Some types of unhealthy mother-son relationships can be so toxic that they can ruin your own and your children’s happiness. Below you will find some examples.

Mother-son relationships are complicated. While a son is growing and learning about the world and establishing his independence, he needs the nurturing and loving support of his mother. However, there are certain situations when the relationship between a mother and son is distorted and this can cause destruction. Unhealthy mother-son relationships can not only have detrimental effects on both the mother and son, but can also ruin any other relationships they have in their lives.

In the following article, we will look at some examples of unhealthy mother-son relationships. We will also discuss why they are bad and how they can have negative effects on you and your life.

Mummy’s Boy

When the mother makes all the decisions for her son, this can make it incredibly hard for him to escape from this pattern of dependence. It is not healthy for a son to rely on the help of his mother to make decisions.

If a son still considers his mother to be the main priority in his life, before even his partner, the relationship is very unhealthy. This can cause the son to feel regret and guilt if he doesn’t stay in contact with his mother but also resent her expectations. As resentment can become guilt and vice versa, a horrible cycle starts.

This is not to say it is wrong for a mother and son to be close. If you are involved in the kind of relationship, whether you are a mother or a son, it is a good and healthy thing. Closeness between the two of you can help him to communicate better in life and learn how to understand and express their emotions better.

However, there is a line that should never be crossed. In the relationship, if you are too close, it can spell danger for you both.

Overprotective Mum

It seems that mums, in general, have a difficult time letting go of their sons, when it is time for them to mature and break out in the world on their own. It is important for the son to have a close relationship with his mother while he is growing up, for a secure base for him to develop and explore who he wants to be. And mothers should be protective of their children.

However, it is when they become too overprotective that the relationship becomes unhealthy not just for the son, but the mother also.

Spouse Substitute

There are unhealthy mother-son relationships where the mother will replace the relationship she should have with her partner for an emotional one of the same kind with her son. It may be that the husband/dad is not living with the family anymore or has died. It could also be that he is not giving the level of emotional support that the woman needs or is abusing her. In some ways, it may feel natural for her to turn to her son, as the next closest thing to a male partner.

However, just because the husband/dad is not shaping up to the man he should be or is not there to take on the responsibility of his role, it doesn’t mean the son should be seen as a substitute.

There are also relationships known as ‘enmeshed’ parent-child relationships. In these relationships, the children and parent rely on each other to fulfill their emotional needs – to make them feel healthy, whole or just good. Although that sounds fine, they do it to the extreme and the psychological health of both parties is put at risk. All sense of individuality is lost.

When Unhealthy Becomes Immoral and Illegal

Sometimes though, the above relationships can become more than just unhealthy, but illegal and immoral. Sexual, incestuous relationships form. Although this is generally rare, it is possible.

Creates Challenges for Marriages

When a mother and son have an unhealthy relationship, it causes him to struggle with setting boundaries and detach from his mother. This can be a real problem when he is involved in a romantic relationship such as a marriage. His wife may feel as if he always has to compete with the mother, so it can cause a rift between her and her husband.

Admitting There’s a Problem

All is not lost though. The problems caused by unhealthy mother-son relationships can be healed. The first step is admitting there is a problem and dealing with these problems by speaking to a therapist.

There are other ways to get the same sort of help if they don’t feel comfortable attending therapy – by joining an online forum or something similar. Issues may still arise because a relationship has two halves and if one is not prepared to work at a solution, nothing will be able to change.

Set Boundaries

It’s the very fact that boundaries that should have been in place were violated. When both parties are aware of this, it can be addressed and dealt with by setting healthy boundaries. This may involve taking baby steps at first.


Ruth Newton, M.A., B.A.

Copyright © 2012-2020 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. Avatar

    yeah very good that you wrote about mother-son relationship issues which is less
    why don’t you write about father-daughter relationship issues too? which is much more in people

  2. Avatar

    After reading your references it was a stretch to meet your conclusions. It is one thing to make your child incapable of making his own decisions, and it is another to still provide some guidance on matters of consequences. For example, many young adults do not appreciate the seriousness of financial over-extension. Romance may inspire people to reach for the stars without a plan, and the intervening parent may become the harbinger of unwelcomed reality – the dasher of dreams. In reality, it may have been a loving act to avert probable bankruptcy. This topic needed significant narrowing, and specific examples would help with that.

