Can you marry your stepmother? (Oedipus complex in adults)

In this article, we are answering the following question: Can you marry your stepmother? We also talk about the possible reason for why a son would like to marry his (step) mother, namely we talk about the Oedipus complex in adults. 

Can you marry your stepmother or stepfather?

According to the Marriage Act (1986), in England, Scotland and Wales, you can marry your stepmother or stepfather, as long as you are at least 21 years of age and you have not lived with your step-relative until the age of eighteen. Of course, it is superfluous to mention that your stepparent should be a divorced person. Because polygamy is definitely illegal.

I quote: “A marriage solemnized after the commencement of this Act between a man and a woman who is the daughter or grand-daughter of a former spouse of his (whether the former spouse is living or not) or who is the former spouse of his father or grandfather (whether his father or grandfather is living or not) shall not be void by reason only of that relationship if:

  •  both the parties have attained the age of twenty-one at the time of the marriage and 
  • the younger party has not at any time before attaining the age of eighteen been a child of the family in relation to the other party.

Thus, if your step-mother or step-father raised you as a child, then the answer is No, you cannot marry your stepmother or stepfather. 

If, on the other hand, you meet the criteria, the morality of this situation is really the issue here. 

When children fall in love with parents

During childhood, certain emotional attitudes towards parents may correspond to the so-called Oedipus and Electra complexes, common in the stage of affective development of children.

It may sound crazy, but it is real: we can fall in love and have a sexual attraction to our parents. They are the Oedipus and Electra complexes and they manifest themselves, above all, during childhood.

According to Greek mythology, the Delphic oracle had warned Laius, king of Thebes, that his own son would kill him. To avoid the prophecy, the king abandoned him to his fate. The boy was later found and adopted. Growing up, and without knowing who his father was, Oedipus killed him in a fight and fell in love with his mother.

The Oedipus complex presents itself from the child to the mother; the Electra complex, from the girl to the father. The explanation given by the science to this type of behaviour has to do with the identification that children have with the fatherly figure (in boys) and maternal figure (in girls). Imitation leads to feelings of admiration that can be mistaken for love.

Sigmund Freud went much further. He emphasized that certain behaviours promoted by these complexes could make the child want to maintain an incestuous sexual relationship with his parent of the opposite sex, coming to have parricidal ideas with the other, father or mother, in each case.

Parental responsibility

As it is a mere imitation of the parents’ behaviours, it is the responsibility of the parents to have a loving and sexual reference outside the parental limits. They should also help overcome the trauma caused by the child going through these complexes and be able to stop the feelings of hatred that may appear when love is not reciprocated.

As parents, you are 100% responsible for the well-being of your children, and if you detect these behaviours, it is best to go to a professional who guides you to support the child at this stage.

The father or mother who is in the opposite situation should not feel jealousy, it is a normal phase that will be overcome with patience. Parents should continue to act normally. This means that under no circumstances should they be bothered because the child shows rejection or annoyance.

It is not convenient that the figure that you idealize, be it your mom or dad, to always show up as the good guy. Parents must show that they are united in making or correcting rules.

Remember to parents that you are the adults and your children must feel your full support!

Oedipus complex in adults: symptoms, solution and consequences

There are people who fail to overcome this stage of development and become 30 years old or older and are stuck at that stage of their life. At this time, the Oedipus complex or syndrome becomes pathological and must be treated.

It is interesting to note that there is a variant of the Oedipus complex in women: the Electra complex. This was elaborated by Carl Gustav Jung and is also based on classical mythology and is defined as follows:

Adult women with an Electra complex are characterized by developing a strong bond with their father, similar to romantic attraction. These women have strong conflicts with their mothers, who are perceived as rivals.

Symptoms of the Oedipus complex in adults

When the adult man fails to overcome this normal stage of development and remains stagnant in it, a series of characteristic behavioural and psychological symptoms appear that identify them.

