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My ex is a mother enmeshed man. What do I do?

Community Member

About 3 months ago my (25F) boyfriend (22M) suddenly broke up with me.

He had recently moved in with me and was getting a lot of trouble about it from his mother who suffers with severe mental illness. She first called me a snake and said I was tearing her family apart (even though it was completely 100% his decision, even I was surprised he wanted to move in), then argued and insulted him on a daily, yelled, cried and begged him to come home, and called him every single day having hours long conversations. I witnessed him having mental breakdowns over her insults. She had always controlled him and said things that impacted his self esteem, and as a result of all of this he developed bad anxiety that led him to believe that if he didn't answer the phone or make her happy she would commit suicide. There are so many things I could get into, such as him having an emotionally distant father, spilling all of her relationship issues onto their son and using him as an emotional crutch. To put it plainly she is toxic and he is enmeshed.

The problem is that he doesn't realize any of this. I was the one that pointed out his mental health problems and told him months ago to see someone, but he denied it. He doesn't really see the issue with his family situation and views it as normal, however it has affected his ability to make and maintain close connections (I was his first best friend and first relationship). As a result, the reason he gave me on why he broke up with me was that he didn't want to commit and admitted he has commitment issues. We had been together for over a year and his mum was pressuring him to think about the future and having kids. I think he panicked and went back to what felt comfortable. It was a decision made when he went to visit his parents for one night.

I know he still loves me. He messages me every day and still flirts with me. At this point I just wish for him to have a happy, healthy life because I still consider him my best friend. How do I help him? He still refuses to see a psychologist and I've been trying really hard to encourage him to go. I know that this shouldn't be left up to me, but his parents only enable him and he doesn't have any other close friends. I don't necessarily wish for us to get back together. I'm just not sure what to do for both my peace of mind and his happiness.

2 Replies 2

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi K,

This seems like a complicated situation where you would like to help someone who appears to be in a helpless situation. While I think it is selfless of you to worry about his well-being I also want to make sure your well-being is being accounted for in relation to your breakup. How are you coping with this and feeling about the breakup?

I have grown up in a similar situation as your ex-boyfriend where I grew up with a distant father and being an only child in that situation, my mum often relied on me to release her emotional burdens, worries, stress and relationship problems with my father. Growing up this affected me heavily as I felt like I had to be the one she could lean on, effectively I felt responsible for her well-being. Later on in life, this created a toxic relationship between me and my mum, where I would feel guilt if I did something that went against her, it made me heavily protective of her wishes which further fuelled her victim mentality. However, very much later on I begun to notice the negative effects it had on my mental wellbeing. After all, I was her child not an emotional sponge or punching bag she could go to. When she would talk about things at an inappropriate time I would later on learn to draw clear boundaries and refused to feel responsible for the wellbeing of another person. It is true you can love someone, but loving someone does not mean you are responsible for their happiness or wellbeing. I definitely think in this situation your ex-boyfriends mum portrayed signs of a 'love addict', that is someone who is characterised by being clingy, over-needy and in turn has made your partner the 'love avoidant'. The love avoidant individual usually grows up being smothered by a love addict and therefore later on is rather detached or even 'fearful' of the concept of love. This results in commitment issues as well as trust issues. If you are curious about the psychology of love avoidants and addicts you can do further research.

I think in this case the solution on your part is simple. That is: do nothing. We cannot help someone who does not want to seek help, or cannot even see they need it. I'm sure he knows deep inside, however he may be in denial and yet to accept the current climate of things. In time, at his own pace and willingness, he will perceive the situation clearly. And then he shall seek help accordingly. Although you love him, you should not sacrifice your happiness for someone who is not ready for your love.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi kiyojordie

How incredibly frustrating and disappointing for you, facing such a challenge in your relationship. The fact that you're so focused on his wellbeing is an obvious indication of what a thoughtful, compassionate and caring person you are. You're such an amazing gift in his life.

Sometimes it's definitely frustrating when we can see how things are playing out in someone's life where they can't. In this case, the goal may be to become a 'teacher' of higher consciousness. You don't tell a person what to do, you simply lead or teach them to question, for themselves. You'd be helping your partner develop a skill. A couple of scenarios:

  • You're partner is quite down when you decide to suggest doing something together to raise his spirits. He becomes excited by the thought. His mother then says 'Oh, no, you can't go out. I need you to clean the house for me. He decides to please her rather than taking care of his own mental health. He stays down
  • A variation on that scenario...You say to him 'I want you to question why you don't want to feel excited'. He may say 'Mum really needs me to clean the house'. Your response 'Can you choose excitement for the next 3 hours and then clean the house? Can you raise yourself to the challenge of feeling excitement for 3 hours?' If he was to say 'But she needs me to do it now'. You could question 'Why won't she wait? Why won't she want you to raise yourself to excitement, given the chance? Is she impatient?'

So, you see, all you would have done is ask questions. Such questions lead him to question both her behaviour and his own. He may even be left to think 'Yeah, she is pretty impatient. I've never realised until now'. While you see a lot of questionable behaviour playing out, he may simply not see it as questionable because, for him, it's normal (he's been living with it for so long).

One of our most super natural abilities as kids is questioning everything. Three years olds do it all the time. Typically, we're told (by adults) 'Stop questioning me, just do as you're told!', 'Why do you have to question everything? You're being difficult. Just stop it' or something of that nature. We stop questioning what naturally should be questioned which is a shame because through questioning we learn to reason. If you can reconnect your partner with this natural ability, it may be a life changer for him. It'll definitely challenge his mum.

Through the super natural ability of questioning, we raise our self-esteem.