Part 2 — How Abandonment Issues Impact Men’s LivesParents or parental figures have the greatest influence on the emotional development of their children. Sons are impacted by their fathers in profound ways, especially with regard to their sense of competence and confidence. Mothers impact their sons in equally profound ways, especially their sense of self, their well-being, and their emotional attachment to others. A mom’s influence can have far-reaching effects on her son’s adult relationships. This article is the second in a two-part series on abandonment issues for men. In the previous article, I focused on the impact of a son’s relationship to his father, while this article focuses on a son’s early relationship with his mother.
When a Mother’s Love is Interrupted
From infancy, every child needs the tender touch, attention, comfort, nurture, and love of a mother. Dan Jenkins, a licensed psychologist and professor of psychology at Point Loma Nazarene University, notes that, “Infants are born with constant recurring needs, and if those basic needs are met they grow up to understand what it means to build relationships based on trust. If the infant’s mother is largely emotionally absent, then the child does not learn to internalize a healthy representation of attachment to his mother, and later in life, to other people.” But sometimes the flow of a mother’s love and emotional connection is interrupted, cut off, or non-existent. A mom can be separated from her child through her own illness, death, or divorce. Children can be separated from their mother through the illness of the child, incubation and/or hospitalization, or adoption. Neglect, abuse, or a mother’s emotional distress can create an emotional wound that can leave a child with “feelings of abandonment, the dread of aloneness, a loss of a sense of self and well-being, a hunger for feminine touch that can be eroticized, unhealthy emotional dependencies, and possible gender confusion.” (Alfred C.W. Davis, Focus on the Family Canada)
The Consequences of a Lack of Maternal Attachment
The consequences in adult relationships for men can be either emotional detachment, emotional dependency, or a repetitive pattern that alternates between the two. In this, women are pursued as an idealized mother who can save from all the pain and angst that comes from being isolated and alone. Or, alternatively, they are avoided and devalued, once an idealized woman proves to be untrustworthy, and they are thereafter perceived to be always absent.
Men who experience emotional wounding in their relationships with their mother can be ambivalent toward women. They are needy of them, but also wary of them. They can fixate on feminine objects of desire in order to fill the deprivation of mother love. They can remain emotionally fused to their mothers in an unhealthy way, or else become detached in defensive protection. When their wives disappoint them, they can feel profound betrayal and even rage. They can become stuck in patterns of passivity and resentment in their marriages.
Christian Counseling for Abandonment Issues
Jesus not only came to announce good news to all who want peace with God and his loving and wise rule in their lives. He also came to bind up broken hearts, to set captives free, to comfort mourners, and to transform character (Isaiah 61:1-3). The ancient song-writer, King David, wrote, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me” (Psalm 27:10). God says, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13). Jesus can receive us and our emotional wounds. He can comfort us and help us to forgive our parents and to find our true identities in him. He can reverse, redeem, and create new life in our marriages and in all our relationships. God can fill in our deficiencies.
Christian counseling can assist in the healing process by providing a setting in which you can discover and understand the wounds of your past and their continuing impact in the present. A Christian counselor will point to Jesus as our True Healer. Before our souls can be healed, our emotional wounds need to be acknowledged, grieved, and forgiven. Christian counseling can facilitate this restorative journey by encouraging the value of prayer and the support of loving, truthful, and gracious spiritual community. There is hope for men with abandonment issues because God is making all things new. If you are open to the possibilities of healing and of living a larger life with those you love in your relationships today, I or one of my colleagues welcome the opportunity to talk with you.
“Mother and Tot,” courtesy of gridkid, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Mother and Son,” courtesy of jenny2dance, Pixabay,.com CC0 Public Domain License; “Mother and Teen,” courtesy of Klappe, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License.