“When he changes, it’ll be better. All he needs to do is improve a little bit, and the relationship will be perfect. All I’ve got to do is to motivate him, help him improve.”
I’ve had these feelings in a relationship, and I know I’m not the only one.
Many women believe it’s their duty to go above and beyond to provide support for their partner. Often, this quickly develops into mothering them, becoming the backbone of self-improvement in the relationship and sapping our own souls in the process.
This mothering manifests itself in so many different ways.
For example, you might be washing his clothes, defending his poor choices to your friends and family, constantly nagging him, or pacifying his temper tantrums in an argument.
You do all these things to ‘help’ him. Whether it’s a small nag or trying to promote a larger lifestyle change, some aspect of getting him and his life in order is a part of your daily routine and worry. You are the soothing crutch he uses to not take responsibility for his own life.
It’s easy to see how our romantic relationships can descend into chaos. We are so desperate to be a self-sufficient unit with this person that we’re happy to take on parental attributes and duties to move the relationship forward.
Everybody wants the picture-perfect version of love—but does this even exist?
So many of us will sacrifice ourselves to try and achieve this, desperately trying to mold them into a particular shape.
We take on the mother role because we want to bend and twist our partner into the person we believe they have the potential to be. What about the radical idea of accepting someone for who they are in the present and realizing that if they haven’t become the person you want them to be, no amount of nurturing and encouragement will force that change.
It’s not the duty of a partner to push for that change.
If you find yourself continually acting on the desire to change and improve who someone already is, then they’re probably not the one for you. When your expectations of someone are radically different from the person they are right now, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of half-empty promises and disappointment. You’re hoping for a situation that can only exist when you put your all in to sustain it.
The question is, why are so many women taking on this role?
As women, we’re socialized to take on nurturing, caring qualities and take pride in this. We think by taking on this parental role, our partner will respect and admire us more. Men are encouraged to seek solace elsewhere when they’re unhappy in a relationship. Contrastly, there’s immense pressure for women to stay and grit it out, to stand by their partner during times of uncertainty. Luckily, as we work towards gender equality, this gap narrows. However, there’s still a long way to go, and it can take generations to completely release ourselves of these expectations.
As women, we’re also taught that much of our worth rests on our desirability and potential as a wife or girlfriend. Many women struggle to walk away from a situation where they’re overworked and undervalued, succumbing to the pressure that simply doesn’t exist for men.
Knowing your worth is, for many women, a bold move in a patriarchal society that is built on women expecting less and doing more.
However, the most important thing to recognize is that neither of you are equals when you take on this role. You are giving too much; he is taking too much.
Those at the receiving end are at risk of becoming co-dependent on another person to provide them with the push they need to live their best life. By becoming this intertwined, you are both pulling yourself at the root, holding back the potential to both live on your own terms.
For a relationship to thrive, it must be a true partnership built on love, equality, independence, and respect.
Stop seeing someone for who they could be and see them for who they are at this present moment.
Maybe this means you have to stop mothering him. Maybe this means you have to let him go.