Relationship Dysfunction: The All Engulfing Apron Strings And The Parental Guilt Trip


This is not just my story, it is the story of all women who dare to dream , who dare to step into the home maker arena and face the Monster – in – law from Hades who is a pro in running the show and is the master puppeteer. It is the story of women who are financially dependent and have been  dreamers all their lives. Who believe in ” and they lived happily ever after ” stories.

The hard truth is that all men have mothers and some mothers just don’t know where to draw a line and let go of their sons .

These controller moms invade the fabric of their son’s  life till the core and leave it tattered.

Have you ever wondered, Why?

Why do they smother their sons?

Why don’t they let them blossom instead of stunting their entire personality?

How does one find a man grown-up enough to have disentangled himself from those unrelenting, all-engulfing choking  apron strings?

Why is it that men  are unable to cut the strings and release themselves?

Doesn’t it suffocate them to lead a life on a leash with a guard on their mouth and brain kept in vegetative state ?

I am married to one such man and seriously don’t understand WHY he accepts all this with head bowed. It is always a guilt trip, an emotional blackmail, a constant tug of war.

Parents constantly hammering the fact that the son is duty bound to look after them in their old age  even if it means killing his desires and submitting to his fate designed by them.

What is the mystery behind these apron strings that become a noose for the woman the son marries?

Why cant the MIL exit gracefully and let the son and DIL live their lives? Why is it important for her to constantly prove the superiority and criticize  everything I or her son do?

What makes her irascible ?

Some questions only she has answers to.

Overbearing suffocating love which turns to manipulative scheming  emotional blackmail holds back the freedom to grow and simply turns “mama’s boys”  to “mama’s Men” . The dominant matriarch  not only controls the son but her hubby too and practically every person.  I have seen by experience how for each decision he has to seek permission of his parents and give in to their demands and wishes irrespective of his desires. He folds his passion for life, his aspirations and dreams and tucks them in a dark crevice knowing that he would never gain enough courage and strength to stand up for himself.

This kind of man is molded in a special mold from birth. Designed to take commands and lead a life of suppression. His mind is trained to just look at one angle and not revolt against what is being said and done. He is given a life which seems like a ” comfortable setting” but is basically a ” dog’s den”.

I have seen my MIL say with pride how she has taken care of all the needs of her son all her life and he had obeyed her without questioning  like a “dutiful son” until now when I came in the pretty picture to ruin his life and theirs.  However I may abide to the so-called “norms and customs of their family I am an outsider. My place is below her jutti ( slippers) and am a non entity with no respect dignity or standing of my own. She doesn’t want her beloved dutiful son to turn into ” hand pecked” husband to such non entity.

I used to wonder if it is only  true of  “love” marriages and inter-caste marriages  but I realized this wasn’t the case. This breed is found irrespective of caste, creed, social strata , economic background. It just varies in its shades.

The relationship turns sour with each passing day and the guy becomes a martyr. Poor chap is caught between the love of his mom and wife who has barely entered his life. The blame game starts and the DIL becomes the butt of insults, accusations and the suppressor becomes the victim.

I have seen the emotional dramas, the hunger strikes, the silent treatment, the cold shoulder, the constant cribbing and the sorrowful complaints and I have seen how t is taken with bowed head and sealed lips.

In the scale of relationship always the scale tips in favor of mom( parents in some cases like mine) .

You are guilty of wanting a life of your own.

You are guilty of dreaming of a happy home with your life partner and kids if any.

You can guilty if you open your mouth in protest or want to assert yourself in any way.

You are the disrupting factor in the “mum’s world “.

I have come to a conclusion that men whose  mothers take every opportunity to stay involved in their lives have bad marriages and poor, disturbed relationship with their partners.  These men consider the behavior of the mother normal and support her cause  mainly because they are conditioned that way for all of their lives and secondly they don’t know anything else.

Instead of lovingly raising their sons and setting them free  some mothers remain entrenched in the lives of their sons causing major havoc in the relationship of the son and his wife. These perpetual adolescents never really grow up and remain tied to the apron strings of their mom’s. I feel personally that such men are not emotionally balanced or equipped to handle adult relationships and fail miserably in their constant battle to keep everyone happy. Their life is always hell and full of conflict and heartache.

