Avoid nagging your husband about spending more time with you or choosing you over his mother. You will just hurt him by putting down his mom and his role as a husband. These hurt feelings can turn into resentment, which is poison to a marriage.
“You must give guidance and set limits in a loving way,” says Diana Kirschner, a clinical psychologist in New York and author of Love In 90 Days (Center Street, January 2009). She adds that even when done in a loving way, setting limits can be stormy, but you must remain firm without getting angry. If he wants you to attend the fifth family dinner with the in-laws in the last three weeks, Kirschner says, you have to say something like, “You can go, but I will not. I have already attended many family functions recently, and now I need my space.” Then, you have to stick to your guns and not attend the event, even if your mother-in-law makes you feel guilty or your husband argues with you.
Often, there is tension and jealousy between the mothers of mama’s boys and those who marry their sons. Being the bigger person with your mother-in-law, as difficult as it might be, will always work to your advantage. All the experts agree that remaining cordial and respectful to your mother-in-law is the only solution. “Don’t try to straighten out the mother,” says Kirschner. “You’ll never win.” This doesn’t mean that you have to be with your mother-in-law all the time or talk to her as much as your husband does, nor do you have to be treated badly by her. You can maintain some distance. Let your husband – and children, if you have them – have a relationship with her, but you can see her, and the rest of your husband’s family of origin, less often. This should be up to you, and you should decide based on your comfort level.
Ultimately, your husband will be the deciding factor in whether his attachment to his mom breaks your marriage. He might not notice it yet, but making you his main priority, growing up, and breaking away from his family of origin is good for him, too. “You can’t happily be both a husband and a mama’s boy because you’re always torn in two directions,” says Kirschner. If he accepts your limits and starts to put you first, then you can continue to work on developing your own family. If he doesn’t, you have to be willing to walk away because, say the experts, that is often when mama’s boys start to get their act together and straighten out.
Still, you can’t do the work for him. He has to be the one to cut the chord, adds Kirschner: “He has to form a boundary between his new family and the family of origin or be torn and miserable for the rest of his married life.” Or at least until his wife says good-bye and leaves him alone with his mommy.