Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mogul Mothers, Suppressed Sons

By Heidi Hiatt

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy there is a character called Grima Wormtongue. Wormtongue is an advisor to the king of Rohan who is constantly pumping the king full of verbal toxins, keeping the king weak and looking aged beyond his years. When Wormtongue is finally exposed for the controlling, venomous leach he is, the king is released from a state of zombie-like submission. He is restored to his natural state and stands boldly as the fearless warrior he truly is.

While pondering the causes of relationship dysfunction recently, I was struck by the disturbing realization that many men who treat their partners poorly have inappropriate relationships with their mothers. Furthermore, it occurred to me that, in a majority of examples I could think of, these men had mothers who spoiled them and took every opportunity to be involved in their lives. Because they have never known anything else, these men regard their mothers’ behavior as normal.

In a country where fathers are largely absent due to passivity, personal choice, or work commitments, mothers are often the primary influences in their sons’ lives. While some mothers lovingly raise their sons and set them free into the world as functional adults, others become permanently entrenched in their sons’ lives, refusing to let go of them when they reach adulthood.

Instead of becoming full-fledged men who are prepared to attract and maintain healthy, committed relationships, men whose mothers never cut the apron strings may exist as perpetual adolescents. They may never fully develop the emotional skills necessary to have productive, adult partnerships. Their mothers’ Grima Wormtongue-like control, however well-intentioned, may have set them up for a lifetime of hell and heartache.

In Kenneth Adams and Alexander Morgan’s book When He’s Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment, the authors point out that, “There is a universe of difference between a mother who loves her son dearly and a mother who makes her son the primary focus of her passion and preoccupation in an attempt to compensate for her own emptiness.”

Adams and Morgan note that such “mother-enmeshed men” frequently become involved in sex and/or relationships quickly, have trouble being faithful in relationships, or stay in a relationship for awhile without following through on an expressed commitment. These men often experience sexual dysfunction, direct their anger and dissatisfaction with life at their partner, have a long history of being people pleasers, and have difficulty standing up for themselves.

The problems caused by overly involved mothers can manifest in a variety of ways, but at the root of these problems is a concept Adams and Morgan call The Disloyalty Bind. They say that men who are too close to their mothers unconsciously, and sometimes consciously, make their mother’s interests first and foremost in their lives.

These men are always concerned with pleasing their mothers whether they realize it or not, and so when they have trouble committing or have relationship problems, they push away their partner instead of their mother. Adams and Morgan assert that a man distancing himself from his mother causes him too much anxiety and guilt. Some men would rather destroy a relationship that is good for them than stand up to the omnipresent female power that gave birth to them.

An overly involved and controlling mother will not put up with being backed off or having boundaries put in place, so some men do the right thing to the wrong woman. They project their mommy issues onto their wife or girlfriend, forcing them to distance themselves or even to leave. Wives and girlfriends become surrogate mothers in that they get blamed for all manner of evils, from being control freaks to not wanting what’s best for their man, when they’re not the actual guilty parties at all.

When a mother makes her son a stand-in for his father (which frequently happens to eldest sons), lavishes attention and privileges on her son to keep his favor, or maintains a constant presence in his life without respect for his autonomy, she has, in a way, castrated her son. She has not taught him to have proper boundaries with other people and he may have grown up to find himself attracted to other controlling women. He may have difficulty saying no to sex or no to relationships that are bad for him.

Having a mother so tightly woven into the fabric of his life may well have kept him from maturing emotionally, especially if a mother always strokes her son’s ego and tells him he’s never wrong. As a result, he may not be able to function in a partnership or solve problems as a team, because doing so requires objective listening and conflict management skills. Such a man may not be willing to admit that he is wrong, because he can always count on mom to tell him that he’s just fine.

Unfortunately this may not just predispose men to bad choices and relationship problems, but also their children after them. A man who is concerned with his mother’s approval and whose lifestyle is a result of that will likely raise children who don’t know how to maintain boundaries themselves. Children are little sponges who learn from their parents’ behavior, and parents who live to please others will probably raise children who do the same. These behaviors can persist for generations.

Unless a mother-enmeshed man seeks help and learns how to have proper boundaries with his mother, he is unlikely to ever have a successful, lasting relationship. The only way that could happen is if he finds a doormat that is willing to go along with what his mother wants. Sadly, I know of situations in which wives placate their domineering mother-in-laws to preserve their relationships with their spouses. But that is a miserable way to live, and it completely denies wives the autonomy and intimacy that they are supposed to have with their husbands.

Mother-enmeshed men who are supposedly in committed relationships may seek out soothing, mother-like voices that stroke their egos to supplement what their mothers do. If they don’t feel like they’re getting validation from their partners, they may be quick to turn to female friends or lovers who give them the same assurances that they’re doing nothing wrong. Real relationships are going to have challenges and issues to work through, but mother-enmeshed men may run to those reassuring voices instead of engaging in mutual problem-solving with their partners. They flee from reality.

Some overly involved, controlling mothers disguise their intrusions by being generous, helpful, or sacrificial to excess. Not all such mothers exhibit obvious mafia don-like behavior or bark orders. Their need to fill their own emptiness or feel important by maintaining a strong presence can be masked by an exuberant “benevolence.” Look deeper, though, and you may find that these same women expect a significant degree of loyalty and amount of attention in return.

These mothers will make it clear that they come before their sons’ wives or girlfriends. Breaks, holidays, and vacations should be spent with them even if that means their sons’ spouses get left behind. They call frequently or expect calls at set times, and they remind their sons’ spouses that their families already have set ways of doing things. They don’t hesitate to trivialize or look down upon their daughter-in-law’s family and their commitments. Such mothers will seize upon problems in their sons’ relationships and use those issues to drive their sons’ partners away to maintain their control. They will ridicule the sons’ means of getting help for himself or his relationship, such as counseling or support groups, instead reinforcing the belief that he’s doing nothing wrong.

