I am an only child. My father died seven years ago, and I currently live with my mother, my husband, and my two grown children.

The problem that I have is that since the time I got married twenty‑two years ago, my mother has never liked my husband and she has always wanted to control everything I do and everything my children do. It is not possible to do anything in our home if she doesn’t approve of it. And it has gotten even worse since my father died, for she keeps me from having a normal relationship with my husband. I have to sleep every night in the same room with her because she is always afraid something could happen to her….

Sometimes I feel like moving somewhere else with my husband and children, but then I think about the fact that I am her only child and she has no one else to look after her…. I would appreciate your advice.

Dear Friend,

You are caught between two Biblical principles! You are trying to follow the commandment to honor your mother, (1) while at the same time trying to follow God’s specific instructions when He said that you are to leave your father and mother and be joined to your spouse, becoming one flesh with him. (2) When your mother insists that you honor her by not leaving her (even to sleep at night), it seems that she is forcing you to disobey God one way or the other. If you don’t do as she says, you think you are not honoring her. If you don’t do what your husband wants, you are not following God’s guideline for marriage. No wonder you are asking for counsel!

First of all, let us congratulate you on your husband. He must be the most understanding and compassionate man on the planet! Not many men would have stayed in a marriage like the one you describe. But he doesn’t deserve the treatment he is getting!

You may have stayed in your parents’ house after your marriage for economic reasons, or because you wanted to take care of them. But as you have described, this has not turned out well for any of your family. All of you have become hostages of your mother and her unrealistic demands and expectations. Honoring her does not mean you have to live with her! Honoring her does not mean that your entire family has to be subject to her whims! Honoring her does not mean you have to sleep in the room with her instead of with your husband!

Your love for your mother and your desire to take care of her have caused you to make some unwise decisions. Fortunately it is not too late to correct the situation. It is very important that you move to a house that is established by you and your husband. It will be a house where you and your husband make the decisions and where no one has to get the approval of your mother. It is time for you to “leave” your mother, as the Bible clearly says you should. (3)

Your mother will not be happy about your decision. She will probably cause a huge disturbance and she may even act like she is having some kind of health attack in order to get you to change your mind. She will say everything that she can to make you feel guilty and to make you doubt your decision. She will make your days miserable for quite a while. Stand firm! Be respectful in your answers. Do not say things that you will later regret. Call her every day, even when she only has bad things to say to you. Visit her often (but don’t make your husband go). That is how you should honor her.

Your mother may be able to get renters to share her house and keep an eye on her. If not, she may want to invite some single lady to share the house with her and pay expenses. Either way, she also needs to get professional help for her fears. She obviously has some serious emotional issues, and when you continue to sleep in the room with her after seven long years, you are causing her to not get the help that she desperately needs.

After your mother gets professional help and after your family has had time to live alone, there may come a time when she can move in with you. But it must be in your house, not hers. Her house is the symbol of her control over you. There is no way you and your husband and children can ever live there together with her unless you want to do it on her terms, as you are doing now.

It is possible that another reason you have remained in your mother’s house so long is that you have wanted to inherit it. However, if your marriage is lost in the process, what good will a house do you? Is it really worth it?

Don’t delay! You are already twenty‑two years late!

1 Exo 20:12
2 Gen 2:24
3 Ibid.