Getting married is wonderful, but newlywed life can be a tricky business, especially when it comes to unpacking the expectations husbands and wives have for one another from day one. Often, husbands and wives don’t really know what they’ve signed up for.
When expectations collide with reality, things can get messy. Today, we’ll talk about one of the most common comparisons, and the unrealistic expectations that come with it: husbands comparing their wives to their mothers.
One of the most inflammatory things a husband can say to his wife is, “That’s not how Mom did it.” Let’s look into some common areas of the mom-wife comparison trap.
If you’re familiar with the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Ray Barone’s mother is forever belittling her daughter-in-law’s cooking. Ray’s wife, Debra, isn’t the greatest cook, but her husband offers her little encouragement. Instead, he often sneaks across the street to eat in his mom’s kitchen instead of his own.
Not every woman is a gifted cook, but that’s no reason for her husband to point out her flaws and behave in a discouraging way. Instead, he should encourage her to develop her strengths. With the mom comparison set aside, husband and wife can reach an agreement that works for them, whether the wife does the cooking or they choose to share kitchen duties.
On the flip-side, maybe a wife is a great cook–but she just doesn’t prepare meals exactly like her mother-in-law did. Maybe her style just isn’t what her husband is used to. There’s no harm in him sharing recipes he likes with his wife, but he should tread carefully and let her approach them in her own way.
Husbands: no matter what, never say, “You’ll never be able to cook like my mother.” It’s a short walk to the doghouse, but you’ll be there for a while.
Some wives are impeccable housekeepers. Their homes are stylish, spotless sanctuaries, worthy of gracing a magazine cover. Other wives may not place as much emphasis on this aspect of home life. Wherever his preference falls on the spectrum, a husband is headed for the red zone if he compares his wife’s housekeeping style with his mom’s.
Perhaps his mother wasn’t very concerned with housekeeping, but his wife is–and he might attempt to lower her standards to match his previous comfort level. Or maybe his mom’s home was a showplace, and he expects the same of his wife who, consequently, doesn’t care to live in a museum.
Instead of digging their heels in, husbands and wives can put their heads together, share their preferences and priorities (without comparison!), and come to a healthy agreement that works for them. Home can be a comfortable place for everyone.
Husbands: if you point out your wife’s perceived failings as a housekeeper, don’t be surprised if she hands you a mop.
Raising kids is a hot topic, and it must be approached delicately. Husbands and wives from different backgrounds or very different families of origin might find it particularly challenging to agree on a parenting style that works for them. But it’s not uncommon for spouses from very similar backgrounds to clash, as well.
In this case, it’s especially important for husbands to filter their mothers’ shared opinions and well-intentioned advice. Accepting wise advice from an experienced older adult isn’t a bad thing, but spouses must discern what advice they need to take, and what advice to ignore.
If a husband’s mother is exercising too much influence over his wife’s parenting, that’s a problem. It can also be problematic for a husband to pressure his wife into creating a parenting experience for their kids that’s similar to what he grew up in–instead of working together to form their own parenting philosophy.
Husbands: let your wife do her job as your kids’ mother, and do your job as their father. Your mom is their grandmother, not their mom–so let her rock that role.
A WORD TO THE WIVES
Don’t pressure yourself into trying to please your husband by doing everything his mother did, just like she did it. You are not her! Be secure in your own identity, strengths, talents, and even weaknesses.
Your husband likely wasn’t looking for a clone of his mother to marry–even if he did bring expectations and comparisons from his childhood into your marriage. He wanted a wife, and your responsibility is to be just that.
Men, when you married, how much did you expect your wife to be like your mom? Ladies, how did you respond to the expectation? Where are you now? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.