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Nkem Says: When His Mom is the 3rd Person in the Relationship

Nkem Ndem



The first time I met the parent of someone I was amorous with (I’ll call him Chuka) was when I was about 16. By amorous I mean holding hands, sometimes hugging and just spending time together laughing and talking – I grew up in a very religious setting where dating was considered a gateway to hell for teenagers.

My love at the time, who was our choir director as well, had invited me to go with him to the tailor making our choir robes so that I could model the sample that the tailor had made. But on our way to the tailor’s however, Chuka told me that the tailor had earlier called to inform him that he would instead deliver the robe to his house and we’d have to go to his house instead. Instantly, I got upset asking why he didn’t tell me before we set out. I told him I couldn’t go to his house on a Saturday, as his parents would be around, and I did not need that kind of pressure. Chuka quickly pacified me, letting me know his parents were out for a wedding and it would just be the two of us in the house.

True to his words, his parents were not at home. But as the tailor left and I was still prancing about in the robe, refusing to go change as I felt it was too pretty a robe, guess who walked in? His mother! We didn’t hear the gate open or the car drive in. I swear, it was like one of those moments on Zee TV shows where something dramatic happens and the camera man pans the camera to focus on everyone’s face at intervals, with a ghen-ghen sound track playing in the background. “What is going n here?”  She asked Chuka. She went on to lecture me on how I should not have visited when it would just be Chuka and I in the house, as people might assume we were doing sinful things. And while I could see her admonishment was from a good place, I was scarred for life. I mean, his mom and I eventually became very chummy, but the initial encounter with her made me eternally wary of people’s parents, especially when I am dating them.

In all my wariness of people’s parents though, I never imagined that there could be an even bigger problem with a date’s parents than just meeting them. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I have never really dated a man with an inordinately close relationship with his parents or anything remotely related. I have heard of mommy’s boys and of people who need their parent’s permission for everything (even after they are married), but nothing ever prepared me for my cousin’s ordeal…which she finally narrated to me in detail this morning.  She explained to me why she broke off her engagement with her boyfriend of two years. In her own words: “I cannot live the rest of my life married to him and his mother. That future is not for me biko.”

As an only child, she understood the bond her ex-fiancée had with his mother and was ready to accept the dynamics of their mother-son relationship. She was prepared to live with the fact that the boyfriend will forever love his mother more than he loved her. But, certain incidents occurred while planning their wedding that made her realize their relationship was indeed inappropriate and unbearable. According to her, it started with picking out an apartment they would move into after marriage. The dude’s mother had insisted that he would not move out of the house he was living in with her already as that would be a waste of money. Instead the house will be redecorated to include a room for her (my cousin) after marriage. Meaning she won’t even be sharing a room with the husband in the said family house. Again, that they would have to have their traditional wedding in Lagos, as she could not travel to the east more than once (They had already done the Iku Aka in the east) …and the son was just agreeing to it all, not asking her opinion. Perhaps the worst was when the mother insisted that her pastor had told her that my cousin had to be baptized before the wedding, otherwise it would bring them bad luck. Her fiance actually fought with her for not letting him know she had not being baptized before…without even asking her to confirm first.

Basically, the incidents revealed to my cousin that her ex-fiancé was indeed a pseudo-husband to his mom, ergo him prioritizing his commitments to his mom over his commitments to her. And worse, his ex-fiancé’s need for his mother’s approval and his dependency gave her room to be involved in different aspects of their relationship, something that would clearly never change – he will always side with his mother, if there are any disagreements or criticisms.

As I listened to her, I felt a new kind of phobia start to build up inside of me. How did she not pick this up in 2 years, before the wedding wahala? Does this mean I must now avoid men who are close to their mothers or face the frustrations my cousin has had to deal with otherwise? Is there a chance a relationship can survive when a man’s mother is the third person in the relationship?

Please help me! Share your thoughts.

Nkem Ndem is a dynamic freelance writer and editor who can be reached for copywriting, editing and proofreading. She is also a content creator (web, T.V, radio) who has had stints with Jumia and SpiceTV Africa e.t.c. Now she works at Glam Africa as Online editor and BellaNaija as Features writer. E-mail: [email protected]; IG: @kem_dem; Twitter: @ndemv


  1. Neki moyo

    July 16, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    Well, I have seen instances like this around me and most of these people actually ignored the signs they saw thinking that when they finally get married to the man in question they would unleash him from his mother’s grip and you would hear their daughters say”I can’t marry a man whose mother is alive because of what their mother is/has faced in the hands of their mother in-law..The question one should ask is “can I take this my whole life in marriage”.Now,its different in a lot of cases,At least nkem, your cousins didn’t get to marry him.The relationship a man has with his mother would reflect a lot when this man is in a relationship with a the degree of her influence on him would also reflect as well.A man should know when to draw the line between his mother and his finance.

  2. Chibaby

    July 16, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    I had this conversation with a friend weeks ago, and i came to the conclusion, that the problem is in fact, the MAN.
    Women are territorial by nature and are naturally not wired to enjoy sharing their territories. It is the job of the man to effectively and maturely manage the relationship between his mother and his significant other. Mothers can be overly attached when it comes to their sons. And it is you the man, that should, expressly or implicitly, decide the extent of your mother’s involvement in your marital affairs.
    What happens in the African society is that most men choose to turn a blind eye, because they cannot imagine confronting their precious mothers, and poor women are left to contend with mothers.
    As an adult, you know your parents better, and thus, you are in a better position to manage them. Not abandon your ‘small girl’ girlfriend or wife at their mercy.
    It will forever be part of my criteria for finding a spouse, that i need one who can manage the relationship between his mother and I.
    it should have to be a case of choosing Mother Versus Wife.
    Any man that cannot open his mouth and confront his family, is simply a child and lacks the emotional maturity to become a good husband.