  3. Avatar

    Jesus it’s like reading an article specifically dedicated to my ex. Wouldn’t understand that his Mum ringing her son’s boss because she was annoyed at him is unacceptable (he was 27). Just couldn’t see the damage his codependent relationship with his mother was. Needless to say we are not together anymore. Steer clear ladies.

  4. Avatar

    I feel like I’m stuck I a relationship hell. I met a beautiful woman and we have a beautiful same sex relationship. However, her relationship with her son is bordering on incestuous. Tonight the son texted her and asked Mommy is “” awake. He was asking about me being awake and she responded no, and am was sitting right there. This broad is gone and I am about to actively seek someone with no kids or someone with a healthy relationship with their children.

  5. Avatar

    I buried my 16 yr old son suddenly through brain bleed. That myself and my 12 yr old as dad was not present. My son went through addiction at 15 and then an illness at 18 all after his brother died. My fears were real and now he is 21 and wants to break free. I can’t let go. Help I need

    1. Avatar

      stop making things worse by letting go.

  6. Avatar

    hi i’m 32 still living with my pairents, I am schizophrenic and unemployed since 2010. I am my mothers cairer when my dad is working off shore. I think that my love life has been destroyed because of this (not sure because i’v never realy had one).I (at this point) would like to move out, however being on benifits and the fact my dad would need to give up his job. Currently i spend most if not all of my time in my room in front of my tv (getting pissed off with that) and afew hours a month building a part work inbetween taking my mum to hospital ocasionaly or the supermarket and sorting out food for her the weeks my dad is offshore.

    what do i do

  7. Avatar

    My Ex was the victim of and emotionally incestuous relationship with his mother – that broke through all dysfunctional boundaries. No, I didn’t know it when I married him. He actually kept me far away from her and complained about her – until we married. They spent evenings after work together going to movies, shopping, dinner – date nights!- and I was left at home. Nothing I said was valid. After all: “That’s my mother!” He was 38 and she was 60. The end came quickly after she called him at 10:30pm, informing him she wanted to take a bubble bath and she was out of Jean Nate. He jumped out of bed and raced 32 miles away to grant his mother’s wish. I was furious! The next morning I asked him what happened. Him: “Nothing! I ran her bath for her, lit some candles and played guitar for her while she bathed.” – like it was the most normal thing in the world. I have to correctly assume their was nudity involved. My stomach turned in a hundred different directions. I told him he was in an incestuous relationship with his mother. My daughter was born ( don’t ask me how that miracle happened) and the mother wanted him to take the baby from me. She even had a nursery done for her in her house! My husband came home screaming: ” That’s HER daughter! That’s HER kid!” Outcome: Divorce; I gained sole custody; he consistently only spent 15 mins of visitation time because his mother “needed” him. Epilogue: His mother died shortly thereafter from AIDS.

    1. Avatar

      you are so brave… I am going through a similar thing

    2. Avatar

      Lol, smdh. That sounds like it was a very messy situation!!!!

