Q&A with Geoff: My Husband Expects Me to be His Mother

q&a with geoff Mar 13, 2024


My husband grew up in a very unloving and dysfunctional home with an alcoholic father. He lived a homosexual lifestyle for years and then eventually wanted marriage and a family. He had no understanding of what marriage would require. I have struggled to be his wife, not his mother. In so many ways he is still a little boy and wants/needs to be taken care of. He is in his seventies and we have been married for more than thirty years. I have been going to 12-step meetings for more than five years and while I understand the co-dependence thing, I still don’t know how to set boundaries so I can be his wife.


While it’s important for spouses to care for one another, sometimes the imbalanced needs of one partner can create a confusing weight on the other that isn’t easy to resolve. Your husband’s need to be cared for wasn’t met in his home, so he’s longing for secure attachment in his marriage. While a good marriage can heal many of the unmet emotional needs from our families of origin, sometimes the other well-meaning spouse can run himself or herself ragged trying to fill the hole that was created from serious childhood neglect or abuse.

The longing for an equal marriage partner often drives one spouse to push, plead, and enable the less engaged spouse. When the frustration builds, it’s common for the more engaged spouse to raise the intensity or give up out of complete desperation because they can’t create the marriage they always envisioned.

Setting boundaries isn’t about punishing your husband. It’s about respecting your own limits as a fellow human and wounded traveler who can’t re-parent your husband into being the man and husband he needs to be. 

Setting boundaries isn’t about controlling what your partner will do. It’s about deciding where you will stop so you don’t burn yourself out, enable dysfunctional patterns, and do for him what he needs to do for himself.

He needs to learn to be a husband as much as you need him to be a husband. As you consider how to best structure these loving boundaries in your marriage, you will free yourself from the impossible task of changing your husband’s relationship to you. 

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