Mother - son relationship boundaries

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2011
Mother - son relationship boundaries
Tue, 09-11-2012 - 8:32am
I just wanted some opinions on whether my husband and MIL's relationship is normal.
I'm concerned they've become too close; not in an incestuous way or anything like that, but not really what I'd expect from a mother - son relationship.
She has two other sons, and they are both very dependant on her.  So much so, that I've often felt sorry for their wives, because it must feel like there are three people in their marriage.  She declares love on facebook at least once a week, more than their wives do, and she is the one they turn to if they are upset about anything. 
The apron strings are firmly in tact, and I think she cultivates that by babying them.
Up until recently, I thanked my lucky stars that my husband wasn't as close or as dependent on her as his brothers, but I'm worried things are changing.
Me and my husband often use each other's mobile, and know each other's FB passwords etc, and lately I've seen lots of messages between him and MIL.  Almost all of them end with "Love you xxxx" etc etc, and he shares all his private thoughts with her, as much as he does with me.
I think, all in all, he tells her he loves her around as many times as he tells me he loves me, if not more.  I don't think that's normal.
She's also started to post love declarations on his FB wall, and as she has a different surname to him, people won't know she's his mother. She posts things like "I love you my darling", which could lead people to ask questions about my marriage.  There is no indication she is his mother.
Maybe I would be better off not caring what people think, but I do care when it comes to my marriage, which I am very proud of.
I really feel she needs to keep her sons close to her, and that she acts like a wife rather than a mother by ensuring she is the first one they turn to, and making public declations of love.  It feels like she's playing a subtle power / possessive game, instead of taking a step back and letting them be independent.
I can see her doing the same with my husband now; ensnaring him (I know that's dramatic, but it feels like that to me)
The thing is that my hubby still insists he's not close to her, because she didn't bring him up.  She brought his brothers up, and my husband uses his brothers ultra close relationship with her as a comparison with his.  I have tried to tell him that their relationship with their mother is not normal, and that he is already closer than other people are to their mothers. 
The only thing I can assume is that he doesn't necessarily realise what close is when it comes to a mother - son relationship.  How much closer could he get than telling her everything, and expressing love on almost every text or FB message?  If he doesn't think that's a close relationship, then what would be?
Will they become even closer?
It could just be me, but I only tell my parents I love them occasionally, not every time I message or text them, and I certainly don't involve them in every problem I have and run to them every time I'm down.  I know they will always be there for me, but I generally deal with things together with my husband.  
Does this seem odd to anyone else, or is it just me having a case of MIL paranoia?
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-2001
Wed, 09-12-2012 - 4:56pm

I agree with you that somethings seems "off" here.

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that your H is using his brothers' and mom's relationships to measure against, and it sounds like those relationships are seriously dysfunctional.  And even "less dysfunctional" is still dysfunctional, kwim?

Plus, I'm also suspicious of families who use public forums (like FB) to push very personal agendas.  No one wants to read daily interactions of  "love ya" . . . "no LUV ya more!" . . . kissy, kissy, kissy . . . between parents and grown children on public forums.  It smacks of desparation and attention getting behavior, and I believe me everyone that reads these things is thinking "phoney, phoney, phoney"

If I were you, I would make sure to point out to your H that his relationship with his mother is starting to mimic the dysfunction he see's with his brothers.  Suggest he start comparing his relationship with other people's relationships with thier mothers (and not use his brother's as his only examples).


Avatar for chimichanga
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-08-2000
Thu, 09-13-2012 - 10:49am
Definitely some control issues going on here. Can you get your husband's friend or a cousin to point out that something strange is going on here? This way, your husband might actually sit up and take notice. Good luck.
Avatar for deenow17
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-12-2004
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 3:02pm
Wow, jumping in late here as a Mom of 2 DS & a DD. My emails ends with love you forever which is from their chidlhoods when our favourite book was Love You Forever, My phone calls end with love you & my kids respond with love you too. It's automatic. There is nothing unusual about our relationship. I have 3 healthy, independent adult children. All fully functioning with their partners without my being the 3rd person in the relationship. Yes, I tell my kids I love them more often than I do my husband. I love with him & see him all the time. We show our love in many ways. I don't see my kids on a regular basis as they live far from us.

Take a close look & she if your DH's responses are just automatic. You could be right to worry or you may be over the top on this.