Dating a Mamas Boy
Is his relationship with his mom healthy or parasitic?

Mamas boys often treat their girlfriends like a princess. He's sweet, understanding, patient and kind. He connects to you emotionally like no other man ever has. 

You totally love him but there's one can't stand his mom. She's...

  1. Intrusive  - she comes over unannounced

  2. Manipulative - guilt trips him into doing things or sharing information that he doesn't want to share.

  3. Needy - she confides in him stuff that she should tell a girlfriend or husband. You feel like you are competing for his affection. 

  4. Enabling - she does things for him that he should do for himself like his laundry, cooking, cleaning, doctor appointments, finances, etc.

  5. Ever present - They talk like every day. He shops for her. His mom's opinion means more than yours. He idolizes her, comparing you to her. He takes her side and pressures you to please her. 

To sum it up, the Urban Dictionary's top definition for "mamas boy" is this: 

1) A grown male still dependent on his mother. 

2) A grown male who allows or desires his mother to control most aspects or decisions of his life for him.

Used in a sentence: "I thought I loved him until I realized he was a mama's boy who can't do anything without his mother's permission or approval."

Mamas Boy or Boy Who Honors His Mama

In Scripture we are called to honor our parents. It is the only commandment in the Decalogue that has a promise attached to it. “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long..” (Exodus 20:12)

But when we get married we are also commanded to leave our father and mother and cleave to each other (Gen 2:24). In doing this the husband and wife become “one flesh.” The failure to leave and cleave will dramatically threaten the intimacy and bond a husband and wife should share in marriage. 

Of course these two commands are not opposed to each other. It’s perfectly possible to fulfill both. You can be independent from your parents and still honor them. But many people find it difficult. For this reason we find so many in-law jokes

So there’s this balance that couples need to find when relating to their moms and dads and in-laws. This is really an area that should receive a decent amount of dialogue and evaluation in courtship. Being a mamas boy is not an option in marriage.

The parent child relationship should ideally move from total dependence (infancy) to that of a trusted mentor (Age 20). The parent starts out with full authority and as the child ages and becomes more responsible the parent should gradually lessen their authority and relate to their child through influence.

Unfortunately, in many families the parents try to be their buddy when they are young and their drill sergeant in their teenage years. This is backwards and usually leads to children leaving the house and having very distant or shallow relationships with their parents as young adults.

In the case of a typical mamas boy, however, the mother was most likely a single parent or the father was emotionally absent. In her loneliness, the mother coped with her situation by coddling and pampering her son, using him to meet emotional needs her husband didn't meet. "According to Dr. Mandel, this creates an unhealthy attachment between mother and son making it a mutually dependent and often parasitic relationship." The mom continues to treat her son like a baby instead of as a fully capable adult. 

If this is ringing true for your boyfriend and his mom, resolve that it is not your responsibility to talk to the mother. If boundaries need to be set, respect the fact that it is a personal issue that needs to be resolved between your boyfriend and his mom. No exceptions. 

Before you label your boyfriend as a mamas boy, and prepare your break-up speech, remember too that how a son treats their mother is an index to how they will treat his wife. 

“Let the woman who desires a peaceful, happy union, who would escape future misery and sorrow, inquire before she yields her affections, Has my lover a mother? What is the stamp of her character? Does he recognize his obligations to her? Is he mindful of her wishes and happiness? If he does not respect and honor his mother, will he manifest respect an love, kindness and attention, toward his wife?” When the novelty of marriage is over, will he love me still? Will he be patient with my mistakes, or will he be critical, overbearing, and dictatorial? True affection will overlook many mistakes; love will not discern them.” (Messages to Young People, 450)

So what does a healthy relationship look like? Instead of being a mamas boy how can you be a boy who honors and appreciates his mama? 

Take Inventory of In-law Relations

If you suspect your boyfriend is a mamas boy, observe the role his/her parents play in their life. See if it is a healthy relationship or one that may forebode leaving/cleaving issues. Evaluate your relationship with your own parents as well.

This inventory test is from Dr. Wayne Mack’s excellent workbook “Preparing for Marriage God’s Way: A step by step guide for marriage readiness and after the wedding conflicts” (HIGHLY recommend)

How you relate to your parents

Rating scale 0 = not at all        1= some        2 = very much

                                                                                                 You          Your partner

1.      Excessive dependence upon parents                        _____          _____

2.      Jealous of partners relationship with parents         _____          _____

3.      Critical of partners parents and/or relatives             _____          _____

4.      Gossips to parents about partner                              _____          _____

5.      Takes sides with parents against partner                _____          _____

6.      Excessive talking about parents                                _____          _____

7.      Compares partner to parents                                      _____          _____

8.      Is partial to own parents                                               _____          _____

9.      Puts parents above partner                                        _____          _____

10.  Favorably compares own parents

       to partners parents                                                         _____          _____

11.  Makes plans with parents without seeking

partners counsel/advice                                                         _____          _____

12.  Allows parents to dominate                                            _____          _____

13.  Excessive desire to please parents                               _____          _____


Now summarize what impressed you about yourself and your partner in relationship to your parents.

How your parents relate to you

Rating scale 0 = not at all        1= some        2 = very much

                                                                                    You       Your partner

1.      Fault finding                                                                    _____          _____

2.      Meddle in our affairs                                                     _____          _____

3.      Have unrealistic expectations of our relationship  _____          _____

4.      Are overly possessive and protective

         in our relationship                                                          _____          _____

5.      Are indifferent and aloof toward us                           _____          _____

6.      Are overly dependent upon child                               _____          _____

7.      Gossip about us                                                             _____          _____

8.      Insist on having their own way                                   _____          _____

9.      Talk too much                                                                _____          _____

10.     Won’t listen                                                                    _____          _____

11.      Are unappreciative                                                       _____          _____

12.     Are jealous of other sets of parents                         _____          _____

13.     Are jealous of our relationship with other people  _____          _____

Now summarize what impressed you about your parents and prospective in-laws through this study.

When Does Leaving and Cleaving Happen?

Remember that the leaving and cleaving happens when the pastor asks, “Who gives this woman away?” and the father and mother respond “We do.” When the pastor pronounces you husband and wife, you become a new unit. This new relation cuts the dependence upon parents financially, emotionally, and spiritually. It is critical that you bond to your spouse like never before from that point on. The man should no longer be a mamas boy or there will certainly be trouble. 

During courtship you are not one flesh. It is a time to evaluate whether or not you can or should make that commitment. During this critical time your parents should be there to counsel and guide you, not coddle and control you. Do not shut them out. But do discuss healthy boundaries and make sure you are prepared to separate from them emotionally, financially and spiritually when the time to get married comes. 

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