7 Ways a Man with Mother Abandonment Issues Will Act Out

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Ever felt like you were just thrown to the side by a guy you thought loved and adored you? It may seem like there’s no reason for your being ditched by a man who you believe loved you. Were there signs that things weren’t going well? 

Why did he suddenly abandon you? You may consider looking deeper at him, for the issues may be at his core and not a problem with you. Perhaps, because of his mother abandonment issues, he has acted out by abandoning you.

It’s the worst feeling to have someone throw you away. You end up wondering what you did wrong… especially if it appears to be out of nowhere. If your man leaves you without warning, it may be that he’s dealing with repressed issues from being abandoned by his mother. 

Identifying when he acts out can help you help him deal with his own trauma. Knowing which of his actions is a trauma-informed reaction, or “acting out”, can help you protect yourself from your partner’s own abandonment issues while also helping him find his foundation.

Here are seven ways your man might be acting out his mother abandonment issues and how to help him through each.   

What Are Abandonment Issues? 

Abandonment issues are ways to cope when someone has been pushed aside or left behind by someone significant in their life (for your man, by his mother). Acting out is a way to avoid getting hurt again, leaving before being left, and discarding a partner before they leave them. 

For a man who suffered early childhood abandonment by his mother, the real issues are that he tries to prevent the same pain from happening again by not trusting partners, fearing they will leave him, and running from any relationship pressures. Because he has been hurt so badly in the past, his whole connection to others is based on fear and wanting to prevent pain from recurring. 

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He may also accuse you of cheating or of being absent and not being there for him, but this is an expression of his own lack of trust. 

As a result, he projects his pain and fears onto the other person, seeing them as a manifestation of the person who abandoned him in the first place. So, his partner becomes his mother (who left him) and he tries to hang onto her while also wanting to leave her before she leaves him (just like his mother did). 

How he deals with abandonment issues will depend on how self-aware he is when facing his own past and abandonment. If you are trying to help your partner deal with his abandonment issues that stemmed from his absent mother, you will only help him through his issues if you can help him “mother” himself

Healing from abandonment only starts when he can make inner peace with his maternal abandonment. Fortunately, you can help him with that once you know what to look out for. 

Some Common Causes of Abandonment Issues

To understand the ways in which a man who was abandoned by his mother acts out, you should first familiarize yourself with the different causes of abandonment issues. While you may easily understand your man has been abandoned by his mother if she died or moved out, these are not the only ways in which a mother can abandon her children. 

Mothers abandon their children by: 

  • Being neglectful and not invested in their child’s life.
  • Being absent from home frequently or not being there for big events. 
  • Passing away and leaving their children as orphans or in the care of a single remaining parent. 
  • Making their children feel rejected by choosing a new husband and family, since they may neglect their own children. 
  • Getting divorced and leaving.
  • Being selfish and doing what pleases them, making their children feel like they are an inconvenience. 

7 Ways a Man with Mother Abandonment Issues Will Act Out

When you know what signs to look for, you will be able to support your partner while they work on their issues, and find themselves. 

Here are some of the top issues that a man with mother abandonment issues can act out. Their acting out is about struggling with pain and fear. Knowing what he feels based on how he expresses it can help you assist your man in trauma recovery. 

1. Clingy and Jealous at the Same Time

If your man is clingy, wants to go everywhere with you, and do every single thing with you, you may be with a man who has mother abandonment issues. It may surprise you that, despite him wanting to be with you and never letting you out of his sight, he is also jealous at the same time. 

The jealousy comes in when he doesn’t want you to have other people in your life, as this takes you away from him. He may also accuse you of cheating or of being absent and not being there for him, but this is an expression of his own lack of trust

His mother left him, so he is terrified you will leave him. Keep in mind your man has never had a strong female figure in his life, so you will have to train him and teach him that he can trust you and you will do the right thing by him. 

Look out for him saying things like “You are never here for me,” “Why don’t you want to spend more time with me?” and “Am I not good enough for you to be with so you always want to go out with other people?”

If he says these and similar things, it indicates he is replaying his own issues with his mother’s absence and lack of dependability on you. Mentally, your man has equated you to his mother, and it’s up to you to help him see you are not his mother and you won’t treat him like she treated him. 

You can teach him to trust you in increments to help lessen his jealousy and clinginess

  • When you go out with friends, tell him what time you will be home and stick to it. 
  • Be a little early if you can, so he is surprised that you want to be home with him. 
  • Send him a voice note or message while you are out to reassure him you are thinking of him and that you are safe. 

2. Sudden Bouts of Aloofness

When your usually quite involved and loving man suddenly becomes aloof and disinterested, it’s a sign he’s acting out on his mother abandonment issues. It’s like he has spent the credit he has available in the relationship, and when things get real and involved and he feels like he’s totally in love, his own twisted self-preservation instinct kicks in and he will back off.

The sudden 180 degree roundabout is how he tries to avoid getting hurt again. If he can’t feel connected, he won’t feel disconnected if you leave (like his mother did). This is a case of self-preservation, not him being mean (though, it may feel like that to you). 

