10 red flags of men with mother abandonment issues

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Picture this: You’re dating a man who can’t seem to open up to you. He still can’t trust you completely, no matter how hard you try. He has trouble expressing his feelings and ends up getting angry.

You find yourself feeling confused, frustrated, and tired. You might be thinking: Is this a relationship worth pursuing? Is there a future with this man?

If you’ve been in this situation, then you’re dating one of the many men with mother abandonment issues. If you want to know more, or if you want to stop getting involved with this kind of guy over and over, then read on.

In this article, we’ll dive into why mother-son relationships are key, how they affect a man later on in life, what happens when a mother neglects her son, and most importantly, the top 10 red flags of men with mother abandonment issues. 

Mom’s role in a child’s life

From time immemorial, mothers have been tagged as the “nurturers” of the family. Every child, whether son or daughter, physically came from a mother. While both parents’ relationship with their kid/s shapes who they become in the future, her presence is essential in every stage of their life.

The absence of a mother – emotionally or physically – produces men with mother abandonment issues. 

The mother is a source of security: a child looks to their mom before anybody else when they get scared. Her very presence reassures her child that all is well. She is also her child’s safe space: children rely on their mothers as their haven when, for example, they had a bad day at school. 

They share a bond with each other without needing words at all: this is most evident in infanthood when a mother knows what her baby needs just by hearing their cry.

She is her child’s first teacher, indoctrinating him/her with values and habits, and showing them the difference between right and wrong. Even when a child gets older, mothers are their guide through adult life. 

Most of all, she is a source of unconditional love: she shows this by always being there for her child, emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Men with mother abandonment issues lose out on this crucial development and it shows in their later years.

The mother-son bond

While the mother’s roles apply to either son or daughter, the connection between mother and son is undeniably different. In fact, how the son acts when he becomes an adult is a product of that very relationship. 

A son becomes the following things when he has a present mother:

Emotionally intelligent

Men with present mothers appear to display fewer behavioral problems: her support teaches him that he can be a good friend and a good partner. A well-loved son grows into a confident man.

Meanwhile, those who had an unhealthy bond with their mothers – men with mother abandonment issues – were hostile, aggressive, and insecure.

In fact, University of Reading School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science professor, Dr. Pasco Fearon, noted: “Children with insecure attachments to their mothers, particularly boys, had significantly more behavioral problems, even when the behavioral problems were measured years later.”

Emotionally articulate

This kind of man can express his thoughts and feelings, which helps him practice self-control, especially in social settings. 

Respectful of women

Men with present mothers also develop respect for women. They are less likely to develop superiority issues. She teaches him that women are capable, not just in the family but in society. 

Better communicator

A mom who openly talks to her son teaches him how to communicate with others without feeling scared or feeling the need to keep some things in.

Less prone to risky behavior

A study found that those with secure attachments – a positive relationship – are less likely to do drugs, drink too much, and have risky sexual behavior.

A note on attachments

Attachment is the “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings,” said John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory. It was his view that our earliest experiences mold our behavior in later life.

He added: “The propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals [is] a basic component of human nature.”

The concept of attachment styles refers to the way a person behaves in any given relationship. A man with secure attachment often has strong relationships, self-esteem, and a social support system.

Meanwhile, people with insecure attachments – like men with mother abandonment issues – may show the following traits:

  • Trouble opening up to people
  • Seeming distant or cold
  • Uncertainty of reciprocity of feelings in relationships
  • Inability to handle breakups well
  • Problems with intimacy

What happens when a son has an absent mother?

Men with mother abandonment issues didn’t necessarily grow up motherless – but they might as well have. In these cases, the abandonment is emotional: his parent makes fun of him; creates unrealistic expectations for him; treats him like their peer (not as their child); suppresses his need to express his feelings. 

Physical abandonment is no better.

