Sometimes when you meet a person a red flag, perhaps just the little hairs on the back of your neck, stand up just long enough to tell you “Warning! Warning! Something’s not right here!”
At times, we are wise enough to pay heed to the warnings and act with some intelligence. Other times we swat at the voice or reason, like a pesky fly, and say “Nah, it’s no biggie! This will be alright!”
One factor about my relationship with my ex that I wish I would have given more credence to is what I will refer to as the “Mother-in-Law/Momma’s Boy Effect”. Lord help me, I coulda, woulda, shoulda run for the hills when we were dating if only I had been thinking clearly and realized just how much an iron umbilical cord can impact a marriage!
Don’t get me wrong. Family is beautiful. Family is important. I’m convinced that I chose to ignore the still-attached apron strings because my family was small, spread far and wide, and I was in a place in my life when I looked forward to a close family. I imagined being a part of his close-knit family would feel comforting and give more meaning to holidays, having children, and the everyday moments when family is there for each other.
What I failed to see-perhaps chose to ignore- is the fine line between a close family and family in your business at every moment judging, guilting, and taking precedence over the husband-wife relationship. There is such thing as too much contact, too much involvement in one another’s personal lives, and a parent inserting themselves too far into their child’s adult life!
Tight family enmeshment might, at first, seem incredibly sweet; so, the signs of your partner being a momma’s boy (or of their parent having their tentacles in to deep) might not be obvious at first.
Spend time together on holidays and make time for each other on a regular basis
Help each other out with problems, big or small
Talk through situations and offer advice
Laugh and love
Share what they have
Look out for one another
A man might be a momma’s boy if:
1. He insists on always also asking his mother what she thinks before making a decision (e.g. which item should I buy? Should I take the job?) before asking you – or he might ask you first, then goes with her advice anyways.
2. He is afraid, most of the time, of offending or upsetting her above all others. Part of him may want to be autonomous and strike out on his own, but his commitment to her happiness trumps all else.
3. He has difficulty separating from his mother to foster his own traditions and time with his spouse and family. For instance, even though he’d rather go to a movie with you he will go along with the every Friday ritual of eating out with her, even though they go there every week and just one time wouldn’t hurt anything.
4. He allows every holiday, weekend, milestone event, parenting decision, and so on to be dictated by his mother. Never mind his partner or children’s stake in the situation because it’s all about what momma wants! The restaurant will almost always be her choice, the agenda will almost always be dictated by her, and he will jump to accommodate her every whim to keep her pacified.
5. He allows you to feel like second fiddle – to his mom! Of course a man should treat his mother with love and respect. The way he treats her is important to note because it is an indicator of how he will treat his partner. The next question is will she allow his wife and family to become his priority and will he do so? If he is wrapped up in her every action (and allows her to be in his) and behaves almost childlike in his approach to needing her and craving her approval, you may have a problem!
6. He has an incessant need to talk to her or see her daily. I get it if there’s a question to ask or information to share; but, I find it a little odd to need to chit chat every single day and see one another at every possible opportunity. At some point it becomes natural to cling more to one’s spouse and created family than to continue to rely on a parent as a primary support and confidant.
7. He allows her to discourage him from opportunities that would benefit him or fulfill his dreams because they would inhibit her access to him. My ex’s mother talked him out of going to college to pursue his dream career, telling him he “couldn’t cut it”, and also put so much pressure on his brother to leave college that he finally gave in and moved back home. Her reason to shoot an arrow in their dreams was because they would be too far from her. Both sons regret it to this day!
8. Momma is always right! Your mother-in-law might be too far up in your business if she feels inclined to tell you how to do everything because she knows just how her boy likes his socks folded, chili spiced, and what brand of soap he prefers. Does she feel like she has the right to tell you how to decorate your house, how to spend your money, and how to be a wife? If so, chances are that she has been allowed to behave this way with her own family and assumes you will also fall in line.
Part of marrying another is blending your life with theirs. This may include some concessions to the existing ways of his family, but should also leave plenty of room for yours. Family can be a blessing and a joy, but boundaries are appropriate in any relationship. In a marriage, the husband-wife relationship supersedes all others. That is not to say that the wisdom and advice of family members isn’t appreciated or their presence unwanted.
When one’s child reaches adulthood, it’s time to let them go on and have the life they choose. It may not always follow the course we would set; but, it is their life and their decisions. It is important for spouses to support their partner and diplomatically lay down some guidelines for how much time and input parents will continue to have. No spouse should have to feel like a third wheel in their own marriage or become trapped in clingy, potentially unhealthy, family dynamics!