  8. Avatar

    The Spouse Substitute sounds like what my sister is doing to her son. It started when her husband became a homeless crack addict. My sister lives with her son, he’s 32. He doesn’t seem to realize how controlled he is by my sister. We (my mom, niece, me) have tried to talk to her about this, and she goes into a rage if we try to tell her she needs to move on w/out her sson; get her own place, he needs to get his…it’s not healthy for a 32 year old guy to still live with mom! He has a girlfriend, but now the girlfriend and my sister are enemies. She gets almost psychotically angry with her son the same way she fought with her husband. It’s as if she has replaced her husband with Louie (emotionally) and when he’s not doing everything for her, she goes into a rage. She also drinks alot, which makes the fighting seem to become worse, and more physical. My nephew quit his job, and is talking about moving and my sister is besides herself with rage now because he’s making plans without her. I told my nephew this needs to stop, I told him it’s not healthy for him at his age to still be living with his mom, and he needs to move on, move out and get his own life without her. He seems to be codependent on her too. I don’t get it. Most guys that don’t get along with their moms will leave home at early ages. I don’t understand why my nephew seems to find it so difficult to leave “mom”, esp since she behaves psychotic at times. I don’t have a good relationship with my sister because of her behavior. She is a narcissist. She’s self centered to the point that I think she is a sociopath. How do I help my nephew break free of his mom. I’m totally independent. I’ve lived on my own for years. I don’t get why he still wants to live with a mom that fights with him so horribly Tonight, he texted me photos of the bruises she left on his arm. She was having a tantrum because he said he wanted to move to another City to find a job. She wants to go with him! Unhealthy relationship is an understatement with my sister and her son.

  9. Avatar

    too bad. they surely must be separated. This is emotional slavery.

  10. Avatar
    The Last Straw

    My girlfriend has an unhealthy relationship with her son from a previous relationship. He basically gets away with murder (figuratively not literally) and can do no wrong in her eyes unless she’s (at the moment) mad at him. She excuses (or ignores) his apathy, his rudeness, and his neglect of his own son (yep…he’s got a kid…and refuses to take care of him properly). Quite frankly he’s the biggest asshole I’ve ever met and it’s easy to see he has picked up his parents worst traits and none of their good traits. He’s a disrespectful money sponge and can’t think beyond his little head (if you get my meaning). I’ve never in my life met anyone so disrespectful and she just let’s it slide, even makes excuses for him or even blames me for his (he’s an adult) choices. I’ve never had a confrontation with him, but between his sick behaviour (walking around in his underwear and trying to go into the bathroom when she showers) and his selfish attitude I’ve come to a point where I want to either leave the situation entirely or have said confrontation.

    1. Avatar
      Mike Gillen

      um, his mom probably took too long of showers that took up the whole morning. nothing wrong with asking to use the bathroom if shes in a closed shower. people like you are a shame. thank god you have not taken up the roll as a real husband. sounds like you are not ready for husband duty yet. being a stepdad is very difficult,..but is not an excuse shame your spouse online and shame her son. shame on you

  11. Avatar

    I have a question more than a comment I’m saying this woman is 51 she has a son living with her that’s around 30 or 37 every time he walks into the room she watches him and stares at him she doesn’t have a sleeping pattern because she’s up all night long she’s always on the phone and him and her always talk about everything which is common but when I come into the room they get really quiet I’ve been dating this woman for over 2 months she stares at him more than she stares at me I mean like I told her if you paid more attention to me like you do your son you would get more attention from me she sleeps with her door open she’s she wears nightgowns all day long she has a large breasts and she sets with no panties on and like I said she sleeps with her door open and the light on and she sleeps where the sun can see her naked she’s admitted that her son has seen her naked many times I told her that’s very strange is the time that you shouldn’t let your child see you and I thought that was around about 4 or 5 she never said anything but when it comes to cooking food she’ll fix what he wants but she always seems they ruin what I have I don’t need a lot of things that she cooks for him and she doesn’t make anything special for me I’m not jealous of her son oh and by the way her son hasn’t worked for 10 years and she doesn’t make him go look for a job

  12. Avatar
    Clay P.

    My mom is all three of these types! I’m 36 and still working to set boundaries, speak my own mind, and seek healing from our past. There’s hope out there folks!

