My boyfriend’s mother believes I deliberately belittle her

By Thuy Duong   May 2, 2024 | 03:39 pm PT
My boyfriend’s mother thinks I intentionally belittled her when I suggested that she apply for a janitorial position at the hospital where my mother works to help pay off her VND200 million (US$7,872) debt.

My boyfriend and I are both 26 years old and have been dating for two years. He is tall, handsome, generous, and adores me. He also holds a steady job that allows him to support himself.

I am currently without a permanent job. I’ve switched jobs several times and am now working towards a second bachelor’s degree while tutoring English. My family isn’t rich, but we are not impoverished. My father is a retired military officer, and my mother is employed as a nurse at a major hospital.

On the other hand, my boyfriend’s parents divorced after his father was incarcerated, and has been released, for a crime related to the illegal trade or processing of rare animals. His family lives paycheck to paycheck, focusing more on enjoying life than saving or building wealth, leaving them with no significant financial resources or assets. I am not entirely familiar with his father’s current situation; my boyfriend has only briefly mentioned it and prefers not to linger on this distressing part of their past.

Still, I consider my boyfriend’s father to be a good man. He makes a living from running a small restaurant. My boyfriend’s mother is amiable, outgoing, and likes me. However, she lacks a solid educational background or a stable job and has a tendency to accrue debt. In fact, my boyfriend is helping her pay off her current debts. She mainly depends on financial help from her husband and other relatives to support my boyfriend’s brother, who is still in high school.

I recently found out that the hospital where my mother is employed is hiring janitorial staff, and the job offers a decent monthly salary. I suggested to my boyfriend that he might want to ask his mother if she would be interested in the job, as my mother could potentially help her secure the position more easily. He talked to his mother about it, but there hasn’t been any progress or response since.

Subsequently, I had the opportunity to read some messages between my boyfriend and his mother. She stated that she used to hold me in high regard, but she changed her opinion of me after my suggestion. She believed I was trying to demean her, intentionally recommending she work as a janitor—or as she put it, a "garbage sweeper"—at the same hospital where my mother is a nurse. She expressed concerns that if our families became more intertwined in the future and her social status remained the same, my family might look down on hers.

My boyfriend attempted to defend me, but his mother insisted that they didn’t need to depend on anyone else for support and, despite their lack of wealth, they still maintained their dignity. She was adamant that she didn’t want her son to feel diminished or subjugated.

I’m puzzled as to why my boyfriend would feel subjugated when my and his financial situations are comparable. Although he sometimes spends more than I do, I don’t see it as an issue because we love each other.

I had no negative intentions when I suggested his mother work as a janitor at the hospital either. Since my mother is a nurse and not a doctor or a hospital director, I didn’t expect his mother to be so sensitive about the job. It’s not that I’m unaware of the differences in our family statuses, but because I love my boyfriend and didn’t want to lose a great guy like him, I chose to overlook these issues. My parents also hold him in high regard despite having initially been skeptical when they learned about my boyfriend’s family background.

The remarks from his mother have led me to deeply consider the concept of "class differences." The pressure on my boyfriend might stem not only from financial concerns but also from ideological beliefs passed down from his parents. I am uncertain if my boyfriend’s views align with his parents’.

Should I ignore all these factors and continue our relationship?

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