Valentine’s Day may be officially over, but nurturing loving relationships should be something we think about all year long. Yes, I know this blog is about motherhood and not relationships, but if there’s anything that affects our mothering on a daily basis, it’s how we get along with our spouse. When we feel happy and confident in our marriage relationship, it runs over into all the other aspects of our life. And when our children know their parents have a solid relationship, it gives them both a sense of security and a model for their own future relationships.
Unfortunately, some of you reading this have already experienced the pain of divorce, and I certainly don’t want to be the one to rub salt in an open wound. The truth is, I’ve been impressed with the ability and determination of some of my divorced friends to have a good relationship with their exes for the sake of providing that sense of security for their children. They are succeeding! So whether you’re married or divorced, I hope there is something in this post that rings true for you.
Speaking of tough relationships, having a good one really is a two-way street, isn’t it? But because the only person under our control is the one looking back at us from the mirror, I’d like to offer a top 10 list of things not to do if we want to keep that loving feeling all year long and not just on Valentine’s Day. (Warning: This list is not for the easily offended.)
- Nag and criticize. Your man loves to be “mom-ed” by his wife, especially with a lengthy Honey-Do list to keep him busy over the weekend. And when he doesn’t do things exactly as you’d like, be sure to point out his mistakes by explaining the “right” way in a condescending tone of voice. (Why doesn’t he get it? It’s so obvious!)
- Whine and complain. If you are a stay-at-home mom, let him know how difficult it is to make ends meet and get things done because of his inability to make enough money or be at home to help you out. If you work outside the home, be sure to gripe about how tough it is to manage work and family, and make him feel responsible to solve all your problems. (He’ll totally love that.)
- Use lots of sarcasm. Roll your eyes and use the word “duh” a lot. Make him feel small by ripping on him with your “sense of humor” and act surprised when he gets offended. You’re just joking, after all. Why does he have to be so hypersensitive?
- Let yourself go. He married you for better or for worse, didn’t he? He should love you for who you are on the inside, not your physical appearance. The pressure to make yourself as attractive as possible for him is not just shallow, it’s demeaning. I mean, you don’t care what he looks like on the outside. (Right?)
- Withhold love and appreciation. If he doesn’t regularly shower you with love and appreciation, why should you be the one to get the ball rolling? Doesn’t he see all that you do to keep home and family running smoothly? You are the one who deserves a little love around here! Two can play at this game.
- Expect him to read your mind. And when he doesn’t, punish him with a little silent treatment. You’re married, for crying out loud! He should know you well enough to be able to anticipate your moods and needs (despite his own moods and needs). A woman’s feelings should always come first in a relationship, and it would be nice if you didn’t have to spell things out for him every single time.
- Belittle him in private and in public. Give the girls a good laugh with a story about his latest bungle, and make a point of letting everyone know who wears the pants in the family. When you’re at a work party or out to dinner with friends, be sure to make jokes at his expense or make faces when he says something lame.
- Be quick to jump down his throat. You don’t need to ask questions, wait for reasonable explanations,or dispense mercy. React quickly and emotionally, and go in for the the kill. (He can clean up the mess later.)
- Spend more time with the kids, your mom, your sisters and your friends than you do with him. The kids obviously need you, and what mom doesn’t need a little girl time after all that work with the kids? Besides, he’s got ESPN to keep him happy. Boys will boys, and girls just want to have fun!
- Forget all the reasons you fell in love with him in the first place. Just focus on the things that bug you in the present. Now that the honeymoon is over and you are “old” married parents, forget about how he makes you laugh, how much you admire his work ethic, his cute smile, what a great dad he is . . . (Hey! Maybe he’s not so bad after all!)
Was that list a little tough to read? I bet it was, because it was tough for me to write. I’m ashamed to say this, but I’ve done every single thing on that list at one time or another (and to one degree or another) in my almost 18 years of marriage. I’m guessing most of us have! But this is one list I’m determined not to check off. Even if it takes a lifetime, I plan to cross these behaviors out of my marriage relationship. For the sake of your Valentine and your children, I hope you do, too.
CHALLENGE: Pick at least one behavior from the list above and cross if off for good!