“Why does my relationship with my partner feel like a mother/child relationship? I see this with a number of my friends as well. It’s as if our men are insecure or not feeling empowered?? Is there something we women can do (or not do) on our end to remedy this or is it another one of those things that ‘will never change’?” ~ Rachel
We have been asked about the “mother-child relationship” in couples before. Some men report feeling that over time, they do not experience their female partner as sweet, loving, affectionate, and nurturing as she was in the beginning of the relationship. Often the guys make the mistake of reaching out for their partner in less effective ways such as making demands, protesting to be taken care of, acting helpless or by complaining that they need more attention and care.
When we hear of partners behaving from a place of insecurity or feeling disempowered in a relationship, it reminds us of how universal and powerful the need for connection and closeness is between partners. At times our intimate connections can feel inadequate and we may feel unsure of our attachment and strength of our bond.
When we feel disconnected, we can feel insecurity, worry, anxiousness or anger. As Clinical Psychologists who specialize in helping individuals and couples with relationships, we have seen and understood that underneath the emotions of worry, anger and reactivity (protective emotions), there are more vulnerable emotions such as sadness, loneliness, hurt, and insecurity.
We believe that most of us, including men, are looking for connection and are asking the important questions:
“Do I matter to you? Are you there for me? Am I important to you? Do you still love and care about me? Can I be safe being vulnerable with you? Will you respond to my emotional and physical needs?”
Since men may show their vulnerabilities in more demanding ways, they may appear somewhat immature or childlike at times. If women do not know how to understand and respond in loving ways to the needs for closeness, nurturance and connection, the relationship may appear more “mother-child”.
We all need to learn how to communicate well with each other and reach out in more effective, positive ways to receive the love and connection that we desire.
Dr. Michelle Gannon and Dr. Sam Jinich