading a book which talks about the IMAGO theory which addresses exactly this but frankly I denounce it. I too lost my father and not only do I not spend my days pining for his embrace, I know he would not approve of such behaviour.

I say draw a line in the sand, I would say either you are committed to me or you go back and crawl back into her lap! I am here to tell you, death will not change things, divorce might.
Anonymous
Los Angeles, CA
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