    • nene

      July 17, 2018 at 1:29 am

      Just to correct something you said, errrm men are more territorial than women ohh, i woman can marry a man that her friend has slept with but a man cannot, he wants to know she at least has not been passed around.

  3. Coral

    July 16, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    She was prepared to accept that her fiancé would love his mother more than her? What? Why, in the name of all that is good would a woman accept something like that? She did good to break it off. Some women still marry such men and end up miserable in marriage.

    A wife/husband comes before a mother or parents. No matter how attached a person is to their parents, their spouse takes the priority once they are married. If a person, especially a man, cannot leave and cleave, they have no business getting married.

    Let us not turn this beautiful institution called marriage into something God didn’t make it to be. It is bad enough right now, what we see happening. God made it to be beautiful, if only we would just do things His way.

  4. Cocoa

    July 16, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    I couldn’t get past “Instead the house will be redecorated to include a room for her (my cousin) after marriage. Meaning she won’t even be sharing a room with the husband in the said family house”

    And when i thought it couldn’t get worse…” no baptism =bad luck” came along.

    Goodluck to whoever marries THEM.

    p.s: As a come before his mother. You are his new family. You are his God given priority immediately after his Maker. Its not about loving either one more…its about where your responsibility lies.

    But girrrrl 2 years to figure all this out??? Im glad youre out…but please the next one….ASK QUESTIONS EARLY. Play out scenarios and ask them what they will do/think. You can decipher a lot just from the mind.

  5. See

    July 16, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    Well, I applaud your cousin’s courage for recognizing that she couldn’t possibly cope with and walking away from it. A situation whereby a man’s mother declares he cannot rent an apartment in order to start his own household is an absolute deal-breaker for many people (including myself), especially if you were not socialized that way. A new wife cannot come and kill herself with ‘eye service’ by day and by night. (No disrespect to people who find this to be a normal way of life is intended).

    For a relationship to survive with a man’s mother as a third leg? Possible, with wisdom and immense patience that can only come from above.

  6. Hmmm

    July 17, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Culture is a funny thing though.

    In India, it’s expected that when a woman gets married, she and her husband moves in with his family. No joke. It’s the norm. I spoke to an indian colleague about it and according to her, most see it as no big deal. It’s their culture.

    Can i do it? With the stories i hear about in-laws who cause problems without even living with the couple? Hell no!

  7. Adeleke

    July 17, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Well after experiencing an ugly debacle between my mother and my wife, I basically grew some cojones and drew the line. Made it clear to my mom that my wife and kids are my priority. You cannot come over like you wish and if you wanna come over, even to New York for a cup of coffee, check with me first. I do not let my mom talk to my wife and kids anyhow or anytime and even if she can clearly hear them in the background, I tell her, ‘won wa’ (they are fine). I wasn’t even particularly close to my mom growing up but her attitude when I got married shocked the shit out of me. Woman, I am not your husband, if pops don’t got time for, go do some knitting. MILs can be vile sometimes and I experienced it bad. My wife is #1 and I will never slip up from protecting her from my mom ever again.

  8. Only Child Palaver

    July 17, 2018 at 11:28 am

    I think it is easier to walk away from that kind of relationship if the signs were there before marriage, but how about if your husband does a 360 degree change and starts siding with his mother after marriage?

    My husband is an only child of a single mother. Being an only child is one trouble, now being an only child of a single mother who has no husband or is not in a relationship is double trouble. My husband had a cordial relationship with his mother, all through our 3 years of dating there was NO SIGN of him being extra attached to his mother, he exercised an independent sense of judgment. A plus for me was we did not reside in the same town, she would have to fly down or travel 8 hours by road. I didn’t see what the problem was even though everyone warned me.

    Alas, 2 months after the wedding, the situation changed. She wanted to redecorate my home, she wanted things done her way, she would call me from her house to ask if I have replaced the blinds or re-arranged the chairs in MY OWN HOME as she suggested during her last visit. I ignored her and expressed my displeasure to her son. At my sister’s wedding, she did not like the dress I wore, she insisted I have a change of outfit, I refused. When my son was 7 weeks old, she came visiting supposedly to help with the baby but as always came with a lot of trouble, She rearranged the guest room, complained about the location of my son’s room, complained about the way my son’s room was arranged and the painting and said “If I were here when this nursery was being set up, I would never have allowed this room to be xxx’s room. ” I was shocked but I Kept my cool. I complained to my husband that I felt his mum was interfering with our decision making and wasn’t maintaining boundaries, my husband complained I was not tolerant of his mother. Lmao.

    My husband and I agreed we would not receive visitors until our infant was immunized, I refused to receive visitors or go out but my mother-in-law invited guests over and allowed them to carry our baby. My husband was poppy eyed and could not say anything. A series of other events followed and I finally had enough.

    I moved out of the house for him and his mother and when they realised I wasn’t coming back, the mother had to leave. I came back only on one condition, she is NEVER to return to my home without my consent. He can’t marry his mother and me together, he has to decide what is most important.

    If a man knows he cannot manage his extended family, keep them away from your nuclear family. If you don’t step in, your wife will and you won’t like the consequences.

    • Adeleke

      July 17, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      You be Iron lady, Nuff respect

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