Although while reading this book, I often felt that not much was happening, retrospectively a lot of relationship-focused conflict occurred.
Paul is so attached to his mother that he cannot break off from her and form his own romantic relationships. He can never distance himself, like most young people at this age, and become an independent entity. He constantly faults both Miriam and Clara, each lacking some portion of what he needs. But then, is that truly their fault or Paul's own exceedingly high standards? Paul never attempts to work on the relationship. He never truly gives either of them a chance. He resigns, and believes they are just not enough, that no one could really measure up to his mother. In truth, it appears that his mother has claimed a piece of his heart that he is unwilling to part with, and thus makes him incomplete, unable to give his heart to another.
Paul does come off as a whiner. But then, what "momma's boy" doesn't? He constantly is laughing or making jokes, while internally he is dissatisfied.
The dynamic between Walter and Gertrude at the beginning of the book was absolutely engaging. Lawrence set the family scene perfectly, giving you the understanding as to how Paul grew up the way he did, close with his mother.
There isn't any real smut in this book; no apparent sexual relationship with his mother, and no true suggestions of it. Sure, you can interpret underlying emotions as such, but it's not that kind of book. This is a book about a young man trying to form a romantic relationship, and failing, because he just can't get over his mother.