The mother-son relationship… not always simple!

Generally speaking, the relationship between parents and children is not always simple. Psychologists and psychoanalysts generally agree that the bond between a mother and her son is the most complex of all.

The result? The mother is often accused of being at the root of all the ills that affect her son: his lack of autonomy, his commitment problems, his outbursts of anger… it’s all part of it! But what is it about the mother-son relationship that is so problematic? The debate continues, but a few hypotheses are worth exploring.

The Difference

When a woman gives birth to a little girl, she knows a little bit about what to expect. When the newborn is a boy, on the other hand, the mother dives into the unknown. The little one she carried inside her, which she now holds in her arms, is not like her. There is no way, in such a case, to function instinctively, referring to her own experience as a woman.

No model

Impossible also to reproduce the behaviors of his own mother towards him, to recreate his own childhood. To tame the difference and to compensate in some way for her fear of not knowing how to do it, the mother tends to hatch her son more than she would with a female child.

It has been shown that a mother is quicker to forgive a son’s misdeeds and adapt to his waking cycle. Even the breastfeeding position would be different: the mother feeds her son by holding him close to her, while keeping a certain distance from a girl. The relationship between the son and the mother would thus tend to become symbiotic.

Psychoanalyst Guy Corneau explained that, in a society where the father plays a very unobtrusive role within the family unit, the mother tends to shift her expectations onto the son. The relationship that is established on such a basis can easily become unhealthy. The mother smothers her son with love, and the son, who loves no one as much as his mother, is afraid above all of disappointing her.

Impact on Relationships

So the boy grows up constantly seeking his mother’s approval, but is reluctant to truly open his heart to other women. When the time comes to find a companion, he will look for a double of his female progenitor, or his absolute opposite (because mother-son relationships are often love-hate relationships…). It is an open door to dysfunctional relationships, where the partner will be invested with infinite power that she doesn’t want or, on the contrary, will have to endure fits of rage that are not really directed against her.

In short, the relationship to women of an overly brooding boy does not exist in itself, it is built in reaction to his relationship to his mother. On the other hand, a son who is overprotected by his mother may end up with low self-esteem as an adult.

The essential separation

In order for the relationship between mother and son to evolve so that both parties are able to flourish, there must be a separation. Of course, it doesn’t have to be permanent!

Quite simply, the mother must agree to let the son develop his autonomy and individuality. The stages of development, as defined by Freud and his successors, help to better understand the modalities of this indispensable break.

Around the age of two

The child begins to explore his or her territory. He needs to gain some control. He pretends to move away from his mother, but needs to know that she is always close and available. The mother must accept the child’s desire to explore her world, while continuing to give her love.

Around five or six years old

It is the end of the period corresponding to the Oedipus complex. After these few years characterized by the boy’s unconditional love for his mother and a dynamic of seduction that Freudians describe as pseudoerotic, the child enters the period of latency. He then becomes more aware of the difference between him and his mother and tends to distance himself from her. This does not mean that he no longer loves his mother! The mother, once again, must respect her child’s need for space.

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