Stepping over the Line?? or Is It Just Me??

Updated on October 29, 2011
K.C. asks from Saint Charles, MO
16 answers

Alright guys!! I have a question to ask you guys because I desperately need an outside opinion!! My boyfriend and I have been together for 7 years and I generally get along well with his family ( We are not married because we r only 23 and 24 and feel we are too young) His mother had him when she was 17 and was definitly not the kind of mother I want to be. She drank all the time left her son with horrible baby sitters who would throw parties and have drugs around while they were gone... Needless to say he had a rough childhood...Well now I feel like her insecurities are coming through and she is trying to raise my child!!! Which is not happening!! I had my boyfriend have one talk with her already telling her she was kind of over stepping her boundries!! One example, On the day I was having my son she threw A huge fit because my mother was in the delivery room and she wasn't... She said it wasn't fair. Which I can understand her feeling left out but this women has never tried to form a close relationship with me and I have never wanted to because I love her son so much and I see how horrible she treats...Well now she is just being manipulative in a different way!! Everything I say in front of her regarding stuff I want to do for my son she has to get it for him first!! Couple examples... On the day of his first birthday I only wanted to get him a cupcake because I had already paid for a cake for his party that following Sunday. I said this in front of my bf's mom and what do ya know she buys a freaking cake for him!!! Call me crazy but my family is really big on special moments and I am his mom I wanted to buy him his first cake and have him dive into it!! I LOST it on my boyfriend!! Poor guy!! I was so upset though!! But my son ended up being really grumpy and didn't even touch the cake anyway... 2nd example about a week ago I said to her I want to get Michael a v tech laptop for Christmas because I had one when I was young and loved it thinking that maybe if I was very clear no one would go and buy him one... Well 4 days ago my sons great grandma came over which is my bf's moms mom. She says guess what I got Michael and I say what she goes a laptop!!! I wanted to SCREAM!!! I mean really?? Its like they work in a team to try and make me mad!! I have just never had people be so invasive before!! What do u guys think? Am I over reacting or are these women trying to get to me?

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So What Happened?

I know I haven't given everyone enough information so I am gonna try and explain things better trying to keep it short but here it goes lol....
Peg M.-I really don't believe I have boundary issues per say LOL My family is just HUGE on memories!! I take video of every moment of his life and pictures as well. So getting him certain things and special moments are just kind of my thing. Not necessarily a boundary thing just something that really make me happy : )

Susan B.- I am pretty angry with my boyfriends mother because of the way she treated him and still treats him. She can NEVER be happy for him. For example my parents gave bought us a new laptop becuase I needed a new one for school as my boyfriend did to. They couldn't be happy for us. Also when we lived with them and I was pregnant I would go upstairs and eat some food. I mean after all we did live there and pay half the rent and bills and she put a note on the pantry saying "DONT EAT OUR FOOD"!! I was shocked and from then on out bought my own food but geez!! I had no idea someone would do that!! Also right after me son was born we we're still living with them and he was 5 days old and she threw and party like people drunk everywhere SMOKING IN the house!! I had to leave with my son because she could have cared less!! Also I may not have been specific on my question but I did say I WANT to buy it!!

Dawn B- I love u and you advice is amazing!! : )

And about the whole marriage thing.. There is way to much divorce in this country and I don't think a piece of paper makes us a united front. Its fine for everyone else but We are just not sure if marriage will be the route we go and if it is it will not be many for years or at least until we finish school. Just doesn't seem like that big of a priority right now : ) We've been together for 7 years so I think thats good enough!!

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answers from Seattle on

My husband grew up in much the same family.

One of the MAJOR things I have learned about him/them



Sounds strange, but the way they function is via manipulation. So if someone says "I'm thinking of getting/doing _____." what they HEAR is "Will YOU get/do ____?"

If someone says "I'm so tired from all the running around" what they HEAR is "Will you fix this problem for me?"

They DO NOT ask each other ANYTHING straight out. It's always beating around the bush, hinting, implying, manipulating.

I cannot tell you how many fights I've gotten myself into from the SIMPLEST of 'honest' things.

I say "I'm tired, today was a hard day."

My husband screams "Well I can't quit my job!"

Blink. Blink. Say What??? Because that's how his family operates. You don't tell anyone anything unless you're trying to get them to do something for you.

