#newlywedproblems: How to Not Be His “Mom”
Written by Lindsay Ropella
When a girl gets engaged, there are three questions that are hands-down the most asked by family, friends, neighbors, Facebook stalkers, and sweet old ladies at the grocery store. They are as follows:
1. How did he ask you?!
2. Have you set a date?!
3. Can I see the ring?!
If you are engaged now or have been recently, you probably know what I mean. Everyone seems to focus on the dress, the reception location, the Pinterest ideas, and the excitement around planning, what will of course be, the party of the century. Which is perfectly normal – getting married and starting a life with someone is such an exciting time and it should be celebrated and gushed over.
But a year or two later after the question is popped and the wedding has finally come and gone, you actually have to live with that other person. And in many cases share a bathroom with a boy (eww). And figure out how to not burn the house down while making your third actual meal of the week. And learn your way around the habits and intricacies of a new family. And avoid putting on the “marriage 15.”
It’s a lot of work. It’s so worth it, but I think many people are surprised to find that making a marriage work is more difficult than picking the flowers for the centerpieces or deciding on which dress will be “the one.” I’ll be the first to confess to you that I definitely fit this bill. I figured that since Eric and I had been together for almost 10 years before we got married that it would be fairly easy for us, and the first year would just be one big honeymoon. For some very few couples this is the case, but we weren’t one of them.
So if your first few months of marriage haven’t been as sooth sailing as you’d hoped, or if you’re getting married soon and are just trying to get some insights and advice before you start on your own newlywed journey, then welcome to the series, #newlywedproblems.
Through this blog series I will be addressing many of the different issues newlyweds face in the first few months/year of marriage and some tips and tricks I’ve learned for how to cope with them. That being said, I would love for this to be an interactive series! These posts will just be one wife’s opinion on any given topic, so I’d love for all you other married ladies to give your thoughts, advice, and experiences in the comments as well!! I would love for this series to become a wealth of knowledge not just for brides-to-be, but for all of us!
So without further adieu, I bring you the first post in the #newlywedproblems series here on the blog…
Finding the Place Between Girlfriend and Mom
The first few weeks and months that Eric and I were married, I had a rough time making the switch from just “girlfriend” to “wife.” When I was just his girlfriend, if he was hungry he figured it out, if he was out of clean underwear – not my fault, if he wanted to get away for a guys’ weekend there was no checking with me first. But now that I was his “wife,” were these now things I had to worry about??
The first month or two I took over everything. I wanted to be that perfect little housewife and so I made his lunches, did all the laundry, pretty much single-handed kept our apartment clean, helped him pick out his clothes, packed his suitcase for him – I tried to be super-wife. Looking back now it’s actually pretty nauseating, but at the time I was just trying to find my place in our new life.
But I soon discovered that the problem was doing all this was actually making things worse. I was stressed out about all the stuff I was trying to get done, figuring out how to cook and wash boy clothes (harder than I was expecting), and suffocating my husband in the process. Turns out he actually wanted to help and me doing the whole, “no, it’s fine, I got it” thing was frustrating him. I was being a bit overbearing and acting more like his mother or caretaker than his wife – not a good look for a new bride. Pair that with the fact that I was so darn busy being the “perfect wife” that I hardly spent time with my husband, and you’ve got a recipe for a not-so-fun first few months of marriage.
I’m glad to say that we now have a much better balance, but it took a lot of communication and compromise to get to this point, and I know we still have a ways to go. But through our experience I learned a few things that I think may be helpful to other ladies going through the same thing and thought I’d share a few of them with you today.
