How does the relationship between men and their mums evolve?

Man hugging his mum both laughing enjoying each others company

“Men are what their mums made them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Natural transitions in a man’s life such as when he leaves home, when he marries and when he has his own children are three examples of when the dynamic of the relationship with his mum may evolve. For a man, progressions in the son-mum dynamic can be particularly positive and can lead to better appreciation of the role his mum played in his overall development and emotional health. There can be some not-so positive shifts in the son-mum relationship too, such as the inability of his mum to let go, interference by his mum in his marriage and problems with son-mum boundaries. This blog post will highlight some of those challenges as well as potential solutions.

How important is a healthy son-mum relationship?

A mountain of evidence points to the significant impact mum has in shaping the behaviour and the development of emotional health of the son.

Research from the University of Reading says that children, especially boys, who have insecure attachments to their mums in the early years have more behaviour problems later in childhood.

The analysis in 2010 by Dr Pasco Fearon, from the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, looked at 69 studies involving almost 6,000 children aged 12 and younger.

"Dr Fearon said: "The central question we posed was whether attachment insecurity was associated with behaviour problems across all the studies conducted to date." (“Mother-son relationship key to emotional development”) The results showed quite clearly that the answer to this question is a firm yes.

"More specifically, our analysis showed that children with insecure attachments to their mums, particularly boys, had significantly more behavioural problems, even when the behavioural problems were measured years later."

Anecdotally, I am by far the healthy, respectful, (mostly) well balanced mature masculine man I am today with thanks to the devotion, guidance, and love of my mum especially during the ages of 8 to 18. My parents separated when I was 8 and I was raised predominately by my mum except for a 2-year period when I lived with my dad.

How does the mum-son relationship evolve?

When men are still boys, their mum plays a significant role in their lives. As a boy grows, and on his journey to become a fully-fledged man, forming a relationship with his own partner and potentially starting his own family, his relationship with his mum evolves.

When a man shares a strong relationship with his mum, he gains emotional maturity, and it directly affects his relationship with his spouse. A man who loves and respects his mum, also loves, and respects his wife. Happy marriages are associated with warm and secure son-mum relationships.

What are the four common son-mum relationship problems?

Once the man enters a long-term relationship and/or gets married, there are problems that could arise between him, his mum, and his partner. I have experience this in my own relationship to some degree and I have heard this consistently within my own social group as a challenge men face.

Notably, the four common son-mum relationship problems are:

  1. Tension between son, mum, and wife: When men let their mums interfere, and take charge of their lives even after marriage, tension between him and his wife can increase. The man needs to be assertive with his mum, instilling boundaries, prioritizing his wife’s needs, feeling and desires, and striking a healthy balance between his mum and wife.
  1. Over-protective mum: Mums must allow space for their sons to make mistakes, to experience their own journey and not seek too much of their son’s attention otherwise her son’s maturation be stifled. When the wife realizes that her husband is giving more-than-required attention to his mum at the cost of her and the kids, this could lead to problems within the marriage.
  1. Inability to let go: Mums who want to be involved in every tiny detail of her sons life, control him, and continue treating him like a child are overstepping their role. Instead, mums could focus on their own interests and hobbies and create space for their sons to lead their own life, to make his own mistakes, to learn his own lessons and to grow emotional into a mature masculine man.
  1. Undefined boundaries: Mum and son need to make sure that each other’s privacy is respected. For example, the mum needs to respect the privacy of her son and daughter-in-law especially during holiday season and family celebrations. When mum has an expectation to be invited and involved in all matters relating to her son, she is setting herself up for a difficult time. The son and daughter-in-law may grow to resent mum, leading to less invitations and even stronger boundaries.

What are five ways to build a stronger relationship with your mum?

If you decide that you would like to develop or deepen the relationship you have with your mum these five steps may help:

  1. Take responsibility: Let your mum know that you are taking responsibility for your past actions and that you are looking to develop or deepen the relationship moving forward.
  1. Fill your cup: A step to healing a son-mum relationship is helping yourself first. Not only will it improve your wellbeing, but you may find yourself more open, aware or your behaviours and an even more loving and caring son.
  1. Seek counselling: Sharing your concerns with a qualified third party who is objective and can offer an unbiased solution to the problem may help immensely. A counsellor, therapist or coach could guide you and provide you with additional skills and tools to help achieve your outcomes.
  1. Talk openly: Find a time to talk with your mum. Communicate your feelings and concerns. Reassure your mum that you seek to be even more understanding and that you wish to develop or deepen the relationship. This may require you to invite your mum to see you as a grown man, not the little boy dream she may be holding onto.
  1. Be calm & present: Offer your mum space and time to accept the reality of change. A calm mind and masculine presence will set the scene. Your mum will get a cue and understand your intentions to develop or deepen the relationship.

How do I contend with my mum treating my siblings better than me?

It can be difficultly frustrating when you feel like your mum is treating your siblings more favourably than you. You and your siblings may have a different relationship with your mum which may graduate in time. As a parent myself, it can be easier at times to feel connected with my son or daughter depending on stage of life, time spent together and mutual interests. In cases of clear and obvious preferential treatment, communicate how your mum’s behaviour towards your sibling feels to you. If there is little to no acknowledgement by your mum, professional counselling may be helpful.

How do I Deal with Mum’s Failing Health?

If your mum, aging or ill, needs help to stay safe and healthy, you might be unsure about how to manage the situation. Figuring out her needs, understanding the options, and making decisions can feel overwhelming. awarded ‘Best Senior Caregiving Website in 2021’ provides practical and useful tips, advice, personal stories, and resources related to caregiving and aging. Their website addresses the problem of “my aging parents need help” and offers seven steps to help mum be as healthy and happy as possible.

  1. Assess your mum’s needs
  2. Think about your own needs and abilities
  3. Include your mum in the process
  4. Understand the financial situation
  5. Take care of home safety basics
  6. Make sure communication is simple and accessible
  7. Explore available aging care options

How does belonging to a men’s group help you to develop and deepen your relationship with mum?

Your relationship with your mum is one of many topics covered in men’s groups. During sessions, men speak openly about their challenges and triumphs and ‘Mum’ is a popular topic.

Being a part of an online men’s group is an opportunity for you to prepare yourself for life’s inevitable ups and downs such as the evolving relationship with your mum, and to experience mateship with other men. You can develop habits that prepare you to navigate life’s lows and blows, knowing you have the support of a community of men who have ‘got your back’! Communities of healthy men promote healthy masculinity. 

The benefits of joining a Men’s Group can extend far beyond you as an individual man and can be experienced by your families, your workplaces, and your communities.

From my own challenges, combined with extensive research, MANonline was conceived.

MANonline is a growing network of online men’s groups.

Click here to attend a free pilot session

We look forward to welcoming you.