Let Your Wife Be Your Wife. Let Your Mom Be Your Mom.

Getting married is wonderful, but newlywed life can be a tricky business, especially when it comes to unpacking the expectations husbands and wives have for one another from day one. Often, husbands and wives don’t really know what they’ve signed up for.

When expectations collide with reality, things can get messy. Today, we’ll talk about one of the most common comparisons, and the unrealistic expectations that come with it: husbands comparing their wives to their mothers.

One of the most inflammatory things a husband can say to his wife is, “That’s not how Mom did it.” Let’s look into some common areas of the mom-wife comparison trap.


If you’re familiar with the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Ray Barone’s mother is forever belittling her daughter-in-law’s cooking. Ray’s wife, Debra, isn’t the greatest cook, but her husband offers her little encouragement. Instead, he often sneaks across the street to eat in his mom’s kitchen instead of his own.

Not every woman is a gifted cook, but that’s no reason for her husband to point out her flaws and behave in a discouraging way. Instead, he should encourage her to develop her strengths. With the mom comparison set aside, husband and wife can reach an agreement that works for them, whether the wife does the cooking or they choose to share kitchen duties.

On the flip-side, maybe a wife is a great cook–but she just doesn’t prepare meals exactly like her mother-in-law did. Maybe her style just isn’t what her husband is used to. There’s no harm in him sharing recipes he likes with his wife, but he should tread carefully and let her approach them in her own way.

Husbands: no matter what, never say, “You’ll never be able to cook like my mother.” It’s a short walk to the doghouse, but you’ll be there for a while.


Some wives are impeccable housekeepers. Their homes are stylish, spotless sanctuaries, worthy of gracing a magazine cover. Other wives may not place as much emphasis on this aspect of home life. Wherever his preference falls on the spectrum, a husband is headed for the red zone if he compares his wife’s housekeeping style with his mom’s.

Perhaps his mother wasn’t very concerned with housekeeping, but his wife is–and he might attempt to lower her standards to match his previous comfort level. Or maybe his mom’s home was a showplace, and he expects the same of his wife who, consequently, doesn’t care to live in a museum.

Instead of digging their heels in, husbands and wives can put their heads together, share their preferences and priorities (without comparison!), and come to a healthy agreement that works for them. Home can be a comfortable place for everyone.

Husbands: if you point out your wife’s perceived failings as a housekeeper, don’t be surprised if she hands you a mop.


Raising kids is a hot topic, and it must be approached delicately. Husbands and wives from different backgrounds or very different families of origin might find it particularly challenging to agree on a parenting style that works for them. But it’s not uncommon for spouses from very similar backgrounds to clash, as well.

In this case, it’s especially important for husbands to filter their mothers’ shared opinions and well-intentioned advice. Accepting wise advice from an experienced older adult isn’t a bad thing, but spouses must discern what advice they need to take, and what advice to ignore.

If a husband’s mother is exercising too much influence over his wife’s parenting, that’s a problem. It can also be problematic for a husband to pressure his wife into creating a parenting experience for their kids that’s similar to what he grew up in–instead of working together to form their own parenting philosophy.

Husbands: let your wife do her job as your kids’ mother, and do your job as their father. Your mom is their grandmother, not their mom–so let her rock that role.

A Word to the Wives

Don’t pressure yourself into trying to please your husband by doing everything his mother did, just like she did it. You are not her! Be secure in your own identity, strengths, talents, and even weaknesses.

Your husband likely wasn’t looking for a clone of his mother to marry–even if he did bring expectations and comparisons from his childhood into your marriage. He wanted a wife, and your responsibility is to be just that.

Men, when you married, how much did you expect your wife to be like your mom? Ladies, how did you respond to the expectation? Where are you now? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.




  • Alicia Mack says:

    I am beginning to understand the roles of husband and wife. Thanks for the advice and Be blessed

  • Saehee Duran says:

    I whole-heartily agree when you said, “spouses must discern what advice they need to take, and what advice to ignore.” Now how to discern the differences between the two is a big homework. What my husband and I discovered over the past 13 years of marriage is that when someone attempts to give you any advice regarding marriage or parenting, it is vital to look for fruit (or maturity) in his or her life first. I am not saying divorced individuals or single parents cannot give you any marital advice. In fact, they probably have great wisdom to offer by referring to “what not to do.” Trust me, I grew up in a divorced family, raised by a single mom. There is a lot to learn from them. So ask yourself if this person is the person of honor, respect, maturity, and godliness. Be observant, then you and your spouse would be able to discern which advice to heed or let go.

