How are the children of narcissistic mothers affected? Profoundly and enduringly.
The sons of narcissistic mothers display particular characteristics that emerge from the unhealthy relationship the mother established as he was growing up. There is either too much attention, as the mother is overly enmeshed with her son, or not enough attention, as the son suffers from neglect. Both extremes damage the psyche and wound the soul.
Sons of narcissistic mothers are pressured to be perfect, a dutiful extension of her desires, or put down as incompetent, if they attempt to forge their own identity. Or, they are simply ignored because she is too self-absorbed, so they learn nothing of female love.
Continue reading for some explanation on how sons of narcissistic mothers develop some troubling characteristics.
Manipulative Mothers and Damaged Sons
Narcissistic mothers will often idealize their sons—until they do something in contradiction to the mother. Because her affection is so unpredictable, and sometimes unwelcome, sons of narcissistic mothers have difficulty with relationships well into their adulthood. The narcissistic mother has all the power and control, while the son struggles to find his way.
Here are some typical characteristics you will find in sons of narcissistic mothers.
1. Exalted and Exhausted Expectations
In the beginning, the narcissistic mother has great expectations for her son. Since she sees him as an extension of her superior self, it stands to reason that he will be more intelligent, more talented, and more attractive than the other little boys. It is only when he begins to develop his own individuality that the mother is thwarted.
As soon as the son exhibits independence, the narcissistic mother either becomes enraged or loses interest in him. The unpredictability and conditional nature of her love compromises his self-esteem, leaving him insecure and isolated. What’s more, her abuse often gets worse with age.
2. Inability to Set Priorities
Since narcissistic mothers exert an undue amount of control on their sons, these boys will likely grow up to be men who don’t have a firm sense of boundaries or a clear sense of priorities. They will be accustomed to allowing someone else to set the parameters—of a relationship, especially—for them.
Well into adulthood, narcissistic mothers have influence over their sons, so he may have difficulty in putting his adult spouse or partner and family above the demands, however unreasonable, of his mother. This can cause tension within any relationship, of course.
3. Undeserving Codependent
Sons of narcissistic mothers often feel unworthy, because his mother’s love was always conditional and never guaranteed. They become people-pleasers, constantly desperate to get the approval of others, even at the cost of authenticity and sincerity. It can seem a little like narcissism, but there are some key differences between codependency and narcissism.
This codependent behavior means that these sons aren’t able to express their feelings readily and genuinely, and their sense of identity is stunted. They garner their self-worth from what they can do for others, rather than from an innate confidence. They often feel undeserving of love.
4. Inhibited Intimacy
Certainly, because these sons feel undeserving of love, their ability to express their true feelings and engage in intimacy is compromised. Because the narcissistic mother always judged him harshly (and constantly), he fears being judged by his partner and so will often shut them out.
He is also wary of intimacy because he doesn’t want to be controlled or manipulated by a partner or spouse the way he was once controlled and manipulated by his mother. He tends to keep his distance and may be unable to form lasting relationships. The more a partner pushes, the more distant and defensive he may become.
RELATED: You might also want to check out this post if you are dating the son of a narcissistic mother so you will know what to expect.
5. Resentful Passive-Aggressiveness
This tug-of-war in his relationships, where the partner wants more intimacy and the son wants more autonomy, often results in aggression. Sons of narcissistic mothers fear being exploited by women, especially, and they may automatically mistrust any woman who asks more of them.
This takes form in one of two ways. Sons of narcissistic mothers either become verbally and physically aggressive, even abusive, or they become passive-aggressive. This means they employ similar kinds of manipulation that their mother once performed on them. On the one hand, they may be excessively accommodating, to the point of self-effacement. On the other hand, they may simply lie or ignore requests from their partner.
6. Repetitive Patterns of Behavior
All of the damage done to sons of narcissistic mothers emerge into a pattern of behavior that replicates much of what the mother demonstrated. This can manifest in the son’s desire for relationships with older women who dominate and control them. He is still looking for his mother’s love and acceptance into adulthood. That can create problems when he marries as well.
Or, these sons may become overly invested in their partners, acting as hovering caregivers, in an attempt to make up for the lack of affection in their early life. They allow their personality to be subsumed by that of their partners and never fully develop a strong sense of self or self-worth.
7. Morphing into Mom
In the most extreme incarnation of the damage done to sons of narcissistic mothers, they will eventually become narcissists themselves. This is when they are unable or unwilling to grapple with the lasting psychological damage that was wrought by an ego-driven and empathy-lacking mother.
Daughters of narcissistic mothers often become competitors, at least in the eyes of mom, while sons of narcissistic mothers are often idealized and even idolized. This exceptional treatment from mom—even when she alternately criticizes and disappoints him—might lead to narcissistic feelings of superiority and a need to gratify his ego.
All children of narcissistic mothers are harmed by their upbringing, though the dynamic between mothers and sons is different than that between mothers and daughters. This leaves the son unable to form trusting and lasting commitments with women and may even cause them to be aggressive and abusive.
If sons of narcissistic mothers don’t reach out for some therapeutic help or loving support, then they may be doomed to unhappy lives of loneliness—or to live the life of a narcissist, repeating the family pattern.
If you’re considering marrying the son of a narcissistic mother, it might interest you to know some of the damage they might do to any future grandchildren.
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