Your boyfriend has always been very close to his mom. Maybe he calls her every day and spends time with her whenever he gets the chance.
But what if that bond seems too close?
Perhaps he always puts her in front of you, or their relationship intrudes on yours. When your boyfriend and his mother are too dependent on one another, it can become unhealthy.
If you think you’re dealing with a codependent partner, this article will talk you through how best to deal with it.
What is a codependent mother-son relationship?
We all have very different family dynamics. What’s “normal” to you, might be weird to someone else and vice versa.
You’ve been thinking to yourself “my boyfriend is codependent with his mother”. But is your boyfriend just a bit of a “momma’s boy” or is he really codependent?
Codependence is defined as a psychological dependence on another person for one’s own sense of worth, happiness, and emotional well-being.
Codependency between family members is also known as enmeshment.
Enmeshment happens when two people are so connected emotionally they cannot function independently. Normal boundaries start to blur.
It can happen between parents and children, siblings, partners, friends, etc.
There is usually a very strong desire for approval which can then lead to controlling and manipulative behavior.
The codependent person may feel responsible for the other person’s emotions. They want to make sure they are happy and don’t ever feel sad or upset.
They often take care of them by trying to fix things for them. This causes more problems because the codependent individual can end up taking over the life of the other person.
What are the signs of a codependent mother and son?
You might notice some signs that your boyfriend is codependent. Here are some common ones:
- He tries to please her at any cost.
- He feels guilty about not spending enough time with her.
- He does anything she asks him to do.
- He needs constant reassurance from his mother.
- He is overly concerned about her health and wellbeing.
- He is afraid of upsetting her.
- He is afraid to say no to her.
- He is afraid to hurt her feelings.
- He feels like he should make sacrifices to please his mother.
- His mother makes decisions for him.
- His mother uses guilt, silent treatment, and passive-aggressiveness as a weapon.
- His mother is overly emotional and prone to mood swings.
- His mother always thinks she knows best — is never wrong and never apologizes.
- His mother often plays the victim.
- He is afraid he’ll lose her attention or love if he doesn’t do what she says.
- He gives her power and control over his own life.
- He is scared that if he isn’t there for her, she’ll fall apart.
- There is very little privacy between them.
- They are strangely protective of each other.
- They are “best friends”.
- They tell each other their secrets.
- They are overly involved in one another’s personal lives, and activities.
How do you deal with a codependent mother and son relationship?
If you find yourself in a relationship with a man who you strongly suspect is codependent with his mother, here are some tips to help you deal with the situation.
1) Consider the situation
First things first, it’s time to figure out how extreme the codependency seems, and how much it impacts his and your life.
Before you get honest with him, you need to be honest with yourself. You have to ask yourself how much this problem has affected you.
Has it made you unhappy? Has it caused arguments? Has it led to fights?
Have you felt your life is being strongly impacted by his mother or their relationship together? Do you feel like you have to sacrifice your happiness to keep his mother happy?
Some codependent relationships may be worse than others. After you recognize the signs it’s important to ask yourself how much this is impacting on you, and in what ways.
Is it a deal-breaker for you, are you prepared to live with it, or are you prepared to stick around longer in the hopes you can get through to your boyfriend for him to make changes?
2) Does your boyfriend recognize a problem too?
It’s also important to consider whether your boyfriend recognizes the issue. If he doesn’t, then you need to understand your limited power to change things.
When someone is in denial over anything, although we can try to help them see unhealthy patterns, it’s down to them ultimately.
They will either choose to accept the reality of the situation, or they won’t.
Sometimes, when someone is in denial, they’re so caught up in their own issues that they don’t even realize they’re hurting themselves and those around them.
It’s one of the most frustrating feelings in the world to watch someone we love to engage in harmful things and not be able to get through to them.
If your boyfriend can see how things between him and his mom are having a negative affect on their (and your) lives, it will be easier for him to make changes and get the right support he needs.
But you must accept that you are not in a position to “fix” him, or his relationship with his mom.
That’s not to say that you can’t play an important role in supporting him to make changes. But any misguided feelings that you might be able to do the work for him are only going to lead to bitter disappointment.
3) Talk to your boyfriend about how you feel
Once you’ve identified the problems, it’s time to talk to your boyfriend.
This is where you’ll need to be as honest as possible, but still, be mindful of how you approach the conversation.
If he feels attacked or judged, he’s more likely to get defensive and shut you down. It may require some patience and understanding to get through to him.
