‘What are mommy issues?’ this is one question that sits in the minds of people interested in psychological theories. Understandably, various psychological approaches answer this question differently.
Through this article, we hope to clarify all your doubts about mother-child relationships, the formation of mommy issues, and how to cope with them.
Mommy issues is a word used to describe issues people face later in their lives because of flaws or difficulties in their relationships with their mothers. Most of the time, when people refer to a male having mommy issues, that normally means that they seek partners that remind them of their mothers.
As known, the role mothers play in their child’s childhood is rudimentary for the formation of the child’s personality. It is by far the most important contributor to a good childhood.
Understanding ‘what are mommy issues’ can help understand how to cope and deal with them. Before getting to that, let’s discuss the history of mommy issues.
1) History of Mommy Issues
It’s important to understand a little bit about the origin of the term ‘mommy issues’, and to do this, we need to trace back our article to Sigmund Freud, an exemplary name in the field of psychology who studied the unconscious, dreams, and complexes related to relationships with your parents.
Freud stated that there are two complexes to describe parental relationships with their children.
Oedipus Complex is when male children feel a sense of competition towards their fathers, and try to win more attention from their mothers. Electra Complex is a situation in which female children feel a sense of competition towards their mothers, and try to win their father’s affection.
To add further to this, John Bowlby also discussed the consequences of having a strained or complicated relationship with your mother or father, as can be seen in adult relationships. He said that three attachment styles determine the relationship you share with your parents.
1.1) Anxious- Preoccupied
This is an anxious attachment style in which a person’s relationship revolves around their partner or primary caregiver. If your parent wasn’t around you when you needed them most, you might find yourself being clingy in relationships. You may attach the feeling of loneliness to the absence of your partner. Avoidant attachments can especially be seen when the mother figure shares the same traits as your partner.
1.2) Fearful – Avoidant
If you find it tough to connect with your partner in romantic relationships, you may close yourself and not interact with your partner at all. This can form unhealthy relationships.
You may look to avoid being sexually close to your partner. This kind of attachment style is also termed ‘disorganized attachment’ in attachment theory.
1.3) Dismissive – Avoidant
If you are avoiding romantic relationships completely, this could be because your past relationships have made you feel unworthy of navigating through them. So, you may back off from relationships and try to be as much as you can on your own.
1.4) Secure Attachment
This is a sign of a healthy relationship. This shows that you had a childhood relationship with your parents that was secure and nourishing, so you can do so with your partner and your children.
People with secure attachments find it easy to deal effectively with their relationships, and not let problems they faced as a child interrupt the flow of the same.
The way that mother figure treats their child leads to the way their child treats their children. A mother will treat a child in different ways, and this could lead to a lot of issues in the future.
People whose mothers accepted and supported them go ahead to be great parents, while people whose mothers didn’t provide them with essential emotional support go-ahead to have insecure attachment styles, relationship difficulties, and a poor relationship with their romantic partner.
So, to sum up, having a complicated relationship with your mother who can be overly critical, has difficulty expressing affection, and have attachment issues of her own can lead to you showing an overly dependent attachment style, or a completely avoidant attachment style. This can impact your current relationships.
2) Signs of Mommy Issues
If you feel like you have had a difficult relationship with your mother, checking for these signs can help you understand if you have mommy issues.
2.1) Being Too Clingy and Too Critical
One of the potential signs of mommy issues is clinginess. If you feel like you didn’t have a healthy relationship with your mother growing up, you might find yourself clinging to your romantic partners and expecting to satisfy those needs.
If you find yourself being too controlling, or having issues letting someone else take control, this could be because you are mirroring the way your mom behaved with you.
2.2) Difficulty Expressing Affection
Expressing love and affection in relationships can be tough when your own needs for love weren’t satisfied by your mother. This may result in you being closed off and not being able to provide essential emotional support to your partner when they need it.
2.3) Over Dependence
Being overly dependent on your partner is never a good trait to have. Relying on them for every small need of yours may show that you aren’t used to getting your needs satisfied otherwise.
Mommy issues can show themselves in an inability to be close to others, and in struggles with intimacy.
2.5) Excessive Pampering
Sometimes you may become the caretaker for your partner. In your formative years, you may have seen your mother take care of everyone else, and maybe mirroring that.
2.6) Excessive People Pleasing
You may find yourself bending over backward to please people and gain acceptance. This is a toxic cycle, and you may find that in situations where you need help, no one comes.
2.7) Promiscuous Stage
Some people with mommy issues may have a period of promiscuity; this stems from their unsatisfied need to feel loved. They may find themselves looking for unconditional love in the wrong places, and this may lead to absurd sexual activity.
2.8) Gender Plays a Role
Mommy issues show themselves differently in women, and differences in men. In women, mommy issues typically involve:
- Trust issues
- Commitment Issues
- Self-esteem and self-awareness issues
- Having a fewer number of friends of the same sex
- Excessive need to be perfect
- Avoiding your mother – something adult children do frequently
- Finding it tough to set boundaries., even with your children.
Mommy issues in men may involve:
- Clinginess to mother
- Disrespecting other women
- Suspicion in romantic relationships
- Repeated cheating.
