There are few types of people more toxic to their family and friends than a narcissistic mother. We conceive of mother as the nourishing, loving, encouraging, and tender parent, but the narcissistic mother is the polar opposite of that stereotype. She is only able to focus on herself, and as an extension of her identity, her children are expected to do the same. This has toxic effects on both daughters and sons, but in different ways.
The narcissistic mother sees her daughter as a rival, but her son is her champion. She grooms him with a form of emotional incest to replace his father. When he fails to please her, she never fails to let him know the depth of her disappointment. The damage this does in severe and life-long.
The effects a narcissistic mother has on her son are incredibly toxic to his own sense of self. Sons often see themselves as their mother’s protector, and in the best of relationships, the relationship is affected by complex emotions. When you inject narcissism into that bond, the effects can be disastrous for the son who suffers at the hand of his damaged mother. For anyone who loves him, it’s vital to explore the nature of this unhealthy relationship to help him heal.
How Are Sons of Narcissistic Mothers Affected in Life?
A narcissistic mother does severe emotional and sometimes physical damage to her children. Because of the special bond between mother and son, however, the damage she does to him is often more insidious as seen in the following problems her son might have as an adult.
Son the Provider
Because of the nature of the mother-son relationship, it’s natural for sons to seek love, affection, attention, and approval from their mothers. In a healthy mother-son relationship, the son gradually becomes more independent as he gets older, and the mother encourages this.
With a narcissistic mother, however, the opposite is true, and to manipulate her son, the narcissistic mother will manipulate the young child in such a way that they become fearful of making independent decisions and instead turn to their mother for help.
Likewise, the narcissistic mother relies heavily on her son to support her, and shows her love for him only when he has satisfied her needs. Thus, the son associates love with the ability to provide either emotionally or materially for the people in his life.
What’s more, the narcissistic mother becomes ever more burdensome in her demands for attention and help from her son. If he doesn’t comply with her needs, she withdraws her love, which leaves him feeling frustrated, hurt, and confused. She takes further advantage of his emotions by manipulating him to give her what she wants.
Once he does, she once again restores her love for him. It’s version of the hearts and flowers cycle of abuse with any kind of domestic violence. She rewards him after having to manipulate him into action. Her love is conditioned upon his ability to provide her with what she needs. She expresses love only after he does so to her satisfaction. If he makes decisions without her approval, she once again withdraws and criticizes what he has done.
Even adult sons who are able to break free of this unhealthy dependence find that whatever they achieve lacks a feeling of satisfaction because they never really had a solid foundation that comes from a mother’s unconditional love.
No Partner is Good Enough
For the son of a narcissistic mother, the biggest threat to her ability to control her son is the partner with whom he might choose to share his life. Such a person is a threat to her control over her son’s life.
That’s the importance of grooming her son to consult her before making any decisions. The narcissistic mother wants him to come to her so she can tell him that anyone he likes is not the right person for him. She doesn’t want anyone to be able to exercise control over him other than herself.
This is the big reason it’s common for narcissistic mothers to go to extreme lengths to interfere in their sons’ relationships. You should make no mistake about it, they will interfere in every part of a relationship from the initial courtship to the child rearing preferences. Their goal is not to help; they want to cause problems because they want that control over their son.
This is a huge source of discord in relationships involving the son of a narcissistic mother, particularly if the son has not realized how his mother is trying to manipulate him. For that reason, her tactic often works, and she is able to destroy the relationship.
If the son understands how manipulative his mother can be, he may be able to establish firm boundaries to keep her manipulation from causing a breakup. She will never stop, however, and so he will have to constantly reinforce those boundaries. The only other option is for him to go no contact.
It makes for a contentious relationship. That’s why if you are yourself the son of a narcissistic mother or if you are in a relationship with one, you will have to work together to keep her from causing problems.
The Golden Child
Another way a narcissistic mother will manipulate and control her son is through creating a sense of shared ‘specialness’ with him. This is true of narcissistic parents in general, but it is particularly effective between a mother and her son.
The narcissistic mother creates that special bond with her son, and then proceeds to isolate him from other family members. He is the competitor of his siblings and a replacement figure for his father. The latter is what the famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud, referred to as the Oedipus Complex.
According to Freud, part of the reason for conflict between a son and his father is the son’s subconscious attraction to his mother. This can occur even with the sons of healthy parents, but it is exaggerated with a narcissistic mother because she encourages it.
