Mammoni and Mammismo – An Italian Lifestyle

File Photo Pexels

Six years ago I wrote a post  about an Italian lifestyle titled Mammoni – Mamma’s Boys in Italy and today it ranks as my most popular post.  Mammoni, a term applied to single Italian men who live at home with their mothers sometimes into their forties and fifties.  This  Italian lifestyle is alive and well today, maybe moreso  in light of the worsening economic situation in Bella Italia. And so is its counterpart, mammismo. The two lifestyles appear to go  hand in hand.

Goodfellas IMDB Photo credit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099685/mediaviewer/rm3046118656
Photo credit Goodfellas IMDB

According to to The Telegraph, mammismo is an “Italian bond of love between a man and his mother that chokes romance, inhibits sex drive, and even has the power to slow the economy.” They report that Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the archbishop of Genoa, warned that the phenomenon is “one of the biggest risks to marriage in the country today.”

File photo:Pexels

The Times Live corroborates this information, stating “the classic attachment between Italian men and their mothers – is one of the biggest risks to marriage today.” Going even further, “Leading matrimonial lawyer Gian Ettore Gassani said interfering mothers-in-law were responsible for 30% of all separations.”

Last year ITV News aired an ON Assignment episode titled “Italy’s mamma’s boys: The curse of the mammoni,” where they interviewed three Italian women who left their partners because of their mothers. One even described the situation as an addiction.

From my conversations with Italian men and women I’ve met on my travels to Italy, I understand that not all Italian men are so attached to their mamas. Many are in committed relationships, some married and some cohabitation.

From what I have discerned, moving away from the mother seems to be helpful so this mammismo does not become a problem for the couple.  Traditionally the Italian mother however does always hold a place of honor and importance in the culture.

The latest figures from Eurostat show “sixty-seven percent of 18-34-year-old Italians” living with their parents. This figure is  almost “20 points higher than the European average.” Due to the lack of jobs, there is not much of an alternative.

So the trend is controversial and I’d love to hear your opinions, so please leave a comment.

Grazie and Ciao.

 If you haven’t checked out my books on Italy yet, please visit my author page on Amazon. Also available on Amazon UK.

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5 Responses

  1. Kat Henry

    i met my ex 3 years ago and broke up with him finally this February, we were in a “committed relationship” for three years. On our 3rd date he told me that he vowed to live with his mother until she dies. I duly noted this fact, as well as the fact that on none of the first dates as well as any subsequent ones except for my birthday he ever offered to pay for a drink or meal. As so many women, somehow I thought that in time that vow would change, which was my mistake. After that, a blissful honeymoon period ensued, and i was so in Love that I first didn’t mind visiting him in his mums apartment where he lived in a room that looked like a children’s room, with duvet covers bought by his mum and bed made too. It was so different from what i knew that I found it charming and entertaining at first, with the odd distant alarm bells chiming competing with the real catholic ones, outside. I helped out cooking, did a jigsaw and played cards with his mother, watered her many plants and hung the washing. When we wanted to have sex he locked the room quietly from the inside and covered the glass panel with a caftan wall hanging, and put on a psychedelic 70s progrock piece on volume 12. Since the apartment had high ceilings and was mostly open plan, everything the mother did in her night owl-existence echoed through the walls, including the ping-pong to and fro of tennis matches she watched late at night at high volume, refusing to wear headphones. He mentioned that he often could not sleep because of the noise but did not want to deprive her of the pleasure.

