Relationship – Dating A Mama’s Boy?
When you’re dating a man whose bond with his mother goes further than most, you might find yourself questioning a lot of things...
Mother-son relationships can be special and extremely close. As a society, we label the boys and men in these relationships as mama’s boys, and while it is cute at age four, few people find it as endearing when the man is an adult. This is especially true for the girlfriends, partners and wives of the mama’s boys. The scope of the mama’s boy drama is pretty wide. It can be as simple as your man spending so much time with his mom that you feel like an afterthought, to where your man doesn’t know where to draw the line when it comes to telling his mother your business. So, what do you do when the person you call bae, ‘the one’, or ubaba wasekhaya is more a mama’s boy than the man of your dreams?
BOUNDARIES OR BOSSY BOOTS?
When you start noticing that your man’s relationship with his mom is more co-dependent and all consuming, it can be hard to know what is the right move to make.
“Communication is the key in every situation. Remember, just because he’s in a relationship with you or married to you, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t communicate with his mother about key decisions in his life,” says Mandisa Muruge, a counsellor at the Family Life Centre’s Lenasia South office.
What becomes a concern is when he consults only his mother about key decisions that you know nothing about, Muruge adds.
For Nolwazi Shumpi*, 37, the cracks started showing early in her relationship, but she didn’t think it would become an issue. “I knew from the day I met Sbu* that he was a mama’s boy and that’s because he told me so. As our relationship progressed, I would be annoyed by certain behaviour, like the fact that he would buy a car and tell his mom about it first; he would sometimes cancel our plans, to go hang out with her, and he was even vocal about his preference for her style of cooking. I should’ve seen the red flags, but I didn’t. A few months into our marriage, Sbu* would eat at his mom’s house most days of the week. He included her in what was meant to be couple’s trips and made it clear she comes first. I first thought she was the problem, but with time learnt that they were both to blame. They were so co-dependent that no one could ever fully join their circle. Their relationship was a big reason why we split up,” she says.
Is it possible to win in these situations? Winning means there’s a competition, and there shouldn’t be. We encourage boundaries between the mother and the wife, Muruge adds. “They should both respect each other’s spaces. A man who is the key person in the middle, should also know how to handle situations to make sure both his mother and wife don’t feel left out, or insignificant. It’s important to remember the bond between mom and a son has been around for a very long time. The wife comes later on in life, so some men might still feel attached to their mothers and struggle to create clear boundaries,” Muruge warns.
TALK TO THE MAN
There are instances where the man does not even realise there’s anything wrong with his co-dependent relationship with his mother.
It’s important to communicate your concerns with your partner, says Thuli Bottoman, senior counselling social worker at the Family Life Centre’s Parkwood office.
“For example, suggest to your man in a light and non-threatening manner that you would love to join him and his mother for dinner. Monitor his reaction and responses. In some cases, he might be doing it without thinking and with no intention of excluding you. Tell him that you’d like to be involved in decision-making that affects both of you. Do this without any mention of his mother. Doing that, shifts the focus to your relationship as opposed to his relationship with his mom,” Bottoman adds.
Muruge warns that, while you have every right to raise your concerns, there are some lines you should be cautious of crossing. “As a partner, you can’t have a say about the relationship between your man and his mother, unless it affects your own relationship in a negative way,” she cautions.
Share your frustrations with your partner, because he’s the one who should create limits for his mother, not you. Many women want to “sort out” their meddling mother-in-law, while their husbands do nothing. This not only strains the relationship between the two women even more, it also absolves him of the responsibility to
manage his adult relationships in a healthy manner. The key ingredient to resolve and make it work for mother and son, and mother and partner, is to have open communication and respect. “There’s no competition between a mother and a wife. If everyone can keep that in mind when making decisions and navigating the relationship, the family will win as a whole,” Bottoman concludes. *Not their real names