Tracey Cox reveals the signs his mother is RUINING your relationship

How does YOUR man treat his mother? Sex expert Tracey Cox reveals what their dynamic means for your own relationship (and the 10 signs that DON’T bode well)

  • Tracey Cox reveals the ten signs that his mother is ruining the relationship 
  • The relationship expert says that if he hates his mum then he hates all women  
  • Says his relationship with his mother informs his approach to all women 

We don’t just hatch out of an egg and raise ourselves.

We’re dependent on people around us – most of all our mothers – and how much they love us and how they treat us, influences the rest of our lives.

Never is this truer than in the case of mothers and sons: men are what their mothers made them.

Your partner’s relationship with his mother determines what he thinks of himself and of women in general: she helped shape his values and outlook on the world.

The mother-son dynamic has a huge effect on your relationship – and don’t I know it.

Sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox reveals the ten signs that your mother-in-law is ruining your relationship 

I met a man in my late 40s who seemed full of potential. He was a lawyer, presentable, funny, seemed to adore me, got on with my friends.

I met his mother quite early on and it was abundantly clear by the way the family treated her, that I was to be on best behaviour and treat her with utmost respect.

No problems: I did and actually liked her. Sure, she was a bit intimidating and clearly ruled the roost but at least she had a sense of humour.

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But several things rapidly became clear. First, this man hero worshipped his mother. Second, he despised her.

Third, despite these conflicting emotions, he was abnormally attached and dependent on her and her on him.

Instead of his girlfriend, I became his counsellor and spent many (many) hours talking through how he should deal with it all.

Tracey says that if he hates his mother he hates all women 

My thanks was him turning to me one day, totally out of the blue, and saying, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. You sound like my mother. And you know how much I hate her.’ Brilliant!

When I told a psychologist friend of mine about it afterward, she made me promise one thing: never go near a man who doesn’t have a healthy relationship with his mother. I never have – and believe all women should do the same.

As with most things, it’s the extremities that send the biggest warning signs.

Adoring his mother to the point of worship is at one end, despising her and having a toxic relationship or none at all is at the other.

It’s not just Mummy’s boys that you need to be wary of, it’s Mummy Haters as well.

Be very wary about forming relationships if the following apply to your man’s relationship with his.

He hates her

Lots of therapists believe a man who hates his mother hates all women. I agree.

If you meet a man who constantly ridicules his mother – to her face or behind her back – puts her down and is disrespectful, back away quietly then run for the hills.

If he doesn’t treat her with respect and doesn’t like her, he will struggle to respect and like you.

The deeper the hatred, the more toxic the effect it will have on your relationship.

Ultimately, he’s afraid of the power a woman could have over him, so when the relationship gets serious, he suddenly decides you don’t measure up after all.

He has an abnormal amount of contact with her

It’s impossible to give a definition of what’s abnormal because it very much depends on age and stage: if his mum’s elderly or ill, of course he’s going to be in constant contact with her.

It’s generally obvious when your partner has too much contact with his mum because he takes all her calls, regardless of what he’s doing with you at the time.

She says that certain mothers will treat their sons more like husbands and may become jealous of your affection 

You could be in a movie, having sex (yes really), sorting out something important about your children but, no matter what, he picks up that call.

The more private he is about the calls – he walks away when talking to her so you can’t eavesdrop – the more manipulative the mother and the more hooked in he is. He doesn’t want you to be witness to the amount of grovelling he actually does.

If he does drop everything when she calls, she calls excessively or at a certain time that cannot be changed, no matter what, those guilt buttons are the size of the moon.

She treats him like her husband, not her son

If you’ve ever seen this in action, you’ll realise how stomach turning it can be.

This usually happens when her real husband has either left or died, forcing the son to step into the role as prime protector – and never stepping back.

She’ll take his arm while walking along, leaving you to bring up the rear; he’ll be expected to accompany her to lunches or events and make decisions for her that a partner normally would.

In some instances, the body language shrieks ‘Wrong!’: they sit too close, she’s too affectionate and clearly jealous that you have dared to (try to) surpass her.

You and his mother are nothing alike

If he had a good relationship with his mum, it’s likely he’ll choose to settle down with someone who has the same personality type as her.


1. He likes her and enjoys her company

A man’s primary attachment is with his mother: she is the first woman he loves and is loved by. If he has a loving and affectionate relationship with her, he is going to love you the same way.

2. He has honest conversations with her

If he’s comfortable expressing real emotions with his mother – about his life and his relationships and how he feels about her and the decisions she makes – it means they have what’s called a secure attachment.

This is the key to a healthy mother son relationship.

3. He admires her but makes his own decisions

If something good or bad happens to him, you’re the one he calls, not his mother.

If he values her opinion over your opinion, you aren’t in a healthy relationship.

4. If she wants to see him, they do it when it’s convenient for both of them

He doesn’t drop everything or refuse to meet up, they work out a time that suits everyone, taking into account other commitments – like you or children.

5. He’s affectionate with her

It’s a massive red flag if he can’t kiss or hug his mum. An ability to express affection easily and often is a clear sign they have a positive relationship.

6. She makes a real effort to get on with you and respects your relationship

If she loves him and wants him to be happy and knows he loves you, she will make it her business to get on with you and do what she can to make your relationship work.

