We all heard of daddy issues in women, but what about mommy issues in men? If your boyfriend’s relationship with his mom is overly intense or strange or he has a skewed view of women, you might have cause for concern. Here’s how to spot these issues and what to do about them when you come across them.
What are mommy issues in men?
Mommy issues is a term used to describe how people behave in adulthood stemming from the relationship they had with their mother or a prominent female figure in childhood. While some men might have had a normal, healthy relationship with their moms as a kid and grew up into well-adjusted adults, for other men, their mother’s dysfunctional behavior hurt them. Maybe his mom was totally absent, pacified him, was clingy, or even abusive. There’s no one size fits all approach. “Relationships are the place for unmet expectations to surface, and mommy issues are no less intrusive until they are projected towards a partner,” Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan explained.
How mommy issues manifest in men
- He’s mama’s boy. Although some of their behavior might overlap with mama’s boys, they don’t always manifest the same way or have the same cause. A mama’s boy might be too reliant on his mom into adulthood, while a guy with mommy issues could detest his mother. A mama’s boy might prove to you that while you’re important, his mother will always be the priority. There’s nothing wrong with being close with your mom as an adult, but if he constantly bails on plans with you to see her, talks about her all the time, or takes her side even if she’s in the wrong, you’re going to have problems.
- There’s emotional incest. You might notice your boyfriend’s mom is uncomfortably close to him. Maybe she treats him more like a partner than a child. This is known as emotional incest or covert incest. It doesn’t involve physical or sexual abuse. It just means he didn’t get to just be a kid. His mom might have put her emotional health in his hands. Perhaps she treated him like a mini-husband or felt jealous when he started making friends or dating. Mommy issues in men might manifest as his mom treating you like a threat. Or, maybe she makes odd comments about how she was the first woman to ever love him. Yikes.
- His mom is too involved in your relationship. His mom being overly involved in her son’s life and relationships could be due to emotional incest or she might just have a massive sense of entitlement. Maybe you don’t want kids or you’re not in a rush to have them and she’s constantly demanding grandchildren and making inappropriate comments about babymaking. Or maybe, she feels the need to call you and involve herself every time you have a disagreement with him. Since he’s never experienced anything different, he might see this as normal motherly concern, but it’s definitely weird.
- He’s weirdly distant from his mom. Not everyone will respond to issues the same, so while some men will be mama’s boys to an unhealthy degree, others seem to hate their mom. She’s not dead, but he sure acts like she is. He’s hesitant to let you meet her, rarely keeps in touch with her, and will avoid talking about her at all costs.
- You’re a second mom to him. Mommy issues in men might also manifest as them consciously or unconsciously seeking out partners to fulfill the duties of a mother. Maybe you’re the one doing all the chores around the house, making excuses for his behavior, trying to teach him how to behave like a mature adult, or having to organize his life for him. If his mom never gave him room to be independent and never taught him to be a self-sufficient adult, he might not even realize this dynamic isn’t appropriate.
- He doesn’t respect women. He doesn’t respect women, especially his mom. If he had a difficult relationship with his mother or a prominent female figure growing up, this could influence how he sees all women. So, this can manifest as having impossibly high standards of women and how they should be – which no one can meet – before he even considers respecting them. Yet, he’s also suspicious and is sure you and any woman will hurt him. He might cheat to fill a void, but also because he doesn’t care about their feelings.
- He can’t be alone. He broke up with his ex very shortly before meeting you. In fact, he was never single for very long once he started dating. This is probably to fill a void.
How to deal with men with mommy issues
Men with mommy issues abound, so if you end up dating one, you’ll need to do a few things differently.
- Don’t enable him. If his mommy issues manifest as him expecting you to mother him, set firm boundaries. It’s not going to help him overcome his issues, and you’re probably not comfortable having that kind of relationship with him.
- Set boundaries. If his mom is far too involved in your relationship, you need to encourage him to set firm boundaries with her. You also need to protect yourself and set firm boundaries with him. At the end of the day, while mommy issues in men aren’t entirely their fault, it’s up to him to work on himself and their relationship — or, in extreme cases, go low or no contact. Otherwise, he’s never going to have a healthy love life.
- Try to be understanding. If you had a fairly normal relationship with your parents, mommy issues in men are very hard to wrap your head around. So, read up on the subject and more importantly, hear him out. Ask questions that illuminate where he’s coming from and really listen to the answers. He’ll appreciate the effort. This will also make navigating the relationship easier because you start to understand why he behaves the way he does.
- Don’t judge him. Avoid judging your guy for his mommy issues. Whether his mommy issues are from a distant or absent mom or emotional incest, it’s not his fault. Just like you, he had no control over his upbringing, but as an adult, it is his responsibility to learn to manage his issues.
- Don’t poke sore spots. If you’re growing frustrated or having an argument, there is no need to poke his sore spots to hurt him. His mommy issues might be making your life harder sometimes, but it’s cruel to insult him by calling him a baby or suggesting that he’s weird for his relationship (or lack thereof) with his mom.
- Suggest he seeks help. You’re not a therapist. While you can offer advice and comfort, it’s not the same as speaking to an actual mental health professional. A therapist can help him understand his past and learn new, healthier coping mechanisms.