Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Who's That Woman You're Living With? Filling the Right Role Is Crucial to Having a Great Relationship and Marriage!

Are you living with a lover or a mother? Women are often very naturally nurturing, but there are different mechanisms that make them do it. Attraction is a great one, because it creates the honeymoon atmosphere. Maternal drive, however, is a bad one; can trigger maternal drive in any woman, even those younger than you, and in case you haven’t already seen it, you won’t like the results, especially in your bedroom.

While on the subject of how motherly behavior and relationships can impact your relationship with your partner, we’re going to look at a man and woman who are married, but fell into a functional “mother-and-son” relationship, which can lead to affairs and divorce for reasons that will become obvious as you read.

I was recently on a road trip and visited some extended family where I grew up, and as is usually the case when visiting people you haven’t seen in a long time but have known most of your life, it was really fun and interesting. As luck would have it, I caught one of my old high school buddies at home, and it was a study in “what not to let happen in your house.”

I went in and sat down, and we were talking, and his wife, whom I’d never met, kept bustling about, straightening things around where he was sitting, interrupting him to offer him things, etc., and arguing with him when he would refuse something. As we got into dinner, when he wanted something, she would portion it out and put It on his plate, was constantly getting up to get things for him, and all the while making little remarks about how he needed this or should have that or was making a mess. She even whacked him with a rolled up newspaper for tracking mud on the floor when he came in and scolded him like a child, right there in front of me! (He was just short of his forty-seventh birthday at the time of this visit!)

Everything in her demeanor was as if she was talking to a young “grab-asstic” boy who had to be told to use soap when he washed his hands. She wasn’t just smothering him; she was MOTHERING him.

The difference is subtle, but significant. When a woman engages in mothering, she is defining and asserting authority, and it’s one of the few roles in which she is completely comfortable making unilateral decisions and universal rules on every conceivable level. This is great if the object of mothering is a child, but a man to whom she is married and shares four children and a mortgage with? Hardly! If she’s defining and exercising that kind of authority and seeing him as a child figure, there is no respect, and no adult – especially sexual – interaction, and attraction cannot form because the man is in an inferior position – that of a child no less!

After dinner we went outside with a couple of beers and I asked him how things were going. He said, “Well, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve got her wrapped around my little finger. She does everything for me. I don’t have to do anything but go to work and come home and she takes care of everything else.” As you can imagine, I’m hearing alarms going off everywhere and seeing a red flag about the size of Texas waving, and asked, “What about at night, after the kids are in bed?” I knew all too well what was coming.

“Well, that’s not going real well. She’s always been so busy with the kids and taking care of everything around here that she’s just got no interest in it any more. I guess she’s just tired.”

He and I have always been brotherly in our friendship and had the kind of relationship where we could say anything to each other without starting a fight, no matter how personal it was. I said to him, “Really? Last time I saw you, you were pinching your girlfriend on the butt and winking at her, and the absolute cock-of-the-walk, and saying you were having sex more than once a day. I just saw your wife whack you with a rolled up newspaper and scold you in the same tone she scolded your nine-year old for putting his elbows on the table at dinner and acting like she’s wearing the pants in the family. Do you think there might be a connection?”

He asked me if I thought there was a connection and what made me think there was, so I told him about all the research that went into “THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage” and we talked for a couple of hours about how their relationship had developed, the point at which he could remember changed behavior (which was, not surprisingly, when their first child got to be a handful at the age of two and he really didn’t know what to do about it, having been the youngest child in his own family, and she took charge of the child-rearing), and a lot of other things about their individual personalities, likes, dislikes, etc., and then we decided we were going to conduct an experiment.

We went in acting like a couple of college kids, and started picking at his wife, just giving her nine kinds of hell but in a very playful and cocky way, he much more than I. He took the lead role and I was just acting like I was going along with the gag because we were guys and it was his house.

