By M. Gary Neuman

When is a man’s close relationship with his mother a cause for concern? Therapist M. Gary Neuman has the answers.

Question: I began dating someone who I like very much. However, there is one issue that has raised a red flag: He talks about his mother a lot — in a good way. They have a very close relationship. However, some of my girlfriends told me to beware of marrying a “mama’s boy” because then you’re marrying his mother. Is this a real concern when dating?

Having a good relationship with mom and being a “mama’s boy” isn’t the same thing. First of all, I’d be wary of someone who does not like his mother. This doesn’t mean he can’t be a great husband, but in all likelihood, it would be a greater challenge for him than for someone who gets along well with his mother. Remember that a young man’s primary female relationship is with his mother. His attitude and opinion of her will likely be brought into every other significant female relationship he experiences. If he is demeaning or makes dismissive jokes about his mother, he may be doing the same about his wife one day. However, even if he perceives that he’s had a troubled relationship with his mother, with some focus and psychological work, anyone can overcome struggles and learn to create a genuinely loving relationship with his wife.

So, how can you know whether his relationship with mom is healthy or not? When you feel there is a controlling element handed down from mother to son, that’s the giveaway of dangerous ground. If you feel that he’s unable to make common personal decisions without the approval of his mother, AND that his mother is very comfortable making these decisions for him (meaning she’s not so approving), beware — it is likely that his mother will be making decisions for you as well. It’s one thing to consider a parent’s sage advice in making a decision, it’s quite another to have the parent make the decision for you.

As your dating progresses and you feel closer, simply bring the topic up and discuss it in a kind and respectful manner. It’s always to your advantage to get used to being communicative about these kinds of issues so both of you can develop your style of decision-making together.