1. It’s OK to share the load. It turns out that most guys are actually more than willing to help out – they just need to be asked. So don’t be afraid to split up household chores or take turns making dinner – you don’t have to be the mom and run the house, especially if you both work. If you are like me and still want to feel like you’re taking care of some of the stereotypical “wife duties” while working to find your couple dynamic, try this: You can still plan out dinner and focus on preparing the main dish, but have your husband make the side dishes and do any prep work for the main dish that you may need done. Have them come grocery shopping with you or have them pick up an ingredient or two you may need on the way home. And when it comes to laundry, I sort and wash everything (yes, I don’t trust Eric with washing and drying my clothes), but most of the time Eric will help me fold it and put it away, or just do it all on his own while I am starting dinner. The moral of all this? Allow your husband to help and don’t be afraid to ask (nicely) for it either.
2. Be an ear and a shoulder, not a pointed finger. Guys need to talk just like us girls do, but it takes a lot more for them to finally open up. One thing I’ve discovered that’s super important when communicating with your husband is to actually listen to their words. Guys aren’t like girls in the sense that there is a hidden message behind what they are saying. If they trust you enough to share their thoughts and emotions with you, then they will be honest with you. So listen to what they are actually saying and don’t spend your conversation with your husband trying to decipher what they want from you or what they really might be trying to express.
Husbands are just like wives in the sense that sometimes they just need someone to listen and go, “yea, that really sucks.” You don’t need to go into mama-bear mode and think they need advice, someone to intervene, or someone to fix the problem. Trust me, if they need your opinion they will make it known at the beginning of the conversation by saying something like, “how should I…” or “I need your help.” If they don’t use a phrase like that which clearly requires your feedback or action, then just provide an ear and support and not a pointed finger telling them what they should do.
One book that actually completely changed my entire understanding of men (not just husbands) and the way I relate to and communicate with them is “The Queen’s Code” by Alison Armstrong (amazon affiliate link for your convenience). If you have a kindle, you can download it from Amazon for under $10. I have to thank my aunt for recommending it to me because understanding how guys think and why they do what they do has really changed my entire thought process towards men.
3. Help support what’s on his plate, but don’t clear it. This has probably been the toughest one for me to figure out. When we were first married I went a little psycho. I was trying to be so helpful and take care of him that I ended up doing things for him that he could have easily done himself. Here I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off and he was on the couch watching TV (not because he’s lazy, but because I hadn’t left him with anything to do!). I ended up becoming resentful that I was feeling like the caretaker, and it was all my stupid doing! I had to find a balance of “being helpful” but not “enabling.” So now I realize that if it’s a tasks that needs to get done that is just for him, I need to let him do it. I can help, but I can’t take over and do it for him.
Examples? Now instead of packing his lunch for work, I will ask him what he wants in his lunches and make sure to pick up some easy lunch foods at the grocery store, but he packs his own lunches every night. I do all our laundry, but he has to put it in the hamper or in the laundry closet downstairs – I’m not going to go around gathering up all his dirty clothes. I help him with picking out outfits here and there if he has questions about what matches and goes together, but he does all his own packing. Now we have a much better balance and I still feel like I’m supporting him and he doesn’t feel smothered.
4. When in doubt, just ask. There are still plenty of times in our marriage when I won’t know how to approach a certain situation with my husband, or I won’t understand what he wants from me specifically. It’s in those times that I just need to ask him! I’m still working on it, but I have to remember that I have much better results when I clarify with him what he needs from me, instead of just assuming or guessing. Sometimes I feel silly saying, “Hey, so this is weird but, I’m not really sure what you want from me in this situation.” Or, “I’m not sure if this is something you want my help with or if you want to do it yourself.”
Just the other week we had a conversation about how he gets frustrated when he starts doing the dishes and I tell him to stop or try to take over. He’s trying to help and do something for our family, and when I don’t let him do that he gets annoyed. Sometimes it takes a few tries to understand what the other person wants, but trying to actually communicate your needs instead of making it a guessing game saves so much time and headache.
Remember, as much as we might sometimes joke about men being “the lesser sex,” we all know just how important our guys are to us. It’s crucial that they know how much we do appreciate them and respect them and trust them, just like we want them to show those same feelings toward us.
Do you have any specific topic ideas you’d like to see included in this series?! I’d love for you to leave your ideas in the comments below along with your own thoughts on this topic!