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Men and their mothers

The inner relationship a man has with his mother is the birth of his relationship with his life, his sex life and his leadership authority.

If a man wishes for a healthy relationship with intimacy, with authority or simply a better relationship with himself, the journey may need to start with the hidden dynamics held in the system between him and his mother.

Men who can resource themselves whilst finding an appropriate distance from their mothers, men who have understood and integrated their mother’s absence or closeness, who do not feel under or overwhelmed by the feminine, can thrive. Mother is in her place, exactly as she is or was and her son is in his.

Men’s contact and inner relationship with their mothers is crucial for survival, growth and becoming an adult, a man. The relationship between mother and son is a challenging one to grow up and out of, to find an appropriate distance that allows both to be free, yet connected. But it is a journey every man must make if he would like his life to be in flow, his relationship with women to be respectful and  mutual and his leadership to flow.

This is a large subject which this short article begins to explore from a systemic perspective.


Keep your distance

The impact of the mother on a boy and the man he grows into cannot be underestimated. It’s the primary connection in the family relationship system, but it is also a genetic and physical bond. Your mother was born with you inside her. The egg from which you were created was already present in her, at her birth and so you were both also inside your maternal grandmother. So you are deeply connected to the feminine and as a result are also connected to the emotions and dynamics emerging from the major events and life experiences that your mother and grandmother experienced.

Finding the ‘right’ distance between you and your mother is crucial. If you stay too close it will limit your ability to grow up to be a man and live your own life fully as a partner, father or leader. Many men are entangled with their mothers and so feel overwhelmed by the feminine. These men may struggle with their passion, perhaps exhibiting sexual, predatory and controlling behaviour with women. These men, truly a ‘mother’s son’ (see below) are often the same men who tend to seek power in business and/or society. This can be an outer expression of their inner battle for balance with the source of their life, their mother.

If, on the other hand, men reject their mothers, they also reject the many resources that live in her system waiting to be explored and used for their growth, fulfillment and success. Finding the best balance, where the flow of life and love is restored, is a challenge for many.

Mother’s son

Men are born of women and bond first with their mother. This is a powerful experience for mother and son and can overwhelm and entangle both. The relationship is symbiotic in that the mother loves the son but the son also knows that he will not survive without the mother, so tries to attend to her needs, actively works to keep her present. When a son can’t find the strength to grow apart, to individuate from his mother and stand at his father’s side and move into the world of men, he may grow up to become a ‘Mother’s boy’.

How men act and react towards their mother is often the way they will act and react towards their partners and spouses. This, however, is less true for a ‘mother’s boy’ who may act and react to the mother as though she is his partner and see others as somewhat of an intrusion. In this case he may respond to Mum’s call ahead of his partner’s call, creating tension.

Men who are overwhelmed by the feminine and get caught in this dynamic may often turn into ‘macho men’ who are on a private mission to conquer the power of the feminine energy, through multiple sexual relationships. They may combine this with loud and aggressive behaviour. Look a little closer and you may see a tattoo or other mark of respect for ‘Mum’ and/or her first name, as if they were friends or lovers. Anyone who insults or appears to insult their mother is bound to receive their most aggressive, often violent attack.

“I have created a $5m foundation to give scholarships to women directors.
It will be named after my Mom.
I won’t disappoint her”

Harvey Weinstein
(October 2017, after being identified as a sexual predator)

Men who are entangled with their mothers and become ‘macho men’, men who pride themselves on multiple, sometimes forceful, sexual conquests, are often stuck in a pattern of inner pain and shame which, when discovered, can lead to overwhelming shame, unbearable remorse, violent anger, a search for ‘revenge’ against their mother / women in general and suicidal thoughts. This is particularly true where some kind of trauma was also experienced when they were children. The combination of the unresolved bond with mother, a trauma and adult – particularly public – shame can be fatal.

Other ‘mother’s sons’ are so in tune with their mother and the feminine that they appear to ‘get’ all women and may become ‘the deep friend’ to women with a seductive wisdom and understanding, or be a lover to all but struggle to commit to one, as they have not yet completed with the mother and may therefore not be available to any ‘one’ else.

“I don’t matter, but I have killed her . . . She won’t get over it!  She won’t survive . . . .”

“Who?” asked Rostov.

“My mother! My mother, my angel, my adored angel mother,” and Dolokhov pressed Rostov’s hand and burst into tears.

Dolokhov the bullying, brawling womaniser after his duel with Pierre in ‘War and Peace’ by  Leo Tolstoy

At the other end of a spectrum that all men find themselves on, are mother’s sons who have little masculine energy, little sense of themselves as men. These men may also often struggle to take care of themselves as they are caught up in taking care of their mother at a psychological, emotional and practical level. They may sometimes be seen walking alongside, or just behind, their elderly mother, entangled in her life as her devoted boy, unable to become a fully adult man. In this place they may sometimes be aware and resentful, yet dutiful, unavailable to any other woman. In some cases this can lead to sudden acts of aggression and even violence as their inner rage and need to get a greater distance from mother reveals itself.

In these examples – and there are many variations between those extremes – relationships with other women are limited as the man’s attention is focused on his mother. He has become a ‘surrogate spouse’ and mother always has first place, so he has little room for closeness or intimacy with another. No one else can measure up to mother.

“Look at the masters of the classic symphonies where they basically relax the audience with the first movement by using lullabies – the voice of violins, the mother’s voice.”

Stephen Porges

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