Among a maelstrom of strong emotions, a son would feel shame, guilt, pain, and disappointment. He might ask himself, “Why did my mom leave? Is it something I did?” Emotional neglect often leads the child to believe that his mother leaving was his doing, when a more likely explanation is that the mother felt pressure and left to leave her responsibilities behind.

Sons whose mothers abandon them don’t have a lot of self-confidence, can’t accept their self-image, have fuzzy emotional boundaries, and are oversensitive.

So far, all we’ve seen are broad descriptions of what happens when a man experiences mother abandonment. But how can you spot one? The following are the top 10 red flags of men with mother abandonment issues.

1) They have trouble forming and keeping relationships

Relationships require trust, respect, and communication. People suffering from abandonment issues often feel scared or threatened because they believe that they can’t keep their partners interested in them.

Most likely, they are scared to lose their relationship with you. This man you’re dating is probably fearful that you will leave them, either physically or emotionally.

This leads them to engage in certain behaviors, such as attaching too hastily even if the other is already taken; moving on from one relationship to another for fear of getting too attached (a fear of intimacy, which we will discuss next); becoming a people-pleaser to their own detriment; having unwanted sex; and staying in relationships even if they are no longer healthy. 

2) They avoid intimacy and emotional vulnerability

Another hallmark of men with mother abandonment issues is that they shy away from being intimate and emotionally vulnerable. As I mentioned earlier, men whose mothers had positive connections with them grew up to be open and in touch with their emotions.

But those who didn’t could grow up to be scared of having close emotional bonds or physical relationships with others. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t want to, but it could be that they are scared to want it. Ironically, this fear and yearning can lead to sabotaging the relationship. 

There are different types of intimacy: intellectual, spiritual, sexual, emotional, and experiential. Intimacy involves sharing of yourself – your thoughts, feelings, experiences, beliefs, and even your body.

Men with mother abandonment issues might have problems with one or more of these, but the extent varies. 

A fear of vulnerability is connected to this, but it is something different. If you’re dating a man with abandonment issues, he might be okay with being vulnerable, but only up to a certain point.

If your man is scared of intimacy, it can show in different ways, but it’s crucial to remember that what a person shows could be the opposite of what he actually wants in terms of connection.

Here are some ways intimacy fears can show:

  • Serial dating: You’ll notice a pattern of short-term relationships or an appearance of having “commitment phobia.”
  • Need for perfection: A fear of intimacy could also stem from feelings of inadequacy. If they feel like they don’t deserve you, this pushes them to try to be perfect in your eyes.
  • Trouble expressing needs: Likely connected to feelings of unworthiness, men with mother abandonment issues can’t articulate what they want. You’re not a mind-reader, so those needs and wants go unrealized. This might create distrust in you because you can’t give him what he wants.
  • Ruining the relationship: This could be him being too critical, acting suspicious, or accusing you of something totally imagined – basically finding ways to kill the connection.
  • Struggling with physical touch: Your man might not want physical contact altogether, while on the other extreme, he might need it constantly.

3) They struggle to express their emotions and manage their anger

Earlier we mentioned that men with present mothers learned how to articulate their feelings and therefore, show self-control. This is not the case for men with mother abandonment issues. 

If you really think about it, it’s not a surprise that anger issues spring from being abandoned. He lashes out at everybody else when he feels his physical and emotional needs aren’t being met, because that’s how he felt when his mother ignored him or left him.

It causes problems in relationships once there is conflict – a fight or a careless comment that hurt his feelings – and he uses anger as a defense mechanism. In grimmer scenarios, this anger can lead them to alienate not just you, but his family and friends.

4) They tend to blame others for their problems

If you recall, I talked about how men with mother abandonment issues could have internalized their mother being absent physically or figuratively.

They often believe that it was their fault, that it was their shortcomings that caused it. These feelings beget more negative emotions, such as shame and low self-esteem. 

