Do You Mother Your S.O.?

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Women are born with the amazing ability to nurture – we have the power to give life to this world, and whether we choose (or have the ability) to have children or not, that nurturing instinct is always within us.

And because of this blessed gift, we can endure immense pain and trauma during childbirth. We can breastfeed during all hours of the night, losing sleep and not caring about anything for the sake of the child. We would even step in front of a moving train to save our child – our mothering instinct is powerful and unexplainable.

But too often our mothering instinct bleeds over into a romantic relationship – and this can get us into serious trouble.

To put it bluntly, your boyfriend or husband is not your child.

He is your partner. You are to give to him equally what he gives to you. He should earn your trust and love and likewise, you should earn his.

In the beginning of the relationship, however, it is so tempting to mother your man because you may find great purpose and value in that. And if your man has any kind of childhood issues with his own mother, he is going to seek an unhealthy form of mothering from you.

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Here’s why this is a slippery slope:

When a man requires mothering, he is unable to give you anything substantial. He may often take and take, and feels like he is entitled to receive nurturing because he didn’t receive enough when he was young. Because it is your instinctive nature to give without requiring reciprocity (remember, you would literally die for your own child), the relationship becomes critically misaligned, and you lose out, big time.

As the relationship ages and matures, you are so used to mothering your husband that requiring anything from him feels like mommy-guilt – how could a mother demand anything from her child? Or worse, when you actually want to leave him, it feels like you are abandoning your own child – and that goes against your very moral code of mothering.

If you are someone who over-mothers –

Think about your own childhood. Perhaps you didn’t get unconditional love from your own mother or father. You craved mothering and promised that you would never abandon anyone the way you were abandoned. Or perhaps you never had children, and that instinct is an untapped barrel of mommy-ness and it overflows into every relationship – romantic or not. Regardless, you find deep satisfaction and comfort when you mother.

But here’s where it gets really unfair – a man who likes to be mothered and receives mothering from you, will actually resent you or lose attraction towards you. After all, who wants to have sex with his mother? He may need you at first, but like a child who grows up and no longer needs his mother, he will eventually discard you – and that could be emotionally, physically, or both. Conversely, maybe you are no longer attracted to him because you now recognize you need a man as a lover, not a child.

If you are single, it’s time for you to be acutely aware of this mothering instinct and harness it while you are dating. It’s one thing to be nurturing when he is sick, but another to take care of his every need and stop what you are doing just to pay attention to him. You are also not his therapist or his caretaker. Any man who looks to you for incessant problem solving is NOT a man who will give to you. That is a red flag and move on from him!

But if you are married and have spent years of mothering and now wonder, “For once, when will he take care of ME?”  or wonder how you will ever leave him because he can’t take care of himself, it’s time you have clarity on what it is that you require and not what you continue to give.

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Single or married, ask yourself what you deserve.

You are allowed to be a woman and an adult in a relationship. You don’t have to be his/her mother. Mothering is exhausting, self-less work, and unnecessary unless there is an actual child involved!

Try this for once: mother yourself. Take care of you. Pamper your every need. Teach yourself the life lessons you would teach a child. As women, we so often miss this crucial step.

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Lindsey is a relationship coach and founder of Start Over. Find Happiness, a coaching practice that helps women navigate through their divorce or break up, and begin a new life they truly love. She offers guidance through her blog and podcast, as well as an online course called THRIVE, that gives support and tools to help women find happiness (and new love) after divorce. 

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