The narcissistic mother encourages it because she sees it as an opportunity to set her narcissistic supply up for life. If she can ensnare her own son in your unhealthy attachment web, she can continue to manipulate and control him so that he will feed her a constant flow of adulation until the day she dies.
This is, in reality, one of the main reasons that a narcissist wants children in the first place. They are not able to see children as a gift that healthy people think they are; rather, they see built-in extensions of themselves that they can continue to control for a lifetime.
Unlike healthy parents who would encourage a child with an Oedipus Complex to turn those thoughts and attentions to a search for their own life partner, the narcissistic mother craves even more attachment and attention. It’s an extremely toxic form of attachment, and one that will create problems for the son throughout his life.
He’s Never Good Enough
One of the most toxic ways that a narcissistic mother manipulates and controls her son is by undermining his self-confidence. Despite his unhealthy attachment to her, she won’t hesitate to criticize him bitterly for any perceived infraction or failure to meet her unrealistic expectations.
She will show him with her toxic behavior that nothing he does will ever be good enough. Most sons integrate this idea into their identity, and it plagues every relationship – whether romantic or platonic – they will ever have. They often become obsessive people pleasers in the attempt to finally feel like they are enough.
The catch-22 of this toxic relationship is that there is nothing the son could ever do to be enough. Even focusing completely on his mother’s needs and desires would never be enough. His narcissistic mother cannot afford to let him develop a sense of competence because then he might stop turning to her for advice.
She can’t let that happen as it will mean the loss of her source of narcissistic supply. For that reason, she gives him just enough praise to keep him constantly striving for more. She creates a sense in him that he could be great if only he would just try a little harder. This sends him out into the world with the feeling that he must constantly do better.
This low self-esteem will plague not only his personal relationships, but his professional ones as well. It undermines literally everything he tries to do in his life. It creates a nagging fear of being exposed as a fraud because he will never believe he is capable of doing a good job. It is one of the worst ways a narcissistic mother affects her son’s life.
The son of a narcissistic mother must constantly strive to prove himself, and the sad truth is that no matter what he does, he will never accomplish that. He might have just given her something she has wanted or needed, defended her to someone accusing her of abuse, or sacrificed his own future to ensure she feels secure, but none of that will ever be enough to truly prove himself to her.
She will continue to demand new proof of his love and commitment to her. It drives her son to often go to extremes to try to please her. This is exactly what she wants because it gives her more control. It shows her that her manipulative tactics are working.
She turns her own son into someone who so desperately craves praise that they are willing to do almost anything to please her, but this behavior also bleeds over into other relationships. The son of a narcissistic mother is often someone who will do anything to prove their loyalty, even unethical or illegal actions.
The irony is that that kind of loyalty is never returned on the part of the narcissist. A narcissistic mother will as soon throw her own son under the bus as look at him if the going gets tough. It’s a difficult thing to witness since her son appears as almost a beggar for the slightest praise.
He may also turn to extreme sports or other activities as a way to prove himself in his own mind. These are the men who are running, sometimes their entire lives, toward some kind of satisfaction, but sadly, without help, it remains hopelessly out of their reach.
Many a wife of the son of a narcissistic mother has learned that she is little more than a second wife to her husband. Narcissistic mothers interfere constantly in their sons’ relationships, and if a relationship actually results in marriage, that’s when the narcissistic mother often takes her position as his ‘mommy wife.’
The narcissistic mother has invested all of her son’s life into turning him into the man she has always wanted and hoped for. Once that transformation is complete, she is ready to take her place as his true partner.
It is possible that this is accompanied by physical incest, but it may be entirely emotional as well. No matter, it still inappropriately blurs the boundaries between adult and child, and it does irrevocable damage to her son.
Of course, it also ruins any relationship he might have with an actual wife. As Dianne Timson laments about her ex, “We got married and I entered the Twilight Zone. She was his wife and I was “the other woman”.” You can imagine the stress that puts on a relationship, and unless the son begins the process of setting strong boundaries, it’s likely the relationship will fall apart. He’s often not likely to do that because the nature of the damage is such that he doesn’t even see it as abuse.
Most of the time, the son thinks of his mother as a friend. That’s because she has groomed to see her in that way for his entire life.
This kind of relationship is extremely toxic, and even though it may not involve actually physical incest, it does almost as much damage. It incapacitates the son, who is often never able to have a normal romantic relationship. That makes it one of the more tragic forms of narcissistic abuse.
