Your boyfriend is just so cute. You love his hair, his style, his handsome face. You don’t even mind splitting the bill or cleaning up after him because he is so great. Right?
What about a year from now, when he doesn’t even bother putting his dishes in the sink, because he knows you’re right there to rinse them out? Or in forty years’ time, when he doesn’t bother getting up for a nighttime pee and simply wets the bed? You’ve always had a clean and dry set of sheets for the next night!
The unfortunate reality is that in many heterosexual relationships, the wife becomes a mother to her husband and all of their shared children. Some husbands refuse to even microwave dinner, relying on their wives to take the meal out of the refrigerator and heat it up.
There are so many cultural contexts at play, including the persistent idea, held in most of the world, that a woman should take care of the children and the home. However, this idea is based on the idea that the man will at least be the household’s breadwinner, since women have historically been banned from the workplace. But now? Women are thriving in the workplace and are still burdened with all of the housework and child-rearing. So how can you ensure your boyfriend becomes a helpful partner and not a bigger, hairier child? Stop mothering him.
5 Steps to stop Mothering Your Boyfriend:
It may sound selfish, but a very real aspect of gauging your feelings about a relationship involves asking yourself how it benefits you.
Look at the big picture. Do you come home from work and feel that your partner is only working you even more? Maybe you enjoy feeling needed by your partner, but is he making any effort to make you feel appreciated in other ways? There are no right or wrong answers, but taking a moment to notice your feelings will help you find areas where you may be performing more physical or emotional labor than you anticipated.
Straight men are often told to bury their feelings, making it extremely vulnerable for them to ask for affection or help. We can accept this truth while also acknowledging that, as an adult, he should be able to take a certain amount of responsibility for himself.
Your partner should be able to maintain a semblance of hygiene, organization, and survival without you reminding him or doing it for him. You must also keep this in mind if your boyfriend struggles with executive dysfunction. It is okay for you to be his support and partner, but at some point, he should be willing to make an effort in managing his own upkeep.
Many people struggle with setting boundaries, particularly chronic people pleasers who have tied their self-worth to the approval of others. With this personality style, one tends to bypass setting expectations with their partners surrounding what one is willing to do versus not willing to do, usually out of a fear of abandonment. Society at large has also suggested that women take on certain chores without question. However, this does not have to be your experience.
Ideally, the conversation around boundaries and expectations will have happened early in the relationship so that each partner can get a fair idea of what they’ll be getting into. This conversation often doesn’t happen, as partners fear rocking the boat as the relationship develops.
The next best time to have a conversation around boundaries and expectations is when it starts to seem like an issue. Taking the garbage out doesn’t have to be grounds for breaking up, but if there has been resentment brewing over some time, it can very well be the relationship-ender. This is the danger in suppressing your feelings and emotions about chores and emotional labor- It builds toxic resentment.
Boundaries cannot control the other person’s behavior, but they can help them get a sense of how you’ll react in a certain situation. “Wipe your beard hair off the counter, it’s disgusting,” is a poor example of a boundary. This may be interpreted as a demand, which the other person can shrug off as your personal taste and a judgment upon them. They might also take offense to you calling the behavior disgusting, which builds toxic resentment on their end.
An easy way to formulate a boundary is to use “if-then” statements. Let’s reword our previous statement into a boundary: “If you don’t wipe your shaved beard hair off of the counter, then I won’t clean your sink and mirror. The beard hair freaks me out and it makes me not want to clean the bathroom.”
Notice how that boundary was clear, explained the reason behind making the request, and what will happen if the other person is unwilling to meet you where you’re at.
It might take your boyfriend some time to come around to your standards of living. If wash day comes around and he’s not used to separating his darks and his lights, it might take a few loads for him to remember how important it is to separate them. You might also find that, in order for your boyfriend to want to be helpful, certain tasks need to be accomplished his way.
For example, you may prefer to hand wash dishes while he prefers to use the dishwasher. If the dishes are clean at the end of the day, does it matter how it happened? You may have to make some compromises in service of a better-functioning relationship.
If your partner refuses to compromise or make an effort towards taking more responsibility in the relationship, you may have to show your partner that there are consequences to his actions.
Some women choose to go on strike, refusing to pick up their partner’s dirty clothes or cook meals. Others choose to outright break up with their boyfriends. The course of action you take is ultimately up to you. You do not have to maintain a relationship where your lover is more of a burden than a true partner.