  13. Avatar

    I’m a concerned mother and worried about my children around my brother in law. The relationship he shares with his mother’s is described as an old married couple. They both do not work and haven’t in a long time . Mother in law was fired over fifteen years ago buying pot in a parking lot. Brother in law is slightly disabled on one side and collects social security. They both use his s.s. to pay rent and buy pot of whatever they need. Brother in law has never had a relationship of any kind, hand holding, kissing, etc. My main concern is having my young children around him. I brought this up to my husband and he doesn’t seem to think anything of it and was very offended that I would be weary of him being alone with our kids. The mother and son relationship is too weird for me. He cannot go anywhere for more than an hour without having the mother come pick him up. His social life is nonexistent and he is very quiet and lacks normal behavior. I don’t know how to approach this. The mother and son have never been apart and now moved in with grandmother because Grandpa passed. I’m not close with the family and they really don’t want to be close to me. They have watched our children(they as in mother and grandma) so we could go out for a date night and the kids have spent the night before. But now I am getting worried and my gut is telling me something isn’t right with him. Am I being too paranoid? Should I feel awful for thinking my brother in law shouldn’t be alone with my children and not spend the night at grandma’s again? My husband told me to tell his mom how I feel. I have expressed concern with not wanting to work or any desire to stop smoking pot. I understand people do it for medical, anxiety, or other reasons but I want my children around people in the right state of mind. I had a great uncle that acted like my brother in and the feelings came back that made me uncomfortable. I was never violated but it was borderline. I never want to put my children in a toxic situation but I don’t want to assume someone I know will harm them. I don’t know if I am right and if I do talk to the mother in law that she will protect her son no matter what.

  14. Avatar

    I’m currently in a relationship with a Man who is 36 lives at home and is in a very unhealthy relationship with his mother and he can’t see how bad her behaviour is for us I’m pulling My hair out with this they can’t see how wrong the relationship is and everyone else in there lives in completely aware of the way they are and won’t do anything about it I would do almost anything to make this work HELP ME I NEED ADVICE!!!

    1. Avatar

      Get out!!!! They will not change. They like it just the way that it is. They also frown upon you for calling it what it is.

  15. Avatar

    i have been with my bf for 7 years now i am 33 he is 30, we have 2 childeren together and recently becaume engaged. I feel like he is in an enmeshed relationship with his mother and possibly his sister too. His dad left when he was 4, had an affair with another woman, the sister was much older and so had her own life and he was left to look after his mothers emotional needs, his nan was sick during this time also so his mum was in a bad place and he had to grow up fast. Whenever his mum becomes upset or worried about things he becomes the same, and vice versa. They message eachother constantly throughout the day even sending love hearts and emojis blowing love kisses (which i have expressed to him creeps me out) but he gets on the defensive “whats wrong with that its my mum im sending her my love”……… Both his sister and his mum control him its like he has two mums. On his birthdays he always goes down to his sisters with his mum, when ive asked why he does this he says he feels like he has to, same with his sisters/mums/nephews birthdays the sister calls him up asks why hes not there yet. It took him 4 years to move in with me, and only because i had just given birth to our first son, i spent the whole pregnancy living on my own as he didnt want to leave his mother on her own. He has told me she has always said to him she hasnt found someone since his dad when he was 4 because she wanted to put all her energy in to raising him right. He doesnt cook, clean, do washing because he was raised with her doing all this for him so now i guess thats my job also. He doesnt seem to think theres a problem or at least wont admit to it. I feel left out of a lot of his family stuff partly my own fault as i have no want or need to associate with them. It causes problems within our relationship and i feel creeped out by his closeness to his mother i just dont get it or know what to do really

    1. Avatar

      Clair’s story sounds so familiar that I’m thinking to myself ,can this be the same person? But it’s not same person just same story. I guess it’s alot of them out there. Some unintentional and some intentional selfish acts of alot of mothers who destroy their sons lives. How sad!!! Cant possibly have good loving relationships with other women besides mommy!!!! This 48yr old guy that I know same situation. Dad left ,he was a kid. Sister and Mom runs his life specifically mom. Crosses so many boundaries!!! He Can’t make decisions for self. Doesn’t know how to handle responsibilities in order to live on his own, at all.whatever his mom says he also says. Lol. His mother has a one bdrm apt. And keeps some of his clothes there for when he comes over. It’s just a sad situation. The dependence. A person couldn’t pay me a million dollars to be in a relationship with this guy!!!! It’s sad!!!! Mothers need to stop it. Manipulative and selfish Mothers!!!!!

