Do Ladies Dislike Men Still Babied By Their Mothers? We Found Out
The relationship between mother and son is one that’s been studied for millennia.
From classical Greek plays like “Oedipus” Rex and the fascination with the Biblical significance of the Virgin Mary in medieval Europe, to Hitchcock’s thrillers “Psycho” and “The Birds,” motherhood has long been a fascinating concept to humans in many different ways.
In particular, there’s a sense in modern culture that a man who has a close relationship with his mother is suspect. Termed “mama’s boys,” such men — whether teenagers on the cusp of manhood or fully grown adults with families of their own — are often seen as weak, or at least strange.
Along with the concept of a “daddy’s girl” — which also has iffy implications — mama’s boys are derided for caring too much about the approval of the opposite-gender parent. And while caring too much about parental approval is often seen as a weak trait in men, men who bond more closely with their fathers don’t receive the scrutiny that so-called mama’s boys do.
What’s the deal with that? To get a better picture of what a mama’s boy is, how he’s perceived by other men (and women!) and what the strengths and weaknesses of a powerful connection to your mother entail, we had some experts chime in on the topic.
1. What Is a “Mama’s Boy”?
“A mama’s boy is a man who is unusually tightly attached to his mother,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., psychotherapist and author of “Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today.” “He usually consults Mom in all things, and is dependent on her approval.”
Laurel House, dating and relationship coach and host of the “Man Whisperer” podcast, agrees to the above, but notes that it can group together a variety of different guys whose relationships with their respective mothers might not all look exactly the same.
“A mama’s boy is a man who has a very close connection with his mom,” says House, though she notes that “the name is broad, and can be assigned to men who have an unhealthy relationship with their mom, as well as those who have a very healthy and loving relationship with their mom.”
In short, it might be a pejorative with some weight to it, or it might be an insult born from jealousy, dislike or some other factor. Whether a man’s relationship with his mother is healthy or not can be tricky to determine from an outside perspective; being termed a “mama’s boy” alone certainly isn’t an indication that there’s anything wrong per se.
2. The Psychology Behind a Mama’s Boy
What causes some men to have strong bonds with their mothers? How about those who see their mothers as extraneous to their lives or somehow unimportant?
Despite a mother’s role in carrying a pregnancy to term, giving birth to a child, and (in most cases) raising them — sometimes, despite the best of intentions, a mother’s love is rejected by her children.
When it’s her son doing it, it may be due to a personality clash — but it might also be due to gendered reasons.
Because we live in a culture that is often dismissive to females, it’s possible for boys to develop sexist attitudes even quite young in childhood. Coming to associate women and femininity with weakness can mean even your mother could come to represent primarily negative connotations for a boy not yet out of grade school. If that’s the case, developing a strong mother-son relationship over time is less likely.
Other boys, meanwhile, come to see their mothers as sources of comfort, love and guidance. It’s this attitude that likely leads to a boy growing up to be seen as a mama’s boy — possibly even earning the sobriquet as a child.
As Jor-El Caraballo, a relationship therapist and co-creator of Viva Wellness, points out, the term does tend to have negative connotations when used.
“Traditionally, ‘mama’s boys’ were seen as less attractive mates,” he says. “Having this label typically mean those men were stereotyped as less masculine or underdeveloped and immature. Those stereotypes still persist, with many women fearing that committing to a mama’s boy also means committing to being a surrogate mother for the duration of the relationship.”
That being said, again, it’s not necessarily an insult, and even if it’s intended as one, it might be reflective of positive traits rather than negative ones.
“Name-calling is so common in this day and age, that we tend to assign names like ‘mama‘s boy,’ and assume it means the worst,” says House. “It might not mean that this man is clinging to his mother, needy of her approval, incapable of making decisions without her. It could simply mean that he is a good man, respects women, was raised primarily or entirely by his mom, and because of all that he is more emotionally intelligent, romantic, kind, and wants his mom‘s approval because she has good judgment and he trusts her.”
In such a case, if he’s dating women, a female partner “will eventually come first, just as he believes that women in general should be put on a pedestal.”
In short, those dating a mama’s boy might be in for a treat rather than an unpleasant experience.
3. Signs That He’s a Mama’s Boy
What distinguishes a mama’s boy from any other guy? How exactly do you quantify the closeness of a relationship with one’s mother? Well, that’ll depend on the mother and son in question, and, crucially, on the person using the term.