Some of the most common symptoms of Oedipus complex in adults are as follows:

  • Exaggerated closeness to the (step) mother (they see or talk to each other on the phone every day, they admire her in an exaggerated way, they put her as a priority above all, even before the wife or girlfriend)
  • Frequently asks for the (step) mother’s advice and consent to make his own decisions
  • Sometimes they may experience sexual impotence because the mother’s unconscious sexual desires are suppressed every time she experiences sexual arousal.
  • They are more likely to have partner relationships destined for failure.
  • They often fall in love with the impossible.
  • They may still be financially dependent on the (step) mother
  • They tend to change partners constantly since they fail to feel full. This occurs because it is very difficult for them to mix tenderness and love with sexual desire. In other words, they cannot see the wife as a partner and lover at the same time.
  • They show a great inability to form stable relationships
  • They tend to relate romantically to older people.
  • They may fear being intimately related to another person.

Consequences of not having overcome the Oedipus complex

The fact that an adult has not managed to overcome this stage in childhood or adolescence can bring with it a series of psychic repercussions that will be preventing him from leading a normal and satisfactory life. These repercussions affect you in one or more areas of your life and some of them can be described this way:

  • He will have serious difficulties to mature psychologically and develop his own character because it depends almost entirely on the mother’s opinion.
  • It will be more difficult for him to be self-sufficient by not becoming financially independent.
  • He will experience constant feelings of frustration due to his inability to maintain a stable relationship.
  • More likely to have partner conflicts
  • Difficulties in achieving your his life goals and objectives

All these situations are linked to suffering great emotional instability and lack of emotional, psychological and sexual maturity.

Oedipus complex in adults: solution and treatment

The Oedipus complex can be solved regardless of the age of the person. However, we must be aware that if it is deeply rooted it is not always so easy, but with enough motivation and will power it can be achieved. Some useful tips to deal with it, are those that we detail below:

Recognize the problem

The most important step to overcome it is for the adult who suffers from it to recognize that they have this problem. Why is it most important? Because you cannot wish to overcome something that is not recognized in itself. You must recognize and become aware of what is happening and how it is affecting your daily life as this is essential to find the motivation and the willpower to eliminate it.

Release the “privileges” of being a child

Surely there is a resistance to “grow” for fear of taking charge of her own life and taking responsibility for herself, which in this case the mother has never encouraged. However, now that you are an adult you are starting to do something to detach yourself from that role as a child and start making your own decisions. How to do it?

You can start by identifying what you really want no matter what your (step) mother thinks or says and carry it out, another very important question is to stop prioritizing it above all things, especially when romantic relationships are established where the couple happens to be a priority, moderate in terms of visits and phone calls, seek to be financially independent and above all not be afraid of not always obtaining their approval.

Remember that it is necessary to cut the cord of emotional and / or economic dependency and accept the game to become a mature and independent adult.

Go to a professional

If you notice that the problem is persistent, it is affecting you in one or more areas of your life, you feel that you cannot fight it alone and / or you would just like to receive external help to overcome it, it is necessary that you go to a psychologist to provide you with the tools you need to face it as well as to support you in this process.


In this article, we answered the following question: Can you marry your stepmother? We also talked about the possible reason for why a son would like to marry his (step) mother, namely we talked about the Oedipus complex in adults. 

If you want to marry your stepmother, and you met her after you were 18 years old, the law will allow you to marry her. However, if your stepmother was there almost all your life, we may be speaking about a psychological issue – The Oedipus complex in adults.

Hopefully, this article was of use to you. If you have any questions or comments on the subject, please let us know!

FAQ on Can you marry your stepmother?

Can you marry your stepmother UK?

In the UK you can marry your stepmother as long as you are at least 21 years of age and you have not lived with your step-relative until the age of eighteen.

Can a woman marry her dead husband’s brother?

Yes, a woman can marry her dead husband’s brother (that is her brother-in-law). The law does not prohibit it, since the partners are not blood-related.

Can step siblings get married UK?

In the UK, step-siblings can get married as long as they both are aged at least 21 years old and the younger member of the couple has not lived with their step-relative until the age of eighteen under the same roof.

Can you get married at 16 UK?

Yes, you can get married at 16 in the UK as long as you have consent parent. However, there is a catch. You do not need parental consent to mary at 16 in Scotland (as long as you have residence requirements). 

References – Marriage (Prohibited Degrees of Relationship) Act 1986   -FORBIDDEN MARRIAGE LAWS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM -Forbidden Marriages

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