3 Types of Unhealthy Mother-Son Relationships and How They Affect You

Published by
Ruth Newton, M.A., B.A.

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.


  1. https://www.huffingtonpost.com
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com

View Comments

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

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Published by
Ruth Newton, M.A., B.A.