Men. We’ll never understand them.
And even more confusing, the bond they share with their mothers will forever be a mystery. No man really wants to be labeled “mama’s boy,” but most are. They must be, because they reflect her influence, positive or negative. The relationship a man has with his mother determines what he thinks of himself, and of women in general.
A mother and son’s relationship directly affects yours and your partner’s relationship, too; the way you handle certain situations as a couple, the way you make decisions, the way you manage your household.
I talked to four female friends last week to get their perspective about their partners’ relationships with their mothers. It was enlightening to hear what they had to say. Three ladies are married, and one is engaged. Their ages range from 22 to 50. I’ve always been a fan of Little Women, so let’s just go ahead and call them Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy.
Four big truths came out of my chat with these four women. Let’s talk about them.
1. Mother-son relationships can be strained, and you may not know where you fit in.
“I expected her to be like my parents, but she was just, well, not,” Jo said. “She made no effort to see us or spend time with us. If we saw her, it was because we went to see her. My parents were constantly coming to see us and we were going to see them—it was reciprocated. She always used how busy we were as an excuse not to see us.”
If he’s not close at all with his mother, this may be a sign that he has intimacy issues, which you should watch out for. However, if he at least makes an effort, like in Jo’s case, but the effort isn’t reciprocated on the mother’s part, then you can commend your mate for trying to close that gap. Understanding the difference between him and his mother can better help you know how to understand their relationship—and hopefully maintain something of a relationship with her yourself.
2. You may have to remind your spouse it’s your input he should want—not his mom’s.
“He always needed her input,” Beth said about her first husband. “He would go to her for everything. Big or small decisions. And there was no way he was going to grow as a man being attached to her the way he was.”
When a man gets married, he has a new priority: his wife. It’s a new life, with a new woman taking the top spot in that life. It’s OK to ask for advice from your parents from time to time, but when his reaching out invades the communication between partners, that’s when you know it’s not just advice anymore. It’s reliance. And he did not marry his mom.
If he always needs his mother’s input, he may never look to you for decisions, or to himself. That’s a big red flag. If he can’t make his own choices without her guidance, he may never grow into a man on his own accord. He won’t trust himself, so he’ll feel asking his mother for advice is the only way to go. After all, that is what he’s done all his life. And how are you supposed to trust him if he doesn’t trust himself?
3. You are “the other woman,” so to speak.
Meg began her relationship with her fiance when they were in high school. They were each other’s first serious relationship. Meg noticed early on that her fiance was his mama’s baby boy. He is the oldest boy of three. He is close to his mother, but Meg wasn’t going to let his relationship with his mother deter her from their relationship altogether. “Sometimes I think his mom thinks I’m interfering with their mother-son relationship. But, I fell in love with him, not his mother. I’m not going to let her be the reason for leaving.”
Although it can be difficult to feel you still have to earn your spot in your husband’s life, it’s not about him. It’s about his mom. Amy’s developed a strategy to get her on board. “I’ve learned that the more time I spend with her, the less of a threat I am to her. I am giving her more opportunities to get to know me, and I like that.”
4. He expects you to be like her.
“He’s a baby at home, but a perfect gentleman out in public, if that makes sense,” Amy said about her husband. “He always needs taking care of, and I assume that’s because of his mother. I really don’t think he’s lazy, OK, well maybe a little, but with the way he was raised, he merely expects me to take care of him. And, I do because I love him.”
Sometimes you have to decide what habitual behaviors to accept as they are, because he is a product of his upbringing, and which to break him of. Like Amy’s experienced, it’s a pick-and-choose your battles type of decision.
If he always needs to be cleaned up after, or still expects his mother (or you) to clean up after him, he may not be totally responsible for that ritual, but he is still responsible for changing his ways. It’s your choice if you want to baby him, but you should probably sit him down and tell him you will not continue supporting lazy behavior, no matter what his mother has done in the past. Refusing to talk it out will only build tension in the relationship, and things will probably blow up further down the line.
I am so thankful that my husband shares a healthy balance of love, respect and separation with his mother. Their relationship is one that I personally cherish. I have spent time alone with my own mother-in-law, and she has a genuine love for her son; she believes that we need to think more in terms of him and I, less about what our parents think. I love her for that. She also told me she wants my husband to be able to discuss things with me and come to a conclusion without input from either of his parents.
And I think she’s right. And I think both my husband and her attitude toward their relationship is a best-case-scenario. (Lucky me!)
My husband and I have discussed our relationship, and where our parents fit in. We feel we should discuss decisions and situations with each other before we ever discuss things with our parents. Communication is what a great marriage is made of, and we are working on it. Unlike some of the ladies above, his mom is not in the picture in that regard.
A healthy balance of love, respect, and separation between a mother and son is what makes a great relationship. His relationship with his mother can be a good thing. As for you, make sure he knows that. And realize his mother can make him a better partner for you. But if you feel your man is favoring his mother over you, talk to him. Be honest and open with your partner about your feelings, and you’re much more likely to feel like your man’s a mama’s boy. Her influence will remain crucial, but subtle—as it should.