Some of these women are so desperate to keep their position in their sons’ lives when he forges a commitment with a woman that they will lie, cheat, and steal to preserve their “throne.” Whether they realize it or not, their actions show that in their world, life is all about them. They do not back off and let other women take their rightful place.

This is not love, this is slavery. Women who should be finding their worth, companionship, and self-esteem elsewhere latch onto their sons like vampires, draining their very life from them. They keep their sons from being whole people and living the life that God intends them to have. God has been very specific about what happens to a man when he grows up—“a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). But some mothers never cut the apron strings, and have conditioned their sons to cling to them instead.

Many men realize that they live with a horrifying degree of guilt and anxiety, but don’t know why. They may feel that they’re always going to fail, or they may feel that women are always out to control them. They may embark on a near-perfect relationship and then hack that relationship off like a diseased limb later when the mysterious guilt and anxiety overtakes them. They may hate their wife or girlfriend for things she hasn’t even done, and accuse her of the very things that their mother is actually doing, without realizing that their mother is the root cause.

Some mother-enmeshed men function under an illusion of self-sacrifice. Adams and Morgan have noticed that many mother-enmeshed men work in caretaking or heroic professions in which they are people rescuers or people pleasers. These characteristics may stem from their having to continually rescue or please their mothers. The self-sacrifice they display in their work is reflective of what they have always done for their mother’s sake, forfeit part of themselves to gain the admiration or approval of others.

This self-sacrifice can occur when mother-enmeshed men break off relationships. They may forego having a serious relationship for a number of reasons, including “for their kids’ sake”. They may engage in casual relationships that no one else has to know about. By doing so, they keep their relationships off of their mother or other controlling women’s radar screens, placating them and “keeping the peace” by sacrificing their own desires. While that may appear noble on the surface, no man should live in bondage to his mother or anyone else. If a man has to water down or hide his desire for companionship to avoid the wrath of other women in his life, there is something terribly wrong with that.

Men, if anything I’ve said bothers you or touches a nerve, please see a therapist or talk to a minister before you tell me that I’m wrong. I am extremely concerned about the number of men who put themselves, their mothers, or other women besides their partners above their partners. No other woman should come before her. She should be number one in your life, and never blamed for the wrongs inflicted on you by other women.

If men won’t cut loose from the chains their mothers bind them with for their partner’s sake, then they should do it for their own sake or for their children’s sake. Having an overly involved mother is keeping all of you from becoming the people you were born to be. It prevents you from becoming autonomous adults with the ability to form healthy, joy-filled relationships.

You should be living in freedom, constantly learning and growing. Maintaining inappropriate attachments to your mother will keep you depressed, angry, submissive, anxious, guilt-ridden, and possibly even impotent. You were created for so much more than that.

I find it very distressing to think that millions of men may spend their entire 85-plus years living milquetoast, mediocre lives caused by their hurting or narcissistic mothers’ ideals. Thankfully millions of women have raised emotionally healthy men with a strong sense of individuality, and have remained a powerful source of love and support for those men their whole lives. But how many more have dominated their son’s existence and kept him unnaturally focused on them?

Moms, love your sons, be close to your sons, and be there for your sons, but do not impede their God-given mission to live adventurously, love passionately, and accomplish feats that no one before them or after them can. When they grow up and you refuse to let go, you are stifling their masculinity, their maturity, and their marriages. Please love them enough to let them be who God wants them to be, not who you want them to be. They—and their women and children– deserve no less.

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  1. This is absolutely one of the best posts I've ever read, and should be required reading for every man out there, and every mother who believes that she should come before his wife.Excellent!

  2. Thank you. Too many menhave already been victimized by these domineering women. I, too, stand and applaud you.

  3. I am a father of a son who has such a mother. Yesterday, I cam back from a 2500 mile trip in the hopes of helping my son who fled 3 yrs. ago. I was finally able to establish relations with my scarred son. Next, what can I do about his Mother. Can they ever be reconciled?

  4. What a wonderful post. I applaud you!
    This is something I see often, but have never read anything in reference to it.
    There are both Mothers and Fathers who do this very thing, but I do agree it is most often the mother.
    I see Fathers be more ridiculing and never supporting their sons and daughter in life and choices. I see Fathers and mothers making their grown children feel as if they will never amount to anything.
    And then the parents wonder why their children move away and seldom call or return.

    Will you write more on these subjects?

  5. Love this, currently in a relationship where I am being told that I am continually accusing my man of certain behviours. Obviously his mum is involved. It has come to the point where my man is not standing beside me, but beside his mum! I love this man, but am not willing to sacrifice my self to keep him and his mother happy. Time to move on, but thanks for a great article, made a lot of sense to me!

  6. Thank you all for the kind and insightful comments.

    Anonymous #1-- You're right-- many kids set out on their own in this world without knowing a thing about proper boundaries or healthy relationships. The "Boundaries" books by Henry Cloud and John Townsend should be required reading for every human being.

    Aphera-- Thank you!

    Anonymous #2-- Domineering women can be quite a problem (so can domineering men, of course). I addressed a similar subject in the article "Sitcom Wives" on my personal blog.

    Stephen-- Without knowing the specific circumstances of your situation, I don't have an answer for you. It would be best addressed by a qualified professional. In reading up on this subject, it's clear that some mothers will never change, and to maintain proper boundaries, some men have to minimize or cut off contact to protect themselves and their families. In other cases, healthy change can take place. Please check out the books I'm mentioning (below).

    Anonymous #3-- I know exactly what you're talking about-- fathers do it too. They don't treat their children as adults, any relationship with their kids is all about them, and they push against boundaries. That is a great point. I do plan to write more on controlling people sometime. I am deeply concerned about this type of behavior and the impact it has on families.

