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A Quasi-Ménage à Trois from Hell: Smother Mother, Mama’s Boy, Jealous Wife

“Howaaaaaard,” screams Mrs. Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory, “have you seen my girdle?” Welcome to the private Hell of a Mama’s Boy.

Oh, I know the smothering Mrs. Wolowitz and her bubbala, Howard, are just characters invented for a TV show. But their cringe-worthy relationship is shockingly true-to-life. A concentrated distillation of the covertly incestuous relationship between a smothering helicopter mom and her precious “little boy.”

Love Gone Wrong

If you’re not familiar with the Wolowitz’s warped relationship on The Big Bang Theory, click her to watch clips on YouTube.

Somewhere in the quagmire of dysfunctional relationship skills, neediness, boundary bashing and hidden agendas, I think there’s love. A mother’s love for her son and a son’s love for his mom. But as Danny Kaye said in White Christmas, “Well, if that’s love, then somebody goofed.”

The Situation

There’s a lot of dynamics that lead to Mama Boy situations. I once dated a Mama’s Boy who, at the tender age of seven, was catapulted into the role of man-of-the-house/quasi-husband when his father left the family. I know of another Mama’s Boy whose mother was chronically unhappy in her marriage. By crying on her Golden Child’s shoulder, a covertly (i.e. emotional) incestuous relationship was created from the day he was born. Hey! They’re still kissing on the lips almost sixty years later. Yick!

8209068067_e4eae755a7_zOther Mama’s Boys were born to single moms. Born after their mother suffered a devastating miscarriage or the death of an older child. Some were born premature or nearly died from a childhood illness.

Maybe (no, make that “probably”) Mom was raised in a dysfunctional home herself. She was helicoptered and honestly believes it’s the right way to parent. Or she was neglected and is over-compensating for what she missed. Maybe she made mistakes in her own life and is bound-and-determined that her little boy won’t screw up like her.

Maybe she suffers from panic attacks and agoraphobia and her son is her only source of human contact, society, friendship…and errand-running.

Maybe doing everything for him makes her feel needed and worthwhile. Maybe she’s a narcissist and it buoys her non-existent self-esteem.

Maybe…it’s all about her.

Hidden Hurt, Silent Rage

As someone who was not “allowed” to leave home ’til my early thirties, I know first-hand how a Mama boy must feel. His innermost thoughts are a stinking, hopeless cesspool of incompatible emotions.

He wants to grow-up and be a normal, independent adult man.

But it’d break his mother heart if he moved out. Her eyes well with tears when he brings it up or she turns nasty and screams, “Fine! Just leave then!”.

His self-esteem is in shreds and tatters. He knows his peers look askance at him, wondering what’s wrong with him. He loathes himself and hates how friends and relatives whisper “deadbeat” behind his back.

But it’s kinda’ nice to have Mom make his favorite homemade meals and change his sheets. He’d miss that if he moved out.

It’s so hard to drag himself out of the basement, away from his all-engrossing gaming to compete in the job market. Mom7990012525_a1d7462bfc_o gets so angry at any interviewer who doesn’t hire her little boy, so he knows the problem isn’t with him. And Mom doesn’t seem to mind that just working part-time gives him lots of time to spend at home with her.

But in his heart-of-hearts, he knows he’s well and truly stuck. Perhaps forever. Life is passing him by.

Sure, he’s a red-blooded American male. He’d love to have a girlfriend, but he tried it and it didn’t end well. He met one girl online with the dating profile Mom wrote for him. But in her mature wisdom, Mom was quick to point out all his girlfriend’s failings. Mom made his life a living hell with her pouting and snide comments. She even hinted she was going to write him out of her Will. So he dumped the girl.

But he misses her. She was nice. He’d love to find love. Have a hot sex life. Maybe even have a son or daughter of his own. But Mom’s shown him that none of these modern women are good enough for him.

It doesn’t look like he’s gonna’ get his own life anytime soon.

Maybe after Mom dies…

The Other Woman

8198243998_e7d6f5e9d4_zThink my word “incestuous” is over-the-top? Try marrying a Mama’s Boy. There’s a lot of women out there who’ve done it. Most of them are divorced because they realized there weren’t two people in the relationship. There were three. A cozy little quasi-ménage à trois. An emotional threesome between husband, wife…and Mama!

I asked my Facebook friends to contribute real-life stories and here’s what they said.

One of my ex-husbands might as well have had “Wishy-Washy Manchild Mama’s Boy” tattooed on his ass. When his mother died, his sister took over the role of controlling his life. He had disabilities, yes, but he was not incompetent. He was capable of doing a lot more for himself than his family allowed him to do…

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…doing everything for him made her feel important and needed, so danged if she was going to let him do it for himself…We’re talking about a man who, in his forties, didn’t know how to spread peanut butter on a slice of bread. He’d just spoon it out and leave it in a dollop in the middle, then put the other slice on top. I don’t know how much of that was just an act, though.

Over the years, he learned how to play helpless and pathetic and overemotional, to get women to feel sorry for him so they’d fix it and make it all better…He left me after a year of marriage, deciding it was easier to let her run his life than it was to stand up for himself. Because if he ever did rear up on his hind legs and stand up to her, she’d shake her head. “I know my brother. That’s not him talking. That’s her.”

