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Do men marry their mothers?

By Nailantei Norari
Friday, April 30th, 2021
While a Greek myth says that children tend to look for the characters of their parent of the opposite gender in their future spouse and even lead to mummy’s boy and daddy’s girl syndrome, experts argue we do not live in a vacuum and other factors may come into play.
In summary

While a Greek myth says that children tend to look for the characters of their parent of the opposite gender in their future spouse and even lead to mummy’s boy and daddy’s girl syndrome, experts argue we do not live in a vacuum and other factors may come into play.

Nailantei Norari @artnorari

According to a Greek myth, there once lived a man called Oedipus. He unknowingly killed his father and ended up marrying his mother.

When the mother learnt the truth about their relationship, she hanged herself, while Oedipus continued ruling for the rest of his life.

A psychological complex, the Oedipus complex, where psychologists posit that male children are attracted to their female caretakers and mothers and that they harbour feelings of jealousy towards their fathers, would be named after him.

“It is true that the Oedipus complex exists. This is because we learn so much from the significant people in our lives.

If the child has a great, or even bad relationship with their parents, they tend to look for the characters of their parent of the opposite gender in their future spouse.

In girls, this is called the electra complex where the girl looks for her father in the prospective dates she comes into contact with,” Ken Munyua, a psychologist, explains.

Bonnie Kim, a life coach in Nairobi agrees with Ken. “Most of the decisions we make are not actively made.

They are made using the subconscious and templates that have been built over time.

At times, one might not even know that they are looking for their mother or sister in the women they have relationships with.

It just happens that one feels more comfortable with the things that they see in their spouse that subconsciously remind them of their primary caregiver,” Bonnie explains.

This is why it is important for primary caregivers to ensure they bring up strong children as how they parent them will affect them long into their future.

“Fathers should ensure they affirm their daughters and raise their standards so that they look for healthy and wholesome relationships in future.

Mothers should do the same for their sons. This does not mean one should just take special care of the children who are their opposite gender, even if they psychologically get a bigger imprint from the parent of the opposite gender.

They should ensure all the children get parented in a great and wholesome way,” he adds.

Mum’s best friend

Bonnie insists on the importance of parents having a good relationship with their children.

But are there times when the parents might go too far? What does he think of the new phenomena where parents call their children best friend?

Bonnie says it’s important to have a great relationship with children, but ensure certain boundaries are not crossed.

He says it is important to be friends with your child, but ensure that they have friends their age whom they can interact with and relate to.

Overly bonding with a child much like most mothers do, where their male children are pseudo-spouses, taking them shopping, driving them to work, going for innumerable lunches and even paying them compliments all the time, may get the wrong imprint in the child, such that they may be attracted to older women alone.

African parents were wise enough to foresee such consequences that is why relations between parents and children of the opposite sex had an invisible cultural line they could not cross.

The line needs to be maintained even today, to avoid unhealthy relationship templates in the child.

Autonomy versus overreliance

Kabi Thuo, a psychologist and relationship therapist, says parents should be confident in their role as caregivers and parents without feeling the need to extend into their children’s best friends.

“In a recent survey I conducted, I found that children tend to confide in their friends and peers before they do the same with their parents.

This is in part why parents feel the need to be their children’s best friend. They should be friends yes, but parents should ensure they socialise their child enough so that they can enjoy the company of their peers as well.

A mother trying to be a child’s best friend is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

It could happen, but it should not. Parents can cultivate a healthy and comfortable relationship with their children without overwhelming them and making them their best friend,” Kabi explains.

At times, such a relationship will make the child overly dependent on their parent, while every parent’s duty should be to raise an autonomous being.

This can manifest in the form of mummy’s boy syndrome, where even when the child marries, they rely on their parents for even the simplest decisions. But everything that is learnt can be unlearnt.

Even autonomy can be learnt. Those around the mummy’s boy who include the mother can help re-socialise the young man.

Kabi insists on the important role that mothers play in their children’s lives, whether a boy is autonomous or a mummy’s boy.

He explains how the love that children have for their mothers and how a mother’s role in their children’s lives is indisputable even to people who have never heard of the Oedipus complex.

He however, disputes that Oedipus complex alone can lead to violence at a later age.

“While the complex might cloud judgement and truncate the normal thought and reaction process, the trigger of the violence might be something else other than the complex.

This is because we do not live in a vacuum and are constantly in contact with different things that might trigger our subconscious.

This is not to downplay the complex, however. This is just to say that other than unlearning the unhealthy behaviour that might be triggered by Oedipus complex, one will also have to learn other social skills such as how to react to different triggers,” Kabi says in ending.

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