You can choose your boyfriend -- but you can't choose his mom. Unfortunately, an overbearing mother may be part of the package. Now that you're a mom, you can certainly relate to the bond a mother has with her child – no matter how old her child is. Your boyfriend's mom may be in her 50s, 60s, or 70s, but she will still feel protective toward her son. By understanding where her behavior comes from, you can better handle the situation with maturity and sensitivity.
See the Bigger Picture
Your boyfriend's mom may seem overbearing because she feels vulnerable. Conflicts between women and their mothers-in-law (or their boyfriend's mothers), often stem from fear, says psychologist Terri Apter, as cited in Time magazine. Apter carried out a 20-year study on relationships between women and their female in laws, and found that relationships with female in laws are often much more tense than between the man and his wife’s mother. Some 60 percent of women believed that conflicts with their mother-in-law caused emotional stress over the long term, Apter found. If your boyfriend's mother feels that your presence is threatening her relationship with her son, her behavior may reflect her desire to have control. Remember, your boyfriend's mother loves him just as much as you do, says psychologist Philip "Dr. Phil" McGraw in the article, "My Mother-in-Law Drives Me Crazy!" on "Dr. Phil.com."
Prioritize Your Relationship
By focusing on your relationship with your boyfriend instead of on your relationship with his mom, you will strengthen your bond and be better equipped to handle whatever life throws at you – whether it’s his overbearing mother or another difficult relative. Listen to your boyfriend and try to help him deal with his emotions, suggests psychotherapist Lisa Brookes Kift on "NurseTogether.com." Make sure, however, that you keep your boyfriend's mother involved in your life and in your children's lives, advises Pat Wingert in the article, "5 Biggest Mistakes of Mother-in-Laws," for "Newsweek." If your boyfriend’s mom feels wanted, respected and valued, she is more likely to be a positive -- rather than negative -- influence.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
If you pick your battles, you will be able to get your point across about your boyfriend's mom when it really matters. Handle the situation with maturity and don't be too sensitive, advises McGraw. It's common for daughters-in-law to be overly sensitive to what their mothers-in-law say, according to Apter, also cited in Wingert's Newsweek article. Try not to take offense at remarks that aren't intended to be personal, advises Apter. Decide between the behaviors you can live with and those you can't. If your boyfriend's mom tries to take control when you throw a family party, tell her that you appreciate her help and ask her to be responsible for a specific element, such as setting the table or making the dessert. If she repeatedly tries to influence your boyfriend in a way that damages your relationship or criticizes the way you raise your children, you have the right to speak up. Tell your boyfriend -- calmly and clearly -- how his mother's behavior is making you feel. Be specific and don't resort to name-calling or moaning.
Support Your Boyfriend
It is your boyfriend's responsibility to confront his mom about her overbearing ways -- not yours. Ask your boyfriend to speak to his mother so that you can establish realistic boundaries with her, suggests Donna M. White on "PsychCentral." Consider why his mom might behave as she does. Her desire for control may stem from low self-esteem or out of fear she might get hurt. Discuss ways in which you and your boyfriend can help his mother address her emotions and insecurities. For example, you may encourage her to join a community group to give her an interest outside the family.
C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."
Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images