Who doesn’t adore a man who loves and respects his mother? You’ve heard that adage that “The way a man treats his mother is the way he’ll treat you”, and certainly, the relationship he has with the woman who brought him into the world will tell you a lot about the kind of person he is and what you should expect in your own household.
For that reason, it’s always a relief to find that your fiancé’ respects and honors his mother the way he should. Valuing her as a woman, listening to her advice, and making her feel special are all things that should touch your heart and make you feel more comfortable about marrying the man.
However, there is a BIG difference between admiration and adoration!
If you find yourself engaged to a man who thinks his mother hung the moon and can do no wrong, you may be marrying a mama’s boy.
What does this mean and what tell-tale signs might indicate that his mother will continue to be priority #1 and play the starring role in your lives even after you tie the knot? Keep reading to find out.
What is a mama’s boy?
The dictionary defines a “mama’s boy” as a boy or man who is excessively influenced by or attached to his mother. But this doesn’t just mean that he does things for HER. Oh no! It typically means that she has continued to do things for HIM, like cooking or laundry, and that he may either not know how to do these things for himself or expect you to keep doing for him all the things she has over the years.
In exchange for her continued “support”, a mama’s boy will defer to her judgement and opinions (or at least go out of his way to hide any “disobedience” so she isn’t dismayed). While this sounds relatively benign on the surface, this could mean that he:
>> Doesn’t stand up for you when she tells him you’re not good enough (to marry, have children with, make a home with, etc.);
>> Wants you to act, think, and behave like her (at least when she’s around);
>> Holds her up on a pedestal and is unwilling or unable to recognize her faults, limitations, or intrusive behavior;
>> Expects to conduct your household affairs and social events (like family meals and holiday gatherings) in the way she thinks best or has always done them;
>> Does not set healthy boundaries with her in terms of her input, involvement, or the amount of time he spends (or wants you to spend) with them as an extended family; and/or
>> Allows her to openly criticize the way you do things, even with your own children.
What about YOUR family? Everything peachy-keen there?
If not, read our blog about When Your Family Doesn’t Like Your Fiance’.
Additional Things to Watch For
Other alarming signs that your fiancé’ is an unabashed mama’s boy may include:
>> Avoiding confrontation with her but not with you;
>> Explaining many of his decisions (e.g., about what to wear, eat, or do after work) with, “Because mom said so” or “She likes it this way.”
>> Giving her a free pass on poor behavior by saying things like, “You know how she is”, “You can’t expect her to change”, or “Just ignore it/let it go.”
>> Expecting your marriage to reflect his parents’ relationship, (particularly if his mother defers to his father on everything and doesn’t have a voice of her own); and/or
>> Inappropriately confiding in her about the intimate details of your relationship.
While any of these things alone can certainly be a challenge in your relationship, it’s not necessarily a reason to call off the wedding. In fact, it’s a great opportunity to communicate with your mate about your expectations for your marriage and your future together!
The reality is that, when you marry someone, he not only becomes a part of your extended family but you become a part of his family as well. Having healthy relationships with your in-laws can be especially helpful at the beginning of your lives together. The last thing you want is to start your marriage with a sense of resentment toward him and/or his mom or allow a sense of dread to build up or come between you.
That said, you and your betrothed will become one when you marry and will be a family of your own. Your husband will come first; and you should come first for him. Both sets of parents need to recognize and respect that.
Ultimately, this dilemma is more about you and your fiancé coming to an understanding about his mother’s role in your lives and how it will impact what you do in your marriage. Not the other way around.
Marrying a mama’s boy isn’t ALL bad.
Here are 6 Reasons to Do It.
How to Handle This Delicate Conversation
To get on the same page about your future mother-in-law’s role in your lives , you will need to address the issue with your fiancé in a sensitive but direct way.
>> First do some soul-searching to make sure you yourself aren’t “daddy’s little princess” and have some things to work on before approaching your fiancé with what he may feel is an unfair accusation.
>> Second, think about factors that may be influencing his behavior. Is his father still living? Is he her only son or only child? Is he from a background or culture that better explains his views? (For example, Italians are well known for remaining at home until they marry late in life and continuing to be “mamas’ boys” for a lifetime).
>> Third, go into the conversation with an optimistic expectation that he will respond positively to your concerns and show a willingness to set healthy limits with his mother and change the nature of the relationship he has with her. Doubting his reaction before you go in may sabotage your efforts.
If he doesn’t respond well, here are some possible outcomes and suggestions for how to handle each one:
>> Your fiancé says he understands but his behavior doesn’t change.You will need to decide if you can live with the current situation, wait a little longer to observe his behavior, raise the topic again, or end the relationship. What you should NOT expect is for his behavior to change after you’re married.
>> This conversation causes a problem in your fiance’s relationship with his mother and now he resents you (or you feel guilty). This is regrettable but not entirely unexpected. In this case, it’s worth allowing time for the dust—and any hard feelings—to settle. This will also give you time to assess your fiance’s willingness to put you first and put the relationship with his mother in its proper place (and keep it there). But don’t feel guilty for respectfully challenging him to do something he should have done long ago.
>> The conversation causes a rift between you and your fiance’s mother and now she’s against you (or has given your fiancé’ an ultimatum like “It’s her or me”). As ugly as it is, “mama drama” may actually allow your fiancé’ to see his mother in a new light, acknowledge her ulterior motives, or realize that his relationship with her has been too close or codependent. It may be uncomfortable to have a mother in law who has a beef with you, but it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened! While awkward and annoying, it’s not deadly and doesn’t need to come between you and your man unless you let it. Things CAN change with time, but beware of any attempt by your fiancé’ to simply placate his mother by cutting you out of the picture (e.g., agreeing to continue going to Sunday dinners at her house without you because you are no longer invited).
>> Your fiancé does not acknowledge your feelings and you worry that it’s a deal-breaker because you know you can’t live with the way things are. This is perhaps the most dreaded outcome because, on top of acknowledging that the relationship with your fiancé’ and his mother is unlikely to ever change, you will need to evaluate his handling of your feelings and whether this kind of reaction is acceptable to you. Minimizing or ignoring your feelings is an indication of the way he will respond when you share them in the future, which, I would argue, is a much more serious and potentially marriage-ending prospect than whatever relationship he shares with his mother.
While marrying a mama’s boy isn’t the worst fate possible, it’s wise to create a healthy, balanced family dynamic before your nuptials. There are many signs that indicate that your fiancé’ may be attached to his mother in a way that will interfere with your happiness in the future. Raising your concerns with him in an open, honest, and respectful way—and then observing the outcome over time—is the best way to gauge his willingness to change for good.