3) The Impact of Having Mommy Issues
Mommy issues follow us and show up in our adult relationships. This can be very impactful in our lives.
3.1) Relationship Maintenance
You may find it difficult in to be secure and codependent in personal relationships; you may find yourself either being overly dependent or not dependent at all.
You may find that you doubt yourself each step of the way; be it in your role as a partner, or as a partner.
3.3) Serial Monogamy
Sometimes women with mommy issues may become serial monogamists. They may find themselves tangling in love relationships, and moving quickly from one to the next. You may also find yourself exhibiting red flags.
3.4) Mental Health
Women with mommy issues may struggle with disorders, like borderline personality disorder, depression, and anxiety.
4) Coping with Mommy Issues
The final aspect of ‘what are mommy issues’ is to uncover how to cope with them. We know that having mommy issues impacts your life in the long run and may hamper the way you look at yourself. Coping with it can help lead a better life.
4.1) Build a Reliable Support System
Having support groups can mentor you through breaking the cycle. Both the relationships with these people and the friends you have can provide essential support to break this toxic cycle and have a chance at building better relationships.
4.2) Self-Awareness and Past Awareness
Everyone who breaks the intergenerational abuse cycle has had an awareness of the past. They may have some anger toward their mother and what harm she inflicted on them. Recognizing their trauma helps them move past their difficult relationship with their mother, and move on to better relationships.
People who want to overcome their mommy issues can go through therapy. This helps identify, recognize, and deal with their traumatic past. It provides them with an outlet to understand how issues happened, and how to prevent them from happening again.
4.4) Try Forgiving Your Mother
It’s difficult to forgive your parents when they haven’t been there for you, especially in your early childhood, but it is a great way to move on from mommy issues. Forgiving your mother isn’t just a way for her to move on, but it is a way for you to get rid of the burden you’ve been carrying, which you don’t deserve. This can even help sort out daddy issues.
4.5) Befriend Your Inner Child
People often don’t realize they have an inner child who hasn’t been satiated. Recognizing the existence of this inner child can help you deal with your suppressed emotions. Taking ownership of this inner child and befriending them can help you better your mental health, focus more on your relationships, and strive to achieve secure attachment.
5) How to Deal with a Partner Having Mommy Issues?
We don’t choose to develop mommy issues; it isn’t something individuals can control unless they work on it in their adult life. If your partner struggles with mommy issues, you can help them cope by following these steps.
5.1) Try Understanding Him
If you are dating someone with mommy issues, try to realize that they will act insecure sometimes, because they’ve been neglected in their childhood. Trying to be open-minded and understanding can help your partner work on their issues better.
The mother-child relationship is a vital one throughout one’s life; if this relationship is neglected, the impact can be seen in adulthood. Learning about this can help assure your partner; show them you are trustworthy, that you aren’t going to hurt him, and that he can speak to you.
It may feel like they are still doubting you, but remind yourself that it isn’t personal and that it may take your partner a longer time to work on their issues. So, be patient and effortful.
Remember that if they are overly critical about you or their children, this may be stemming from their mommy or daddy issues, and may have nothing to do with the ability of you and your children.
5.2) You Don’t Have to Do This Alone
Dating someone who has mommy issues can take a toll on your mental health. Hence, it’s important to also prioritize your mental health. Seeing a therapist for emotional support or having a good support system can make you feel less alone in this journey. Your mental health shouldn’t be placed secondary to your need to be a good partner.
5.3) Boundary Setting
Your partner may expect you to play the role of their mother. They may expect you to treat them how mothers treat their children. You need to ensure that you let them know about your role in the relationship.
Define the role you play in their life. They may accuse you of not living up to their expectations, but don’t fall for this! They aren’t your children; they’re your romantic partners, and they should know how to act the way.
5.4) Importance of Space
Building healthy relationships requires taking your own space and time. Remind your partners that their adult attachment doesn’t have to be traumatized because of their unresolved issues.
Taking their own space to deal with childhood trauma, and learning to cope with their attachment style can help them build a healthier relationship with you. Encourage them to set boundaries and take the space their need to resolve their issues.
5.5) Do Not Come In Between
You have to remember that it is not your responsibility to solve disputes between your partner and their mother. As primary caregivers in childhood, mothers and fathers have a certain role to play in their child’s life.
Sometimes, they can’t stick up to that role, and this may impact later romantic relationships, parenting styles, and attachment styles.
But, even if you’re trying to support your partner through this tough time, it doesn’t mean you need to act like their safeguard. It isn’t your job to get involved between your partner, their mother figures, and the loosely defined boundaries of their relationship.
Attachment theory is one of the reasons for offering support for mommy issues, but there are so many other reasons, too. Parenting styles, mother-child relationships, peer relationships – a lot of these factors play a huge impact on the development of mommy issues.
Mommy issues can cause harm to romantic and other relationships you have with people, but they can also be resolved. Peer-reviewed studies often show support for therapy, and other styles of coping that involve talking about your problems.
‘What are mommy issues?’ This isn’t the end of your search, but just the beginning. However, understanding and accepting the role your mother played in your life when you were a child can help you stop adopting new behaviors that could hamper your adult relationships.