  • Jimmy Mattio says:

    Great Advice Les & Leslie…Thank you for all you do to help marriages to succeed.
    God Bless Your Ministry,
    Pastor Jimmy Mattio

  • Steph says:

    There’s a lot of good advice in this post, but as a woman, it was also a bit uncomfortable to read. Lines like “husband and wife can reach an agreement that works for them, whether the wife does the cooking or they choose to share kitchen duties” didn’t sit quite right with me. This post puts a woman into the box of “homemaker” while her husband is sitting outside that and occasionally stepping in to help her out. I don’t think that’s what you intended, but the antiquated gender roles shine a little bright in this post. I promise I’m trying for honesty, and I truly apologize if this sounds critical instead.

    • Cara says:

      I appreciate and look forward to my inbox advice from Les and Leslie, but strongly agree with Steph’s comments. Thank you.

    • Les says:

      Steph: We completely agree with you. And you’re right – that’s certainly not what we intended. Research shows that women still do the vast majority (83%) of the cooking in the home.

    • Gen says:

      In my opinion, I think there may be something in your past, psyche, and/or relationship(s) that has you feeling or interpreting this topic a bit overly sensitively. You read much more into what they actually stated; they didn’t even allude to “women as the homemaker” or anything about that being her set role, or that the husband’s role is that of only “occasionally stepping in to help her.” They merely said “whether the wife does the cooking…” as most women in marriage are the main cook of the family, but not always.

      I have never cooked in my marriage…my husband does it all, as it is not within my ability or preference range…wife or not. I took their comment as spouses coming to an “agreement that works for them…” the rest was just an example of a typical marital arrangement…probably based on their own.

      If a wife chooses or wants to do the cooking that doesn’t make her boxed into being a “homemaker.” My husband cooks, but is a HORRIBLE “homemaker.” One does not necessarily have any connection to the other. My hubby cooks and I deal with the contractors, lawn service, and other typically “male” roles in a marriage. For us, it has nothing to do with any box or label…we just do what we do best in our marriage and it works for us. We have a “HOME” that we run as it works best based on our individual skills and abilities. We also don’t “share” much other than cleaning, b/c we do best within our “separate” roles. Does that make us a “bad” couple? Some may think so, but what does it matter, if it works for us?

      Perhaps ignoring stereotypes, norms, labels, and as they mentioned…”expectations” will leave you feeling less uncomfortable about your role and duties in a marital relationship. They did not say anything that concluded that gender determines roles, but only that whatever the gender, husband and wife must decide together who does what and how it will be done. Also, it is your opinion that “gender roles” in marriage are in fact even considered “antiquated” by the general populace.

      If you are easily offended by the idea of gender roles in marriage, perhaps you should evaluate what, in your own mind/heart, makes you feel that way and to what degree you would be willing and/or able to adapt roles that would best suit you and your mate’s desires, abilities, and mutual agreement.

      My guess, by your word choices, is that you are not married and lack the experience of knowing the actual potential for gender freedom that can be part of a healthy and happy marriage. If “antiquated” gender roles are a great concern you would obviously be wise to seek a “husband” who has flexible ideas about them and a willingness to do whatever works best for the marital lifestyle, home, family, and each other.

      If something as “easy” to work as “gender roles” bothers you before marriage, you will be in for a really huge surprise at the many other potentially and “truly” offensive aspects of working out a balance marital relationship and role assigning. After 21 years of marriage, I can attest that gender roles has been the least of our struggles.

      We’ve learned that even the best of marriages is not easy. So adding preset assumptions or offenses to the mix will make for a difficult relationship, even if you do manage to marry the person best suited for you and someone who is emotionally and spiritually mature and balanced pre-marriage. Be very wise in the “battle lines” you choose to draw in a marital relationship or you may become the source of your own “offense” and “discomfort.”

      I too, am just being honest and speaking from many years of marital experience. My hope is to share my experiences to help others make the best of theirs. I hope you will be prepared to find a contented and happy balance in your marriage one day.

      Very Best Wishes

      Btw, Your post struck me and elicited a response from me due to the very fact that my marriage goes against every gender stereotype and norm. It will be up to you to make your marriage function as you and your spouse choose. I hope that will bring you comfort. 🙂

    • Jess says:

      In general most women are happy being the one to cook and take care of their family in the role of homemaker even if they work full time. People need to stop being so god damn sensitive . As I own and run my own business and also do 90% of the cooking / cleaning because I want to as my husband does jobs around the house I can not and also works full time . If it doesn’t work for you it doesn’t work for you but the reality is women natural gravitate towards wanting to show there love through cooking and taking care of their families in such ways.

