This post is not about the adult male who chooses to move in with his parents when he is between jobs or is temporary seeking another place to live. It is about the adult males who still live with their parents for extended periods of time, well into their 20’s and 30’s, the ones characterized as individuals who are experiencing, “failure to launch” in an especially warped and twisted way. There is little hope for these individuals.
I’m going to narrow it all down even further, and at the risk of sounding sexist, this post is about “mama’s boys.” This is a post about some mothers and some sons and a particular phenomenon that creates a certain “type”.
“Mama’s boys” …often the butt of jokes within modern society, the root of this phenomenon lies in unhealthy relationships between sons and their mothers. These young men have are the ones who are frequently manipulated by their mothers, and for her own self fulfillment and gratification, into filling the shoes of an inadequate husband and/or father . Namely, she feeds her own ego by making her son dependent on her. The son gets very little out of the arrangement, other than deep-seated anger and resentment.
Mommy Dearest uses the excuse that she is “compensating for the bad father” in the adult child’s life, but in reality, she is trying to fulfill her own psychological needs. What transpires actually has nothing to do with genuine caring for the well being of the son by the mother. Everything in this type of mother’s “life” is out of control.
Because she could control her son when he was a wee tyke, she begins to exercise control over his life again when marital problems arise, refusing to allow the son to grow psychologically or to become his own person. She “owns” him… controls him….and deep down inside, regardless of how devoted he may seem to her, he hates her for it.
Failure to launch, in this instance, applies to young male adults who are part of an intricate psychological warfare that occurs between husbands and wives.
These young men are pawns who are used in their mother’s war games. Research shows that mothers who do not get on well with fathers, can transfer the love and attention that once existed in the marital relationship, into the love for a son. This love relationship takes on a whole new meaning and becomes much more complex than the healthy love relationships that normally exist between mother and son. The son then becomes, in effect, the surrogate husband, accompanying the mother on shopping trips, to church and, in some cases, even to work. The mother coddles the son, explaining that she is trying to compensate for the loss of love by the father. On the surface, this may appear to be the case, but underneath, something far more complex is occurring.
The mothers of these sons often have what appear to be inflated senses of self-esteem that clash with the realities of real life. They use their sons (and others) to compensate for their own personality deficiencies. Underneath it all, they are very insecure and have marked dependent personalities. They are, in fact, desperate.
Here’s how it works.
The mother and father fight….a lot, and the mother becomes emotionally, and sometimes physically, estranged from the father. Either the father moves out…or stays, and the couple experiences an “in-house estrangement”. In order to fulfill her own emotional needs, the mom transfers what was once the love for the father, onto her teenaged, or 20-something, son who begins to believe that he is more special than he actually is, more talented than he is, and that he can be anything that he wants to be. However, that is simply not reality. Her coddling has an emotionally crippling affect making it virtually impossible for the son to do anything productive, other than just follow his mom around and do what she wants.
The mother’s actions cause the son not to be able to fit into the real world . He has trouble adjusting and becoming an independent adult. When his life doesn’t pan out in the way that his mother has convinced him that it will, he falls into chronic disappointment, rebellion and despair. He stops trying, and does not work toward any particular goals of his own, but rather caters to his mother’s wishes…..and he stays at home.
There is often a battle going on in the mind of the mama’s boy who is experiencing the failure to launch syndrome. He wants to be independent, but his clinging mother has instilled guilt and a sense of obligation in him that causes him to feel the need to try to fulfill her emotional needs. This generates repressed anger in the son as the mother tries even harder to make the adult child more dependent on her. Rather than trying to instill a sense of autonomy in the son, she does the opposite by never allowing him a sense of his own independence. This has nothing to do with her love for her son, but is generated by a sense of selfishness on her part.
Becoming an adult signifies being independent from others (especially from parents) and learning to stand alone as a self-sufficient person. Success in the achievement of adult status also positively predicts emerging adults’ well-being overall. In other words, making an adult child dependent on a parent is not helping that adult child. It is a selfish endeavor on the part of the parent, because that parent is using the adult child as a pawn in her own internal battles. When the mother is doing everything for the son (in the faux name of “love”). what she is really doing is making him dependent on her so that SHE won’t be alone…so that HER emotional needs are closer to being met. It has nothing to do with real love for her son, nor what is actually good for him.
Sometimes, the healthiest and best thing that a parent can do for an adult child is to let go. Help him gain a sense of strength and independence. That is the most loving act of all.