Mothering syndrome is when a woman treats a grown man like he’s her child. In some cases, it’s the nurturer in you. In others, you’re a bonafide enabler. Regardless, you end up in this seemingly endless and redundant conundrum taking care of men.

Taking Care of a Man?

You’re probably asking yourself, “aren’t I supposed to take care of my man?” Well… that answer is twofold.  On the one hand, the answer is yes.  You should be nurturing, caring, and loving.  On the other hand, enabling behavior that results in codependency, and doesn’t empower independence, is dangerous. The Mothering syndrome is, “garden of Eden” tempting. The mother in you wants to be the rock he needs in every way possible.  Here you are, exhausting every resource you have to make sure he’s taken care of. Like I said earlier (on one hand), the answer is yes. You should go all-out for your partner. However, there are levels to this (as I’ll explain below).


Mothering Syndrome: The Signs

One way to determine if you’re mothering your man—if he allows you to do everything. This includes, but isn’t limited to—household chores, cooking, driving, and paying (for everything). Just like a mother would treat her young son—you treat your man.  Consequently, he is no longer your partner. This “relationship” has become a one-party autocracy, and you are the controlling power.  You make most of the decisions (if not all). He is just along for the ride.

That being said, there are other ways to detect Mothering Syndrome.

  • If you constantly find yourself teaching him life-lessons. Ask yourself, is he proactively applying the lessons he’s learned?
  • When you talk to him, does he have a plan—or has he gotten comfortable with failure? (this could be a sign of depression)
  • Do you constantly find yourself executing [his] plans? (ie; writing the business plan, developing the website, etc.)
  • Anytime he gets into trouble, you bail him out (literally and figuratively).
  • Look back at the men you’ve dated, or been in a relationship with. Is there a history of repetitive mothering syndrome?
  • He will not challenge you. If he does, it’s short-lived. You will always be the victor.
  • You become controlling and manipulative.
  • You’ve lost confidence in his ability (to do anything right). Under those circumstances, you take over.
  • You become condescending.


Are You His Plan A?

No, I’m not talking about the pill. I’m talking about falling forward (and you catch him). Meaning, when something bad happens, things don’t go as planned, are you the first person he calls? Are you his constant safety net, bank account, home-cooked-meal, or a problem solver? If so, you are mothering him.

Furthermore, he could be unconsciously using you. Right now you’re thinking…

…how does he not-know he’s using me?

Well, how do you not know that you have had mothering syndrome all these years? I’ll tell you how. Redundant behaviors such as these are like muscle memory. Keep making the same movements, and your body (and mind) will begin to remember them. Said movements will become second-nature. You won’t even realize you’re mothering this man because being a mother is second-nature (well… for a lot of women). If you’ve had kids (namely a son), you fostered his entire childhood. Taking care-of, cleaning, providing, protecting, establishing, mentoring, cooking, and driving him where he needed to go. Now you’re doing the same thing with your partner.  The major difference being, a young man (child) requires this assistance. A grown man shouldn’t consistently require these levels of aid.


About Those Levels

I’m not crucifying a man that needs help. We’ve all been there. Job loss, bankruptcy, unforeseen, or mitigating circumstance are taken into account here. After all, I’ve been there. That being said, when I say, “levels” I am speaking of the volume, or constant help a man needs over a course of time. Who’s to say how much time. You have to determine that part. How long will he be nibbling on that struggle sandwich? How long is too long? Is he making sacrifices to get out of the situation he’s in? Is he a dreamer, or doer?

That’s why there are mothering syndrome levels. Those levels are relative and based on the individuals involved.

I helped him for over a year when he lost his job. I, “held him down.” Housed him, fed him, clothed him, gave him money when he needed it. Even f^cked him regularly. The problem for me wasn’t the help. I make over 500k per year and knew people in positions to help him. The major issue I had was the complacency. He settled-in.  In his mind, I had it because I was making money. A man like that—the type that will allow you to do everything isn’t a man at all. He has “mother issues.” Over time, I had to realize that no matter how many resources I had, he has to be a man. I stopped being his mother, and started being his girlfriend.  Needless to say, we are still together. After a few major changes, and some tough love he saw the light.