    • char jones says:

      well said Steph, agree!!!!

  • Becky says:

    I have been married for 44 years this coming June. We married very young (I was 18 and he was 20) so we have grown up together. I wanted to be
    “the wife” who took care of her husband. He was working a hard job and I was home for the first 6 months, so I took on that role wholeheartedly and loved looking after him. Then I went to work when he went back to school for 3 years. He did school and played basketball, as part of his scholarship. He still “let” me do my wifely duties on top of working full time. That started to be a bit of a problem. Then I had our first child and I went from full time worker to stay at home mom and wife. We had no car, so I actually ended up babysitting quite a bit, to bring in extra money. That was fine and I didn’t work until my kids were in Junior High, and it became a necessity.

    All that to say, the day I told my husband he could start doing some things for himself, it was kind of a shock for him, but I did it out of love and need on my part and he has matured over the years, to realize that it is not a bad thing to help me out too, as we are partners in this journey. I love him and love the man of God he is growing into being. I am truly looking forward to more years together.

  • Latasha says:

    When I saw the topic of this post, I thought, “ok, here’s an area where we DONT have a problem.” My husband has rarely if ever compared me to his mom or insinuated that I do something like her. But in review of the article, I see there is space for growth. We do have a difference in housekeeping. Unsure if it’s driven by a mother comparison or just a difference in comfort and aesthetic. But he often asks me why I want the house to be “perfect” whereas I see it as a quest for “basic cleanliness”. This rears its head at least monthly. Often when I’m preparing for company which has been often as we have a new baby.

    On the other hand I hope to file this away for later in life when my sons take wives. I can quickly shut it down if I hear them utter a word in comparison. Particularly in her presence so she can be rightfully restored.

  • Michael Van Dyke says:

    In my situation, my mother butted in so much that we had to ask her to butt out in the best way we could because she was hurting my wife and our relationship. Two things happened. I instantly after years of marriage understood leaving and cleaning, which I realize now I had not done. Second my mother will not speak with us. When she does she has to point out every place we are wrong, and how badly we have treated her. Since this has happened my father passed away and he was always the voice of reason to my mom. He could get her to back off without any trouble. With him gone the voice of reason isn’t there anymore and the situation is impossible for me and my wife. I never asked for any of this, but I will not allow my mom to hurt my wife any further. I want to show honor to my mom but at this point I can only do that on her terms. I have become over the last four years completely content with my mom not being a part of my life. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Megan says:


      It’s takes a strong man to draw boundaries and stick to them. You made vows to your wife, not your mom, and the priority is rightly made towards her well being and the health of your marriage – and, ultimately, any kids involved. I am sorry to hear that the relationship with your mom has deteriorated but that has been due to her actions. Your reaction to those choices shows that your vows are alive and well. Your wife is lucky to have a “man” for a husband and not a “momma’s boy.” Best of luck to you.

  • Debra says:

    I had a fiancé at a young age who compared and wanted me to be like his mother. She worked and went to school (both full time), kept the house tidy, had dinner ready by a certain time, waited on everyone hand and foot, and was submissive so to speak. I was new to “wife” duties and “depending” on someone besides my parents. I worked part time and went to school full time so I expected help around the home instead of living with a man-child. I came from a home where parents shared the roles when it came to cooking and cleaning. So when the comparison was made he was told if he wanted someone like his mother maybe he needed to move back home with her otherwise be my equal. We attended your seminar How to make bad relationships good, and good relationships better. Needless to say we parted ways and I’m not sure he ever grasped the XYZ concept because nothing changed. My current fiancé is also learning the same. In 8yrs I’ve worked 8a-5p, 7p-7a, 5a-1p, part time, and now I’m a stay at home mom…ALL household duties including raising and disciplining the kids fell upon me even when I worked outside the home. The comparison has been made and I’ve made it clear that I am NOT his mother, nor do I desire to be like her. Our home is OUR home not hers, we live in a home were life happens and that with kids and another adult in the home who thinks it’s ok not to pick up after himself our house will never be clean to his standards. I am my own person and don’t strive to be better than the next mom/wife but better than i was the day before. He also doesn’t get that while he works out of the home to financially provide, I too work but only in the home what seems like constantly and on the go with my kids and their extra curricular… I am just as tired; yet I’m still going till late in the evening and told occasionally I’m lazy and that if the role were reversed he could basically do better. I try daily to put to use what was shared in your seminar many years ago. We recently had an incident that involved someone else’s input and I think it’s helped some what for him to realize that he still has shared responsibilities within our home that benefit the both of us.

