The first time I went to my boyfriend’s parents’ house in Plainfield, New Jersey a lot of things were new to me. His Ecuadorian household was much different than my typical American one: I had to get accustomed to the food. The language. The aunts (there are so many tias!). But, most of all, I had to get used to my boyfriend’s relationship with his mother.
Max had never “brought a girl home” before—let alone one that was seven skin tones lighter and with some Jewish “umph” in her. Although we were extremely different, we had so much in common. We liked all the same things, and yet we had so much to teach each other, especially our family dynamics. Before the visit, I had understood Max was close to his mom, but I thought it was in the way that most sons are close to their moms. It didn’t take long to learn just how close they were.
I woke up one morning terribly ill. Embarrassed and unable to even walk myself to the bathroom, I had to have Max bring me a wastebasket for the bedside. He brought it and then told me he would see me later–his mom needed him to go with her to run errands for the day. Too sick to care and too shocked to really believe it, I didn’t say anything.
There were many other experiences like this, including the time he went with her to a hair appointment and made me tag along for the ride. I often found myself third-wheeling it with the two of them, as they chatted away in Spanish and I wondered what the hell they were laughing about. (This still happens.)
I slowly came to terms with the fact I was dating a “mama’s boy”—but that didn’t make it any easier. Even though Max and I have lived abroad, away from our families since he and I met at college in Connecticut, those short visits home or long phone calls made it clear: With me in the picture, Max’s mom lost her best friend. It was never said, but I felt it.
I wanted his mom to like me. I had to be good enough for him, but not so great that he’d want to spend more time with me than her. I felt bad, confused, and I felt angry. His mom was upset, but at nothing in particular. Max was in the middle. Fights happened even though nothing actually ever happened. Emotions were worn on sleeves. Conversations took place. Solutions arose. And the cycle continued.
Needless to say, dating a mama’s boy isn’t without its challenges, and it probably never will be. Yet, deep down I knew that there was something truly special about all of this. My own brother has a difficult relationship with our mother, and it was comforting to see such a strong bond and level of respect between Max and his mother, even if that meant my feelings were getting in the way.
There are aspects of this relationship that are incredibly difficult–as most women can probably relate to–but in the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t want it any other way. My boyfriend has learned discipline, respect, patience, empathy, consistency, the importance of family values, and most of all, how to be respectful to women. For all the difficult times I had with his mother, there were also times—before I met him—where she did what was needed to shape him into the man he is today.
Max is always there to help, even if it’s a struggle trying to accommodate both of us at the same time. I know, at the end of the day that this mama’s boy is going to continue to be a great partner—and it’s thanks to her.
As for me and his mother, for a long time I wasn’t sure what she thought of me. Between my broken Spanish and her limited English, our conversations were confined to smiles, waves, hugs, the occasional tag-team joke on Max, and uncomfortable silence when it was obvious that Max and I were having a disagreement discreetly, yet in front of her.
But, two years ago, when Max’s family came to visit us in South Korea, where we were living at the time, I finally learned the answer. As we said good-bye to everyone at the airport, with tears down her face, she turned to give me a hug and whispered in my ear, “Thank you for loving my son.”
And, that’s all I needed to hear.
Being in the middle of their relationship will never be easy, but all mothers want their children to be happy, even if it means things have to change.
At the end of the day, dating a mama’s boy isn’t so bad after all.