She realized her level. Her “mothering threshold.” However, she was also an enabler. mothering-syndrome

As we talked more, I learned more. Sex and affection were one-sided. He was borrowing her car to get around and wouldn’t even put gas in it. This sounds like something a teenager would do. Once she reached the apex, changes were made before the relationship fell flat on its face. Overall, I recommended they see a therapist. In conclusion, he was diagnosed with depression.

I’ve personally had my bout with depression. I know what it can do to a person’s confidence and self-esteem. You’re a sunken ship laying on the ocean floor, waiting for someone to come along—discover, and save you. In this case, it just so happens to be a woman. Instead of telling her to keep-it-moving, we draw her in like a whirlpool. Caught up in the rapture of emotion, and circumstance, a woman’s natural tendency to nurture (kicks in). More to the point, the nurturing manifests to dangerous levels for both parties.


All Men Want A Bit of Mothering Syndrome

In her blog about Mothering, Dr. Danielle Dowling says…

Our femininity exists at a cellular level. We’re born with a galaxy of intoxicating qualities; facets of femininity that nurture, seduce and support the men in our lives. We heal, comfort, empathize, sympathize, and we certainly know how to pay a compliment.  Your guy craves these maternal qualities. You make him feel cared for. You patch him up for his next battle. Your laser focused attention restores and renews him while your unwavering faith gives him strength. Your tenderness & encouragement is elation, lifts his mood and is nothing less than suh-weet.

Maternal affection is natural.
Mothering is cruel.

I agree with Danielle here. “Mothering is cruel.” Moreover, It stagnates, it enables, and it pacifies. Not only your partner but the evolution of your relationship as well.

Understanding the Root

In my blog about Raising Boys Into the Men You Don’t Want to Date, I spoke about the way we prepare our young boys for manhood and found a spouse. Some young boys grow up without their father. As a result, the mother overcompensates for the lack of masculine energy in the household. She “mothers” her son. She doesn’t empower him. Teaching him to be independent and live without relying on her is an afterthought. In her mind, she believes she is helping her son. When she is actually handicapping him. As a result, he grows up to be codependent on his mother. Then again, as his partner, you will become his plan-A. Just like his mother.

In essence, as men, we can find ourselves in such a deep abysmal state that we draw a woman like a black hole of emotion. Black holes are sexy and mysterious… that is until you get too close to their destructive space. Men suffering from depression, and mothering syndrome can often have an alluring, yet magnetic pull that sucks you in with no escape.


Preventative Mothering Measures

In conclusion, you should always have a solid balance of Mothering and empowerment. Mothering is a necessity in relationships—just like Fathering. We all want someone who carries the lovable and endearing qualities our parents exhibited.

That being said, to ensure you are not enabling his behavior or mothering him…

  1. Do a pulse-check every few weeks. Make sure you two are still on the same page. Ask the tough questions, and revisit old ones as well.
  2. Talk about depression. Share any personal experiences you’ve had. In addition, move to step 3.
  3. See a therapist. I recommend this for all couples on the path to marriage (or currently married). Having a trained, unbiased person to mediate and assess the current climate of your relationship is a great thing. I offer a great prerequisite or alternative to counseling here.
  4. Hold him accountable. One of the main goals of a relationship is to create synergy. The only way you can achieve this level is through the constant push to be great. If you fall into complacency and redundancy, your relationship will never evolve.
  5. Fall back. It can be hard, but a man needs the opportunity to show his worth.
  6. Communicate your needs, and communicate them again. Keep him in the know, and inspect what you expect.
  7. Provide counsel. Don’t [just] provide resources. Arm him with what he needs and repeat step 4.
  8. Encourage and support him. Be his biggest cheerleader, but don’t do the work for him.
  9. Listen. This step can’t be stated enough. Oftentimes, he’s telling you a lot non-verbally. However, when he begins to talk, open your mind, and heart to what he’s saying. This doesn’t absolve him from accountability. It gives him a forum he trusts, to speak his truth.
  10. You May Have to Take a Minute. Ultimately, you may have to break. Their mental state may be outside your control or capabilities. In that case, they may require time to do their own internal work.  This can prove to be difficult for them with you (the enabler) around.