3 Ways to Avoid Becoming Your Boyfriend’s Mother

Like a good old mother, I will say this with a necessary dose of tough love.

The reason your boyfriend is clutching onto you like a babe on a tit isn’t just because he has mommy issues. It’s because you have them too.

You probably think you are being tough and assertive, and holding your own, but if he keeps coming back for more mothering, you’re going to have to do some self-reflecting as well.

There are too many people who identify as women that still inherently believe (without consciously realizing it) that their job is to serve. They often do it without even noticing it, because it’s been so deeply engrained in a faraway land in their brain.

So despite all of their bold feminist statements, they often still serve the men they choose to love.

It’s not your fault if you do. No one is wrong, and no one is right. Most of us have been there, myself included. So here is my invitation to you, girlfriend of a man and not a baby son: stop and reflect before accidentally mothering.

1. Stop wanting to be useful and needed

Yes, I know that it sounds altruistic and desirable. But try not to conflate your desires with the desires of others. That’s how we got into this mess in the first place.

The biological structure of a female is designed to accommodate a human, as well as to nurture them. While this may be at the root of why women are socialized to be caregivers, it shouldn’t justify why they are socialized to “serve and acquiesce”.

Several women around the world still believe that their ultimate function is to be of use to others.

“We must give, not take, or we only earn the right to take, to receive, if we’ve given enough, and so we constantly feel inadequate because we are taught that it’s our job … to be good and to be appeasing” — Natalie Lue

So in our best efforts to be worthy of love (or to earn it), we seek to help others — our partner being no exception to this. The worst part is, often when we try to help, we deprive them of helping themselves. We even deprive them of helping us. So our honest efforts end up completely backfiring.

Try not to conflate your desires with the desires of others

What you can do instead:

  • Listen to their struggles and needs without feeling responsible for them. You can’t save them, and if that’s what they are looking for, they should contact Marvel and buy themselves a superwoman.

  • Every time you consider what he needs from you or how you can be useful, consider what you need and what you would find useful. There needs to be a balance between the two.

  • Remind yourself that his love for you is not based on how much or how well you serve him. You both earn each other’s love by being yourselves and growing together. Not by satisfying each other’s petty needs or by being useful.

2. Stop being a control freak

It must be said, even if it’s not something you want to hear. When you enjoy having things organized, cleaned, planned, or done in such an inflexibly particular way, you are not helping yourself on the mothering front.

This does not mean that you should accept living in a hot mess or anything akin to a frat house/dorm room kind of existence. It just means that if you are going to go over every little thing he does because it doesn’t meet your optimal standards, you are not setting yourself up for greatness.

Why would he (or anyone) bother to do things right, or at all for that matter, if he knows that you’re just going to do it all anyway? So make sure your actions are consistent with your complaint so that you don’t end up sending a mixed message:

“Your best efforts suck.”

“You’re wasting your time because I will do it anyway.”

“Why don’t you help me more? I’m not your mother!”

What you can do instead:

  • Be flexible about your standards and have that tough conversation about what each person’s standards are. If there is a huge discrepancy, this will be a tricky obstacle to overcome, but there is peace in a comfortable compromise.

  • If actions speak louder than words then be coherent. Don’t complain about something and then do it anyway. And if you feel like you are just tired of asking and nagging, then maybe it’s time for a more serious conversation about respect and expectations.

  • Don’t just point out what needs to be done, or what’s been done poorly. If you didn’t like it when you’re mother did that to you, don’t keep the trend going. Balance the criticism out with some love too.

3. Stop thinking you are more independent than him

This one is a very large pill to swallow. Many women pride themselves in that they are more independent than men. That they aren’t as dependent and can do things on their own because they always had to. Or were raised to.

Well, as much as that all sounds empowering, it’s also part of the problem. The lower we set our expectations for anyone, the less prepared they will be to exceed them. And also, it sets you up for an unbalanced relationship dynamic.

If you are taking the power position by assuming you’re just more independent, you are also accepting that he be less powerful and therefore dependent on you.

If mothers don’t teach boys how to be independent because they do everything for them and helplessly coddle them, then their girlfriends continue the cycle by believing men are just more dependent than girls, no one is pushing that guy to be more independent.

Teaching boys to be financially independent isn’t enough. All people of all genders should be taught to be financially, emotionally, and practically independent. They should also be taught that asking and needing help is not only okay, but it is also necessary.

What you can do instead:

  • You cannot be empowered if that means someone else has less power than you. Instead of accepting that you are more independent than him, help him to be more independent too.

  • Don’t accept a norm if you don’t like it; change it. If either of you is uncomfortable with this dichotomy, then it’s time to challenge that norm.

  • Don’t be a martyr. If you feel burdened by his emotional dependency then tell him. If you feel burdened by his lack of initiative to do things, tell him. Being open about your needs doesn’t make you less independent or capable. It makes you honest, and hopefully, happier.

Final tip

Bottom line is, if you don’t want to be your boyfriend’s mother, then stop trying to mother him. I know you mean well. Many of us learned to love from our mothers, and so oftentimes, we mimic the actions we were shown or wished for.

So whether it be your own personal experience, society’s expectations of women, your cultural or religious background, or a complex combination of many factors, acknowledge how you may be propagating the mothering too.

It always takes two to tango, and a dynamic is always created between two people. Blaming the guy for being a mamma’s boy isn’t helpful to you or to him. Talking and reflecting about it is though.

Maria Garcia

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