I remember the moment I chose Kristen over my mom. Count on it. At some point, you will have the conflict of putting your wife or girlfriend before your mother.
It’s important to note that my mom loved every girl I’ve dated. In fact, she had a bad habit of becoming close friends with them to the point they would call and get relationship advice from her about me. I’d find my own mom taking my girlfriend’s side! I think it’s only because she wanted grandkids.
When my mom met Kristen she loved her immediately, and that’s important as I mentioned in The Wife List. I brought Kristen to a big family gathering, and she’s a natural fit. It helped confirm I had indeed found the right one.
My mom is comfortable calling the shots. She sits on the Park Board, was the president of Habitat for Humanity and Women’s League, and started her own ministry at church. As the matriarch of the family and the oldest of four siblings, she’ll lay down the law at any given moment.
Growing up, I learned it’s not a good idea to cross her. She doesn’t like waste at all. She’s a recycling queen. I took 30 minute showers, and that’s wasting water, so she would set a kitchen timer at 5 minutes outside my bathroom when I started showering. When it went off, she would freeze me out. She ruled with an iron fist, a ping pong paddle, and a slew of chores and groundings.
Robert Bly, in Iron John, notes “the possessiveness that some mothers exercise on sons…cannot be overestimated.” It makes sense. You live in your mother’s body for nine months. During that time your lives are synced. Every thing that went into her body, went into yours. The bond between a mother and son is special. It’s why birth and cutting the umbilical cord are traumatic for babies.
The problem is some guys never recognize the umbilical cord has been severed. While it may have been physically cut, emotionally the cord is still there. Some girls feel like they are playing Red Rover with the mother and son, and they get knocked down every time because that emotional umbilical cord is impassable.
When the emotional cord isn’t severed, the son doesn’t fully bond with his dad, and there can be negative consequences in future relationships. As Gordon Dalbey notes in Healing the Masculine Soul, “When the boy later grows up and loves a woman, he can’t offer her the masculine polarity both he and she need in order to see themselves truthfully and thus help each other to grow.” It’s important the emotional cord is severed and the son bonds with his dad. If not, Gordon warns:
Boys will grow up unable to feel like men, and shrink from the masculine calling to bless, to call forth giftings, to lead, to protect, and to serve. They will fear and ultimately dishonor true manhood because it stirs the shame of their inadequacy.
A couple of years ago my grandma died before Christmas and the family was in disarray. Kristen and I had only been married a few months and I was excited to introduce my wife to my grandma. It never happened. We had to completely change our flights.
In chaos my mom springs to action. She was lining up the schedule, had her own little committee together, and was figuring out sleeping situations. She arranged a three-way conference call with my sister and I. On speaker phone, within earshot of Kristen, my mom said there was no room for her. Kristen ran out of the house crying.
I was furious. I felt the ferocity of a protective lion boiling through my veins. That’s my wife! I told my mom and sister they had to apologize to Kristen, and they could forget about me being at any family function if ever Kristen’s not welcome. They felt the finality. The next day they called Kristen and profusely apologized. It’s true. I have the most amazing family.
Winning a girl’s heart doesn’t end at marriage. It’s a never-ending quest for a never-ending treasure. When you marry, she takes priority and preference over your family. It’s important that she understands she is first and foremost, and it’s also important to establish the new boundaries with your parents.