Keris Stainton‘s weekly column on married life…
My husband is 37 this weekend. He left home aged 18. We’ve been married for almost 12 years and together for 13. The point of this numerical summary is simply to highlight the fact that, although he’s lived away from home for longer than he lived *at* home and that he’s lived with me for almost as long as he lived with his family … he persists in thinking I’m his mother.
Of course, as I’m sure the majority of women reading this know – because I am confident David and I are not alone in this – it’s a vicious circle. Whether it is because women are (allegedly) natural nurturers or (even more allegedly) natural naggers, when a man treats you like his mother, it’s difficult to resist acting like it. And this presents a number of problems.
I’ll stop generalising now, since the only research I’ve done on this topic is amongst my friends (although they all, and I mean all, have the same problem). So. David treats me like his mother. I respond by treating him like a child. He resents this and rebels against me. I question why I ever married such an immature doofus and try to think of ways to metaphorically beat it out of him (and don’t think I haven’t considered literally beating it out of him, but thankfully I’ve never actually gone that route).
I did once reduce a friend to helpless laughter when I rang her after David had lied to me about going to a football match (he’d told me it was a home match, it was actually 100-odd miles away; I found out when I checked the result on Teletext and actually thought the TV had got it wrong!) and asked if she could suggest an acceptable punishment. She thought the idea of punishing your husband was ridiculous, but why? I mean, I’ve seen Supernanny. If he’s going to act like an overgrown toddler, why can’t I give him a time out? Actually, perhaps the adult marital equivalent of a time out is a freeze out, a ban on marital relations. Hmm?
Which leads me to another issue. Men tend not to fancy their mothers (and, frankly, would you really want to be with a man who did?), so by treating your wife like your mother (which most likely means she’ll end up acting like it – keep up!), you’re actually creating a really dodgy dynamic, which will almost inevitably result in, yes, a freeze out.
If you’ve read this far in the hope of some advice about how to actually put a stop to this, you’re out of luck, I’m afraid. If you know the way out of it, I would love to hear it. I mean, I’ve seen enough Dr Phil to know that one of us needs to opt out of this pattern and I know enough about men and marriage to know it’s going to have to be me. But how? In the meantime, if you know of a good punishment…