    Anonymous #4-- You are a strong woman to be able to say "enough". To me this issue is very simple-- God intends for men to become one with their wives, not their moms. Mom running other adults' lives is not God's way. And you pointed out a behavior that I've seen too-- even though it's mom's control and the man's allowing that control that's causing the problem-- it's you who get called controlling and critical! This is called projecting the blame and that's another subject I want to tackle in the future.

    I'd just started reading "When He's Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment" by Kenneth Adams and Alexander Morgan when I wrote this. It got the wheels turning so much I had to write down my thoughts before I could get anywhere close to finishing the book.

    Since then I read "Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage" by Susan Forward, and "The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to Do When a Parent's Love Rules Your Life" by Patricia Love.

    All of these books discuss setting boundaries with parents. "Married" was my favorite, but "Toxic" was a must-read. "Emotional Incest" causes you to take a long, hard look at your own family dynamics.

    When we become adults, single or married, we should be treated as such. We are not less important or less deserving of respect and autonomy than parents or in-laws.

  7. My boyfriend just broke up with me 2 weeks ago b/c of his mother.. Our relationship, yes started like a romance novel, and ended just as quickly. I believed him when he said I was the one, and I was different from the rest. Alas, his mother won out.. I wish he could see this.. I know this is him. He is in her grips.. 35 years old and still living at home.. It is sad.. I love him very much. I thought he loved me very much. Thank you for this article. It will help me parent my son in a loving healthy way.

    1. I'm sorry. You must miss him. I am/was in the same situation. His mother allowed him to cheat on me (he's *38* and *still* lives @ home) in her home. Despite knowing we have seen have been and were serious. I see this as yet another sabotage. He doesn't, and if I was willing to forgive his infidelity (I'm not), he is only concerned with the rude texts I sent *his* mother.
      There is something wrong with him, as well. He enjoys staying a perpetual adolescent.
      I don't even know what to "google." I've suffered greatly in every way. The only way to end the suffering for me is to have NO CONTACT.

  8. Thanks! I love how you're taking this experience and using it to give your son a healthier, happier life. Mothers can be involved and active in their sons' lives, but it needs to be in the right ways. I don't doubt that you'll do that for your son so he's not out breaking hearts on your behalf when he's 35. I admire your perspective and strength, and your son probably will too!

  9. Thank you for posting this article. I am currently in a relationship with a great guy who has an extremely controlling mother. After 2 years I finally got up the nerve to have this chat with him, and a lot of what you state in the article, I mentioned to him. He seemed to feel the same way and understand my points, but who knows if he will grow the balls he needs to step away from the situation.

    Worst part is, we have been in a long distance relationship and there is nothing stopping him from moving closer to me, other than his mother and the guilt she constantly smothers him with.

    Seeing my mother's relationship with my brother, her son and comparing it with my boyfriend's relationship with his mother it is like night and day...

    I have been extremely patient because I love him, but if things do not change I'm afraid I will have to cut our relationship short.

  10. A very good, and true, article. I am the oldest of two brothers. When I was two, and my brother was an infant, my father walked out on us. As your article states, I think I replaced my father, and it became my job to please my mother. I have struggled with people pleasing and relationships with women all my life. I have spent my life trying to make her happy and avoid her wrath. She died three years ago, and before she died I had a conversation with her about our relationship. She told me what she did was best for me, I owed everthing that I was to her, and that I should apologize for even questioning her. I did not apologize, which is victory of sorts for me, but as I always do, I felt badly for upsetting her. Bill

    1. Bill: It has been years since you wrote your post, and I am just now seeing it tonight. But if you ever happen to read my reply, I feel the need to say something for you that probably is in the back of your mind but would be difficult for you to verbalize without feeling guilty.

      Here it is:

      Shame on her.

      Shame on your mother for leaving you with final words that were sure to cause you pain every time you thought of them, and with no hope that she might ever be able to take them back. What a terrible thing to do to your child, that your last memory of her is hearing her repeat the same cruel words that caused you so much pain most of your life.

      You do not need to feel bad for upsetting her. I feel bad for you because she chose to upset you right up to the very end. Shame on her. My prayer for you is that you have been able to find peace.

  11. I have a different exerience and perspective. My daughter was deeply emotionally involved with a young man that is controlled by his mother. She used verbal abuse of him and my daughter to control him, refused to let him come to our house for a time, asked my daughter's friends to spy on them when they were away from her, and then accused me of "deeply hurting her." These two young people were crushed that their relationship could not bear the weight of this woman's tactics (and his behaviors towards my daughter as a result of her control -- something I'm sure he doesn't even understand) and they finally broke up. They had initially thought they would be together forever and wanted to be married, but no doubt this is for the best (despite the emotional pain of being apart) because a lifetime with his mother for a mother-in-law would eventually poison what would be left of their love. My heart breaks for my daughter.


      Exactly the same thing happened with me. We were into a long distance relationship staying in two separate countries but even how much we can communicate with each other or whether we can interact at all or not was being controlled by his mother. His mom stayed in my city and she wanted me to be at her beck and call whenever she would want but did not allow her son to meet me or spend time with me when he came here even once a year for about a week. She did not even let him pay a courtesy visit to my parents but herself used to come to our place whenever she felt like. In fact, she wanted her son to spend all the time with her and narrate to her all the conversations we had...each and everything. Even insisted her son to show her all the sms and messages we had exchanged and forced her son to use her phone whenever he was in town so that she could keep a track of all the messages we were exchanging. If he refused ever, she created dramas to emotionally blackmail her son and used all her evil tricks to alienate her son against me and my family. She even forced her son to pressurize me for marriage with a number of conditions imposed on me such as even if I don’t get along with his mother in future, he will stay with his mom only blah blah blah. She had also taught her son that since he is a boy, he need not shoulder any duty towards my parents, need not show anu courtesy towards them or care about them and since I am a girl, it is my duty to give time to her listening to all those (which were 99% craps) she had to say, care for them. Apart from these things, my boyfriend's mother had started to emotionally and financially exploit me and started behaving as if she was the only approving and commanding authority in the relationship. The moment I started to turn down her abnormal demands and disapproved all the wrongs she was committing purposely on me and my family, she started to inject poison in her son's mind against me and my mom which was even more toxic. Funniest part was, even after understanding all this foul play by this lady, her son could not speak a word against her, against all this injustice that was being done to me since he was so much suppressed and emasculated by his mom. In fact, he chose to support his mentally sick mother's psychopathy, narcissistic personality disorder and abnormal behaviour and started accusing me for not adjusting to his mom's abnormal behaviour and unjustified demands and threatened to leave me if I don't do so. Although I was shattered after facing all this but after coping with much mental agony I have decided to move on. Afterall, life is one and it is not worth to be spent with a bunch of jerks like them.

