My Husband’s Sick Mom is Destroying Our Marriage. What Should I Do?


Dear Dr. Buckingham,

My husband and I have been married for five years. Recently, I left our home that we have shared for the last seven years. His mother is living there now that she is ill, but she has been saying hurtful things to me which caused me to leave for the last month. My husband allowed her to say those things to me and never said anything about it. This has happened on more than one occasion. I have thought about going back to make the marriage work. I am told that I am crazy to go back to that. Honestly, when my husband’s mother wasn’t there, we had good times. My Husband’s ill Mother is Destroying our Marriage. What Should I Do?

Sad Wife,

Ask Dr. Buckingham

Dear Sad Wife,

I would like to begin by saying that a son-mother relationship is very complex. For most boys, their mothers are their first love. The term “Mama’s Boy” was derived from the perceived notion that some men are incapable of living their lives outside of their mother’s control or influence. Unfortunately, I have interacted with a larger percentage of black men who struggle with balancing respect and love between their wives and their mothers.

I believe this occurs because 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock and their single mothers raise most of them. Also, a man who lacks respect for his wife and the ability to honor her has not been properly educated or trained from a Biblical perspective. Ephesians 5:25 states, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave his life for her” and Genesis 2:24 states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Express empathy and sympathy and let him know that you need him just as much as his mother

I believe that your husband could benefit from both some secular and spiritual counseling. Secular counseling could help him deal with his mother’s illness and marital challenges. Spiritual counseling could help him learn how to place you at the center of his life. I believe that you should speak with your husband about seeking both.

Also, I would encourage you not to compare yourself to his mother. As I mentioned, a boy’s first love is his mother, and learning how to love another woman without taking away from that relationship can be challenging. Instead of comparing yourself to his mother, try to see his relationship with her through his lens.

The most effective way to bond with someone is to express forgiveness and understanding. He might not know how to confront his mother and feels trapped. If you want him to put you first, you have to put him first. Although the Bible tells us that man and woman become one flesh after marriage, many still believe that blood is thicker than water. Express empathy and sympathy and let him know that you need him just as much as his mother; but do not compare or nag him. I repeat…do not compare or nag him.

I am not sure if you had a good relationship with your husband’s mother prior to her illness, but if you did not please, be mindful that emotional or physical distress typically intensifies negative relationships. Also, do not let anyone tell you that you are crazy for wanting to fight for your marriage. If you want to save your marriage from being destroyed, please get some professional help. I agree that you do not deserve to be emotionally abused by your husband’s mother, but I do not believe that you should throw in the towel without getting help. A family therapist can help you all work through adversity and restore peace and harmony.

Best regards,

Dr. Buckingham

If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to askdrbuckingham@gmail.com

Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.

About the author

Dwayne Buckingham wrote 178 articles on this blog.

Dr. Dwayne L. Buckingham, author of Qualified, yet Single: Why Good Men Remain Single and Unconditional Love: What Every Woman and Man Desires in a Relationship, is a highly acclaimed international clinical psychotherapist, life coach, relationship and resiliency expert, motivational speaker and corporate consultant. He is also the President and Chief Executive Officer of R.E.A.L. Horizons Consulting Service, located in Silver Spring, Maryland. To learn more about Dr. Dwayne L. Buckingham visit his website at www.DrBuckingham.com.

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