    It was all such a new experience, and it amused the writer part in me, while the partner me became more concerned everyday. We were madly in Love. He enjoyed talking in plural with a great deal of pride about his life with his mother, like a real married life: we have a big choice of duvets, and opened the old fashioned wooden wardrobes, while the heavy cross with jesus was staring at us from above her bed. After a few weeks of witnessing and participating him living with her, how he jumped as soon as she called his name with a voice laden with demand, frailty and aggression all at once. (The same voice that interrupted our phone conversations frequently with no regard or sensitivity or respect for him orour relationship) I had quite enough.
    Any time we wanted to go for an outing or stay over night with friends of his or in his friends empty apartment, a big fuss and guilt trip would be made about his absence and it became clearer to me what a hold she has over him, and that you could never be or become an adult in this environment with this treatment. As far as she was concerned, he was a teenager, and a useful cog in the wheel of the family, over which she resided like a overweight, overcoddled, spoilt and demanding queen bee. After 6 months I declared to him in front of his friends who lived healthy adult lives, that i would no longer visit him at home and would stay in my exes apartment and if he wants to see me and have some privacy for our relationship he needs to come there. he was very insulted and worried about how he could explain to his mother, who would be very hurt and wonder, if she was a bad host. despite the friends telling him that it is the reasonable thing to do in a relationship: for the couple to have privacy and a life of its own. But he punished me by not coming for a whole week and i was kept company instead by friends on skype who comforted me in my sadness that he didnt come. It was clear then who the priority was. His ego could barely take spending time in my exes own appartment, as it made it so clear, how little he had accomplished in comparison to my ex.
    At this point the alarm bells overtook the real ones, but his charm and the fun we had was always like a drug, that blotted out my questions and worries temporarily. Comments like “If I could make a bargain with an angel, I would give all my life years so my mother could live longer and I myself gladly die instantly”, and “my siblings are selfish, they have kids themselves and work fulltime and have barely time for our mother” should have made me run fast, but his spell over me was as strong as his mothers over him. i would even go as far as calling it an addiction. Even if he did manage to tear himself away from her for a few days at a time, he could never quite relax, his body was almost trembling in worry if his mother would have to spend a few hours by herself and if his siblings neglected her. Any hour she would have to spend by herself was an hour too much (weather I was lonely or missed him did not matter half as much to him) I could tell that part of him couldn’t wait to get back while another yearned for more freedom, but was far too afraid, inexperienced and spoilt to dare to leave the nest for longer than a few days. His whole life was being there for her, and everything else including our relationship was just a short, stimulating outing, before coming back home to Mama. The penny dropped even further down: looking back on times spent together a pattern emerged: after I refused to stay at his place, we met in hotels, in friends flats, weather with them absent or present or at mine. I began to feel like a prostitute. He had the cake and ate it, and could keep the status quo in his family without making the effort of finding an apartment or room to have something to offer to me. When we would stroll through markets displaying gifts, he would always buy a gift for his mother and if i wanted a gift, i had to beg for it. I would sometimes plainly even offer him the choice to just have an affair, since he clearly did not make any space in his life for a relationship, but he insisted he loved me and wanted more. He would show off to his family and friends with me, a semblance of a normal life when in reality, everyone knew he still lived at home, and could see i was starting to gain weight from frustration and sorrow. At a certain point an opportunity for an apartment in Milano came up to share for us, and I thought that this was our chance to be happy and for him to break the addiction. he made certain that I was aware what a big generous gesture that would be for him, to deviate from his original plan to stay with her forever full time. one of the first things he mentioned after we talked through my move there and all i would leave behind, was that he would still visit and sleep at his mothers 3 days and nights a week and hoped i would join him. It was like a slap in my face and a friend of his advised me not to go for such a shitty deal with 3 nights away from our home, and me in a new country and life, especially since his siblings and nieces lived in the same house just above his mother, and could easily be there for her. You ask how I could possibly tolerate all this and I tell you, that he had such a charm that he won over all my friends heart and was, apart from his mother, loving and loyal. Now I look back at those three years, don’t regret the beautiful times spent and the genuine love I had and have for him, but have certainly learned my lesson, and would never date a married man or married man to his mother ever again. The poisonous and jealous and desperate imaginings that crept into my heart against her and his entire family, the baffled friends of mine and his that could not understand how such a charming and intelligent man could have such a blind spot and stick to a fake menial job and a teenage life with his mean mother instead of taking up offers of better jobs and nice places to live away from home. The blank face and lack of response when i challenged him about if there was something not quite healthy about his lifestyle. I even created a power point presentation once about how everything in his family could shift into a more honest and balanced situation: If his mother would stop gambling and use the money instead to pay for outside carers for the times, his siblings are at work. If they would organise card playing evenings in his mothers home where people her own age would come and keep her company. Where they would find a student who could live in his room rent free and in return look after the mother a bit. But he dismissed all these suggestions hinting they would disgrace the family pride and it was clear the status quo must not be challenged. In another phase I started to research this phenomena and found an abundance of scholarly dissertations, articles, blogs and documentaries on the Mammoni phenomena. Its effect of destroying marriages. Its part in the low birth rate statistics. The inflated coddled fragile male ego, unable to cope when it encounters peer feedback, and avoiding it at all cost. The insatiable mother, who’s sole identity lies in cooking, eating, washing and being there for her boy, and insisting that this will not change. The sons consent to living effectively in her past. The angry and bitter ex girlfriends, great women, who realised they hadn’t got a chance in hell. I am truly broken hearted as we made a great couple in many respects, but I too realise, I havent got a chance.

    I realise that I want a man in my life to whom my needs, suggestions and wishes are important, even come first, and where I am cherished and rewarded for my support and love and encouragement his own family has never given him. Where the energy is not put into denial mechanisms and fantastic escapisms or, as he always put it, “being elsewhere”, but into a thriving grounded and loving soul searching reality, where things can be talked about, traumas addressed admitted and worked on, and an independent life together forged. This is what I had hoped for, tried for, waited for, but to this day, he lives at home with her, and playing music in his room to be elsewhere.

    • margieinitaly

      Kat,
      First let me say thank you for taking time to share your personal story and experiences here. I appreciate your honesty. I’m also glad you realize you are worth more than what you’ve tolerated. No judgment whatsoever…it seems you’ve given the relationship every possible chance and it took this amount of time and events to realize he isn’t going to change. You’re right that he’s married to his mother in an unhealthy way. I know you are in the stages of grieving the loss right now. I respect you for making the decision you did. Better days are ahead.
      By the way, have you considered writing a book?

  2. […] often comes late, has strong feelings for his mum to the point of avenging her ordeal, has a patron saint in Jay Garrick […]

  3. I married an Italian man when I was very young. His parents were dead when I met him. His sister and sisters-in-law took over the role of mother. Fortunately his lovely sisters-in-law were wonderful to me. His sister, now that is another story.

Im always interested in your thoughts, so please leave a comment.