In His Mother’s Footsteps
Another unfortunate consequence of the narcissistic mother–son relationship is that it often creates more narcissists. There are two mechanisms by which this can occur. The first is that the narcissistic mother makes him believe belongs to a special family and is deserving of everything he wants in life.
This generates a sense of entitlement, but the nature of how this is done also undermines the son’s sense of self. As such, he creates a false image and infuses it with all the grandiose ideas his mother has taught him to believe. He is special, others should give him everything he wants, and this is because he belongs to a family of special people.
The other way this can happen is through a constant stream of emotional abuse that involves withering criticism and sometimes physical abuse. This destroys the boy’s developing sense of self, and once again, he creates that false image and infuses it with grandiose ideas. Then, like his mother, the narcissistic child needs people to feed him a steady diet of adoration.
Fortunately for him, he has the perfect role model to teach him how to do that in his narcissistic mother. He learns manipulation and control from her, and he learns it well. In the first case, he is bonded to his mother for life because they are a ‘special’ family.
In the second situation, his narcissism works against his mother’s best intentions. Instead of staying with her and continously feeding her adoration, he throws her away and seeks his own supply, often in the form of his own children. Thus, the cycle repeats itself and abuse breeds abuse.
The narcissistic mother has been portrayed in numerous movies, but perhaps no more memorably than in the movie Mommie Dearest starring Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. In the movie, we see the toxic abuse a narcissistic mother heaps on her hapless children.
When a mother treats her son that way, it has several effects. It undermines his self-esteem, self-confidence, and sense of self-worth. It can also turn him into a weak people-pleaser who will forever be seeking approval. But it does so much more than that.
This level of toxicity forever damages her son and makes it unlikely he will ever truly recover. It robs him of his developing manhood and ruins any hope of a normal relationship with a romantic partner in the future. As mentioned, it can also create another narcissist to heap abuse on his own children.
He might, however, also choose to become abusive like his mother not because of narcissism, but to avoid being abused later in life. At an even deeper level, it creates attachment disorders whereby the son lives the rest of his life with consequences of feeling that the world is inherently unsafe. That can make him into an incredibly cruel individual with little regard for other people.
A narcissistic mother destroys all that could have been for her son. It robs him of his potential and substitutes her unhealthy will for his future. What’s more, her lack of empathy prevents her from even considering the consequences of her actions. As a narcissist, she will never admit culpability nor attempt to repair the damage she has done.
It’s a tragedy all around for everyone as it also destroys her son’s relationship with other family members. Even if they are healthy role models, her toxicity undermines any positive benefit they might provide.
How a Narcissistic Mother Sees Her Son
The narcissistic mother sees all her children as mere extensions of her own identity. They are there to support her sense of identity rather than become independent, healthy, functioning adults. Like everyone else in her life, the narcissistic mother expects her children to cater to her every need.
When, as is true of everyone in her life, they fail to meet her unrealistic expectations, she becomes vicious and hurts them in any way she can. There is a difference, however, in how the narcissistic mother views her sons as opposed to her daughters.
Daughters are younger, more beautiful, and more energetic versions of their mother, and as such, they are rivals for the narcissistic mother. She is often jealous of them and will seek to undermine their development as they would any other rival.
The narcissistic mother’s son, however, is viewed differently. He is another version of his father, someone who can be manipulated into providing for her and protecting her. He is not her rival; instead, she grooms him to be a lifelong supply of adoration and support. She doesn’t want him to become an independent, healthy adult.
She wants him to need her and never leave her. She manipulates him to make him feel as though he must be there for her. She tries to get him to feel as though he never wants to have his own life. Her desire is that he asks her advice before making any decision, and responds to her every need as soon as she has one.
What’s more, she wants to always be the person he focuses on, just as he did when he was a baby. She never wants that level of focus and concern to end. This is her goal, and she shapes her son’s personality toward that end.
A narcissistic mother is exactly the opposite of what I think of as a nurturing, loving mother. That cultural concept is part of what makes a child question their anger toward such an abusive mother. The effects of such emotional abuse on a son are extreme, and often, lifelong. It destroys the potential he has for a bright future, and it ruins any chance he has of becoming a healthy, independent member of society. Without effective intervention, a narcissistic mother’s son may spend his life with a ruined sense of identity.
An effective way to start healing is to go no contact with your narcissistic mother, but that can be hard to do. If you’re considering that option, you’ll need to take a look at this article about how she might react. It will help you prepare for what she might do.
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