For instance in your relationship, a man with struggling with abandonment could cope with these feelings by blaming you (instead of himself) for problems you encounter as a couple, or simple things that go wrong.

However, remember that important bit of info I mentioned previously: what he shows may be the total opposite of what he actually feels or wants.

5) They have a hard time trusting others

This red flag has to do with attachment styles, which we touched on briefly earlier in the article.

One type is anxious attachment, where the parent was inconsistent in giving their child attention – one day they’d be attentive, and they’d disappear or ignore him the next. The man, as a child, would develop trust issues because he’d never know how his parent/s were going to behave. 

A lack of trust could manifest in jealousy. We all get jealous from time to time. But if your man is struggling with abandonment, his low self-esteem and poor self-image aggravate it. Jealousy could worsen into long-term distrust and suspicion, even if you’re not doing anything wrong.

6) They have a need to control or dominate the relationship

Because of this distrust, men with mother abandonment issues sometimes feel the need to control you or the relationship. Personally, I’ve experienced this.

My last boyfriend before I met my husband was someone who would try to control everything – from what I wore, who I met up with, down to what color my hair should be!

My advice to you? Run.

7) They lack empathy

Empathy is an important part of meaningful human bonds.

When we can put ourselves in another person’s shoes, we get a deeper understanding of their needs and intentions. Men with mother abandonment issues struggle with this as their mothers were not there to teach them how to be good communicators and how to tap into their feelings and express them. 

8) They don’t take criticism well

No criticism feels good. But there is constructive criticism, which is meant to help you. Most of the time, we’re able to separate the critique from any personal jabs. Others, however, don’t take it too well.

If your man can’t take feedback, he might have received stinging criticism from his parent/s. If you remember, one of the examples of emotional abandonment is setting up too high or unrealistic expectations of the child. When he fails – as we all inevitably do, at some point – he gets criticized. 

This negative feedback makes him feel inadequate and incapable – and his parent’s remarks only reinforce it. 

So, when you give him feedback, it probably brings back painful memories of how his own mother and father found fault in him too. He might also perceive it as a personal attack and become defensive.

Either way, being unable to take criticism is a sure sign that who you’re dating is among the men with mother abandonment issues.

9) They avoid responsibility for their actions

Taking responsibility, or accountability, means thinking about and understanding the consequences of your actions. If you are dating someone who doesn’t do this points to a refusal to acknowledge how his actions or words might affect, or have affected, you. 

A lack of responsibility is also connected to his tendency to blame you or others for problems that arise. This could also manifest in selfish behavior (no empathy) and detaching whenever there’s conflict between you two. 

Perhaps another reason they lack accountability is simply that they don’t know what it looks like. Taking responsibility is directly at odds with abandonment.

Men with mother abandonment issues don’t understand how to take their partners’ feelings into account and exhibit enough self-control to think about the consequences of their behavior.

10) They don’t understand their own emotions and actions

For the last time, let us circle back to the mother’s role in teaching her son to be emotionally literate, communicative, and in touch with his feelings. This is closely linked to his capacity for self-control.

It’s already hard for a man in society to acknowledge his feelings, let alone understand them.

What more for someone dealing with abandonment issues? The feelings that your man faced when he experienced abandonment are no doubt negative ones, and that may have led him to turn away from intense feelings whenever he encounters them.

So what now?

Now that you know more about how a mother’s presence in her son’s life impacts him, hopefully you understand your partner on a deeper level.

If he is someone you see a future with, the way forward for you may be to help him heal, with lots of understanding, patience but firmness. Your man may also need professional intervention to help with his journey to abandonment recovery.

Some ways by which you can help him along this process are: being present, acknowledging their history of abandonment, making them feel that their feelings are understandable, and sharing your own fears.

But if, on the other hand, these signs are truly red flags for you, there’s no day like today to think about walking away. Either way, by thoroughly understanding and recognizing the 10 red flags of men with mother abandonment issues, you can make an informed decision. 

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If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

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