Sunday, September 24, 2006

The incurable complex

A man who talks a little too much about his mother will raise a "mama's boy" flag in any woman's mind… Oula Al Farawati provides reasons why women don't like mama's boys and tips to help some cope...

It was all too romantic at the beginning. Muna* got married expecting that Yahia, a 32-year-old merchant will cherish and honor her as the only woman of his dreams. Muna’s dream of Yahia collapsed soon after marriage when she discovered that she had to fight for the no.1 position in his life. Yahia had already reserved that position for another woman: his mom.
“Life has never been that miserable for me. My mother-in-law knows everything about our lives and she comes often to give me advice about how I should treat my husband,” Muna complained. Muna’s mother-in-law shared the couple their wedding anniversary, attended the disgruntled wife's birthdays and was there when Muna presented her husband with gifts during his birthday. She even gave her advice on what kind of lingerie Yahia likes and gave her countless remarks about cooking “yummy dishes.”
“My life is an open book to my mother in law… She believes she is the only good woman for her youngest son… I tried to talk to my husband but he retorted with anger and accused me of hating his mother,” said Muna, a mother to two boys. During the engagement and as the couple were preparing for their house, Yahia asked his mother for help, so she “helped” the couple pick the house furniture, choose the wedding party location and had the final say in every single detail. At that time Muna thought it was only normal that her mother-in-law was involved, especially that Yahia was her youngest soon.
But she explained that soon, things began to worsen, especially when the couple had their first baby. "I felt that the baby would bring Yahia and I closer together because our relationship has always been strained with me struggling to please him," she said. "But instead, it brought my husband and his mom together. I was not allowed to do anything without consulting my mother-in-law… She chose the baby's name, clothes and did not feel comfortable when I breastfed my baby… two months after the baby's birth, Yahia started taking him to my in-law's and my baby would sleep there most of the time," she complained. ·
Do mama's boys exist?
Sociologist Musa Shteiwi argues that no man would admit that he is so attached to mama. Men, especially in the Arab World, tend to believe that they have the ability to make decisions on their own without the external influence of anybody, how about a woman. Dr. Shteiwi acknowledges that the "phenomenon" does exist, but warns that women have to be careful and make a distinction between someone who loves his mother and is good to her and someone who has an unhealthy attachment to mammy. ·
Where to draw the line?
Many men argue that their wives accuse them of being mama's boys for simply calling their moms very often or buying them a gift every now and then. Marwan, a marketing director and a father of two children said his wife "does not understand" his delicate situation and puts up a fight whenever he calls, visits his mom or ask her for her opinion about "things".
Explaining that he was an only child, Mohammad said that he needed to take care of his mother and visit the old lady who lives alone very often. "And there is nothing wrong with asking my mom for her opinion… My mom raised me and she knows me very well, much better than my wife does and my mom seems to always help me when I am unable to make up my mind about something," he said. Dr. Shteiwi says the differentiating line is when the mother can, and is allowed by her son, to meddle in the life of the couple and become "a partner" who can make decisions that should be otherwise made by the couple, alone.
"It is a difficult formula especially in our society... if the wife accuses her husband of being mama's boy for no reason, it will backfire on the relationship between the woman and her husband and probably on the wife's relationship with her mother in law," Dr. Shteiwi said. "Wives have to understand this difficult formula... After all, I will draw a big question mark on a man who is not good to his mother," said the social specialist. ·
It melts down to the society!
So what makes men unable to stand up to mama? Dr. Shteiwi noted that the "parental" society that most of us in the Arab world are raised in draws a big distinction between the roles of both parents. In this system, women have to shoulder most of the responsibility in bringing children up. "So when the mom raises the child, tells him what he can, or cannot do, and has the final say on play, school and other life decisions, the son forms a kind of attachment that is hard to break," said Dr. Shteiwi. "Our society knows this, acknowledges and fosters it... The father's role lies in bringing in money and sometimes disciplining bad behavior," he added.
So when mothers have this kind of responsibility, a desire to rule and intimidate grows in them and at the same time, children do not develop the ability to make decisions and fully depend on their mother to sometimes make lifetime decisions for them.
In the case of the couple Yahia and Muna, the disgruntled wife complained that her mother-in-law never found her good enough "for her baby." "I was never good in doing anything... My cooking was bad and my taste was bad... And what made me go crazy is that she started making decisions on the way we raise the children... She decided what school they should go to and what subjects they should chose and picked their Eid clothes, and my husband was happy about all that." Dr. Shteiwi said that a man raised by an intimidating mother subconsciously develops a Freudian relationship with his mom.
The situation becomes worse when the once-child-now-a man gets married and brings home an "enemy". "So when her son gets married, the mom subconsciously feels the threat, especially that the woman will steal from her someone who she used to order and get listened to, and that means that a loss of a big source of enforcement and self-esteem. And that why animosity immediately develops between the two women," Dr. Shteiwi explained. He added that men immediately get on the defensive when they feel that their wives hate their moms, which can worsen the situation and further foster the relationship between men and their mothers. "Why not? Now they even have a mutual enemy," he said,
Dr. Shteiwi believes that no cure is available yet for such a dilemma. A woman cannot change in few years what her husband was raised according to for a minimum of 25 years of his life. "I am not being pessimistic… the symptoms can be lessened but they can never be cured. I am not advising divorce, but women who were cursed with this problem will find it as the only solution." In the case of Yahia and Muna, the couple is still married… But a year ago, Yahia's mother picked him another bride as she thought Muna "will never become better."
Yahia's new wife, is said to also suffer from the "mama's boy complex."
Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr. Josi Salem-Pickartz provides an understanding of the situation of men in Jordan. "Every now and then I get cases where husbands are more involved with the family they came from than the family they founded especially in the first two years of marriage" she said. She added that this has two consequences: Wives feel neglected and the husband's relationship with his kids is affected. For cultural and religious reasons, she continued, men tend to give more attention to the families they come from, especially their moms. "But a man needs to make up his mind about where to place these two women in his life," she said. "Men need to emancipate themselves from their moms and teach themselves how to solve their problems on their own," she advised. Interestingly, men who are mama's boys sometimes become wife's boys. Dr, Salem-Pickartz explained that men who are spoiled by their moms expect to be spoiled by their spouses which places a lot of pressure on the wives.
However, Dr. Salem-Pickartz said there were no specific rules to follow to get out of the situation except for mutual respect and communication: "Men and women have to understand that marriage is a new project to work on and pay attention to… There are no rules for a good marriage and couples should always communicate on the best ways to make their relationships become stronger."
Dr. Shteiwi offers the following tips to women on how to teach husbands to stand up to mammy. · Never tell your husband that he is a mama's boy. Such an "accusation" can worsen the situation.
· Foster your relationship with your mother. This will make your husband more willing to accept your indirect remarks.
· Work on fostering your husband's independent side. Keep telling him how good he is in making decisions. ·
Don’t put your husband in situations here he has to choose between you and his mom


