Relationships between two people are tough enough without adding in a silent, or not-so-silent, third party. Is his mom too much a part of your relationship, or do his mommy issues sabotage all his adult relationships? These are questions you might ask yourself when you find yourself dating what is commonly called a mama’s boy.
For the sake of full disclosure, I am the mother of a son. There’s nothing wrong with a parent and child being close. In fact, it can be a great sign when a man is close to his mother. But how close is too close, and when does a relationship with his mom turn into mommy issues?
What Causes Mommy Issues for Men?
Mommy issues with men are caused by many things. You might first think of the overly enmeshed overly protective mother or mother figure. Without healthy space, relationships can lack appropriate boundaries.
Mommy issues can also stem from neglect or inconsistent care. A lack of trust and support in early childhood can lead to low self-esteem and a need for external validation or reassurance.
Emotional abuse, manipulation, and even unmanaged mental illness can play a role in a man developing issues with his mother. Toxic relationships can influence how men view women and relationships. Addiction can also fall into this category.
17 Signs He Has Major Mommy Issues
Here are 17 signs he might have issues stemming from his mother.
He needs your approval. He needs her approval. He needs his boss’s approval. Chances are that he either got total, unconditional approval from his mother or none at all. Either way, he is solidly approval-seeking in adulthood.
A man with mommy issues is often insecure. This could come from feelings of inadequacy that developed from his relationship with his mother and in his early childhood, or he can still be looking for the same type of coddling and validation he got from his primary caregiver.
He Has Poor Boundaries
The man with mommy issues often lacks healthy boundaries. His relationship with his mother may be uncomfortably close or painfully distant. Your own relationship with him may mirror this style. He may not understand what appropriate boundaries in relationships should look like and be resistant to learning.
He Shows Disrespect Toward Women
You might notice that the man with mommy issues has a particular view of women. Whether he’s disrespectful to them to their face or simply talks about them with disrespect, you’ll likely notice that he doesn’t have a high opinion of women. His standards are likely unrealistic and even unkind. While you might be the exception at first, you’re unlikely to stay that way.
He’s Hypersensitive to Criticism
Another sign that he has issues with his mother is that he is hypersensitive to criticism. Even the suggestion that he do something he doesn’t want to do could actually have him saying, You’re not my mom. If you don’t think a grown man would say that, you haven’t encountered one with serious mommy issues.
Even the slightest hint of criticism could have him on the defensive. It can be difficult to confront conflict with someone who overreacts to any indication that he’s in the wrong or needs to make a change.
He Fears Intimacy
Mommy issues often create a fear of intimacy. The man who has them might be resistant to commitment or permanence and see it as tying him down. He doesn’t know how to handle healthy, close relationships and likely keeps himself closed off to avoid feeling vulnerable.
You’ll also notice that he can be impulsive. This could come out in his behavior or even in his finances. He may not think things through and instead acts from instinct even when he’d be better served to wait. His impulsivity could have him engaging in impulse buys, cheating on a whim, or even instigating an argument. He may feel like he’s finally taking control of his life, but he’s not actually considering the consequences of his actions.
He Hasn’t Established Independence from His Mother
A man with mommy issues might not be fully independent from his mother. He might live with her, ask her for advice, or have another enmeshed relationship with her. He’s not actually independent from her and won’t make decisions she didn’t okay.
Even a man who manages to gain independence might still be preoccupied with her feelings, reactions, and thoughts about what he’s doing with his life. After all, it’s his mother. Even if they don’t have a good relationship, he could still have complicated feelings about her.
He Compares You to Her
Are you constantly compared to his perfect mother? Or compared to his imperfect one? If he constantly uses her as a positive or negative measure, you might get tired of hearing the comparison. You want to be loved for who you are, not compared to who she’s been to him.
He Sees the World As Unfair and Has an Entitled Attitude
Does he insist that the world doesn’t treat him fairly? Does he have an inflated sense of his own self-importance? Men with mommy issues often carry a chip on their shoulders. They think the world owes them, and they adjust their expectations accordingly. He might have the habit of complaining about how reality falls short of his expectations. Life really isn’t fair, but he thinks it should be more than fair to him.
He Expects a Partner to Take Care of Him
The man with mommy issues expects his partner to take care of him. He thinks it’s normal for the woman in his life to put in more mental and emotional labor in the relationship. He doesn’t see women as his equal, certainly not when it comes to housework or raising children. His expectations aren’t progressive, but he might not even be aware of it. He might think he’s pretty great compared to other men while still doing the bare minimum.