I read in a book by Kenneth Adams and Alexander Morgan, “There is a universe of difference between a mother who loves her son dearly and a mother who makes her son the primary focus of her passion and preoccupation in an attempt to compensate for her own emptiness.”

These men not only have sexual dysfunction but they also direct their anger towards the partner , are people pleasers and can never ever stand up for themselves leave aside for their partners.  I agree 100% with the author .

I have lived  for 20 years with such a man and know what it is. All the efforts to make him understand seem like a conspiracy to distance him from the woman who gave him birth and raised him  with such difficulties. His life becomes ridden with guilt and anxiety  if he says as much as one word in favor of  me.

He would  rather destroy a relationship that is good for him than stand up to the omnipresent female power in his life called MOTHER. It is extremely sad to see an otherwise wonderful life  getting destroyed at all possible levels  just because the  mother is so tightly woven into the fabric of his life.  My MIL always strokes her son’s ego and unfortunately he, blinded by her love and scared of social stigma, continues to wear blinkers and follow quietly on the thorny path they have paved for him.

Unfortunately in my case it wasn’t just the mom( sometimes benevolent and caring and at others a mafia don like figure )  but both the parents who slowly drilled holes in a marriage they never approved of. They  seized upon the problems in our relationship which had mainly sprung from their deeds and his laid back attitude towards it and then used those issues to create unpleasantness and rift between us, all the  time  maintaining their control.

They acted liked gasoline on the fire and over the years by remote control or by being there as a hanging sword they managed to bring a relationship to a point of no return. They messed up a marriage, destroyed their son’s dreams just to be supreme controllers. I find it very distressing  and disheartening to see these men  spend their entire  life living  mediocre lives caused by their  narcissistic mothers’ ideals or parental overbearingness.

To see that so called social stigmas, morals, the intense desire to seek social approval, the complete surrender to absolutely unjust demands and emotional guilt trip and much more is capable of overthrowing the love and stability, caring and respect, togetherness and blossoming is  unbelievable.

Today after 20 years of my marriage I have found my voice to stand up for a life of dignity and to bring it out in open not to humiliate anyone but to make people see sense and let their grown up children be. To let men think again what a relationship means to them and how important it is to find a balance in some complex relationships like these.

It is heartbreaking to see all your efforts in building a relationship go down the drain just because the man you trusted tour life with did not know how to take care of it. Each one suffers in his/ her own way. Children are also at the receiving end  where mother is fighting for her rightful place and is unable to take that one strong step of stepping out because of financial dependence and the father is too weak to stand up and face his unjust parents especially the mother.

I have already written about adjustment and compromise that a woman has to face  and it is not that I am insensitive to the elderly people  but I also feel that we need to give roots and wings to our children.

Parents who see their sons as investments  almost always end up as losers. They lose respect, love, their child and a happy family they could have been a part of. It cut my heart to let go of  relationships that I had so painstakingly nurtured with my tears, sweat and blood but there is a time when one realizes that there is live much more important and worthy of attention – One’s own life.

We bury it under layers and layers of commitments and duties and somewhere forget to live. Choked by apron strings a son lives a suppressed life unwilling to break the shackles and breathe free  and in that process smothers a marriage, a relationship which could have been a life long source of joy and togetherness.

Sometimes good emerges from the dark harsh realities. I know that my life has deeply instilled one important thing in the minds of my sons – Respect for women as fellow human beings.

Having lived a home bound life of total financial dependence it is hard to start on a fresh note. As a close friend said ,” it is all there for you to get, the only thing is How badly you want it.” To have a financial independent life is extremely important. So is a family that understands the daughter’s predicament in her marital home and doesn’t abandon her in this rough patch. I may not have the first but have the second and that makes all the difference.

I hope men would realize how important it is to cut the strings and blossom as individuals and that parents are irreplaceable but so is every moment of their own  life.