Mother-Son Enmeshment: How to stay happily married.

Nov 28, 2023


By Marvel C. Adeyemi

Introduction:

So, you've come to the realization that you're married to a Mama’s Boy, and it's driving you up the wall. The constant prioritization of his mother and family over you, the unresolved issues - it's a lot. Feeling invisible, alienated, and voiceless in your own marriage is a heavy burden. But hold off on packing those bags. There's hope. Let’s explore ways to manage your relationship effectively.

  1. Redefine Your Marriage:

First up, change your beliefs about what marriage is. It's not about societal norms; it's about what it means to you. A woman I spoke with realized that she doesn't need her husband for a happy life. she chose to be with him out of love, not dependency. This mindset is liberating and helped to make her marriage work for her.  Understand that your problem isn't with your husband per se, but with the dynamic between him and his mother. Also, assess what your marriage provides for you, like shared expenses, parenting responsibilities, and companionship. This viewpoint might change your perspective entirely.

  1. Letting Go of Controlling Your Husband:

If you find yourself married to a 'Mama’s Boy', it's likely you were attracted to his easy-going nature, which felt safe and different from perhaps difficult relationships in your past. As a wife in this situation, you might have been attracted to your husband's easy-going nature, especially if it presented a stark contrast to your own family background, which might have included issues like an absent or abusive father, or a narcissistic parent. This attraction, however, often comes with its own set of expectations and emotional baggage, including a deep-seated desire for exclusive attention and a lack of guidance on handling dysfunctional family dynamics.

It's common for women in these relationships to share personality traits with their mother-in-law – perhaps being go-getters, confident, or high achievers. Mama's Boys, often raised by controlling mothers, might have lost some of their independence and confidence, making them seem more manageable. But this can lead to a frustrating cycle. You might start trying to control or protect your relationship, only to find yourself mimicking the controlling behaviour of your mother-in-law. This dynamic can awaken deep-seated issues of abandonment and rejection, creating a version of yourself that's controlling and resentful.

The truth is the dysfunctional family dynamics were in place long before you came into the picture. It's important to understand that you are not the cause of these deep-rooted issues. It's crucial to acknowledge that these are not your responsibility. Stepping out of this cycle involves letting go of the need to control your husband and allowing him to develop his own sense of self. Encourage a healthy relationship filled with respect, boundaries, and empathy. Over time, this can help your husband break free from codependent behaviours. Couples counselling, especially with a therapist skilled in dealing with co-dependency and family dysfunction, can be incredibly helpful.

Remember to see the positive aspects of your mother-in-law as well. Despite the challenges, she raised a person you fell in love with – a gentle, emotionally sensitive man. By shifting the dynamics of control and fostering a healthier relationship, you open the door to growth, understanding, and a stronger marriage.

  1. Identify Your Triggers and Seek Healing from Unresolved Trauma:

Understanding and managing your emotional responses, especially in the complex dynamics involving your mother-in-law and in-laws, is crucial. You might find that certain behaviours or situations trigger anger or resentment, which could stem from unresolved childhood trauma. Addressing these issues is an essential step towards emotional well-being.

Be mindful of situations or events that trigger negative emotions, particularly those involving your in-laws. Recognizing these triggers is the first step in managing them. If certain family events consistently lead to distress, it might be wise to limit your participation in them, at least temporarily, to maintain your peace of mind.

By identifying your triggers and actively working on your unresolved traumas, you create a path towards recovery and emotional stability. This journey is not just about managing interactions with your in-laws; it's about healing yourself and strengthening your emotional resilience.

Utilise journaling. This simple yet powerful tool allows you to express and process your feelings and emotions, along with the energy that accompanies them. Writing down your thoughts can provide clarity and a sense of release.

Incorporate relaxation techniques into your routine. Practices like deep breathing exercises can be remarkably effective in calming your mind and reducing stress. Additionally, engaging with nature, such as walking on the beach, can be therapeutic. The tranquillity and beauty of natural settings offer a respite from emotional turmoil and help in grounding your thoughts.

  1. Set Boundaries in Your Marriage:

 It’s vital to have open and honest communication with your husband about your expectations. This can cover a range of topics, from finances to the amount of time spent with your mother-in-law. For example, you might agree that your husband won’t send financial resources to his family if it compromises your own immediate family’s needs, like rent or your children's school fees. It’s important to clarify responsibilities, expectations, and potential consequences of not adhering to these boundaries. These conversations should happen proactively, not during a crisis. Ensuring that you and your husband are aligned on key aspects of your marriage and family life is essential. Maintaiin respect throughout your conversations.

  1. Develop New Skills and Self-Reliance:

It's not uncommon for wives of Mama's Boys to wish their husbands possessed certain qualities they admire in other men, such as assertiveness and confidence. Instead of feeling vulnerable or seeking advice externally, consider developing these skills yourself. Anyone can acquire new skills and improve behavioural qualities. By doing so, you not only reduce unrealistic expectations from your husband but also avoid potential disappointments. Moreover, you'll be modelling these qualities for your husband. This approach can be empowering and can also inspire similar growth in your spouse. Working with a counsellor who understands attachment wounds can facilitate this personal development.

  1. Pursue Personal Goals:

It's essential to have a life outside your marriage. Pursuing personal goals, hobbies, and friendships can boost your self-esteem. Remember, your husband can't fulfill all your emotional needs. Revising your expectations of marriage can be a game-changer here.

Conclusion:

Dealing with the complexities of a marriage to a Mama's Boy can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can find balance and fulfillment.

 If you're navigating these unique challenges and need support, I'm here to help. As a Family Therapist and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with a background in attachment-based frameworks, I specialize in addressing the impacts of dysfunctional family dynamics.

Feel free to reach out to me for counselling and support in your journey towards a healthier relationship dynamic.

Marvel C. Adeyemi, B.A, P. Grad.  M.Ed., M.S.W., AMHSW

Phone: +61 457846457

E: [email protected]

if you're here already: www.wholesomecounselling.com. Make a booking on the Home page.

References

Adams, K. (2011). Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners. Health Communications Inc.

Adams, K. (2007). When He's Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment. Fireside.

Friel, J. C., & Friel, L. D. (1990). Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families. Health Communications Inc.

Lepera, N. (2021). How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Your Self. Harper Wave.

Melody, P. (2001). The Intimacy Factor: The Ground Rules for Overcoming the Obstacles to Truth, Respect, and Lasting Love. Harper One.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1999). Boundaries in Marriage. Zondervan.

Covey, S. R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Free Press.