My strong suspicion from dealing with my husband and his family is that you say "We're not having a cake on his bday, we're waiting for the party, so we're just going to have cupcakes" and they HEAR "We WANT a cake for his actual bday, but can only afford cupcakes, will YOU go get us a cake???" YOU say "I want to get him a vtech" THEY HEAR "Will you get him a vtech?"

5 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Joseph on

I can sympathize a bit. When my oldest was about a year old, I was soooooo excited to buy him his first winter coat. I had the day planned and was really looking forward to it, I had told my husband about it and everything. The night before I was going to buy it I was picking my son up from my in-laws and my MIL said, "Oh here, look at the coat I bought for I__". I was livid, I didnt go off or anything, I simply told her that she didnt need to buy it because I had already planned on buying one for him. I did tell my husband how mad and upset it made me. She had even told him, AFTER I had told her that I was buying one and was excited about it, that she was going to buy one and he didnt even tell her no. It's not like my oldest son was her first grandchild, he was the 5th grandchild. I understand how upset you are. Unfortunately there is not much you can do. I do like the advice that says to just say you are going to get him something different so that way they dont rip the carpet out from under you. Or maybe just dont tell them anything at all. Whole situation sucks I know!

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answers from Dover on

I understand. This is your first child and YOU want to do it. That's perfectly normal. Maybe your boyfriend's mom sees this as her opportunity to "do it right" since she bungled her first chance with her son. Sadly, it's a first for her, too. :(

The easiest thing to do is stop telling them anything. Or misdirect with another thing you would like for him to have outside of what you are getting him. Or say, "Oh, I'm so sorry you went to that trouble, but I already have one put away for him. Why don't you take it back and get him......"

They aren't trying to make you mad or steal your thunder, in fact they aren't thinking of you at all, which can be just as bad. So you are going to have to keep your lips closed or misguide them a little.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Here's a little advice for you for a happier life. I hope that you can be objective enough to hear it.

TRY to love her because you love your boyfriend. Being kind to her does not imply that you blindly obey or accept everything about her.

TRY to let the past in the past. Yes...she made some poor choices in the past...are these choices continuing now? You can't crucify her for the sins of her past. If your BF is still resentful, he can get counseling to get past it.

TRY now to sweat the little things--you wanted a cupcake, she bought a cake. Who cares? SHE was thoughtful enough & generous enough to buy him a cake. How is that a bad thing?

TRY not to get crazy over the "first time" stuff. She's also his grandmother, and might like to get a few "firsts" as well. Is that SO bad? If it's all done with love for the child--it shouldn't make you that angry. Think of it as an expression of love for him--not a slap in YOUR face.

NEVER out your BF in the middle. He cannot control what his mom does. You should never make him feel like he's "choosing sides" because he should never have to choose! Establish boundaries? Yes. Choose? No.

Now as for the laptop thing---either let it go and return O. after Christmas, or tell her that the laptop is the larger gift YOU planned on buying him and perhaps she could exchange hers. (Maybe what she 'heard' was that you wanted him to have O....?)

Be polite, be respectful, take the high road and be the better person.

It's going to be a long life if you nit-pick EVERY single issue and treat them as personal attacks.

Good luck!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

She wants to be involved in the life of her grandson. Many she is trying to make amends about how she treated your boyfriend when he was little. How does he feel about his relationship with his mother? I think you might be angrier at her for treating him badly than he is. Please explain to her that you are not in competition with her for the love of your son. You are his mother and you have the mom role. Explain that there are MOM moments - first cake, first haircut that you want to cherish. I don't think you are communicating effectively - when I read your statement about wanting to buy a v tech computer, i did not think you were very clear. I thought you were sending a message that you wanted a computer for him because you had one when you were a child. It didn't say (and you may have verbalized it) I WANT TO PURCHASE a computer for my son. I took it to mean you wanted him to be able to have one. So Great grandma buys one for him and you are upset. I think you are overreacting a little--you need to set boundaries but allow them to participate in his life and purchase things for him. How about making a wish list that you or your BF could share for suggestions.
Also, you didn't ask, but you are old enough to be married. You have a one year old child and it will be far easier to build a united front if you are married.