    2. I am sorry that first person's daughter and then the girl with a long distance relationship had to suffer, but in the long run-both gals are much better off. believe me, I wish I listened to my father who said with a mother-in-law like mine, I was in for a life of misery-I thought my husband would change after marriage, unfortunately my dad was right..
      I think my husband has grown up, change, only to be disappointed and heartbroken again and again each and every time his mother is involved. (I would have left, but have a child to think about now-who mother in law would love to have half the time with my husband.)

  12. This is one of the best articles I read, but it is now too late unfortunately, I probably needed to look into this and understand what was happening to our lives years ago. I have been married 26.5 years and 6 months ago my mohter-in-law passed away. Now my husband is leaving me for another woman that he found after the death of his mother, and he is infatuated with. His mom controlled our entire marraige, she started by comming with us in our honey moon, when I was 21, I thought at the time what a great mother-in-law I have, I was too young, naive and I did not understand any of the details of your article. She came with us in all summer vacations till the death of her husband, at which time she started moving in with us 3-6 months each year for the last 17 years. All I did for 26 years was to maintain a harmonious relationship with my mother-in-law so she can control my husband and manipulate me.
    Now I lost him, and I'm so hurt, devastated and disoriented, don't know who I am and what I want and need. She poisoned our love!

    1. I am so sorry..
      I have some what the same situation for 15 years now.. I think we get stuck on hope.. Hope that one day they will change.. Because some times. they do say the right things.. and it causes hope..

      Think of it as a opportunity to get over him.
      Feel sorry for this new lady..She will be required to "BE" his mother.. He probably saw something in her that reminded him of her.. Now he needs a surrogate..
      Be thankful.. This lady will not enjoy this relationship..

  13. I hadn't checked comments on here in awhile as I didn't expect there to be more. Thank you, everyone, for sharing your stories. I'm amazed at the number of people who can relate to what I'm talking about. Nearly everything I write about comes from my own painful experiences and I appreciate when others say, "I know what you're talking about!"

    To address the most recent comment, how earth-shaking to be cut loose after nearly three decades of marriage! I'm so sorry that this has happened to you. It must give you a tremendous sense of loss and I hope that you'll find a minister, counselor, or support group to confide in about this situation. I know a lot of people who get great support through a program called DivorceCare that many churches offer.

    It's hard starting over. But look at what you know now, and can do now, and how what you've been through can be used to help other people. You are in a powerful position even if you feel beaten down by this abandonment. I love quoting T.D. Jakes when he says to take this misery and turn it into your ministry. It may feel like your life is over, but you could look at it another way-- your life is just beginning. This is a new thing, a time and a space in which you're not bound by past constraints.

    Your husband doesn't define you. Personally I believe that we find our identity in God. I sincerely believe that there is a unique purpose for every one of our lives and as we get closer to Him, we learn more about who we really are. You're His daughter-- a daughter of the King. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You are special and beautiful to Him, and He can give you a love that will never, ever let you go. Don't let this keep you down. Stand tall like you've never stood before.

    Bill, your mom had a tough road to walk. She probably really believed that she did what was best. I'm sure you appreciate the sacrifices she had to make to raise two boys on her own. We can always honor what our parents did right. I'm sorry that she put you in the spouse role though, which was both of your parents' fault.

    Parents really should keep the kids in the kids category and actively seek friends and/or companions that can fill the adult roles. I'm so glad you realize how this might have played into your relationships with other women. That is a powerful step towards having healthy relationships. I hope you'll explore these issues with a support group, counselor, or minister, because it sounds like you're on the right track and are willing to overcome this. You can do it!

    The bottom line is-- don't let your past experiences rob you of a better future. Find proper support and defeat these issues. Don't be defined by your partner or parents. Find who you really are in Him.

    1. I loved your article. I have been married for 25 years. My son is an only child of a divorced Mother. H e actually said to me when we first met at age 18, that his Mother would come first, his wife would have to understand. (wonder who told him that?) Now of course he denies ever saying that and if he did he was a kid and has changed, but he has not..

      I even overheard my Mother-in law saying she wanted to get rid of me to get her son back, my husband said she must of been joking. Anyway I thought she would like me if I was nicer to her, spent so much time trying to please her, she was always nice in front of my husband and mean when he wasn't around. He never stood up for me the times she slipped up and was mean in front of him.

      We had a child 10 years ago, she tried to take over we almost divorced, I would have but then my husband and Mommy would have my child 50% of the time.

      I distanced myself from her, which has helped, though each and every time my husband will side with his Mother, not his wife, Mother of his child...I don't think they ever change.t

      Your article should be a requirement read for engaged couples. If I only knew then...

    2. sorry I meant my husband is an only son.