  • Carolyn says:

    We’ve been married nearly 41 years and have three daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren. I’m determined never to resemble Ray Barone’s mother but I often have to remember that we didn’t choose our daughters-in-law nor raise them so naturally they bring a different perspective to family functions and life. Their role is to please our sons and to be good mothers — not to please us. Our sons are happy and our grandchildren are well cared for, growing into well-behaved young people. Our role,as we see it is to love our DILS and pray for them daily. We are as supportive of them as possible even though we are often bewildered by their perspective or behavior. We are thankful we have a great relationship with our sons, their wives and our grandchildren.

  • OZ says:

    I also cringed when I read the lines ‘husband and wife can reach an agreement that works for them, whether the wife does the cooking or they choose to share kitchen duties’ and ‘Husbands: if you point out your wife’s perceived failings as a housekeeper, don’t be surprised if she hands you a mop.’ Shouldn’t he be picking up a mop and sharing the cleaning duties anyway? EVERYONE has 24 hours in a day and most women work outside the home (expected in my case). We all need time for sleep, selfcare, recreation, friends. That leaves only a few hours for responsibilities around house and with the children. If a home is going to be a comfortable and relaxing place for everyone, then EVERYONE should be contributing to the work. Taking out the garbage and cutting the grass does not equal cooking everyday, and laundry and cleaning and training/teaching/disciplining the kids.
    Its best to discuss this in detail BEFORE marriage. I have contributed equal income to our household for 30 years (less working time thou), cooked all the meals for 20 years, did all the laundry for 20 years, and did the child rearing of 4 children, while my husband played more and more sports. Once the kids got older I started cutting back, now he does his own laundry (does a great job of it), and I cook 4 days a week. He complains regularly that I am shirking my responsibility and complains bitterly whenever he decides to cook a meal. I had to make a choice, leave or find a way to thrive in the marriage. I did not like that my daughters were seeing that a wife/mother’s role is nothing but work. They are thrilled when I go out with friends or take time for hobbies.
    Good points – ‘Don’t pressure yourself into trying to please your husband by doing everything his mother did, just like she did it. You are not her! Be secure in your own identity, strengths, talents, and even weaknesses.’ and ‘Husbands: let your wife do her job as your kids’ mother, and do your job as their father.’
    Now, God gives me my marching orders, not my husband and I am now thriving rather than being overworked, sleep deprived, and no time for recreation/friends. Unfortunately it goes this way when someone’s expectations are way out of whack.

    • OZ says:

      I should also have added that my husbands’ mother did everything in her home, she also worked for many years. His father worked his 7 hour day and then came home to critique what she had done and then went out to socialize. They separated in their mid 80’s, full of anger and bitterness.

  • Jennifer says:

    I am currently living this and I appreciate your advice. I am not my husband’s mother I am his wife. Six years ago before getting engaged I told him cooking is not my thing. I do not like to cook, I can cook in few occasions but over a year ago I lost complete interest. I’ve been honest with him since the beginning and all the sudden the mom lashes out saying it’s been bothering her for a long time that I don’t cook for her son. As I said it’s something me and my husband discussed six years ago and agreed to switch roles here. He will cook I can do other things. Realistically running a business, working full time and have a baby has now made it near impossible for me to keep up and I am currently being ashamed by both my husband and his mother, because at the last minute my mother in law said something to my husband that now all the sudden I’m a BAD WOMAN. He told me those are traditions that his mom holds onto dearly and that I’m sure and self centered. Somehow at the sudden I’m selfish and self centered

    • Elle says:

      Your husband needs to support you better. Let him know: you might be a mother, but you are not HIS mother. If he wants to live with someone who will be a mother to him, he should hire a nanny or go move back home. There is only room for 2 people in a relationship. You married him, not his mom. And if being your own person makes you a “bad woman”, then he needs to re-evaluate his priorities. He made a vow to keep YOU happy, not his mom.
      I’m sure he isn’t perfect either. Is he a “good man”? Does he romance you all the time, boy you nice things, give you good sex whenever you want it, get you flowers every week, and provide for you financially in every way? Does he workout to keep in shape, always open doors for you, and protect you and make you feel safe? Does he take you on vacations? Because unless he wants to start being the “perfect man”, he can hardly expect you to be the “perfect woman”. Smh

  • Deborah Hoffmam says:

    I have been married 16 years and it will never stop. Ladies run far and run fast form this type of man

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