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Dr. Deanna Brann's Blog

In the last two blogs – Part 1 & Part 2Is Your Son Pulling Away? Reasons He May be Doing So – I talked about why sons pull away from their family of origin (mothers, particularly) other than because his wife wants him to do so. This particular blog addresses the husband’s role in relation to his wife and his mother. I will focus on what may be going on with him so you can see his actions for what they are, instead of what you fear they might be.

If you think about your husband for a minute, you can see he is in a precarious situation. He loves his parents because, well…they are his parents; but he loves you because you are you and you make him feel loved in a way no else has done. He chose you to be the person with whom he wants to spend his life. Sometimes this idea – his choosing you because he loves you and wants to spend his life with you – gets forgotten or lost. Sometimes you see his behavior and feel uncomfortable because you’re not sure how important you really are to him. This is where it can feel like a “them or me or them or us” situation.

The Psycho-Developmental Process

Men (as do women) should and need to go through a psycho-developmental process that takes them from teen to young adult to adult. One goes through this process over a period of time and, just as with other developmental processes one goes through, the occurrence of this one is based on the individual person. This process your husband is going through to emotionally and psychologically separate from his family (i.e., parents), particularly his mother, has many different levels. For example:

  • His contact with his parents becomes less – this is often gradual, and his contact continues to lessen as his life gets busier. It’s not that he doesn’t want to see his parents, or doesn’t love his parents, he does, but his priorities are shifting.
  • The information that he shares with his parents is less personal as time goes on.
  • The information/guidance he seeks from his parents occurs less and less as time goes on.
  • He settles into “knowing” that his family – you (and if you have children) – are his only real priority. In his mind you are his family.

Each of these components mentioned above can occur in any order, with some possibly occurring together. And as I mentioned before, every man goes through this process in his own way and in his own time.

What I’ve noticed time and time again is that when you – his wife – don’t particularly like his mother, you try to push him to move away from his family quicker than he may be comfortable doing. You give him a rationale as to why he needs to “break those ties,” and he will often do what you want. He does so not necessarily because he agrees with you, but because 1) he is trying to work through his own need to separate and your rationale pushes him at a faster rate, and 2) he wants you to be happy because that is the most important thing to him.

Unfortunately your idea of “breaking the ties” and his are typically very different. Often times your preference is for him to have no contact with his family (or very little), which is not realistic and definitely not fair. (Think about if the situation was reversed and your husband didn’t want you to have any contact with your family). His goal may be to maintain a relationship with them, but with more distance, which doesn’t mean your husband wants to cut off all contact with them.

Yes, his mother may be overbearing in your eyes. She may be intrusive and controlling from where you sit. She may be a lot of things that you don’t like, but she is still his mother. And because of this he sees her differently than you do. He may or may not see all the faults you see in her, but even if he does, he can feel caught in the middle. He is doing his own separating from her – something he needs to do and wants to do – but he needs to do it in his timeframe and in his way.

By allowing him to go through this process at his own pace, you are letting both your husband and his parents adjust to this huge and significant change. Remember, not only is your husband shifting how he relates to his parents and his role with them, but his parents are adjusting to the adult he is becoming. Trust that he is moving away from them and moving toward you.

If this struggle between you and your husband sounds familiar and you would like some help with it, please email me –

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