  14. You just described the guy I have been trying to have a relationship with for 15 years.. The problem is these men honestly truly feel they are doing nothing wrong.. That you are wrong.
    In a relationship that is working the partner has power.. They come first. And when you are not first and you must always concede to a mans mother..And you feel you do not have any power ..Its time to leave..
    Women and men have power over the people that are in love with them. If you feel you can't change anything mother wants and you are the one that is left to take it and shut up..... Its proof that you don't have the kind of power over him that you should have.
    Its time to wrap it up and leave.. You deserve a man of your own..One that is sensitive to your needs..Letting mom get the attention and the affection he should have for you.. Is a long sad road to hoe.. And it never gets better.Each year mother gets more power.. She ages and gets more needy.. And he gets more concerned and sensitive to her.
    And she gets more secure in the fact she is more important.. And she manages to take even more from you..
    In the end .. You end up giving up your partner in life.. You end up alone~! You might as well be the mistress to a married man. Waiting for him to find time for you.. Its so much the same emotionally..
    Walk away, the minute you find yourself feeling your man might as well be having an affair and he gets mad at you for being so "petty and jealous" .. Cause thats when you know mother is the woman who is in control of his emotions.. And you can't win. And it won't get better.

  15. This said everything in one concise article. It packed a punch. Thanks for this.

  16. Dear Ms. Hyatt,

    I need to talk to someone - I have had LOADS of counseling to cope with my 'married to mom" husband over the past 10 years. I finally reached a point where I feel like I will become totally crushed and lose myself if I do not take action to leave this relationship behind, but for some reason - ok, lots of reasons that I am aware of struggling with - I am immobilized. I need to talk to someone...just to process what I have to do. There is no "one more thing and I really will leave him" left that can happen. I have taken off my rose-colored glasses. Things get worse, worse, worse, and not better, except that I have no tolerance for the fruits of this very damaged man's upbringing. I am the target of his unresolved issues he never had the guts to deal with from his mother. Will you do phone counseling?

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  18. My mother has absolute controls for my feelings. I know that she is like a drug for me: something who is destroying my masculinity but I cannot stop.

    Until 30 years old I haven't the first kiss and there was something which prevented me to connect to a woman. I decided to go to an escort to have my first kiss and more. I will visit escorts more because this is only way to have a connection with a woman. It is not about pumping, but is more about hugging, cuddling, kissing.

    I also, don't want every to marry. If my own mother did that emotionally for me, how can I trust a stranger. That's why I preffer to be only a simple client for a women and noting more.

    Guess that a punishment for being a controlling mother is never to have nephews. Seeing your friends who become grandmother, but your son is still single.

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    1. From my experience, when I pointed this out to my husband, he became very defensive and protective of his Mother, to him, I was wrong, the one with problems. (like this article says) When I went for counseling for myself, as my husband wouldn't go; I told him they said his relationship with his Mother was dysfunctional, of course "they" were wrong..
      I would feel bad for him if he stood up for me to his Mother, instead of throwing me under the bus. To me, they were a team.

  20. May be it is my own opinion (a man’s opinion), but somehow the article seemed to have a very feminine perspective of describing things. I have been through this myself, and am tired of hearing that it is “MY” responsibility to break away from my “mother” (I do not know if this kind of relationship should be renamed). Nobody ever seemed to remind my mother that it was her responsibility too to giver her son some space of his own. Even now, people, especially women, keep asking me directly or indirectly that it is me who should put my spouse first. But the fact is, when I was growing up in such an unhealthy environment, and I kept turning to people for moral help, nobody dared to come forward and tell her that she should let her son believe that he has a life of his own too and that should come before anything else for him.
    May be it is true that it is “MEN” who should try to fix it themselves. If a man ever thinks (like I foolishly did) that another woman in his life would ever sympathize with him for going though what he did not deserve, then he is simply dreaming. That woman will never be able to and even want to understand what it feels to him to be enslaved like this. The new woman, like every other ones, will only be concerned about the mother-in-law’s maltreatment towards her, but blame only the son to allow this to happen. Neither will she ever point out towards another mom of a young (and still helpless) son for doing the same thing what her own mother-in-law did for last 30 years and is still doing.
    It is therefore the sole responsibility of “MEN” to help “YOUNG BOYS” to free them from their controlling mothers. Simply because, it they do not, no one else will, except transferring the blame.

    1. Dear Anonymous: It's been a while since you posted this, and I am only just now seeing it several years later, so I don't know if you'll see my response. I just want to say, first, that I am sorry that you have had to deal with the double whammy of a controlling mother, plus a lack of sympathy or support from others who might have been able to help you.

      Your experience sounds similar to my own in many respects. (Scroll way, way down to April 6, 2016 and you'll see my post.) I, too, tried to get help from many people in escaping my mother's excessive control when I was growing up. And I, too, was shut down with a host of unhelpful responses, such as self-righteous platitudes about my duty as her daughter. It never occurred to them that she might have some duties toward her daughter that she was not fulfilling.

      In addition, not only was my father no help, he was a significant part of the problem. While I am well aware that my mother placed outrageous, unreasonable demands on everyone, including him, I think it was pretty cowardly of him to hide out at the bars drinking himself into oblivion, knowing full well that I, the youngest of the family, was left alone day and night to deal single-handedly with all her craziness.

      So I know what it's like to reach adulthood saddled with tons of other people's baggage. I felt deeply resentful that I was the one who wound up needing therapy when those two were the real sickos. But there it was. The unfair truth was that I was the only one who was truly suffering from our family's mental illness; the others all seemed to quite enjoy it. I suspect that might be the case with you.

      If it is, please know that I empathize. It's not fair that you are stuck carrying your mother's baggage. It's not fair that no one helped you escape being loaded up with that baggage when they were in a position to help you. It's not fair that you have encountered women who are more concerned about their own feelings about the mother's domineering and abusive treatment than they are about the enmeshed son's. And it's not fair that everyone expects you to do the hard work of getting all that baggage unpacked so that they can enjoy the fruits of your labors.

      It's not fair, and it sucks, and I empathize. I was in your shoes, and I hated it. I hated that I had to suck it up and do all the hard work that they should have done. And I'm not going to lie: It was extremely difficult, excruciating, lonely work. But here's the thing: My life is the better for my having done it. It's been more than 30 years since I did that work. And while my life is far from perfect now, it certainly is not the dysfunctional, despairing, soul-killing mess it used to be.

