Knowing what to expect when you are dating a man who lost his mother as a child can help you respond sensitively to the emotional wounds he may be carrying. Since losing a parent is one of the most devastating losses a child can experience, a man who has gone through this can’t help but to bring this experience into his adult romantic life. However, it is not all doom and gloom; he may have found strength in enduring his loss.
Sensitive to Loss
People who have experienced the death of a parent early on can be sensitive toward experiencing future losses, say Gina Mireault and Lynne Bond in a study in the “American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.” Consequently, he may tend to avoid everyday situations that trigger feelings of loss. For example, he may find a way to avoid being around as you prepare to leave for a business trip and when you walk out of the door. If you were expecting a hug and kiss goodbye, you may be hurt by his disappearance. However, by knowing that situations like this trigger emotional pain, you can react with empathy rather than anger.
An Expected Barrier
Adult romantic relationships often mirror the relationships that people had with their parents while growing up. A man who lost his mother may begin to avoid closeness to minimize being hurt again by another loss. In fact, people who experience the death of a parent while young are more hesitant about forming romantic relationships, says Jeri Hepworth et al. in a study published in the “Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.” If your guy is constantly unavailable, then perhaps he’s avoiding intimacy. Try giving him plenty of space and allowing him to get close in his own time.
A man may continue to struggle with lingering emotions associated with losing his mother so earl, and this is normal. His feelings may be especially strong during holidays and while going through major life transitions, such as graduating, getting married and having a baby. He is likely to wish she were around to celebrate life and also witness his journey. But although he may always have sad feelings about losing her, he is not necessarily emotionally fragile as a result of his experience. In fact, he is no more likely to have a mental health disorder than anyone else if he had a high quality home life after her death, suggests research by Alan Breier et al. in the “Archives of General Psychiatry.”
Strong, Sensitive Type
Although there could be negative effects related to losing a mother at an early age, many boys who faced this stressor as a child develop into emotionally healthy men. This is especially true if he received a lot of social support from family members, friends, and perhaps a religious community after her death, according to Abraham Greeff and Berquin Human in a 2010 study published in “The American Journal of Family Therapy.” There is a strong possibility that his loss could be a source of personal growth, rather than solely a trauma.
- Journal of Marital and Family Therapy: The Effects of Parental Loss on the Formation of Intimate Relationships
- The American Journal of Family Therapy: Resilience in Families in Which a Parent has Died
- Archives of General Psychiatry: Early Parental Loss and Development of Adult Psychopathology
- American Journal of Orthopsychiatry: Parental Death in Childhood: Perceived Vulnerability, and Adult Depression and Anxiety
Nina Edwards holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and has been writing about families and relationships since 2000. She has numerous publications in scholarly journals and often writes for relationship websites as well. Edwards is a university lecturer and practicing psychologist in New York City.
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