He’s Jealous of Others
Jealousy is not a stranger to a man who has maternal issues. It’s not just that he’ll get jealous of other men. He gets jealous of everyone. He’s constantly measuring his own progress with everyone else’s, and he feels jealous when other people succeed. He has trouble supporting others because his view that life is unfair might lead him to believe that other people’s triumphs are taking something away from him.
He Needs Constant Validation
His mommy needs can sometimes come out as a need for constant validation. More than approval seeking, he bases his self-worth on the encouragement and support of others. He needs the reassurance that he is worthy because his self-esteem just isn’t where it needs to be. He fears rejection and is constantly making sure he is accepted in his relationships.
He Has Anger Issues
Issues with a mother or mother figure can create anger issues. Whether the relationship was distant, too-close, or somewhere in between, he might have feelings he hasn’t dealt with and may even feel guilty for feeling. Suppressing these emotions could lead to angry outbursts. He’s mad, and he may not even understand why.
He Lacks Accountability
His mother issues sometimes injure his ability to be accountable. Maybe she always bailed him out or never held him to account. However it formed, the man with mommy issues often lacks accountability. He doesn’t easily own up to his mistakes, and he rarely apologizes. It’s almost as if admitting that he’s in the wrong makes him a failure or unworthy of love. While that’s not true, it might feel true to him.
He Doesn’t Have All the Necessary Life Skills for Adulthood
Some men with mommy issues lack the necessary life skills for adulthood. They may not have learned to manage their finances or load a dishwasher. They might be unfamiliar with how vacuums work or lack realistic expectations for the modern workplace.
If his mother did everything for him, he might not realize just how much he doesn’t know about living as an independent adult. Some men with mother issues will go straight from a mother’s home and into a partner’s and will carry those same expectations forward.
If he’s overly dependent on your relationship, he might be codependent. It’s not just that he wants you. He needs you to feel validated and loved. The man with mommy issues may not love himself. He might still be looking for the parental love he needs — or a replica of the enmeshed love he received. His identity is based on his relationships, and he feels empty without that definition.
What To Do About His Mommy Issues
While it’s easy to criticize men with mommy issues, it’s important to be compassionate. Mommy issues form from unhealthy relationships with a maternal figure. These issues don’t happen because he’s a selfish, inconsiderate jerk. These issues occur because he had a parent who didn’t model effective communication, healthy boundaries, or independence.
Understand that no one in the world wants to develop mommy issues. This isn’t something he chose. It’s something he’s likely struggling to manage.
Even if he realizes it’s a problem, that doesn’t mean he can easily fix it. It might take both individual and couples counseling to work through how his mother’s parenting style impacts his adult relationships. Be patient with him and with yourself if you’re addressing this.
Establish Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries between the two of you and boundaries with his mother will be important. Identify the areas that have become a problem for you. Ask which ones are a problem for him. There’s a learning curve to developing healthy boundaries. Be willing to do the work to strengthen your relationship.
Know You Can’t Do It Alone
If you clearly see the mommy issues but he either doesn’t see it or doesn’t accept it, know that you can’t save the relationship by yourself. You have to decide if you’re willing to continue as things are or if you need to make a change to your life involving this relationship.
If you’re not okay with playing second fiddle to his mother or dealing with the issues she left behind, you might choose to end the relationship if he’s not willing to work on the problems. You can love him deeply and still accept that one person can’t make a healthy relationship.
Assess Your Expectations
There’s another consideration that needs to be mentioned. Does he have mommy issues, or do you have issues with his mother? There’s a difference.
If you don’t like her, that doesn’t mean he has mommy issues. If you expect him to stop spending time with family to spend even more time with you, he’s not the problem. Evaluate if you have healthy and realistic expectations for family and romantic relationships before accusing him of having a problem. It could be you. Are you willing to look closely to see the truth?
We all have issues that could benefit from therapy. Some of us are self-aware and working on our problems, some are self-aware and doing nothing to change, and still others aren’t self-aware at all. No matter where you are, you’re likely to run into a person or two who had a difficult relationship with their mother.
You don’t have to like it, but when you’re tempted to throw out those “mama’s boy” barbs, remember that it’s okay for a man to be close to his mother, but mommy issues don’t stem from genuine closeness. Be kind. The issues you see likely involve a pain you don’t fully understand.
Originally published on The Truly Charming