Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain, members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, have been married more than 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain, members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, have been married more than 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She says:

Myra says: My mom and I have always been close, more so, since my father had a heart attack and died suddenly when I was a teen. By then, my older brother, who was eight years older than me, had been away at college and gotten a job in Utah, so we rarely saw him. Mom and I bonding was based on grief recovery and learning how to live without Dad. She is very special and I always depended on her for emotional support.

When I met Jules, I knew if Mom did not like him I could not continue dating him. Jules is a very understanding individual. He is a great partner and I feel he completes me. He and I met at work. We went slowly at first, but our camaraderie at work and we being able to be in sync so much of the time led to our relationship deepening.

Early on in the dating process I took Jules to meet Mom, not only because I really felt like I was falling in love with Jules, but also for Mom’s approval. Mom liked Jules; she continues to be very fond of him. We married a little over a year ago. I thoroughly enjoy our being together, but I do still connect to my Mom on a regular basis every day.

He says:

Jules says: I immediately was drawn to Myra from the first day I saw her at work. It was almost too good to be true to start dating her. I knew she had a close connection to her mom because one of the first things Myra shared with me was her story about her dad’s sudden demise and the aftermath and turmoil that drew her and her mom even closer together, so I have always made an exception for the time they spend together. I realize how important that time is to both of them.


But, quite frankly, I was surprised how much time Myra spends with Mom on the phone, sometimes five to seven calls a day, some lasting an hour or more.

I see this as taking away our time together when, for instance, we sit down to enjoy a movie at home together and Mom calls and I won’t see Myra for the rest of the movie.

Mom also has influenced choices made for vacation destinations which were not my preference but were Mom’s choice for us. I have approached the subject of too much Mom time with Myra and she becomes very quiet and withdrawn from me, thus spending more time with Mom.

I really like my mother-in-law, but I wish she would take a step back and allow Myra and me to make our way, together, in our marriage without Myra depending so much on Mom’s decision-making for our personal vacation (even though she rarely accompanies us), or what rugs we should purchase, or how we spend our weekend.

I fear what might happen when we have a baby. Will Mom take over in that department? I surely can use advice about this. I do not want to cut off their great relationship, but I do want the space to improve my relationship with Myra. I just don’t know how to approach this problem.

What do they do?  

This is a difficult habit (dependency on Mom) to break and is a very sensitive issue. Mom, by all accounts, appears to be a very lovely person who cemented an already strong relationship with her daughter as they grieved a sudden death of a husband and father. They habitually have depended on each other over the years since that event.

How can a spouse overcome or at least modify the time this mom and daughter spend together? Jules’ approach to his wife did not immediately seem to provide a satisfactory vehicle to communicate his concerns and need for more time. It is not unrealistic to request for more time to build a marital relationship. Just because Myra withdrew and became silent doesn’t mean she would ultimately be opposed to limiting time with Mom on the phone.

No mention of how far apart they live was made, but it is assumed this couple lives in relative proximity to Mom. It doesn’t sound as if Mom comes over and makes herself at home on a regular basis.

Jules should try to talk to both Mom and Myra together, gently, but clearly explaining to both how their extremely close-knit relationship is having a negative impact on Jules’ and Myra’s marriage relationship. Once the difficulty is understood by all, Myra and her mom need to discuss methods and strategies for them to share the time that is needed for all involved to fulfill each other’s relationship needs and responsibilities.

If this fails, and Jules does not speak up, the problem will grow and his concerns about Mom taking over any children Myra and Jules have could occur, causing more concern.

If Jules’ talking to both Myra and Mom does not improve the situation, he needs to seek a marriage counselor, mutual friend or pastor to assist him to interact effectively with Myra and her Mom.

Myra, on her part, needs to review the vows she promised on their wedding day and seriously consider what “I will be true to you … I will love you and honor you” mean in her marriage relationship.