I don’t want to help (or hang out with) his mother

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Hi Meredith,

I've been in a relationship for the past four years and I'm completely in love with my boyfriend. I'm happy, and I can envision us getting married eventually.

He and I were raised very differently; I grew up in a city with both my parents, and he grew up in the country with divorced parents. The first time I met his mom where he lives was four years ago. They weren't in a great place in their relationship, and I left with a negative impression of her.

Throughout our relationship, we've had the same fight: his mom has expected him to go to their rural/farmland property an hour away to do manual labor as often as she asks him, and I get upset because I feel alone. I avoid going there because it is not feasible for me to perform the work that she asks of him. When he goes out there, she asks him where I am and essentially communicates that she expects me to be there. I'm also deeply uncomfortable with her radical politics and I don't have much in common with her.

My boyfriend feels like he is stuck in the middle of us. I just want to feel like he and I are on the same team. I get along great with the rest of his family, but this fight seems to be a difference we can't overcome. I don't want this dynamic to be what keeps us from eventually getting married.

– Love, Apprehensive


Boundaries are great. If you don't want to do manual labor on his mother's property, you don't have to.

Would it help to be nice to his mom during a holiday dinner or two? Sure. There's compromise here, and it doesn't have to be yard work or a significant amount of quality time.

Here are a few questions for the two of you to consider:

1. Can he deal with the fact that his mom might not like you? She doesn't approve of you skipping these visits. She doesn't share your life philosophies. She might eventually say to him, "Why her?" It'll help if he's knows how to answer that kind of question.

2. What would change these obligations? Children? Projects at your own house? For now, he's making time to do work on his mom's property, but will this last forever? Can he do less? If you're going to grow your life together, there might be more to do for yourselves. Has he thought about who could help her if he can't make it there?

3. Can you accept that this might be a great way for him to show love and get quality time with a parent, without having to talk politics – or about you? I've become closer to my dad over the past few years, after not talking to him for a long time. We reconnected in 2021 while he fixed my broken closet door and helped me deal with some heavy stuff in my basement. Then we watched "The Mandalorian" – a solid father-daughter thing to do. The housework gave us a way to bond without having to figure out what had complicated things for us. I don't know your boyfriend, obviously, but maybe that's one of the reasons he goes. If the work gives him a way to connect to his mom, it might be important to him, at least for now. Ask about that.

4. Is there something you can do while he's there, to feel less lonely? Does it feel as bad when he ditches you for someone you like? How do you want to spend this kind of time?

These questions might not be perfect, but please use them as a jumping off point for conversation. Hopefully you'll figure out what the visits mean, and how they can feel better to both of you.

– Meredith

Readers? Thoughts about the mother's expectations? Thoughts about how the LW can navigate this? What about the future when there might be more things to do at home?