Signs include if he suddenly becomes quiet when you have just been happily chatting, or he may walk away instead of participating in a game or enjoyable activity. In your intimate life, you may find that he gets up to watch TV or walks away after you are intimate.

All of these signs are indications that joy and connection hurts him because it reminds him on a subconscious level that he lost his mom, who left him. 

You can teach him about connection by:

  • Involving him in joyful activities, then checking if he starts mentally wandering, and if you see this, ask him to be present and not dwell in the past.
  • Asking him to go to therapy with you to learn to process his subconscious feelings. 
  • Encouraging him to connect more with a pet before you consider having children so he can work on his connection issues.

3. Leaving Without Warning

If you get home only to find he has suddenly packed up his stuff and moved out without warning, chances are your man has mother abandonment issues. Things got too intense for him, and to protect himself, he tucked tail and ran. 

It’s very hard to not feel devastated and hurt when this happens. He may also not want to discuss what’s going on, and he may even throw the blame at you. 

In a weird twist, he is both trying to protect himself from the pain he felt when his mom (who he loved as deeply as he loves you now) left, and he’s copying the behavior of his mom. Leaving you is a case of “monkey see, monkey do” for him as he follows in his mother’s footsteps. 

If you can rise above your own pain, you can try to help him by:

  • Asking him to explain, and inviting him to go to therapy with you.
  • Giving him space to process, but keeping in touch and being supportive

4. Surround Himself with Many Friends

A man who is always surrounded by people could be dealing with mother abandonment issues, especially if he has loads of female friends that he’s always with. Instead of simply being a player, he is trying to ensure he is never without female company so he won’t feel the pain of his mother’s leaving him. 

If he can’t be on his own, he is dependent on others to make him feel good. Should you start to question him or apply pressure for more commitment, he is likely to act out by backing away and saying you are demanding or clingy. Projecting his own fears onto you, he will say that you always need him around. 

To help him deal with his fears, you can:

  • Suggest he attends group therapy to help lessen pressure.
  • Help him refocus his attention away from people and onto doing things with you, such as hiking, mountain biking, watching a romantic movie, etc.

5. Runs Himself Down

The opposite end of the overly friendly type of man is the one who avoids contact and tends to run himself down. He will say that he’s not good enough, that he’s not worthy of affection and effort. If he runs into difficulty in life, he will always hide behind his “unworthiness” and use it as an excuse for having to retreat into his shell

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Depression can have dangerous side effects, and professional help may be required. 

Should you challenge him on why he feels like he’s not good enough, he will lash out with accusations like you are forcing him to commit, that you don’t understand him, or that you are bullying him. In extreme cases, this may turn to physical violence. His own self-pity is a shroud he wears for the pain, and if you dare lift it, he will react badly. 

To help a man who acts out like this, you have to work without words. His pain is so deeply ingrained that it will take time before he can discuss it, and if you try and he’s not ready, you could pay a dear price. Rather try to:

  • Help him see his worth by engaging him in activities he can shine at.
  • Ignore any “fails” in life and focus on when he does well, praising frequently.
  • Re-parent him like a loving mother, who is full of encouragement and constantly raising him up.

6. Becoming Depressed and Anxious

Depression and anxiety can be expressed as violence and aggression, so pay attention when he raises his voice or seems to look for a fight. Quarrelsome men often hide their pain and loss by fighting and fidgeting

If he is constantly doing stuff, yet accomplishing or finishing nothing, he may be acting out on the frustrations and anxiety he has left over from his abandonment during childhood. By being busy, he is trying to avoid thinking about it or talking about it. A new relationship (with you) may make him more anxious. 

He may turn to drinking and drugs to further forget. Depression can have dangerous side effects, and professional help may be required. 

7. A Sucker for Abuse

A final way in which a man whose mother left him may act out is to be a sucker for abuse. Men who enter into abusive relationships and stay may want to hang onto their partner (like they couldn’t hang onto their mother), and they may not be able to stand up to abusive partners in their relationships. 

Even at work, they will be that guy who is always being given extra work or tasks, never standing up to an abusive boss or unfair colleague. These men act out in a submissive way because they can’t assert authority (it was taken from them as children by their mothers). 

Help this type of acting out by offering as much love as you can, complimenting him frequently, sharing your feelings for him openly, and putting him in charge as much as possible. He needs to feel so loved and safe that he will open up and begin to talk about his pain and his past loss. 

Final Thoughts on Men with Mother Abandonment Issues and How They Act Out

Men with mother abandonment issues often act out when they haven’t figured out how to articulate their pain or deal with it effectively.

They often identify their female partners with their mothers, projecting their antagonism onto their girlfriend or wife, like a child who’s throwing a tantrum at not being loved enough. It is possible for him to get over his abandonment issues

One of the ways he can also learn to cope with his pain and abandonment issues is to help people who have been abandoned, such as orphans and the homeless, and also with pets.

Identifying his pain in others may help him self-soothe with kindness as a way to find happiness.  For more ways to rebuild his self-esteem and resilience, read our guide on exercises that build self-confidence.

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