Ways To Give Him What He Needs

She deserves love and respect, but not at your expense.

As the mother of four sons, I can proudly testify that I am raising mama’s boys. They are cuddly and affectionate. They tell me about their day and they cry to me about their problems.

I love it! I feel acknowledged and needed, and my inner demand for worthiness is deeply satisfied.

But at the same time, whenever my husband picks up the phone to call his mother, I take it as the ultimate act of betrayal. Suddenly, I need him in the kitchen, or the garage must be cleaned. Right now!

Now, I have to say that after twenty-eight years of marriage I’m able to handle these calls and visits to his mama way better, but I still get butt-hurt and jealous. I want to be the only one, the center of his attention.

I remember when we were dating and getting serious and my future husband brought me home to meet his parents.

That’s when his mother pulled me aside and said proudly:

“My son was raised so that he didn’t know where the refrigerator was in the kitchen. I always took care of him. Now, let’s see if you can carry on.”

“Sweetie, honey (addressing her then 24-year-old son). Your favorite TV show is about to start! Let’s go watch it while Katya cleans up the kitchen.”

She thrust her cheek next to his face — a mandate for a kiss — then officially released him. And off went her ‘sweetie-honey,’ leaving me all by myself in the midst of a messy, foreign kitchen. Looking guilty, his dad, who’d been nodding quietly to everything she said, followed them out of the room.

Being only 18, and raised in a household where the young must respect their elders, I bit my tongue and turned on the faucet. When I was done, I quietly snuck out of the apartment with tears of humiliation and betrayal running down my face (I really liked this guy). I ran to my grandma’s house (she lived close by), fell into her arms, and burst into tears. Between hiccupping and nose-blowing, I filled her in on what had happened.

And here’s what my wise grandma said:

“You need to understand, Katya, that his mother has been his only true love from the day he was born. What he did by listening to her is natural to him, not an act of betrayal toward you. He’s only known you for a few months. If you decide to stay together, you won’t have to compete with this woman — she will never be superior to you. Each of you will play different roles in his life, but what you can give him — intimacy, romance, children — she can never do.”

“But Grandma,” I said as I raised my puffy face to hers, “I want him to choose me over his mommy, I want to be his priority.”

To which my grandma smiled and responded: “And you will. Gradually, in time. As you get closer as a couple it will happen naturally.”

Now, years later, I see that what she said was essentially true. However, it took some effort on my part to get there. So here is what I realized …

But wait. First, let me tell you how that horrific night ended.

By the time I arrived home, he was already there, waiting for me. My parents had let him in. With wide, innocent eyes, he rushed toward me:

“Katya, why did you leave? What happened? What did I do wrong?”

Still influenced by my grandma’s wisdom, I explained without judgment, cursing, or blaming, just how bad what had happened made me feel, letting him know that I didn’t want to feel like that ever again. And at that moment, it didn’t matter to me if he got it or not, because I got it — and that’s what was most important.

What has worked for me since then is understanding why he ran to his mommy that night. I now see that he was satisfying some deep emotional need for the familiar. Just like you, your guy needs to feel safe, comfortable and loved — that’s what he really craves from his mom. After all, she was the first person who provided these things for him (or at least she tried, based on her personal level of awareness).

Once he begins getting these needs met by you, Mom transforms into the woman he adores and respects, rather than his primary source of emotional fulfillment. And so, in time, I began providing the things my husband had been getting from his mom, beginning with the basics.