With Mother's Day approaching, I started to reflect on many of the couples I work with who are still trying to finagle their way to a healthy and happy balance of their life together and their relationships with their parents and in-laws.
It’s no secret, but when you transition into the world of marriage, a lot changes, including your relationship with your mother (at least, it should).
For many, this may feel like a separation that has never been there before. Less phone calls, less contact, less knowledge of what goes on in each other’s day-to-day life. I’ve spoken to many brides and grooms that have acknowledged almost experiencing a sense of grief from not having the same kind of contact with their mothers (and with many individuals choosing to move back in with their parents before marriage, this is becoming more common). This is especially true for those individuals who describe close, connected, and emotional relationships with their moms.
For others, this could be the breath of fresh air you have been waiting for: Not having to worry about doing the right thing under the expectations of your mother’s eyes and being able to be who you are and do what you do. The space and freedom may have been a long time coming.
And for others yet, this transition could be the complete opposite: Emotional fusion between mother and adult child, with difficulty separating and setting healthy boundaries meant to establish yourself as separate from your primary caregiver (my guess is it has been like this for a while). In other words, you can’t stay out of each other’s business, or you can’t keep your mom out of your own business. This probably also bugs the crap out of your spouse.
Still others are in a completely different headspace this year if they have lost their mother (be it to death, illness, estrangement, or another form of emotional cutoff). This often brings an entirely different set of experiences to a marriage.
Either way, I see this time of year as a significant point of reflection and growth for anyone who has had a mother figure in their life.
So, how has your mother shaped your life? What imprint did she leave on your heart? What are some of your favorite memories? Your worst? Were they good or bad? Healthy or dysfunctional?
Dig into the patterns of your history and see what you find. What has been the most meaningful part of this relationship for you?
And, here’s a catch: Honor the relationship that your spouse has with their mother.
So often I see uncertainty and self-consciousness coming from brides who feel their husband is still connected at the hip with his mother (mama’s boy!). It’s true, your marriage must come first. But I believe an important factor to recognize is that the transition from the single life into marriage is a little more complex and time-sensitive than we like to think. It is a process.
It’s not about your spouse cutting all ties with their mother the day after you say "I do", but changing the way this relationship functions now that you are married. This is an incredibly important topic to discuss your expectations on before you walk down the isle.
On the flip side, I have also seen spouses of women who are very close with their own mothers. In these close mother-daughter scenarios, I have seen the spouse experience jealousy, insecurity, and lower self-confidence. It is sometimes personalized through an internal schema of "why am I not good enough to be the person you go to for those things?"
The truth is this: Both you and your partner have had different relationships with your own mothers. Both are significant, and both are special (especially if they were special to you). Marriage obviously changes a lot of things, and there must be a balance in the transition of putting your spouse first and learning to leave the safety of your home base and the people that reside in it.
So, be kind to yourself and your spouse as you continue to work through the transitions of newlywed life and marriage. Mother's Day, or any other day that celebrates your parents, should be just that: A celebration. Not a time to question, doubt, or feel insecure about yourself.
And, don’t forget to share a little gratitude with your mom this week if she has had a positive influence on your life. We cannot forget those early life relationships that have shaped who we grow to become. When it comes to honoring this, “thank you” can go a really long way.
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