However, there are some signs that might help you identify one.
“Mama’s boys are often well-mannered, well-groomed and very personable,” says Tessina. “The mother may also have encouraged him to have a good education and career. It depends on what her vision is for her son. Criminals can be twisted mama’s boys, too, so there’s a wide spectrum.”
Of course, a close relationship with one’s mother is no guarantee that you’ll be spending time in a corner office or a jail cell, but Caraballo agrees that there are positive and negative aspects at play.
“Mama’s boys might be more adept at understanding the emotional needs of women (or even themselves),” says Caraballo. “This could be due to a more natural inclination towards sensitivity, but also may be related to positive reinforcements throughout childhood in being a mama’s boy. They might have also received positive reinforcement from other sources as well (friends, girlfriends, etc.).”
On the other hand, he says that some see mama’s boys as those “not having the skills needed to be a provider, especially if the mama’s boy relies on his mother for daily living support well into adulthood (he doesn’t know how to do laundry, clean, make meals well into his 20s, for instance).”
In which case, his love life could be taking a hit — especially if he’s looking for a traditional husband, wife and kids set-up.
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“If a woman wants a husband, she wants someone that can take care of themselves as well as help take care of her (and potentially their children in the future),” adds Caraballo.
4. Dating a Mama’s Boy
Yes, whatever other guys say about mama’s boys, much of the implication is that it’ll be a problem in a dating context.
Whether the man in question is dating women or not, his mother’s role in his life could scare off potential partners. As well, if he’s unable to do things for himself, his mother’s controlling nature might be less concerning than simply the fact that he’s not very macho or grown up.
That being said, being a so-called mama’s boy can actually carry dividends in the dating game.
“Mama’s boys can be very good at dealing with women, which makes them attractive,” says Tessina. House agrees, noting that mama’s boys “tend to be more romantic, emotionally intelligent, thoughtful, understanding, listeners, and more outwardly loving.”
There’s a big “if” here, though, as those traits can cease to be attractive if the man in question’s relationship with his mother is a massive factor in his life, overwhelming his ability to date without his mother’s interference.
Basically, things are in the clear “until the entanglement with Mom comes to light,” says Tessina. “It depends on how strong the attachment to mother is. If she encourages him to date, and she wants grandchildren, she can be very helpful and supportive in the dating area. She can be very close to her son, yet allow some room for him to marry, because she wants grandchildren.”
And if the attachment is stronger? It could spell doom for the mama’s boy’s dating life.
“A mama’s boy might compare every woman to his mom, looking for a woman who has similar traits,” says House. “Because every woman and mom is different, his mom might be nurturing, driven, active, traditional or unconventional. He might be more attracted to women who align with and are similar in interest and general characteristics to his mom.”
Thus, anyone who falls outside of his mother’s approval — or simply isn’t interested in being close with their boyfriend’s mother — will likely be on the outside looking in before long.
5. How to Deal With Being a Mama’s Boy
If you’ve come to the conclusion that you’re a mama’s boy, well, don’t fret. The term can imply both positive and negative things, and it might be easier for a mama’s boy to work on improving his boundaries with his mother than for an average guy to learn all the life lessons he missed out on due to a weaker, distant or non-existent relationship with his.
“Embrace it,” advises House. “But also check yourself to see if you are a mama’s boy in a negative way. Are you unable to be in relationships with women because no woman is as good as your mom?”
If that’s the case, it might be time to start creating some space in that relationship.
“Learn to be a grownup with your mother,” says Tessina. “Set boundaries so you can have a personal life, and don’t bow to her wishes in all things. You can be close to and loving toward your mother without going overboard. Learn to make your own decisions and set your own goals.”
In particular, making sure that aspect of your life doesn’t spill over and negatively impact your love life is important.
“Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with being a mama’s boy,” says Caraballo. “Each man, whether he’s a mama’s boy or not, has to cultivate the skills necessary to live independently. If a man is concerned about how dependent he is on his mother (or his partner), I suggest he focus on learning the skills of independence (how to maintain a household, budget, take care of self, etc.) as well as learn how to self-soothe and manage his own emotions effectively (which will also help him better support his partner).”
In short, as with many things in life, if you’re aware of a problem, it’s far from impossible to start taking steps to address it. The first step is awareness, and the second is willingness. If you have those two in hand, there’s no reason to fear.
After all, this is hardly the mother of all personality problems.
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