Another friend wrote…

4223738149_7eda664a27_zMy ex is not exactly a mama’s boy except that his mother is an even more entrenched narcissist than he is — he is the chip and she’s the whole block…Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of being divorced — after not having to be abused by him — is not having to be abused by his mother. Weirdly, he thinks she’s the bee’s knees and doesn’t get how she controls the whole family in this toxic way. It’s absolute denial. But I think if he actually faced it, the entire edifice holding his life together would crumble into grains of sand. He has to think she’s great with his whole being or else there is nothing.

One friend narrowly avoided saying “I Do” to a Mama’s Boy.

I was engaged to a mama’s boy in my 20s…He lost his dad when he was only about 3 yo. The mother had other husbands and one other kid 10 years younger. Both sons were spoiled (imho) I found out that my ex, P, had been secretly meeting his mom for lunch almost every single day and she was giving him money. I thought he had this good job and everything. Pretty much all lies. He didn’t really know how to talk or have a normal conversation. He was loud and gregarious but not real. He lacked appreciation, he expected things. He bamboozled people like my dad to get what he wanted…Very manipulative…I was lucky to avoid marrying him! But the thing with his mother, was just a sicko relationship.

The stories just keep coming!

My ex narc was brainwashed by his narc mom into being her pseudo-husband. She gave birth to him so her needs override anyone else’s needs. I watched the triangulation with the other siblings. Guilt trips and constant phone calls even when he was at work.

I liked this one best of all

My mother-in-law asks her 4 sons how many times they have sex with their wives … And they answer her. SMDH! [Shaking My Damn Head]

Pause for a W…T…F moment!

Marriage to a Mama’s Boy

A lot of Mama’s boys do marry, of course. Howard Wolowitz married darling Bernadette. What a nightmare that’s been! No, not their marriage itself. Their marriage is great. The nightmare’s been the way the essence of Mrs. Wolowitz infiltrated every area of their relationship from the bedroom to the kitchen…even after her death.

5292791644_925963e551_zHoward’s never cooked his own food. Mommy did it. Howard’s never cut his own meat. Mommy did it. Howard’s never done laundry. Mommy did it. Howard doesn’t know how to clean up a mess. Mommy did it. Howard didn’t got to NASA training alone. Mommy came with.

Mothers do their sons NO favors by doing everything for them. Helicopter parenting sets a kids up to be paralyzed and clueless when life happens…and Mommy’s not around to tell them exactly what to do or just do it herself, cause then it’ll get done “right.” I know. I’ve been there.

Howard just expected Bernadette to pick up where Mommy left off. Thank goodness Bernadette has a sense of normalcy. But therein is the root of all their conflict. Her attempts to make Howard grow up and live normally is where they clash. No thanks to Mrs. Wolowitz!

Take Action

Moms! Do you love your son? Then act like it. Let him go. Push him out of the nest if necessary. If you don’t, he will leave you at some time. And when he does, it’ll be for good..forever…No Contact! (And you will richly deserve it.)

Fathers! Grow a pair! Step up and start being a loving husband to your wife. Put a stop to the pseudo-incest between your wife and her little boy. Meet her needs and start being a father to your son, not just a body holding a beer watching football.

16642662676_0f09b1e011_zSons! Do you love your mom? Want to be able to spend time with her in the future? Then get off the titty, snip the apron strings, grow a pair and leave…now. You have a legal right to leave. Don’t wait until the resentment and anger grow so much that you never want to see her wrinkled, crocodile tear-stained face again. Stop cheating on your wife with your Mommy. Don’t wait ’til your wife leaves, takes the kids and slaps you with child support.

Grandmothers! Do you love your grandchildren? Then get the Hell out of your son’s marriage or you’ll lose all privileges to see the grandkids, permanently.

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Wives! Educate your husbands about covert incest. About narcissism. About false guilt. I bet you’ll discover a powder-keg of anger towards his Mom just behind his claims to love her so much. Remind him he’s called to “leave and cleave” to his wife…not his mommy. Love him through it. Remember, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Got a story? Share it in comments!

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This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Under no circumstances should it be considered therapy nor replace therapy and treatment. If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is staffed by certified crisis response professionals. The content of these blogs and all blogs written by Lenora Thompson are merely her opinion. If you are in need of help, please contact qualified mental health professionals.
A Quasi-Ménage à Trois from Hell: Smother Mother, Mama’s Boy, Jealous Wife

Lenora Thompson

Lenora Thompson is a syndicated Huffington Post freelance writer and food blogger. Her readers call her the "Edward Snowden" and "Wikileaks" of narcissism because of her no-holds-barred-take-no-prisoners approach to writing about narcissism. “Narcissism Meets Normalcy” is the real-life, ongoing story of her healing journey from being held “hostage” by a multi-generational, cult-like narcissistic family. It's gritty and real, bloody and bruised, humorous and sarcastic. Lenora Thompson considers herself a “whistleblower,” shining a spotlight on narcissistic abuse so others can also claim their freedom and experience healing. To learn more about Lenora, her husband Michael's heroic battle with Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and to read her writings about food, please visit Thank you!

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APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2016). A Quasi-Ménage à Trois from Hell: Smother Mother, Mama’s Boy, Jealous Wife. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 7, 2020, from


Last updated: 8 May 2016
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