What you need to know:
- Mothering a man takes many forms. The most common one is shouldering all the financial responsibilities even when your partner is fully capable of contributing.
- Mothering may also stem from a woman’s own quest for perfection and control.
- If you treat him like an adult and expect him to behave like one he will show you that he is independent and self-sufficient.
You must have met some of those couples that make you cringe when they call each other Mommy and Daddy even when their children are not around. “It’s because of the kids,” they will tell you. There are these couples, then there are those who take it a few notches higher. Women who take on the role of mother to their partners.
Take Susan Ogecha, for instance. She was 28 when she met Albert five years ago. He seemed well-adjusted. She had just come out of a bad relationship and she was raising her daughter on her own.
“He seemed genuinely concerned about my daughter and I thought I had stumbled on something rare and I had to hold onto him. During those early stages of our relationship, I did everything I could to meet all his needs,” she says.
Like Susan, many women start off with good intentions. Over time, a man stops doing things for himself and that is when she realises that her relationship isn’t what she wants.
When Christine moved in together with him a year after meeting him, he quit his job citing a toxic work environment. She took care of all his financial needs for the two-year stretch that he remained jobless. What irked her was the fact that he didn’t seem keen on getting another source of income.
“I was the one that filled in and sent all his job applications until he finally got a job. My joy and relief was short-lived after I realised that he wasn’t willing to chip in. He won’t even buy himself clothes if I don’t buy for him. I feel trapped and I hate that I’m to blame that he turned this way,” she says.
Mothering a man takes many forms. The most common one is shouldering all the financial responsibilities even when your partner is fully capable of contributing.
Other times, the woman takes over his physical care treating him the way one would a little child.
“I choose the clothes he wears, I pack all his lunches to take to work, scrub his back in the bathroom sometimes, make sure he has taken his supplements and if I do not make a fuss, he will not touch his vegetables,” Tess, a 32-year-old mother of two brags about how she treats her husband.
“He enjoys the attention,” she is convinced.
Other times, a woman will continually condone a man’s unpleasant behaviour and even make excuses for it to third parties. She may take to constantly rescuing him from the aftermath of his wrong decisions. A mothering woman will enable her man’s addictions like drugs or alcohol instead of supporting him while he works through his problems.
Everybody enjoys feeling cared for and this is perfectly natural. Trouble starts when this compassion or empathy goes overboard.
In her book Blues to Bliss: Creating your happily ever after in the Early Marriage Years, author Ngina Otiende writes that this mothering tendency often stems from a woman's fear of rejection. She may take to doing everything for her partner while subconsciously hoping that she will become indispensable to him; she seeks a sense of security from wanting to feel needed.
And then of course there is the societal pressure for a woman to be the ‘ultimate woman’.
Mothering may also stem from a woman’s own quest for perfection and control. By running her man’s life, she gets to have things done just the way she wishes and she feels in control.
While a man may not complain about it and some may even enjoy it, experts maintain that when it comes to romantic relationships, the mother-son relation is an unhealthy foundation. According to Frederick Kiragu, a Nairobi based counselling psychologist, doing everything for your love interest creates co-dependency. He will need help to get along while you will begin needing to feel needed.
“Continually mothering him will drive him into acting like a child and with time this will begin to annoy you and resent him as you feel used,” Fay Mutua, 34, says.
Fay mothering tendencies, she says, were her biggest source of conflict in her last relationship. Since she was the one doing everything in the relationship, she felt in control of things and wanted her boyfriend to do things her way. The man on the other hand resisted her attempts to run his life.
“The more I pushed him to do something, the greater the chances that he wouldn’t do it,’ she recalls. “He would even call me ‘Mom’ and we didn’t even have children. This just killed the passion,” she says.
The way forward
Fay’s relationship survived her mothering tendencies but later ended for other reasons.
“The first step in coming out of this trap is accepting that your relationship is unbalanced and that both of you are responsible for this,” she advises.
She says that they spoke honestly about it and agreed that they had a problem of imbalance in the relationship. Next, they agreed on the responsibilities that either of them would shoulder.
“If you treat him like an adult and expect him to behave like one he will show you that he is independent and self-sufficient. Changing your conversation style would be a good place to begin this change,” she says.
Signs that you mommy your man
- He says you do. Pay attention when he tells you to quit treating him like a child.
- You speak to him as if you were speaking to a child.
- You strongly feel that he cannot do things without you.
- You are constantly giving him unnecessary reminders about what he ought to be doing and when.
- You shoulder all the responsibilities and seem to make all the decisions in your relationship.