Stop the Man-Boy Behavior: On Caring and Responsibility in Relationships

I’m a nurturing person by nature, and find myself going into “mom mode” quite frequently, especially with Chris. In some ways this is good. I want to make his life easier, and if I have the ability to do that then I should. But I also have to catch myself, because sometimes I take mom mode to the extreme and try to live Chris’s entire life for him. Instead of helping him revamp his resume, I want to send the thing out for him. I don’t, don’t worry. But I want to. This kind of stuff quickly makes me feel overwhelmed (I’m trying to balance my “to do” list and his) and I’m sure it makes him feel like I don’t trust him to handle things on his own.

Because I’m sensitive to my tendency to go overboard, I had been struggling to find a balance recently between helpful girlfriend and “let me do everything for you like I’m your mom and you’re in elementary school.” As I struggled with this, my own mom set me straight (as she usually does) and pointed out that sometimes you can just do something nice for another person. You’re not going overboard or mothering them to death, you’re just showing your love and appreciation for them. This is normal and good and healthy.

She’s right.

Making Chris a lunch when I know he’ll have a busy day and won’t have time to stop and get something isn’t mothering him. It’s a sweet thing to do. On the other hand, making and scheduling his doctor’s appointments is not necessary. He knows his own schedule and can handle it on his without outside interference from me.

So where do we draw the line? Here are a few examples that I’ve discovered through my own experiences, as well as things my friends have dealt with:

Sweet significant other behavior: 

  • Reminding the other person about a family member/friend’s birthday that they may forget
  • Making/buying their favorite meal or snack
  • Helping them pack for a trip
  • Recording their favorite TV show so they’ll have something to watch when they get home
  • Finding an event to do together like a local festival or a concert

Excessive mom mode behavior 

  • Paying credit card bills for them
  • Keeping track of their appointments
  • Scheduling doctors’ appointments or haircuts
  • Getting their outfit ready for them in the morning
  • Doing whatever they want to do on vacation/during the weekend
  • Doing household tasks on your own so you don’t have to burden them

These are just some general ideas, and many of them depend on your comfort level and your relationship. If you’re cool with making his lunch every day, go for it. But understand that this type of behavior will eventually become status quo. And if you don’t draw the line, you’ll make it easy to go from girlfriend to personal assistant.

This also leads to a discussion about man-boys. I’ve read a bunch of articles lately where women talk about dealing with a man-boy. While this is definitely problematic and is reflective of a guy’s maturity level, I’ve also realized that it’s possible to enable this behavior. Who wouldn’t want to have all of their appointments handled for them? Who wouldn’t want their laundry taken care of for them? Once you start doing a few mom-esque tasks for your significant other, you may find that you slowly take on others too under the guise of “making life easier.”

You don’t want someone who needs another mom. That’s not sexy. In order to prevent this from happening, you should take some time to carefully analyze the relationship and the kind of bond you two are both promoting (are you equal partners or does one of you carry the majority of the weight in the relationship?). You may find that you’re carrying most of the weight and don’t even realize it. These discoveries can help you alter the relationship so that both people feel more satisfied and appreciated. A discussion about duties and needs can make you both aware of changes that need to happen to make the relationship better.

While I keep referring to mom-like behavior, it is completely possible for guys to take on this same type of role with their girlfriends. In fact, you see it often. The point is this: regardless of who you date or what they’re like, periodically analyzing the relationship and ensuring that you’re both comfortable with the give and take that’s going on ensures overall satisfaction. Equal distribution of responsibility is essential in order to keep the spark alive.

Have you dealt with a relationship that was unbalanced? How did you correct it? 

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