She was annoyed with this sudden testosterone storm for all of about five minutes because we were being a little too loud and the kids were getting ready for bed and kept coming downstairs to see what the commotion was, but you could watch her expression change, then her attitude, then her posture and bearing, as she felt attraction starting to flood back in because he was acting as he had when they were dating and had continued to act until the “transition of power” that occurred after their first child was born. It was an incredible thing to watch, and I just kept egging him on and he kept busting on her, until finally he spotted the same rolled up newspaper she had whacked him with earlier and grabbed it and whacked her on the behind and said, “You’d better get up those stairs and quick, because after that great dinner you put on the table, I’m fancying dessert!”

Her jaw dropped, and she looked like a deer caught in the headlights as she finally realized what was going on. Then she smiled a little smirk of a smile and said, “Dessert’s here in the kitchen,” to which he replied, “Yes it is, and if it doesn’t get its ass up those stairs and into that bedroom it’s gonna get whacked with the newspaper again,” and lunged toward her. She started giggling and took off for the stairs, stopped half-way up to taunt him again, and he winked at me and took off after her.

The next morning they were two different people. He was the guy I had grown up with and known for a long time, and she was very obviously once again his wife, and just as obviously, mother only to his kids. I spoke with him a couple weeks later and he said it was like it had been in the early days; she was still occasionally doing things out of habit that she did before, but instead of looking at him as a slacking teenager that couldn’t dress himself, she was looking at him with a twinkle in her eye and a smile, especially when he’d give her a playful hard time about it.

Not everyone will overcome this problem this quickly. I’m still amazed at watching several years of bad habits and attitude reverse over the course of a few hours, and as I said, there were a few relapses from time to time, but when they happened, this couple could laugh about them instead of being irritated by them or falling back into old habits because they liked having fun again. She likes being teased, and he’s very, VERY good at it; when she’d habitually relapse into mother mode, he’d even tease her about that.

What’s more, my buddy had learned what he needed to know about child-rearing over the years after the birth of their first, and was perfectly capable of being a strong father figure, but his wife had taken on that role too, at the time that she began mothering him. He simply had no idea that being a strong father-figure is required to keep his husband image attractive.

If this is happening in your relationship, it might take you hours to fix it, but it’s more likely to take a few days to a week or two to firmly re-establish old patterns of attractive behavior. It will take longer than that if there are any new patterns of behavior that need to be established because the attitude that creates that behavior must also be created so that the behavior is natural and comfortable, not forced. BUT, it’s fun, rewarding in more ways than one (wink!) and anyone can do it if they have only average intelligence and sufficient desire to improve to read a book and do as it suggests.

That book is called “THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage,” and it’s at http://www.makingherhappy.com/, waiting for you, to help you make your relationship the best that it can be. Jump on over there and download your copy now, because life is just too short to spend it unhappy, bored, frustrated, or living with your mother. While you’re at it, swing by our forum at http://forum.makingherhappy.com/, where help, hobbies, and friendship await you.

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Keeping Mothers (Your or Hers) from Wrecking Your Marriage or Relationship

A mother-in-law can be a wonderful ally or a destructive juggernaut, and unfortunately is even a significant factor in choosing a mate, as those who didn’t give the issue due consideration will now attest. What can you do to ensure that your mother-in-law – or hers – doesn’t wreck your marriage?

I’ve written several issues about interaction with your mother-in-law, and if you’ve not read them, now would be a good time to do so before advancing into this fairly delicate issue. See:

“Proper Care and Feeding of Your Mother-In-Law”:

“Your Wife’s Mother-in-Law and Your Marriage”:

Today’s issue is a touchy one, one that many couples deal with, and much to their chagrin I’m sure: the issue of a pushy, bossy, over-protective, and/or just plain busy-body mother of the wife. Don’t get me wrong; men’s mothers can be a pain in the neck, too, but wives’ mothers have a little more room to be obnoxious and we men often don’t have nearly enough appreciation for how much stress their influence can cause, nor that we can do something about it. To wit, meet Hillary:

Hi David,

My mother has dominated me in every part of my life since childhood, and won’t stop. I’m now forty years old, and she continues to be the same overbearing and over-protective woman she was when I was in pigtails. I can’t even discipline my own children or have a serious discussion with my husband without her trying to push her agenda to the exclusion of my own. She calls me several times each day and literally interrogates me about what’s going on with everyone in my family, what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, and anything else that might give her an opportunity to force her values, priorities, and opinions, which often differ from my own, on me and my family.