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answers from Rochester on

Appreciate what they do, use your money to buy him something else when they buy him something. Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

There are other ways to look at it. How about, she has one at her house and you have one at yours? My grandson was given a lavish birthday party by some people that are probably going to become his grandparents. They will be his STEP grandparents until or unless the guy adopts my grandson. Yeah, I was bummed that they could do more for him than I could. I could not even get away to my grandsons other party. So the kid has 2 birthday parties and I was not at either one. Who's fault is it? MINE. I'm the one that started this business that takes so much of my time. I'm GLAD my grandson has these people in his life. Why would I want less for him so that I could take first place in his life? He has a lot of people in his life and I'm just one memaw that he has.

You can NOT tell people what they are allowed to buy him and so who cares who buys his birthday cake? Your job should be to work with the people in his life, not against them.

As far as the way she has been in the past, it's the past. Allow her to grow and become a better person. If you beat her over the head with every bad thing she ever did, then she's not going to have much of a chance of coming up higher. The only person that will lose in this struggle is your son.

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answers from Sioux City on

What if they are genuinely trying to be nice. I'll give you it's a bit annoying but if they are as dysfunctional as you say. You are assuming that they have had the experiences you have and can understand where you are coming from, but you yourself say they don't have the skills. I tend to believe that your boyfriend's mother was not sitting there thinking, "Man I got her good! I bought that baby a cake!" I also would most likely believe that the older ladies overheard you saying that you would like to get him a v tech laptop and thought they would help you out. I would give them the benefit of the doubt.

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answers from Portland on

The women you are describing sound to me like they have lived confused, chaotic lives themselves and simply do not understand limits or 'normal' family interactions. My mom was raised in a certain degree of havoc – a dad who had to go into hiding over gambling debts, the Great Depression and her mom having to scramble for odd jobs to feed her children, and much more.

My mom grew up with some very strange ideas of her own about how not to let her family go the same route, and created a whole new layer of dysfunction for me and my 3 sisters. So by the time I married, I was pretty sure I wouldn't have kids. I knew that I didn't understand 'normal,' and was afraid I'd bequeath chaos and confusion on another generation.

I did eventually have a daughter after doing some serious work on my dysfunctions. My mother adored my daughter and tried, in her infuriating ways, to be her mamma. I gradually realized this was her way of trying to make up for the ways she failed me. It was a crappy approach, though, because neither she nor I had healthy boundaries – neither of us had ever seen healthy boundaries.

I'm guessing that your MIL and her mom may be in the same fix. They may simply not know where they end and your son begins. They may be trying, with their excessive gifting, to atone for the past your boyfriend had. At their ages, change will be hard, especially if you are not clear yourself about your own boundaries.

It sounds like you recognize the need, and are infuriated by the lack. But I wonder, K., whether you chose your boyfriend, in part, because of unconscious boundary issues of your own. It's all too true that many women, especially in their younger relationships, seek unknowingly to replicate some family dynamics from their own childhoods, because that's what they know. (I did that with my first husband, and suffered hell for it for 15 years by the time we divorced.)

I doubt that this will sound very satisfying to you, but I would suggest two things – work on your own boundary issues. Find out what they are, how they became part of your life, and learn new ways to set limits for yourself and those around you. It's not easy, but there are some excellent self-help books, counseling, and even Al-Anon groups have been helpful for a couple of acquaintances of mine who could not afford counseling. Al-Anon is really big on forming healthy boundaries.

And until you get that sorted out, do your best to understand that these women are struggling with their own regrets about the past, and desires and hopes for a better tomorrow. In their eyes and hearts, your son may well be a fresh chance to make good. They probably can't see how exasperating this is for you, or understand why you react as strongly as you do (which could be a reflection of your own unresolved boundary issues). Their intentions are probably generous, as are yours in wanting to give those gifts yourself.

Finally, since you know what these women will do if they hear your plans, stop talking about your plans to them!

I could be totally off-base here, because I'm reflecting on what these issues would be about if I were you. But if any of this sounds like a good fit, you at least have a starting point. Blessings.

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answers from Dallas on

I don't know that they are trying to "get you", but it does sound like they are stepping over the bounds a bit and trying to "out shine" or "out do" you. If your bf has failed to get through to his family and you see no end in sight, stop sharing things with them. Don't mention things you want to do or get for your child. It's just planting a seed for them.

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answers from Detroit on

I don't know if they are purposely trying to get to you, or if they are just clueless. If your boyfriend's mother was such a horrible mother when he was growing up, and this is how she acts now, she may have 1) Serious mental issues/a personality disorder that keep her from understanding what is appropriate and what is not or... 2) The sense that she messed up with her kids and she is somehow trying to make it up with her grandkids or...3) Both.