  16. Avatar
    Shane Smith

    I am a 60 yo male living with an 80 year old mum . She’s trying to make me her age . Everyday is the same no element of surprise no get up and go unless it’s my sister or niece calling the shots I gotta get out of hear

  17. Avatar
    S g

    What can be a solution to this problem.evdn i am going through similar situation and felt sad after reading this article that there are many more like me.

    First of all its difficult to make my husband realize this as he would never accept and he is too close to his mom so he would not like to hear any such thing coming from wife’s mouth.I am living in distress since past 13 yrs.How do I help him n mysrlf.

    My kids suffering too

  18. Avatar

    Wow never know that this is real cause that’s what I’m going through cause my boyfriend mother is like oh do this and that with yourself than the depend pan that one she or oh she isn’t good for toy n I don’t see u long with him or her ….its,like she want to separate her son from me because she said her son means the world to she and he is her eye ball she have three kids two boy n one girl she only love one with all her heart n she hate the others …..when my boyfriend go out with me she gets mad but when her other kids do go out with their partner she doesn’t care this stuff I just read make me realize im in a wrong relationship

  19. Avatar
    Cheryl millrr

    I just trying to leave a yen year common law marriage it’s hard I have not accepted or around her for nine years it’s awefulnhevgoes home to his room in hisoms house she feeds clothes cigs beer buys him things he had yen of expensive steaks three hundred dollar already had the of does his laundry makes his bed hifrschim for three days won’t even let me talk to him he thinks this is normal

  20. Avatar

    I can identify with some any comments that have been left on this page. I too was involved with a 30 year old individual and the relationship between him and his Mother was toxic. They both live together in the same room and when I was not there they slept in the same bed!, although she had a separate bed to him. They behave like husband and wife and I was the mistress more or less. They discussed everything together basically, a co-dependent relationship. They both are very manipulative and only want to do what suits them. His excuse was that his Mother is living with him in a foreign country and he is responsible for her and her needs. She could not even go to the shops without him or withdraw money from her account alone. It used to drive me crazy! She is not disabled and well able to walk and find the closest shop which was less that 5 minutes away. She even rang him one night when he was staying with me to say she felt sick and had a headache. He was so worried all night about her. When we went to see her she looked fine and was so happy to see him…. She used to say” why do you leave me alone here”. We went away one night and she phoned 4 times for nothing important and necessary. It was pathetic. She used to wait for him at the door after work, pet him like a child, and stand by watching him sleep in the morning if she woke before him. He could do NO wrong despite been a selfish self seeking looser. Any excuse to control him. But the ironic thing was this: I realized he actually seemed to enjoy the attention and her neediness because it made him feel wanted. He also controlled her and they were both in a disease to please each other. I had so many arguments about it and with her that in the end I gave up and we (her husband/ son) parted ways.

    All I can say is that is is very difficult to change the dynamic of a co-dependent relationship between Mother and Son. Especially if he enjoys his mothers sickness. Its exhausting and not fun. Be frank and be honest is my advice and give consequences. Good luck to you all!

  21. Avatar

    My boy is 43 and still lives with me, we have only ever lived apart for about six mounts, we are very close and share just about all aspects of our lives .Is our relation unhealthy, is their a good age for children to leave home? Is it healthy to live together forever?

  22. Avatar

    I think it’s best and easier to live apart, but if not, you can always limit shared things, especially if both have other people in their lives! Other romantic relationships or other best friends or each person has their own life, own activities, etc.thus sharing a small amount of time together. I think the really important aspects of each person”s life like decision making, privacy, and a healthy respect for separateness are a must! The child [man] must be and feel capable of standing on his own two feet, emotionally, financially and intellectually! No guilt should be imposed on one another and no manipulation should be used! If living together is necessary, if possible to have/use separate entrances to home. Do not create routines like meals a habit. Make appointments for a few days or meals together, and no accounting for coming home arrival times! No answering to each other! No negative attitude towards personal visitors or affections for someone else should exist.If all this works, great, if not ……… get out!

Leave a Reply