      I have to say this, too, in case no one has ever said it to you before: I really have to congratulate you. It is the rare man in your position who has the insight to see the destructive mother-son dynamic for what it is. Most enmeshed sons I have encountered are extremely defensive and hostile when the subject comes up. So I really admire and respect you for being able to see the truth and be honest with yourself about it.

      If you don't mind, I will pray for you that you can find peace. It is a wonderful gift when you find it. That is my hope for you. Peace and blessings.

  21. I have never posted anything...but this article hit home. I have been in a almost 4 year relationship with a man who constantly "said" things to keep me around --but never "actions" action, would mean commitment. I just recently realized that Mom played a part in this lack of commitment he could have with me. {he also has a 19 year old daughter-we won't even go there) He spent more time with Mom, phoned her at least once a day, dinner with her, he is her "paper boy" he brings her a paper every morning. When we had issues-I heard via family mom said "oh,..... must be mad at him again" I can't even imagine the things I never heard -that she said about me-(and from the 19 year old) This all hurts sooo bad- and how it took me so long to "get it" but when we are in love-they have power over us!! and we have "hope" live and learn...and I shall make my misery into ministry. good luck to all in this or similar situations. "keep calm and carry on" : )

  22. Heidi, I can't adequately express my thanks at reading your enlightening article. I have spent five torturous years being too kind, polite and open-minded in the face of a (now ex-) partner, our young daughter and the behaviour of his mother undermining us all. He treats me terribly with no respect and cannot see that his mother does anything wrong when I am excluded or we are undermined habitually. I eventually snapped and it was enough for him to discuss it (as an 'adult' man) with his mother when she wrote (in her own handwriting) and sent him a father's day card last year from our daughter and gave it to him two days before the date. He proudly displayed it with not a flinch of thinking there was anything wrong with it. And this year, now I have rid myself of him and sadly lost the unattainable family life I so wanted for us (but would never get), she continues to undermine us all, booking a holiday for my daughter without seeking my permission first and buying gifts from our daughter to daddy this father's day. I raised it with him as the 'adult' man and then received a whining email from her angry at me. He is extremely quick to anger at me about general everyday events. I told him I doubted it was actually anything to do with me, I just happen to be an adult woman attempting to have a relationship with him and that I thought it was probably his own mother he hated but he couldn't dare admit it or act on it. He would charm other women and crave their attention to boost his ego. Now, having read your article every paragraph makes perfect sense and is a total reflection of our situation. This link will now be winging it's way to him as an early 40th birthday present - maybe the biggest gift he could give himself is to absorb and act on it. I'm so thrilled :-)

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  23. My husband divorced me for his mother. During the first 15 years of marriage she guilted him into signing a contract to transfer $2,500 per month to her in exchange for a motley cabin. My objections were overruled. Years later, when we sold our house for about $180,000, guess who got all that money? My husband also would lie to transfer other expensive things to her. I finally refuaed to see her after an episode where he announced to me, his mother and his sistr that if there was any conflict between me and his mother he would always choose his mother. For several years after, he verbally abused me to try to force me to visit his mother with him. Then there were 10 years where this chaos died down. But 5 years ago, she got to him again, and he insisted on buying a house in a distant state to live by her, and actually blew through close to a million dollars to show off to her and her friends. He was angry i would not be pressured into this again and divorced me. He was greatly distressed by the divorce and his own self-destruction of his retirement. He continues to fawn over her to this day. That woman wrecked his psyche and our marriage. He was unable to look at what she was doing to him. I don't see much hope for these narcissistic mothers and their sons. The mother is in her glory and the son is her hero.

  24. What happens to these helpless men when their mothers die?

  25. Hello. I am a violinist from Dallas Texas. I have not yet read the Adams book but have done a lot of research online concurrently regarding covert incest/emotional incest. This book is facinating and helpul to me as I am one year and a half married. I but my wife in the hospital three times, abused her and more as a result of my toxic relationship with my mother. She truly wanted me in the husband role and not to be raised to be a free man to have my own future. She would rather I have a future with her and based on her ideal. My wife nearly divorced me several times and I even had to seperate myself going to a homeless shelter with resources to find help. Thank you for writing this article. Please visit my music work at via my website and thank you for reading my story.

  26. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  30. OMG, Sounds exactly like my SIL.

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  32. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  33. i have been a victim of all the article said for 24 years. my husband calls me "the problem" accusing me for things that have never crossed my mind. it has been so painful because his mother comes first in any situation and she has the final say and she is the confidant of my husband. I am glad to have come upon this article, it is so liberating, it has actually set me free from the guilt of being accused for every thing. since my husband works away, i have emailed him a copy of the article so that he can also know what he suffers from and perhaps it can awaken a positive change in him. Thanks so much for publishing such an enlightening article, you are God-sent.

  34. Excellent article and well described.Makes me want to cry because what a sad way to be. I know men like this and their poor wives are going crazy. I say run and never look back.

  35. Well said! How people attach to their primary caregiver greatly conditions their capacity to form healthy connections to others for the rest of their lives. Settling for toxic connections or avoiding making connections to avert negative attention from mom is emotional enslavement. #cutthecord!

  36. am too emotional to type a long reply but ty this has helped , my mother has controlled my life and now in her 74th yeAR still does by now turning my own daughter against me when i stood up to her i am 41 my only resolve now is to outlive her i cant speak to anyone as she a supposid peer of the community and sits on every possible town/charity/political meeting for years i thought it was me ,im awake terribly hurting but awake ty

  37. I have seen this phenomenon time and again and indeed lived through the aftermath of just such a mother son relationship. Sparing the gory details suffice to say I very nearly was killed by such a man,miug

  38. I just read the story of my husband's life, unfortunately I am slowly loosing the love of my life in a silent battle only I see. The rest of the world sees her as the most generous wonderful kind mother (person) in the world, even to me. However I am only visible to my husband when he wants me to be otherwise we live her life, their life. I don't know if I can take it much longer and he doesn't seem to care or want to change it, I am not a passive person.

