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Ashley Darby has been going through it on this season of The Real Housewives of Potomac, being forced to make the tough decision of choosing between her mother and her husband.

Ashley’s husband Michael gave her an ultimatum recently, saying she must either cut her mother off financially or end their marriage. It’s a bit of an unfair situation, but as they say, life comes at your fast. Still, how is anyone supposed to choose between the most important woman in their life and the most important man?

On one hand, Ashley has a somewhat complicated relationship with her mother Sheila. Because she married well (financially speaking), Ashley feels responsible for taking care of her mom simply because she’s now in a higher tax bracket. On the other hand, Michael is Ashley’s husband. And just as it says in the marriage vows, their marriage is for better or for worse. In those same vows, both parties promise to put each other first before anyone else (even themselves). And sometimes that requires sacrificing your own wants for the good of the relationship and your home.When you get married, you’re creating a whole new household with your spouse. And for that relationship to succeed, each person has to make their significant other a priority and put their marriage first. If that means moving your parents down a few notches on the list of your priorities, so be it.

I first learned this lesson from my father while driving home from an after school activity back in high school. No one would ever question my father’s devotion to his now-departed mother, but when he was talking to me about who and what comes first, my mother was at the top of his list. At first I was shook that my dad would say that his mother was no longer his chief concern. All my life, I had always been taught that mama had the final word; she was the center of the family. As my dad explained it, though, entering into a marriage is a responsibility. You become accountable for your spouse and vice versa. If two spouses aren’t keeping each other first, then everything else falls apart. Make no mistake that my Dad was on the next thing smoking whenever my Grandma needed him, but he didn’t leave before he made certain that all affairs were in order at home. Considering my mom and dad have been married for 46 years now, I’d say they must be doing something right with their approach to matrimony.

Ashley and Michael, however, have been on shaky ground for months, and this maternal issue could be the final straw for them. If Ashley cares to save her marriage, she would need to side with her husband. However, this does set a dangerous and unhealthy precedent of using ultimatums in the relationship. Last season, Ashley threatened to end their marriage over her restaurant. Although their relationship has taken a huge hit, the two are still together and Oz is still open. Perhaps Michael is just reciprocating her harsh behavior.

Michael is basically asking Ashley to withdraw all financial support from her mother. While Ashley shouldn’t be responsible for completely bankrolling her mother–especially since her mother lives with someone who should be contributing to the household–it’s hard to tell someone to stop helping a parent in need. At first, Ashley’s husband agreed to help support Ashley’s mom as long as Sheila cuts ties with her boyfriend. If Ashley’s mom had been living up to her end of the bargain, it would almost be impossible to say that Ashley needs to cut her mother off. But it doesn’t sound like that is the case with Sheila.

Michael didn’t say that Ashley has to give up all concern for her mom, but he is asking that Ashley be more careful with their resources and that’s fair. After all, how can you make sure your house is in order, if you’ve given all your tools away? This isn’t to say that Ashley should just drop her mom like a bad habit, but it does mean that she needs to think about what is best for her marriage first.

Ashley desperately needs to set some boundaries in both relationships, but especially with her mother. Sheila is asking a lot in expecting her daughter support her lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with helping out a family member when they fall on hard times, but that help shouldn’t turn into a situation where they basically become a dependent. That can become an unimaginable burden on Ashley and, as we already see, her marriage.

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