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‘My partner’s mother has a sharp tongue and she won’t stop commenting on my weight’

Ask Roe answers two queries: A best friend with a big personality and family conflict over Christmas

Dear Roe,

My best friend has been seeing her boyfriend for about a year and a half. I love my best friend, but she has quite a big personality and can take things very personally. I’ve known her forever and know how to defuse any spiralling quickly so we rarely have issues, but she and her new boyfriend seem to bicker and fight a lot. They always make up and I think they kind of enjoy the drama but the past few times that they’ve come to my house or we’ve been out, they’ve had big rows where one or both of them storms off or she ends up crying. My parents had a nasty split when I was a kid and being around all this fighting really stresses me out, but I don’t feel like I can tell my friend how to act in her relationship. What do I do?

This sounds exhausting. You can’t control other people’s behaviour, but you can set your own boundaries around people and what interactions you choose to spend your time around. Have a chat with your friend and say that while you don’t know and don’t judge her relationship, the way she and her boyfriend argue and storm off on each other makes you anxious, is unpleasant to be around and distracts from the point of all of you getting together which is presumably to have fun and connect with each other. Tell her that you want to get to know her boyfriend and spend time with them, but for now she is only invited to your home on her own, and you look forward to having some quality time with her. Tell her that you are happy to spend time with them as a couple out or at their houses, but that if they start to argue in front of you, you’ll be leaving the gathering – and if it continues, you won’t be spending any time with them together. The follow through on this – leave when they start bickering, and enjoy a relaxing night not watching a live telenovela. Hopefully, they’ll eventually learn how to communicate better, but before then they will learn that they don’t get to drag you into their drama.

I’ve been with my partner for four years and he’s the perfect man apart from one inescapable issue: his mother. She’s always had a sharp tongue but the past year I have put on weight and she won’t stop commenting on it, offering me unsolicited advice about diets and exercise and making “jokes” about my portion sizes, not needing dessert etc. I’m trying very hard to accept my body and find these comments really difficult but because she claims to be joking or trying to help, it’s really hard to call her out on it. We usually see his family a lot over Christmas and I’m now dreading it because I know she’ll be so focused on what I’m eating. I’m considering just claiming to be sick so I don’t have to see her.


It’s well past time for your partner to live up to the accolades you’re giving him and step in. Dealing with a partner’s parents when they’re being rude and obnoxious can be very tricky because you’re trying to set boundaries with someone who isn’t your family but who you are connected with – and may be for a very long time. It’s understandable that you feel awkward calling out her behaviour in the moment – which is why your partner is going to do it. He needs to have a serious conversation with his mother about how she has been speaking to you and tell her that if she makes any more comments about your weight, diet, food or any “jokes” both of you will be leaving her company immediately, and you will not be spending time with her until she stops. Your partner is the one with the power here, and so he should be calling this behaviour out immediately and setting boundaries with his mother. I suspect that if she starts losing access to her son, she’ll cut it out quickly – and if your partner is as wonderful as you say he is, he should be happy to support you and take on this responsibility. If anyone else in the family brings up the conflict, simply say “Life is long, bodies change, and I’m not interested in spending my time being constantly criticised. Is Home Alone on?”