When "Helping" Your Husband Is Really A Euphemism For Controlling Or Parenting Him
Even with the best intentions, sometimes our helping hand isn’t actually all that helpful.
It’s only natural to want to give everything we can to our husband – to make his life better because we’re in it, bring something unique and positive to his days, and offer him a helping hand whenever we can. We want to add to his life.
For some, that might look like being the one to keep track of the credit card statements and make sure the bills are paid on time so he never has to worry. Others might prefer to help him stay on track with his diet by finding recipes that work well with it. Some may enjoy talking through work problems with him and helping him come up with a solution.
But as much as we all love to lend our helping hand however we can, there might be times when our help turns into something that more closely resembles parenting our husband, controlling him, or even micro-managing him.
How Being Micro-Managed Affects Him
The line between helping and hindering is fine, but the effects on our husband couldn’t be more different. Swooping in to help him when he could’ve figured something out on his own sends him the message that we think he isn’t capable, that we don’t see him as an equal (or even as an adult), and that any effort on his part will always be met with some kind of judgment or “improvement.”
Swooping in to help him when he could’ve figured it out sends the message we think he isn’t capable.
This could lead to a husband who just sits back and lets us take control over everything, creating a dynamic we’ll eventually resent: “He’s like a child. Nothing would get done around here without me.” Or, it may cause him to keep us out of his life, problems, and ambitions for fear they’ll be hijacked by us.
How To Tell If It’s Time To Take a Step Back
Obviously, spouses are supposed to offer whatever help they can. If he wants to launch a website and we’re particularly good at web design, he may want our help making everything look professional. But there are a few questions we can ask ourselves that will tell us if it’s time to take a step back and let him figure something out on his own.
Does sympathetic listening always become telling him exactly how he should solve an issue? Do we believe we typically know better than he does? Does overhearing his frustration with a chore become inserting ourselves and finishing it for him? Do we interrupt him and attempt to “better” express whatever we think he’s trying to say? Do we think we should be making decisions for him?
These are all signs that we’re being less helpful and more like a mother to him, and that it’s necessary to give him a little more space and independence.
Being Helpful While Treating Him Like an Adult
Your husband is an adult; he can take care of himself, come up with his own solutions, and make his own decisions – even if he goes about doing these things differently than you do. He doesn’t need micro-managing every step of the way, and he doesn’t need us to constantly tell him, “There’s a better way to do that.”
The key is to ask if he needs or wants help first, and then respect his answer, whatever it is.
With that being said, we don’t want to cease offering help forever; there are things we can do to make his life easier, unique insight we can offer him. The key here is to politely ask if he needs or wants help first, and then respect his answer, whatever it is. If he accepts your offer of help, remember to give advice and suggestions, not instructions or orders. For example, if we see him struggling to figure out how to reply to an email, we can ask him if he’d like some ideas. If he says yes, then we can share a few thoughts without instructing him exactly how to reply; if he says no, then we need to respect his decision and let him figure out his own puzzle.
We should aim to be ready and happy to assist but refrain from forcing our opinions on him, ordering him around, and causing him to feel less-than or incapable due to our micro-managing.
The desire to help your husband isn’t the issue – that’s healthy. But when that desire morphs into constantly teaching him, watching over his shoulder, or expecting him to implement every suggestion we make, it becomes a problem that needs to be solved.
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