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My Mother is Acting Sexually Inappropriate

A 29 year old man is concerned that his mother is acting sexually inappropriate towards him. He is afraid and not sure what to do.

Dear Doctor Life Advice,

I am 29 years old and I moved back home last year after my stepfather left my mother. I now live with my fifty year old mother and fourteen year old sister. My mother is acting very inappropriately around me. When my sister or visitors are not around, my mother changes from her regular clothes into very scant clothing and talks to me about her nudity. She also asks me to walk around in underwear that she purchased for me. I obey, and she comments on how good I look. Recently she told her friend that she is planning to seduce me. I am very scared and do not know what to do.

Signed: Scared and Confused

Dear Scared and Confused,

This is an extremely uncomfortable and awkward situation. Your mother’s behavior is absolutely and utterly unacceptable. Humans, as part of the animal kingdom, are instinctively against incest. Our genetic programming causes us to stay away from sexual relationships with our immediate family members. In addition to natural instincts, incest is also socially unacceptable. Your mother’s behavior is potentially very dangerous to your emotions and well being as well as her own and your sister’s. You need to take charge and put an end to this behavior right away. Here are some things you must do to stop the progression of her advances.

Let Go of Your Fear; you are not Powerless

It strikes me that you are scared of your mother. Your fear tells me that your mother has a lot of power over you. Change this balance of power. You are not a helpless child. You are a grown man that cannot be manipulated or told what to do.

I don’t know the dynamics of your upbringing, however I can tell that you were raised with the belief that you should obey your mother. Children do need to do what their parents tell them while they are growing up. A time comes in every person’s life when he or she starts to think as an individual and begins to make decisions that the parents would not agree with. This is a natural part of growing up and becoming an independent individual. You must understand that you are entitled to your own decisions. Your mother cannot and should not try to make you do what you do not want to do. Once you fully understand this, you will not be afraid of your mother any more.

If your upbringing was so rigid that you remain fearful of your mother despite reading the above, then you must get help. Find a good therapist and let him or her know that you need to learn to assert yourself with your mother. If being assertive is an issue for you, then getting therapy is the best way to deal with the issue. Learning to be assertive is a skill that not only will help you with this situation, but will be with you for your entire life, and will benefit you in both your family life and work life.

Let your Mother Know that her Behavior is Unacceptable

  • Communicate this to her directly. I am a firm believer in open and honest communication. You can let your mother know that her behavior makes you uncomfortable and that you want her to stop. An example is what you can say is: “Mom, I am uncomfortable with what you are wearing. Can you please put some appropriate clothes on?” About the underwear that she buys you, you can say something like “I appreciate your gift, however, this is something I will wear around my girlfriend or wife. I don’t want to wear it around my mother.” You can also be more direct and tell her that you are not her boyfriend and will not tolerate her acting in certain ways around you.
  • Show her you will not tolerate her behavior. When she asks you to wear inappropriate clothes, refuse and leave. When she dresses poorly herself, get away from her immediately. Be direct and tell her what you are doing. You can say, “if you are going to dress that way, I need to leave,” and then leave. You can either go to your room and lock your door, or better yet, you can leave the home. Do not let her delay you by trying to engage you in conversation. Tell her you can discuss things when you get back and only if she is dressed. If you have to walk out while she is talking, do it any way.
  • Do not let her manipulate you. She may try to manipulate you by crying, getting angry, yelling, or even acting embarrassed and ashamed, hoping you would feel guilty and comfort her. Be aware of these manipulative behaviors, and don’t give in to them. No matter how she responds to your communication, remove yourself if she is being seductive, and stand your ground if she is just talking.
  • Stay firm in your beliefs. Your mother may be very bold and may try to openly argue with your position and tell you that you are being closed minded, or use all kinds of other arguments to justify her actions. Do not fall into the trap of trying to argue your point of view. Simply state that you are not going to change your mind on this issue, and that you two can agree to disagree on this matter. End the discussion there, and walk away. Refuse to open the discussion again, and simply state that your mind is made up and further discussion is not needed.

Tell your Mother to Get Help

Your mother must have some issue that is causing her to override her natural maternal instincts. She has extremely poor boundaries and behavioral limits. Somehow the differences between love and sex became blurry for her, and she is crossing lines that she should not be crossing. I do not know her, but my guess is that her boundaries were violated at some point in her life. Maybe she was a victim of child molestation, raped at an early age, or had parents that had extremely poor boundaries. Either way, she should not be turning her problems into your problems. She needs to get professional help and learn ways to both set firm and safe boundaries, and respect the limits of others.

Your mother may be open to listening to you. If so, then tell her that her behavior is not only unacceptable, but a major cause for concern. Tell her that you think she could benefit from talking to a therapist and getting help for her misconceptions of love and sex.

There is of course the possibility that your mother is not open to hearing what you think of her behavior. Remember, as far as you are concerned, she does not have to understand that what she is doing is wrong, she only needs to know that her behavior is not acceptable to you and will not be tolerated by you. You can express your concerns to her, but ultimately, she may never accept that her behavior was inherently wrong. You are powerless over her opinions and beliefs. You also have no control over whether or not she will get the help that she so clearly needs. You do have all the power over how you act around her, and you can stop her from trying to seduce you by simply removing yourself.

If all Else Fails, Move Out

You said you moved back in after your step father left. I can safely assume that you are an independent man who can support himself and live on his own. If your mother continues to behave in this sexual manner, move out. The potential risks of emotional damage to you and your family is very high, and must be taken seriously. Your primary job is to protect yourself and your future, not to take care of your mother’s needs. Although moving out may cause tensions between you and your family, staying can have worse consequences. Remember, you are not trapped.

In conclusion, remember that you are not helpless. You have the power to influence how others act towards you. Learn to assert yourself and to stand up for what you believe in. Get away from situations that make you uncomfortable, and do not be scared. I hope this helps you.

Doctor Life Advice

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Sayeh Beheshti, M.D.