I received an email recently from wife and mother who’d heard about my new book, "The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage," which helps women who are used to being in charge learn how to be better wives. Here’s what she had to say:
“I must confess you have described not only me but many women I interact with on a daily basis. I think as teachers we easily fall into this trap after hours of controlling a classroom. A memorable quote from my husband early on was, ‘Don’t talk to me like I’m one of your students.’”
It’s an all-too-common scenario that we rarely talk about. Many women, once they have children, go into mother mode and don’t come out. Somewhere along the line, they stop being, well, a wife, and start mothering their husbands instead.
It’s not usually intentional—sometimes it’s learned behavior: they’re mimicking what their own mothers did—but it’s never a good thing. Men hate to be told what to do. In fact, a man’s reaction to being told what to do by his wife is to do the exact opposite.
If that sounds childish, you’re right. It is. But if you stop mothering your husband, he’ll stop responding like a child.
Below are 3 tips to help you move out of mother mode and into wife mode:
1. Stop saying no. There are many ways a person can say no without using the word itself. I read an article online recently and one of the comments was from a wife who wrote this: “When my husband asks me where I want to eat, I always say, ‘somewhere good.’ And then reject every single one of his suggestions. I’m a delight.” That may be funny, but it’s exactly what you should not do. If you complain that your husband never takes the initiative, it may be because you’re always shooting down his ideas and plans. Try a one-week experiment where you decide not to argue with anything your husband says. Don’t say “no,” or “I want to do it this way,” or “I have a better idea,” or some combination therein. Just trust his judgment and say, “Okay. Sounds great.” You may find his ideas aren’t so bad after all. Isn’t that what you thought when you were dating him?
2. As often as possible, imagine you’ve just met your husband. Speaking of when you were dating your husband, I’d bet my life savings you saw all his good points and none of the bad. Or if you did see the bad, you chose to overlook it. It is true a long marriage will invariably highlight the ‘bad’ in both partners—the trick is not to dwell on it. When you were dating your husband, you probably doted on him and sang his praises. Then you married him, had his children, and something happened. You started noticing all his flaws and tried to fix them. You need to stop doing that. You need to accept him as he is, just as he accepts you.
3. Don’t nag. Ask your husband nicely to do something for you rather than complain he isn’t doing it. And don’t tell him when or how to do it either—just ask or state what you’d like him to do and leave it at that. It will get done. Not on your time table, perhaps, but it will get done. Men love to serve women! They want their wives to be happy. But in return, you have to be nice. You have to treat your husband like a partner, not a child. If you do, the rest will fall into place.
Suzanne Venker is the author of five books on marriage, feminism and gender politics. Her latest book is "The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage: HOW LOVE WORKS." Find her on Twitter@SuzanneVenker.