A friend of mine named Bishop Wellington Boone wrote a book I strongly recommend every husband read: Your Wife Is Not Your Momma. Man cannot be joined to his wife until he has left his father and mother. A real man leaves in the sense that he is now responsible for his own needs and is no longer dependent on his father for protection and provision, and although the love for his mother doesn’t change, he cuts the apron strings and his wife becomes the number-one woman in his life.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
Transition in relationship is a natural growth process, but it can be difficult to make adjustments when relational patterns have been established. When we are around the people closest to us, there are things we do and ways we behave that can be detrimental to our marriage. Sometimes new boundaries are needed based on determined values. Change can be painful, but without it we will never grow.
Husbands: Are You the Problem?
Sometimes a man holds on to the apron strings even though Momma has cut him off. There may be an unhealthy emotional dependency. If a man feels the need to confide in his mother all the time or requires a steady diet of affirmation and comfort from her, it indicates an arrested development.
That’s one reason why a mother and father are so important to a child’s development: because of the healthy balance. And for a young man, the father makes the nest uncomfortable. If the father is not there, a boy is forced to grow up without the voice, identity, and influence only a father can provide. When this is the setting for development, some things tend to be deficient, and a boy can latch on, sipping that momma juice for too long. This is one way a man can become too soft. It doesn’t mean he’s not physically strong or is somehow less than a man, but usually a father trains his son not to be controlled by his emotions.
Husbands, now that you’re a man, you have no right to claim victimhood based on your upbringing. When you cut the apron strings you are responsible for your actions, and you have the ability to self-assess and deal with any deficiencies of your upbringing by applying God’s Word to your life, getting help where needed, and developing a vision for your life. I would strongly encourage you to read Zero Victim by James E. Ward Jr. No one has had a perfect upbringing; we all need the salvation provided through the redemptive work of Christ, so we have no excuse to continue in ignorance. As a husband, you must know what and who is priority in your life and establish a tone that will shield your marriage from any threats that could potentially violate healthy boundaries. That’s why we must cut the apron strings.
When the husband fails to create healthy boundaries with his mother, the wife often feels betrayed and neglected. It is important that you open up your eyes and see what you are doing to your wife when you put Momma first. Always remember you are married to your wife, not your momma. Once you’re married, it’s time for you to leave Momma and cleave to your wife. Don’t create an atmosphere for competition, because although they’re both women in your life, they have completely different roles. On this note, do not compare your mother to your wife—even if your mother is a better cook.
From a biblical standpoint, you are always to honor your mother, but not at the expense of your marriage. As a husband you should leave your mother (cut the apron strings) and cleave to your wife, but too many husbands practice the opposite by clinging on to momma while their wives feel abandoned. You must make clear that your wife is now the number-one woman in your life, and the best way to respect your mother is to honor her through your wife. Although initially it might feel awkward to adjust the relational culture, when your mother calls you for help, respectfully communicate that you will clear it with your wife first to avoid possible conflicts. Any gifts or caregiving should come from your wife so your mother can embrace your wife as the one she should relate to when she needs assistance. When the relationship is healthy, your wife will be the one who reminds you what your mother needs you to take care of, and it is an indicator of a healthy mother-daughter relationship.
Husbands: Is Your Momma the Problem?
How do you know if your momma is the problem? She will insert herself in your marriage and wreak havoc. A wise mother-in-law will ask her daughter-in-law if her son can help her with something. As the man of the house, you will find yourself having to choose between your wife and your mother. You may develop a secret life with your mother, one in which your wife is not included or does not feel welcome. Your mother might complain about your wife and disagree with how she treats you. She will feel free to speak negatively about your wife and freely express disdain for your spouse, to the point that your wife has picked up on the fact your mother doesn’t like her and wishes you had married someone else.
As a grown man and husband, if your mother speaks anything negative about your wife, defend her—do not hold back. Respectfully state that your loyalty lies with your wife, not with her, and if she continues to speak negatively about your wife, communication will be limited. It should be unacceptable to you for anyone to speak poorly of your wife in your presence, and you are not to remain silent. Your silence equals consent. Mothers are wonderful, but they are also skilled at guilting their sons into doing things for them without consideration for the marriage.
Remember, your wife is not qualified to deal with your momma; only you have the grace to handle her. Your wife is not your mother, and your mother is not your wife.
This article is an excerpt from Paul Arthurs’ book: Stop the Foolishness: for Husbands.