Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Won’t Tell His Mom About Me”

I have been dating my boyfriend for a year now and still haven’t met his mother. He is an only child of a single mom, so they’re very close. My boyfriend’s ex girlfriend, who has and continues to interfere in our relationship, lives in the same apartment complex as both my boyfriend and me (we all live in separate apartments). Well, my boyfriend’s mother likes to stay in contact with his ex because she’s known her for so long, and when she comes to visit about once a month, they all usually spend time in the local bar. This set-up has resulted in him not even telling his mother that we’re together and it makes it awkward for me because when she’s in town, I don’t want to go to the bar like I usually do because I don’t want to meet her as some random friend only later to tell her that I’m his girlfriend. He says that he’ll tell her soon, but he’s been saying that for awhile now. It doesn’t make sense to me because he talks about our future and even picked out kids’ names and what kind of house we’ll want and where we want to live. — Tired of Being a Secret

Somethin’ smells fishy, sister, and I’m not sure what it is. But if you’ve been with your boyfriend for a whole year, and his mom has visited your apartment complex roughly 12 times in that period, and he’s never even mentioned you — this woman he’s picking out kids’ names with — yet he’s fine with hanging out with her and his ex-girlfriend on a regular basis … well, something just isn’t right. I’m not sure why you think you need to stay away from your local bar when you know your boyfriend is there with his mom and his ex, or why you think you shouldn’t introduce yourself to her as his girlfriend, and not just some random friend. Did your boyfriend ask you not to? Did he imply you should stay away? If so, that’s pretty screwed-up, and you should seriously consider how committed your boyfriend is to you if he’s making those sorts of strange — and frankly, disrespectful —requests.

The next time your boyfriend’s mom makes a visit to town, tell your boyfriend you’re not going to avoid going to the bar while she’s there. If you happen to run into them, go up and introduce yourself. Say, “I’m not sure if your son has told you about me yet, but I’m TOBAS, and I’ve been dating him for a little while. It’s so nice to finally meet you.” If your boyfriend has a problem with that, it’s time for you to accept that his actions (keeping you a secret from his mom) speak much louder than his words (assuring you he’ll tell her about you “soon”).

My boyfriend’s sister hates me. I don’t mean dislikes in an “arms crossed, sneer” kind of way; I mean she openly, verbally, bashes me and tells her brother that he can certainly “do better.” While it could be an issue that can be easily ignored, it is made more difficult by the fact that they LIVE together (with another brother) in a NYC apartment. We’ve known each other for over a year and it’s been “official” for about nine months. In that time, I have had many different faults in her eyes. It started as “she doesn’t offer to help around the apartment,” “doesn’t clean [his] room,” and “never puts pot holders away” and has moved more recently to “has no ambition” and “seems content to just ride along on [his] coat tails.” (None of these are true).

While I know the truth (as does he), it bothers me to no end that these “issues” are falsely made up and being spread maliciously. Not once have she and I ever discussed goals, jobs, or education, so there’s no way she could know what ambitions I have for myself (or what I’ve already accomplished, for that matter). Overall, my relationship with him has been very strong and this is our only problem. I know that things could certainly change if he was financially able to move out and finance his own apartment, but for now, it’s not a possibility.

So how do I deal with her? I’ve played nice, ignored all of her snotty comments and have pretended like she isn’t giving me the silent treatment in hopes that she’ll get bored of targeting me, but it’s verging on ridiculous. He has also made a point to talk to her about it (multiple times), but it doesn’t stop the comments. She just keeps saying that she “only wants the best for him” and “is trying to help.” Should I step up and say something about her childish behavior? I’m trying to do everything in my power to not let this facet of our relationship ruin what we have together, but she seems hellbent on making that happen. — Doesn’t even use pot holders

Clearly, your boyfriend’s sister is threatened by you, and based on your account of her behavior, she could very well have some sort of mental illness. So, I would certainly proceed with caution, accept that a cordial relationship with her — let alone, a warm one — may never be possible, and limit your time at their apartment and her in presence. I might also invite her to join your for coffee so that you could talk, woman-to-woman, without the filter of your boyfriend. I’d then, in as non-threatening and non-accusatory tone as possible — remember, she may be undiagnosed mentally ill, or at least unstable — express your disappointment over the tension between you, suggest that maybe you got off on the wrong foot, and ask if there was anything you could do to foster a better relationship between the two of you. I’d tell her how much you love her brother, how you’d never want to come between them, and that, while you haven’t known him as long as she, his happiness is very important to you, too. I’d remind her that it would make him happy if you two could at least be cordial with one another and tell her you’re willing to forget the past and start over if she’d be willing to grant you the same. And then I’d keep my fingers crossed that she isn’t so wackadoodle as to turn down that offer. But if she is, I’d definitely suggest you and your boyfriend spend a lot more time at your place — or anywhere else, for that matter, than at his!

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