One of the more controversial topics in psychology is Freud’s Oedipus Complex theory. Yet it’s widely acknowledged that men are attracted to women who resemble their mothers. So why are men attracted to their mothers exactly?

Have you ever thought about the people you chose to become partners with? Have you ever compared them to your mother? These may sound like weird questions, but the fact is many women find they share similar traits with their mothers-in-law.

Many studies have shown that men are attracted women who resemble their mothers, and understanding why this happens could help you figure out who’s going to be a good long term partner for you in the future.

It’s not as taboo and incestuous as it sounds. For instance, it’s not simply about being attracted to women who physically resemble your mother. It’s also about personality traits.

What is the Oedipus Complex

Firstly we need to explain the Oedipus complex. It’s named after the story Oedipus Rex, where a Greek hero unknowingly slays his father and sleeps with his mother, bringing down the ruin of his family and city.

The Oedipus Complex theory was thought up by Sigmund Freud. He theorised that around the age of 3-5 years old, children would become attracted to their parent of the opposite sex, whilst feel rivalry with the parent of the same sex.

The get over this period shortly after, when they start to identify themselves with the parent of the same sex, and repress their earlier sexual feelings towards the parent of the opposite sex. This process happens subconsciously. For most, it passes without causing any problems.

For others however, this period has a huge impact on their superego, which affects your moral factor, and plays a large part to your adult psychology.

How does the Oedipus Complex play into why men are attracted to their mothers? Well it’s a sign that these subconscious attractions we have to certain attributes from our parents may have manifested from as early an age as 3 years old.

However it’s not the full explanation, and many people in fact argue against the whole theory. However a lot of psychology into attraction between sexes does use Freud’s theories as a strong base, so it’s good to keep it in mind.

Nature vs Nurture

The Oedipus Complex to me sounds very nature driven. It’s presented as a fact of life, and although it’s more to do with nurture (after all, many people grow up without mothers to begin with). The question is how much of attraction is based on genetics and nature, and how much of it is based on life experiences and nurture.

Nature attraction would be things like the genetic make-up of your partner. Do they look like your mother, in height and body build? Do they smell like your mother? By smell I mean more in the pheromone sense than the choice of perfume.

If so, why? Speaking from a genetics point of view, we want to diverse our DNA as much as possible, so surely we would be genetically disinclined to be attracted to anyone who’s genetic make-up is similar to our own.

On the other hand we have nurture. Do we look for women who share the same qualities we find in the women who has the biggest impact in our lives? Generally speaking, mother’s are the most important female figures in our lives, so it makes sense that we look for others to take that place who have similar qualifications.

Personality traits

If you grew up with a kind, caring and loving mother, it’s most likely that you will believe most women are kind and caring. You’ll have a much more positive outlook towards women compared to a  man who grew up with a cold and distant mother.

Our upbringing with our mothers play such a huge role in how we view women in the future, it’s hard to believe that our mother’s wouldn’t affect our choices one way or another.

If you grew up with a successful mother, you might look towards career women who are independent because you already look up to those types of women. However if your mother was more air-headed, you might look for a woman who’s more dependent on you because you’re used to taking on a protective role.

For the same reason, men often find themselves attracted to women who have the same intellectual levels as their mothers. Many men who have successful mothers will look for smart, intelligent women for partners. They see their mother’s as a good role model.

How does this effect your relationship?

How do all of these points affect your relationships? Well in lots of ways. You may have a weird feeling about someone, a niggling that things aren’t clicking. If you look into traits you find admirable in your mother, you might find out what it is you’re looking for.

It can also show you why your past relationships failed. When we grow up and become independent, we leave our families. You take on the male role your father had, but you’re missing someone in the female role. That search leads you to find someone filling a hole your mother left.

At first we may pick partners that resemble our mother’s simply because it’s familiar. As we gain experience we whittle down exactly which traits we want to find. Not all of those traits will be the same as your mother’s of course. But a lot of them will overlap.

It’s easy therefor to see why men are attracted to women who are like their mothers. Hopefully this understanding will help you in the future. Knowing what it is you may want in a partner helps you decide if things will work out long term or not.