There have been times when I could overcome the childhood fear of having her mad at me, but most of the time she upsets me to the point where I am reduced to that same emotional wreck I was as a small child, giving in to everything she says to seek her approval. I know that I need help with this, and I’m in counseling, but it is proving to be a long, slow battle, because the counselor says that the way she treated me is genuine emotional abuse, and was traumatizing. I don’t necessarily believe that my mother meant to hurt me, but I do know that she meant to control me and she knew that she hurt me frequently.

I’m sharing this with you because my husband of 22 years, Dirk, still refuses to get involved in this, in spite of me begging him repeatedly to do so. I’m not yet strong enough to get her off of me and keep her off, and apparently he’s not either, or else he just doesn’t care. Every time we try to talk about it, he ends up yelling at me for being weak and unable to control my mother. I need more from him than to just tolerate my mother’s abuse and leave me on my own to handle this. I need him to intervene because he should be able to be strong enough to protect me from her or anybody else who tries to abuse me. Is that too much to ask?

I don’t know what to think. I can’t get him to talk to me about this enough to know whether he really thinks my weakness is disgusting or whether he’s making a big show of being mad at me to hide the fact that he’s also afraid of her. I’ve asked him to come to just one counseling session with me so my counselor could help me sort this out, and he just gets angry about me asking and complains about the money and time I spend to go to counseling. How can I make him understand what I’m going through and why I need him to help me? I’m at the end of my rope, and I can’t get my husband to start relieving some of this stress instead of adding to it, I’m going to have to do something that we’re all going to regret, because I can’t take any more of this.

Thanks so much,

Well Hillary, I’ll tell him for you. Have him read this, and hold an iron skillet in your hand aimed at his head when you suggest to him that he read it, just to make sure he understands the importance of the issue. ;-)

Dirk, and the rest of you, listen up. When there is a conflict between the woman in your life that even remotely involves you and is obviously not getting resolved, it’s your job and responsibility to step in and address your wife’s adversary directly, and it is imperative that you do so swiftly and firmly, but with an even hand. Why?

For starters, you’re built to fight and protect, and better suited for it, and doing so is part of what you offer in trade for the benefits of the nurturing nature of a woman – the marital contract, so to speak. It doesn’t matter if it’s your wife’s mother, your own mother, one of your daughters, somebody’s sister, or a busy-body friend who wants to stick their nose into family business; if somebody is stressing your wife to the point that she wants to talk to you about it, you need to offer to help, and if she comes out and asks you to help, you’re not a man if you don’t, let alone a husband.

Let’s clarify a thing or two before some of you get riled up and start sending nasty-grams. First, I am not implying that you should give your wife license to be a total screw-up and defend her stupidity. If she’s a substance abuser and her family is trying to talk her into straightening up, by all means you should be joining them, not protecting her from hearing the truth. That’s how you fulfill your responsibility to protect her life and well-being.

But if your mother-in-law (or your mother!) is trying to force her value system on your family as Hillary describes, or if your daughter is being an insufferable brat, or some single friend of your wife’s is relentlessly hassling her to leave her family at home and go out bar-hopping with her and won’t take “no” for an answer, some sister who has no children is trying to experience motherhood vicariously by trying to instruct your wife on how to raise your kids, or something like that, “it’s time for an intervention,” as the saying goes.

Also note that not all women will need help, and if you butt in when they are handling it they will resent your actions. You don’t need to ask permission, but you do need to verify that there is a need and that your assistance isn’t going to cause your wife to resent you for trying to help; one busy-body bullying their way into her life is more than enough without you becoming one as well. You also need to be fully informed about what’s going on and it never hurts to hear all sides of the story before drawing your sword and shield. Your objective is to be a hero protecting his wife, not a controlling bully. “Is there anything I can do to help?” will sound and be taken quite differently from “Do I need to handle this?”

