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 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

She Says: He is always taking his mother’s side

Alex always takes his mother's side, not mine. I think we should present a united front.

He Says: She’s overreacting, but Mom is smart.

Brittany is overreacting – I don't always take Mom's side. But she is super smart and knows a lot.

Do you ever wonder why there are more jokes about nagging mothers-in-law than fathers-in-law? To their credit, moms do tend to bond more closely to their children. But that bonding sometimes takes on unhealthy forms, which can fester over time and eventually become toxic. If a child with such a mom (or dad) eventually marries, problems are sure to arise.

When two people marry, they become “one” in a way entirely different from, and superior to, any other relationship, including those with their best friends and parents. In other words, Alex, it’s entirely beside the point whether your mother is “super smart.” You are, first and foremost, “one” with Brittany in a way that you are not, cannot be, and in fact never were with your mom.

This means, for all three of you, no longer framing your marriage in terms of Alex “taking sides” with anyone, even Brittany. The proper frame of mind for Alex is, “Brittany and I are one. If we need to, we (note: not “I”) might ask for advice from others, including my mom, but in the end Brittany and I will decide for ourselves. I want to have a happy and healthy relationship with my mom, but a harmonious relationship with Brittany will always be my priority. If that means telling Mom to back off, I will.”

Brittany’s corresponding mindset would be, “Alex and I are one. I’m open to listening to his mom. After all, Proverbs 19:20 says, ‘Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.’ Still, for the sake of my marriage, I’m not going to allow her to cause division between me and Alex. If I think this is happening, I will bring it up with Alex, lovingly and privately. If it’s necessary I will also bring it up with her, but only if he won’t do it.”

Will Alex’s mom get it and back off? If she truly is “super smart,” she will. But if there’s an established sick pattern of relating, she may need to be corrected or ignored, even repeatedly, before everyone involved relearns a newer, healthier pattern.