Apr 2014

Are you his lover or his mom?


I was chatting recently with Jonathan about a participant from Live Free Sonoma last year who couldn’t get her husband to lift a finger. I have to admit, I was feeling protective of my client and was ranting a bit about how lazy most men are when it comes to helping around the house.  With both partners working these days, it makes no sense to me why the woman is still required to do most of the housework.

Jonathan listened to me go on and on and then simply asked, “Is she being his Mom?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, just telling him what to do all the time, doing things herself because she thinks she can do it better, no sex, no dates, no intimacy, no appreciation.”


“Well, if she’s going to act like his Mom, he’s going to let her be his Mom.  Dudes like having a Mom around, they cook, they clean, they run the show, it’s oddly comforting. All we have to do is sit around playing video games.”

Of course I asked the age old question and said, “well if he started to act like a man, she wouldn’t have to be his Mom.”

We all know it doesn’t work like that.

If your partner is slacking, chances are you are being more like his Mom than his lover and YOU need to make a shift.

Here are some scenarios:

1. Dude is on the couch watching TV with a pile of unfolded laundry next to him, which he seems to be blind to.

Mom response: (standing over them) Hello! That pile of laundry has been there for a day, do you think you could just help me out and fold it?  God. Said in the tone of “you’re such a lazy motherf**ker”.

Lover response: (Sitting down next to them) Hey honey, how’s the show? Would you mind folding the laundry while you’re watching? It would be a huge help to me. Thank you!  Said in the tone of “you’re the coolest guy in town.”

2. He’s out drinking with his buddies… again.

Mom response: Silent treatment, followed by I really wish you wouldn’t drink so much.  It’s so childish, when are you going to grow up?  

Lover response: Hey babe, how was last night?  You know, I’ve been upset recently that you’ve been going out so much and I’ve realized it’s because I’m just wanting to do more fun things with you.  Can we plan something great for us to do together next week?

3. He hasn’t planned a date in years.

Mom response: Not saying anything and getting upset at him about some other random thing.

Lover response: Plan a fabulous date yourself and then sweetly ask him to plan one for the next friday.

I know we want to kick and scream and tell them all the things they’re doing wrong… but that’s never going to change anything.  The truth is that when you stop being his mom, and start being his lover, you’re going to get the partner you’ve always wanted. Tweet it.

In the comments below, I’d love to know what scenarios you most commonly struggle with, and let us know your Mom response and your new Lover response.

Can’t wait to dive into this with you!



P.S. Nisha and I are going to spending a lot of time talking about how to find and create incredible relationships at LIVE FREE Sonoma this October, plus my husband Jonathan is going to be sitting on one of our panels to help us decipher some of our biggest relationship headaches from a man’s perspective. If this is something you’re struggling with, this retreat is not to be missed. You can get all the details here: LIVE FREE Retreat.

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  • Torrie Pattillo

    Oh!!! This is soooo good Sarah! Thank you! I’m married to a woman, but the same rules apply. Even my mom yells at me when she comes to visit and says, “Geez, you are NOT Tiffany’s mom! Stop nagging her!” I’m VERY guilty of #1. LMAO, because you nailed it! Nice way to reframe…TOTALLY implementing your suggestions!

    I hope you, Jonathan & sweet baby Marshall are doing well ❤️

    • Sarah

      So happy to hear how this landed with you Torrie! Let us know how things go with Tiffany. xo

  • Such a good point! Thanks for breaking this down for all of us. My husband has been working around 70 hours a week lately and even though we normally have a pretty good balance around the house, I feel myself slipping into mom-mode to help… And I don’t like it! These are great tips!

    • Sarah

      We’re naturally caregivers, so I completely understand Jessica. But now that this is at the top of your mind, see how things regain balance and keep us posted!

  • Anne

    Sarah, you are such a mind reader–you always know just what I am struggling with each week! I feel like I am giving constantly and never receiving(and really want to switch into the feminine essence of receiving). As much as I try to be in my feminine, I don’t know how to get my husband to be more giving without asking for it out right and I usually come off like a nagging mom. (I know two things I need to work on are being less critical ie “that wasn’t the way I was going to do it” and not saying “oh, you didn’t have to do that” when he does surprise me.)

    The weird thing is I have noticed that if I mention something casually, for example, “I really want to relax tonight” and we have sex directly after then he surprises me by drawing a bath, pouring me a glass of wine, etc. I just don’t know how to get him to do these things without the sex part (especially since he often gets too tired for sex).

    • Sarah

      Anne, this is really great! Love that you recognize how you say, “oh, you didn’t have to do that”, instead just try saying thank you lovingly with a warm smile.

  • Tammy

    Sarah you are so right. I’ve been having a little tantrum over the last month or so over the laundry and the dishes. I want us to be equals but I’m coming to realize that it will never happen. I am the planner of the relationship, and that includes planning the house cleaning (or planning how to get him to pitch in, nicely). It’s just the way it is!

