By Ella Burakowski
Michelle and I have been together for a long time. We’ve discussed marriage and at this point, we just assume we will always be together, but I can’t bring myself to pop the question just yet.
Michelle is very close to her family as I am with mine, but there is a big difference: she shares everything with them. Last week, her mom approached me to discuss an intimate, private problem that should have stayed between us. This was very personal, and my girlfriend metaphorically brought her mother into our bed.
I have spoken to Michelle at great length about her unhealthy dependence on her parents and how it’s time for her to distance herself from them if she wants to move on with a new family of her own. She disagrees with me and feels I don’t understand because I don’t come from a close family. She says you can’t have too much love. In fact, I do come from a close family. It’s just that we don’t speak to or see each other every day, and I choose to solve my problems without my parents’ intervention.
As far as I’m concerned, the relationship she has with her family is unhealthy, and last week it became embarrassing. Do I give her an ultimatum to choose them or me? I don’t know what to do.
Cut the Cord
Dear Cut the Cord,
It’s very important to feel loved and to have a close bond with family. However, at some point, there needs to be a natural break. It’s not unusual for a child of overprotective parents to have a difficult time separating. It’s possible that Michelle is having a hard time letting go because her parents have always helped solve her problems. The fact that her mother approached you about something so private between the two of you is proof of that. She should have advised her daughter to work it out with you, rather than take over and try to fix things for her little girl.
You have to make Michelle feel secure enough to trust that together you can solve your own problems. Right now, you’re like the outsider trying to break in to a sealed bond that has had a lifetime to strengthen. It’s up to you to turn the tables. For a relationship to be healthy, there needs to be trust, communication and boundaries.
Did you discuss the inappropriateness of her approaching her mother with such a personal problem? Did you communicate to her how it made you feel? You need to teach Michelle to trust that together you can work out your issues. As her husband-to-be, you’re entitled to verbalize your expectations and set boundaries. She needs to know that your loyalty to, and privacy with, each other must take priority. It’s the basic foundation for respecting the sanctity of your relationship.
Michelle has to know that she stepped over the line, but at the same time, you have to be patient while she works through this complicated relationship she has with her parents. You both have some serious work ahead, and you may benefit from some professional couples counselling. Only you can decide if you love her enough to help her through this.
Readers may submit their questions to Ella at The CJN, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. But Ella is not a professional counsellor. She brings to the questions posed by readers her unique brand of earthy wisdom. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.