One of the most inflammatory things a husband can say to his wife is, “That’s not how Mom did it.”
Let’s look at three areas in a marriage where it’s easy to fall into that mom-wife comparison trap.
In the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray Barone’s mother, Marie, constantly belittles her daughter-in-law’s cooking. Ray’s wife, Debra, isn’t the greatest cook, so instead of encouraging her, Ray often sneaks across the street to eat in his mom’s kitchen instead of his own.
Your wife may not be a gifted cook, but that’s no reason you should point out her flaws. Instead, encourage her to develop her strengths. Set the mom comparison aside and together agree on what works for you both, whether your wife does the cooking or you choose to share kitchen duties.
On the flip side, maybe your wife is a great cook, but she doesn’t prepare meals exactly as your mother did. There’s no harm in sharing recipes you like with your wife — but tread carefully and let her approach them in her 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 in there for a while.
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 in 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 your preference falls on the spectrum, you’re headed for the red zone if you compare your wife’s housekeeping style with your mom’s.
What if your mother wasn’t very concerned with housekeeping but your wife is, and this takes you out of your comfort zone? Or your mom’s home was a showplace, and you expect the same of a wife who doesn’t care to live in a museum?
You and your wife need to put your heads together, share your preferences and priorities (without comparison!), and figure out what works for you. Home needs to be a comfortable place for you both.
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 that must be approached delicately. If you and your wife come from different backgrounds or different families of origin, you may find it particularly challenging to agree on a parenting style. But it’s not uncommon for spouses from similar backgrounds to clash as well.
In this case, it’s especially important for husbands to filter their mothers’ opinions and well-intentioned advice. Accepting wise advice from an experienced older adult isn’t a bad thing, but you must discern what advice to take — and what to ignore.
If your mother exercises too much influence over your wife’s parenting, that’s a problem. It can also be a problem if you pressure your wife to create a parenting experience for your kids that is similar to what you grew up in.
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 Wives
Don’t pressure yourself into trying to please your husband by doing everything his mother did just as she did it. You are not her! Be secure in your 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 wants a wife, and your responsibility is to be just that.
Copyright © 2016 Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott and SYMBIS Assessment