Love & Sex
Do you sometimes joke that your husband has become one of your kids? Are you tired of picking up his socks, cooking his dinner and doing all the parenting on your own even though you both work? Are you simmering with so much resentment and anger that your sex life has gone? You're not his wife anymore, you've turned into his mother. And you're not alone - Mother (Lover) Syndrome is everywhere.
Mother (Lover) Syndrome is a widespread condition, which can affect anyone who is sharing a home together whether they are married or cohabiting, say relationship experts Sara Dimerman and JM Kearns, the authors of a new book published this month, How Can I Be Your Lover When I'm Too Busy Being Your Mother?
"Many women are overworked and overstressed because, in addition to having a money-earning job, they are doing most of the heavy lifting at home, including housework and child care. That isn't fair, and it isn't acceptable," explain the authors.
The idea for the book came to Dimerman after hearing the same complaints from hundreds of couples in her work as a therapist. "I was listening to the wife tell me about how resentful, angry and frustrated she was feeling about being the primary person at home responsible for the chores, the organising, the social coordinating, the scheduling of appointments, the child rearing, even though she was working just as many hours outside of the house as her spouse. Then, after hearing how they hadn't had sex for years, the epiphany swept over me and I turned to the wife and said: 'How can you be his lover when you're too busy being his mother?'"
"The feeling of being a mother instead of a lover to one's husband is, I believe, at the crux of why so many women are angry and resentful and why so many couples are dissatisfied in their marriages," she writes.
But it wasn't always this way. In the early days when you were dating, he dressed nicely, organised weekends away, his apartment was clean and he could even cook, they write. But when you got married he seemed to do less and you do more. "After a while you find you're picking up after him. Organising his life. Doing more than your share of housework. Way more. Worst of all, you have turned into a nag, something you said you'd never be! You even find yourself trying to stop him from doing jobs he might mess up. Where you used to want him to take care of the kids, now you hardly trust him to take them on an outing. Because he behaves too much like one of them."
As a mother to your man you are likely to be exhausted wearing what the authors call five 'hats' - cleaning lady, cook, manager (and "responsible" one), appearance and etiquette coach and child rearer. There's also another downside. When a woman finds herself being a mother to her husband or boyfriend, the tables are turned, and intimacy evaporates. "He feels like he's been demoted to a child. This is in direct conflict with the relationship they probably started out with when they first fell in love, when they were dating," says Kearns.
But it's never too late to turn things around and start being lovers again. First of all you need to start by clearing the air emotionally and begin being friendly to each other. Then comes the tricky part, you need to stop being angry, give up trying to control everything and let him do things his way, stop nagging, appeal to the best in him by asking him to take over some important responsibilities, seeking his advice on some major things and by praising and complimenting him.
Once you are on better terms you can tackle the book's Questionnaire That Will Set You Free, a handy checklist of all the household tasks, with columns for who should do what and how frequently. Child rearing is the task that requires the most work and usually requires more sharing, say the authors so they suggest dividing up the workload by detailing each task. Everything from waking the children up in the morning, making school lunches, doing homework with the children, getting the children to and from school, getting the children to and from extracurricular activities and, say the authors, even conversing with the children and listening to them, are parental responsibilities that need to be shared out.
You'll end up with a lengthy list to work from, which may be a surprise in itself. "What has been the most shocking for people and men in particular has been how extensive that list is. They hadn't realised all the details that are required to run a house; I think that is quite an epiphany for many people," says Kearns. "It is a wake-up call and any fair-minded guy is going to look at this list and say: 'OK, I need to do more, let's figure this out.'"
Dimerman and Kearns give advice on how to negotiate a fairer deal with the goal that each person feels like the other is pulling their weight. It could even prove to be an aphrodisiac. "There is research that says when women find their husbands doing more of the work around the house it actually improves their sex life, they find their men sexier," says Kearns.
When a couple acknowledges Mother (Lover) Syndrome they are likely to feel relieved, according to the authors. "You will be able to change the dynamic between you so that you can go back to living the life you had envisioned when you first fell in love."
The authors believe How Can I Be Your Lover When I'm Too Busy Being Your Mother will help many couples in trouble and they would like to point out, is not an attack on men. "This is a book about hope. It is an optimistic book. Even though I know statistically that there are so many marriages that end in divorce today, I feel very strongly that if couples who are caught up in this mother syndrome are able to acknowledge and deal with it, then their marriages can be saved," says Dimerman.
-Sydney Morning Herald
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