  39. I just read the story of my husband's life, unfortunately I am slowly loosing the love of my life in a silent battle only I see. The rest of the world sees her as the most generous wonderful kind mother (person) in the world, even to me. However I am only visible to my husband when he wants me to be otherwise we live her life, their life. I don't know if I can take it much longer and he doesn't seem to care or want to change it, I am not a passive person.

  40. 20 years of marriage to a man who's married to his mom, and I'm a wreck. I still love him with all my heart, which makes the thought of leaving seem impossible. For years, I thought there would be a time for just the 2 of us somewhere down the road. However, his mom is now 94 years old, in perfect health, and more energetic than my husband or me.

    As the years passed, she used her advanced age to make him feel even more obligated to always "be there" for her. She's healthier than we are, and I now believe she'll outlive me (I'm 63).

    I'm so depressed, I find myself dragging through each day, just waiting for God to take me home. I'm her companion while my husband works. I rarely get a break. I've tried counseling. He wouldn't go, and of course, said the therapist was wrong when she called his relationship with Mom "dysfunctional."

    By the way, he's the eldest of two sons. (Another point that hit home in your post.)

    He cheated on me more than once, before we were engaged. I took him back. He always says the right things, as you described. Our sex life ended after a year of marriage. He blamed his sexual dysfunction on blood pressure medication. I've long supected it had more to do with his mom than his physical health.

    To the young women who've posted that they're leaving their mama's boy: I salute you. You're doing the right thing. Run as fast as you can. It's too late for me. It's hard to leave a man who is otherwise a great guy; but, for your own sanity, do it!

  41. thank you so much for sharing such a great really helped me a lot.


  42. This is such an amazing article and has helped me more than I ever expected, along with all the heartfelt comments and experiences shared here. I am at the end of a three year relationship where I too lived in hope that my partner would fully commit to me and put me before his mother. He is a lovely man in so many ways but just can't (or won't) see the manipulation that is going on in front of him. I have felt like the other woman for too long and can't do it any longer. I'm really sad but it helps to know that I'm not the only one this has happened to.

  43. What a well written blog. In many ways, I feel I have dodged what would of been a very stressful and lonely relationship. I fell in love with a man for 6 months that lived with his parents as equal partnership in their home together. At first, i thought this may be ok. He was a great father, had a great job and always referenced his life like it was perfect.I started to see many signs that this guy was not able to work and communicate through situations as a couple, and was mystified as to why I was sensing so much discomfort around his mother. This mother and son shared an ego that I could not understand. Not knowing him very long, she would accompany us when we went out on occasion, and was so negative about her other sons significant other. I knew in time I would be next. I am not perfect, and i knew she would find flaws about me too. This was the only son she had this close relationship with and she once told me he was her favorite. I had to leave behind someone I loved very much. It broke my heart and there was no way to tell him what was in my heart or how I felt. I knew enough to know he would defend her ... no matter how much she invaded boundaries ... no matter what. I didn't try to fight for it. I knew I would lose. At least now I know for my future what this has opened my eyes too and what my gut was continuouslytelling me. Thank you for this blog.

  44. After being in relationship with him for 3 years, he broke up with me, I did everything possible to bring him back but all was in vain, I wanted him back so much because of the love I have for him, I begged him with everything, I made promises but he refused. I explained my problem to someone online and she suggested that I should rather contact a spell caster that could help me cast a spell to bring him back but I am the type that never believed in spell, I had no choice than to try it, I mailed the spell caster, and he told me there was no problem that everything will be okay before three days, that my ex will return to me before three days, he cast the spell and surprisingly in the second day, it was around 4pm. My ex called me, I was so surprised, I answered the call and all he said was that he was so sorry for everything that happened, that he wanted me to return to him, that he loves me so much. I was so happy and went to him, that was how we started living together happily again. Since then, I have made promise that anybody I know that have a relationship problem, I would be of help to such person by referring him or her to the only real and powerful spell caster who helped me with my own problem and who is different from all the other ones out there. Anybody could need the help of the spell caster, lotto, his email is DRAISEDIONSPELLCASTER@OUTLOOK.COM you can email him if you need his assistance in your relationship or any other problem like wining lottery.

  45. Hi

    This is the story of my life I am from India and believe me this happens in india a lot.Most indian men have this mother syndrom.Indian ladies whether from rural or urban cities suffer extensively throughout their lives more becoz of the joint family system Young girls are taught to be submissive and meek right from the childhood.Itis disgusting to see this happening in all stratas of society.I escaped from an extremely abusive marriagewhich was totally dominated by my mother-in-law.Shehad made my life miserable in ever manner possible with my idiotic husband taking sides with and being physically abusive too,looking to create conflict at every given situation.I escaped from this abusive relationship with my daughter and am happy as ever

  46. I am Dianna from Michigan, i was in a serious relationship with my Ex Boyfriend for three good years.. One day we were in a dinner party, we had a little misunderstanding which lead to a Quarrel and he stood up and left me at the dinner party. i try to call him but he was not picking my calls so after than i contacted my brother and told him about it,my brother had to see him on my behalf,he told my brother that it is over between us.. Then i contacted a friend of mine that once had a similar problem and she directed me to one of the spiritual diviner ( first i thought it was not going to be possible and i contacted him i was ask to come up with a little requirement,so i did what i was ask to do, after 2 days i was in my office when my Boyfriend called me and was asking me to forgive him and come back to him. i was very surprise it was like a dream to me,so ever since we have been happily married with one kid my lovely baby(Ceslav) can contact this great spell caster with name Dr Rasheed from India through his email at( )i wish you the best of luck...