Giving ultimatums or trying to rip him away from the codependent relationship is more likely to leave you even more isolated.
I’m sure it is an incredibly frustrating situation for you. But the more empathy you can show toward him the better.
You shouldn’t start by saying something too blunt like “You and your mom are codependent”.
The golden rule when bringing up tricky and confrontational conversations is always to use “I feel” language. For example:
“I’m worried about our relationship because I feel like my happiness and our happiness is put second to your moms.”
“I feel like you have to make a lot of sacrifices to keep your mom happy.”
“I feel like the amount of time you spend with your mom impacts our relationship together”.
Try to avoid using words such as “should”, “have to”, or “must”. These are loaded words that might make your boyfriend more likely to close off.
Once you’ve started a free-flowing dialogue, it will hopefully be easier to voice your concerns about the nature of their relationship and whether it has codependent elements to it.
4) Tell him what you need from him
Yes, this is about his relationship with his mom. But let’s not forget it’s really about your relationship with him.
That’s why you can also focus on what you want from your boyfriend and the practical changes you need to feel happier in the relationship.
Tell him about your needs.
There may be things you feel you could introduce or compromises to make that would make you feel better.
“I would really appreciate it if one day of the weekend it was just us two.”
“When your mom is critical towards me, I really need to feel like you have my back.”
‘I would love it if we had more fun times together alone.’
5) Learn how to create the most loving and joyful relationship
Why does love so often start out great, only to become a nightmare?
And what’s the solution to dating someone who is in a codependent relationship with their mom?
Believe it or not, the answer is contained in the relationship you have with yourself.
I learned about this from the renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. He taught me to see through the lies we tell ourselves about love and become truly empowered.
As Rudá explains in this mind blowing free video, love is not what many of us think it is. In fact, many of us are actually self-sabotaging our love lives without realizing it!
We need to face the facts about why we end up with codependent people.
Far too often we chase an idealized image of someone and build up expectations that are guaranteed to be let down.
Far too often we fall into codependent roles of savior and victim to try to “fix” our partner, only to end up in a miserable, bitter routine.
Far too often, we are on shaky ground with our own selves and this carries over into toxic relationships that become hell on earth.
Rudá’s teachings showed me a whole new perspective.
While watching, I felt like someone understood my struggles to find love for the first time – and finally offered an actual, practical solution to creating the sort of relationship I really want.
If you’re done with unsatisfying or frustrating relationships and having your hopes dashed over and over, then this is a message you need to hear.
6) Encourage him to make changes
The reason this is to encourage him to make changes is that, as I’ve already said, all you can do is support him.
He has to want to make changes to the relationship with his mom, for both himself as well as the sake of your relationship.
You can suggest that he tries to create some clearer boundaries between them.
For example, if you’re often thinking “my boyfriend’s mom is always calling him” or “my boyfriend’s mom is too involved” he probably needs to draw a firmer line.
Encouraging him to make some practical changes will hopefully help him to realize that he needs to shift priorities if he wants to make your relationship work.
It can be incredibly challenging to change this dynamic though, as it has likely been long ingrained. In fact, most parent-child codependent relationships were formed in childhood.
He may want to consider family therapy if his mom is open to it too, or even just individual therapy to get to the root causes of what is going on.
7) Create your own boundaries
Our partner’s problems so easily impact us. Yet despite how much of an effect it has on our life, we’re not able to change it alone.
That’s why it’s so important to recognize what you can and cannot control. You may not be able to get him to establish firmer boundaries, but you can firm up your own.
You have to remember to take care of yourself. Especially if you feel stressed out by your partner’s relationship with his mother.
This means setting boundaries around your time together and perhaps how involved she is in your life.
It means knowing what you will and won’t tolerate.
For example, you might decide you are fine with him speaking to his mother every day. But on the other hand, if you feel like “my boyfriend’s mom treats him like her husband” it’s unlikely something you can just overlook.
Recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed and take breaks from the situation if you need to until you feel better.
Remember: you are responsible for your own happiness.
Even if you aren’t happy about your partner’s relationship with his mother, you still need to take care of yourself.
Codependent mother-son relationship: when to walk away?
At some stage, you may feel like you’ve tried all you can and you don’t know what else to do. If you find yourself at your wits end, it may be time to think about walking away.
The unfortunate truth is the longer he has been in a codependent relationship with his mom, and the more severe it is, the worse the outlook over whether he will change.
If you’ve tried to tell him how you feel many times now, and it keeps falling on deaf ears, it is probably time to move on.