I've read countless articles regarding men and their relationship with their mothers. The "experts" all say the same thing: if a man has a bad relationship with his mother, then he's destined to have bad relationships with all women (I don't necessarily believe this is true, especially if a man works hard at having good relationships as an adult). The flipside of a bad relationship? A good relationship... an extremely close relationship... close to the point of expecting that no one can take care of her son like she can.
I'm talking about Mama's Boys.
Now, there is nothing wrong with a man having a good relationship with his mom. In my family, we are extremely loving toward the few boys who were lucky enough to be born into a family of adoring females. Our hearts melt when they look up at us with those big eyes and long lashes. We oooh and aaah at the slightest movements they make and when they grow up, we comment on how handsome and strong they've turned out to be. I have seen the same thing in other families - the boys can do no wrong in the eyes of their mothers, grandmas, aunties and sisters. The downside to all this love and affection is that the boys go out into the world seeking the same adoration from their partners. When I have found myself in this situation, I either feed the expectation or run from it.
I've written before about feeding the puppy and the fact that I have spent a lot of my relationships fixing someone only to have him move on, bright and shiny and new. I tend to make my man a priority over myself - sacrificing everything I am for his happiness. Worse, I become completely responsible for his life - his choices, his actions, and his complete well-being. I once had a really serious boyfriend who went from saying "mom mom mom mom mom" to "babe babe babe babe babe" without even skipping a beat. It was like he didn't know how to function unless I was taking care of him and making sure he felt happy (he didn't necessarily feel the need to do the same for me).
I even find myself taking on responsibility for the way men act. I have recently found myself listening closely to things A. says when we are around my friends. I cringe if he tells a corny joke - and he tells the CORNIEST jokes. I think they're cute when we're alone, but in public, I want to die. I did the same with other men I've dated - I watch them and find myself making excuses and apologies if they act dumb, or get drunk and offend people, or make an off-color joke. I find myself making sure my grown man is acting right, much the way I do with children.
At what point do we become mothers to our partners? What drives this need to explain and control our partner's behavior? Is it because we think we will be judged for our choice in partner, or do we truly believe we are responsible for our partner's behavior? We are adults, we are not responsible for how our partners act - we can only be responsible for how we deal with it. The same is true for our partners' happiness and well-being. I'm 100% sure they know how to function before we get together, so there is no need for me to function for both of us. In past relationships, however, I found myself taking complete responsibility for my partners' feelings. I felt like their happiness was contingent upon my actions, so I swallowed a lot of bullshit, carried a lot of responsibility and lost myself in the process. The worst part? They let me. They never considered taking responsibility for themselves.
Being single all this time has given me the luxury of not worrying about anyone else. Now that there is someone in my life whom I am getting to know - and actually like - I worry that I'm going to slip back into the same pattern of becoming a mother instead of a girlfriend. I'm afraid I'll start taking on all responsibility for his life and I'll lose myself in the process. Being conscious of my actions and reminding myself that I am only responsible for my half is a constant job and it's exhausting, but it's worth it. I never want to lose myself again - finding her took a lot of work, and I like who I found.
I may have a son someday, and I'm pretty sure the women in my family will all go nuts for him, but I can guarantee he'll never expect a woman to be responsible for his happiness - he'll know exactly who he is and how to be happy and live for himself. He'll be mama's boy, after all...
Next time: I'm great... No, really, life is great.