Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

A Mother of a Relationship Problem

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a problem with my mother. She is flirting with my husband and has been for the five years she has lived near us. My husband and I have a wonderful marriage, but when my mother decided to move out of one state to live with us, I refused. I don't trust her, and I know she just used me to attract men. So she has lived about a mile from us for the last five years. She is 84 years old, hated my father for the 47 years they were married and still hates him even though he has been dead for eight years. My dad did everything she wanted. He gave her a nice home, cars and spending money -- he loved her even after they were divorced. She ran off with an older man, but that didn't last because his ex-wife took him back.

Now it seems like she wants my husband! She kisses him on the lips in front of me. I tell her that he is mine, and she laughs and says he is hers, too. Then she giggles and walks away. When my husband goes over to help her, she tricks him into kissing on the lips again. We have caught her in lies, but he just says that she's old. I hate what she is doing to our marriage. I love my husband and trust him completely. I don't trust my mother. We haven't been close for 40 years.

When my mother's sister died in 1996, my mother acted in a motherly way to my adult cousins. They think she is just the cutest, so they always come first with her. My brothers and I never hear from her unless she wants something. My younger brother won't do anything with our mother because she hates his wife.

So now I am saddled with her. I don't know what to say or do that will get into her head that I am serious that my husband is mine, and I don't share. -- Hands Off, Chicago

DEAR HANDS OFF: At 84, your mother is not likely to change. What you have described is unfortunate, but it does not have to damage your marriage. Your husband is not going to run away with your mother. If he chalks her behavior up to old age, it sounds like he is able to manage her inappropriateness without being too uncomfortable. He could also tell her to stop kissing him on the lips. He can stop reaching toward her to hug or kiss her at all. He is the one who has to do something, though. Your words and warnings are falling on deaf ears.

Since you know how your mother is, do your best to stop getting undone by it. Instead, focus your energy on your marriage. Continue to engage in intimate and fun activities with just you and your husband.