The thing is, if you say something, in a non-attacking kind of way, how do you think they will react? Will they be apologetic and remorseful, or will they get defensive and think you are the one who is over-reacting?

Maybe the thing to say to your boyfriend's mom and grandmom would be, "Ya know, I really was looking forward to being the one who got my son the laptop and I feel that by you doing so, it's going behind my back and undermining my position as his mother. Same thing with the cake. The next time you are thinking of doing something like this, I would really appreciate it if you would check with me first, and respect my wishes." Your boyfriend may have to have repeated talks with her too - learning to respect boundaries, if she never has had to before, doesn't happen after just one discussion. And I would not let them know anything you have planned, just so they can't decide to do it themselves.

ETA: If you are old enough to have a child together, you are old enough to be married. Making that commitment might make you guys appear to be more of a united front, so when your boyfriend goes to bat for you to his family, "my wife" might carry a bit more weight. It's all part of the growing up process. No judging, just a thought.

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answers from Phoenix on

Sounds like she is trying to overcompensate for being a crappy mom. Which is fine, but there is a time & a place.

While you can't control her, you can control what you say & do, and who you say it & do it around. What I'm saying, is, keep conversations very generic when she's around, so she doesn't have the chance to swoop in & steal your thunder. You don't talk about gifts, or plans, or whatever else that's not her business when she is in your presence.

Have you, yourself, tried reasoning/having a heart to heart with her? While I understand your dislike of her because of how she treated her son/your boyfriend, it would be in everyone's best interest for all of you to learn how to co-exist as peacefully as possible. This may just be who she is, and the sooner you learn how to not let her get to you, the better.

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answers from San Francisco on

Yes and no. like others they too are trying to "make-up" and may not know how or where even what, so yes they "steal' your idea. I agree if you want to be the one, misdirection is best and less chance of back fire ex: If you go silent on them then they will see it as exclusion and will poke,pry manipulate till they know..Turn the tables without them even knowing and keep a grin on your face! I come from a very open & nosey family that loves to gossip. Before I got married and had kids I was right there with them. I also believe in Karma. I found myself on the otherside for a while. It was hard recover when all your trash "which you are trying to deny is spread out for everyone too see, hear or comment on.

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answers from New York on

I think you need to change the way you're looking at this and approach it from a different angle. Does it really matter who purchased a cake? NO. Does it matter who purchased the toy? NO What matters is your son is lucky to have several people in his life who love him and are in a financial position to give him these items.

Also, the way you describe the situation with the v-tech is not clear. Did you say "I know Chistmas is right around the corner, I'm going to purchase a v-tech." The way you describe it seems like you may have been hinting that's what Michael would like and it would make a good gift.

It may be possible that she is trying to make up for the mistakes she made with her son. It's also possible that she's just acting like a normal grandmother wanting to spoil her grandchild. Probably a bit of both.

You said you don't want a close relationship with her. Therefore, I think you need to keep your distance from her. That doesn't mean, don't speak to her. Be friendly when necessary, and visit and see her when necessary. It's your boyfriend's mom, let him deal with her and let him take his son over to her house for visits.



answers from Dallas on

From an out-sider, I'd say over-reacting. It sounds like these are nice things they do for your son & you see it as them trying to out-do you. But maybe they ARE trying to over-step... there are people out there like that. Test the situation. A person can't over-step a boundary that hasn't been set. So, tell her "I want to get my son a _________ for christmas. I am telling you because it is important to me, and I wanted to make sure no one else gets it, because I really want to get it for him" If she gets it anyway....she's doing this on purpose. If she respects your wishes, you need to realize that she is not out to get you and you have been over-scrutenizing every step she makes, including her trying to be genuinely nice.

Step 2: FIX THIS! sounds like this is a "forever thing", so make your relationship with her one you can handle. If it turns out you're right. Then non-argumentitavely tell her she has hurt you with A, B & C and you want to mend things so she no longer feels the need to do hurtful things to you. Then quit giving her ammunition. If you know she does things like this on purpose, make your family life, plans for gifts, etc. a need-to-know basis... and she doesn't need to know. Then, stop assuming everything she does is in spite of you, and give her the benefit of the doubt. Even if she is, you dont have to stress or give her the satisfaction of stressing if you dont acknowledge her bad behavior.

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