    I am Dianna from Michigan, i was in a serious relationship with my Ex Boyfriend for three good years.. One day we were in a dinner party, we had a little misunderstanding which lead to a Quarrel and he stood up and left me at the dinner party. i try to call him but he was not picking my calls so after than i contacted my brother and told him about it,my brother had to see him on my behalf,he told my brother that it is over between us.. Then i contacted a friend of mine that once had a similar problem and she directed me to one of the spiritual diviner ( first i thought it was not going to be possible and i contacted him i was ask to come up with a little requirement,so i did what i was ask to do, after 2 days i was in my office when my Boyfriend called me and was asking me to forgive him and come back to him. i was very surprise it was like a dream to me,so ever since we have been happily married with one kid my lovely baby(Ceslav) can contact this great spell caster with name Dr Rasheed from India through his email at( )i wish you the best of luck...

  47. I dated a guy who was completely controlled by his mother. I have to say, he was probably one of the nicest and most generous men I've ever had a relationship with, and I would have loved to gotten to know him better, but his mother wouldn't have it. At 35 years old, and more than likely still a virgin, his mother was against our dating from the start. It took me a long time to figure out what I might have done wrong, because I felt that I was the problem. It wasn't until I finally met her, that I saw what a controlling and manipulative person that she was. That being said, she was perfectly gracious and kind to me the one and only time we had met, of course we were in public when that occurred; she had no choice but to be nice. But it was clear that she had her son tightly wrapped around her finger. And it wasn't beyond him either, he knew how his mother worked, and knew it was wrong, but continued to cave into her demands. She insisted that he break it off with me, and called me things I've never been called in my life, as if I was the devil herself. It became apparent based on the discussions he and I had together, that he had never been in a serious relationship, and always knew deep in his soul that his mother would never approve of anyone. Obviously our relationship never went further than a couple of dates, and I never saw him again. The great tragedy of this was that I had known him for several years prior to us dating; we'd gotten to become good friends at a weekly social outing. His mothers resentment of me, also led to her making enemies out everyone else at our weekly gatherings, which led to him leaving the group, and also end long-term friendships with perfectly good people. Myself and others confronted him about this, and he acknowledged that he knew his mother was in the wrong, but it didn't matter, she was in charge, and whatever she said was the rule. It's sad, because he was a great guy, and without his mother being so selfish and controlling of him, he's otherwise a great catch. I would have been happy to continue seeing him if he grew a spine and told his mother to stay out of it, but I suppose that's his own doing.

  48. All very good observations, Heidi. I do wish you would say more about the destructive role the absentee fathers play in this dynamic.

    I am the daughter of a mother like the one you describe. My role was a toxic mix of "chosen child" responsible for meeting all of her demands; "target child," who took the heat whenever she needed someone to blame for her unhappiness; and "identified patient," when I began acting out my inner turmoil during my teens. There were other, equally destructive roles for me, but you get the idea.

    My mother also attempted to make my older brother her chosen one. For many years her attempts were successful: he was the straight-A student, active in numerous school activities, extremely polite, extremely submissive, the all-around Good Boy who was (I suspect) racked with sexual problems, although we never discussed them. After college he moved all the way across the country to achieve a modicum of autonomy.

    And where was our father during all this time? Mostly hanging out in bars, drinking himself into oblivion, getting his drivers license revoked numerous times, getting fired from numerous jobs, and just generally not meeting any of his obligations to any of us, and certainly not to her. When he was home, he was cold and contemptuous toward all of us.

    So here's who my brother and I married. He married a controlling woman who is physically unattractive and therefore neither a threat to my brother's shaky self-esteem nor to my mother's position as the reigning beauty. (She was a stunner when she was young.) I, meanwhile, married a controlling man who was physically unappealing and therefore not a threat to my shaky self-esteem. His mother was a controlling, insecure woman like the mother you describe in your article. And his father was a domineering, emotionally abusive man who demanded that his own needs get met at the expense of everyone else's -- especially those of his wife. If anyone dared to disappoint him, he withdrew into a cold, icy silence that would last for days, weeks and months on end.

    And the beat goes on.

    I don't in any way wish to excuse the inappropriate ways mothers like this damage their children. I just wish we would hold more honest conversations about the catastrophic damage that is done by these toxic fathers. They are equally responsible for the damage that is caused in their families ... if not more so, because society gives them so much more freedom to make the major decisions for their families. I think it's time we started holding men equally accountable for the wellbeing of their wives and children. I personally have heard about all I ever want to hear about bad mothers. And that's saying a lot, because I really hated my mother when I was growing up. I still find her petty, selfish and mean-spirited. But my father certainly was no prize, either. Can we please start talking about the guys for a change?

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  50. A great article which opened the passages of my mind clogged with guilt, anger and conflicting emotions and thoughts. I am from India and I dare say a lot of this is very much true in this country too. Mothers exert a great control over their son's and added to this is the socio-religious indoctrination of idealizing a mother-son relationship and considering it to be the standard to earn the label of a good man. Many mothers even bathe their sons well into their late teens as if it is the 'normal' and feel offended if their son's decline asserting their individuality and boundaries. This leaves the son, especially if he is not well informed and well read, to be saddled with feelings of perennial guilt. One can imagine the havoc, suffering, the avoidable psychological pain, conflict and internal chatter that will emasculate and exhaust such a man all throughout his life. A swing between extreme anger and then guilt and the actions and harmful results they beget in his life. And thus the scarred mutilated personality that would emerge as a result soldiers on bloodied just not able to 'live' life. The Mothers do not know or realise this and the immense harm such over involvement causes to the psycho-sexual development of their offspring and the sons too are already enmeshed to be able to get vocal and clear enough to set boundaries and breakaway without being saddled within of a conflict of anger-guilt and the resultant exhaustion-depression. It is tragic. And there are hardly anyone who could even begin to see this as a problem in our society.


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