Qwaider قويدر said...

Somehow, I don't feel in agreement with the gist of the article. It just doesn't feel right.
You're applying complete western ideology to eastern establishment. And that's kind of wrong.
So the Mother have picked "The Wife" she was involved to that level. Yet the wife wants the husband to be hers and hers alone with no external influence.
I don't think that is even possible, because she herself would be subject to "her mother's" counter-in-law tactics too, determining many things in the couple's life
yet the article strategically focus on the Man being the one to blame
Many married men end up playing a filter between the wife and the mother. Mother telling them how things "Should be" while wives trying to be possessive about their marriage.
If we want to measure the whole situation, we must apply oriental standards to this oriental only issue. And have to keep in mind that most of the time, mother in laws are trying to help

Shy said...

I'm a mama's boy and proud of it! :)

The Observer said...

Nice article :)

Muna should buy "sun-white" rice! lol. Have you heard this Ad in the radio? :)

This is a real delimma, not just in our society, but in the whole world, and even when both the wife and the mother are good to each other, there always lies this feeling of sensitivity in dealing with each other.

Maybe what women ought to learn is the ability to share :). Each one of them should know her role and part in this man's life.

And he should be man enough to know how to manage things between the 2 women he loves most in his life.

Keeping them away of each other might be a solution :P

(Tealover) said...

Oula ..
I tend to agree with some points in your article , not all though .. To start with , it is a real problem to be married to a "Mom's boy" .. this specific situation may be more clear with men who represent the only son/child for their mothers . I believe when a man gets married , he should separate between his previous life and the new one, of course not in sense of absolute separation , but what I mean , that once a man and woman got married , they should learn how to keep their secrets together , their fights , their mistakes, their shared life in general .. but its not only men who are Mom's boy , there are also women who allow their mother to add more to the marriage , interfere with their husbands lives , and rule the son-in-low through the daughter . all in all .. I'd say it is a complex situation.

Good article .. do you publish somewhere ?

Oula said...

Qwaider: I am not in anyway writing about those who care for their moms... I am writing about extreme cases...

Shy: I am sorry for your loss...

The observer: I haven't heard the commercial but I can imagine how it sounds... hehe
I think u have provided a great solution to this problem. Yes! U r right!

Tealover: thanks for the comment... I visited ur blog.. very nice and absolutely very feminine... my articles in English were published in Living Well Magazine!

Shy said...

hehe Oula read my blog and u will understand why

Oula said...

i did visit your website, and that is why, shy, i said i am sorry for ur loss! again, and this shows in my article, i am talking about extreme cases, when a man put his mind to rest and relies, solely, on his mom's!