Left unresolved, some sons believe (whether or not accurately) that their mother loves them more than her husband. Instead of surrendering defeat, he’s inflated and victorious over his father. This dynamic damages the son’s adult intimate relationships. It may also impair his self-concept as a man since he sees his father, who should be a positive role model, as failing.
The potential for this is exacerbated where the father is absent, or if a divorced mother denigrates and alienates her ex-husband during the Oedipal phase of her son’s development.
6. ENVY AND CONTROL
Just as daughters of narcissistic mothers experience their mother’s envy and competition, a narcissistic mother may be jealous of her son’s girlfriends and compete with his wife. No one will be good enough, because no one will measure up to her inflated self-image and standards. She must remain number one in his life. She may try to control and undermine his intimate relationships, criticize or disrespect his partner, or do so subtly with innuendo and manipulation. (See the movie, Queen Bee.) Her son will feel hopelessly guilt-ridden and caught in the middle, trying to avoid hurting and angering his mother and partner (who may also be a narcissist or otherwise mentally unstable.) He feels guilty, is unaware of appropriate boundaries and unable to set them.
The Damage to Sons of Narcissistic Mothers
Like sons of narcissistic fathers, sons of narcissistic mothers don’t feel loved for who they are, but only for what they can do for their parent’s approval.
Because appearances are all important, their children must look and act in ways that reflect positively on them. Love, if given at all, is conditional. It’s not based on understanding, appreciating, and accepting their son’s unique, true self. The son’s value depends on the extent to which he aggrandizes his parents’ ideals and ego.
This may include pressuring him into a parent’s favored profession and to achieve success or the lifestyle his parents want.
Whether or not sons have worldly success, they grow up insecure and codependent. Their individual identity has never been supported. Their self-worth and self-esteem have been undermined by verbal abuse and lack of love for their authentic selves. They learned to accommodate their mother by suppressing their needs, feelings and wants. This denial handicaps them in adult relationships. They have difficulty identifying and expressing their needs and feelings. They may self-sacrifice and feel undeserving without people-pleasing. Where the father was unable to stand up to his wife to protect children from her control and jabs, he fails to role model setting boundaries. As a result, a son can feel used, resentful, and exploited by women.
2. INTIMACY ISSUES
When a son feels unsafe to express feelings and needs to his mother, it feels unsafe in adult intimate relationships, as well. Having been manipulated and emotionally abandoned, he fears being judged and/or abandoned by his partner. Additionally, having been enmeshed with his mother, he fears being engulfed and controlled by an intimate partner. Thus, he’ll avoid intimacy, prompting his partner to demand more closeness, which escalates his apprehension and defenses. (See “The Dance of Intimacy.”)
From feeling controlled and/or exploited, the son may harbor deep dislike toward his mother, even if he remains close. This often extends to other women. Generally, he will react to the woman with compliance, resistance, or anger. Some men will be aggressive and distrust women. Other men have learned to be manipulative or be passive-aggressive. They overly accommodate, lie, or passively refuse simple requests from their partner as if they were their mother’s demands. Their hostile behavior may eventually make their spouses act like their mother! Resentment and intimacy fears might drive them to be dishonest or unfaithful, especially if their father was.
Some sons of narcissists become narcissists themselves. Sons of narcissistic mothers have higher rates of narcissism. This may be because she’s more likely to idealize and aggrandize him rather than compete, as she would with a daughter.
Other sons may repeat their maternal relationship with women who are demanding, controlling, or abusive. They may partner with an older woman, a narcissist, addict, or someone with a borderline personality disorder or other mental problems. They may become caretakers to their partner, just as they were to their mother and find it hard to leave.