An email from a partner of an only

by on January 15, 2015

in Emails

I think it is always useful to receive emails from non-onlies who have partners who are onlies as it gives us an outsider perspective. This email, from “June”, shows some of the difficulties I have outlined in my series of posts entitled: Are only child adults difficult partners?  some of the aspects that can arise in relationships. In this email the balance of attention and power in partner relationships versus  parent ones are discussed and I would love to hear some view points from people in a similar position. Bernice

 I am the partner of an only child who has a very close relationship with his mother. She is divorced from his father and lives alone in another country. He moved away to live with his father (due to better schooling opportunities/ a scholarship) when he was 13 and I think he has felt guilty about this ever since. His mother re-married but her partner died a while ago and I think his feeling of responsibility towards her has continued to increase since then. Although she lives abroad she comes to stay with us for 2 to 3 weeks every few months and he calls her daily. He feels a huge responsibility for her and feels guilty often. I notice that he often puts her first – feeling guilty if he doesn’t spend every Christmas and New Year with her, calling her even when he’s tired and doesn’t feel like it, hardly speaking with his father because all the effort he takes with his mother means ‘he only has time for one parent’.

We have been together for 3 years and so far I have managed to be fairly tolerant and on the whole quite neutral and supportive – I do feel sorry for him he feels so responsible. I’d love some advice on how to help balance this relationship out though. I want him to be happier, not to feel guilty all the time and have a more balanced life – including spending time with his father and friends. I also worry what will happen when we have a family – his mother I know will want to be very involved. On the bright side it will be great to have her support but she can be quite opinionated/bossy- I’d like him to get better at introducing boundaries with her so it is not always me enforcing them!

We have also discussed her moving closer when she is older which I think it the right thing to do… but it will be difficult because she really does want to spend all her time with him. I can imagine her wanting to pop over all the time and be involved in everything we do. She already pays some of our rent so we can have a spare room for her to stay in when she visits.

He would never go to counselling and can be quite defensive when we discuss his mother. I don’t think he really recognises that the relationship he has with her is not normal – he thinks it’s all about circumstances (i.e. she’s alone and lives far way – which is partly the case but definitely not all). I’d love some advice on how I can help him recognise this and support him with dealing with it… in a non obvious/aggressive way! Can you suggest any books I can read or any methods, or could you do a blog post on this? Many thanks! June.

I will write a post but if others would like to contribute please do so below (past the adverts) Bernice


  • koko

    Reading your post made me realised I am very much like your
    husband. My parents live abroad and I am an only child in a long term relationship
    (with an only child!). I prioritise my parents (especially my mum). I spend all
    holidays with her, I talk to her on the phone every day. I understand your
    husband very much. I feel responsible for my parent’s happiness. I feel I need
    to talk to them otherwise my and their world will collapse. Reading your
    thoughts made me realise how difficult it might be for my partner. Scary to say
    but I do think my parents come first, before him or anything else. I would like
    to be able to focus on him but the guilt (or as I call it ‘love’) is too
    strong. I don’t want to remove them from my life. I don’t want to give them less
    time, though I dread thinking that I will have a family one day. How would I
    manage to focus on all those people? I am happy not to be engaged or even have
    talks about getting married. It freaks me out because it would mean I will not
    be able to give so much time to my mum. How would I manage everyday phone
    calls? Holidays? I am not sure what the best way forward is and I must say I
    feel for you so as I do for my partner now.

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