  • Melanie

    This is so right on! Thank you for the reminder. Would much rather be a lover than a mom!

  • I really needed this! My husband and I have been fighting this week and one of his biggest complaints is that I’m not being his lover lately. I feel like we get into this spiral of him wanting more affection and only pitching in to help me when he’s getting it and me only feeling in the mood to be affectionate if I’m getting help from him! But – I can only change my own behavior and these were excellent suggestions!! I am going to focus more on date time and snuggle time and worry less about the state of things around the house.

  • Kristen

    Oh Sarah, you (and Jonathan) have done it again! I have been dating someone who I really like and connect with, but sometimes he does things that really get to me. Luckily, I know that it will push him away if I respond with anger or frustration and I wait until a clearing comes (sometimes it takes longer than I’d like) and I’m able to communicate in a gentle, loving way. He’s so responsive to that – and now I get why!

    • Sarah

      So happy for you Kristen and so glad that we were able to bring some clarity around this for you. xo

  • Desi


    A full plate and frustration definitely can shift me in to the “mom” zone. My approach and what I say to my husband changes right now!

    • Sarah

      Desi, let us know how things go after you give this a try a few times!

  • Rachel

    This is such a good subject. Here are a few things my husband and I struggle with: We have opposite schedules and so we only see each other for about an hour or so in the morning before he leaves for work and an hour or so when I get home from work- He leaves for work around 9am and gets home around 7pm. I leave for work mid afternoon and I get home around 11pm. I ALWAYS do our breakfast dishes after he leaves and leave the house with a clean kitchen. I had been coming home to a dirty kitchen with his dinner dishes all over the place. I hate to go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. For many months I would come home and see a dirty kitchen and fight a bad mood- we would visit maybe watch a tv show but I was always thinking “is he going to do the dishes before we go to bed?” Sometimes he would and sometimes he wouldn’t and so I would do them angrily. When he realized I was doing them, he would come stand by me sheepishly and ask if he could help- I was usually already almost done. And I’d go to bed annoyed. After a few months of this I finally came home one night- opened a bottle of wine and said “Love- I need you to be a better roommate. I need you to do your dinner dishes before I get home so we can spend the little time we have together at the end of the day be about quality time- It has gotten much better and has helped our sex life 😉

    Also- on the occasion that I’m working early mornings and leave him in bed I kiss him before I go and whisper sweetly in his ear “thank you in advance for making the bed.” He thinks its funny and I always come home to a made bed!

  • Juicy one, Sarah! Thank you. I teach women self-love and putting yourself first but sometimes I notice myself that with my husband I am putting himself first sometimes “taking too much care of him”. And then I do feel like a mom. Now unless I tell him what to eat, what vitamins to take, what to clean, how to help – nothing really happens. On the one hand, I am a true believer in the woman’s vs. man’s responsibilities, but when a woman takes too much, she is overwhelmed and no one wins. How do you balance between being a good feminine “wife” and being a good feminine “lover”?

  • Sara

    This is spot on! Got in a battle this week and couldn’t really put my finger on why I was so angry at him. Just listed a bunch of little things which ended up making him feel like he’s terrible and can win with me..BUT, this mom vs. lover is exactly how I feel! I write lists every morning on what I would like done before I get home. He only works PT and I feel he has the time to help out more. I get angry when even the littlest thing on the list isn’t done when I get home, like taking out the trash. The list is basics, laundry, sweep, dishes, maybe run to the store or put dinner in the oven. He asks for these lists but they in turn makes me feel like a mom. How do I balance this?

  • HOLY! It’s kinda hard to be more ‘lover’ and less ‘mom’. Working on it. My partner is great, but it’s so much about 1) recognizing how I REALLY feel, and 2) verbalizing it without daggers, 3) remembering to love and appreciate him. Definitely worth the effort to have the type of relationship I’ve always wanted. Thanks Sarah!

  • Ranee

    I love this topic and I know I’m late coming with a reply but I’ve put much thought into this. Sadly I’ve done similar suggestions in the past and our suggestions just recently after reading this and found the more I do the more I’m expected to do. My husband is enjoying more and more time away with his friends and at first was not problem. I was free to enjoy that time with my friends also. I spoke up when I began to feel neglected when he was gone more. Sadly it didn’t matter and now I’m finding myself comfortable with his absence. It’s less awkward around the house and I’m not called on to be his secretary, housekeeper and cook. He’s not putting much into our relationship but criticism and expectation. Occasionally we’ll share a glass of wine together and make plans together, but they never come to pass. They get replaced by fishing or golf with buddies. His excuse is that I didn’t “pull the trigger”. I have not been demanding of his time so I feel I’ve lost priority. He’s very concerned about losing his friends…..but not so much about losing his wife.

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