Dear Carolyn: My 10-year marriage ended largely because my ex-husband is and always was a mama’s boy. He was living with his mother when I met him and she was a large presence in our courtship, one the two of us always deferred to. Their emotional and financial entanglements bothered me while we were dating, and later devastated our marriage as I was unable to ever feel like his No. 1.
Some five years after our divorce he is, you guessed it, living back with her, and I am not exaggerating when I say she could barely contain her triumph at having him back.
So now, I am a single mother to our 14-year-old son (he is with me full time, which has always been his preference). Now that he is not a baby anymore, I am experiencing firsthand how tempting it is to let him be the primary relationship in my life, and I am terrified. He and I are such good friends, and I know this will change eventually (maybe when he goes to college, maybe sooner).
But what if it doesn’t? What if he moves back home after school, as many kids now do, and what if I am so lucky as to continue having a strong relationship with him? How does a doting mother keep from doting TOO much on her only son?
Mama’s Boy’s Ex
My goodness, you have an instruction manual for what not to do right in front of you, in the form of your ex and his mom.
Don’t monopolize your son’s time; don’t impose your will on his decisions with friends or partners; don’t use emotional blackmail (i.e., tears and other distress) to get him to do what you want; don’t choose to depend on him as your primary relationship – make the effort to create and nurture your own network of friends.
While you wait for those networking efforts to bear fruit, make sure you’re busy outside the home – fitness, volunteering, crafts, classes, part-time job, whatever it takes. Show him he is not responsible for keeping you company. Give him room to be himself, to make his own plans, to find his own way, to disagree with you.
On these terms, he can move home without getting sucked into codependency. Your senses of self won’t allow it.
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