Making a relationship work can be difficult even when controlling mothers are not involved. Partners have a variety of issues that they must deal with, ranging from money to religious views to whether they want to have children and how to raise those children. If the couple is mature, healthy and reasonably compatible, they will, over time, find ways to work as a team to resolve their issues and use their differences in complementary ways.
But this entire process of seeking compatibility and building a sense of teamwork can be thwarted by controlling mothers of the partners.
We often hear about relationships where at least one of the partners has a controlling mother who pressures or even tries to force her child to choose a mate that she approves of and to go about relationships in the way she prefers. When her child is young, this may be somewhat appropriate. But when the child is now an adult and the parent continues to insist on her viewpoint, it can keep the person from maturing and forming a lasting adult relationship.
This leads to a very challenging situation. Children raised by controlling mothers have not had a chance to solidly form their own identities and assert their own wills. And as adults, when their mother is interfering in their relationship, this means that they are not skilled at standing up for themselves and setting the necessary boundaries.
However, this is what the adult child must do in order to protect their maturation process and allow a healthy adult relationship to emerge with a partner. Their partner may blame the interfering mother for ruining the relationship with her tactics. And to some extent this may be true. Not only is she now causing problems, but she set the situation up for problems with her years of overbearing behavior. But ultimately the adult child will have to be the one to finally choose to move toward his or her adult partner and separate reasonably from the parent.
When a parent has displayed a lifelong habit of violating the child's boundaries and imposing her views on her children, that pattern is unlikely to change unless she admits her own anxieties and takes responsibility for resolving them internally. Sadly, this very often does not happen. So as unfair as it may be, the adult child simply has to be the one to change the pattern.
The good news is that once the adult child moves toward his or her adult relationships and separates more and more from the overbearing parent, the situation has to change. It can not remain the same when one of the participants – the adult child – refuses to play the same role any longer. Many resources exist to help adult children take on this separation task and the help of a good therapist can also be instrumental. With commitment and work, adult children can separate from controlling mothers and develop healthier and more fulfilling relationships.