The only time this doesn’t hold true is if you aren’t making him happy – then it’s totally acceptable for her not to support your relationship.

7. If they have a row, he knows they’ll sort it out

This is his mother! She’s meant to love him unconditionally and of course he’s going to annoy or disappoint her at different times.

8. She doesn’t mind that you now come first

This doesn’t mean he won’t still help her or care for her, just that she understands she’s not the number one female in his life any more.

When a son finds a (hopeful) partner for life, there is a necessary separation from his mother. A good mother knows this, accepts it and facilitates it.

9. He’s not scared to stand up to her

If he can’t, he hasn’t separated from his mother and hasn’t grown up.

If he can, he’s able to confront problems the two of you may have and deal with them in an adult manner.

10. He’s not dependent on her

Wanting to see her and have her approve of what he’s doing is different than being dependent.

What does he rely on her for? Money? Does she do his chores, run his errands, make his decisions for him?

Being involved in his life is one thing, running it for him quite another. He’s still a child if he’s letting this happen. 

If she was a homebody and dad revelled in being looked after, he’ll probably be attracted to a tra­ditional girl who’s happy to stay home, bring up the kids and warm his slippers by the fire.

If he thought mum sold herself short, he may consciously search for someone who’s kicking arse in the boardroom.

It’s a very good sign if you instantly like his mother when you meet her: this usually means you have lots in common.

If he gets on well with his mum, he’ll get on well with women who share similar values and beliefs.

If you are nothing like her in any way, there’s something going on – and it usually isn’t good.

I went out with a guy once who said the most attractive thing about me was my independence.

Yet what did we fight about the most? My independence and him feeling like he wasn’t needed.

When I met his parents it all fell into place. Look up ‘doormat’ in the dictionary and there was a picture of his mother: he spent the entire visit telling her to stick up for herself while his dad put her down.

He admired me because I was capable and strong but he was used to the opposite scenario.

Intellectually, he thought it was great; emotionally, it felt uncomfortable.

She’s critical of everything he does

A good mother makes sure her son knows he is loved unconditionally and accepts him for who he is.

If, instead, she constantly criticised him for every decision he made, he grows up to be weak emotionally and dependent on her for approval.

Try insisting he does something (reasonable) you want him to do but know his mother is disapproving of: if she wins, your relationship will struggle.

She’s a martyr

If you think having a critical, nasty mother-in-law is hell, try dealing with one who is a martyr and nothing is too much trouble.

One woman I counselled – let’s call her Laura – was single for more than a decade when she thought she met the perfect man for her.

The thing she loved most about him, was how wonderfully supportive he was of his mother who appeared sweet and incredibly helpful at the start.

This ‘help’ quickly exposed itself as obvious manipulation. Every time the poor guy tried to do anything that didn’t suit her, she’d pull the ‘after all I’ve done for you’ card and he was hopeless to resist.

It was clear to Laura this was what was happening, not so clear to her now not-so-perfect man.

When she called him on what was happening, he was horrified that she dared to criticise the woman who had done everything for him.

Relationship over.

He’s scared of her

Being fearful of a parent is unnatural and inevitably means there’s been some kind of abuse – emotional or physical.

If his mother had anger issues or punished him for disappointing her or defying her as a child, he’ll grow up anxious and cautious, at her beck and call for fear of it happening again.

These men often end up people pleasers: initially very attractive until you realise his need to please is motivated by fear, not wanting to give pleasure.

There’s also an unfortunate knock on effect.

If he’s scared of her, he resents her. This makes him feel – justifiably – angry which then gets taken out on you. An angry, resentful man does not make for a happy partner.

She’s passive aggressive about your relationship

To your face, she’s charming. Behind your back, she’ll plant seeds of doubt into his head.

It’s wonderful news you got promoted and I guess it will be good for him to have to learn to ‘fend for himself’ when you’re working late.

That suit you bought him makes him look very handsome – she just hopes you can afford it, what with the kids starting college next year.

She’s not criticising you outright, so he can’t see why you’re pissed off: you see through her, he can’t.

She’s openly disapproving of your relationship

Regardless of whether she’s a good mother or a bad one, if you don’t get Mummy’s seal of approval, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Most people have reasonably regular contact with their parents and there are usually unavoidable family get togethers: if tension is high between you and his mother, these become highly stressful.

Accidentally calling you by the name of the ex she did like or refusing to call you by name, is a common ploy of disapproving mothers: sometimes, they’ll invite the ex over when you’re both there, if they’re still in touch.

She’s not-so-secretly hoping they’ll reunite.

True, he may choose you over her and support you wholeheartedly, but it’s not going to be easy on anyone.

If he’s not entirely committed, it’s simply not worth him making that sacrifice.

She doesn’t trust you

This one’s straight out of the monster mother-in-law movies: she brings over home cooked meals because she doesn’t trust that you’ll feed her son properly, she’ll instruct you constantly on how he likes things done, tell you how to bring up your children and try to turn you into a mini-her.

If he doesn’t stick up for you and – worse – expects that you’ll be thrilled with this intrusion, you are and will always be in second place.

Visit for advice on sex and relationships and to see some new, exciting additions to Tracey’s new product ranges.


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