Also be aware that women have been known to adhere to deceitful and abusive family members when it came down to a choice between them and their loving, supportive husband. Yes, that sounds crazy, but there is a sort of illogical logic behind it if you can follow it. An insecure woman, especially one with issues of not getting enough attention as a child or having been abandoned by one or both parents due to divorce or death, will see her family as her “fallback” position if something goes wrong with her marriage, even when there is nothing wrong with her marriage. When I have seen this in the past, it took a combination of a strong husband not giving in to the wife’s desire to seek the approval of her family and personal counseling to resolve the childhood issues that cause her insecurity.

This is all conditional, of course, on knowing that she really wants help for a real issue and it isn’t some sort of contrived drama-fest just looking for attention, which you will know by the nature of the issue in dispute; a mother trying to exert control over an adult child and your household is a far bigger deal than some girlfriend of hers having something snide to say about her choice in shoes. You’re not required to dive into “a tempest in a teapot” unless you’re just tired of listening to all the hoopla and are shutting it down for some peace and quiet. ;-)

Now for the good news, bad news element. If you do stand up and take the leadership role and tell whomever is making life hard for your wife that they will either stop or their contact with your wife will be stopped until they can behave themselves, one of two things will happen. If your wife wants your help in the matter, you will be seen as the strong, attractive knight in shining armor and you’ll quickly see her love, trust, and appreciation of you skyrocket, and her attraction switches will also be flipped on full power. You gotta love it when that happens…

However, if your wife is very emotionally damaged (provided that you have listened carefully and have appropriately stepped in to take appropriate action), she may in fact become enraged, defending those from whom you were protecting her! This is the worst of all possible scenarios, especially if she refuses to see that there is a problem, and is a sign that you in fact married the wrong woman, because she is too damaged or for some other reason just doesn’t choose to love you and be loyal to you as a wife should be to a husband, which is not one whit less than a husband should love and be loyal to his wife.

Unconditional love you say? Don’t get me started. If you think you can love someone and remain married and loyal to someone who does not love you and cannot remain loyal to you, then you deserve every ounce of pain you endure because of it. To love is to value. How can you value that which does not value you, disrespects you, and would act to steal or destroy your life? How can you remain loyal to that which would cheat you out of your life, or abuse you as you try to share your life? How can you even consider loving or remaining loyal to someone who has a reckless disregard for any life, especially theirs and yours?

There must be a condition for real love to exist: that it is offered in trade for your fair share of the same, otherwise you pour your life down the drain, offering it to those who would destroy it without regard for the fact that every second you give of your life is one that can never be recovered. Anyone who would have you believe otherwise is setting you up to steal a piece of you for himself or herself, just like those who would have you believe that money or the love of money is the root of all evil is looking to take your money from you for himself or herself. And no, that’s not my opinion, that’s the reality that surrounds us, and you ignore it at your own peril. If you want proof, all you need to do is open your eyes, but if you can’t see it, just ask.

So there it is, Gentlemen. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to be a man, protect your wife and family when necessary (all the way, and if you aren’t up to going all the way, I strongly suggest a trip to Front Sight Firearms Training Institute for at least a defensive handgun course, because when seconds count, the police are always just minutes away), and protect yourself in the process. That can be a tall order, especially if you don’t know how to communicate well with women, but if you do it right, with justice (the principle of getting exactly what one earns and therefore deserves, no more and no less) and reason as your sword and shield, your reward will be everything your wife can muster to love and nurture you. That’s a prize worth winning, for sure!

So how about it? Are you fit for duty? Do you have the communications skills, the understanding of women, and the “intestinal fortitude” to handle the job? If you do, I’m a bit curious as to why you are reading this, but if there is even the slightest question in your mind as to whether you could maneuver through this mine field successfully, including navigating through any possible aftermath, then you need to go to http://www.makingherhappy.com/ and download your copy of "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage" and go through Uncle David’s “boot camp in a book” before the situation arises. You can also join us at our forum, http://forum.makingherhappy.com/, as well, and tap the immense resources of minds who have already been where you are going and navigated safely through.

Or, if you really want, you can wait and try to learn how to do this when you’re already under fire and too stressed out to make good decisions. Do yourself a favor and do it now while you can do it the easy way; I’ve done it the hard way and in a nutshell, the hard way really sucks, more than you can imagine before you’ve lived through it.

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham