How to Tell If a Man is Confusing You For His Mother

It's no secret that men (or anyone, really, but particularly straight, cisgender men, if we're being honest and politically correct here) tend to have strange relationships with their mothers.

We'll spare you a rehashing of the old Freudian theory, but if you know, you know: Mommy issues are alive and well.

Of course, no one can do anything to change how their parents raised them. Plenty of guys have various struggles and issues with their mothers yet still manage to have an emotionally healthy inner life. And no one can blame these men for developing neuroses from trauma caused by their parents.

Even men with fantastic relationships with their mothers can fall into the habit of chasing after lovers who resemble the first woman in their lives. However, no person should ever be responsible for filling the role of the other's parent (unless mutually agreed upon by both parties. And even then, that requires a lot of conversation and boundaries that require an emotionally mature mindset).

It's important to accept your partner's struggles, and everyone deserves love—but no one should have to take on dealing with a brat they never asked for. Let alone feeling responsible for healing their partner's wounds. So, how do you avoid these all-too-common pitfalls?

Here's how to know if a man is confusing you for his mother:

1. He puts on the "nice guy" act or plays the victim

This is a common move for guys looking for a mother rather than a relationship. Oftentimes, mommy issues stem from neglect or absences that happened early in childhood. And so these types of men will wander about their lives searching for someone to fill the role that their mother didn't or couldn't fill.

Often they're perfectly capable of having great relationships regardless. But when they begin acting like they deserve something extra due to their sad little past, the problems start. This may lead them to put on the "nice guy" act—which is the thing guys do where they expect affection simply for being decent and when they don't receive it, they get offended and vitriolic.

These men are often full of stories about how they've been hurt in the past, and they may have difficulty accepting responsibility for their own actions. If you find yourself feeling gaslighted or guilty about not giving enough in a relationship, this is a sign that a man might be projecting his anger with his mother on you. They may also have difficulty being assertive and will refuse confrontation, using passive-aggressive techniques to guilt you into doing things rather than simply talking about them.

2. He continues to pursue you even if you don't reciprocate his affection

Unfortunately, this is a common pattern for men who didn't receive enough attention in their childhoods. Though some people enjoy pursuing others (in a playful, inoffensive, non-invasive manner), some take it way too far.

If your man is ignoring obvious signals that you're not ready for the kind of commitment he's seeking, there's a good chance that something's up with his relationship with his mother. He may even be confusing you for her, repeating the childhood pattern whereby he would vie for maternal attention and fail to receive it—and using that as a blueprint for his adult relationships. Although this might make for an ultra-romantic (but high-key creepy) film plot, most people don't actively pursue unrequited love for long periods of time, unless they're operating on a broken foundation to begin with.

Healthy relationships should be mutual and reciprocal, period.

3. He talks about his mother a lot

This is an obvious sign; but even so, sometimes we're willing to forgive or write off the frequency and emotional intensity with which a man mentions his mother until it's too late. Ranging from an inability to go a day without speaking to his mother to constant ranting and deep-rooted rage, the obsession can take many forms. It's really not the best move if your date brings up his mom too much or can't refuse her requests.

And if he treats you like his only confidante and a repository for his stories about his mother, he might be confusing you for the kindly, maternal ear that he never had. Many can overcome this, either through strong friendships, therapy, and self-work, but some can't help but treat their ladies like stand-in for therapists or surrogate moms.

4. He asks you to do things for him or expects you to take care of him

Remember Jack Kerouac, the writer of On the Road? He's the poster boy for a boy with unresolved mommy issues. What most people don't know about Kerouac is that he had a string of lovers across the country whom he led on for years. He promised that he'd come back to them but remained incapable of making any solid commitment to anyone—except for Mama Kerouac, whom he eventually moved in with.

These women have told numerous stories about how Kerouac expected them to act as carers, picking up after him and waiting for him and even having his children while he gallivanted across America. They'd clean him up when he was drunk, cook for him, and support him, but no one ever compared to his mother.

Let's all learn from this. If a man expects you to pick up after him, shop for him, or clean his house against your will, this is not a good sign. You should never be responsible for teaching another person how to live their life, especially if he doesn't reciprocate or make active attempts to change his ways.

5. He tells you that you remind him of his mother

You'd be surprised how often this happens. If a man tells you that you remind him of his mother, then this is a clear sign that he's very literally projecting his mother wound complex onto you. If this happens, make sure to ask him questions about his relationship with his mother, so you can figure out if he's making a bid for you to adopt him.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with helping someone heal in the context of a healthy, loving relationship. Oftentimes, men with wounds related to their mothers (and people with wounds related to their parents, in general) can emerge from early traumas by maintaining healthy relationships with friends and chosen family, as well as through mutually supportive romantic relationships.

But it's not okay to criticize men merely for being sensitive or vulnerable. Vulnerability is where healing can start, as many people who are aggressive or abusive resort to anger to cover internal wounds against their more extreme, delicate, and archetypically feminine emotions. If a man builds a strong relationship with his feminine side, then great change can occur.

Of course, this is all theoretical, because gender is a myth that manifests differently in everyone. But that's why it's crucial to avoid men who view you solely as a mother figure, instead of seeing you for the multifaceted, beautiful human that you are.

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