How men treat women will certainly change the way they are treated back; and visa versa. I’ve always said the surefire way to get a man to act like a child is to treat him as one.
How husbands become children...
I have been interested in relationship dynamics since my first crush in grade school.
As an adult, my interest expanded into all aspects of humanity including the observation of relationships around me. I have witnessed an interesting trend for women who become mothers to lump their partner into the grouping of children in terms of “mothering.” They scold, boss, talk down to, and sometimes baby their adult partner. This can turn a responsible, mature man into a bratty, mean, pout-y and rebellious boy! My first thought was: Oh, that is so not hot! (If you want to maintain a phenomenal sex life, this is not the way to make it happen).
I decided to observe the dynamic more closely to see if I could better understand this tragic, yet all too common, phenomena. In childless couples, my observation is this occurs less often, but when young couples become parents, the dynamic started to shift. Unprepared for the attention deficit (for him), a new father can struggle with a new mother’s focus on the newborn and, if unprepared, he starts to act out in ways that resemble a child’s behavior.
As the child grows into a toddler, if the father hasn’t shifted his behavior back into the role of partner, supporter to the family, and a mature presence who is invested in sharing in the role of nurturing and bonding with the infant child, his behavior and the behavior of the budding toddler start to look an awful lot alike. Erratic, emotionally labile, acting out, tantrums, obstinate, etc. You get the picture.
So, how does the mother react to all this?
The mother, on the other hand, is quickly learning ways to “handle” her growing child’s needs and behaviors. Her multifaceted role encompasses that of nurturer, provider, teacher, disciplinarian, organizer, etc. For the child. Yet, when the behavior of the partner resembles that of the child, she will inadvertently lump her partner into the same maternal relationship. She may not even be aware this, since she didn’t receive the “what happens to reasonable and in-love adults when children are born” handbook either.
This will frustrate her as she will start to question where in the world did the man she married go? She will feel alone in the parent role and as if she has suddenly acquired another child in the body of a man. (Simultaneously, he is questioning, “Where did my sexy, fun-loving, free-spirited wife go?)
Preparing for the transition from couple to family
This all too common scenario illuminates the issue of inadequate preparation for the transition from couple to family. Although, these shifts are the most natural of all shifts, many cultures don’t support this through healthy examples or educational programs. This may very well add to the list of reasons why over 50% of marriages end in divorce. It’s well understood that sex and money are the two biggest catalysts for intimate relationship conflict. Yet, we still lack even the most basic education in communication and honest conversations around our relationship and familial expectations. Without discussions about what's expected it’s impossible to discern if we are banking on fantasy or reality.
When we find ourselves speaking to and treating our adult intimate partner with the same tone, words or admonitions as our children (or employees or subordinates in any capacity), we need to quickly catch and check ourselves. Because, if we want our partner to really step into the healthy version with full power as our intimate partner, we must treat them as such. This includes always speaking to and treating them with dignity, respect, consideration, acceptance, honor, and a dose of humor. We must realize they are their own person, here to live their fullest lives on their terms, to the best of their ability… they are not here to live their lives on our terms, with us directing or guiding with anything more than our quiet example.
Having the important conversations about the roles we will accrue as we move through life and how this will affect us is imperative for relationship health and longevity. Our intimate relationship can be designed to honor both people equally, provide a safe and magical place to retreat, feel like our favorite vacation spot, and nurture each other in ways no one else in the world can. This is the calling of a successful marriage or committed relationship. If this is your goal, design your relationship to be a place both of you can feel free to be authentic and live the lives you each desire.
Dr. Nancy’s Code of Relationship Ethics and Eros
Meeting New Potential Partners
- When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.
- “Benefit of the doubt” is earned with consistency and years of knowing a person’s character. You can’t possibly give this to a stranger.
- Investigate all new people you meet online. Get to know their friends ASAP.
- Follow the two-year rule: Only after two years sharing time, travel, intimacy, family/friends, going through stress or illness, do you begin to know someone.
- During these two years, Resist making any decision that:
- Affects another life (aka baby);
- Requires a lawyer to get out of;
- Includes your money;
- Will adversely affect your personal or professional goals regarding safety, family, health, or sense of financial security.
Before Making a Commitment
- Share your personal life dreams.
- Understand that you don’t have any jurisdiction over the dreams of someone else;
- Know where a person sees themselves in 1, 5, 10 years. Are you on the same path?
- Consensual Monogamy or Consensual Non Monogamy -- have the discussion.
- You need to understand how you each define this;
- You need to know yourself well enough to be honest about your desires;
- Discuss honestly your personal sexual drive and desires for your sexual relationship. Mismatched sex drives can be heart breaking and disastrous;
- We don’t own each other’s sex;
- We don’t own each other’s pleasures;
- Monogamy has to be openly negotiated and agreed upon to work. There are many open marriages out there where only one person knows it.
- Relationship Roles and Expectations
- You can’t have too many discussions about how you define terms such as; marriage, wife, husband, mother, father, man, woman, commitment, love, loyalty, respect, money, religion, etc. Define these for yourself and then share your truth. It will save you a lot of misunderstandings later;
- Remember, our definitions are made up -- they can be renegotiated if we are open to broaden our understanding of evolving adults and their relationships with themselves and others;
- Understand that each relationship is unique. You cannot recreate your parent’s or a past relationship you are pining for. Every new relationship is a “designer relationship.” Every little nuance must be negotiated and defined by the two (or more) persons involved.
Already in a Committed Relationship?
- Love each other as you are, first and foremost. We are all evolving as we need to personally.
- We do not have the right to any attempt to change our partner into who we want them to be.
- We only have the right to change ourselves into the finest version of the person we choose to be on our own terms.
- It is a privilege to witness the intimate up-close view of our partner’s life exploration. Enjoy it.
- We do not have the right to direct the course of our partner’s life.
- We are not expected or capable of meeting all needs for each other at all times.
- Our past is to be appreciated; for it is the reason we are the person we are today.
- Our fantasies, traumas, desires, fears, dreams, hopes etc. are private and personal. It is our human birth right to have them. We don’t owe an explanation as to why we have them.
- We earn the privilege of our partner’s trust to share No.8 with us -- this is not our right to have access to them. We must NEVER use them against each other. This is an instant trust destroyer.
- We teach each other if we are to be trusted or not by how we handle disappointment, fear, jealousy, anger, pain, loss, etc., and how we treat our partner when they reveal things to us that make us uncomfortable.
- We choose our responses to everything. Choose carefully. It matters.
- Own your own shit… and it’s all your own shit.
- Owning our own shit will go a long way in all relationships.
- Love is never unconditional. That is an illusion. We all have deal breakers. Know yours, know theirs.
This is a work in progress, and I will continue to update as I observe, learn and grow in my own experience in my relationships, too. With much love and devotion, Dr. Nancy