Not Being His Mother

Ever feel like you are more mother than wife to the man you married? Do you hate it? For what it’s worth, he hates it too.

Man with dummy © Jason Salmon |

If both husbands and wives hate it, why is it so common? Many women would say their husband needs to grow up. For this post let, us assume that is true. Mothering a grown man will not help him grow up! This is a clear case of enabling. If you want him to grow up, let him suffer the consequences of not doing the things grown-ups do. By consequences, I do not mean you nagging or “punishing” him; I mean the natural consequences of not doing things. If the consequences bother him enough, he will change. If the consequences do not bother him, why should they bother you?

I realise the consequences of his choices can hit you. If he needs to grow up, he will gladly let you do things for him because you do not want to deal with the consequences. You have to decide how to deal with each issue. If you can tolerate the consequences of something, let it happen. If you cannot tolerate the consequences, do what you must. In these situations you can try to pass on the consequences – “I did not have time to [do something he wants] because I was [doing something he should have done].” Just be careful, this can easily become petty or vindictive, neither of which will help.

All this said, there is another issue. He may not care about certain things as much as you do because you are a woman and he is a man. The same could be true because of different personalities or differences in how you each grew up. I am not saying your perception is wrong, but neither is his perception wrong. I think a good deal of “mothering” done by wives is really about her having higher/different standards. Learn to see those for what they are, and deal with them accordingly.

Early on my wife tried to nudge some of my behaviour. In some places, I was happy to oblige her, in others not so much. After a while, she dropped much of what she had tried to change, along with any hint of mothering. Many times I have heard her say, “You’re a big boy, you can handle the consequences of what you say and do.” Often this is preceded by her observations about the situation. She is telling me what she thinks, and cautioning me, but she is also telling me to do what I think is best. I am most grateful she has taken this approach. By the way, being treated like an adult makes it far easier for me to incorporate her thoughts.

Finally, if you stop mothering him and he crashes and burns because of it, fight the urge to say, “I told you so”. Lovingly and humbly helping him will be far better for him and for your marriage.

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Image Credit: © Jason Salmon |

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